Saturday, March 23, 2013

Great Blue Herons, First of 2013

What: Great Blue Herons, the first I've seen in 2013
Where: Lowry Bridge in North Minneapolis. First, I see one individual in flight. If flies about 1/2 mile up the Mississippi River and lands in a rookery. I count about 30 nests and at least 4 other individuals.
When: 5:30 pm Saturday, March 23
Observers: Abbie and Scott, out on a 10+ mile walk. About 15 minutes later, I see one more individual in flight and Scott asks me how I can identify it from such a distance and from a ventral vantage point, no less. I tell Scott I recognize it by size and the character of its flight. But how would I articulate what I'm seeing? Once home, I read what Pete Dunne has to say about GBH flight:
"Steady wingbeats seem slow and ponderous. . . . Great Blue Heron flies on severely down-bowed wings (seeming to cup the air), and the wings don't appear to rise above the body. The bird flies as if dipping its wingtips into an invisible cauldron, testing the air."
Conditions: Overcast and about 40 degrees. Once home, I do a bit more research. At the top of my search results is this article which leads me to believe I'm looking at a new rookery, started in May/June 2011 after the May 22 tornado destroyed more established rookery further upriver. Next, I turn to e-Bird for a little more information (click image to enlarge).
In early March, GBH appears on about 1% of checklists. Then frequency steadily rises until by mid-April, GBH appears on about 28% of checklists. (This data includes Hennepin County checklists from 1900 to 2013.)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Studio 360 & Macaulay Library's Challenge to Listeners

HOST: Kurt Andersen
GUEST: Greg Budney
PRODUCED BY: Jenny Lawton

This "Spring Remix" contest closes midnight on March 17. To participate, go to:

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tapping for Syrup

What: Charlotte and Nathaniel are tapping Boxelder trees for syrup. Encountering this friendly and industrious pair on my walk home from work, I stop to converse with them about their project.
Where: In the Near North neighborhoods of Minneapolis, near Bassett Creek
When: Wednesday, March 13, about 5:30 pm
Observer: Abbie
Conditions: How do you know when the sap is rising? Charlotte tells me the thermometer gives the signal. When nights are still 32 or below but days warm up above freezing, that's when a maple's stored sugars are traveling up from the roots and out to the branches.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Spring Emergence 4th Annual Phenology Gathering

Dear Readers,
The Minnesota Phenology Network is hosting a gathering on April 5, 6 and 7. Usher in spring with a weekend of guided nature walks, workshops and keynote speakers including:
  • Stan Temple- Senior Fellow at the Aldo Leopold Foundation
  • Scott Mehus – Education Director at the National Eagle Center
  • Rebecca Montgomery – UMN Department of Forest Resources
  • ‘Dinner on the Bluff’ showcasing local foods
  • Stream benthic community exploration 
  • Introduction to phenology observation
  • Guided hikes at Eagle Bluff and Forestville State Park
Join the weekend gathering at Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center, located at 28097 Goodview Drive, Lanesboro, MN 55949.

For details, visit

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Silver Maple Flower Buds - When Exactly Will They Burst?

Silver Maple
Photo by Dean Gugler, via Flickr

What: Around town, silver maple branches are studded with buds. But unlike the Flickr image above, buds are not opening just yet. While on a walk, I noticed underfoot a little cluster of red buds that had fallen to the ground. I didn't have my camera with me so I searched Flickr to find this picture above. The flower pictured here was photographed on March 12, 2012 and the fact that it's further along in opening is demonstrative of last year's aberrational March weather.
Where: South Minneapolis, Nokomis neighborhood. I don't think there are any silver maples in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, but this observation motivates me to scout the park to identify tree species and notice the first flowering phenomena.
When: Sunday, March 10
Observers: Abbie and Scott
Conditions: More puddles than pavement

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Communal Roosting Phenomena

What: I counted easily 800 American Crows on my walk home from work.
Where: About 500 were roosting around Spring Lake and another 300 were at Linden Yards
When: Monday, March 4, 2013
Observers: Abbie
Conditions: A snowy day, with predictions that by Tuesday morning, there might be 10 inches

What: A flock of about 25 Mallards repeatedly circling in low flight. I've seen this happen on other winter nights, even during remarkably strong winds. I think this is a communal roosting behavior, but it seems like a lot of energy to expend. What's going on that the ducks are compelled to fly around and around before settling for the night?
Where: North edge of Theodore Wirth Park
When: Thursday, March 7, just before 6 and before sunset
Observers: Abbie