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Phenology Report: 03/01/22

Paul Sajevic.jpg
Paul Sajevic via KAXE KBXE Season Watch Facebook Page

John Latimer's official weekly assessment of changes in nature

This week's Phenology Report is full of sights and sounds indicative of spring!

If you have phenology questions or are a teacher or group leader interested in phenology for your students, send an email to John!

This week's report:
It’s been a cold winter! According to John’s notes, February has been well below his average temperature for the area, and very snowy. Last week, John calculated that the snowfall equaled three quarters to two thirds of an inch of rain.

Male aspens are beginning to break bud. New vocab alert: a lagg is defined as an area of high ground leading into an area of low ground, for example, the higher ground next to a bog or swamp. Aspens growing in a lagg next to these nutrient-rich low areas get a benefit, and bud out earlier. Keep an eye out for furry, fuzzy pussy willows opening up in mid-April! The fuzz helps retain heat, in order to accelerate development of the buds. In addition, the speckled alder will begin developing in April- they are the first blooming plant that John sees in northern Minnesota. Elm buds are swelling and turning red- keep an eye on elms and members of willow family for action in the coming month!

Great horned owls are calling, and are sitting on eggs and preparing for hatching in the next 4-5 weeks. Because eggs are laid two to three days apart, the offspring will be a few days older or younger than their siblings. This can lead to impactful differences in offspring success, as the largest chick tends to be fed first! This behavior ensures that at least one of the babies will survive, though in good years all offspring can be successful.

On John’s drive north from the Twin Cities, he kept an eye out for budding pussy willows. Though he didn’t see any, he did note that the brush is getting very colorful! Dogwoods are turning red, and many species of willows are beautiful, vibrant colors this time of year. Most of the tree willows will be yellow in color, while the shrub willows will be a variety of colors from burgundy, green, coral, yellow, red, and more. They put on a truly stunning show for those who know to look for it!

The birds are making a beautiful ruckus out there! Keep your ears out for northern cardiinals with their birdie birdie birdie and witch ear witch ear calls (think cardinals sound like car alarms ). These songs serve a variety of purposes, from finding a mate to staking out territory. It’s always a pleasure to see and hear them!

Bald eagles have returned to their nests and are doing their yearly maintenance. John’s resident bald eagles moved nests in 2017, and while the new nest is still covered in a foot of snow, the eagles have been observed bringing sticks to the older nest in an aspen tree. Whether they are moving back to the old nest remains to be seen- we’ll find out in future phenology shows! A tip for nest identification- osprey will build their prominent nests at the top of a tree or pole, while bald eagles will generally nest nearer to the middle of the tree with a lot of branches and perches nearby.

Finally, John reassures us that despite the dishearteningly cold winter, his 38 years of careful observation suggest that spring will come eventually. To get involved in the phenology program, contact us by texting ‘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.
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