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Phenology Talkbacks: Hummingbird hygiene and a tottering turkey

A mallard nest, constructed from pine needles, is nestled near a tree trunk near Little Falls, Minnesota on May 12, 2024. There are four large, pale white-blue eggs nestled in a sparse pine needle bowl,
Contributed
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Little Falls Phenology via Instagram (@little_falls_phenology)
Four mallard eggs are nestled next to a tree trunk near Little Falls on May 12, 2024.

This week, enjoy contributions from six schools as spring sprints toward summer!

Please reach out with your observations, nature tales and insights! Email me (cmitchell@kaxe.org), John Latimer (jlatimer@kaxe.org), or text "phenology" to 218-326-1234.

Prairie Creek Community School in Northfield, Minnesota

Sophie: "Hi this is Sophie...”

Viggo: "...and this is Viggo, and we’re from Prairie Creek Community School way down south in Northfield, Minnesota.”

Sophie: "We’ll start with the weather - it’s been warm here. On Friday, there was a double rainbow.”

Prairie Creek Community School phenology report - May 14, 2024

Viggo: "And then many of us saw the Northern Lights late on Friday night. We were able to see them with the naked eye – but the colors came out on people’s phones. Now we’re wondering if all the colorful photos that we’ve seen in calendars would have looked like that in real life.”

Sophie: "It’s smokey down here today from the wildfires in Canada...”

Viggo: "...and the spruce trees are releasing their pollen in giant clouds. ACHOO!”

Sophie: "Speaking of spruce tips, they’ve finally emerged and we’ve been eating them at recess.”

Viggo: "The locust tree also has leaf out. And our mystery tree has leafed out! It is a… drum roll, please...”

Sophie: "WALNUT!”

Viggo: "Silas saw our first hummingbird, finally, on May 11.”

Sophie: “We have Blue Jays and robins nesting.”

Viggo: "Maysoon saw a field with over 20 Red-winged blackbirds.”

Sophie: "We’ve also seen Killdeers and pheasants.”

Viggo: "Anita’s mom saw goslings on her walk, too.”

Sophie: "Arick saw a bat...”

Viggo: "...Which is not surprising because we noticed more mosquitoes this week.”

Sophie: "The tiny swarming black ants are out on our sidewalks and a few folks have seen the flying lemon ants.”

Viggo: "Jimmi saw baby bunnies and Andrew reports that the fox kits are still hanging around their den.”

Sophie: "This has been Prairie Creek.”

Viggo: "One more step along the phenology journey.”

Little Falls Middle School

“This is Mariah and Savanna reporting from Mr. Kaddatz’s class in Little Falls Middle School. This is our phenology report for the week of May 12.

A blackboard shows the phenology topics for Chad Kaddatz's class at Little Falls Middle School for the week preceding May 14, 2024. Illustrations include a Baltimore Oriole, Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, morel mushroom, and trillium flower.
Contributed
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Chad Kaddatz
A blackboard shows the phenology topics for Chad Kaddatz's class at Little Falls Middle School for the week preceding May 14, 2024.
Little Falls Middle School phenology report - May 14, 2024

“Flowers on crabapple, plum, and cherry trees are very showy right now.

“We had another big week of new bird sightings. It seemed that everyone was seeing Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and orioles, and the hummingbirds have also returned to our feeders.

“We have spotted Yellow Warblers, Golden-winged Warblers, Tennessee Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Ovenbirds, Palm Warblers as well as Yellow-throated Vireos, Blue-headed Vireos, and Warbling Vireos.

“Lincoln’s Sparrows, Grasshopper Sparrows, and Gray Catbirds were discovered, along with a rare sighting of a Red-headed Woodpecker.

“The mallards are nesting, Mr. Kaddatz stumbled across a hen sitting on her nest in the pine woods by his house, which is a long way from the nearest water, and some have spotted goslings swimming with geese already.

