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Phenology

Mini-mystery revealed: They're caterpillar houses.

The bagworm caterpillar is safe when left in its tiny house.

The vulnerable bagworm caterpillar is safe from most predators inside the case it built around itself. Only its head and forelegs extend as it moves about, then readily retreat if danger threatens. 

The little known, but very abundant, bagworm moth has recently emerged from the protection of the home it built and carried on its back throughout its larval-hood!

July 8

Dung Beetles: Waste Warriors!

Among the world’s smallest sanitation engineers, the dung beetle takes on the task of managing the world’s copious quantities animal waste with enthusiasm and rivalry!

June 13

Spring nighthawks: Acrobats of the bird world

Common nighthawk

The common nighthawk is known for its distinctive "peent" and graceful swoops and dives at dusk. Photo courtesy of Kim Taylor.

When you hear the distinctive call of these late Mississippi River flyway migrants, look to the early evening skies to enjoy their graceful dusk-hour dives.  

May 4

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

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