A Fall Phenology
     by Jim Gilbert

December 1999

     Happenings in and around Linnaeus Arboretum

Listed below are a few observations from a year ago made in the Twin Cities and surrounding areas, including the Linnaeus Arboretum/Nicollet County area (and out of the area where indicated). Many of these observations have also been recorded in the Minnesota Weatherguide/Environment Calendar, published in conjunction with the Freshwater Foundation and WCCO Radio/Television, to which Gilbert has contributed since 1977. These events can be used to anticipate December 2000 happenings and will help to compare this year with last.

1 - Lake Waconia wide open but small ponds remain frozen over. Several fishing boats out on Lake Minnetonka. Opossum came to Lowry Nature Center feeding station just before sunset. Belle Plaine vegetable farmer harvested late cabbages, broccoli and spinach. Late eastern chipmunk seen in Owatonna yard.

2 - Much water seen on top of ice-covered ponds. Snow is gone. Earthworm out on driveway. Two American kestrels seen on utility wires near Cologne. Evergreen trees still being planted at Gustavus Adolphus College.

3 - Red squirrel feeds on crabapple fruit up in tree. In late morning, great horned owl being mobbed by American crows in Brooklyn Park. Roofers working in T-shirts.

4 - Sod continues to be cut for new lawns. Raft of American coots on Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. Bald eagles seen over both Lake Minnetonka and Lake Waconia.

5 - A few petunias and snapdragons still blooming. Soil not frozen so late planting of tulip bulbs was completed. Sixteen wild turkeys seen in one rural Faribault backyard. Freeze-up date for Lake Francis and Lake Marie near South Haven, and for Deer Lake near Effie.

6 - About 250 tundra swans at Fisher Lake near Savage. House finches and black-capped chickadees are among birdfeeder birds at Carpenter Nature Center near Hastings. Freeze-up date for Winsted Lake in McLeod County, both Turtle and Little Turtle Lakes near Bemidji, Wolf Lake near Finland, and Gilchrist Lake in Pope County.

7 - A few dandelions continue blooming on short stems. Flocks of tundra swans seen in Dayton and Chaska areas. Evergreens still being watered on Gustavus campus in St. Peter.

8 - With no snow and above normal temperatures, it's easy to do yard work such as raking, cleaning up, and stringing Christmas lights. Very late harvest of spinach at Belle Plaine. Raccoons and opossums come to feeding stations in early evening.

9 - Remember it takes 4 inches of new solid ice for safe skating and ice fishing, and cold water saps body heat 25 times faster than air of the same temperature. Mink caught muskrat up on ice. Island Lake, near Crosby, froze over.

10 - Thousands of Canada geese and a dozen or so bald eagles seen at south end of Lac qui Parle Lake. Lake Jennie near Dassel, Gladstone Lake near Merrifield, and Big Round Lake in Polk County (Wisconsin) all froze over today.

11 - Common redpolls arrived at some feeders. Black-capped chickadees heard singing "fee-bee" over and over in Wayzata area. Freeze-up date for Stocking Lake in Hubbard County.

12 - Some golf courses still open and golfers were out enjoying their game today. Freeze-up date for Mille Lacs Lake.

13 - Evergreens such as hemlocks, spruces, pines, firs and yews are attractive on the landscape. Bay Lake in Crow Wing County froze over. Skaters out on the 5 inches of ice covering Wolf Lake at Finland.

14 - Showy fruit on highbush cranberry shrubs, bittersweet vines and crabapple trees is available to birds and other wildlife, Whaletail Lake in Hennepin County, and North Long Lake and Edna Lake near Nisswa froze over.

15 - Late common grackle comes to feeder in Victoria. A dozen evening grosbeaks arrive at feeder in Park Rapids area. Freeze-up date for Round Lake near Nisswa, Lake Miltona in Douglas County, and both Upper and Lower Bottle Lakes in Hubbard County.

16 - Lake Waconia froze over. Also freeze-up date for Leech Lake and Lake Bemidji, Cannon and Wells Lakes at Faribault, Lake Washington in Le Sueur County, Lake Shetek near Slayton, and both Lake Andrew and Lake Florida in Kandiyohi County. Red-breasted nuthatches seen at Faribault area feeders.

17 - Thundering, booming and cracking sounds coming from new ice cover on Lake Waconia this evening. Both Green Lake at Spicer and Green Lake at Chisago City froze over. Flock of white-winged crossbills observed in Silver Bay.

18 - On the 1999 Audubon Christmas Bird Count for the Faribault and Northfield areas of Rice County, 41 observers recorded 44 species. Included in the 7,454 individual birds counted werer 2,289 Canada geese, 98 northern cardinals, 81 white-breasted nuthatches, 24 red-breasted nuthatches, and 5 American robins.

19 - Flocks of cedar waxwings feed on crabapple fruit. About a dozen bald eagles seen along Minnesota River near St. Peter, and several were patrolling big open water areas of Lake Minnetonka.

20 - European starlings spend their nights in large communal roosts. Gull Lake, near Nisswa, froze over. Both evening and pine grosbeaks are among birdfeeder birds at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center near Finland.

21 - Even on these cold days, porcupines are active in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. They are up in branches and can be seen feeding on the bark and twigs of aspen, basswood, pine and other trees. Freeze-up date for Lake Minnetonka, both Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, Lake Sylvia near Annandale, Grindstone Lake in Pine County, and Kabekona Lake in Hubbard County.

22 - Chickadees sometimes take seeds from human hands. Rather than fretting about squirrels at a feeding station, it would be far better to spend one's time protecting wild animal visitors from domestic cats. The Minnesota River at Le Sueur is about half frozen over and steaming on this cold morning.

23 - American tree sparrows, juncos, American goldfinches and more are active and numerous at feeders on this beautiful snowy day. Nursery and seed catalogs arriving, so people are planning next year's gardening season.

24 - Great tracking in the new snow; mink, squirrel, rabbit and more are easy to identify. Black-capped chickadees need to eat the equivalent of their own weight (1/40 of a pound), every day in cold weather.

25 - A common flicker and one male red-winged blackbird, birds of summer, come to a Waconia area feeder. Heard black-capped chickadees whistling "fee-bee" over and over on this sunny, warm late morning. The Christmas cactus, which is native to the tropical parts of Brazil, blooms nicely in our homes.

26 - In Victoria, at least a dozen northern cardinals visit a feeding station together, several times throughout the day. 1995: About 2 feet of snow covers the Lutsen area landscape, making for great skiing; and the snow on boughs of white pines, white spruces, balsam firs and arborvitae trees is stunning.

27 - Lake Superior is wide open, but there are nice ice patterns on shoreline rocks. In Walker area, evening grosbeaks, blue jays and other winter birds are very colorful as they perch on snow-covered evergreen boughs.

28 - Lake ice is heard cracking and booming as it expands with warm temperatures. Also pressure ridges are forming and big ice chunks being pushed up on some shorelines.

29 - Mosses on rock outcrops and tree trunks are lush green and have been growing in the warm air. A woollybear caterpillar, warmed by the sunshine, was able to move about. Bikers and runners seen in T-shirts. A few raccoons came out of their winter sleeping dens.

30 - European starlings feed on crabapple fruit. A few red-tailed hawks and American kestrels seen in Brooklyn Park. Opossums visit some feeding stations in the evening.

31 - Ice on Lake Waconia is mostly 6 to 10 inches thick, and crappies and walleyes bite best around dusk. About 30 common goldeneyes, along with 2 black ducks and many mallards and Canada geese, seen in open water below Coon Rapids Dam.  Waterskier out on Mississippi River in Twin Cities.