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Phenology Report: Jewelwing damselflies flit about near shorelines

 An iridescent river jewelwing damselfly sits on a leaf in Wild River State Park on June 18, 2014. It has a shiny metallic-green body with dual-colored wings. The outer half of the wings are black, and the inner half are transparent.
Contributed
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iNaturalist user Greg Lasley
An iridescent river jewelwing damselfly sits on a leaf in Wild River State Park on June 18, 2014.

KAXE Staff Phenologist John Latimer provides his weekly assessment of nature in Northern Minnesota. This is the week of July 2, 2024.

A glance at precipitation

With all the rain in June, many of us have questions about water levels, flooding, precipitation totals, and how all these things compare to historical averages. Staff Phenologist John Latimer gives his perspective in this week’s report, and I’ve provided a list of resources below to help you find information for your area.

Stay hydrated, stay dry, and enjoy July!

Topics

  • Introduction (0:00-0:28) 
  • A wet June and fragile shorelines (0:28-2:52) 
  • Jewelwing damselflies (2:52-6:10) 
  • Oxeye daisies and white campion flowers (6:10-8:21) 
  • Lady-slippers, pollinators, and fungi (8:21-14:16) 
  • Bird’s-foot trefoil, bindweeds, and vetches (14:16-16:33) 
  • Black bear at bird feeder (16:33-18:03) 
  • Conclusion (18:03-18:47) 

Canoe-borne curiosity

As John likes to say, “You decide what to wear each day based on the weather, but you buy clothing based on the climate.” For those of us who like to spend time in, on, or near water, the weather conditions can involve a lot more than the chance of rain!

I find myself wondering about "water weather” all the time: Will it be a good day to go canoeing? Is it windy? How fast is the current? How high is the water – do I need to pull the canoe to higher ground? Can I get into that cool backwater area, or is the river too low?

Even when I’m on the water, I find myself beset by burning questions. “Is the river as unseasonably high as I think it is?” “What was the water level like at this time last year?” “Sheesh, how many square feet of land is flooded that is typically above water by now?”

Some of these questions can be answered by looking out the window or pulling up the forecast on my phone. For others, though, I turn to monitoring sites across the state.

My hunts for answers have taken me from one end of the DNR’s website to the far reaches of the USGS databases – I've pooled some of my favorite sources below. Enjoy!

Rivers

A graph shows the fluctuating height of the Mississippi River at the walk bridge in Grand Rapids, Minnesota from July 2023-July 2024 (blue line) and July 2022- July 2023 (grey line). The X axis runs from July-July, and the Y axis from 1242 feet above NAVD 1988- 1254 feet above NAVD 2988. The 2023-2024 river height was lower or equal to the comparable 2022-2023 height from July 2023 through late May, 2024. From late May 2024-July 2024, the water levels rise rapidly above the previous year's.
Contributed
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A graph shows the fluctuating height of the Mississippi River at the walk bridge in Grand Rapids, Minnesota from July 2023-July 2024 (blue line) and July 2022- July 2023 (grey line).

Lakes

  • Lakefinder - find your lake and then look at the left sidebar under “lake reports” for a “water levels” option. Not all lakes have this feature.

Precipitation

Other great resources

Fire danger/burning restrictions

USGS National Water Dashboard: A one-stop shop for most of your hydrology interests, but I’d recommend using a desktop and setting aside some time to fiddle with the settings and layers. Be sure to check out individual sites, such as the Mississippi River in Grand Rapids or Bemidji, for more data!

DNR resources

Minnesota Climate Trends

Weather Talk by state climatologist Mark Seeley

The Sisyphean quest for answers

There are, of course, many questions that I haven’t found answers for (yet). For instance, I'd love to see how a satellite or drone image of the river now would compare to one taken at the same time last year. (How many square feet of land is underwater right now that is typically above the water? How have the proportions of aquatic habitats changed? Which channels changed course?)

The Curiosity Hydra that lives in my brain is, alas, unbeatable. Each question I answer begets three more. While it might be a hopeless endeavor, at least it's a rewarding one - I find so many cool things along the way!

Do you find yourself inundated with unanswered questions? If not, what do you think about when your mind wanders? Let us know; email us at comments@kaxe.org or text us at 218-326-1234.

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.)