Monday, June 25, 2012

Monday Phenology: June 25, 2012

Posted by Kirk
This is an abridged transcript of the Monday Phenology podcast. If you are reading via email you can click here to listen.  As an added bonus, yeah, I sing on this one. 


The sun rose this morning at 5:27 AM and set again at 9:04 PM. We got 15 hours, 36 minutes and 14 seconds of sunlight today. Last Wednesday was the solstice and we got 15 hours, 37 minutes and 04 seconds of daylight. So, bad news sun lovers, it is all downhill from here. We've already lost almost a minute of sunlight.

Your Week in Review:

Monday it was hot and muggy. Blue flag Iris was in bloom and there were berries on the Jack in the pulpit. Speaking of flowers, Swamp candles were also in full bloom. Widow skimmer dragonflies were at their peak.

Tuesday I didn't get a lot of sleep. The weather alarm radio went off at 3:30 in the morning with a thunderstorm watch. Since we could already hear thunder and see lightening, it was rather predictible that it turned into a warning just a little while later. The alarm went off again for that. Then it went off again, and again, and again. It seemed like about every half hour between 3:30 and 6:00. I was ready to throw the damn thing out the window. "Seek shelter from damaging winds." Well I don't hang out out outside with my weather alarm so I have that one covered. I really wish there was a way to fine tune what sort of alarms go off when. For example, don't go off between midnight and 5:00 am for thunderstorms. I'm sure I'm not alone in wanting to unplug it at this point and that goes counter to the idea of having people have one. If you annoy them enough the public will ignore the warnings and then not have the radio on when a tornado arrives. This is especially true for watches. I don't want to be woken up multiple times in the middle of the night for a thunderstorm WATCH. Now that being said it sounds like the storm ended up being a little nasty. There were 72,000 people without power in the east metro. Still, I think we need to find a way to refine the warning system or people will start to ignore it. People will only be woken up by so many watches before they unplug the radio and throw it away. I'd at least like the option to have silent watches activated on a radio but that doesn't seem to be an option. Large counties also need to be broken into more SAME codes. Some of the largest already are. These are the codes that activate the radios if the watch/warning are for your area.  The forecasts coming across the warning radio give pretty specific areas for the warnings. They are getting good at granular detail that is smaller than the size of some of the counties. For example, Washington county only has one SAME code. It makes no sense to wake people up at 3:00 AM in Forest Lake when there is a thunderstorm down in Cottage Grove which, while technically in the same county and SAME code is actually 40 miles away. I applaud the NOAA staff for trying to keep people safe and of course they need to err on the side of caution, my point is that they need better tools and systems or people will start to ignore the warnings.

Wednesday I went to Arcola Mills and rode on a pontoon boat with Bob Downs of the National Park Service. I saw a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Bald Eagle, Tree Swallow, Great Egret, Northern Rough-winged Swallow while on the river. Bottle Brush grass Elymus hystrix has seeds but they are not quite dry yet. It was a great way to spend the summer solstice. Our director found blooming lily-leaved twayblade orchids on the property. I was surprised to learn that our observation hive swarmed. We knew it was likely to happen. It was getting crowded and several new queen cells had been created. We tried to stop them from swarming last week by removing the frames with the queen cells and taking half of the bees along with them to create a new hive off the property. We made sure the queen stayed behind. It didn't work. They swarmed anyhow. The queen left to create a new hive somewhere in the wild and she took most of the bees with her. About one frame's worth of bees were left behind. They have created a new queen cell and once she emerges they will start to re-build our observation colony. It has been a very interesting process.

Thursday I got to spend part of the morning catching dragonflies with the Master Naturalist class we're teaching at work. I caught a Green Darner, Dot-tailed Whiteface, Racket-tailed Emerald, Eastern Pondhawk, Calico Pennant, Halloween Pennant and Widow Skimmer dragonflies.

Friday the hawk weed was starting to bloom and the deer flies were pretty horrible. It might not have seemed as bad if I had been with other people but I took a quick solo hike when I arrived at work a little early. The female deer fly needs a blood meal from a vertebrate in order to produce eggs. I had females chasing me though the woods. Normally I'm not opposed to that sort of situation but bloodthirsty females not so good.

Saturday morning I woke up bright and early in my yard in a tent. All things considered if I was that close to my bed I would rather be in bed. For me, camping isn't about the joy of sleeping on the ground, it is about getting to explore new fantastic places. Sleeping on the ground is a price you pay. Since my yard isn't that exotic of a location, sleeping on the hard ground was simply for my son's benefit. He had a blast. At 6:00 in the morning though the first drops of rain started to fall. With no rain fly on to increase air circulation, we felt the drops coming right into the tent. We all scrambled. My wife and son piled all pillows and blankets into opened sleeping bag while I went out and pulled the stakes out of the tent. I popped the poles out and had everything disassembled within one minute. We quickly made our way inside, well prepared for the oncoming downpour. Only, it never came. The rain stopped the second we came inside. We all crashed and slept a little longer.

Sunday I noted that the hollyhocks are blooming really well. There's also been an increase in paper wasp activity. There must have been a hatch of larva.

The week ahead:

Don't count on seeing much change to daylight next week. We're only losing about 20 to 30 seconds per day at this point. Here's the weird part. Because of a lag in how the solstice actually works the date of the latest sunset is actually today, Monday, five days after the solstice. The sun sets at 9:03 for the remainder of the month.