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Phenology Talkbacks: Painted turtles, frogs and snakes making more appearances

A painted turtle is mostly retreated into its shell with its head poking out.
Minnesota Seasons
Painted turtle.

Students and listeners from across the state send in their nature reports. Depending on the season, reports may cover wildflowers, wildlife, weather and other wonders.

Wow, 10 reports this week! Listen in.

Remember you can add your voice to this list! Get in touch with me (, John Latimer ( or text "phenology" to 218-326-1234.
For more phenology, subscribe to our Season Watch Newsletter or visit the Season Watch Facebook page.

Prairie Creek Community School

Prairie Creek Community School Phenology Report - May 9, 2023

Michelle Martin reports on her class at Prairie Creek Community School in Northfield.

“Hi folks, this is Michelle from Prairie Creek Community School way down south in Northfield Minnesota.

“Our student phenologists are taking the week off but there are a couple of big events they wanted to share: our red oak is leafing out, the birch catkins have elongated, there are many flowers including bellflower, violets, creeping Charlie and my grandma’s favorite, Dutchman's britches.

“We saw our first groundhog on Friday and we saw our first oriole today. There is a rumor of a hummer sighting, but it hasn’t been confirmed by anyone in the class yet. Maybe next week!

“This has been Prairie Creek, one more step along the phenology journey.”

Phenology is the rhythmic biological nature of events as they relate to climate.

Shakopee West Middle School

Shakopee Middle School Phenology Report - May 9, 2023

Ava, Lucy & Molly from Tara Orstad's class reported on phenology this week.

“Hey guys! This is Ava, Lucy and Mollie from Mrs. Orstad’s seventh grade life science class. We are reporting from the Shakopee West Middle School Life Lab Garden for the week of May 1:

“Here are our new phenology observations for this week:

A many-petaled dandelion flower stands out against a blurred green background.
A many-petaled dandelion flower stands out against a blurred green background.

  • Painted Turtles are back from their winter slumber! They have been seen sunning themselves on edges of ponds as of Tuesday, May 2.  
  • We have seen leaf bud bursts around school and can’t wait to plant our seedlings that we’ve been growing inside outdoors in the next week or two. We are now at 14 hours and 30 minutes of daylight! 
  • The May Full Moon was Friday night, May 5. It’s also called the Leafing Out Moon by Ojibwe or the planting moon by Lakota. 
  • Painted Lady Butterflies were spotted resting on a wall and looked a little rough from their travels. 
  • Dandelion flowers and Bloodroot have opened with these warm sunny days for our first pollinators. 
  • Our Redbud Tree in the Life Lab is almost at bud burst. The small purple pink flowers will be a welcome sign of spring! 
  • The Minnesota River continues to go over its banks downtown flooding Huber Park. 
  • Braden M. has raised painted butterflies and has seen 4 of his 10 cocoons hatch. 

This has been our phenology report. Work hard and keep exploring!”

Kenwood Community School

Kenwood Community School Phenology Report - May 9, 2023

Symir, Sylvie, Leeah, Viva, Breck, Charlie and D'Veah from Natalie Peterson’s fifth grade class provided phenology reports from Kenwood Community School in Minneapolis.

Long Lake Conservation Center

Long Lake Conservation Center - Andover Phenology Report - May 9, 2023

Isla, Jacoby and the students from Crooked Lake Elementary school in Andover reported from Long Lake Conservation Center.

“During our trip to Long Lake Conservation Center May 3rd through the 5th, we had beautiful spring weather.

“There were several wildlife sightings down at the Long Lake beach including beavers, turkeys, a pair of loons and a painted turtle basking in the sun. We discovered a dead perch on the beach and the next day a Bald Eagle was seen picking it up and flying away with it. There have been a number of dead fish found, likely the result of a small winterkill.

“One of the highlights was getting to see a hatchling painted turtle. It must have hatched earlier in the day. We are happy to report it made it to the lake. The first Long Lake leopard frog of the year was discovered on a path between the marsh and the lake. It was big and did not look like it was quite ready for spring, it was moving very slowly. Garter snakes were seen in good numbers in the woods. We even found some that were killed by cars trying to cross the road.

“Flowers are back! We saw Siberian Squill — a non-native invasive with blue flowers that can be mistaken for our native Blue-eyed grass. We also found a dandelion and the leatherleaf plants in the bog have flower buds. Also in the bog, the tamarack trees have tiny bright green needle bundles.

“More bird sightings included Blue Jays, White-throated Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Hooded and Common Mergansers and woodpeckers. The Woodcocks were heard ‘peenting’ in the evening.

“A number of ticks were found, and a ‘mean one’ was pulled off one of our group. Yuck! Our group also saw the season’s first wasps. Deep in the woods, there are still a few small piles of snow left, but it’s almost all gone.

“We had a sunny time in nature and we want to remind everyone to … Unplug, Get outside, and LIVE CONNECTED!”

North Shore Community School

North Shore Community School - May 9, 2023

Rio from Leigh Jackson and Darcie Rolfe's class at North Shore Community School provided this week’s report.

“Hello from North Shore Community School on the North Shore of Lake Superior. This is the Phenology Report for the week of April 29, 2023. My name is Rio, and I’m your phenologist for this week!

“WEATHER/TEMP/SKY: On Sunday, April 30, 40-50 mile wind gusts were reported in Duluth.

“TREES/PLANTS: Mrs Rolfe’s hostas and milkweed have erupted from the ground over the past weekend. Ms. Jackson had some daffodils at her house open up on Monday, May 1. Laura saw some dandelions in her yard on Wednesday, May 3.

