Well, folks, it's here. We are about to enter into the busiest phenological time of the year! Unfortunately, I am going to miss a huge portion of it! Okay, to be honest, it's not that unfortunate; I'll be in Peru! Before I depart, here is an update on what I've been seeing and what you should be looking for in weeks to come!
Migration has, quite literally, taken off. Many of the birds that I have recently been seeing in our area actually overwinter in other parts of the state, particularly in more southern regions. Since they had the closest wintering grounds, it makes sense that we seen them first! Even though many bald eagles now winter around here, there has been a very noticeable increase in their numbers - particularly in juveniles. I saw seven bald eagles on my drive home in just one afternoon. Most of them can be found foraging winter's leftovers on the ice or the side of the road.
Two juvenile eagles scavenging breakfast on the ice near Pine River, 3/30/15.
Bald eagle scavenging road kill on 3/30/15. It let me get quite close before taking off!
It continued eating its "snack" out on the ice (3/30/15).
During the last two weeks, I have seen a tremendous increase in trumpeter swans, Canada geese, and American crows. I have also noticed more dark-eyed juncos, purple finches, American tree sparrows, American robins, and common goldeneyes - all of which may winter in other parts of Minnesota, but have been absent from my area for a while. The first hooded mergansers, common mergansers, and wood ducks have returned from the south, the grouse are starting to drum, and I've already had my first tick - so be on the lookout! I have yet to see my first spring wildflower, but with temperatures on the rise and moisture in the forecast, it won't be long now! Tonight, I even spotted my first red-winged black bird singing its song from the wetland near my house!
"We're back!" - My first sighting of Canada geese on 3/12/15. Migrating trumpeter swans take a nap 3/26/15.
Common Goldeneyes (left, 3/19/15) & Hooded Mergansers (right, 3/31/15) returned about two weeks ago.
Wood ducks, common mergansers (left, 3/31/15) & red-winged black birds (right, 3/31/15) are more recent.
So while I am gone for the next couple weeks, I need everyone to be my eyes and ears - observe our wonderful spring phenology! Here is what you should be watching for:
Early April: Arriving back - great blue herons, American white pelicans, turkey cultures, harriers, and eastern phoebes. Come early butterflies (species that overwintered as adults, like some of the Commas & Tortoiseshells) have already been reported!
Mid April: Many ducks will be returning to the wetlands (blue-winged teal, northern shovelers, pie-billed grebes, etc.). Look for sparrows (song, fox, & white-throated), yellow-rumped warblers, and northern flickers. You might see a garter snake trying to warm up in the sun! Be listening for chorus frogs, wood frogs, & spring peppers. Coyote and red fox pups are born, but they'll spend some time in dens, meaning we won't see them for a while still.
Late April: Loon "scouts" may be back, even with ice on the lake. Ospreys will return if there is enough open water. Frogs will begin to lay eggs if the weather is warm. Chipmunks are back out and active, especially under the feeders! We may even see a dragonfly! Green darners migrate, so the adults will return to lay eggs before they die.
Our mild winter will likely have some animals/plans ahead of their typical schedule, so be vigilant! Get outside and feel the sun of your face. Take a 15 minute stroll through your yard each day to notice the changes going on near you. As always, enjoy!