July 2014

July marks the height of summer: roadside flowers abound and meadows are decorated in colors. The insect choruses rise in crescendo, aquatic plants begin to reproduce and days are long and warm. In the vegetable garden, tomatoes start to blush and the beans won’t quit. Abundant and frequent rain this month brings mushrooms and berries, mosquitoes and mold.

By month’s end though, bird song is absent. The young have left the nest (though some still chatter to be fed) and the adults are molting from their brilliant breeding foliage. That, and the bloom of the early goldenrod, marks the beginning of the slide toward late summer and autumn.

7/1     Milkweeds are blooming but nary a monarch butterfly is seen in Kent. Reports of single sightings trickle in, but numbers of these beauties and their miraculous migrations are plummeting. Several factors implicated in their decline are the severe drought in the west, three massive winter storms in the overwintering grounds of Mexico, the use of glycophase-tolerant (Roundup-tolerant) corn and soybeans, loss of habitat and loss of milkweeds due to manicured landscapes including farms that do not leave natural edges and buffers.

In Kent, however, it is a good summer for milkweeds, with ample rain to support our local beauties:

Photo of Asclepias syriaca in bloom
Poke milkweed. Photo: Beth Herr

Photo of Asclepias incarnata in bloom
Swamp milkweed. Photo: Beth Herr

Photo of Asclepias amplexicaulis in bloom
Blunt-leaved milkweed. Photo: Beth Herr

Photo of Asclepias purpurascens in bloom
Purple milkweed. Photo: Beth Herr

7/2     Last night’s waxing crescent Thunder Moon heightened the anticipation for today’s “hog choker” thunderstorm. June’s dry breezes changed to July’s high-humidity 94° scorcher. The rain rolled in at dinnertime, preceded by cool down drafts that flipped leaves to their silvery undersides. Strong lightning, booming thunder, curtains of rain and the smell of hot wet pavement signaled the beginning of thunderstorm season. Three inches of rain fell in as many hours. The gardens and lawns were well watered and cool, aahh.

7/3     We heard an incredibly loud and repeating whistle. It sounded like someone was calling a dog. We looked out and spotted a mama woodchuck and her four young. It was the woodchuck whistling, which reminded us of the colloquial name for woodchucks, “whistling pig.”  — Roberta Jeracka

7/4     Hurricane Arthur scooched by without much rain. Good thing – there were already three inches of rain in the gauge from yesterday and the day before. It did stay cloudy all day and rained again in the afternoon. By sundown, the winds were veering and the sky was clearing.

7/5     What a delightful day! Gusty breezes and dry air followed Arthur’s exit. After a week of high humidity, the lightness of air was so pleasant. Deep blue skies, cheerful bird song and a rainbow of wildflowers decorated the day.

At night, nature’s pyrotechnics outdid the fireworks over Lake Carmel. A quarter moon was dressed in the sparkle of Saturn and Mars, fireflies twinkled silently, white flowers glowed in the moonlight and wind gusts continued to whip up the moon-glitter on Dean Pond.

7/6     Another sunny day, perfect for the annual butterfly count. The North American Butterfly Association compiles the sightings of volunteers across America. It is usually held sometime around the fourth of July, and has become an important tool to monitor butterfly populations. The delight of the day, besides 280 individuals of 28 different species, was a Baltimore checkerspot sunning on a warm rock!

Photo of Euphydryas phaeton resting on a lichen-covered rock
Baltimore checkerspot. Photo: Beth Herr

7/7     HHH – hazy, hot and humid crept back into Kent today. Luckily, a gusty thunderstorm blew through around dinnertime and cooled things down. Plants got a good drink with a half-inch of rain falling in just 45 minutes. The storm exited quickly, before sunset, so that a large rainbow arched from one end of town to the other.

7/8     A thunderstorm at midnight added more water to a robust growing season. The garden explodes as do the weeds. This year the buttonbush, a native shrub that attracts parades of butterflies, is covered in blossoms and pollinators.

