Afton State Park phenology, June 9-15

Long days means lots of life.




3 minute read

Beach at Afton State Park (McGhiever/Wikimedia)


On Wednesday morning get up early and look for Jupiter near the crescent Moon before sunrise. When two celestial objects appear to be close to each other in the sky it’s called a “conjunction”.


A “mnemonic” is pattern or sequence of words to help with remembering something or other. Birding enthusiasts use mnemonics to help identify birds by their calls by coming up with phrases that sound like what the birds sound like. Late spring and summer is a good time to practice using mnemonic phrases to identify birds at Afton, since birds are more vocal in the spring and summer than in winter. Take a break on a bench alongside the trail, close your eyes, and listen.

Baltimore Oriole: “here, here – come right here, dear”
American Goldfinch: “potato chips-potato chips-potato chips”
Rose-breasted Grosbeak: “cheer-up—cheer-a-lee – cheer—ee-o”

Brown Thrasher: “drop-it, drop-it, cover-it-up, cover-it-up”
Indigo Bunting: “fire, fire. where? where? here, here. see it? See it?”
Western Meadowlark: “hip! hip! hurrah, boys! three cheers!”


The Monarchs that recently arrived in our area have laid eggs, and you may see their caterpillars on the leaves of milkweed plants. You may also see the caterpillars of Milkweed Tussock Moths on milkweed leaves! Another caterpillar to look out for looks a bit like a Monarch larva but is greenish in color with yellow and black spotted bands. This is the caterpillar of the Black Swallowtail butterfly, and you will see it on carrot or parsley plants, not milkweeds.

Among the dragon and damselflies you may see in mid-June are the Common Whitetail, the White- Faced Meadowhawk, the Bluet Damselfly, and the Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly. The dragonflies and damselflies are both in the order “Odonata”. The dragons hold their wings open when they’re resting, while the damsels hold them closed together.


Diurnal, Nocturnal, and Crepuscular are all words used to describe the time of day when an animal is most active.

Diurnal animals, like squirrels, are most active in the daytime.

Crepuscular animals, like deer and rabbits, are most active at dawn and dusk. Mother deer may still leave fawns hidden in the grass while they browse, but more and more the fawns are accompanying their mothers.

Nocturnal animals, like bats, skunks, raccoons, mice, opossums, coyotes and foxes, are most active at night, although many of these animals may also be crepuscular.


There are lots of flowers blooming on the prairie. You might see Blue-eyed Grass, which is not really a grass, White Wild Indigo, Butterflyweed, Leadplant, Yarrow, Harebells, Spiderwort, Black-eyed Susans, and Hoary Vervain.

And that’s not all! Some others you might see are Long-leaf Bluets, Common Cinquefoil, Golden Alexanders, and Hedge Bindweed.

Weather observations

Here are some weather observations from past years.

Friday, June 92021: record high of 96°; 2020: 80s in the morning, with light rain from Tropical Storm Cristobal reaching Minnesota. Cooler air arrives in the afternoon
Saturday, June 102022: pleasant day in 80s; 2017: high in the 90s and windy; 2011: 1⁄4 inch of rain overnight, in the 50s to start the day
Sunday, June 112008: 60s through day with dark skies, with a half-inch of rain by nightfall and another three-quarters by morning
Monday, June 122015: sunny and 50s in the morning, rising into the 70s
Tuesday, June 132009: sunny and warm, with a high near 80°; 2001: record 2.37 inches rain
Wednesday, June 142022: hot and muggy, in the mid-90s; 2011: sunny early, with a thunderstorm from late afternoon into early evening
Thursday, June 152018: record high of 95°

Photo credits

All photos copyright Nina Manzi, except:

  • Alan G. Nelson, Dembinksy Photo Associates, MN Conservation Volunteer: Striped Skunk
  • Dudley Edmondson, MN Conservation Volunteer: Baltimore Oriole, Indigo Bunting
  • Michael Furtman, MN Conservation Volunteer: American Goldfinch
  • Dean Lokken: Black Swallowtail Caterpillar, Ebony Jewelwing, Full Moon, White Wild Indigo, Whitetail Deer Fawn
  • Bill Marchel, MN Conservation Volunteer: Brown Thrasher, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Western Meadowlark


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Afton State Park phenology, June 9-15