Phenology Talkbacks, November 22 2022
Brr! It's been a cold week. It'll take more than Old Man Winter to stop our students from enjoying time outside, though!
Tayma and Gentry reported from Nathan Lindner's class at Cohasset Elementary School. Ice formed the lakes and ponds in the area, with 5 inches already on Red Lake! It wasn't just ice; there was snow almost every day. Ducks and geese are more sparse than they were in weeks past; many have flown south. Deer and birds were busy at the feeders since food was less available in the woods. They even smelled a skunk, which is unusual for this time of year! All the leaves have fallen, even off of invasive species like buckthorn. "Have a happy happy Thanksgiving, and like Mr. Latimer says: Onward and Awkward!"
John gets a chuckle out of their report, saying, "Yeah, stumble up to the dinner table and tuck into some of that very toothsome dressing. That's where I'm going!"
Luca reported from Collin Cody's class at West Rapids Elementary School. During their phenology walk on November 15th, it was cloudy and snowy but not too cold. The temperature was around 30 degrees, and there wasn't much wind. They went to find animal tracks, and they succeeded! They found deer tracks and squirrel tracks (including a red and possibly a grey squirrel). They also saw a raven on their walk and had fun knocking snow off the Balsam Fir trees!
John thanks Luca for the report and agrees it's a great time of year to get out and check out the animal tracks! There is fresh snow outside the studio today, so it'll be perfect for observations.
Harley and Casey reported from Courtney Farwell and Nick Lenzen's class at Waubun Forest School. The third week of November had an average temperature of 25 degrees F and an average wind speed of 10 mph. Last year averaged 30.2 degrees and 16 mph, so this year was colder but not as windy! The students saw the first sundog of the season on November 18th. The class observed many animal tracks in the fresh snow: animals have been on the move as they prepare for the winter months. The lake in their school forest has frozen over, but they are staying safe and waiting a few weeks before venturing onto the ice. They are planning to measure ice depth during the winter: it'll be interesting to hear what they find! The class wondered when the lake would have a foot of ice. [I'll make an uneducated guess that it'll be... December 10th.] "Thank you for listening to our Waubun School Forest phenology report. We are living the nature life!"
John says thanks to the reporters and applauds their yearly comparisons! He has yet to see a sundog, but he's keeping his eyes out. It's the right time of year to observe them. John is excited to follow the students' reports on ice depth.
Tiffany reported from Leigh Jackson's class at North Shore Community School in Duluth. It's been below-freezing with frequent snowfalls this week, but the creek in their school forest is still flowing. They measured the snowfall on November 16th and found that 6 inches had fallen over the previous 3 days! Other areas of the North Shore had over two feet of snow. It was perfect for building snowballs and snow forts: sticky without being too slushy. During recess, students are now all bundled up against the cold; warm jackets, boots, snow pants, and mittens are all needed to stay warm. One recess was 22 degrees, cloudy, with a brisk wind! The trails in the school forest are covered in packed-down snow. Outside of school, some students have found plenty of wildlife, including two bucks and the tracks of rabbits, squirrels, mice, and other small mammals. The chickadees are busy at the feeders, and other songbirds have joined them: the students hypothesized that the heavy snow makes it more difficult for the birds to forage in the wild. "This concludes the phenology report: Have a great week, and be observant!"
John thanks Tiffany for the excellent report. He finds it interesting that the creek is still open; running water does take longer to freeze, though! John elaborates that their school is in the northeast section of Duluth, closer to Two Harbors. He hopes that all our listeners are following the students' example by getting out and enjoying the animal tracks!
Cash and Emmett reported from Steve Dahlberg's class at the Holy Rosary School in Detroit Lakes. The shores of Detroit Lake froze this week. The deer have been active in the area and needed to be! Local hunters have been successful, including a student who harvested a 6-point buck. Students saw deer, turkeys, a porcupine, swans, and large flocks of geese. Some flocks had as many as 200 individuals! While the geese flocks were vast, the blackbird flocks decreased in size compared to previous weeks. The crows gathered in large groups; fifteen collected grit on the side of the road one afternoon. The crabapple trees are bare, but deer are still stopping by to see if they can forage for a few fruits. The students also smelled a skunk, saw wolf tracks, and saw two roadkilled red-bellied snakes. "This has been the Holy Rosary phenology report. Have a great week!"
John thanks them for their report and elaborates on skunk overwintering behavior! Skunks live primarily on stored fat but will supplement with food a few times throughout the winter. They will sleep for a few weeks to a month, wake up, forage for food, and then sleep again. They'll keep to this slow cycle until February when they start seeking mates. John also notes that the red-bellied snakes were probably moving toward their hibernaculum. They're one of the most cold-resistant snakes in the state!
