Freja \Fi\nologies

   It’s a bird.  It’s a bee.  It’s Phenology!
               - Freja

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Retired Polar Husky Freja will post her daily "phenology observations" -that is, observations she is making about what is going on outside her retirement home near the University of Minnesota campus!

Check back Monday - Friday! Just like the audio update, I will post every morning by 8AM CST and tell you about my observations from the previous day!


14 49 degrees this morning and the air felt damp from all the rain this week. On my morning walk I noticed the city still has not had the chance to mow the little parks by my house, I guess because of all the rain. The grass is so tall now that some of it is up past my tail! I would have to say that grass is well over two feet tall.

It was very breezy today and sunny too. By the afternoon the temperature was up to 70 degrees, the air smelled of spring... flowers and fresh cut grass. Ursula and I spent most of the day in the back yard under the lilac bushes, the leafy canopy creates wonderful shade to lay in and stay cool. As I was laying there in the shade watching the birds splashing in the bird bath I thought about all the changes I have seen in the past 12 weeks and how today is my last phenology observation for the year!

I remember on my first day of observations this year how the yard had a foot and a half of snow pack, now there is grass, which has already been mowed a few times this season and is now thick and green. That is quite a transformation in just 12 weeks! One of the days in the first week of my observations I woke up to 4 degree temperatures, today it is 70 degrees out. When I started observations this year all the plants were still dormant and now the foliage is so full I cannot see much further past my yard because of all the leaves. Comparing this year's observations to last year's I was also able to confirm that spring seemed to arrive about two weeks earlier this year than last year.

What else has changed? My winter coat has completely shed out and I am ready for the lazy days of summer. I am also looking forward to the team coming back from Greenland and I am especially looking forward to seeing my son Beacon and hearing about all the exciting things that happened on the trail.

Have a great summer!

-Paw Out
13 46 degrees this morning with a light rain. The rain was light enough that I was able to go on my usual morning walk. On my walk I noticed a scatter of purple dots on the sidewalk, as I got closer I realized they were buds from a lilac. I noticed that same phenomenon a few times on my walk and each time the buds formed a neat oval near the lilac bush. This tells me the buds are falling off and floating straight down instead of being carried off in the wind. I think it is safe to conclude that it is late enough in the season that lilacs are losing their blooms. Good thing I also have dwarf lilacs in my yard, they have just started blooming.

Also on my morning walk I passed a yard that had been mowed recently, the grass was very short, thick and even. The grass also had lots of maple seeds sticking out of it! Remember maple seeds are also called helicopter seeds because they are wing shaped and they spiral quickly through the air as they fall from the trees. In this lawn there were hundreds of maple seeds nestled into the grass with their light brown winged ends pointing up above the grass line. I was amazed by how many seeds there were, that they seemed to cover a distance of over a hundred feet away from the maple tree that I believe produced the seeds, and that the seed part was tucked into the grass with the wing sticking up on all of the seeds I saw. The shape of the maple seed really works well for traveling in the air. Did you know that seeds that are dispersed by the wind are called anemophilous?

The rain finally let up by early afternoon; by my evening walk the temperature was at 54 degrees. On my evening walk I was able to observe two new introductions to my environment from the rain. First I found some moss! It was thick and green covering the side of a short concrete wall that was facing North. The wall was also heavily shaded from surrounding trees, some of these trees also had moss on their trunks. Another growth I saw from our recent moist conditions was a patch of mushrooms! They were light brown and clustered in groups of about three dozen caps. The mushrooms were growing next to a tree stump from a large tree that seemed to have been cut down a few years ago.
12 43 degrees again this morning, just like yesterday except today it was not raining in the morning.

On my morning walk everything was wet from the rain and the sky was overcast, it felt like it could rain at any moment but I made it through the walk without a drop. On my walk I saw something very unusual for my neighborhood... two Mallards! I am not making this up, two Mallards, a drake and hen walking down my street. I called out "What are you doing here?" And they called back. "Quack quack, quackity quack."

I don't speak duck, let alone the Mallard dialect, so I just smiled and continued on my walk.

All day long the sky was overcast, the temperature only reached fifty degrees, in the afternoon it rained a little bit. I saw a robin pull a worm out of my backyard today. I am pretty sure the robin did not eat the worm even though it went in her mouth. I think she flew off to her nest to feed her babies.

On my evening walk I saw a very unusual pine tree. Well the pine tree looked like a regular pine tree, about 20 feet tall and long needles. I would say the needles were about 4 inches long. The tree also had pine cones, and the pine cones looked unusual to me. Some of the pine cones were long and brown and pointing down where other cones were pointing up and looked more like a cluster of fat red spikes with just a tuft of light green needles on top. A bit of research revealed that the pine tree I saw was a Loblolly Pine which has male and female pine cones. The longer brown cones were female cones and the round red cones are male cones. This was very interesting to me, I did not know a pine tree could have male and female cones!
11 43 degrees this morning and rainy all day long. A light rain, but rain none the less. In the morning the rain was also accompanied by some wind so I only had a short morning walk. Oh I can handle the elements even though I am a house dog now, my city sisters on the other hand are a little delicate. :-) Teamwork is important, even on a morning walk, if the pack isn't up for it we need to cut the walk short.

I didn't get much time outside today because of the rain so here are some observations I was able to make from my house through the windows.

The day lillies along the fence by the alley are very big. They have leaves that look to be about two feet long, they go up about a foot before curving over bending back to the ground.  They are still months away from flowering.

The dwarf lilacs have started to bloom, they are finally catching up with the other lilacs in my yard that bloomed a few weeks ago. The dwarf lilacs have a darker purple color to their buds.

When I started my phenology observations months ago I was able to look out the side window of me house and see the second house to the North of my house. Today the trees are so full of leaves I can just barely make out a little bit of the house. The neighbors house is only 70 feet away... so that is a lot of leaves!

By the afternoon today the wind had completely died down, and it was still raining. The temperature had only changed two degrees to 45. Their are a lot of wind chimes in my yard, the air was so still they were not moving at all.

By evening the rain had let up and I got to go on my regular night walk. Everything was wet from the rain and birds were out singing, that was nice to hear. I noticed that patches of dandelions that managed to survive the wind yesterday now were bare. It seems as though the rain knocked all of their silvery seeds off. As I looked closer at the grass to see if I could locate some of their seeds I saw a lot of maple and elm seeds nestled into the grass. The seeds were soaked from the rain and resting on top of the soil.  This was exciting to see, I have been watching these seeds fall and flutter around for the past few weeks. Now I see nature has completed the job of bringing strong winds to make sure the seeds find a patch of earth to settle into and the rain has tamped the seeds down to the soil.
10 48 degrees this morning and what a roller-coaster weekend we have come off of. Saturday was cold and rainy. Sunday I woke up to a sunny sky but below freezing temperatures and frost coating lawns and rooftops. Because it was so cold yesterday I got to go on an extra long walk by the Mississippi river, it was really neat because the river valley was full of fog that was rapidly moving off, it was all silvery and swirly in the morning sun. Aside from seeing lots of fog, I also saw a doe! She was about twice my size and just running along side the river. After watching her run for a few hundred yards she jumped into a wooded area and I lost sight.

On my morning walk today there wasn't any frost at all, nor did I see any deer... although there were a lot of big rabbits out. I keep expected to see some new young rabbits one of these mornings, but all I seem to see are adult rabbit... no little bunnies yet. The alliums in my front yard are about halfway to opening into a big purple flower ball and they must be almost four feet tall now, they are much taller than I am.

By noon today the temperature had climbed to 58 degrees and the sky was overcast. It started raining a little after 3pm and the temperature started dropping quickly, by 7pm it was super windy and the temperature was back down to 50 degrees. I stayed inside and watched the tress whip back and forth in the wind and rain... it was really cool to watch. I also noticed that while the trees were really effected by the wind, the tall skinny alliums in the front yard of my house were barely moving at all. Where the trees would bend back and forth in the wind, the alliums sort of wiggled around in little circles. I don't know if this was because the alliums are closer to the ground than the trees or because they are partially sheltered by the house. Looking across the street at some tulips in a neighbors yard, I realized they were behaving the same as the alliums in the wind and they were out in the open, they did not have any shelter from a house. My conclusion, being closer to the ground protects from the wind and also alliums and tulips are tall and skinny so there is less surface area for the wind to catch. The trees by comparison have lots of surface area for the wind to catch because of all their leaves.