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Environment & Outdoors
Phenology with local naturalist Larry Weber every Friday morning at 8:20 on Northland Morning.

Backyard Almanac: More (precipitation) or less (warmth), asking for an average April.

AmericanWhitePelican_DavidSlater-20081108.jpg
David Slater [via Flickr, commercial use allowed]
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The American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

It hardly feels like April with this morning's temperature at 15 degrees. The average for April is usually 40 degrees, but so far this April we only averaged 34 degrees. Larry Weber says, "I don't think we're asking for a warm April. I think we're asking for an average April, and it hasn't happened yet!" However, we're up to 15 inches of snow this month, and now we have had snow cover from Thanksgiving to Easter, about 150 days. We've also reached a seasonal total of 90 inches of snow. Larry has described April as the "thawing month," but with this much snow on the ground we are avoiding living up to one of Larry's other monikers for April: the "fire month." This ongoing snow cover is keeping the dead spring grasses from being ready to ignite, and is also holding the ticks at bay, thankfully.

There was a lot of activity at Larry's birdfeeder this week; he counted 200 birds in one day, including 140 redpolls and many juncos (seen for the first time this spring). Tree sparrows and fox sparrows, too. Larry has seen many birds along the St. Louis River, including mallards, herons, kingfishers, a cormorant, and a kestrel. The other day he saw a flock of white pelicans along the shore. Well, he didn't see them at first; they were camouflaged by the snow on the riverbank behind them.

The vernal ponds look healthy and ready for frogs and other critters to inhabit, but the temperatures aren't warm enough just yet.