Before sunrise on the 22nd look in the south for the Lyrid meteor shower. And in the early morning on Wednesday the 27th look in the southeast for the three brightest objects in the night sky: the Moon, Venus and Jupiter forming a triangle.
Many of the migratory birds that will nest at Afton have returned from the south. On the prairie look for Meadowlarks, Bobolinks, Eastern Bluebirds, and Tree Swallows. Tree Swallows often nest in bluebird boxes. One of the reasons the bluebird boxes are set out in pairs is that tree swallows that occupy one box will not tolerate another pair of tree swallows nesting in the second nearby box. But they don’t mind if bluebirds nest there!
Down by the river look for Great Blue Herons along the banks and Loons passing through on their way north. Along the edges of the woods look for Pheasants and for Pileated Woodpeckers, who may be busy pecking out new nest holes.
Amphibians and Reptiles
Look for both Painted and Snapping Turtles basking on sunny days. Both species live at Afton. The warmth of the sun helps them to digest what they’ve eaten.
There are two species of “lady” butterflies at Afton in the summer – the Painted Lady and the American Lady. It is too cold for the ladies to over-winter in Minnesota, so like the Monarchs they go south for the winter. Also like the Monarchs, it takes several generations to make the return trip north to Minnesota. The Painted Ladies don’t go so far south and return sooner than the Monarchs, arriving in late April. We usually don’t see American Ladies until later in the year – they have an established population in the southern United States and successive broods make their way farther and farther north over the course of the summer. The two species are very similar in appearance. If you see them when they’re perched, the American Lady has two big eyespots on its hind wing, while the Painted Lady has four smaller eyespots. The Painted Lady is the most widespread butterfly in the whole world – it lives on all continents except Australia and Antarctica.
Red Admirals are another butterfly that migrates, and like the Painted Lady may return to Afton as early as late April. And you might also see Mourning Cloaks and Eastern Commas, which overwinter at Afton as adults and are on the wing as soon as we start having warm sunny days.
Some of the spring ephemerals still blooming are Large-flowered Bellwort, Yellow Trout Lily, and Wild Violets.
Keep a lookout for Wild Strawberry leaves and remember where you see them. It won’t be long until there are Wild Strawberries! Yummy!!
Along the edges of the woods look for Kittentoes and Little-leaf Buttercups, and on the prairie look for Prairie Smoke.
Here are some weather observations from past years
|Friday, April 22||2001: record rainfall of 2.21 inches; 2020: pleasant day in the 60s|
|Saturday, April 23||2016: clear and temperature in the 40s in the morning, with dew on the grass|
|Sunday, April 24||2017: high 40s in the morning, rising to 72° Monday, April 25 2013: Partly cloudy with a high in the 50s|
|Tuesday, April 26||2011: record rainfall of 1.46 inches; 2021: light rain through the day|
|Wednesday, April 27||2020: light rain the morning, then sunny with temperature in the 60s.|
|Thursday, April 28||2004: record high of 91°|
All photos copyright Nina Manzi, except:
- Sherri Holliday-Skar: Great Blue Heron
- Jamie Olson Kinne: Eastern Comma
- Bill Marchel, MN Conservation Volunteer: Meadowlark
- Gary Sater: Common Loon, Eastern Bluebird, Pheasant, Red-breasted mergansers