January 2015

1/1     For the New Year’s Day Hike at Kent’s Nimham Mountain State Forest, fifteen intrepid hikers braved cold winds to hike the sunny trails and spend the first day of the year out in nature with neighbors.

Photo of a group of warmly dressed folks out for a winter hike
See? There are actually people who like winter hikes! Photo: Ralph Szur

Spirits were high as the group left the DEC parking lot on Gypsy Trail Road at noon. The weather couldn’t have been better with clear blue skies and temps close to 30° and fortunately the wind was not a factor. I’d like to compliment Beth for her identification and description of numerous trees and her in-depth description of the sugar maples and larches – evergreens that shed their needles and appear dead in winter.

Ralph Szur was called upon to speak to the virtues of black birch tea. He also talked about using the root systems of certain trees in constructing ship keels. He even provided entertainment of sorts with his imported turkey call and improvised whistle using the cap of a red oak acorn. My grandson would have really enjoyed both. Ralph also took a small group to a bobcat latrine. I was fascinated by his description of not only the bobcat scat but those of fox and coyote as well.

Photo of bobcat scat on background of fallen leaves
A bobcat was here, for sure. Photo: Ralph Szur

I would be remiss not to mention Dave Ehnebuske’s identification and description of ice needles encountered at several locations along the trip. His description was every bit as good as that found on Wikipedia, “Needle ice is a phenomenon that occurs when the temperature of the soil is above 0°C (32°F) and the surface temperature of the air is below 0°C (32°F). The subterranean liquid water is brought to the surface via capillary action, where it freezes and contributes to a growing needle-like ice column. The ice needles are typically a few centimeters long. While growing, they may lift or push away small soil particles. On sloped surfaces, needle ice may be a factor contributing to soil creep.”  — Lou Tartaro

Photo of needle ice in the forest floor
Needles push patches of the forest floor upwards as they form. Photo: Lou Tartaro

1/6     A dusting of snow makes the land look like candy.

1/7     Here is photo I took of a red squirrel enjoying its stash of pine cones “squirreled away” (sorry, I couldn’t resist) in the log cabin.  — Lou Tartaro

Photo of a red squirrel eating a pinecone
It’s a good thing I stored this for when winter comes. Photo: Lou Tartaro

1/8     Only one degree at daybreak. Frigid air locks the ponds and lakes in ice. The ice pings and rumbles, cracks and murmurs, as water changes from liquid to rock-hard solid. Ice fishermen drilled holes in the Horsepound Brook outlet by the Nichols Road causeway.

Photo of small ice-fishing party on snow-covered lake
Hoping for the big one. Photo: Beth Herr

1/9     Town of Wappinger: It was after midnight when the sound woke me: coyotes, several of them. Their yips and barks seemed to come from various compass points but I knew that was an illusion. A soft snow was falling through frigid air (9° Fahrenheit) and I could picture them tip-toeing across a frozen field, their calls echoing through the intervening forest.  — Tom Lake

Five inches of powdery snow fell today. Kent is silenced.

Photo of a lightly snow-covered path through a pine forest
Snow dusts the forest path. Photo: Charles Daviat

1/11     What happens to wood turtles in the winter? This underwater picture was taken with my camera under about 6 inches of water. It was terribly cold so little attention was paid to detail or getting the perfect shot. If you look carefully there are about ten hibernating wood turtles at the bottom.  — Michael Musnick

Underwater photo of hibernating wood turtles
Just waiting for spring. Photo: Michael Musnick

1/12     Ice, rain and freezing rain that started early this morning continues to coat every surface, pine needle, maple bud, fence and sidewalk. The trees droop lower and lower under the weight. Long icicles hang from branches. It looked treacherous all day and the threat of power outages from low hanging wires looms.  — Tom Lake

1/14     Rime ice and the 7° temperature had turned Fahnestock State Park into a crystal forest. Every twig, branchlet, branch, and trunk, coated with smooth clear ice, dazzled in the sunlight. As if bluebirds needed anything to enhance their image, seeing one perched on a “chandelier” was exquisite. The edge of Canopus Lake had a skirt of snow and I was able to follow the tracks of two coyotes as they had walked single file halfway around the lake. I lost them when they veered off the snow onto the hard ice heading toward some fishing holes, no doubt in hopes of scavenging leftovers.  — Tom Lake

1/19     Caution urged because of icy roads. Big ice storm.

1/24     What about the blizzard? We dodged the rocket but took a bullet. About 10 inches of light fluffy snow fell and then it was quite windy.  — George Baum

1/25     Coyotes have been howling up a storm. Coyotes mate in January and February, but pre-mating behavior started two to three months ago. During this period scent-marking increases, as does howling, and males wander far and wide. Female coyotes come into heat only once a year. When this happens, and two coyotes pair up, they may howl in a duet before mating. If there is an ample food supply, most females will breed and between 60% and 90% of adult females will produce a litter. The size of the litter fluctuates with the size of the rodent population; lots of rodents means larger litters. The same pair of coyotes may mate from year to year, but not necessarily for life.  — Mary Holland

1/29     Evidence of beaver activity is frozen in the Great Swamp.  — Anne Smith

Photo of bubbles trapped under the ice showing where the beavers have traveled
Sometimes beavers leave tracks under the ice. Photo: Anne Smith

In February watch for:

  • The Full Hunger Moon on February 3
  • Ribbon-winged stoneflies to emerge, visible on the snow
  • Daytime highs above 40 degrees with nights still below freezing for the maple sugaring season to begin

Kent Nature Almanac Photo Competition

Photo of lone leafless tree in a misty, snow-covered landscape
A lone sentinel guards a misty landscape. Photo: Beth Herr

Grab your camera and capture the nature of Kent. Send your best images to enter a juried photo competition. The winning photos will be exhibited at the Kent Public Library for the month of June and will be included in the Kent Nature Almanac. Beautiful scenery is easy to find in our town. Abundant biodiversity awaits in Kent’s lakes, cliffs, forests and backyards. Focus your camera and capture the beauty.

A maximum of three submissions per photographer will be considered for the show. They will be judged on artistic merit and how they express an aspect of nature in Kent. Explain where and why you took the photos. Recommended photo size: 1920 x 2400 pixels or larger.

Send to: herrszur@comcast.net

The deadline for submitting images for the contest is May 15, 2015.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *