Friday, July 26, 2013

They Did It Again!

Greetings from apparently the least vigilant but possibly the most hopeful phenologist ever.
What: A Green Heron chick, pretty far along developmentally and capably (though cautiously) flying from one pine bough to the next.
Where: East border of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
When: 8:30 am, Friday, July 26
Observer: Abbie
Conditions: Comfortably cool and mostly cloudy sky but with patches of cerulean blue. Lovely indeed.

As readers know, last year a pair of Green Herons nested and attempted to raise a brood in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. This year, in mid-May, Christina and I again saw herons and even observed strange behavior which we surmised was a form of courtship. But despite our expeditions and upturned faces, we didn't find their nest this year. Throughout the summer, I've seen a heron in the Garden about once a week. What's worth noting is that every time I saw the bird, it was perched atop a linden tree, not hunting in the pond where I'd expect to see it. I asked myself, "If not exclusively for food, why is it hanging around here?"

Fast forward to today. The adult bird not far away, a fuzzy-headed chick is hopping and making short flights, about 15' up in the pines. It gave me hope to see such a confident and apparently fit fledgling. I imagined its migration, picturing this new bird in a new land for the winter, and then, maybe, returning to the Garden next spring.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Odonata Proliferation, and Lil' Ground Squirrels

As summer comes to its middle, much of the fresh new life in the Sculpture Garden has moved on; the ducklings are gone, as are the tadpoles, presumably turned now to toads and setting out to find their fortunes in the big city. But phenology moves on! That's what phenology means! Kinda!

What: A couple of new sorts of dragonfly - the Odonata of the title. The one with the striped wings in the middle, above, that's been around for quite awhile; I just finally got a decent picture of it. The red and the yellow-striped ones are new, though. Where do they come from? What do they want?
Where: In the reeds on the west side of the pond, mostly, though of course they can fly! Fly through the very air!
When: 1:00 PM, Tuesday, July 23rd
Observer: Matt
Conditions: Sunny with a breeze and just as pleasant as anything ever

What: Little thirteen-lined ground squirrels; probably a couple of weeks old by now but still small and youthful. Two of them were chasing each other around the grass and AWWWWWW.
Where: Southeast corner of the Garden.
When: 1:00 PM, Tuesday, July 23rd
Observer: Matt
Conditions: So nice, you guys

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Odonata Postscript

Thanks to Matt for his humorous and informative post! As for the dragonflies we saw but didn't manage to net (yet): We saw a Green Darner. This I say with fair confidence. And we saw a skimmer, though as to what species of skimmer it was, I am exceedingly uncertain.

Providing me a constant reminder and temptation, the net remains at my desk. Also, I brought that jeweler's loupe that will afford us a magnified view of damselfly abdomens. And I have quite a bit of studying to do, too, so I can become more facile with the identification key.

Another field note: I have searched the pond's perimeter for exuvia (empty exoskeletons from dragonfly and damselfly nymphs) but I don't yet see them. Perhaps I'm overlooking them, especially likely since a segment of the pond's edge is made inaccessible by a temporary fence. But once a generation of Green Darners emerges, I expect it will be more evident since their nymphs are so large.

Another field note: Linden trees have been blooming this past week, in the Garden and around town.

New Pond Life, and Insect Capturing

Today Abbie brought in an insect net for the purpose of catching some dragonflies and damselflies from the Spoonbridge pond area. (At least, I assume that was her original purpose. Maybe she brought it in for some reason I dare not guess and then thought, "Hey, wait a minute!") So that's what she and I set out to do. What we learned: Dragonflies are super hard to catch.

Before we became acquainted with this lesson, however, we saw some delightful new life in the pond!

What: Ducklings! Seven of them, I believe. Presumably from the nest previously under the Spoonbridge, though oddly, the nest had gone vacant during the past week, with no sign of the hatchlings; we'd all assumed it had simply failed. But here they were! Perhaps last week they were being kept in the reeds on a side of the pond currently fenced-off?
Where: North side of the Spoonbridge pond.
When: 5:00 PM, Tuesday, July 2nd
Observers: Abbie and Matt
Conditions: Warm, clear, a bit of a breeze

What: A very large painted turtle, maybe about a foot long. Abbie said she didn't think she'd ever seen a turtle in the pond before. I certainly hadn't, but I'm new at this.
Where: The pond, mostly swimming about the east side.
When: 5:00 PM, Tuesday, July 2nd
Observers: Abbie and Matt
Conditions: Warm, clear, a bit of a breeze still