Photo of Cephalanthus occidentalis in bloom
Buttonbush. Photo: Beth Herr

7/9     What a thrill to find calopogon orchids growing in a wet meadow today. Sometimes called goat’s beard orchid, it is one of our prettiest native orchids.

Photo of Calopogon tuberosus in bloom
Calopogon – Greek for “Beautiful beard.” Photo: Beth Herr

7/11     I watched the sun go down and the full moon rise over White Pond and the bow of my kayak.  — Diana Lee

Photo of sunset looking across the waters of White Pond
Sunset at White Pond. Photo: Diana Lee

7/14     What a summer for berries! Choke berries, dogwood berries, wine berries and blueberries are big and bountiful. A one-hour walk through the high bush blueberries provided lunch and a 9-inch pie!

Photo of highbush blueberry with many ripe blueberries
Yumm! Time to forage for blueberries. Photo: Beth Herr

7/10     The fields at Copperhead Cut on East Mountain (Putnam County) were alive with flashes of bright orange flitting about the milkweed today. I counted dozens of monarch butterflies as they displayed their colors in the sun. They were beautiful to watch. Since I have noted that sightings are scarce this year, I was glad that we had not cut our fields so that the monarchs could access the milkweed plants that are in great abundance.  — Connie Mayer-Bakal

7/12     This evening I watched dozens of northern rough-winged swallows winging south down the Hudson River. Also, there were about 150 tree swallows flying around and perched in a dead elm tree.  — Richard Guthrie

7/13     Cranberry Mountain Wildlife Management Area is loaded with mushrooms right now. Here are a few examples.  — Dan Kutcha

Photo of small bright red mushrooms next to dark green moss
Bright red says, “Don’t eat me!” Photo: Dan Kutcha

Photo of brown and tan mushrooms popping up through leaf litter
Brown and tan says, “Are you sure you know what kind of mushroom I am?” Photo: Dan Kutcha

7/18     Volunteers with the Kent CAC painted the new braces at the Mount Nimham fire tower, accompanied by the songs of the wood thrush, indigo bunting, and pewee.

7/19     First cicada call of the summer.

7/22     Hazy, hot, and humid, but still not a heat wave with temps shy of ninety.

7/23     Hot and muggy, but luckily a menacing storm blew through after sunset. While the lightning flashes were constant, there were no close strikes because the anvil cloud passed north of Kent keeping the rain and wind brief.

7/24     Breezes from the north blow the moisture away, making for another beautiful summer day in Kent. The third brood of bluebirds is almost ready to fledge.

7/25     The forests are animated by many flying gypsy moths – the males fly quickly and erratically making identification a challenge. Spicebush swallowtails, easily identified by their size and royal blue sheen, delight when they settle on a leaf in a patch of sunlight.

7/27     Volunteers for Friends of the Great Swamp conducted water quality tests along most of the tributaries of the East Branch of the Croton River. One small part of Kent lies within 63,000+ acre watershed of the Great Swamp. This is the third year of monitoring to establish a baseline for comparison over time. Besides measuring pH, temperature, flow, conductivity, chloride (yes, road salts are accumulating in our waterways), the protocol includes five minutes of kick netting the stream bottom. Species are preserved and identified. This gives a clear picture of stream quality at the test site. It is also a lot of fun.

Photo of volunteers learning to identify species found in tributaries to the Great Swamp
Learning to identify “indicator” species. Photo: Beth Herr

Photo of volunteers collecting biological samples from a tributary of the Great Swamp
Let’s see who lives here! Photo: Beth Herr

7/31     The sun sets at 8:13 this last day of July, with the last light holding on until 9:30. The summer twilights still linger long.

In August:

  • Listen for the first night song of the katydids, then the crescendo that follows all month
  • Watch for the swallows to gather on wires discussing upcoming migration
  • Don’t miss the Super Moon – August’s Green Corn Full Moon on the 10th
  • Stay up for the Perseid meteor shower. It peaks on the 12th
  • Watch for the nighthawk migration overhead during the day. It begins at the end of the month
  • Look for cardinal flowers and sweet pepperbushes blooming along wet edges and for wood asters blooming in the forest

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