Archive for the 'Phenology' Category

Mar 26 2015

Spring Moves North …

Published by under Phenology,Plants

Red tulip near Burlington, ON, 21 May 2014 (photo by Laslovarga via Wikimedia Commons)

The first crocuses bloomed in Pittsburgh last week but the rest of spring is taking its time.  Until today the month of March averaged 3F degrees below normal.  (Yesterday’s brought it up to -2.6.)  With that kind of track record, when will Spring get here?

Two years ago I wrote about the rule of thumb that “Spring moves north 13 miles a day“and showed how to watch it online at Journey North’s Tulip Test Garden.  I even used the rule of thumb to predict that the tulips would bloom at Clarion Area Elementary School’s Test Garden in Clarion, PA on April 20, 2013.

Was I right?  I looked up Clarion’s 2013 Tulip Test Garden results which said the tulips bloomed on April 22.  But … April 22 but was a Monday that year.  Maybe the tulips bloomed on Saturday, April 20 while the children weren’t at school to see them!  (The vagaries of data collection…)

Let’s try it this year.  Click here to read about the Rule of Thumb so you know how I’m doing this.  Then I’ll estimate …

On the 2015 Tulip Test Garden Map Durham, NC’s first tulip bloomed on March 20.  That’s 362 miles or about 28 days south of Clarion Area Elementary School (they’re participating again this year), so Clarion should bloom on April 17.

April 17 feels too early but we’ll see.  By the end of April we’ll know if “Spring moved north 13 miles a day” in 2015.

 

p.s. A big flock of American robins sang in the dark this morning in my neighborhood.  One more Sign of Spring!

 

(photo from Wikimedia Commons.  This tulip was photographed by Laslovarga on May 21, 2014 near Burlington, Ontario.)

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Mar 20 2015

Today, Stonehenge At Home

Stonehenge (photo from Wikimedia Commons in the public domain)

Throw Back Thursday (TBT) is a day late in honor of the Spring Equinox.

During today’s sun event there will be a Stonehenge effect in my neighborhood.

Click on the link to learn how the position of our houses causes Stonehenge At Home.

 

(photo of Stonehenge in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)

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Mar 19 2015

The Crocus Report

Published by under Phenology,Plants

Crocuses at Phipps, 18 March 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

Ta dah!  We’ve reached a milestone in The Signs of Spring.  It’s time for the crocus report.

Yesterday morning the crocuses at Phipps Conservatory’s outdoor garden were just about to pop open.  The bright sun warmed the mulch and after another hour they had opened halfway.  I can say with confidence that they bloomed on March 18.

Crocuses opening at Phipps (photo by Kate St. John)

Is this late for crocuses?   I checked back through my blog posts, linked below, to collect their blooming history in Pittsburgh’s East End:

So … though this winter has seemed very cold the crocuses are not delayed too, too long.

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

p.s. They may have bloomed during Monday’s heat but I didn’t walk over to Phipps until yesterday.

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Mar 13 2015

Blackbirds and Coltsfoot: What to Expect in March

Published by under Phenology

Red-winged blackbird singing (photo by Bobby Greene)

Winter was so long and cold that it’s been hard to predict when the birds will arrive and the flowers will bloom, but suddenly this week we are out of winter’s grip.

What else can we expect to see outdoors, now that Spring is springing?  Here’s a brief phenology for March.

  • Ducks, geese and swans visit our lakes on migration.
  • First-of-Year red-winged blackbirds, common grackles, killdeer, tree swallows, phoebes and meadowlarks arrive from the south.
  • Large flocks of robins poke through soggy lawns and sing at dusk and dawn.
  • Peregrine falcons court and lay eggs.  (Yes, we have seen courting!)
  • Blooming later this month: coltsfoot, forsythia, snow trillium, harbinger of spring and violets.
  • Frogs and salamanders will be courting and mating.  Listen for spring peepers and wood frogs.  Be careful not to kill salamanders that cross the road at night!
  • It’s Mud Season and Jacket weather.  No more winter coats!

Have you seen these signs of Spring yet?

Yesterday I heard my first red-winged blackbird!  Soon they’ll be singing from the cattails, as in this photo by Bobby Greene.

 

(photo by Bobby Greene)

(*) definition of Phenology from Google: the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life.

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Jan 03 2015

Early Singer

Carolina wren (photo by Gregory Diskin)

Speaking of First Bird of the Year, who’s the first bird to sing in your neighborhood?  Have you heard any singing yet?

