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Phenology Talkbacks: May marks many beginnings

A male Baltimore Oriole perches on an oriole feeder. The feeder holds two halves of an orange and a jar of jelly. The bird has a bright orange belly, chest, and tail, with dark black head, back, and wings. The image is captioned "Baltimore Oriole".
A male Baltimore Oriole perches on an oriole feeder.

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.

It’s gotta be May — we're in the double-digits with 12 reports! Enjoy.

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.

Shakopee West Middle School

Shakopee West Middle School phenology report - May 16, 2023

A common lilac inflorescence blooms in spring. Many purple flowers are clustered in a conical bunch. The background is blurred and green.
A common lilac inflorescence blooms in spring.

Noah, Sophia and Eli reported from Tara Orstad's class at Shakopee West Elementary School:

“Hey guys! This is Noah, Sophia and Eli 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 8:

“Here are our new phenology observations for this week: It’s all about FLOWERS, FLOWERS, FLOWERS, and bugs, bugs, bugs! A ladybug landed on Zach W. Wasps are back in Tessa’s yard, and Max got stung by some sort of bee or wasp.

“Khy’s grandma’s lilacs have leaf and flower buds, but there will be no lilacs bursting for Mother’s Day.* (*See addendum below.) Our redbud tree has leaf and flower bud bursts this week, cheering up the Life Lab. The cherry blossoms in front of our school have lavishly burst into flower and sweet smells.

“The Nature Club planted their veggies in our GIAB-granted (Garden in a Box) raised beds and came across a variety of decomposers in the rich soil. The Lab’s bleeding heart is also in full bloom. And purple violets along the path delicately brighten it up. This week in Shakopee we’ve seen ferns, large white trillium and hepatica.

“Braden, Mollie and Sammy have seen A LOT of quarter-sized painted turtles moving about. When Noah was cleaning up road trash, he discovered a duck nest with 16 eggs. Our resident Mallard couple at West Middle was investigating the Life Lab, assessing whether or not it was a good spot this year for a potential nest. We have not found where they have chosen their nest location yet. Stay tuned!

“Baby ducks have been seen around our football field waddling about as well. This has been our phenology report. Work hard and keep exploring!”

*Addendum from Tara: “Since our report all the lilacs around Shakopee have full leaves and flower buds have started blooming!”

Kenwood Community School

Kenwood Community School phenology report - May 16, 2023

A Pileated Woodpecker pecks at a pole. It is a large bird with a black body and striped black, white, and red head. The image is captioned "Pileated Woodpecker".
A Pileated Woodpecker pecks at a pole.

Charlie, Yaws, Viva, Derek and Luca reported from Ms. Natalie and Mrs. Gregory's class at Kenwood Community School in Minneapolis. Their teacher said, “We saw orioles, great horned owlets, an egret, wood ducks and a pileated woodpecker! It was a great nature-viewing walk today.”

Baxter Elementary

Baxter Elementary School phenology report - May 16, 2023

A Painted Turtle suns itself on a partially submerged log. Its shell is dark brown and it has vibrant, thin yellow and orange stripes on its head, legs, and tail. The image is captioned "Painted turtle".
A Painted Turtle suns itself on a partially submerged log.

Connor and Jaxon report from Nathan Macejkovic's class at Baxter Elementary School. They had warm 80-degree weather and a bit of rain. Many trees leafed out, including maples and oaks. Lilacs leafed out and violets bloomed, and turtles swam about in local ponds.

The students noticed the deer poop is changing in shape as the deers’ diet changes. Insects were more apparent, with mosquitoes, grasshoppers and wooly bear caterpillars all sighted. Birds included a Golden Eagle (possibly), a Cedar Waxwing, a loon and Tennessee Warblers.

Eagle View Elementary in Pequot Lakes

Eagle View Elementary phenology report - May 16, 2023

Two images are shown. The top image is of an adult Bald Eagle, showing its white head and tail and a dark brown body. It is captioned "Adult Bald Eagle." The lower image shows an immature Bald Eagle with its mottled brown-and-white plumage covering its whole body. It is captioned "Immature Bald Eagle."
Charlie Mitchell. Original images contributed by Canva.
A comparison between adult and immature Bald Eagle plumage.

Lucy and Anika report from Deanne Trottier's class at Eagle View Elementary in Pequot Lakes.

“This is the May 15, 2023, phenology report from Eagle View Elementary School. There is a lot happening outside this week! Our tulips are blooming and the grass is turning green. Many of the other trees have buds that will soon be new leaves.

“We have been doing a lot of pond studies this week. We found two newly hatched painted turtles and a garter snake. We also found two more baby turtle shells that we think had been eaten by a bird. We have been learning about all the sounds different frogs and toads make. We heard a lot of spring peepers and found a wood frog. At night the frogs are so loud!

