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Phenology - November 2013

By Kelly Amoth, Interpretive Naturalist

Welcome to the cloudiest month of the year! There are 18 cloudy days on average this month, so if the sun is shining, get out an enjoy it!

  • The average date of the first snowfall (1 inch or more) for the season falls on November 18. Over the last few years, we've seen our first snowfall falling around the second week or so of the month. Many people cringe on the first day it really snows because it signals the beginning of shoveling, plowing, scraping, and sliding around on roads. There is nothing like the first coating of snow, though, so as much as you may not enjoy a snowy winter, take a few moments to enjoy the beauty of a fresh snowfall.
  • You may notice that even with most of the leaves on the ground by now, some wooded areas still look green. Anything that is still green is most likely buckthorn, one of the most prevalent invasive plant species in the Twin Cities. Buckthorn continues to be so successful because it is one of the first species to green up in the spring, and one of the last to lose its leaves in the fall. The dark black berries, which stay on the plants until late in the winter, provide food for birds and deer, which then spread the seeds of the invasive species even more.
  • If I'm sneaky enough in the afternoons when our building is quiet, I can sometimes spot a flock of turkeys hanging out under the bird feeders. They always seem to know when I'm watching them, though, and are quick to retreat to the woods if I start to creep closer to the window between us. Though the turkey featured at your Thanksgiving Day spread is likely to be a domesticated turkey, the story of the comeback of the wild turkey is one to also give thanks for. The wild turkey currently lives in every state, except Alaska, thanks to an aggressive trading program that took place around the country starting in the 1940s to reintroduce these valuable game birds to areas where their numbers had dwindled. The best time to see wild turkeys is in the morning when they are out foraging. The evenings turkeys roost high in trees.

Get out and enjoy these last days of fall!

What is phenology?

Phenology is the study and science of appearances and how they change over the seasons. The word itself is related to the word phenomenon. Think of phenology as recording and studying the natural phenomenon that occur around us every day.

Phenology can be as easy as recording what day you see birds returning to your feeders each year or when you see flowers blooming but make no mistake, phenology is serious science. By studying phenology we can better understand how the earth changes. Phenology records going back hundreds of years for the same location have even supported global warming research by showing that spring is arriving earlier than it used to historically.

At Warner Nature Center, groups help us fill out our phenology calendar each year and naturalists enter the data into a computer database.