Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday Phenology: February 6, 2012

Posted by Kirk
Good evening! Jupiter is gorgeous in the sky tonight as is the moon. The sun set at 5:27 pm today which was almost exactly 10 hours after it rose at 7:27 am. Today was 2 minutes 42 seconds longer than yesterday.

Here's Nature's Week in Review:

Monday was a gorgeous day. We topped out at 44° F in the Twin Cities and the snow composition sure changed. I had tried to make a few snowballs on the weekend and the snow was so dry it wouldn't stick. The warmer weather put and end to that and it was a snowball wonderland out there.

Tuesday I heard Northern Cardinals singing in the morning. This is the second time this year. I last heard them back on January 5th. I expect their call will become more and more common in the coming weeks. Two cardinals flew across the road in front of my car as I drove to work. They really are spectacular birds. Tuesday turned out to be even warmer than Monday as our faux-winter continued. I noticed the buds on maple trees were very swollen. They looked like they do in March when we tap maple trees. I was thinking the sap might be running and sure enough out in the sugar bush the sap was running out of some of the trees. Incredible. A neighbor of the nature center called to tell me about a flock of bluebirds at her house. There were about fifteen of them drinking and bathing in melting snow from a pole barn roof. I'm thinking this may be a winter flock that has just stuck around the St. Croix River. They were seen a couple more times during the week.

Wednesday a report came across the listservs of a lone Red-winged Blackbird on the shore of Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. It was apparently just outside of the Roberts Bird Sanctuary. Is this a lone errant bird or a phenological sign of spring. Hard to say.

Thursday was groundhog's day and we started off foggy. That groundhog who shall not be named out east saw his shadow and was scared back inside meaning six more weeks of winter for those poor easterners. We midwesterners don't believe such nonsense. The stuffed groundhog I took outside on in the morning did not see his shadow and thus winter will soon be over.

Friday was an oddly quiet morning. I felt like the whole world was moving just a little slower and a little quieter. Maybe it was just the fact that we were on day two of thick fog. I kept expecting the fog to burn off Thursday but it never did. When I woke up on Friday it was still there. Chickadees were singing in the morning and it seemed to have a new vigor. Whereas it seemed tentative in the past month or so, Friday morning they were getting serious about territory and mating. There were several calling back and forth. The warm weather also stirred up a queen paper wasp and she showed up in our kitchen at work. All wasps but the queen die in the fall so any wasp you see this time of year is a queen. MSP airport reported 54 hours straight of fog on Friday.

Saturday morning was host to one of the most wonderful sights of the winter. Hoar frost had formed on nearly every exposed surface over night and it was striking in the sun. I went to an event with a friend in the morning and so I was inside for a few hours. When I came back out I expected the frost to all be gone but instead it had grown even more impressive! It was a truly spectacular sight and I'm kicking myself for not getting out with a camera. At least one eagle was present at the Keller Lake nest site as I drove home.

The Week Ahead:
Things are starting out nice on Monday but then we head back into the cold as temps dip down into the teens and 20s. There's only a crust of snow on the ground and southern exposed hillsides are even showing some brown. I don't think the mass of cold air that pushes in this week is going to be able to take hold for long. We could be coming back up to at least the mid 30s by next week. Take a look at the trees this week, while we think of leaves falling in the autumn, you'll notice the white oaks still have their leaves. They keep them all winter long and drop them in the spring. Watch bald eagle nests this week as well. Many eagles are already back at their nests sprucing them up for the spring. This week we should hear a large increase in territorial woodpecker drumming as they get serious about territories. My notes even show I found wood shavings on the snow this same week last year which could have been a sign of some very early woodpecker nest building.


Abrahm said...

I've been seeing an eagle near Keller lake too. I saw the bird on January 26th and February 3rd perched south of 36. Are eagles already beginning to work on their nests?

I also saw a pair of eagles sitting on a nest near the Black Dog Lake power plant seen from the Old Cedar Ave part of the MN Valley NWR. I had no idea eagles moved in so early.

I guess I should really work on that northern shrike before I run out of winter.

Kirk said...

Hey Abrahm,

The bald eagles really only migrate as far as Wabasha, MN where the confluence of the Mississippi and Crow rivers keeps the water open all winter. Flying from Wabasha to the Twin Cities is no big deal, especially during such a mild winter. They come back early to check on territory and nest sites. They are early breeders though. Depending on weather, Bald Eagles lay eggs some time toward the end of Feb/beginning of March.
Generally the larger the bird the earlier it breeds. Great Horned owls are already on their nests.

Random shrikes are all over the place but if you are really looking for them your best bet is a trip up to Sax-Zim bog. I saw several this winter perched at the tops of trees along co. rd. 7. There are lots of other good birds up there as well. If you ask at a Birds and Beers you can likely find others who would like to carpool.