Afton State Park Phenology, October 14 to 20, 2022

Many birds are following the St. Croix south, while other creatures prepare for winter.




4 minute read

View of St. Croix River from Afton State Park (Iain/Flickr)


Look for Mars near the Moon in the evening on Friday the 14th.


Migration continues. Late-flying warblers trickle through heading south, including yellow-rumped warblers and American redstarts. Ducks and Geese follow the St. Croix flyway, and many will linger in this area as long as there is open water. Robins have formed flocks – some will travel farther south, while others will stay in this area through the winter. Watch for them moving through the trees like ghosts when you hike.


Rabbits are plentiful at Afton, and they remain active all winter long. They are most active at dawn and dusk, when the temperatures tend to be milder and when they can move about without attracting too much attention from predators. For much of the day and night they shelter in brush piles, under evergreen trees or in hollow stumps. In the winter their diet switches from grasses, which are often buried by snow, to tree bark, twigs, and . . . their own poop! Rabbits have inefficient digestive tracts so they can extract calories from their droppings by eating them. The practice of eating poop is called “coprophagy”.


Mourning Cloak and Eastern Comma butterflies both overwinter as adults, hiding under leaves or tree bark and becoming active on mild days. What about Red Admirals? Red Admirals to the north of our area migrate south for the winter. Red Admirals to our south overwinter locally as adults. It’s likely that some of the Red Admirals at Afton overwinter here, while others go south. Have you seen any Red Admirals at Afton on mild fall or winter days?


In the woods look for the fruits of early-blooming wildflowers. Jack-in-the-Pulpit and False Solomon’s Seal both have bright red berries, Upright Carrion Flower has deep blue berries, and Early Horse Gentian has tiny orange fruits next to its stem that look like tiny pumpkins or persimmons.


This week’s featured oak is the Northern Pin Oak. It is in the red oak group, with pointed lobes on its leaves. The spaces between the lobes, which are called “sinuses”, are very deep. The Pin Oak’s acorns take two years to mature, with nubby caps that cover the top third of the nut.

Another deciduous tree to look for is the American Basswood, also called the Linden. It grows to be 50 to 70 feet tall, and has large heart-shaped leaves that turn yellow or sometimes orange in the fall. The small white flowers of the Basswood mature into small round nut-like fruit about the size of a BB. The inner bark was used by Native Americans to make rope and baskets, and Basswoods are sometimes called “rope trees.”

Weather Observations 

Here are some weather observations for this week from past years 

Friday, October 142011: Overcast and breezy, high in the 50s
Saturday, October 15 2010: sunny and high in the 60s
Sunday, October 162014: sunny with a high of 72°; 2020: snow flurries in the morning, with a high in the 40s
Monday, October 172002: trace of snow
Tuesday, October 182011: temperature in the 40s through the day
Wednesday, October 192000: record high of 84°
Thursday, October 202020: record snowfall of 7.9 inches; 2021: Rain and thunder through afternoon

Photo/Image credits:

All photos copyright Nina Manzi, except:

  • Keith Henjum: middle Rabbit
  • Tracy Robillard Kruse: False Solomon’s Seal Berries
  • Jamie Olson Kinne: Eastern Comma Butterfly
  • Gary Sater: American Redstart, Wood Ducks, Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Allyn Uniacke: Fall colors on St. Croix River


You may republish this article online or in print under our Creative Commons license. You may not edit or shorten the text, you must attribute the article to St. Croix 360 and you must include the author’s name in your republication.

If you have any questions, please email

Afton State Park Phenology, October 14 to 20, 2022