Afton State Park phenology May 13 to 19, 2022

The animals are really getting active and visitors have a good chance of seeing them.

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Round-lobed hepatica, Afton State Park, May 7, 2022 (andernj/iNaturalist)

Astronomy

On the night of the 15th there will be a total lunar eclipse, beginning at about 8:30 pm, shortly after the moon rises. The moon will be fully eclipsed from about 10:30 pm until midnight. Don’t miss it! It will be full on the 16th, and this full moon is called the Flower Moon.

Birds

White-throated sparrows continue to move through our area heading north. And the warbler migration continues! One of the most common to pass through our area is the Yellow-Rumped Warbler. You may also see Yellow Warblers, Blackburnian Warblers, and many others.

And baby bird season continues, also. Robins are feeding nestlings, and young fuzzy ducklings follow hen Mallards about while learning the ins and outs of being a duck.

Mammals

Many mammals are crepuscular. That means that they are most active at dawn and dusk. Some of the crepuscular mammals at Afton are rabbits, deer, skunks, and opossums. And that means that if you want to catch a glimpse of them, you’d better be crepuscular, too! Try hiking quietly in the early morning or evening, and being alert for sounds and movement. You just might see one of these crepuscular mammals!

Insects

The Monarchs may be here! Mid-May is when we usually start seeing Monarchs in Minnesota, though it could be a little later this year due to the cool weather through April. The Monarchs that arrive at Afton are the grandchildren or even the great-grandchildren of those who left last fall to fly south to Mexico.

Monarchs are a member of a family of butterflies called the “brush-footed butterflies”. When you see one perched, it may look like it only has four legs! That’s because the front pair of legs are very short and covered with little bristles. That is what gives them the name of “brushfoots”. Other Brushfoots you might spot at Afton in the springtime include the Mourning Cloak and Eastern Comma, both of which overwinter as adults, and the Painted Lady and Red Admiral, both of which migrated to the southern U.S. last fall, with spring broods successively working their way farther and farther north. In the photo of the perched Red Admiral, you can see that it appears to only have four legs. The small brushfooted front legs aren’t visible.

Fungi

Fungi are more closely related to animals than to plants. The mushroom everyone wants to find is our official state mushroom, the morel! It is very tasty when fried in a little butter. See how many you can see in the photo. Look for morels after spring thunderstorms; if you haven’t hunted them before try to go with a friend who can help you identify them. Safety first when eating mushrooms!

And if you just want to admire fungi in the wild, there are plenty of shelf fungi at Afton, too.

Plants

In the woods look for Wild Columbine, Rue Anemone, and False Rue Anemone. What’s the difference between Rue Anemone and False Rue Anemone? Rue Anemone has five to ten petal-like sepals, while False Rue Anemone ALWAYS has only five.

Wild geraniums may be blooming in the woods, too, and on the prairie look for prairie phlox.

And continue to keep watch for wild strawberry leaves and flowers and remember where you see them. There will be wild strawberries to snack on while you’re hiking before long!!

Weather observations

Here are some weather observations from past years.

Friday, May 132007: record high of 92°; 2016: red sky in the morning and a half inch of rain before noon. The old saying goes: “Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning. Red sky
at night, sailor’s delight”
Saturday, May 142013: record high of 98°
Sunday, May 152001: record high of 94°; 2017: thunder in the afternoon
Monday, May 162021: fog and clouds early, then sunny with a high in the 70s
Tuesday, May 172020: record rainfall of 2.47 inches
Wednesday, May 182012: record high of 93°; 2013: rain and thunder in the morning
Thursday, May 192009: record high of 97°; 2015: 30s in the morning, rising into the 50s; 2021: 3/8” rain overnight

Photo credits

All photos copyright Nina Manzi, except:

  • Dudley Edmondson, MN Conservation Volunteer: Blackburnian Warbler
  • Keith Henjum: Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Dean Lokken: American Robin, Rabbit
  • Jamie Olson Kinne: Eastern Comma
  • Alan G. Nelson, Dembinksy Photo Associates, MN Conservation Volunteer: Skunk Gary Sater: Prairie Smoke, Whitetail Deer, Yellow Warbler
  • Andrew VonBank: Morel mushrooms

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One response to “Afton State Park phenology May 13 to 19, 2022”

  1. Valoree Dowell Avatar
    Valoree Dowell

    Love reading your newsletters, especially about animalia. Thank you!

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Afton State Park phenology May 13 to 19, 2022