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Phenology Talkbacks: 'Sap-sicles' sweetly melt as ephemerals emerge

A "sap-sicle," an icicle formed from dripping tree sap, forms on a maple tree near Little Falls Elementary School on March 23, 2024.
Little Falls Phenology via Instagram
A "sap-sicle," an icicle formed from dripping tree sap, forms on a maple tree near Little Falls Elementary School on March 23, 2024.

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

Heavy snows and Easter weekend kept students out of the classrooms, so there are just three reports this week. However, we have no doubt that our phenology students spent much of that time running around outside, and will have lots to tell us when they return!

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.

Charlie near Marine on St. Croix

“Hello, this is Charlie reporting from Marine on St. Croix. We found a sheltered, south-facing area where hepatica, leatherwood, and Siberian squill were beginning to bloom. In the same area, ginger plants were beginning to emerge.

Charlie's phenology report: April 2, 2024

“In the rest of the area, though, nothing is blooming yet. The maple sap is running, and the dawn chorus feels like it’s getting louder by the day! A pair of Red-shouldered Hawks are active near their nest. One dexterous red squirrel has figured out how to get suet out of our ‘squirrel-proof’ suet feeder, and we suspect that she’s a lactating female.

“On the St. Croix River, we saw Trumpeter Swans, Canada Geese, a Great Blue Heron, and a pair of Red-tailed Hawks. We heard many Red-winged Blackbirds and suspect we heard a Song Sparrow.

“There are still patches of snow on the ground, but they’re melting away quickly.”

“This is Charlie Mitchell, going hither and thither on the Saint Croix River.”

Little Falls Middle School

“This is Brock and Axel reporting from Mr. Kaddatz’s class in Little Falls Middle School. This is our phenology report for the week of March 31.


A blackboard shows the Little Falls Middle School phenology topics for the week preceding April 2, 2024. The illustrations include an American Woodcock, speckled alder, and White-throated Sparrow.
Chad Kaddatz
A blackboard shows the Little Falls Middle School phenology topics for the week preceding April 2, 2024.

“There was a definite slowdown in activity as the weather changed in the past few weeks to colder temperatures and eventually a snowstorm.

“The forest floor was covered with fallen aspen catkins before disappearing under a blanket of snow.

“We had a student find an adult caddisfly on their car window. We are more familiar with the larvae of caddisfly that we find in the river and ponds, but it was cool to see an adult.

“We continue to see more and more Sandhill Cranes, but not in large numbers.

“We have noticed a lot of Bald Eagles, most commonly feeding on roadkill deer in the ditches.

“Several trees are covered in sap dripping off trees and the cold weather caused the formation of ‘sapsickles’ on the branches.

“Herring Gulls and Ring-billed Gulls have been spotted, and ducks, geese, and swans are filling up any open water.

“A large group of hibernating sowbugs were discovered in a rotten log.

“A queen paper wasp emerged from hibernation and was in a classmate's garage.

“A Merlin, which is a small falcon, was identified on the Merlin bird app.

“We were surprised to see pocket gopher mounds appear prior to the snowfall.

“Speckled alder catkins and cones, and hazel catkins are very evident in the woods and wet areas.

“That is our report for this week. Until next week, keep exploring, keep discovering, and keep connecting with the great outdoors.”

KAXE-KBXE Season Watch Facebook recap

Season Watch Facebook recap: April 2, 2024

Charlie’s highlight from the Season Watch Facebook group over the past week was seeing life in Nevis, Minnesota through the eyes (and lens) of Debbie Center.

She reported that hundreds of mergansers and a solitary Great Blue Heron arrived to a nearby lake near Nevis, Minnesota, and a black bear prowled around her yard leaving tracks in the snow.

She also caught a hilarious video featuring a romp of otters poking their heads up through slushy ice on the lake: she called it “a real-life game of whack-a-mole" trying to get all of them in frame on her camera!

Joel Rosen in Carlton County finally has some maple sap running in his trees, after a long wait!

Dallas Hudson was debating how to record days of partial ice to his phenology records, and observed Tundra Swans flying through.

That does it for this week! For more phenology, subscribe to our Season Watch Newsletter or visit the Season Watch Facebook page.

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 KAXE in February of 2022. Charlie creates the Season Watch Newsletter, produces the Phenology Talkbacks show, coordinates the Phenology in the Classroom program, and writes nature-related stories for KAXE's website. Essentailly, Charlie is John Latimer's faithful sidekick and makes sure all of KAXE's nature/phenology programs find a second life online and in podcast form.<br/><br/><br/>With a background in ecology and evolutionary biology, Charlie enjoys learning a little bit about everything, whether it's plants, mushrooms, or the star-nosed mole. (Fun fact: Moles store fat in their tails, so they don't outgrow their tunnels every time conditions are good.)