Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cottonwood Catkins Emerge

What: Flowers (male catkins) of the Eastern Cottonwood have emerged! Just yesterday I used my binoculars to inspect the upper branches and saw only closed buds. By afternoon today, the upper 2/3 of the tree exhibits burst buds. (As an aside, in the southeast corner of the Sculpture Garden there are other trees from the Populus genus---possibly Quaking Aspen---and these flowered a few days before the Cottonwood.)
Where: Planted in 1997 in the northwest corner of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, this tree is part of a posthumous continuation Joseph Beuys' 7000 Oaks.
When: 5:30 pm, Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Observer: Abbie
Conditions: Rapidly things are changing in the Garden.

Friday, April 26, 2013

White-Throated Sparrow Passing Through

Photo by Kelly Colgan Azar, via Flickr (Creative Commons-licensed)
What: One of my favorite birds, a White-throated Sparrow, foraging on the garden grounds to fuel his migration to boreal forests.
Where: Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in the grove just north of Spoonbridge and Cherry.
When: 2:40 pm on Friday, April 26, 2013
Observer: Abbie
Conditions: In this "spring of many winters," today's warmth and sun have everyone giddy for spring.

Female Red-winged Blackbirds Start to Arrive

What: Two female Red-winged Blackbirds, the first I've seen this year
Where: Loring Park
When: 8:20 am, Friday, April 26
Observer: Abbie
Conditions: Sunny and virtually impossible to put down my binoculars and get to work on time. The blackbirds are especially interesting to watch as the males are busy feeding on cattails, calling, and showing off their brightly colored epaulettes.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Killdeer on the Playing Fields

What: They're back! When I heard their cries, I pulled out my binoculars and spotted a pair of Killdeer. Not the first I've seen all year, but the first seen this year in the vicinity of the Walker.
Where: Bryn Mawr Meadows Park, northwest of the Walker Art Center
When: 8:20 am, Monday, April 8
Observer: Abbie
Conditions: Looking over notes from 2012, last year's first observation of a Killdeer was March 12. But what I'd really like to know is: How quickly do these manage to raise their brood? Right now, the fields are vacant, but before long they'll be occupied daily by baseball, soccer, and cricket players. So is it possible for Killdeer to be successful on this territory?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Chipmunks Emerge

What: A Chipmunk, the first I've seen emerge from hibernation.
Where: Near Wirth Park
When: 10:50 am, Sunday, April 7
Observer: Abbie
Conditions: Overcast, about 37 degrees, a quiet day except for the ceaselessly singing Northern Cardinal. Over the past week, I've been watching for the first 13-lined Ground Squirrel in the Sculpture Garden, but either they weren't out yet or I was looking at the wrong time/place. But I'll go back tomorrow with renewed determination.

Minnesota's Top 7 Species to Follow

I'm just back from an outstanding conference on Minnesota phenology and I'm supercharged with new observations, friends, and knowledge. Percolating to the top of this enthusiasm is news of an initiative by the Minnesota Phenology Network to select the following "Top 7" species to track:
  • Red Maple
  • Common Loon
  • Tamarack
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  • Lilac
  • Monarch
Read more here http://phenology.cfans.umn.edu/speciestofollow/index.htm. Then learn exactly what to watch for by following the links which take you to detailed information at the National Phenology Network.

This exciting initiative not only focuses our observations, but does so strategically by choosing species that are easy to identify and iconic of Minnesota. I'm particularly excited about the Tamarack (Larix laricina) and Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) since I pass these every day on my walk to work. Also, one can routinely observe hummingbirds and Monarch Butterflies in the Sculpture Garden's arbor.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Bashō was a Phenologist

If Proust was a neuroscientist, Bashō was a phenologist.
A cicada shell;
it sang itself
utterly away.
A snowy morning--
by myself,
chewing on dried salmon.
A monk sips morning tea,
it's quiet,
the chrysanthemum's flowering. 
---three haiku poems by Bashō

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Four Firsts

I find my home turf drastically transformed today, my first day back after 6 days in California.

What: Common Grackles, about 15, the first I've seen this year. Naturally, I heard their coarse squawks before spotting them in the arbor vitae and linden trees.
Where: Minneapolis Sculpture Garden's grande allée
When: 5:15 pm

What: Red-winged Blackbirds, about 10 (all males), another first for 2013. Like the grackles, the blackbirds are heard before seeen.
Where: Loring Park and Spring Lake
When: 5:25 & 7 pm, respectively

What: Song Sparrow singing, first I've heard this year
Where: Theodore Wirth Park
When: 7:45 pm on Thursday, April 4

What: A bat in flight! I confess, I don't know species of Minnesota bats. I'm estimating this individual was about as big as a House Finch or maybe a little bigger.
Where: Theodore Wirth Park
When: 8:01 pm on Thursday, April 4

Observer: Abbie
Conditions: Perhaps if I had not been away, these reports of "firsts" would have come earlier.