August 2014

This was not a typical August in Kent. There was no heat wave, no daytime temps in the 90s, no extended dry period, minimal cicada song during the day, and the katydid full chorus was three weeks later than usual. It was a glorious month with mostly sunny skies, dry breezes and cool nights!

8/1     I spotted a green heron in the north flow of the Great Swamp by Wingdale. Adorable!  — Diana Lee

Wappinger: For three weeks we have watched fledgling-to-immature cardinals visit the trail-mix seed smörgåsbord laid out on our deck. Over that time they have matured from drab reddish-yellow, crestless birds, somewhat smaller than their parents. They have now developed their crests and the males have slowly begun to get their rich, red color. Two immature brown-headed cowbirds have been seemingly inseparable from three of the young cardinals. That has raised the question in whose nest they were hatched. Brown-headed cowbirds are well known as “nest parasites.” The female cowbird lays her eggs in another songbird’s nest, usually a smaller species. As they hatch, the larger cowbird nestlings tend to have an advantage when feeding time comes and therefore a better chance of survival.  — Tom Lake

8/2     It is muggy and cloudy and the woodlands and meadows of Kent are very still. Only the crickets provide background music. Most birds are molting from their colorful breeding plumage to a less-energy-needed drab color. Waterfowl are especially secretive during this month.

The cicadas call today.

8/5     The first katydid calls tonight were interrupted by a late evening thunderstorm. After almost an inch of rain, and a considerable number of lightning strikes, the air cooled and the katydids were silenced. These beautiful insects will be chorusing loudly soon enough. They have been calling for two weeks in the area around the Hudson River whose micro climate is moderated by the temperature of “the water that flows both ways.” Soon it will be warm enough in Kent to hear them singing all night long.

8/6     Another sunny summer day ends with a severe thunderstorm bringing another half-inch of rain.

8/8     It was quite cool at sunset. Temps are predicted to to drop into the 50s tonight. The bumblebees slow down and sit on the flowers as if it were autumn.

8/10     In the evening, I noticed a small moth had made its way into our house and perched itself on a screen. The pose it struck was new to me. As you can see from the photo, after landing head down, it arched its abdomen up over its head, making it look very much like a pair of tree seeds with “helicopter” wings. Later, we disturbed it by accident and it flew to a new perch where it assumed a more moth-like pose. It’s about 1.5 inches from wingtip to wingtip. A little research told me it was a lesser grapevine looper. The next evening, I discovered that the little guy had flown off to the living room. So I photographed its head and antennae.  — Dave Ehnebuske

A lesser grapevine looper on a screen in its characteristic pose

Lesser grapevine looper on on a wooden door

Closeup of head and antennae of a lesser grapevine looper

Lesser grapevine looper. Photos: Dave Ehnebuske

The full Green Corn supermoon turned the night into day with its bright beacon tonight. The supermoon occurs when the moon becomes full on the same days as its perigee – the point in the moon’s orbit when it is closest to Earth. The August supermoon is one of the largest and brightest full moons of the year. The U.S. Naval Observatory says the moon will be 12% bigger and 30% brighter than it was in January 2014. Unfortunately, its brightness dims the Perseid meteor shower which peaks today and tomorrow.

'Full Moon (12038251305)' by Mark Harkin - Full Moon. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Full_Moon_(12038251305).jpg#mediaviewer/File:Full_Moon_(12038251305).jpg

Full Moon. Photo: Mark Harkin

8/11     We have an addition to our list of creatures that have visited our backyard nature habitat. There were three raccoon kits(?) but the two others were camera shy.  — George Baum

Photo of raccoon kits visiting a backyard pond

Photo looking down on a raccoon kit

If you build it, they will come. Photo: George Baum

Another sunny, warm day in a long string of beautiful summer days. The evenings have been remarkably cool and comfortable for sleeping. The puffy clouds stack higher and higher. Chattery baby birds still call to be fed, though they left the nest weeks ago. Goldfinches are particularly vocal and abundant, adding a touch of yellow to the already colorful landscape.

