April 2013

4/01    Last night’s light rain was enough moisture to entice some male yellow-spotted salamanders to migrate to their breeding pools. We need more rain for the females to arrive. Wood frogs are abundant and spring peepers bring the wetlands to life.

4/05    A walk along Horsepound Road was decorated with signs of spring despite the chilly wind: alder catkins swell and lengthen moving with the breeze, sunny faces of yellow coltsfoot begin to emerge from brown leaves on roadside edges, red maple buds are really red and swollen, and skunk cabbage green leaves unfurl next to fading flowers. The walk was accompanied by the spring songs of yellow-bellied sapsuckers. Juncos – which haven’t left yet – sing spring songs, grackles and redwings ruckus in the swamp, and everywhere bluebirds chortle sweetly.

4/07    “High pressure continues to dominate, with northerly flow continuing to keep migrant arrivals to only a trickle in most places. As the high moves East by Sunday, more favorable conditions overspread the region and more widespread light-to-moderate movements occur. There should be a substantial pulse of migration in many areas, as these conditions will be the first even close to marginal conditions for movements in the past days. Areas in the Mississippi River Valley and western Great Lakes should watch for fallout conditions, particularly waterfowl and swallows. After this high moves East, a brief night or two of less favorable conditions will prevail, only to be followed by increasingly favorable conditions for light and moderate movements by the middle of the week. Another good pulse of arrival will occur between midweek and the end of the forecast period, particularly from coastal New England south through the Mid-Atlantic states. Birds on the move will include, among others, Snowy Egret, more early shorebirds like Pectoral Sandpiper, Forster’s Tern, continued swallow arrivals, Blue-headed Vireo, Palm Warbler, and Louisiana Waterthrush.”  — BirdCast

4/08    Sure enough! I saw a palm warbler today!

4/09    I saw gobs of animals and birds in the swamp – herons, king fisher, plovers, muskrats, bluebirds, red-winged blackbirds, robin, grackles, a flock of very small, kinglet-size birds, a turkey vulture on the ground eating something, bones of a duck, feathers from a goose’s nest, geese, ducks, painted turtles galore, a huge carp (18-20 inches) jumping almost all the way out of the water. At one point there was a heron in a tree on the left side of the river and another on the right! The plovers did something interesting. There were four of them and three started synchronizing their vocalizations. When they achieved it, the fourth bird flew off.  — Diana Lee

4/10    The new species of leopard frog can be heard calling now, along with wood frogs and peepers. Its mating call sounds like sliding your thumb nail along a comb. Scientists trying to find more populations are listening for that sound. It is similar to a pickerel frog’s call, but that species won’t be heard until the weather is much warmer.

4/10    In my sleepy state this morning, at Green Chimney’s put-in on the Great Swamp, I saw a red-tailed hawk. She was up high and swooped low and through the forest. I’m pretty sure this was the same bird I saw a number of times last year. She’s very large and very light. I thought she was an owl at first every time I saw her. Nice way to wake up!  — Diana Lee

4/11    Last night’s thunderstorm was well timed: a warm, humid day with an evening shower spurned lots of amphibians into action – wood frogs were leaving the ponds, while toads, green frogs, bullfrogs, and crayfish were crossing the road to reach the pond!

Tree swallows were careening and cruising around their nesting boxes, yellow-shafted flickers were feeding on the ground, and the sun broke through the clouds for a glorious few hours today.

Red maple trees (males) are in full flower now.

4/13    In the Great Swamp north of Pawling near Chippawalla Road I observed an astounding number of great blue heron nests from my kayak: 73 nests in all, the highest count for the last five years.

4/14    Over 20 people met at the Great Swamp Wildlife Management Area on Cornwall Hill Road in Patterson for the Annual Woodcock Walk. This event was co-sponsored by the Friends of the Great Swamp. Arriving near sunset, the hikers were able to see the expansive meadows overlooking the swamp and Pine Island, evidence of the distinct habitat of the American woodcock: open meadows for the singing-fields of courtship, swampy grounds for feeding and daytime roosting, second-growth hardwoods for nests and brood rearing, and large fields for nighttime roosting.

Drawing of and American WoodcockAn American woodcock – Drawing by Beth Herr

Sure enough, 15 minutes after sunset, the mating display began: “peent” twittering as the male rose in a spiral up to 200 feet, sweet chortles as it descended to begin the dance again. Hopefully, the females were impressed.

Those who joined the walk will now be able to identify woodcocks in their area. It will be important to track their abundance.

4/15    I hiked to see the newly delineated kettle hole bog, a unique ecological community in the Model Forest at Clearpool. What an unusual wetland. On the way, a sweet spring azure butterfly did loops ahead on the trail.

Photo of the kettle hole bog at ClearpoolThe kettle hole bog at Clearpool – Photo by Beth Herr

4/17    A casual spring walk along Horsepound Road and Dean Pond showed sunny yellow marsh marigold flowers; highbush blueberries starting to bloom with their white bells dangling in the wind; and spring beauties and wood anemone blooms. The beech leaves that stayed all winter rattling like paper lanterns in winter winds are now dropping silently as the new bud growth pushes them off. I was delighted by courting mourning cloak butterflies; a rob-rob robin bobbing along; false hellebore unfolding in the swamp; and iridescent tiger beetles advancing a few steps ahead of me.

Photo of trout liliesTrout lilies in bloom – Photo by Beth Herr

4/19    Southerly winds these last three days have brought a new wave of migrants: brown-headed cowbirds, house wrens, palm warblers, and white-throated sparrows flit about and sing. Trilling, thrilling toads have joined the chorus of spring frogs especially with the approach of thunderstorms predicted late afternoon.

Heard grey tree frogs calling today!  — Anne Balant-Campbell

4/21    Lyrids meteor shower tonight.

4/25    Full “Grass” moon.

4/30    We’ve had a string of marvelous days with wonderful spring weather. Every morning there is a new song in the dawn chorus as migrants arrive overnight on warm southerly breezes. All the trees are in leaf and many are showing their flowers. The grass has greened up and the night sounds increase.

Photo of blooming Hepatica americanaHepatica (Hepatica americana) in bloom – Photo by Beth Herr

Any day now we should be hearing the 17-year cicadas. Or will we? Is there enough intact forest in Kent to have supported those little insects which have been underground feeding on tree roots for almost two decades. We’ll know soon!

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