MARQUETTE-- Many of the responses of nature to sun energy are predictable, like migrating wildlife and blooming times. Phenology is the study of the effects of the flow of sun energy through the ecosystem. Right now we have lots of sunlight, which means lots of energy, and plants and animals are taking full advantage of this by producing seeds and young, and they will eventually start to prepare for the loss of sunlight by losing their leaves (excess energy), gathering food for the winter, preparing for hibernation, etc.
Here at the Driftless Area Wetlands Centre, we are tracking these phonological changes as they occur. We are listing blooming times, when it’s best to harvest seed heads, and when it’s easiest to pull invasive species. For animals, we are tracking migration times, reproduction, building nests, when the young mature, etc.
You can do this at your own house as well. It’s a great activity for kids. Take a calendar and write down when the robins come back, when Purple Coneflowers bloom, when you pick your first morel mushroom, etc. Results can differ from year to year due to weather and depending on location. It’s always exciting acting like a detective and you tend to look at your backyard differently!
Here at the Driftless Area Wetlands Centre during June and July, the dragonflies have started mating (by which they form a wheel) and the females have started laying their eggs by tapping on water with their abdomen. Different species of dragonflies and damselflies have increased their activity as the summer progresses. The frog and toad eggs have matured into adults and their calls fill the wetland. The air is full of the perfume of flowers and a wide variety of pollinators are taking advantage of this season by pollinating plants. Many of the turtles have grown up and left the wetland to avoid competition for limited space and you might even spot a few young white-tailed deer twins, or even triplets (!), toddling around. Specific species of prairie forbs, or flowers, have bloomed at different times. In early May we had Wild Violets, followed by Asters, Purple Coneflowers, and now we have Black-Eyed Susans and Milkweed.
We have many upcoming events at the Driftless Area Wetlands Centre this week, including a Youth Pottery Workshop this Friday from 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM for third graders through adults. Each participant will learn coil building and how to make a pot, which will be fired and returned four weeks after the workshop. Please RSVP in advance. There is a $10.00 material fee to participate.
On Saturday, July 25, we will host Dino Day, a celebration of all things prehistoric! Take a look at fossilized dino poo, a mammoth tooth, and a Diplodocus thigh bone. Phil Burgess, a Driftless Area geology expert, will give a talk on dinosaurs that roamed the Driftless Area (11:00 am, 1:00 pm). There will be a fossil dig for kids, atlatl throwing demonstration, dino-themed treats, a Jurassic Park showing at 3:00 pm, and kids can take home a piece of their very own dino poo! A great family event that runs from 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM!
And of course, there is always our Friday Night Live Farmers Markets, which run from 4:00 PM - 7:00 PM on Friday nights until October 9. Friday Night Live is a full blown outdoor Farmers Market featuring local producers, food, artisan crafters and others from the Driftless Region who make handmade goods. FNL features live music from local entertainers as well as a series of educational/special programs on specific weekends (check our calendar for more details).
Enjoy the Outdoors! It’s always free!
Photo: This group of family and friends had a fun day catching an orange bluet damselfly at the Driftless Area Wetlands Centre!