Phenology Talkbacks, January 10 2023
Happy Tuesday, phenology enthusiasts! It’s a great week this week, with 4 student reports and the first subtle signs of spring.
Odin reports from Andrew Pierson's class at the Lake of the Woods School in Baudette. During the week of January 1-6, cold weather created beautiful icicles on buildings and frosted all the trees white. Deer yarded up in the cedar bogs and chickadees flocked to local feeders. A red squirrel popped out of an underground tunnel, possibly woken up from a winter nap!
John thanks Odin for the report and agrees that it was a great week for frosted trees. John’s local deer haven’t been visiting his nearby fields, since they too have gone to their yarding areas due to the deep snow. The deer are often lured to John’s neighborhood field since his neighbor feeds the crows. The deer like to steal the crow’s food!
Liam reports from Darcie Rolfe and Leigh Jackson's class at North Shore Community School in Duluth. December was a record-setting month in Duluth! They had 44.7 inches fall in December of 2022, compared to the previous record of 44.3 inches in 1950. The deep snow forced the 6th graders to break down tree branches and move the downed trees that had blocked the school nature trail. After their hard work, the trail was ready to get groomed for cross-country skiing! At the school’s bird feeding station, which is aptly named Chickadee Landing, chickadees were the only birds present during Ms. Rolfe’s class. The class will keep their eyes open this week to try to spot other species eating the black oil sunflower seeds! On January 3rd, two students found wolf tracks near the school’s compost shed. This was the first time that wolf tracks were seen in that area. Liam notes that January’s full moon is known as the wolf moon, because wolves were believed to howl more often during January. It was believed that wolves howl due to hunger, but we now know that they howl for many different reasons! The Ojibwe call this moon the Great Spirit Moon, while the Lakota call it the Hard Times Moon. “This concludes the phenology report. Have a great week and be observant!”
John thanks Liam for the great report! There are downed trees on John’s forest trails as well: it’s hard work getting them cleared. John remarks on the wolf tracks by the compost bin: it’s probably a popular place for wildlife to check out, since there might be food! He agrees with the Lakota that “Hard Time Moon” is a good name for this time of year: it’s cold and there’s not much food out there. Luckily for us, it’s been a decently warm January so far.
Lucy, Hadley, and Elijiah reported from Deanne Trottier’s class at Eagle View Elementary in Pequot Lakes! They took their phenology walk on January 5th. The moon was still up in the sky and a day away from full. The plants were covered in frost, which they learned is called hoar frost! They tell us, “Hoar frost is feathery frost that forms on plants on cold winter nights when the water vapor in the air touches solid things that are already below freezing. Ice crystals form, and they continue to grow as more water vapor touches them. Did you know that hoar frost gets its name from the way the ice crystals make it look like hair or a beard? It reminds people of old age.” The snow in Pequot Lakes was very deep last week, and the students found deer, mice, rabbits, and squirrel tracks. The bird feeders at the nature center were full of chickadees, nuthatches, and Blue Jays. Ms. Trottier, their teacher, found something awesome: fox tracks ending in a wing print and a pile of feathers! She determined that a fox caught a grouse, and she found the aftermath! “It’s been a great week in Pequot Lakes for frost, tracks, and bird watching. This is Lucy, Hadley, and Elijah reporting: Let’s go outside!”
John thanks them for the report and agrees that it’s always time to get outdoors! He confirms that the word “hoar” in “hoar frost” refers to white hair or a white beard: In Old English, hoar meant old person. John reiterates a few of their observations, including the full moon, animal tracks, and birds at the feeder. “A fox eating a grouse?” he adds. “Everybody likes Ruffed Grouse!”
Sorcha and Ruby bring us the report from Michelle Martin’s class at Prairie Creek Community School in Northfield, Minnesota. “Exciting news!” they say. “We have heard the ‘Phoebe’ song of the Chickadee! We hear it early in the morning. Ruby said it sounds like spring!” [I agree! It does!] The class is still waiting to hear the ‘pump handle’ call of the Blue Jay. The class spotted another sign of the upcoming spring: the willow branches are turning a bright yellow-green! The class has seen a lot of deer, a rabbit, and a cardinal. One student heard a barred owl call, and another caught a 17-inch walleye while ice fishing! Though the end of the week was warm, the beginning of the month had a big storm with thunder snow! Due to the snow and ice, many trees lost branches. “This has been Prairie Creek Community School: One more step along the phenology journey!”
Scott and John agree, they want some of whatever Sorcha and Ruby eat for breakfast! They put the performance in the phenology reports, that’s for sure. John hasn’t yet heard the ‘Phoebe’ song of the Chickadee yet this winter, but he’s looking forward to it. He agrees that the willows are certainly putting on some color: they’ll be even brighter by mid-February! The mention of the 17-inch Walleye set John to salivating; “That’s a nice fish. You’re making me hungry here!” Unfortunately for the folks in Grand Rapids, they didn’t get thunder with their heavy snow. But, it's always exciting when it does happen!
[Check out their report (lovingly portrayed in video form) below!]
That concludes our reports for the week! Remember that you can add your voice to this list! Get in touch with me (firstname.lastname@example.org), John Latimer (email@example.com), or text "phenology" to 218-326-1234.
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).
Bonus: The automatic transcription service we use to convert spoken words to text sometimes makes errors. Here’s my favorite one of the week!
“Viggo saw a cardinal. Isaiah hurt a bard.” Watch out, singer/songwriters of Northfield…