Phenology Report, August 9 2022
It's a packed week for the phenology report! We have updates on acorns, berries, flowers, bird migration, and more.
John has been keeping an eye on the oaks in his yard and isn't finding many acorns! He pawed around in the young bur oak's branches but could only find a few young acorns. The larger bur oak and red oak had none, though he looked closely with his binoculars. He suspects that since last year's crop was so bountiful, the trees may be recovering this year!
In contrast, the bush maple in John's yard is covered in seeds. Bush maples are shrubs, not trees; the largest reach only 15-20 feet tall, and they are rare (most are 8-12 feet tall). Like other maples, they have winged seeds called samaras. As the fall progresses, the bush maple samaras will get progressively redder, eventually turning a coral red/orange color: John says they're gorgeous! Look around your neighborhood: depending on your region and the amount of sunlight, they may already be turning color.
John's also keeping track of the seasonal fruits:
- Pagoda dogwood is beginning to show a blush on the berries, and the structure holding the berries is turning red (characteristic of dogwoods: worth taking a look next time you have the chance!). Fruits in sunlight develop more rapidly than fruits in the shade, changing from green to orangey-red to a deep blue.
- Black chokeberry- Ripe: can be distinguished from the chokecherry by a scar or flower remnant at the bottom or end of the fruit (like an apple).
- Chokecherry is just approaching full ripeness at John's house (mostly dark purple, with some still reddish). Unlike the black chokeberry, the fruit is smooth except where it attaches to the stem.
- Blueberry is almost done. Very few green berries are left on the plants, and many of the berries are soft and squishy.
- Northern gooseberry can be distinguished from the prickly gooseberry by the lack of pricks on berries. Berries are getting ripe; purple berries are much more flavorful than red berries.
- Raspberry is producing heavily right now! Go out and enjoy them!
Pin cherry- done for the season.
Flowers in bloom right now:
- Canada goldenrod
- Early goldenrod
- Flat-topped (aka grass-leaved) goldenrod
- Gray goldenrod (blooming in Akeley, but not yet in Grand Rapids)
- Common oxeye (big yellow flower)
- Sawtooth sunflower (big yellow flower)
- Tall sunflower (big yellow flower)
- Tansy (big yellow flower)
- Fringed loosestrife (A shorter plant that's not easily seen. Has small yellow flowers)
- Purple loosestrife (tall spike of pinkish-purple flowers with hundreds of flowers per spike. Eradicate on sight- highly invasive and causes many problems!)
- Large-leaved aster
- Northern heart-leaved aster is just getting started.
- White Campion
Plants setting seed:
- Spotted touch-me-not (aka jewelweed) seeds are starting to ripen. The flowers are orange, with trumpet-shaped structures attached to a 'fishhook' shape. When a hummingbird reaches its tongue through the fishhook structure, the pollen-bearing surface of the jewelweed touches the hummingbird's forehead. When it visits the next flower, it deposits that pollen on the female part of the plant, accomplishing pollination. When they form, the seeds are held in small banana-shaped structures that explode on contact- they're pretty fun to trigger! Plus, jewelweed is a highly desirable plant, so you can explode the seeds with abandon.
Hummingbirds are back at John's feeders. Three weeks ago, he didn't see them often; they were busy feeding their young. Since the young have fledged, the hummingbirds are emptying John's feeder almost daily. Soon, the male hummingbirds will fly south, and the females will follow them shortly after. If you feed hummingbirds, you can increase the sugar to a 3:1 ratio instead of 4:1 as August progresses: they need all the help they can get during migration!
John has also been visited by rose-breasted grosbeaks and their young. They'll likely be migrating south soon. The sandhill cranes are out in the fields, and one family that John's been keeping tabs on has one colt (young crane). The family started the summer with two colts but only have one remaining; better one than none! Similarly, the trumpeter swans on John's lake have three cygnets (they started with four). They are now about the size of a Canada goose, so they're getting pretty big!
John encourages you to keep an eye out for the nighthawk migration, which typically begins around August 21st (though John has reported seeing them as early as August 13th). You may also start to see monarchs migrating; there are lots of them out right now sporting brand-new, fresh wings: they've just emerged from their chrysalises and are getting ready to head south!
Along with the monarchs, John has seen white admiral butterflies and northern pearly-eyes. Carolina grasshoppers (the ones with black wings with a white border) are also making themselves known; look for them as you walk along. If you see one hovering about three feet above the ground, it's likely a male trying to impress a female! John's also seen quite a few dragonflies, including Canada darners, blue dashers, common white-tails, pondhawks, red meadow hawks, and 12-spotted skimmers. The meadowhawks will persist into October.
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