Archive for September, 2016



Yesterday’s phenology: I’d say we’re at about 15% tree color right now. Rough estimate. Squirrels are probably gathering nuts for the winter. At least they ought to be.

Song of the day: Eric Burdon and the Animals: We Gotta Get Out Out of This Place



Yesterday’s phenology: A good phenologist would notice tiny little details every day that would illuminate the natural world and the passing of the seasons. “The migratory Amboy Snipe, sometimes known as the Crackerjack Snipe, is passing through on schedule, singing it’s melancholy autumn traveling song in the key of d minor at roughly 10 minutes before dawn. In the fall you’ll see this cute little fellow carrying a single stem of arctic willow south, a token from its summer vacation with which it will begin its winter nesting in the warmer southern climes of the ancient Mayan temples of the Yucatan.”

Here, though, not so much. I saw a bunch of little brown birds darting about a vine in a garden. Sparrows? Waxwings? I didn’t get a good look. They toyed with me awhile and then flew away, singing a disdainful mocking song that sounded something like “TOO-bad TOO-bad TOO-bad LOO-zer LOO-zer LOO-zer.”

It was a long cloudy day. Night fell quickly.

Song of the day: Rikki Lee Jones – Last Chance Texaco

milkweed seed


Yesterday’s Phenology: cool fall day, very breezy, with rain in the afternoon. (This is becoming more of a weather report than a phenology note.) Hazel the cat is watchful these days; the game is a-foot! Snow-bird mice look to move inside for the winter. Local tree color is about 8%.

Song of the Day: So What, Miles Davis




Yesterday’s Phenology: A cool and mostly sunny fall day. Robins in the metro area can be seen packing their bags, and cancelling their newspaper deliveries.

song of the day: the Beatles, Hello, Goodbye

under the mushroom


Yesterday’s Phenology: Even thought it’s still 90% green around here — which makes those trees that are turning really stand out — the ground at the dogpark is littered with a thin layer of dead leaves. A good phenologist would note the kind of leaves, but, alas, no. The day started off with rain, then cleared off to a cloudy breezy day, then rained again, briefly, in the afternoon. All in all – a delightful day. Cool night – temperature is 52 as I stir this morning.

Song of the day: I Can’t Get Started – Bunny Berrigan

reds over the waters



Yesterday’s Phenology: The day was overcast, cool, and humid. A little breezy. Very gray. Have I mentioned the sumac? Today was your typical mid-fall day. It didn’t beat you over the head with phenology, though I noticed pumpkins at the farmer’s market today, a sure sign of something. Pumpkins, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, zucchini, cukes, kale, beans, onions: you can get anything you want at the midtown farmer’s market.

Song of the day: Arlo Guthrie: Alice’s Restaurant.


saturday’s angel


Yesterday’s Phenology: The Good: We saw a little family of Wood Ducks down by the pond yesterday; we didn’t have so many Wood Ducks last year, but word has spread about how nice it is here, I guess, and this year there’s quite a few of these fetching wee birds. Also, I’ve noted that the sumac is starting to be more visibly changing around town. Vivid splashes of red invigorate the landscape and warn of the coming winter. The bad: mice are starting to scout out holes in foundations, open porch doors or open windows, or for keys hidden in the yard under rocks. This is the time of year when mice enter their Cheese Frenzy, and these wee beasties will stop at nothing to get into your house, where they will then mount an assault on the cheese drawer of your fridge. Wise phenologists place a sturdy lock on their cheese drawers at this time of year, or forego cheese altogether. The ugly: the average temp this month is about 68, about 4 degrees warmer than normal. Scientists attribute most of this warmth to the fact that it’s a presidential election year.
Song of the day: The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

black lab in the mississippi


Yesterday’s Phenology: Coolish, and mostly overcast. A bit of sun later. Typical early fall day. A few leaves falling. Things a tiny bit more colorful. The usual.

Song of the day: Chaka Kahn – I feel for you

river grass


Yesterday’s Phenology: unremarkable.

Song of the day: Low, Plastic Cup

a moment on the prairie


In the field outside the dogpark.

Yesterday’s phenology: a cloudy cool start to the day, in the 50s, and then sunny in the afternoon and upper 70s. The sun is a blinding orange ball at the end of Lake St. on my morning commute.  Lots of dragonflies zipping about the pond today. A lone blue heron in the shallow water. Herons seem to be loners, and, perhaps related, they always appear to be annoyed about something. Perhaps they do not enjoy wading about in the shallows, day after day. Anyway. Milkweed pods are splitting open, setting free their silky treasures. Our Ironwood tree seems to have some sort of so-called fruit. Not the kind, I think, that you would eat. Unless you happen to be a Hawfinch.

The forecasters are predicting “heavy rain” for tonight and tomorrow. Flash flood warnings all over the south part of Minnesota.

Song of the day: Down in the Flood, Bob Dylan, 1971

gather ye pollen while ye may


The bees get a bit hysterical as the summer draws down. It’s deadline pressure.