“There were a lot of ducks on Rice Lake and a Bald Eagle kept swooping down towards them. Each time the eagle came near, the ducks would go under the water until it flew away. There has also been a Blue Heron, two swans and Canada Geese.

“There have been a lot of wood ticks and a few mosquitoes. Be tick smart and check for ticks when you’ve been outside.

“This is Lucy and Anika reporting from Pequot Lakes.”

Long Lake Conservation Center

Long Lake Conservation Center phenology report 1 - May 16, 2023

Landon, Bryn and Zoey report from Good Shepherd and Mary of Lourde schools' visit to Long Lake Conservation Center.

“During our trip to Long Lake Conservation Center May 8th through the 10th, we noticed many signs of spring. We heard reports of Orioles and Hummingbirds nearby so we put some cut oranges on the feeders. We did not see any but a Rose-breasted Grosbeak visited one of the oranges almost immediately. Tree Swallows returned to Long Lake. We also saw Goldfinches, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds, Nuthatches, Blue Jays, woodpeckers and Chickadees. There were two loons on the lake and we saw one eat a fish.

“Unfortunately, ticks are out and about in great numbers. Many in our group had them crawling on their clothes. A newly hatched Painted Turtle was found. We’re happy to report that it made it safely to the lake. Lots of other turtles were spotted sunning themselves on logs.

“A person from our group found a dead Merganser on the shore covered in leeches. Spring Peepers were heard AND seen, and a number of Leopard Frogs were identified. Lots of Garter Snakes were spotted in the woods, but a few were still hanging out near the hibernacula. This morning’s rain brought out dozens of earthworms.

“Beavers were busy in the morning. In the forest, Hepatica is in bloom. Dill Prickles the porcupine was not spotted during our trip, and the otters were notably absent. The warm weather brought the return of many insects. A variety of spiders, unidentified butterflies, 21 slugs and a number of Tri-colored Bumble Bees were spotted.

“The grass is turning green and the snow is entirely gone. We had a great time in nature and we want to remind everyone to … Unplug, Get outside, and LIVE CONNECTED!”

Long Lake Conservation Center phenology report 2 - May 16, 2023

Tenley, Morgan and Kira report from Minnewaska's visit to Long Lake Conservation Center:

“Our trip to Long Lake Conservation Center May 10th through the 12th was all about green, turtles, Orioles and beavers. Our group saw dozens of painted turtles, including a handful of hatchlings making their way to the lake. We also saw eight painted turtles sunning on one log.

“Also near the water, we saw and heard a lot of frogs including an orange tree frog and a baby toad. We even saw a Garter Snake swimming in the lake. Another Garter Snake spotted outside our dorm window and we named it Sssssssssimon. The world became green seemingly overnight with lots of trees speeding from budding to leafing. Ash trees are now about half leafed out and catkins were observed on the aspens.

“In addition to Blue Jays, Goldfinches, Robins, Nuthatches, Woodpeckers and Chickadees, our group saw the first Oriole of the season and a pair of male Red-breasted Grosbeaks were seen on the feeders. Though there have been reports of hummingbirds in the area, none were observed at Long Lake.

“One of the highlights of the trip was getting up close to a beaver. Last night at the bonfire, a beaver came close to shore. We were able to get pretty close to it before we were advised to back up and let it go about its business. It was fun to get that close!

“Other sightings during our trip included a variety of different types of spiders, including a wolf spider crawling on a plant in the woods and a spider carrying an egg sack. A handful of slugs, including one that looked like a yellow jellybean, were found and a person in our group actually held one.

“The loon pair, a number of Bald Eagles and a Wild Turkey were observed. It was fun to see turkeys fly. The ticks are certainly around. We had a great time exploring nature and we want to remind everyone to … Unplug, Get outside, and LIVE CONNECTED!”

North Shore Community School

North Shore Community School phenology report - May 16, 2023

An American White Pelican flies over the surface of the water. It is a large bird with an orange bill and legs, white body, and large black markings on the wings. The image is captioned "American White Pelican".
An American White Pelican flies over the surface of the water.

Judah reports from Leigh Jackson and Darcie Rolfe's class at the North Shore Community School in Duluth.

“Hello from North Shore Community School on the North Shore of Lake Superior. This is the Phenology Report for the week of May 6, 2023. My name is Judah, and I’m your phenologist for this week!

“May is known as the Flower Moon and the month of the spring wildflowers. On Wednesday, May 10, Duluth hit a high of 70 degrees for the first time this spring. Usually, it’s only about 61 degrees during this time of the month. On Thursday, May 11, Duluth was 3 degrees short of tying a warm temperature record! The temperature was 80 degrees. It was 20 degrees warmer than average.

