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Phenology

'What’s it got in its pocketses?'

Plains pocket gopher

Seldom venturing above ground, the beady eyes and small ears of the plains pocket gopher are reflective of their underground lifestyle.

Fans of The Lord of the Rings will recognize this query of Gollum, the odd underworld creature, as he pondered the riddle of Bilbo’s pocket contents. The star character of this month’s Nature Notes is also a creature of the underworld, seldom seen above ground. And like Gollum, these animals have a lead role in the world they inhabit.

April 10

DNR Eagle Cam provides a close-up view of eagle family life

An adult bald eagle feeds its babies live on camera

An adult bald eagle feeds its babies live on the DNR Eagle Cam.

Each year in the Twin Cities, humans and other wildlife patiently wait for spring. Some years it arrives to stay, others it arrives only to beat a fast retreat. But over the last few years, one of the few constants in this transitional period in the metro has been the presence of bald eagles. As spring creeps back they take to the sky, hunting for prey, fighting over territory, and mating.

March 10

A murder most fowl

As dusk approaches on a cold winter night, Twin Cities residents may notice an unusual number of crows flying overhead. Each winter, they show up by the thousands to roost in metro neighborhoods. While the gatherings may seem ominous to some, they serve an important purpose for these intelligent birds.

February 13

Misty mornings on the Mighty Miss

Mist rising from the Mississippi on a cold December dawn

Mist rises from the Mississippi just east of downtown St. Paul on a cold December dawn.

Ever wonder why there's a wintry mist on the water in the morning, but not later in the day? Even when it's still quite cold?

January 6

Red fox: Two paws, one print

Red fox

The red fox is a common yet fascinating animal in the Mississippi River valley.

The red fox is a common yet fascinating animal in the Mississippi River valley. Winter's a great time to spot their tracks — if you know what to look for.

December 8

Dead man’s fingers found at Pine Bend Bluffs

Dead man's finger found at Pine Bend Bluffs

Dead man's fingers is a fungus found at the base of decaying hardwood trees. (Photo by Karen Schik)

FMR Lead Ecologist Karen Schik found this spooky-looking fungus deep in the oak forest ravines at Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific and Natural Area.

November 7

Earthworms invade our forest floor

A field assistant prepares to collect a nightcrawler for analysis as part of an earthworm sampling project in Minnesota forests.

A field assistant prepares to collect a nightcrawler for analysis as part of an earthworm sampling project in Minnesota forests. Photo: Alex Roth

When people think about phenology, the study of natural phenomena and cycles, they usually look up. We tend to focus on events like bud break, bird migration, leaf fall, etc. But what about the changes going on beneath our feet? Looking down once in a while may help you familiarize yourself with the buzz of activity underfoot, including the effects of one particularly damaging invasive species: earthworms.

September 12

Blazing blooms!

Arrowhead flowers

The blazing white flowers of the arrowhead plant (Sagittaria latifolia) seem to light up the shoreland areas where they grow.

July and August are the most flowerful months in our native prairies and wetlands. Enjoy a few of the beauties FMR ecologists have recently come across in their field work.

August 9

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