Seasonal changes happen quickly in Minnesota during October and it’s interesting to watch the progression into autumn. For example, swamp milkweed seed pods break open, male goldfinch feathers transform from bright yellow to olive green, chipmunks and other rodents stash nuts and seeds for the winter, and bees and most other insects have either died or are hibernating until spring.
Naturalists use the term phenology to refer to these changes. Phenology is the study of the changes that occur in plants and animals from year to year — such as flowering, ripening of fruit and nuts, emergence or disappearance of insects, and migration of birds — especially the timing and relationship of these events with weather and climate. It also can include other observations, such as the occurrence of the first frost, the date on which a body of water freezes, and when specific constellations are visible in the sky. Here are a few examples of current autumn phenology that I photographed in east-central Minnesota along the Snake River:
Everyone who observes nature and records their observations contributes to the science of phenology. If you’re interested in contributing your own observations, there are several organizations online, including: “Nature’s Notebook” at the USA Phenology Network, the University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Phenology Network and the National Science Foundation’s “Project Budburst”.