Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday Phenology: May 14, 2012

Posted by Kirk
This is a transcript of the Monday Phenology podcast. If you are reading via email you can click here to listen.  

The sun came up this morning at 5:44 AM and set at 8:35 PM. It was an incredibly beautiful day, all 14 hours, 50 minutes and 20 seconds of it. We're still gaining sunlight but slowing down to only about 2 minutes a day.

Here's Nature's Week in Review:

Monday I saw black cherry blooming and noted that Black-and-white Warblers were still around. I saw the a Black-and-white Warbler while on a walking brainstorming meeting at work. I didn't see than many other birds but there was a fantastic White-crowned Sparrow that teed up right in front of me. I've seen them multiple times in Arizona but this was my first time seeing one in MN so that goes on the state list as well as the year list. I haven't seen them yet but Orchard Orioles and Canada Warblers have both been reported in the area.

Tuesday I had the day off from work and I took full advantage of the birding opportunity. I started my day at Gray Cloud Dunes SNA in Cottage Grove. I had been there once before and wasn't that impressed. The previous visit I had entered from the north entrance but this time I came in from he southern entrance and had a better sense of the lay of the land before I came in. I was very pleasantly surprised by this site and will go back for sure. It was wonderful. I was there for two and a half hours before the rain came in. By that time I had tallied fourth-one species of birds. Not a bad morning. There were Grasshopper Sparrows everywhere, a Lark Sparrow, many Brown Thrashers, a Yellow-throated Vireo and a Blue-headed Vireo, and dozens of other species. I saw my first of the year Eastern Kingbird, Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Gray Catbirds, Magnolia Warbler, and Vesper Sparrows as well.  I'm sure if I had stuck around longer I would have seen more. I spent the afternoon dodging more rain storms and explored Pine Point Regional Park in northern Washington county. It isn't listed as a hot spot on e-bird but it perhaps should be. There is a good variety of habitat and I saw good birds. I saw 36 species of birds in a little over and hour in less than ideal weather. I was pleased to find a number of new birds for the year. There was a beautiful Chestnut-sided Warbler, a Northern Waterthrush, and and many Common Yellowthroats. I picked up a Red-breasted Nuthatch to boot. That was nice as we just don't have the pines to bring them in at work.

Wednesday Beth in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul wrote in to tell me that she's seeing lots of red admiral and sulfur butterflies at her house. I've noticed an uptick in butterflies this week as well. She also reported seeing the first June Bug last week. I'll have to check out by my back porch light! Kids taking the Reptiles and Amphibians class found a blue spotted salamander in the woods.

Thursday reports were coming in of nighthawks and hummingbirds. Time to watch for both.

Friday I spent the day teaching kids about raptors at O. H. Anderson Elementary in Mahtomedi, MN. I got to bring along our resident Red-tailed Hawk and the kids were excited to see him. I've been bringing the hawk and attending the school's trail day for a decade now. I can easily say this was the nicest, warmest trail day in the history of the event.

Saturday I taught canoeing all day. I know, rough life. There were quite a few Turkey Vultures around. I could hear blue-winged warblers and yellow warblers calling around the lake as we paddled. It was a nearly ideal day. An Eastern Phoebe was nesting inside of one of the canoes on the rack and the nest had eggs. I'm thinking this might be a second nesting of the season for them. Sandhill Cranes were present on the lake and I believe they are nesting as I have seen a pair in the same secluded site multiple times. A Trumpeter Swan pair was present too and I'm really hoping this is the year they successfully nest. I think they tried last summer but we never saw any cygnets. It is possible they were eaten by bald eagles. There is an active eagle nest about 300 feet from where the swans are nesting. I saw two eaglets in the nest on Saturday. They have outgrown their gray fluff and have nice dark brown feathers. They appear to be about the size of the adults now. Saturday was a big day for dragonfly and damselfly emergence too. While pointing out a large cloud of newly emerged Spiny Baskettail dragonflies along a trail, a Green Darner dragonfly flew into the middle of the group, snatched one of the smaller dragonflies and then rather conveniently perched on a shrub branch and started to eat the other dragonfly while we watched. It was a great teachable moment.

Sunday I spent most of the day working in the garden and making multiple trips to the compost site and garden center. My best sighting of the day was while filling up on gas on Snelling Ave. I could hear chimney swifts circling overhead and soon saw them in the sky. I looked around for a suitable chimney and spotted one across the street. While I watched, two of the swifts flew over then chimney, tucked in their wings and dove in. It was very cool to see. I'm going to be sure to report the site of the chimney to Audubon Minnesota as they conduct surveys of existing roosting sites and even talk to owners to make sure we maintain nesting habitat. It is strange to think of brick chimneys as habitat but that's the case and sadly the habitat of chimney swifts is disappearing.

The week ahead:
Look for Eastern Wood Pewees, Cerulean Warblers, Red-eyed Vireo and Indigo Buntings to return this week. Next Saturday we will cross over into 15 hours of daylight.