“We have spotted our first Jack-in-the-pulpits in the woods, and some lucky individuals are finding morel mushrooms.

“This weekend we noticed a large return of mosquitos, dandelions, and creeping charlie.

“Fluffy cottonwood and aspen seeds seem to be blowing everywhere.

“We have seen an orange sulphur butterfly, some silvery blue butterflies, and an Eastern swallowtail butterfly.

“A classmate noticed earlier this week that there is a lot of pollen floating on top of the river in calm areas.

“We did hear Mr. Latimer talk about being careful to keep his hummingbird food fresh. We were wondering how many days is OK for it to sit in the feeder.

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

Long Lake Conservation Center near Palisade

This report is brought to you by Kaylee from Battle Lake Public School in Battle Lake, Angela from Good Shepherd School in Golden Valley, and Molly from Mary of Lourdes Middle School in Little Falls.

Long Lake Conservation Center phenology report one - May 14, 2024

“During our outdoor school trip to Long Lake Conservation Center on May 6-8, the low temperature was 40 degrees and the high temperature was 72.

“The first hummingbird of the season was spotted on campus. Long Lake naturalists believe it was probably a scout, coming to see if food is available. There have been reports of orioles in the area, as well, but none were observed at Long Lake.

“A pair of bluebirds were seen at a birdhouse near the chef’s garden. We think they are going to build a nest in the birdhouse.

“Our group heard lots of frogs and saw a tree frog on the bench near the fire pit.

“Olive found a leech on the bottom of her canoe and the ticks were out in good numbers, despite the rain yesterday.

“Our group saw a number of baby turtles making their way to the lake. On the lake, we saw two loons and a beaver.

“On our bog trek, we got to eat cranberries. They were very sour.

“We observed a dragonfly, chipmunks, Red-winged Blackbirds and even saw a mouse in a room. We named him Tom and let him go back outside.

“It was a great week in nature, and we want to remind everyone to unplug, get outside, and LIVE CONNECTED!”

This report is brought to you by Aubrey, Owen, another Owen, Kason and the students from Minnewaska Area Middle School in Glenwood.

Long Lake Conservation Center phenology report two - May 14, 2024

“During our outdoor school trip to Long Lake Conservation Center on May 8-10, the low temperature was 36 degrees and the high temperature was 66.

“Our group spotted and heard the first oriole of the season. Serviceberries are blooming, aspen leaves are growing quickly and are now about the size of a quarter, and we saw the fiddleheads ferns sprouting from the forest floor. We found a number of newly hatched baby painted turtles and one person in our group helped one by putting it in the lake.

“The grouse were still drumming, which the Long Lake team said was a little late in the season for that. The frogs are croaking loudly in the marshes. They sound a lot like birds.

“The ground is muddy from the recent rain and we found some really cool tracks. In addition to A LOT of deer tracks, we also found what we think are wolf tracks and a bear paw print near the Cooperation Course. A neighbor reported capturing a bear on her trail cam and we found a large deposit of bear scat on campus. There are clearly bears in the area.

“Wild Turkeys are laying their eggs and we found two that were eaten by an unknown predator. There was a hole about the size of a golf ball in the side of the eggs. Both eggs were found near the edge of the bog where short-tailed weasels are known to live. We think it might be the critter eating the eggs.

“One person in our group ate a dandelion and we found lots of slugs. Unfortunately, we found a puddle filled with mosquito larvae. Mosquito season is coming soon. It was a great week in nature, and we want to remind everyone to unplug, get outside, and LIVE CONNECTED!”

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 4, 2024. My name is Cora, and I am your phenologist for this week!

“May is known as the Flower Moon Month according to the Ojibwe. On Saturday, May 4, we had 14 hours and 26 minutes of daylight. Just as the mud had started to dry up on our school playground, on Tuesday, May 7, students had to have inside recess due to rain. The benefit of all the rain is that our school grounds are filled with bright green grass.

