Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring Flower Phenology, Of A Sort

I returned home from Chicago to find the Pasqueflower open, the forsythia leafed out and tulips budded.

Seems amazingly early to me, but I thought I should dig through all my phenologies to confirm. I've kept a record since 2002 for our house outside the Twin Cities.

I learned a few things doing this:
1) I'm not as good as keeping records as a I thought. For example, in my mind I always note the opening of the pasqueflower as the sure sign of spring. Turns out that I've actually only recorded it for THREE years, including this year. How'd that happen?
2) I've sadly lost (hopefully just misplaced) my records for '04-'06.
3) Phenologies confirmed the association in my mind of pasqueflower and forsythia opening around the same time.
4) I do keep lots of information in the phenologies, but it's not always consistent by species. (some years I may not have noted arrival of bluebirds, or of first baby wrens but did not first wild plum blossoms or first fall frost)

Here's what I do have:
Pasqueflower Opened
2002: April 14 also the 1st 70+ day of that year
2011: April 24 (here's a link to more info on the pasqueflower from my 2011 post)

Here's some detail on the pasqueflower. I love the silky hairs on the petals and the silvery pollen inside.

Forsythia Opened
2002: April 17
2003: April 14, also record high of 89 today
2007: Cold killed forsythia blooms before they opened on April 9
2009: April 17 Of note, released first Pine Siskin fledgling we'd ever had from WRC today
2011: April 24
2012: March 20 (fully opened)

If you don't keep a phenology of your yard I highly recommend it. It's fun to go back and see when the first hummingbirds arrived, or what year it was that you had Scarlet Tanagers in your yard. Or your first bluebird nesting pair. I use it for everything from noting the habits of wildlife, to when I seed and harvest the first greens, tomatoes and other garden veggies.

For my purposes, an appointment-style nature calendar works the best (for 2011 it's one of our local Weatherguide Calendars). Plenty of room to note things and usually there's a timely photo on the left-facing page. Not only that, but they store easily.

Now I just have to remember to write in them more often!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Chasing March Butterflies

Last year at this time we had several feet of snow on the ground and were worried about flooding in the St. Croix River Valley.

This year, it's March 18th and I'm out chasing butterflies in 80 degree weather.

The warm weather has stymied the maple sap run throughout most of the Upper Midwest, and what little sap is seeping from the trees attracts dozens of insects, including the first butterflies of the year.

At first I thought there was just one species, but after much patience with the camera, it looks like there may be three, all of which hibernate as adults. (and, since I'm doing all this ID using my "Golden Guide on Butterflies and Moths," please let me know if I've mis-ID'd something!)

The first one I spotted was the Comma:

Here's the silhouette of a Comma drinking sap from the maple:

This one I immediately noticed was different because of the light edging on the wings:

Here's a side view that shows the dark texture of the wings:

 Then it opened. It's a Mourning Cloak:

Thought I'd try to get a better shot of the Comma and realized that this butterfly was not a Comma. Turns out it's a Compton Tortoise Shell:

Here's the underside of the Compton's wings:

This one just makes me smile:

Can't think of a better way to spend a March day! Might have to check the trees out tonight to see if moths visit...

Friday, March 9, 2012

Fox Sparrow Visits With Redpolls

It's not the greatest photo since the birds were out in the yard (and I desperately need a new lens), but I had to snap it. Not often you see a Fox Sparrow with redpolls.

Fox Sparrows do periodically overwinter here in the Cities, but it's still a fun sight to see on a bright sunny Friday with promises of springlike weather around the corner. This one did not overwinter in our yard. New arrival or an overwintering bird? Guessing it overwintered nearby but it still amps up my excitement for spring migration!

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Bright Spot for Monday

Looking out my kitchen window this morning was thrilled to see a significantly yellower goldfinch on one of our feeders.

With warmer temps coming and singing birds it sure feels like spring is here!