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Phenology Talkbacks, June 28 2022

Silver-bordered fritillary butterfly
Photo by iNaturalist user allan7
Silver-bordered fritillary butterfly in lens box

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It's an excellent week for talkbacks! We've heard from summer campers at Long Lake Conservation Center, attendees of the Northstar Art Camp, and the intrepid Newstok family!

LLCC_June 28

Brighton brings us the report from the Forkhorn and Fishing camps at Long Lake Conservation Center. They observed the season's first turkey poult (or chick), loons on the nest with two eggs, and many painted and snapping turtles out laying eggs! One of the painted turtles had a leech on its back. Brighton reminds us that the turtles often cross roads and highways, so be careful! The campers also found otters, tent caterpillars, pink lady's slippers, and blooming pitcher plants. "It's a great time to go for an explore, and we want to remind everybody to unplug, go outside, and live connected."

River otter
Photo by iNaturalist user sgene
North American river otter with fish

John thanks Brighton for the report and remarks that there were some great observations! He agrees with the closing sentiment and hopes we will get outside and "live connected."


So many kids, so many highlights! Here they are:

  • Willa learned that honeysuckles have uneven leaves. 
  • Mr. President (!) found a dragonfly exoskeleton by the lake. 
  • Addie found a turtle at her campsite, named it Dude, and discovered it was missing one eye! 
  • Isaiah likes plants, vegetables, and swing. 
  • Oscar enjoyed learning about the spittlebug and is glad they found one today. 
  • Dave discovered that those brown clusters found on ash trees once the leaves fall off are like a hornet's nest. 
  • Maria saw a lot of beautiful butterflies on the nature walk. 
  • Jayna saw so many beautiful flowers and plants. 
  • Anika saw a lot of beautiful dragonflies and butterflies. 
  • Emma saw beautiful dragonflies. 
  • Addie caught multiple dragonflies and even one butterfly. 
  • Braxton saw a spittlebug. 
  • Andrew learned that the ash tree has a recognizable pattern on its trunk. 
  • Della learned how to make bean paintings (theirs was a bowl of beans!) 
  • Lakota learned about the different types of trees today- it was really fun! 
  • Jonah learned that the speckled alder is the earliest flowering plant. 
  • Heidi enjoyed looking at the purple iris by the lake. 
  • Kat learned how to recognize the spider crab. 
  • Sophie learned that the silver-bordered fritillaries are very pretty and about dragonflies and damselflies. 
  • Weston caught a tiger swallowtail with his hands. 

John says it was a great couple of days with the kids. They had many experienced campers when it came to capturing bugs! "I gave them all nets, and boy, I'll tell you what! There wasn't a dragonfly out there that wasn't terrorized," John states. The kids had a lot of fun, as did John!

Northstar arts camp
Photo from the Northstar Arts Camp Facebook page
John Latimer with attendees of the Northstar Arts Camp

Ruth, Axel, Pearl, and Edie bring us their weekly report! The Newstok family (and their friend Edie from Tennessee) went to the Lost 40 after hearing about it at John Latimer's presentation at Sand Lake. Their mom saw long tube twin flowers, which were small pink light bells and the bluebead lily. Pearl saw sarsaparilla in fruit (not the kind involved in making rootbeer), ants carrying a dead dragonfly, and a live dragonfly eating a bug on her mom's jacket. They saw the American fly honeysuckle and noted its double oblong fruit! Axel caught a tadpole. There were abundant insects, including fritillary butterflies, lots of dragonflies, bluet damselflies (and other damselflies), twelve-spotted skimmers, chalk-fronted corporals, and a green darner.

Common bluet
Photo by iNaturalist user simontonge
Common bluet damselfly

At their lake, they saw a monarch butterfly, two loons, a bumblebee, a bald eagle, and blue flag irises. Sadly, the monarch caterpillar they had been monitoring went missing after developing to its third instar stage.

The family also made a trip to the North Shore! At Palisade Head, they saw tiny pink and yellow harlequin flowers and plenty of agates. After a chilly swim, they observed a single bead of water at the end of each set of new needles on a fir tree. They camped overnight, and although the fog was beautiful, they were swarmed by blackflies and are still suffering from the bug bites!

John says he got to meet Edie (and see the Newstoks as well), and it was a delight! Their family is so interested in nature, which brings John (and the rest of us!) endless joy. John points out that it takes close attention to find details like the water beads at the end of fir branches!


Heidi was kind enough to read my report this week! It said, "I was near Marine on St. Croix for the weekend, and we had perfect weather. The ruby-throated hummingbirds were swarming the feeders, we heard a barred owlet still learning how to hoot correctly, and we saw a scarlet tanager! In the forest, the blue cohosh was setting seed, and the meadow rue was dropping their seeds. The asparagus plants are tall and lush, with some branches still flowering and others forming seeds. On the river, we saw a baby muskrat eating young rushes, an osprey diving for fish, and many swallows hunting airborne insects. Thanks to John, I was able to spot a number of chalk-fronted corporals! The water levels at the St. Croix have dropped considerably, revealing summer sandbars, and although it was windy, we were able to canoe upstream and observe at least 4 species of turtles basking on logs. We even saw a big female softshell turtle! Our cat, Ember, joined us for her first-ever canoe ride and kept me company in my hammock overnight. She was very interested in the baby muskrat, the dragonflies, and the sand fleas, but less excited about having to be in her kitty harness the whole day. We're excited to go back next weekend! Have a great morning!"

Ember the canoeing cat
Ember the canoeing cat

Remember that you can add your voice to this list! We would love to hear from you. Get in touch with me (smitchell@kaxe.org) or John (jlatimer@kaxe.org), or text 'phenology' to 218-326-1234.

For more phenology content, subscribe to our Season Watch newsletter!

As a mail carrier in rural Grand Rapids, Minn., for 35 years, John Latimer put his own stamp on a career that delivered more than letters. Indeed, while driving the hundred-mile round-trip daily route, he passed the time by observing and recording seasonal changes in nature, learning everything he could about the area’s weather, plants and animals, and becoming the go-to guy who could answer customers’ questions about what they were seeing in the environment.
Heidi Holtan has worked at KAXE/KBXE for over 20 years. She currently helms the Morning Show as News and Public Affairs Director. Heidi is a regional correspondent for WDSE/WRPT's Duluth Public Television’s Almanac North. In 2018 Heidi received the “Building Bridges in Media” award from the Islamic Resource Group for her work on KAXE/KBXE hosting conversations about anti-Muslim movements in rural Minnesota.
Sarah Mitchell (she/they) joined the KAXE team in February of 2022. Sarah creates the Season Watch Newsletter, writes segment summaries for the website, and coordinates our Engaging Minnesotans with Phenology project. With a background in wildlife biology, Sarah enjoys learning a little bit about everything, whether it's plants, mushrooms, aquatic invertebrates, or the short-tailed shrew (did you know they can echolocate?).