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Phenology

Unpredictable weather, fuzzy eaglets and great horned owls

The eaglets have hatched!

This time of transition between winter and spring can be a wishy-washy, ambivalent affair. It’s sunny and 50 degrees, then 20 and snowing. Likewise, some bald eagles are still hanging out in their winter homes or migrating along the Mississippi River, while others are nest-bound, feeding fuzzy eaglets. Another impressive hunter, the great horned owl, is also nesting these days. Luckily, there's great local spots to see all of this avian action, both outside along the Mississippi River and online.

March 4

Not a creature was stirring...

Picture of a red-backed vole

A red-backed vole. Source: D. Gordon E. Robertson, via Wikimedia Commons.

Not even a...vole? An evening visit to the compost bin turns into a deadly encounter with a native rodent.

December 8

Hey, bud!

Elderberry bud

Nature's smart. Lest our senses become overwhelmed with beauty if we were graced with the full palate of colors of the leaves, flowers, and birds all at once, spring starts slow, sending out hints of what's to come and allowing us to ease into and become accustomed to bright colors once again. Tree and shrubs, with access to water, swell their buds revealing the colors underneath the scales of armor that protect the life underneath during the harsh conditions of winter. Grasp a silver maple branch, yank it down and feast your eyes on the reds of the reproductive parts that have emerged. 

November 12

The green amidst the gray: the distinctive phenology of non-native shrubs

A layer of green on an otherwise gray and brown backdrop is evidence of buckthorn’s distinctive phenology.

A layer of green on an otherwise gray and brown backdrop is evidence of buckthorn’s distinctive phenology.

It’s finally (or already!) November and the leaves have fallen from the trees. Well, not quite all of them. If you take a close look at a nearby forest, you’ll likely notice a dense layer of green still present in the shrub layer. What are these shrubs and why are they still green when other species have all dropped their leaves? In and around the Twin Cities, it’s a good bet that these shrubs are either common buckthorn or one of a few species of bush honeysuckles, and their “distinctive phenology” actually plays a large part in their success in Minnesota’s forest ecosystems.

November 9

July: Goldenrod or ragweed? [redirects to newer article]

Many people suffer from allergies during mid to late summer, but few know exactly what causes them. Folks usually chalk these allergies up to hay fever, and rightly so, but are all plants to blame? Goldenrod, a prolific flowering plant with masses of golden flowers, is often mistakenly blamed for causing the itchy eyes, runny nose and other symptoms that many of us suffer from. However, for most of us, ragweed is the true culprit.

July 20

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