8/12     Hopewell Junction: It appeared that the ruby-throated hummingbirds had finished nesting as their fledglings were out feeding themselves. The adult males were aggressively defending their territory, claiming local plants and feeders. It seemed to consume most of their day. With their small size and fast flight (25 mph), they create a challenge for the camera.  — Tom McDowell

'Ruby-Throated Hummingbird in flight' by Gareth Rasberry - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ruby-Throated_Hummingbird_in_flight.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Ruby-Throated_Hummingbird_in_flight.jpg

Ruby-throated hummingbird in flight. Photo: Gareth Rasberry

The long strand of sunny summer days ended today with low cloud cover. A brief storm today doesn’t hamper the pollinators – it’s warm enough for flight and pollen is abundant. That may change with a predicted heavy downpour tomorrow. At night the katydid chorus rises.

8/13     While expanding my dog-walking venues, I heard some very obvious and pleasant stream sounds – not babbling, more like rushing and gurgling. A bit further I could just glimpse from the road a coursing stream with many wandering waterfalls. The stream and waterfalls were wonderful and I was graciously given permission to photograph as much as I wished. This image is one I particularly like. In waterfall parlance this is a “segmented waterfall.” (Yes, there are specific names for each type, depending on the water’s force, the ratio of its width to length, on whether or not the water has a vertical or sloping drop, maintains partial or complete contact with the bedrock, and on other characteristics.)  — Charles Daviat

Long-exposure photo of a segmented waterfall

A segmented waterfall. Photo: Charles Daviat

Kent escaped the storm. Some locales in Long Island received a whopping seven inches of rain an hour. We did get heavy rain but the sun was out by late afternoon, after one and half inches of precipitation. Good day to dig around in the garden amongst reddening tomatoes, beckoning dahlias and welcoming sunflowers.

But good turns bad when you stir up a yellow jackets’ nest: I was easily yanking mugwort and stilt grass from rain-soaked flowerbeds when the hornets objected. First, piercing jabs on my ankles, then a searing sting in my arms, followed by an all-out attack swarm of menacing, chasing yellow jackets sent me howling and swatting into the shade and safety of the garage.

Some of the striped hornets clung to my socks still trying to sting. Luckily my socks were rolled down, and too thick for them to penetrate. The damage was done. In all, fifteen stings throbbed on both ankles and wrists. Icing helped the pain, but nothing will relieve the itch that will last three days.

An article in the local paper followed: “Bee Attacks Keep EMS Providers Busy.” The picture was of a bald-faced hornet’s nest. They and other wasps, including yellow jackets, make papery nests from wood fibers. Be watchful as wasps will soon change from collecting protein to gathering sugar and will hover around picnic sweets.

8/14     An hour after sunset (earlier every day), the August night music begins. The ratchety-scratchety sound of the katydids enlivens the summer evening. Nights have been cool, so the chorus is slow, and single “kate” is heard, not the full “katy did” and “katy didn’t.” They continue until dawn, hoping to attract a mate.

8/15     A lovely string of gorgeous sunny days and cool dry nights has made for a very pleasant, but highly unusual August in Kent. At mid-month there was no day with temps in the 90s. The dog days of summer are as comfortable as kittens.

8/16     The fields are warm with goldenrods and sunflowers in full bloom. They are surrounded by the purples of loosestrife, joe-pye weed and ironweed. An occasional flaming red sumac or red maple branch reminds us that autumn is around the corner. The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye.

Photo of a flower-dotted meadow in late summer with rows of corn in the distance. In the background low clouds hug the hills

Steamy late-summer meadow. Photo: Beth Herr

8/17     A paddle through the Great Swamp highlights the absence of swallows. The barn, tree, and cliff swallows have already left Kent. They are gathering on the coast in great flocks before they start their migration. Shorebird migration is in full swing. The hummingbirds still visit the feeders but most birds are quiet.

8/20     Many aquatic plants are blooming now, as anyone who swims in a Kent lake can tell. The flowers’ stalks burst toward the surface for sunlight and pollinators, ensnaring swimmers’ legs. Arrowhead and pickerel weed line the shores while water lilies brighten slow water. At White Pond the wild celery female flowers have spiraled to the surface to capture the male flowers that are floating everywhere.

