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Phenology Report, October 4 2022

Northern Holly

Tick-tock, it's another week of phenology! Speaking of ticks, John found over a dozen deer ticks after a hike on Sunday. Ticks tend to like the 'shoulder seasons': summer is too hot and dry, and winters are (hopefully) cold enough to kill them off. As John discovered on Sunday, they've emerged from their summer dormancy and are out in big numbers. John reminds us to stay safe: tuck your pants into your socks, spray a little permethrin on your pants, and if you have tick-protective clothing, wear it! Be sure your pets are up-to-date on their vaccines, and give them some tick-repellant medicine if you're in a high-risk area. Tick-borne diseases are not fun!

John has seen several more pleasant insects, including a sulphur butterfly in a bog. He thinks it was the pink-edged sulphur, which lives entirely on the leaves of blueberry plants. It's late in the year to see one, so it's also possible it was a common or clouded sulphur butterfly. Near a lake, he saw a green darner dragonfly soaring over the cattails. Autumn meadowhawks are prevalent and stay active as late as November. If you go out looking for them, here's a handy tip: males are red, and females are gold. Also, keep an eye out for the Compton's tortoiseshell butterfly: John spotted one in his garage, likely seeking a spot in the rafters or the woodpile to overwinter. John's happy to share space with the butterflies until they emerge in March or April!

Last week, on September 28th, John recorded the first fall frost. His temperature gauge by the swamp measured 29 degrees, and the one by his house measured 31 degrees. It was chilly enough to kill off his tomato and pepper plants and kicked off a significant change in the leaves! Last week, John's maple trees were about 25%...

At this point I got sick. To summarize: John recorded peak color on Sunday 10/2, about 2 weeks later than typical. Most trees are changing color, and some are dropping leaves (looking at you, birches!). Most ferns are turning color, except for rock ferns, which stay green through the winter. He talks a bit about aspect: hillsides that face southwards get more sun, and you can expect the development of plants to happen more quickly there than on north-facing slopes. He saw these flowers blooming this week: Northern heart leaf aster, large leaf aster, black-eyed Susan, red clover, silvery sink foil, and a zigzag golden rod. Blue herons and robins have been active in the area, and he's seen his local family of trumpeter swans on the lake. He'll be watching for the return of juncos, fox sparrows, and American Tree sparrows! For more details, listen to the segment, and I'll be back in action next week! -SM

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 22 years. She currently helms the Morning Show as News and Public Affairs Director where she manages producers, hosts local interviews and programs, oversees and manages web stories and establishes focus areas of programming like phenology, clean energy, Indigenous voices, Strong Women, local foods, clean energy, economic development and more. 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. During the pandemic, Heidi hosted 14 months of a weekly statewide conversation on COVID-19 for the AMPERS network.
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?).