Join Nathan Binnema, Secretary on our Board of Directors and longtime volunteer with the Edmonton Permaculture Guild, as he shares his practice of Phenological Engagement with this ongoing blog series.
Phenological Engagement is the practice of learning one’s local ecology through visiting the same site regularly throughout the year, getting to know who’s living there and the significant events of their lives in reference to both solar and lunar time. I’ve been engaged in the practice here in Edmonton for three years, beginning with a year of study in Blackfoot Phenology with Ryan Heavy Head, now Ryan First Diver. I’ve learned enough now to begin sharing some of the regular events I’ve noticed at my site, Forest Heights Park, for each lunar cycle.
We are now in the lunar cycle known as Maatsiiyikkapisaiki’somm, or the Frog Moon, in the Blackfoot Calendar. This is usually the seventh lunar cycle of winter (the Blackfoot calendar has only two seasons, summer and winter). In years with 13 lunar cycles, this one hops over to become the first lunar cycle of summer.
One of the main events of this lunar cycle is the leafing out of trees and shrubs. You can see this sequence of blooming with the balsam poplar and birch catkins following the aspens, and then the willows. Among the shrubs, buffalo berries begin blooming early followed by saskatoons and, finally, chokecherries. By the last quarter of the lunar cycle, aspen and poplar seeds are coating the forest floor.
Many young birds will hatch this lunar cycle, such as Magpie chicks. I’ve seen a goose pair taking their goslings out for a swim. Many more birds also return from migration. Birds I’ve noticed arriving include American Tree Sparrows, White-Throated Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, Yellow Warblers, Yellow-Rumped Warblers, Flycatchers, Sandpipers, and Common Mergansers. One year I witnessed what I interpreted as a goldeneye courtship dance.
Many insects begin to emerge as well. Common butterflies I’ve spotted include Mourning Cloaks, Fire-Rimmed Tortoiseshells, Cabbage Whites, and Spring Azures. Various bumblebees also appear, and spiders along with their different kinds of webs — orb webs, mesh webs, grounds webs, and “twig-tip” webs. It can be interesting to watch the thatching ant mounds to see what the colonies are carrying home. Towards the end of the lunar cycle, I start to notice piles of dead thatching ants, and the sound of crickets begins to fill the air.
These are a few of the events and spectacles I’ve noticed over the past three years — there is a lot going on this time of year. I look forward to learning more with you.
Until next lunar cycle ~ Nathan.