“Loretta found a wild leek by the school orchard and sampled it. It tasted like a store-bought onion. The tamarack trees, by the baseball and soccer field, have very large buds but have not sprouted as of May 11. Mrs. Rolfe’s class noticed 85% of the soccer field is covered in green grass.

“On May 11, Mrs. Rolfe’s class saw a wild raspberry bush by the compost shed that had leafed out. The buds on the maple trees at Ms. Jackson’s house are now really popping a bright, vibrant red. Mrs. Rolfe spied several lupins growing along the Old North Shore Road.

“Ms. Emma noticed horsetails sprouting by the playground. The lupins are about 2 inches tall as of May 11th. Also on May 11th Ms. Lounsberry’s class found wood anemonie flowers blooming. Ms. Urban has noticed that the Aspen buds have bursted, and little leaves are starting to grow.

“On Monday, May 8, the staff of North Shore saw a flock of Pelicans slowly circling above the playground. These birds are migrating to their southern grounds in Southern Canada, or in isolated pockets in the great plains district.

“On Wednesday, May 10, Ms. Lampela’s class saw a robin sitting on a nest, (and also) on Wednesday, May 10, the first hummingbird was spotted at Ms. Jackson’s hummingbird feeders! On May 12, Emmett saw three blue jays and one chipping sparrow. Ms. Urban has been hearing and seeing a lot of warblers return to the school forest, including Black-and-white Warblers, Ovenbirds and Black-throated-green warblers.

“Spring peepers and wood frogs continue to call at the school pond. Many students have noticed that frog eggs have been laid.

“On Tuesday, May 9, Laura saw a mosquito for the first time this year. On the afternoon of Wednesday, May 10, Ms. Jackson’s class was outside when the sun finally popped out after a cloudy morning. This sudden warmth led to us shedding our warm coats and swatting away buzzing, flying insects!

“The weekend of May 6th, there was a black bear in Laila’s neighborhood. She has spotted it in the forest and it has been through her trash. This is the first bear she has seen this year, which means it probably just came out of hibernation. On Thursday, May 11, Laura saw that the mud has been drying up so fast now and it's not so muddy outside.

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

Waubun School Forest

Waubun School Forest phenology report - May 16, 2023

A garter snake swims among summer pond lilies. The snake is black with three yellow stripes and is facing the camera. The water is dark and clear.
A garter snake swims among summer pond lilies.

Hunter, Harlee and Cayce report from Courtney Farwell and Nick Lenzen's class at the Waubun School Forest.

“Boozhoo Gidinawemaaganinaanag, hello all my relatives. Our names are Hunter, Harlee and Cayce and we are here with the Waubun School Forest Phenology Report.

“The bugs have recently started moving around the forest. We have seen bees and butterflies fluttering around. We also have been diligently looking for ticks. One student found 15 ticks on her after a walk through our forest. The fourth and fifth graders found some type of a water beetle moving around in a bucket of water that was left out. I also spotted a tiny, transparent worm type of bug in a mushroom. I tried to feed it to a garter snake, but he didn’t want it. This made me wonder what do garter snakes eat?

“Our forest is starting to green up. Buds on a few of the trees are opening up. Today when we went to the forest it was MUCH greener than it was at the beginning of the week. The spring flowers continue to blossom. In a swampy area of the forest, we saw many marsh marigolds. They have not opened up quite yet.

“We also found baby ferns, called fiddleheads. They were about an inch or 2 tall. We were able to spot them by finding old ferns and looking at the base of the plants. We learned that these plants are edible!

“This week we spotted orioles and hummingbirds for the first time. We haven't seen but have certainly heard lots of Ovenbirds making their “teacher teacher” call. As for animals, one student spotted a mink on the side of the road. Another student observed three foxes at the school forest. He thought he might’ve even seen their den!

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

West Rapids Elementary School

West Rapids Elementary School phenology report - May 16, 2023

Maple leaves emerge from a branch. The leaves are wrinkly and small, with red and green coloration. There are 3-5 leaves in focus, with more blurred in the background. The image is captioned "Maple leaves emerging".
Maple leaves emerge from a branch.

Easton and Riley report from Collin Cody's class at West Rapids Elementary in Grand Rapids. During their phenology walk, they had perfect weather. The students spotted leaf bud break on paper birch, maple, butternut and basswood trees. The speckled alder was also starting to leaf out. A queen bee pollinated a leafed-out leatherwood, and the students saw a fish.

