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Phenology Talkbacks: Fawns are very 'deer' to us

 A white tailed deer fawn lies down in grass. It has red-brown fur with a lines of white spots. The eyes and nose are black. It's tightly curled up in green grass.
Flickr user USFWS Mountain-Prairie
A white tailed deer fawn lies down in grass.

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.

The school year must be winding down: we’re down to three reports this week.

Never fear: what we lack in quantity is more than made up in quality. Enjoy!

Please note as schools let out for the summer, we become more and more hungry for reports for our Phenology Talkbacks segment. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with your observations, nature tales and insights! Get in touch with me (, John Latimer (, or text "phenology" to 218-326-1234.

Shakopee West Middle School

Shakopee West Middle School phenology report - May 30, 2023

Rainbow trout swim in a clear stream. Three sleek, lightly spotted fish swim toward the camera in clear, shallow water. The two in front have vivid maroon-red stripes on their sides, and the one in back is more brown colored.
Flickr user Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Rainbow trout swim in a clear stream.

This is the final report for this year from Tara Orstad's class at Shakopee West Middle School:

“Hi, this is Hour One and Three from Shakopee West Middle School for the week of May 22. We were on site at the Vermillion River to release our trout and took a hike at Whitetail Woods Regional Park.”

“This Anvitha and Eden and we saw willows dispersing their seeds on our hike.”

"This is Lucy, and with me, I have Eva and Kaitlyn. We are reporting about one of the things we saw on the field trip. One of the things we saw on the field trip was crayfish*. We found up to 5 and they were all different sizes.” (*And one had eggs attached to the underneath of its tail.)

“Harrison reported that the temperature of the stream was 18 degrees Celsius and the ammonium levels were 0.25 ppm, the nitrite levels were 0.25 and the nitrate level was 0.25. The pH was 7.8.”

“This is Braden. As a class we got to release one or two rainbow trout into the Vermillion River.”

“Hi, I’m Coen. We saw a lot of tadpoles. Almost anywhere you looked in the water, we saw tadpoles.”

"Hi, I’m Cal. I saw beautiful blue phlox flowers along our trail. And my dad identified a Rose-breasted Grosbeak giving off its loud call.”

“Hi, this is Jayleen and Sammy. On our nature walk, we saw Tatarian honeysuckle, which is an invasive species.”

“Hi this is Noah and Max, and during our field trip we saw plenty of birds including the Yellow Finch seen frequently around us on our hike.”

“This is Nia and this is Brianna and on our field trip we saw a ton of goats everywhere that were eating invasive buckthorn.”

“Hi, this is Baiba, and I noticed the tent caterpillars have made their nest in the branches of the trees. One nest we saw hatched and the caterpillars are starting to climb up towards the leaves. The other nest had no evidence of hatching yet.”

"Hi, my name is Kaden and I saw the ground squirrels.”

"While we were under a tree, we realized that Brady had a tick. This implies that ticks are out and rampant due to the temperature. You should be careful to make sure you don’t have any on you.”

“Hi, my name is Zach and after people left, I was fishing with mealworms and caught (and released) two rainbow trout yearlings.” (Their teacher adds: his dad was a chaperone and stayed with Zach.)

“Hi, this is Eli and Graham found an American toad in the marshes by the river.”

“This is Tendo and we saw a monarch butterfly by the marsh on our field trip.” (Mrs. Orstad adds: Thursday, May 25, was the first official sighting on our field trip and over the weekend many have been observed.)

"Kennedy and Layla saw red columbine. Emma saw marsh marigold. And Eva with her mom Carrie heard and saw a Barred Owl.”

“This has been our Phenology Report. Work hard and keep exploring!”

John and I are thrilled to hear the class had such a great time releasing their trout at the park! A field trip is always lovely, and even more so when you have knowledgeable parents along who can point out incidental Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. John learned the Rose-breasted Grosbeak song from his friend Harry Hutchins, who told him that they sound like “ … a robin who had had singing lessons.”

Tartarian honeysuckles have pink and white flowers, while our native honeysuckles have yellow flowers. Tartarian honeysuckles are invasive, and John strives to eradicate them on his property. Much like buckthorn, Tartarian honeysuckle will readily supplant native species. When possible, attempt to rip the plant out by the roots: if that is not possible, cut them off and keep cutting them back until the plant eventually gives up.

There are two types of tent caterpillars in the region. One is the forest tent caterpillar, or the army worm. It’s familiar because swarms of them can eat the leaves off of entire areas of trees. The American tent caterpillar, on the other hand, has a daintier appetite: these caterpillars build little tents in the tree as daytime residences, and venture out at night to chomp on a few leaves. They won’t cause nearly as much defoliation (destruction of leaves) as the forest tent caterpillar.

Long Lake Conservation Center near Palisade

Long Lake Conservation Center phenology report - May 30, 2023

Adrian and Charlotte report from Lincoln Elementary School for the Arts’ trip to Long Lake Conservation Center:

“During our trip to Long Lake Conservation Center May 22 through the 24, we used all of our senses to notice the nature all around us!

