March Madness- A Little Early

March 6, 2013 Comments Off on March Madness- A Little Early

According to the meteorologists of the world, March 1, begins the spring weather season. So meteorologically we have arrived. I admit it- I love watching winter turn into spring and tend to celebrate every passing change, and the change has already begun. For example, according to the March 6, Updraft Blog by Paul Huttner of Minnesota Public Radio, the sun is now 39.6 degrees above the horizon, (by March 20th it will be 45 degrees- now that’s progress.) He also tells us that we now have 3.5 times more solar radiation coming in than we did in late December, equal to about October the 5th. Sounds good to me.

Other things have begun, we just had one of those lovely spring snowstorms that I swear dumped at least 11 inches of snow at my house between Monday and Tuesday this week. The state high school hockey tournament is underway to be followed by basketball. And we all know that these March tournaments usually have weather to deal with as part of the story. We shall see what this year brings.

But not only the weather is a changing. The birds are moving too. I’ve been talking about owl sightings over the winter, and those northern Boreal Owls that were so common to view only a week or two ago, seem to have moved on. I have to admit, I totally missed the Boreal Owl sightings this year, but I haven’t missed all the winter visitors thankfully. Just this week I saw so many birds in a tree, I thought they were Starlings at first glance- but a closer look revealed they were larger and lighter colored and actually were Bohemian Waxwings. They have been wintering here this year, but will likely soon disappear and head back north to their normal territory. They only occasionally appear here in large numbers, and we have definitely been lucky this winter.

Common Redpolls that I had been seeing at a friends feeding station in the Twin Cities were gone as of last week’s visit. We had also been recording them weekly in the Feeder Watch program at Hartley Nature Center in Duluth. They have not made appearances there last week or this week. Now watching to see when the winter selection of Chickadees and Nuthatches gets augmented by Goldfinches and Juncos.

The rare bird network in Minnesota has been busy the last few weeks with sightings of King Eiders, Long-tailed Ducks, and White-winged Scoters in the small patches of open water around Duluth. These are birds that summer far north of here and are likely on route back there. I have a beginner duck call laying around. It shouldn’t be long before we start seeing other ducks and waterfowl, flocks of Canada Geese, in the area.

But species other than birds are also making motions pointed in our direction. When I taught, I loved the start every year of a fun program designed for students to map migration and progress of species as they make their return migration to the North. It is called Journey North and can be found at You can literally watch as a number of different species and events edge their way north. Weekly reports as well as maps are available on the website. I still get the reports and love reading them when I have time.  For example, the first Monarch butterflies have arrived in Lousiana, Texas, California and Florida- and thankfully milkweed is also reported to be blooming in all of those locations. Tulips are also blooming in all of the aforementioned locales as well. Gray Whales are being seen in ever larger numbers along the southern coastline of California, no calves as of yet- but it shouldn’t be long.

I challenge you to keep your eyes out for first sightings of the season- by the way this is called watching phenology or changes of the season. Much more will be coming- look for those first pussy willows, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Chipmunks. When will sap start running in the Maple trees? From the sounds of things that could be next week! Feel free to comment or leave postings for firsts as you see them and join me in celebrating the gradual return of spring in Northern Minnesota! Lots to see if you are making a point of looking! Cherish the season change.

These updates are made possible by a generous donation from David and Rosemary Good.