Science Nature Adventure Program at Bemidji Middle School

Science Nature Adventure Program phenology report - May 16, 2023

Isabel reports from Angie Nistler's Science Nature Adventure Program at Bemidji Middle School. Their observations included these 100 sightings:

List of 100 observations by SNAP students - May 1-15, 2023. List is as follows: 
1. Chorus frogs 

2. Spring peepers 

3. Aspen catkins 

4. Nuthatch 

5. Fox scat 

6. Deer bone 

7. Rabbit 

8. Hazelnut bud 

9. Squirrel nests 

10. Downy woodpecker 

11. Moss 

12. Flicker 

13. 2 garter snakes 

14. Painted turtles of all sizes 

15. Goldenrod gall 

16. Willow buds 

17. Buckthorn buds 

18. Cattails 

19. Wood frog 

20. Robin 

21. Raspberry plant 

22. Pileated woodpecker 

23. Wild rose plant 

24. Algae 

25. Bald eagle 

26. Small bird nest 

27. Canadian geese 

28. Yellow feather 

29. Osprey 

30. Water beetle 

31. Larger bird nest 

32. Red winged black bird 

33. Skunk scat (we think) 

34. Deer tracks 

35. Chipmunk 

36. Tamarac budding 

37. Robins preparing nest 

38. Loons 

39. Hepatica flowers 

40. Buds on the pine trees 

41. Grass greening up 

42. Night songbirds 

43. Marsh marigolds 

44. Yellow lady slippers coming up 

45. Bloodroot 

46. Wood anemone 

47. Wild ginger 

48. White pine budding 

49. Warm and sunny days 

50. Getting dryer 

51. Pollen on things 

52. Muskrat 

53. Beaver 

54. Northern harrier 

55. Barred owl sound 

56. Sandhill crane 

57. Snipes heard toward night 

58. Bear poop 

59. Wolf or coyote scat on a bird kill 

60. Morel mushrooms 

61. Tadpoles 

62. Water lilies emerging to water surface 

63. Canadian Geese 

64. Mallards 

65. Goldeneye ducks 

66. Water level dropping 

67. Pelicans 

68. Walleye 

69. Suckers 

70. Baby minnows 

71. Mergansers 

72. Wood duck 

73. Cray fish 

74. Seagulls 

75. Pigeon making a nest 

76. Hummingbird 

77. Black bear 

78. Racoons 

79. A skinny deer 

80. Woolly bear Caterpillar (Pyrrharctia Isabella 

81. Ash tree buds 

82. Dogwood 

83. Spruce buds 

84. Blueberry plants 

85. Oak leafing out (looks red) 

86. Big tooth aspen leafing out 

87. Trembling aspen leafing out 

88. Raspberry plant 

89. Greener grass 

90. Algae 

91. Water beetle 

92. Bellwort coming up 

93. Pasque flower 

94. Pussy willows 

95. Wild strawberry plants coming up 

96. Dandelions 

97. Flowering crab budding 

98. Unidentified moth 

99. Nodding trillium 

100. Deer fur on ground
Sarah Mitchell and Angie Nistler
List of 100 observations by SNAP students - May 1-15, 2023.

Apple Blossom Community School in Bemidji

Apple Blossom Village Nature School phenology report - May 16, 2023

A spring peeper calls from the shore of a pond. It is light brown with darker brown stripes and an x-shaped marking on its back. Its throat sac is inflated. The image is captioned "Spring peeper".
A spring peeper calls from the shore of a pond.

Arnaud reports from Alexzandra Lucia's class at Apple Blossom Village Nature School in Bemidji. This week, ice melted from the lake, robins returned and spring peepers started to sing. Muskrats, bees and ticks emerged, and trees began flowering.

Lake of the Woods School

Lake of the Woods School phenology report - May 16, 2023

A gray tree frog sits on a leaf. It has a grey body with fine dark lines and a gold-flecked eye. The tips of its toes are wide. The image is captioned "Gray tree frog".
A gray tree frog sits on a leaf.

Landon reports from Andrew Pierson's class at the Lake of the Woods School in Baudette:

“This is Landon with the phenology report from Baudette for May 5-12. The first loon of the year was heard and seen on Friday. Saturdays shot of rain has greened our grass and started it growing.

"A pesky seasonal event began Monday when the first reports of mosquitoes buzzing and biting were announced. The first calls of the gray tree frog were heard on Thursday evening at 8:30 p.m.

"Finally, on Friday, Zachery witnessed an otter swimming down the river by his house."

Big Fork River

Evelyn from Big Fork River phenology report - May 16, 2023

Evelyn reports from the Big Fork River area.

Australia addendum

Australia Addendum

Sarah joins in on the fun from Australia!

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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