In Pittsburgh most birds stop singing in mid summer, though a few late-nesting residents keep it up until autumn.  They’ve been silent for months now.

A few hardy souls sing in January.  The First Singer in my backyard is usually a Carolina wren who pipes up just before dawn.  On a good morning his voice echoes off the hills and prompts competing wrens to respond.

… But this is not a good morning.  We have freezing rain today. :(

Even on a good day he’s silent within 15 minutes.  I’ll know it’s spring when he sings all day.

 

(photo by Gregory Diskin)

15 responses so far

Dec 13 2014

Christmas In July

Published by under Phenology

Orange Sulphur butterlfly on Cardinal Flower (photo by Chuck Tague)

Red, green and gold holiday decorations are brightening Pittsburgh’s gray December days.

Nature paints with these colors all year long.

Chuck Tague photographed an orange sulphur butterfly on a cardinal flower in mid summer.

Christmas in July.

 

(photo by Chuck Tague)

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Oct 11 2014

Fall Color Weekend

Published by under Phenology

Fall scenery, October 2011 (photo by Steve Gosser)

This long Columbus Day weekend is a good time to get outdoors and enjoy the fall colors, especially in the forests north and east of Pittsburgh.

 

Steve Gosser photographed this beautiful scene in October 2011.

(photo by Steve Gosser)

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Aug 28 2014

TBT: What to Look for in Early September

Published by under Phenology

Turtleheads (photo by Tim Vechter)

Throw Back Thursday (TBT):

In a few days it will be September.  Plants and animals are changing as fall approaches.  What will we see outdoors in the month ahead?

Phenology is the study of the times when natural phenomena recur.  Back in 2008-2009 Chuck Tague and I collaborated on a year-long phenology series for western Pennsylvania.  His website held much more information than mine but, alas, it disappeared when Apple discontinued web.me.com.  My series remains as a collection at the Western PA Phenology tab at the top of this blog.

What can we expect in early September?  Click here for the phenology forecast.

 

(photo of turtleheads by Tim Vechter)

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Jun 30 2014

Green Flowers

Published by under Phenology,Plants

Flowers of Indian cucumber root, 22 June 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

It seems odd that a plant would have green flowers but a surprising number do including jack-in-the-pulpit, northern green orchid and ragweed.

In mid-June I found a blooming Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana) that I nearly missed because the flowers didn’t stand out.  The top two had already gone to seed and those in bloom were camouflaged in a greenish yellow way.

The bottom whorl of leaves caught my attention.  It’s typically five to nine long leaves (this one had seven) suspended a foot or so above the ground.  Only the blooming plants have the smaller top whorl too.

I tried to take a picture of this arrangement but even my best photo is confusing.  The small flower whorl blends in with a second plant behind it even though the background is beyond the mossy log.

Indian cucumber root, Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, 22 June 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

Having paused to take a photo I knelt down to see the flowers.  This perennial is pollinated by insects, probably flies.  The color green makes sense for flies as they don’t need fancy red, white, yellow or purple to be attracted to the plant.

Indian cucumber root earned its common name when Native Americans taught the settlers that the edible root smells and tastes like cucumber. People still dig and eat it today, thereby destroying the plant.  It’s endangered in Illinois and Florida.

Though not threatened in Pennsylvania, I won’t say the exact location of this flower.  Only that I found it in the Laurel Highlands, an area encompassing 3,000 square miles.

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

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Apr 30 2014

April Showers Bring…

Published by under Phenology,Plants,Trees

Great chickweed (photo by Kate St. John)

While it feels like it’s been raining forever, last weekend’s weather was sunny and so were the flowers. Here’s a selection I found at Raccoon Creek Wildflower Reserve and Friendship Hill National Historic Site on Saturday and Sunday.

Above, a very close look at Great Chickweed (Stellaria pubera), also called Star Chickweed.  The flower is only 1/2″ across and it has only five petals but they’re so deeply cleft that they look like ten.

Below, inch-long Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) in bloom at Raccoon Wildflower Reserve.  I love how they change color as they open.

Virginia Bluebells (photo by Kate St. John)

 

Toad Trillium or Toadshade (Trillium sessile) is rarely seen from this angle because the plant is only four inches tall.  (I got muddy taking this picture.)  The dark, closed petals look boring from above but graceful from the side.  Perhaps they open like this so the pollen can disperse more easily.  It’s dusting the leaf at front left.
Sessile trillium (photo by Kate St. John)

 

Today’s April showers will bring May flowers. It’s hard to believe that May begins tomorrow.

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

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