Photo from the water near the White Pond shoreline showing many flowering plans in the water and along the shore

Even the ponds in Kent flower in August! Photo: Beth Herr

Photo of wild celery female flowers reaching in helices toward the surface of the water

At White Pond the wild celery female flowers have spiraled to the surface. Photo: Beth Herr

Another beautiful aquatic is blooming. The bladderwort’s yellow flowers announce its underwater presence. A handful of the underwater vegetation shows minute balloons. These bladders capture, hold, and digest food for the plant. Try to picture these “…miniature oval balloons with a double-sealed airtight door on one end. When this door is closed, the bladder expels water through its wall, creating a partial vacuum inside. A leafy feather-like structure hangs down adjacent to the door and the instant an organism bumps against this feather trigger, it twists and breaks the seal of the door. The vacuum inside causes the water to rush in, pulling the victim along with it. As the bladder fills with the water, the pressure is equalized inside and out and the door automatically closes, caging the plant’s prey. This entire process takes a fraction of a second….” from Mary Holland’s Naturally Curious. Sometimes you can see minute insects inside the watery balloon!

Photo of the underwater part of the common bladderwort resting in a person's hand

A hungry bladderwort. Photo: Beth Herr

8/22     Wild blackberry and black raspberry season is here, and it is a good summer for berries of all types.

8/27     A week of sunny days ended with a crackling thunderstorm tonight. An inch and half of rain fell in just a few hours.

8/28     I spied a gorgeous giant swallowtail today. They are easy to identify with two lines of broad yellow spots that look like stripes and two yellow tails edged in black. The giant is not so commonly seen in Kent.

Photo of a giant swallowtail butterfly giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

A giant enjoys a backyard snack. Photo: Beth Herr

8/29     2014 was a good year for honey harvest. As you can see in the photo below, I bottled 47 lbs. Of course any year that I can “rob” honey off the hives, allowing the bees 60 lbs for the winter, is a good year for me. It was a good year for the bees that did all the work, too. For one pound of honey they flew 75,000 miles and visited 2 million nectar-producing flowers. I flew nowhere and visited two traditional Langstroth-style hives in my backyard.

The summer had an even amount of rain and sun, thus producing maximum flowering among the required nectar-producing plants. With daytime highs this summer below 90° and a gentle spring, 2014 brought maximum production of food and bees in my apiary. When you have 40–50,000 bees in a hive, the nectar and pollen come a rollin’ in. So here’s to the fall flow: Hello, purple loosetrife, goldenrod, Japanese knotweed and finally New England aster. May your flowers reign supreme.  — Ralph Szur

Photo of bottled honey on a table top

The summer of 2014 was a great one for apiarists in Kent. Photo: Ralph Szur

8/30     A red fox stood on our deck not eight feet from the front window yesterday evening.  — Lee Stevenson

Ed. note: Young foxes have scattered from their dens and may end up as far as 50 miles from their birthplace.

Two sunny, dry days followed the rain. But today the wind shifted to the south, the humidity ratcheted up, and the skies clouded over. The days are muted and quiet, except for the crickets and an occasional “chip-burr” of the scarlet tanagers. Are they saying goodbye to the northern forests? The sun sets at 7:29 and last light is over by 8:30. The long twilight of summer fades.

Labor Day means the end of vacation time for Kent’s human residents and the beginning of more strenuous work. But for Kent’s other residents, it marks the beginning of a resting period.

In September watch for:

  • The first blush of autumn color
  • Another supermoon – A Full Harvest Moon on September 8
  • Autumnal equinox on the September 22
  • Wood asters bloom in forest and shady edges
  • Purple asters bloom on roadside edges
  • Fall webworms brown tree branches
  • Mushrooms appear after rains
  • Yellow jackets!!!!
  • Dragonflies cruise sunny meadows

And when the winds are from the north, migrating songbirds will fill the trees as they feed and rest during the day. Migrating raptors will fill the air as they use thermals to ride their way south. Keep an eye on the moon for passing migrants.

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