What: The two sorts of insects we did manage to catch. No dragonflies, I'm afraid, though we could see there were two varieties present (Abbie, I have forgotten what species you believed them to be; perhaps a comment or a new post?). We did catch a damselfly, whose species we narrowed down to one of four of a subcategory of damselflies called bluets. This failure of specificity was in spite of the fact that I was holding the damselfly and we could observe it closely and at length, and the fact that Abbie had a comprehensive field guide to such on hand. Which is to say: There are a lot of species of damselflies that look more or less identical. It seems that what we needed was a magnifying glass. After I let it go, it perched itself comfortably on my fingertip for a time; apparently you can befriend damselflies by catching them in a net and then holding them by their wings for a few minutes. I also inadvertently caught a tiny water scorpion while catching the bluet, and even more inadvertently killed it when Abbie passed it to my clumsy mitts.
Where: Southeast end of the pond.
When: 5:00 PM, Tuesday, July 2nd
Observers: Abbie and Matt
Conditions: Warm, clear, a bit of a breeze; for the bluet, uncomfortable

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Aftermath of Rock

So yesterday was Rock the Garden, just south of the Sculpture Garden, and while this was certainly a good time for the human attendees, to the non-humans who were hanging about the area I'm sure it was mostly a lot of unbelievable noise and thousands of primates stomping about, alas. Such is the life of city-dwelling nature. The Garden was also heavily populated by humanity when I went out this afternoon; it's been one of the first nice, summery weekends of the year. As such, the animals were a bit more reticent than normal. Even the robins chirped away from behind bushes. The pond was where most of the action was that I saw today.

What: I've mentioned the mallard nest on the island of the Spoonbridge before. Today I couldn't see it immediately, though, where it was always very plain before, even yesterday morning. I think perhaps it's been flattened or lowered somehow? As though mother mallard is hunkering down. Didn't care for Bob Mould, maybe. Not everybody likes Bob Mould.
Where: The island where the cup part of the Spoonbridge rests.
When: 2:30 PM, Sunday, June 16th
Observer: Matt
Conditions: Sunny and clear for a change

What: Abbie has mentioned the tadpoles. They were all but blackening the water along about 20 feet of shore; seriously, I don't think conventional mathematics has a number to express this many tadpoles.
Where: They seem to have migrated to the western section of the northern arm of the pond, where before they lived to the east. The eastern section was kind of filthy today, though, and perhaps that's something to do with it.
When: 2:30 PM, Sunday, June 16th
Observer: Matt
Conditions: Delightful

What: Dragonflies and damselflies. The damselflies were green in the thorax and blue in the abdomen; the dragonflies had black wings with two white stripes apiece. Very striking. Sorry about the photo quality; they never came to rest while I was there, and dragonflies in flight are really, really hard to photograph.
Where: All over the pond.
When: 2:30 PM, Sunday, June 16th
Observer: Matt
Conditions: Sunny and bright

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What: Black Locust trees are in bloom and the scent is intoxicating
Where: Along the North Cedar Lake Regional Trail by Linden Yard, there is a stretch of about 50 feet that is dominated by Black Locust trees. One is immersed in the scent and view their flowers provide.
When: 4:30 pm on Monday, June 10
Observer: Abbie
Conditions: Clear and warm, a marked contrast to the cool overcast days that seem to be dominant of late.

What: Cottony seeds from Cottonwood trees
Where: The north edge of Bryn Mawr Meadows
When: 4:35 pm on Monday, June 10
Observer: Abbie
Conditions: A gentle breeze is perceived by trembling leaves and airborne specks

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Someone Left The Cake Out In The Rain

It's okay, though, I've still got the recipe. Raining today in Minneapolis, as it has been doing at some point every day since what feels like the beginning of time. I went out to the Sculpture Garden in it to see what I could see; here are a few of those things.

What: A green heron. I am told - by this blog, actually - that such tried unsuccessfully to nest in the Garden last year; I don't know whether they're giving it another shot this year, but Abbie and I saw one last week, and I got an even better look today. Really handsome birds, the green herons.
Where: Northeast section of the park; just standing in the field at first, but then flew into the trees.
When: Sunday, June 9th, 2013, ~2:00 PM
Observer: Matt
Conditions: Raining! Lightly.

What: A broken, half-eaten egg, in the pond. My suspicion is that it was a mallard egg - there is a brooding female on the island under the spoonbridge itself. She was still brooding today, so presumably the nest is not entirely compromised, but in another part of the pond there was this egg. The fault of a raccoon, perhaps? Or even a rat? A crow? I suppose a number of animals might raid a duck's nest. It is also possible that this was a storebought chicken egg that ended up in the pond for some reason or other; mallard eggs and chicken eggs look fairly similar, and though it does not seem reasonable that someone would put an egg in the pond, less reasonable things happen in public parks pretty much constantly.
Where: Under water just off the shore, northwest section of the Spoonbridge pond
When: Sunday, June 9th, 2013, ~2:00 PM
Observer: Matt
Conditions: Still raining.

Other notes: Robins galore out in the rain; a number of adults looking for flushed-out worms - I saw one female with one in her mouth, still writhing and wriggling - and a lot of juveniles of various ages, looking generally put out. The tadpoles are getting bigger, and there seem to be a thousand of them. And the ground squirrel hole I saw getting dug the other day has been filled in! I do not know by what or whom.