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Monday Phenology: March 19, 2012

Posted by Kirk Mona Monday, March 19, 2012
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The sun rose this morning at 7:17 AM and set at 7:25 PM which means we've passed the equilux and there is now more daylight than darkness. Today we got 12 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds of sunlight and we're getting a little over three minutes more each day.What can I say, I love spring and this year it seems to be about two to as much as three weeks ahead of schedule. There's only one word for that. Fantastic.



Here's nature's week in review:

Monday I took a hike and was treated to phenological delights. Spring was coming on and there were signs everywhere. The snow was melting like mad and gopher mounds in the prairie were a muddy mess. Birds were singing and calling like I haven't heard in a long time. Blue Jays were doing near constant territorial calls. I saw American Robins, Eastern Bluebirds, Northern Cardinals, and Red-winged Blackbirds. I saw and heard geese migrating overhead as well as sandhill cranes and Killdeer. There was a barred owl calling in the woods. The crows were very vocal and I even heard a Common Raven. It was a lot of fun just to be outside. We fired up the Maple Syrup evaporator for the first time of the year and started to boil down the little sap we've collected from the trees.

Tuesday was beautiful. I had my window wide open all day. I could hear Common Ravens all day long and at one point got to watch four of them flying in pairs in a thermal while they called. A red-shouldred hawk flew up to join them in flight. Raptors were migrating all day long. I saw multiple bald eagles as well as red-tailed hawks. I watched a red-bellied woodpecker working on a next cavity and we boiled up more maple syrup. At the end of the day I was able to savor my first sip of 2012 syrup and it was fantastic. I saw on one of the listserves that someone saw an eastern meadowlark in Minneapolis. That's the first report I've seen. Started to hear multiple reports of both wood and deer ticks!

Wednesday I took a day off from work to go birding with my mom. I've made a deal with myself to go birding more this year at places other then my work and I'm planning to take some PTO to make that happen. Our first stop was the Bass ponds in Bloomington. There was virtually nothing in the ponds themselves but waterfowl was present out on long meadow lake. Unfortunately when we were there in the morning the sun was back lighting all of the birds which made ID more difficult. Still we raked in a good number of birds. We saw:

Canada Goose
Trumpeter Swan
Wood Duck
Mallard 
Canvasback 
Redhead 
Ring-necked Duck 
Lesser Scaup 
Bufflehead 
Bald Eagle 
American Coot 
Killdeer
gull sp. 
Downy Woodpecker
American Crow 
Black-capped Chickadee 
American Robin 
Fox Sparrow (Red) 
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird 

After an hour we packed up the scope and headed down to Cannon Falls to Lake Byllesby. I had never been there before and it was tricky to find a spot to actually view the birds. We did see a pretty good list though.

Greater White-fronted Goose 
Snow Goose 
Canada Goose 
Gadwall 
American Wigeon 
Mallard 
Northern Shoveler 
Northern Pintail 
Canvasback 
Ring-necked Duck 
Lesser Scaup 
Common Merganser 
Bald Eagle 
Red-tailed Hawk
Killdeer 
Horned Lark 
Eastern Bluebird 

Combined with a few odd birds I saw here and there that was 30 different species of birds for the day and 15 of them were new for the year. I was hoping to see Cackling Geese and Ross's Geese as well but the views were not good enough to tell for sure.

Thursday was colder which seemed to put a damper on migration. There was virtually no sap running in the sugar bush and any prospects for a sap run were disappearing. We emptied maybe 5 gallons of sap out of 50 trees. Not very impressive. All told this season we've collected only 6% of our usual harvest. Stock up on Maple Syrup while you can. The price is about to jump. We're essentially looking at a total crop failure at this point.

Friday was gorgeous again and I saw first of the year Fox Sparrow hanging out under the feeders at work. He was accompanied by the first eastern chipmunk I've seen as well.

Saturday I taught Maple Syruping classes and for the first time in my decade long career teaching about the process I did so in shorts and a t-shirt. Some of the Maple Trees had already started to bloom. Needless to say the trees were not running. I was, however, delighted to hear the first of the year Eastern Phoebe immediately upon opening my car door in the morning. I was decidedly less enthusiastic about the first deer tick I found on my leg at the end of the day. Western Chorus Frogs were calling enthusiastically.

Sunday I drove around my neighborhood a bit to check out what was happening with the onslaught of spring. I headed down to Lake Como to look for waterfowl and enjoy a Belgian waffle. There's really no finer way to start the day. I was surprised to find there was absolutely no trace of ice on Como. When I left the nature center on Saturday the ice on area lakes all looked black and rotten but it still covered something like 98% of the surface. The ice seemed to disappear overnight. I also stopped in at Lake Josephine and McCarrons and they were completely ice free as well.

The Week Ahead:
Stop by your local pond to listen for western chorus frogs. They sound like someone running their fingernail down a comb. They should also be joined this week by Wood Frogs, which sound like a bunch of funny ducks quacking and spring peepers that simply let out a deafening peep quite disproportionate to their size. Watch for all kinds of plant activity this week as well. Lawns will green up substantially, magnolias will bloom and many garden plants will be peeking up from the soil.


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The Twin Cities Naturalist is a natural history based look at both the Twin Cities and the larger world written by professional naturalist Kirk Mona.

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