Sunday, April 6, 2008

Despite the heavy snow, spring is just around the corner. Yesterday, April 5th, I saw my first butterflies. A mourning cloak and several gray commas were seen flitting about. The commas are small and what I noticed was a flash of orange and black as they flew. These are the early species along with the Compton's and Milbert's tortoiseshells. They over-winter as adults hiding in woodpiles and crevises in the bark of trees. It is usually on the first day the temperature climbs above 50 degrees F. that they emerge. With little to eat they can be seen on the old holes created by the yellow-bellied sapsuckers drinking tree sap.
Besides the butterflies, large brown bats are out. According to Pam Perry, a non game wildlife specialist with the DNR in Brainerd, these are the most cold tolerant of the local bats and are likely the first ones out in the spring. While visiting Pam and her husband Ken, we walked along the Mississippi River in Brainerd where we saw these bats, several species of ducks, grebes, canada geese, and a great blue heron. At their home just south of town there were juncos, wild turkeys, redpolls, pine siskins, and the usual species of feeder visitors.
Last Friday I stopped to visit the classrooms of Crosby-Ironton grade school. Jeff Sipper and Jean Simmons are fifth grade teachers participating in the phenology plus program. As we walked around the school grounds we found the first dandelions in bloom, many species of insects were active, and we examined several species of trees to get a starting point on their spring development. We also found hepatica plants though there were no signs of flower buds as yet. Stay tuned as we measure the advance of spring from the Brainerd area to Crosby-Ironton to Hill City, Grand Rapids, Bovey, and Virginia.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The owl and the nuthatch

This photo was taken by Chris and Pete Friedlieb. It is so seldom that we see a barred owl and then to see one under the scrutiny of a red breasted nuthatch is very rare. The nuthatch is not in any danger, the comparison might be likened to a Boeing 747 and an F-22 fighter plane. The owl would have no chance of catching the nuthatch. Winter is a good time to look for both of these birds, especially if you have feeders. The nuthatch will come for the seeds and the owl will come for the mice and voles, who show up for the spilled seeds.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Latimer Time

From 7/23/07 It was like you were with me this past Saturday evening. I guess I've listened to you long enough to know that you would be prodding me to look for more.
Bingo Bango and I were out on the deck looking to the West. He was in my lap and we were both content. The sky was mostly clear except for some cumulus clouds down low and a scattering of cirrocumulus clouds way up high. The cirrocumulus clouds caught my eye. I guess I don't see them that often. They seemed like the last gasp of the cooler, dry air that had been with us at the end of the week.

As we watched, they slowly disappeared. Venus played hide and seek with the lower cumulus clouds. An Eastern Wood Peewee was calling to the South of us. A Northern Cardinal gave us a chip note and then sang us a little song. The Grey Catbird dove into the Nanking Cherry bushes in the garden. A Ruby-throated Hummingbird stopped by to remind us to make more nectar for the feeders in the morning. It was a very peaceful ending to the day.

Earlier, the water dripping from a hose into a birdbath only a foot above the ground had created a near frenzy for the birds in our backyard. Mr. Webster must have been watching a Grey Catbird in a birdbath when he defined the word "frolic". The Veery and the American Robin tried to match the Catbird in enthusiasm. Families of Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches, Black-capped Chickadees, Chipping Sparrows and American Crows joined in the romp. A trio of Redstarts, a Yellow Warbler, a Black and White Warbler and a Scarlet Tanager were also drawn to the water. I think an Eastern Phoebe took a dunk, too.

It was like a real KAXE moment. The kind you can imagine that you could hear with Pam doing a "Play by Play" of the action at the water while I was doing the prep work for supper. OK, I guess we're nuts - but it really was a lot of fun!

This week is forecasted to be very hot and dry. If we can do one thing for birds it would be to provide them with a little water. A hose placed low to the ground dripping water into a bath is all they need. Then, sit back and watch the action.

So, thanks again John for encouraging us all to slow it down and enjoy all the wonderful sights we have to see when we get into "Latimer Time."

Ken Perry from Brainerd

Monday, May 21, 2007

Squirrels and Morels

The other day I saw a black squirrel. I assumed it was a melanistic gray, but it was much smaller more to the size of a red squirrel. has anyone ever heard of a black red squirrel? Can the red squirrel produce black offspring? If you have any thoughts or particular knowledge of this situation please let us know.

On another subject the morels are in full swing. After this evening's rain I expect there will be more. Here are two sites that not only feature morels but also have a bit more on phenology at the same time.  Thanks to Patrick Harvey for these sites.

Hope you are finding your fair share.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A spring walk

This is my first attempt at blogging. Please bear with me. I want to use the space to write about the things that are happening in the north woods. I hope you will take the time to share with us your own observations. It would be a good place to ask questions or answer them. We can share our knowledge and educate each other as we move through the year. Currently there are some brand new flowers beginning to bloom. Goldthread, a small, white, five petaled, flower with scalloped leaves is blooming under the pines. The starflowers are blooming again. They are white as well, but have seven petals which is a bit unusual. The other flower just starting to bloom is gaywings or fringed polygala. Small magenta flowers growing close to the ground are the identifying characteristic. The ferns are past the fiddlehead stage and now exhibit some of the more mature signs of adult ferns. The interrupted ferns are just that, interrupted. The fronds are bright green with a dark green sori about 2/3 of the way up. The bead ferns are unrolling and the stems are bright red. The ostrich ferns are up and nearly fully unrolled. Their sori will appear in June as a separate structure. The sori reminds me of a rough feather.