Yesterday’s Phenology: Well, let’s see. Overcast morning and a few sprinkles, then sunny and warmish and a beautiful fall day. A sprinkling of red maple leafs on the ground in the park. I remember now that I saw a Wooly Bear caterpillar crossing the bike trail a couple weeks ago. Wooly Bears are widely known as reliable predictators of the weather. They say that the Wooly Bear has thirteen (13) distinct “segments” that are colored either black or rusty brown. The wider or the more brown segments there are, the milder the winter will be. The more black segments (or segment width. whatever.) the more harsh the coming winter will be. Rule of thumb: if more than a third of the Wooly Bear is brown, it will be a milder winter.

Unfortunatly, I was on my bike at the time, cruising at about 18 mph through a quick S-curve. While I did not smash the Wooly Bear (lord knows what that would have meant for the coming winter) I also was unable to scientifically measure it’s brown/black ratio. And so, well, we just don’t know. We will have to rely instead on the witchcraft and superstitions of the National Weather Service instead.

Two other things: it’s just kind of fun to say Wooly Bear. Whoever named those guys, nice job. And the Wooly Bear that I saw was moving at some serious speed across the bike path. Do Wooly Bears know about bike paths and mortality? Why does a Wooly Bear cross a bike path, anyway?

Song of the day – well, what else could it be? Wooly Bully! – Sam the Sham and the Pharaos, circa ’65


dog-park day!


This is not a great picture, but it does represent the general idea of  Sunday being dog-park-day, and how much Flynn enjoys it. As do we.

Yesterday’s phenology: Well, a pretty picture perfect fall sunday. Mostly sunny till late afternoon, not a lot of wind, which was good for the bike ride. The Touch-me-nots are ready to be touched. The sun set today at 7:17. Again, right on time for this time of the year. One of the more reliable aspects of phenology. Lots of raspberries on the bushes, and lots of bees also in the bushes. On my bike ride I did some calculations, and I figure we’re still about 95% green around here, with 3% yellow and 3% red. The red stands out a bit more than the yellow. I saw a blue heron (I think) standing along the shore of a pond while I was on my bike ride. He was fishing, and keeping a watchful eye on the pond and its approaches. I also rode by a hillside of Miscanthus all a-flower. (Pictures later.) All in all, not a big day for phenology, really, though I was out and about a good part of the day. Stopped on a bridge over Minnehaha creek, and noted just an occasional fallen leaf, aspens, I think, being carried down stream.

The political news is relentlessly depressing these days. But – on the bright side – it made me think of this song today while I was mulling and biking. Randy Newman – Every Man a King.



Second Saturday family art event at the Midtown Farmer’s Market is always fun!

Yesterday’s phenology: cloudy most of the day, and cool, and nice. 60s? Probably got into the 70’s yesterday, and now it’s into the 50s at night. We all know where that is leading. We have a waning gibbous moon tonight, very beautiful up there in the sky. And now I learned that a gibbous moon is a moon that is over half illuminated. Less than half is a crescent moon. Seems like I should have known that, but this is one of those little details that is easily glossed over amidst all the chaos of day to day life. But now I know. Gibbous. And crescent.

You’re probably wondering, gibbous? Where’d that come from? Well it came from the middle English, from late Latin gibbosus, from Latin gibbus: ‘hump.’ So that explains that. Case closed.

Song of the day: Vincent, Don McLean



Somewhere around Rosedale, in the parking lot of a parking lot for a parking lot deep within one of the many sub-mall spin-offs

Yesterday’s Phenology: A nice fall day. Came across a tree this morning that was a flutter with juvenile cedar waxwings. They were  not as colorful as the adults, but had the little head crest, and the mask over the eyes, and the bright yellow bar on the tip of the tail. There were a lot in the tree, and they were all jumping around, it kind of looked like fun. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says that in the fall these guys will gather in the hundreds to eat berries, and we thought that might be what they were up to, but there weren’t hundreds of them. Maybe 30 or so. It was hard to get a good count. They were kind of noisy, though.

Other than that, not much. A single peal of thunder in the evening, but no rain, I don’t think. The sumac in our yard is edged with red in a couple of spots.

Song of the day: Goin’ Down, by… yes… the Monkees.

early adopters


at the dog park, early morning…

Yesterday’s phenology: overcast mostly, during the day, and then rained pretty good in the late afternoon, as I was driving home. I noticed a lot of phenologists about today, watching for signs of the changing seasons. A group of phenologists is called a Phenomenon. You will tend to see them gathering together more often on the cusp of seasonal changes, but generally they are more solitary in nature.

Song of the day: Solitude, Duke Ellington.

swingin’ tunes from a swingin’ place – vintage music in minneapolis


THE place to go if you are looking for 78s in the Twin Cities.

Yesterday’s phenology: Ducks and Geese, Wasps and Bees, and wee flying spinning  things which catch the sunlight but I can’t make out what they are, but they are everywhere. Cool nights, and our furnace kicked on this morning, which seems early to this phenologist, but records on the furnace kick-on date are non-existent. The commute east in the morning this week has been rather wicked, with nary a cloud in the sky and the sun a painfully bright orange orb rising up at the end of every avenue.

