Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday Phenology: March 12, 2012

Posted by Kirk
Time for my rant about Daylight Saving Time. It doesn't save anything. All it does is shift everything earlier so it feels like the sun stays up later. If you have little kids it is awful as you have to convince them to go to bed at 8:00 at night even though their body tells them it is only 7:00. You then have to wake them up at what their body tells them is 5:00 am. This is a no win situation. Now the little extra light at the end of the day is kinda nice but come summer it is ridiculous when the sun is still up at 10:00 pm. Maybe down south it isn't such a big deal but I tell you up here in Minnesota we're half way to the North pole at the 45th parallel. It feels like the sun never sets in the summer. That's great f you love the sun, and you know I do, but getting the aforementioned preschooler to go to bed at 8:00 when the sun won't set for another two hours requires some form of demonic magic.

Speaking of the sun! Here's your stats. The sun rose this morning at 7:30 AM (6:30 in reality) and set again at 7:15 PM (6:15 in reality) That gave us 11 hours 45 minutes and 42 seconds of sunlight. We're gaining over three minutes a day now. Astute readers/listeners will no doubt remember that it was exactly 14 days ago that we crossed into an 11 hour day. We're now very close to 12 hours of daylight which is of course the equilux. Wait, wha? The Equilux? For those of you that learned that the Equinox is the day of equal light and darkness I'm afraid you were mislead. The day of equal day and night is the equilux. The equinox is actually the day the earth's axis is tinted neither toward nor away from the sun. The equilux will be March 17th this year while the equinox will not be until March 20th. 

Here's your week in review:

Monday it was cold out but chickadees were singing with more enthusiasm. It may be my imagination but they seemed to be more ardent about actually setting up territory. I counted at least 20 trumpeter swans in a farm field near work. I'd seen as many as a dozen all winter but this was a larger number. I had to wonder if some migratory birds might have joined them? Jim Fitzpatrick, the director down at Carpenter Nature Center at the southern end of Washington County sent me a note to say that the Blue Jays were doing their territorial "pump handle" call. Someone at Birds and Beers in the evening told me he'd seen canvasback.
Tuesday Birdchick reported robins, cardinals, house finches & red-winged blackbirds singing territory songs at Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary in St. Paul. I heard woodpeckers doing territorial drumming in the woods at work and when we went out to tap all of our maple trees we heard the first Red-shouldered Hawk of the year calling as it soared overhead. We tend to hear them every year when we go out to tap. In the morning my son spotted Canada Geese flying overhead as we got into the car. They started to honk as they flew north. I was surprised to realize they were the first ones of the year I'd seen. White-breasted nuthatches were doing their nasal whe, whe, whe territory call as well.

Wednesday on the way to work I pulled off the road to take in the beauty of the first Eastern Bluebird of the year sitting on a telephone wire. I had gotten reports earlier in the year of a flock of bluebirds hanging out in the forest near work but this was a male that seemed to be on territory. Was it a bird that stayed or a migrant? No way to know. There were also a couple of migrating groups of Canada Geese flying overhead. When I arrived at work the American Robins in the woods were tentatively singing their spring song. It wasn't loud and full force yet but it was a start. A barred owl showed up outside the classroom window at work and was still hanging around when I left at the end of the day. I was able to get some nice shots with my new camera. There was a report on one of the list serves that an American Woodcock was singing on the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota just after the sun set. Go woodcock! Jim Fitzpatrick, the director down at Carpenter Nature Center reported that a flock of Red-winged Blackbirds had shown up down there.

Thursday I was surprised when I let the dog out and opened the door to a beautiful light snow. It coated the ice covered ground and made for a delightfully slippery morning. I taught a weather class which seemed appropriate.

Saturday the day began with a new year bird. A male and female pair of House Finches were at my bird feeders. The house finch was bird number 52 for me this year. It is funny it took this long to see one. They aren't exactly rare. I think it is because I decided to stop using cheap bird food in my feeders. I pretty much only use black oil sunflower seeds now because so much millet was just being wasted on the ground. I recently put out some hulled sunflower seeds and the finches were able to eat those so they finally came around. Elizabeth in Hugo sent me an email about a Northern Harrier and Blackbirds near her home.

Sunday morning was so beautiful I fired up the moped and cruised around Lake Como. There were some small spots of open water near the shore but I only saw Canada Geese. Elizabeth in Hugo heard Sandhill Cranes and Killdeer as well. Migration is really picking up. I haven't heard either of these yet but expect to soon.

What to expect this week:

Migration and warm weather. This is going to be an incredible week. The forecasted LOW temperature for the week is 43°. Large numbers of early migrants will be coming though. There have already been reports of large migrating flocks of snow geese, greater white fronted geese and Canada geese moving into the area and they will greatly increase in numbers during the week. Winds look to be coming generally out of the south all week which should help speed up migration even more. Watch for killdeer in open fields and listen for early woodcocks peenting in the evenings. Enjoy the Equilux on Saturday.