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Phenology Talkbacks, September 13 2022

Northern dog-day cicada
Photo by iNaturalist user krisskinou
Northern dog-day cicada

It's the week we've all been waiting for; our first student report of the school year is here! Michelle Martin's Prairie Creek Community School class sent us their report from Northfield, MN. We also hear from our friends at Long Lake Conservation Center, who update us on their eccentric little loon chick!

Prairie Creek Community School, September 13th 2022

Molly and Sorcia are our reporters this week from Prairie Creek Community School' way down south' in Northfield, MN. This week, their theme is 'insects'! They've been hearing cicadas all over, finding their shells, and even finding a few live ones. They've seen grasshoppers, dragonflies, bees, and wasps. Their white oak had three different types of galls, and they saw a wasp that may have been laying eggs. The students have seen monarch butterflies flitting around, but they aren't gathering on the spruce trees yet. Some students have reported hearing crickets in their houses!

As the temperatures cool and the sun sets earlier, the trees have begun to turn yellow. The students report that the crabapples aren't tasty yet, but the goldenrods are in full bloom. Apparently, the class is "looking forward to eating some gall fly larva!" [Brave kids!] The wild cucumber has a few flowers but is mostly making pods. The amphibian and reptile report included toads, garter snakes, and tree frogs. For mollusks, they saw a snail, and for birds, they witnessed vees of geese, cranes, and ducks flying by in the afternoon and evening. They spotted two herons and a hummingbird, too! Sorcia and Molly say it's great to be back: "One more step along the phenology journey!"

John says, "Wow, Molly and Sorcia, we couldn't be happier that you're back!" [I agree!] John mentions that while the students in Northfield may be reporting monarchs and hummingbirds for the next few weeks, folks in Grand Rapids will soon be seeing the last of many of those migrators. For instance, hummingbirds typically leave Grand Rapids in mid-September, according to John's records!

Long Lake Conservation Center, September 13th 2022

Amanda, a new naturalist at Long Lake Conservation Center, brings us our report for this week:

"First, an update about the Loon Chick. After being left alone for days, a parent returned for an afternoon, left and hasn't returned. We worry that the chick might not be at the top of itd class. It was observed awkwardly walking onto the beach and searching around before heading back into the safety of the water. This is not a good idea with all the predators lurking nearby. Despite some questionable decisions, the chick is getting bigger, and its head is starting to turn black, but it has a long way to go before it's ready to fly south. Our little Loon friend has been joined on the lake by small flocks of migrating Canada Geese and a pair of Trumpeter Swans. We're still seeing some warblers, including a Nashville Warbler, along with Sandpipers, Blue Jays, Gold Finches and Kingfishers. It's peak mushroom season, and we've had fun with Puff Balls. There was a mysterious yellow hairy substance growing on some mushrooms that we couldn't figure out. It's stringy and hair-like with what looked like little seeds inside. Our identifier app said it was lichen, but we have our doubts. Any ideas? The Asters, Goldenrods and Jerusalem Artichokes are still blooming and continuing to attract bees and some butterflies. We have found a large number of Milkweed Tussock caterpillars on the Milkweed plants. The seed pods of the Milkweed plants are getting bigger and could break open in the next few weeks. It's a great time to explore the world and we want to remind everyone to unplug, get outside and to…LIVE CONNECTED."

John says, "Thank you, Amanda, good start! Long may you reign as the voice of Long Lake Conservation Center." He's not sure what the stringy, hairy-like substance was... perhaps you know? My bets are on some sort of mycophage or fungivore: something that eats fungi. You can view the photo here... Please let us know if you solve the mystery!

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

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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 the KAXE team in February of 2022. Charlie 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, she 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?).