North Shore Community School phenology report - May 14, 2024

“The first hummingbird was spotted on Monday, May 6. Keep an eye out for Baltimore Orioles as they have arrived! Jim, our school custodian, had one at his bird feeder on Wednesday, May 8. They enjoy grape jelly, orange halves, or sugar water in shallow glass jars. Orioles also feed on insects, wild fruit, and flowers for nectar.

“On May 7, Penny saw a Red-Breasted Grosbeak at one of her feeders. She also saw a bird she’s never seen before, a Blackburnian Warbler. She mainly had males in her yard, which have a bright orange throat, black triangles on their faces, a white patch on their wings, and a black back with white stripes. Blackburnians usually come up to the Eastern side of North America for breeding in the summer, and stay all the way down in South America for winters! Mrs. Jackson’s class saw a Brown-headed cowbird on Wednesday, May 8.

“The first marsh marigolds bloomed on May 4. The preschoolers found blooming marsh marigolds, and lady fern fiddleheads on May 8. Many trees have swollen, green buds, but the aspen trees have fully burst and have leaves growing in.

“Mr. Keegan saw the bloodroot flower in our school forest on Monday, May 6. The petals were open because it was a sunny day. When he checked on it on Tuesday, which was cloudy, the petals were closed. The bloodroot is named for its red sap in its roots. Bloodroot was once used as a dye by Native American artists and in the natural dying of yarn and fabrics. These flowers are snow white in color and they carpet the forest floor.

"Mrs. Helgesen’s class found a pale green assassin bug on Wednesday, May 8.

"Mrs. Rolfe’s sixth-grade students noticed that there are frog eggs in the swale by the woods edge of the school property on Monday, May 5.

“On Sunday, May 5, Claire had a wood tick on her after playing in the woods. Remember to do tick checks after playing outdoors, as it’s been reported that ticks are out in full force!

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

Oak Grove Elementary School in Bloomington

2023-2024 Oak Grove Elementary School Phenology Club - drone video
Oak Grove Elementary - May 14, 2024

We received a video from the Phenology Club at Oak Grove Elementary School in Bloomington.  

Instead of their usual phenology walk last week, they met with Randy Dop, a local photographer and drone operator.

Dave Murphy, a volunteer and substitute teacher at Oak Grove, sent one of the resulting videos. He said, “This is our fourth-grade Phenology Team. I believe they are all yelling, ‘Hello John Latimer and Charlie Mitchell,’ but I cannot be sure!”

St. Croix Preparatory Academy in Stillwater

A card from Ira, a student at St. Croix Preparatory Academy in Stillwater, reads: "I will miss you, and Mrs. Berg soooooooo much. I will also miss Fred, Juliet, cookie.... Thanks for being so great. Thank you so much for making my last year in Lowwer school so speacil. (I learn from you every day). I love going outside on phenology walks. (I have never known this much about nature.) There are hearts, polka dots, and emojis drawn along with the text.
Contributed
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Kellie Nelson
Ira, a student at St. Croix Preparatory Academy in Stillwater, gave this card to her teacher, Kellie Nelson.
St. Croix Preparatory Academy - May 14, 2024

Finally, we heard from Kellie Nelson, our partnering teacher at the St. Croix Preparatory Academy.

She said, “I just got the attached lovely card from one of my students & wanted to share the end of it with you - thanks for the support to help me get my kids outside and loving nature!”

The card, which is from a student named Ira, concludes, “I love going outside on phenology walks. I have never known this much about nature.”

Notes from listeners

Mary from Cass Lake - Phenology talkbacks, May 14, 2024

Mary from Cass Lake texted in about her local swan nest, and John replied with a story about a tottering turkey.

Heidi from Grand Rapids - Phenology talkbacks, May 14, 2024

John's co-host Heidi Holtan inquired about trillium, enjoyed the antics of Pine Siskins, and saw her first oriole of the year.


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 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?).