What is Phenology?
Phenology is the study of cycles in relation to biological occurrences. Phenology studies seasons, biological events, weather patterns, habitat changes, and any other shifts in nature through the passage of time. Anyone can practice phenology! It begs questions like: “Why do I hear more birds chirping in May than in April?”, “What time of year do deer have their fawns?”, or “Why does the shoreline of Kinni look a little different than it did last year?”. Phenology reports are important to protecting our natural resources because they allow us to notice changes and compare or contrast them to the past.
Summer is in full swing! Meteorologists consider the first day of summer to be June 1st due to the start of the hottest days of the year, meanwhile others claim it is in late June when Summer Solstice begins. Regardless of the official start day, it is clear that the temperatures are getting hotter, the flowers are blooming, and the scents of summer are in the air! June is a great month to visit Kinnickinnic River Land Trust Preserves and other areas of the watershed, as there are exciting opportunities for birdwatching, foraging, and fishing.
Prairies in Bloom:
Prairies are an intricate and diverse ecosystem that provide vital habitat for a large number of species. While walking through Kinnickinnic River Land Trust Preserves you will notice that these large expanses of prairie and grasslands look significantly different than they did just a few months ago. Grasses have grown tall and lush, while numerous wildflowers are now in full bloom.
The Prairie Coneflower is an adaptable and common wildflower that can grow in a variety of different areas such as prairies, fields, and even alongside roads. Prairie Coneflower can be most easily identified by its long yellow petals contrasted by its dark center. This wildflower can grow up to five feet tall, letting it stand out amongst shorter prairie grasses. These flowers typically begin blooming in June and can continue through August. Don’t let their droopy looking petals fool you; this characteristic is part of what makes these common wildflowers unique!
Wild Bergamot is another wildflower that you may stumble upon as you spend time in the prairies of the watershed. This purple flower is a great resource for pollinators such as honeybees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. Throughout the past few years Wild Bergamot has been one of the first flowers that I see in the month of June, a great indicator that summer is here! The wildflower is most commonly identified by its vibrant purple color and its sometimes “spicy” aroma. The unique scent can be attributed to its relation to the mint family. The wildflower’s striking color and intriguing scent make it an exciting find!
Left Picture: Yellow Prairie Coneflower in Kelly Creek Preserve
Right Picture: Wild Bergamot in Kelly Creek Preserve
All About the Bluebird:
While walking through the Kelly Creek Preserve, you may notice wooden birdhouses throughout the trails. These are placed throughout the preserve in order to encourage and aid some bird species, such as the Bluebird, to nest. The effort is a collaboration between the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust and the St. Croix Valley Bird Club. More information can be found on sign posting at the Kelly Creek Preserve (pictured below).
The Bluebird is a small, vibrant creature that is skilled at flying and scanning the ground for insects. The Bluebird diet consists of mostly insects such as beetles, caterpillars, and grasshoppers, though it will also consume berries or fruit when insects are scarce (see picture of Bluebird with insect in its beak). The Bluebird is most easily identified by its stunning blue feathers and orange/rust-colored bellies. Bluebirds can be actively nesting in the month of June, meaning the birdboxes you see out at preserves could be holding eggs or baby Bluebirds! Female Bluebirds make the nests by weaving together materials such as grasses, pine needles, and even feathers. Next time you are out at a preserve, keep your eye out for the beloved Bluebird! Please remember to look at the birdboxes, but please don’t touch. The boxes are monitored weekly and data is collected to track the population of these birds at Kelly Creek and other KRLT preserves.
Bluebird picture taken and provided by Mark Ritzinger
Bluebird informational kioks was built and donated by Jim Higgins
Warmer Weather is Here:
It seems like just a short time ago we were bundled up and wondering when the winter season would come to an end. Now as we are thrust into week-long bouts of temperatures in the high 80’s, it’s hard to remember those long, cold days! While June is not typically the hottest month of the year, it does tend to be the month with the most severe weather. Heavy rain events make it one of the wettest months out of the year, which can aid growth in plants and crops, as well as provide water to our lakes and rivers. Wondering how you can enjoy nature during thunderstorms or heavy rain events? Watch the effects that rain has on the soil, the plants, and the animals from a safe place indoors or smell the fresh scent of rain from a covered porch. June is a busy month for outdoor recreation, as people are ready to soak up every bit of warm weather while it’s here.
My name is Jane Taylor, and I write phenology reports for the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls in 2021 with a degree in Environmental Conservation. I have been passionate about the outdoors from a young age, and as I have grown up, I have realized more and more just how important it is to protect our natural resources. I live near the Twin Cities and when I am not writing phenology reports for the KRLT, I am working as an Interpretive Naturalist at a park in Shakopee, Minnesota. I love to spend as much time as possible outdoors; my favorite outdoor activities include birding, camping, and spending time at the lake.