Song of the day? Can you guess?

mississippi bayou, minneapolis


minnehaha dogpark, after quite a bit of rain.

Yesterday’s phenology: A nice day. Saw a bird attack in the morning… there was a crow flying over the neighbors house, and then suddenly another bird streaked across, hitting it. They both went tumbling to the other side of the roof and then through the neighbors yard. I went out to investigate – this was about 6:20 in the morning – but saw no sign of any bird trouble. I’ve never seen that happen before. I suppose it was a hawk, but a crow seems like a pretty big bird to take on. Before this happened, though, the crows were in an uproar out there about something. Maybe a hawk, hanging around?

Not only are there a lot of geese gathering at the pond, I noticed today, but a murder of crows in the trees. Starting to remind me of Hitchcock’s The Birds, a bit.

A good deal of Goldenrod has dried up.

Song of the day: Cow Cow Boogie, by Ella Mae Morse.

floating rock


in the mississippi, by the dog park. A very calming zen-master of a rock.

Yesterday’s phenology: raspberry plants bow down low from the weight of the berries. All sorts of bees apparently enjoy hanging about raspberries, lurking with the berries, which makes raspberry picking much more of a sport.

There are a lot of restive geese about these days. They seem poised. Or perhaps bored. There are different terms used for geese when they gather, it turns out. Yesterday there was a gaggle of geese on the ground by the graveyard, while skeins of geese circled the skies. Now and then a plump of geese would plummet to the pond. I don’t believe there’s a term for a group of geese swimming on the pond, which is quite a bit different from being on the ground, at least in my book. I’ll suggest the term “proliferation.” Or perhaps a “pontoon.” Any way, to sum up, there are a lot of geese everywhere, which makes walking on the path more sporting as well.

I’ve also seen a lot of grasshoppers hopping about. Not quite a “cloud” of them, more like a parade. I see them mostly in groups of one. Most of these are carrying small fiddles, and not doing very much work at all, considering the time of year it is.


one from the archives; hawk on the greenway, September 2008


sunday: dog park day


Yesterday’s Phenology: Perfect day: 70 degrees, partly cloudy, light breeze. Took a long bike ride, and things are still 95% green. Cool night ahead.

dramatic grass


This one was taken on the way to the dog park, near cold water spring

Yesterday’s Phenology: I see a bit of color creeping into the landscape. An occasional tree with a reddish hue. The geese and ducks around the pond seem very relaxed, there seems to be a lot of lazing about, but perhaps they are resting up for a journey.  The wind is coming from the north today, fresh and cool. We had a bit of rain last night, a surprise thunderstorm about 3 in the morning. With all the recent rain everything is looking clean.

Song of the day: Visions of Johanna, Dylan.

hidden bird game


There are two sneaky birds hiding in this picture. Can you find them?

Yesterday’s Phenology: Beautiful dry cloudy/sunny day. That’s about the size of it. Experienced phenologists know that good phenology just doesn’t come along every day. You have to take it as it comes, and enjoy the days as they are.

L & M Supply in Hibbing has Everything


Their selection of giraffes was particularly good for a small town whatzit shop.

Yesterday’s Phenology: coolish and cloudyish. Spotted one bright red tree on my drive home from work. Early adopter. 60% chance of t-storms tonight, but was 80% chance a few hours ago, so odds are we stay dry, I think. Generally, an unremarkable day, pheonology-wise. Today I will pay more attention.

minnesota mid-state landscape


One last shot from the drive up to Hibbing is the soft mist and the early morning rain. (Cue: Gordon Lightfoot).
(Actually we listened to “The Lonesome Touch,” which was just right.)

Yesterday’s Phenology: Awakened by more thunder, more lightning, more rain. We got about an inch of rain, a little less, which puts us almost an inch of rain ahead of normal for September. Things are pretty soggy here. I can remember a lot of falls where everything turned brown in August, and stayed brown till it snowed, and I guess I’d rather have this. Everything is very green. More rain predicted for tonight and tomorrow.
However, I think it’s hard on the raspberries, which are also pretty soggy. I was startled while in the raspberry bushes by a large, low-flying bird, that swooped low over my head and then over by the fence. I walked over a bit closer and watched for it, and eventually saw it pop up. I think it was a broad-winged hawk, but that’s mostly a guess. I only saw it from behind, it was a beautiful brown. I got a glimpse of a lighter colored chest and then it swooped off. I was unable to catch a look at its tail feathers. Broad winged hawks are fairly common in Minnesota, though I’ve nowt seen a one, until, perhaps, today. I thought it also might be a Cooper’s Hawk, but I think the eyes are a bit more colorful on a Cooper’s hawk. Broadwings like small prey, and this one was near both our bird feeder and our compost pile, where I bet small prey might be found occasionally.
Alas, I had no camera with me. Why not?