The red dogwood along Ryan Road at our school is now visible since the snow is all melted as of this week. On Tuesday, May 2, Ms. Urban noticed that the Red Maples in the school forest were blooming. Look for clusters of small, red flowers on the tips of their branches. On Thursday May 4, while Rio was at the school compost bin she saw three dandelions for the first time this year.

Tree swallow
Photo by iNaturalist user lyneisfilm
Tree swallow

“BIRDS: On Wednesday, May 3, Ms. Urban saw Tree Swallows on the power lines outside of the front entrance to the school. On Tuesday, May 4, she heard a Hermit Thrush singing in the school forest, one of her favorite bird songs.

“Winter wrens have been singing in the school forest, as well as Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers have been very active, they have been seen flying from tree to tree, calling and drumming on tree trunks. On May 4, Evan observed two geese on Lismore Road. These are the first geese he has seen this year.

“AMPHIBIANS: Ms. Jackson heard the first spring peepers in the swale by the playground on Thursday, May 4. On May 5, Mrs. Rolfes' class saw many frogs and frog spawn. The frogs were making quite a ruckus, croaking very loudly. Frogs croak to attract mates, even if they don’t see or hear other frogs croaking is an innate behavior and is especially common during a frog's mating season in the spring after it rains.

“OTHER: Ms. Pierson saw a mourning cloak butterfly by Shelter 2 on May 2! The next day Wayne found a slug on the forest floor. Mrs. Rolfe’s class spotted an alfalfa butterfly during EE class on May 4.

“This concludes the phenology report. Have a great week, and be observant!”

Baxter Elementary School

Baxter Elementary School Phenology Report - May 9, 2023

Hank, Oscar and Cooper from Nate M.’s class at Baxter Elementary School were this week’s classroom phenologists.

Eagle View Elementary School

Eagle View Elementary School Phenology Report - May 9, 2023

Addie, Emmaline and Alexa from Deanna Trottier’s class at Eagle View Elementary provided this week’s report.

“We are here to give the phonology report from Eagle View Elementary for Monday, May 8, 2023.

“Our last bit of snow finally melted on Friday. Four high school students came to our school to volunteer during Day of Caring on Wednesday. They did spring cleanup in our Nature Center and it looks great! They found rhubarb starting to grow and the tulip bulbs we planted last fall are poking through the soil in our garden boxes. Around our school the buds are getting bigger on the aspen and maple trees. We are hoping to have leaves soon!

“Our third grade classes have been learning about the life cycle of trees and have seen many decomposers when looking at rotten trees on the forest floor. They have also been learning about the differences between lichens and moss. They are surprised at how green it is.

Canada geese are pictured on March 21, 2013 in Eltville, Germany. A dead Canada goose injured Robert Meilhammer in Easton, Md., when it was shot and fell from the sky.
Frank Rumpenhorst
AFP/Getty Images
Canada geese.

“We have seen many male Mallard ducks, Canada geese and Swans on Rice Lake. There are two beavers who have been very busy cutting down small trees by the lake. Their dam is getting bigger every day and the level of water is very high.

“The spring peepers have been very loud at night! Oscar, a first grader at our school, brought some frog eggs into school. We have them in a tank filled with lake water and are waiting for them to hatch! This morning we had about 40 tiny tadpoles!

“This is Addie, Emmaline and Alexa reporting from Pequot Lakes.”

Waubun School Forest

Waubun School Forest Phenology Report - May 9, 2023

Tyler, Lily and Reilly from Courtney Farwell and Nick Lenzen's class reported from the Waubun School Forest.

“Boozhoo Gidinawemaaganinaanag — hello all our relatives.

“Our names are Tyler, Lily and Rilee. We are here with the Waubun School Forest Phenology Report.

“We've noticed all of the snow is gone and many of the lakes do not have ice anymore after the strong winds we had this week. Last weekend we had gusts of wind that got up to 50 mph.

“We've also noticed that the grass at the school is turning green. We have spotted blooming flowers including the round lobed hepatica and bloodroot. One interesting fact we learned about bloodroot is the leaves curl up around the stem. We wonder if it does this to protect itself from bugs or other predators.

John Latimer

“One of our classmates saw a leech on a rock in Tullaby Lake. This week we have seen lots of butterflies and mosquitoes. A student saw a turtle on a road. We also spotted a coyote on one of our deer cameras at the forest at 1 in the morning. We wonder if it travels with a pack or by itself? Also, are coyotes nocturnal?

“Our tapping season is done, and we have finished boiling our sap to make syrup. We collected 300 gallons of sap. Due to spilling and other mishaps, we boiled 285 gallons which gave us about 5 and a half gallons of syrup. This means it took us 51.8 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.

“Thank you for listening to our Waubun School Forest Phenology. Living the Nature Life.”

West Rapids Elementary School

West Rapids Elementary School Phenology Report - May 9, 2023

Levi reported from Collin Cody’s class at West Rapids Elementary.

Lake of the Woods School

Lake of the Woods School Phenology Report - May 9, 2023

Hillary reported from Andrew Pierson’s class at Lake of the Woods School

“This is Hillary with the phenology report from Baudette for April 29-May 5.

“The chorus, wood and leopard frogs have been actively calling. Zack witnessed pike spawning in the creek by his house over the weekend. Other recent happenings include the arrival of Pelicans, White-throated Sparrows and a goose nest.

On Wednesday afternoon, our math lesson was rudely interrupted when a mourning cloak butterfly was seen dabbling among the branches of our maple tree looking for sweet sap.”

As always, we hope to hear from you, dear reader. Let us know what you find out there.

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).

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