Rett and Adalynn reported from Rum River Elementary's trip to Long Lake Conservation Center:
"During our trip to Long Lake Conservation Center on November 16th through the 18th it was the beginning track season. The fresh coating of snow opened a window to animal activity that we don't always see. We saw mice, rabbit and lots and lots of deer tracks, even though we didn't see any of the actual animals. One of our favorite sighting was a deer yarding spot where a deer cleared an area of snow to make a bed to lay down to rest. It was nearly perfectly round and looked cozy. Our group was able to cross country ski and explore the woods where we saw a porcupine in a tree munching on some branches, and lots of birds. Bird sightings included Chickadees, Nuthatches, and Pileated, Red-bellied, Snowy and Downy Woodpeckers. We're still seeing lots of Blue Jays, and were hoping to see to Pine Grosbeaks, but had no luck. Also, we heard but didn't see a flock of Tundra Swans fly overhead. In the bog, a red squirrel was spotted chasing around. When our group arrived, the lake was almost half frozen, and now it's almost totally frozen. We predict ice in to be complete by tomorrow. This week was notable as much for what we didn't see as what we did. Long Lake's naturalists said that this was the first week since last spring that we haven't seen Chipmunks, Canada Geese, turtles, frogs or snakes. Have a nice winter, little dudes. We'll see you next spring. It's a winter paradise outside, and perfect campfire weather. We want to remind everyone to unplug, get outside and to… LIVE CONNECTED."
John thanks them for the report and is happy to hear they could go skiing! He applauds them for mentioning not only what they did see but what they didn't: the reptiles and amphibians have settled into hibernation for the winter.
Anika, Addie, and Alex reported from Deanne Trottier's class at Eagle View Elementary in Pequot Lakes. It looked like winter, with a few inches of snow on the ground, temperatures in the low 20s, and only 9 hours between sunrise and sunset. In the snow, under a crabapple tree, the students found tracks of deer: in other areas, they saw rabbit, mouse, and bird tracks. Birds were proved easier to spot than mammals: they saw chickadees, a Bald Eagle, a Blue Jay, and flocks of swans and geese. The geese and swans did not land, as the lake had frozen over. The turkey was noticeably absent: a smart move for a turkey this week! "What tracks are you seeing where you live? This is Anika, Addie, and Alex reporting from Eagle View Elementary in Pequot Lakes. Happy Thanksgiving!"
John thanks them for their report and for asking what tracks listeners have found! He points out that Tuesday's snow offers the perfect opportunity: a blank slate for all the critters to mark up. He adds that trumpeter swans will migrate just enough to find open water. Finally, John congratulates Hadley Sigler for winning the Minnesota Association of Environmental Educators' 2022 Student Environmental Stewardship Award! It's a great honor for her (and her fantastic teacher, Deanne Trottier). Congratulations from all of us at Northern Community Radio! You can check out her award video below.
Hazel, Finley, Kip, George, and Timmy reported from Leona Cichy's class at Roots and Wings Forest School in New York Mills. It snowed almost constantly last week, and they measured 2-4.5 inches of accumulation. RealFeel temperatures were below 0 all day on Friday: Brr! The snow and cold had benefits, however: the class found cat tracks, mouse tracks, and squirrel tracks with holes where they had buried food. Looking up, they spotted lots of birds: three eagles, a flock of 50 geese, 40 swans on a lake, an owl, and three turkeys! "Thanks for listening!"
[I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it: If you aren't listening to these recordings, you are missing out! This one had me in stitches.]
John and Heidi got a kick out of this one, and take a few minutes to giggle. John thanks Hazel, Finley, Kip, George, and Timmy for the outstanding report: what a lot of observations!
Silvia and Blake reported from Michelle Martin's class at Prairie Creek Community School in Northfield. They've had their eyes open, spotting eagles, seagulls, Blue Jays, Mourning Doves, deer (including 12 does and one buck), and a rabbit living under a student's front steps! They noted that the buck was leaving a rub on the tree and mentioned that they learned the difference between a rub and a scrape from the Season Watch Newsletter. [Yay!] All the ponds are frozen. "It's cold and exciting! One more step along the phenology journey."
John thanks them for the report and reiterates a few of their observations. He adds that while the ponds may be frozen, lakes will take longer to ice over. The lakes near Grand Rapids still have open water!
What a great week! I hope all our listeners and readers have some time off this week. (RIP, retail workers, I see you). Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving, observe the National Day of Mourning, or do neither, I hope you can enjoy some time outside!
Remember that you can add your voice to this list! We would love to hear from you. Get in touch with me (email@example.com) or John (firstname.lastname@example.org), or text 'phenology' to 218-326-1234.
For more phenology content, subscribe to our Season Watch newsletter!
Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).