Backyard Almanac

Phenology with local naturalist Larry Weber every Friday morning at 8:20 on Northland Morning. Have a question for Larry Weber? Email us and you might hear his answer on the show!


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©Sparky Stensaas. Used with permission.

Two years ago at this time, the Northland was bracing for a foot of snow.  29 years ago, it was -12 in Duluth.

We're looking at temps in the 40s and 50s this weekend; perfect time to scout out some Gray Jays building nests or watching Red Crossbills enjoying this year's bumper crop of pine cones.

©Laura Erickson. Used with permission.

It's March, and things are startin'!

Clinton Nienhaus, head naturalist for the Friends of the Sax-Zim Bog says it's the intersection of a lot of different things, actually.

Love is in the air for ravens, crow, gray jays and others ... some waterfowl have begun returning to the area as well as some raptors ... and still other birds bid adieu to the Northland because - the weather is too nice?

Paul Downey/Flickr

Larry Weber says, until now, only once in his forty years of keeping records has there been more snow in February than January.

After this weekend ... make that twice.

Birch Trees
Joshua Mayer Flickr

With clear skies and sunlight this February, birch trees are creating tree wells, or tree circles, as Larry Weber calls them. Find out what else is in store the rest of February and join Larry tracking this Sunday, weather permitting of course. 

©Lisa Johnson

Today marks the 12th straight day of below-zero temperatures and 40 days of them so far this winter.

Despite that, the low angle of the sun means we have wrap-around sunrises and -sets, we're up to ten hours of daylight, and Larry Weber is leading a Critter Walk as part of the Sam-Zim Birding Festival!


A lot of folks still remember where they were on the February 2 in 1996 when Tower hit a record -60 below zero and Duluth recorded -39.

But do you remember where you were a week later when the temp jumped 84 degrees?

Patti Petersen/Flickr

Larry Weber says, once in a blue moon (like the one January 31), you should get out for a nice moonlight walk or ski or snowshoe tromp.

©Catherine Winter. Used with permission

"January can give us interesting days," remarks Larry Weber, dryly.  We set a record low of -33 January 18 in 1994, and a year ago at this time, we had temperatures in the mid-40s.

Sharon Mollerus [via Flickr]

It has been so cold these past few weeks, it's enough to make one think that everything in nature has burrowed down deep for a long sleep. But if there is anyone in our community who can remind us to look around to see that is not the case, it is educator, author and naturalist Larry Weber, and he joins us every Friday for Backyard Almanac.

Michael Rael [via Flickr]

Larry Weber observes the cold temps ending this month are in sharp contrast to the warm temps at the end of November.  Our precipitation totals for 2017 are 6 inches above the normal average.  We reach perihelion on the night of January 2 when the earth is closest to the sun on its annual orbital journey.  There will be two full moons in January – on the 2nd and the 31st, and there will ALSO be two full moons in March – on the 1st and the 31st!  Larry is conducting his Christmas bird count today.   He has seen many tracks in the snow; mammals are out and about despite the cold temps, includ


Every year, on the last Backyard Almanac of December, Larry Weber makes a request that has nothing to do phenology or the natural world: he just wants to hear John McCutcheon's song, "Christmas in the Trenches."  So we decided to make some additional information about the song - and the story behind it - clickable for other fans.

If you're curious about Larry's perennial Christmas favorite, "Christmas in the Trenches" by John McCutcheon, here's a link to a YouTube video of the song.  It was a "project for Mr. Cutler's grade 6 class."

Jason Carpenter/Flickr

Larry Weber says the darkness of this week leading up to the December 21 winter solstice is should be embraced, and a walk (or a cross country ski) under the starlit sky just a little "dose of humility."

©Lisa Johnson

For The Birds host Laura Erickson stepped into the breach this week as the "emergency auxiliary backup Larry Weber" (after Larry was sidelined* with a bad cold),  armed with information about snowy owls and a Robert Frost poem off the top of her head.

*the expression "sidelined" comes from the world of sports, as Laura herself alluded to a text message after agreeing to sub for Larry this morning:

"But actually, I don't know how to do that -- just talk for a minute or longer.