Thoughts and Challenges in a Very Different Spring!

April 7, 2020 Comments Off on Thoughts and Challenges in a Very Different Spring!

So our world has been turned upside down, and so many of the things we took for granted as normal parts of our lives have been horrendously disrupted. I for one, celebrate every day that we are in the spring into summer part of the calendar, rather than fall into winter for this abrupt departure from normal routine! There is something new arriving and letting you know that humanity may be all messed up- but the natural world is proceeding as normal just fine- and perhaps better without us! In the rush and chaos of everyday life we feel that we rarely have time to settle down and just watch what’s happening in the natural world all around us. Maybe this spring we can actually take the time to watch it all happen!!

So time to do a little phenological exploration in your own backyard- yup the changing of the season is more evident every day- that’s what phenology is all about. Did you know that we now have about 4.5 more hours of daylight now compared to this time in December? As of today (April 6) here in Duluth, we have about 13 hours and 8 minutes between sunrise and sunset – and tomorrow the time between sunrise and sunset will be 4 minutes longer than today- this time of year we gain daylight very quickly. We will continue to gain until we reach Summer Solstice, which for Duluth will be a day of nearly 16 hours of time between sunrise and sunset- and that doesn’t count the twilight time prior to sunrise and post sundown! Want to play around with what happens for daylength anywhere in the world? Check out this NOAA website: https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/grad/solcalc/ and you can do it! All sorts of ways to occupy spare time on the computer. In fact, if you want to issue yourself a challenge regarding daylength- try this out- visit the Journey North Website here and challenge yourself to locate where 10 Mystery classes are located in the world by their sunrise/sunset data from winter into spring. https://journeynorth.org/mclass/index.html This is a great way to explore the world and compare it to your own through this season of daylight change- it can be far more or far less dramatic that here- check it out!

Try setting yourself a list of things to expect as the season shifts- how well do you know what happens when in your neighborhood. Here’s some things I’m eagerly awaiting as spring moves on- use this one- or make up your own! Make sure to put a date with each first of the season event as a guess- and then keep your own log of when it actually happens for the first time.

  1. How long will it take for the snow to completely disappear from the lawn at my house- so of you may be long past that- but I can assure you it’s still going to be a while here!
  2. When will you hear the first Spring Peeper of the season? Will that be the first frog you hear or will it be another species first? Check out this page for help in figuring out who’s singing: https://www.pca.state.mn.us/living-green/frogs-minnesota
  3. First flower of the spring in your yard? Will it be a dandelion- or do you have bulbs waiting to burst through?
  4. How soon will the pussywillows pop in big masses of yellow pollen?
  5. Which day this spring will be the largest flight of Red-tailed Hawks migrating through Duluth? Check out the spring Hawk count (and other bird data) at the Hawk Ridge website: https://www.hawkridge.org/ Click on live spring count for up the moment counts of who’s coming through. Click Spring Raptor Count for season totals specifically for raptors alone.
  6. When will your favorite neotropical migrant first sing it song in your neighborhood?
  7. How long before the first tree is fully leafed out?
  8. When will the puddle in the driveway be gone? (Long spring process at my place!:) )

Have fun and create your own list. There’s and endless variety of firsts to watch for through the spring. And if you want to make a contribution to science and logging biodiversity in your area check out iNaturalist. https://www.inaturalist.org/ Don’t know what you are looking at? Take pictures and post them on iNaturalist – some expert will get back to you with an answer amazingly quickly- it can take a bit for very unusual things- but for most things the response is within a few hours. Want a quicker answer- try iNaturalist Seek- this will use the data from iNaturalist in your area and try to get you an immediate answer to your question! https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/seek_app.  And if you happen to be in the neighborhood around Sugarloaf Cove and find yourself walking there- search for the Sugarloaf Cove project on iNaturalist and help us chronicle the spring events at Sugarloaf!

There is a lot of life out there to explore this spring- and being outside is one of the safest places to be as long as you practice our new normal social distancing. Watch the spring unfold- a wonderful solitary activity, or a great way to get cooped up kids looking at something besides a screen! Be safe and enjoy the spring’s arrival at your own house! Bet you will find some surprises!

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