“In the bog, we saw flowering marsh marigolds, bog rosemary, leatherleaf and the first fluffs of cottongrass. We felt the soft new needles and saw the tiny purple cones of the tamarack. We tasted and felt the cool bog water drips as we squeezed the sphagnum high over our faces. We took turns bouncing on the moss to feel the ground wiggle underneath us. One class found part of a fish skeleton in the bog and we took time to wonder how it got there, by land or maybe dropped from the sky?

“Our two big first of the year sightings were a monarch butterfly and curled up spotted fawn lying on the forest floor. On campus a skunk was smelled but not seen. The blueberries and the jack-in-the-pulpits are in bloom.

“The loud laughter of the Pileated Woodpecker and Red-winged Blackbird calls were heard as were frogs. At the bird feeders there were many sightings of male and female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and male and female orioles. A bluebird was also seen, as was a spider with a white egg sack, a garter snake, a toad, leeches, fat round bees, loons on the lake and an ant dragging a caterpillar.

“Many, many mosquitos were seen, heard and felt! We had a great time in nature and you can, too, you just need to … Unplug, Get outside, and LIVE CONNECTED!”

John reiterates a few of their observations and remarks on what a great experience Long Lake Conservation Center provides for visiting kids.

North Shore Community School near Duluth

North Shore Community School phenology report - May 30, 2023

 A shell from a robin's egg lies on the dirt among sprigs of wood sorrel. The upper half of the shell is present, showing a pastel blue exterior and creamy white interior. The dirt is dark brown-black with sprigs of green wood sorrel emerging in a few locations.
Flickr user Colleen
A shell from a robin's egg lies on the dirt among sprigs of wood sorrel.

Abe reports from Darcie Rolfe and Leigh Jackson’s class at the North Shore Community School near Duluth:

“Hello from North Shore Community School on the North Shore of Lake Superior. This is the phenology report for the week of May 20, 2023. My name is Abe, and I am your phenologist for this week!

“On Friday, May 19, Tiffany saw the northern lights. Our area has been fortunate to see this phenomenon many times over the past several weeks.

“While Micah was mountain biking, he saw some spring beauties and white trillium on the Lester River Mountain Bike Trail.

“The wild plum trees are blossoming! There are two kinds of plums that grow wild in Minnesota. The American plum (Prunus americana), and the Canadian or red plum (Prunus nigra). The American plum was found across the southern and western half of Minnesota — our prairies and savannas — before European settlement. Now this beautiful plant grows along roadsides, rivers, in pastures, and along the edge of the woods across western and southern part of the state.

“The red plum’s range includes the northern and eastern part of the state. It prefers some shade and can be found near ash, aspen, birch, elderberry, hawthorn and sumac. Red plums and American plums both have a similar flavor. After a few crisp, cold fall evenings, the flavor of the native wild plums will be at its peak!

“On Monday, May 22, Ken saw a robin nest and all the eggs but one had hatched. Did you know why robin eggs are blue? They are blue because of a pigment deposited on the eggshell when the female lays the eggs. Throughout the week, Laila has heard many Ovenbirds chirping in the North Shore Community School forest and usually she doesn’t hear them until late June or early July.

“Mrs. Rolfe had the gift of spotting a baby white-tailed fawn near her home this past weekend. Did you know that white-tailed fawns are usually born in the last two weeks of May? During the first few weeks of a fawn’s life, a doe will hide her offspring, then move to a safe distance to prevent her scent from attracting predators to the young animal’s hiding spot. She’ll return often to nurse and care for the fawn. While hidden, the baby deer might lie motionless as a survival mechanism to deter predators.

“But sometimes people mistakenly think a fawn’s lack of movement means it’s sick or injured, prompting them to remove the animal to get it help. People should never move or handle a fawn. During the fawn’s first two months of life, it spends most of its time away from its mother. So just because you see a fawn alone does not mean that it is abandoned. Very young fawns sometimes approach people, domestic animals or even cars. Most times, the mother is not far away and will return to feed the fawn. If you find a fawn, leave it alone and move away slowly and quietly.

“The insects are certainly out! With our warm weather day on Thursday, May 25, students were swatting away biting gnats!

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

John responds, “The gnats, you know, I almost hate them worse than the mosquitoes. They’re harder to kill and their bite is just as noisome.” (Noisome was a new vocabulary word for me! It means disagreeable or unpleasant.)

He cautions us to be aware of biting insects on our outdoor excursions, saying, “There are gnats, mosquitoes, ticks and lots of other critters that are thirsting for your blood.”

On that cheery note ... have a great week!

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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Charlie Mitchell (she/they) joined the KAXE team in February of 2022. Charlie creates the Season Watch Newsletter, writes segment summaries for the website, and coordinates our Engaging Minnesotans with Phenology project. With a background in wildlife biology, she enjoys learning a little bit about everything, whether it's plants, mushrooms, aquatic invertebrates, or the short-tailed shrew (did you know they can echolocate?).