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Phenology Talkbacks, August 23 2022

A yellow-orange shelf fungus growing on brown bark. The edges of the fungus are wavy, and there are parallel shallow grooves running along the bottom face of the fungus.
Photo by iNaturalist user ceeec.
Chicken of the woods

Do you have a bone to pick with National Treasure and Delightful Human John Latimer? This week is your week! John, for reasons unknown, starts Talkbacks this week with an open invitation for you to call and excoriate him! [Excoriate: to censure or criticize severely.] Scott even offers to read your complaints himself, if you’d like to remain anonymous.

[Sidenote: If you do have any long-standing grudges with the ol’ fuddy-duddy to air, I'd definitely recommend taking the anonymous option. I've met members of John Latimer's fan club, and they're not to be trifled with. Speaking of which, I'd like to address a concern: No, John Latimer isn't going anywhere, and I'm not here to replace him! Your beloved phenology program is safe from interference. Don't hunt me for sport! I know I tease him a lot, but I love the old dude too.]

With that odd beginning, we move on to some phenology reports. Every week is a new adventure!

Long Lake Conservation Center, August 23rd 2022

Kathy, Connor and the incoming class of future teachers at Minnesota North College - Itasca Branch bring us this week's report from Long Lake Conservation Center. They had this to say:

"During our visit to Long Lake Conservation Center, we saw lots of signs of summer, but plenty of hints that autumn is fast approaching. Our group spotted a Doe with 3 fawns. We thought it was a bit unusual to see a Doe with triplets. Watching the otters frolic in the shallows, munching of frogs was fun. We got a good look at the adult Loons and their chick who is now nearly as big as they are. It was a good trip for birding. We saw a Roughed Grouse, two large families of turkeys with lots of poults, Tennessee Warblers, Kingbirds, and Solitary Sandpipers. A Long Lake naturalist said he saw a large flock of Tree Swallows riding the north wind on their migration south. In general, many insect-eating birds have already left. One really fun sighting was an army of Wood Frogs. There were hundreds of them. In the flora and fauna world, the pitcher plants in the bog are STILL in bloom, as well as cotton grass. Jewelweed and Big-Leaf Aster are abundant. Blackberries are now ripe – and delicious, and we harvested some Chicken of the Woods and enjoyed it for lunch. It was a fun and delicious trip to Long Lake, and we want to remind everyone to unplug, get outside and live connected!"

John is excited to hear from future teachers! He's excited they're getting outdoor education because "boy, that's where it's all at. Get out and enjoy the outdoors!" He also mentions our Zoom workshop on using Nature's Notebook in the classroom! It is scheduled for Thursday the 25th, from 9-11 AM. You can register here! Nature's Notebook is a citizen science app designed to help you observe and document phenological changes around you. It's a terrific service, especially for teachers who spend years building a phenological record with their students, then retire or move and want a seamless way to pass it off to the next teacher!

Next, I sent my report from West St. Paul.

Sarah from West St. Paul, August 23rd 2022

"Hi, Scott and John! This is Sarah from West St. Paul. I am (unfortunately) seeing signs of fall down here. Leaves are changing, including the sumacs, which are beautiful. I, for one, don't like fall, so it's a bit of a bummer for me! We saw a lot of really fun mushrooms while we were on a walk. We didn't know many of the species, but there was one that looked like a tiny snowman. I got some good pictures. There were also some orange umbrella-shaped ones. We paused for a bit on the side of the trail and were reminded yet again how many things you can see when you actually stop and look for a little while. After sitting there for about three minutes, all of a sudden we noticed that there was a green (the color) tree frog on a bramble right next to us! While looking at the frog, we noticed two big walnuts sitting on the ground right next to us. We admired those and then saw second grey (the species) tree frog. So I encourage everyone if they can get outside, to look for some mushrooms. And if you don't feel like walking around, just take a minute to sit and see what you can find. Have a good morning!"

A tiny white mushroom shaped like a snowman, on a bed of green moss.
Contributed by Sarah Mitchell
The first snowman of the year.

John agrees that a little pause and reflection is a good thing! However, he (and Scott) vehemently disagree with my dislike of autumn, going as far as to say, "What the heck? What's wrong with her?!?" As evidence for their [incorrect] opinion, they cite ice skating, ice boating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowball fights, snowmen, extreme cold [?!?], and wood to be harvested and burned. [Call me Grumblestiltskin, but I'll remind the ol' fudder-dudders that SOME OF US don't live with unfettered access to large bodies of water, ski trails, and a wood fireplace! Also, what about swimming, wildflowers, enjoying all the summer birds, having a reasonable amount of daylight, and not having to put on 5 layers of clothes before you go outside? Grumble, grumble, etc., etc. In conclusion, it's my birthday, and I'll cry if I want to.]

Do you share their love of fall and winter? Or are you with me on team spring and summer? Let me know! Ya boi is all alone out here in West St. Paul without the rest of the Northern Community Radio crew. Send me an email at!

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 is KAXE's Director of Content and Public Affairs where she manages producers and is the local host of Morning Edition from NPR. Heidi is a regional correspondent for WDSE/WRPT's Duluth Public Television’s Almanac North.
Charlie Mitchell (she/they) joined KAXE in February of 2022. Charlie creates the Season Watch Newsletter, produces the Phenology Talkbacks show, coordinates the Phenology in the Classroom program, and writes nature-related stories for KAXE's website. Essentailly, Charlie is John Latimer's faithful sidekick and makes sure all of KAXE's nature/phenology programs find a second life online and in podcast form.

With a background in ecology and evolutionary biology, Charlie enjoys learning a little bit about everything, whether it's plants, mushrooms, or the star-nosed mole. (Fun fact: Moles store fat in their tails, so they don't outgrow their tunnels every time conditions are good.)
KAXE/KBXE Senior Correspondent