Note: Nina Manzi is a long-time volunteer at Afton State Park who has long recorded and shared seasonal observations at the visitor’s center. Beginning with COVID closures, St. Croix 360 has been publishing her updates when possible. Thank you, Nina!
April 1 and 15 2022, 7:30 p.m. Timberdoodle Dance
Timberdoodle is the nickname given to a ground nesting, long beaked little bird called the American Woodcock. The mating flight and dance of this little bird is pretty amazing. Reservations required. Meet at the visitor center and dress for the weather – this is a low activity program with a short walk (2 blocks). 651-231-6968. Linda.Radimecky@state.mn.us.
On Friday the 1st get up early before sunrise and look in the east for three planets in a line! Bright Venus on the left, Saturn in the middle, and orange-red Mars on the right. On the mornings of the 4th and 5th Venus and Saturn will be very close to one another.
Great Blue Herons returned to this area as soon as there was open water. Great Egrets, Green Herons, and Black-crowned Night Herons are returning, also. Look for them along the river and along Trout Brook.
Eagles are one of the first birds to nest, often laying eggs in mid-February. They build big nests of sticks, and use them year after year, each year adding on to make the nest even bigger. You’ll often see the nests in cottonwood trees, since cottonwoods are strong enough to hold the nests, which can weigh up to a ton! Eagle eggs hatch after about a month. Both parents participate in feeding the hatchlings. If you see an eagle’s nest, be respectful and observe it from a distance using binoculars.
Amphibians and Reptiles
Spring peepers and boreal chorus frogs continue calling in the evenings. Wood frogs become vocal in early April. If you are walking through a wooded area with ponds and hear low chuckling that suddenly stops when you get close to it, you’re hearing wood frogs! As you approach the wood frogs can sense the vibrations of your footsteps and think you might be a frog-eating animal, which is why the go silent. If you stand still for a few moments they will resume their chuckling.
Hepaticas and Bloodroots may have come into bloom, and you may find Skunk Cabbages in the woods. Once you see the leaves of Skunk Cabbages the plants have already bloomed and are forming seeds in a capsule in the center of the plant. During the blooming stage they give off a skunky scent which attracts flies, and the flies pollinate the skunk cabbages.
Aspen trees have bloomed, and the fuzzy catkins blow down onto the ground in the wind and rain. Aspen trees drop their leaves in fall, but you may find some around them on the ground.
Here are some weather observations from past years
|Friday, April 1||2002: record snowfall of 4.6 inches; 2015: record high of 84°|
|Saturday, April 2||2006: record rainfall of 1.06 inches; 2020: pleasant morning, temperature near 40°|
|Sunday, April 3||2021: lovely day in 70s; 2020: rain and snow off and on throughout day|
|Monday, April 4||2021: high near 80°; 2020: cold overnight, in the 20s in the morning|
|Tuesday, April 5||2021: record high of 85°; 2016 red sky in the morning (sailors take warning!) and blustery winds and rain in the afternoon.|
|Wednesday, April 6||2006: record rainfall of 2.58 inches; 2020: cloudy and mild, in the 50s|
|Thursday, April 7||2021: thunderstorm in the morning|
All photos copyright Nina Manzi, except:
- Dean Lokken: Great Egret
- Gary Sater: Bald Eagles, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron
- Allen Blake Sheldon, MN Conservation Volunteer: Boreal Chorus Frog, Spring Peeper