June 2014

June is the loveliest of months with nature’s exuberance in full swing. Except for one cool, rainy stretch, this June we’ve had pleasant nights, warm breezes, and beautiful blue skies with ever-changing cumulus clouds. It is the time for families: the deer have dropped their babies, the coyote pups howl in chorus, bluebirds are working on their third brood, and ducklings skirt pond edges.

Photo of adult tree swallow demonstrating flight to nestlings looking out of a birdhouse
“Okay kids it’s time for flying lessons!” – Photo: Beth Herr

6/1     A walk to the top of Ice Pond Preserve, a Putnam County Land Trust property, was perfectly timed to enjoy lady slipper blossoms! Even more exciting was witnessing the “hilltopping” behavior of butterflies: a warm, sunny day brought rising breezes and over 20 butterflies of six different species. They floated and fluttered and danced around each other. It was a beautiful butterfly ballet. And the encore: a rough-legged hawk circled above letting the sun shine through the white “window panes” on its wings. This is not a common bird to see in Kent, as it is usually found in the tundra.

Photo portrait of pink lady slipper (Cypripedium acaule) in bloom
Pink lady slipper in bloom – Photo: Beth Herr

6/2     It was a warm blizzard in Kent today. The cottonwood trees are dispersing their seeds and the breezes roll them into windrows along the roadways. The air is sweet with the fragrant blossoms. Dame’s rocket in pinks, purples, and whites signal the end of spring.

6/3     Thunder rolled all around Kent this afternoon with big storms passing south and north of us. Cumulus clouds billowed higher and higher with the humidity.

6/5     There was quite a toad-strangler rainstorm last night. After so many sunny days, the gardens, lawns, and forests of Kent soaked up the ample rain. This will surely bring the slugs out. Time to pick some lettuce and peas. Near sunset, the sky darkened as a shower passed, then was backlit silver and gold as the sun sank below Kent’s western mountains.

6/6     I took a picture of the biggest, most gigantic, almost flagrant foxglove planting I’d ever seen; it could have been almost 24 inches in height. When you search the Internet for foxglove you’ll find many (often conflicting) stories about the origin of the name for this flower. One talks about these flowers as the dwelling place of fairies, another the way foxes used the flower to help in their raids on chicken coops and still another calls out the shape of the flowers as resembling the fingers of a glove.

In any event, this ancient flower can be quite toxic to animals and children so be careful if it’s in your garden. At the same time, most people know it’s used as the basis for many effective heart medicines – often for arrhythmias. For me, I was just happily satisfied to view the foxglove in the moment, capture it and share it with you.  — Charles Daviet

Photo portrait of purple foxglove blossoms
Purple foxglove in bloom – Photo: Charles Daviet

6/8     The annual Mountain Laurel Hike at White Pond was held today with five new walkers joining the annual search for the pink blossoms. The laurel’s intricately crafted pollination trickery is a marvel: ten spring-loaded pollen triggers in each flower are designed to catapult one flower’s pollen onto a bee back and then transfer it to the sticky female parts of another. And a seed is born! The flowers were only beginning to bud; echos of the cold winter were still affecting Kent. The laurels were ten days behind their typical flowering date. But there were many other delights to enjoy. The rain earlier in the week brought blossoms of another kind: it was mushroom mania!

Photo of a large mushroom showing its stem and gills
The mushrooms pop out everywhere after a nice rain – Photo: Beth Herr

Photo of a group of people looking at a red, yellow and tan bracket fungus shaped like a fan
Bracket fungi come in many beautiful colors – Photo: Beth Herr

6/8     Gray tree frogs call into the night. The strong sound of their bird-like song, heard during the day, often portends a rain shower or coming low pressure. But endless calls going into the night mean the frogs are gathering for breeding. One pond along Horsepound Road, high enough on the landscape to not have fish, is a breeding mecca for gray tree frogs. There seem to be hundreds singing the night away.

6/9     About ten feet from the edge of a pond we watched as a turtle began digging a hole in a bank with her hind feet. This young mother proceeded to lay about a dozen eggs. She tamped each one down gently. When she was finished, she covered up the hole and camouflaged it.  — George and Kaye Baum

Why did the turtle cross the road? To lay her eggs on the other side. It’s turtle-sighting season. Female turtles seek sandy soil with the right drainage and sun exposure to lay their eggs. Often that means crossing a road, a dangerous journey for a turtle. If you spy one on a roadway, and can help it across, move it in the direction the turtle was headed. But be careful when helping snapping turtles – they come by their name honestly and can easily take a chunk out of an unwary helper.

Photo of small snapping turtle covered with duck-weed
This little snapper has been swimming with duckweed – Photo: Beth Herr

Overhead photo of an eastern painted turtle (Chrysemys picta picta) laying an egg
Just about done with parenting for another year – Photo: George Baum

6/10     I was hiking (alright, I’ll be honest, I was looking for turtles!) at the Donald B. Smith Conservation Area off Gage Road this morning and came across this mammoth-sized willow tree. The picture doesn’t do it justice. I’m wondering if this could be a “note-worthy” tree? I only had my pack for size comparison.  — John Foley

Photo of an enormous willow tree
You never know what you’ll find in the woods (unless you look) – Photo: John Foley

6/11     I surprised a northern water snake while kayaking White Pond. It was easy to see why they are confused with northern copperheads (also found in Kent).

Photo of a northern water snale (Nerodia sipedon sipedon) sunning itself on a rock
I’m pretending to be dangerous – Photo: Beth Herr

6/12     For four days straight it’s been dark and gloomy; the cloud ceiling has been low and moody. Sometimes raining, sometimes foggy, sometimes misting, the air has cooled. Newly planted garden flowers and veggies appreciate the moisture as they actively grow underground. The air is fragrant with the perfume of multiflora rose, its blossoms open and inviting despite the lack of pollinators. The honeybees stay in the hive and the bumblebees find it too cool to fly. The dragonflies and butterflies hang on the leaves waiting for the clouds to lift, the air to dry, and flowers to open their nectaries and pollen stores.

The rain brings the whine of mosquitoes. Males are happy to suck plant juices, but the females hone in on carbon dioxide and heat as they signal blood proteins nearby! After mating – a once-in-a-lifetime event – a female mosquito requires a blood meal before laying 125 or so eggs.

6/13     I found two cecropia moths mating just outside my door and called my friends to come and see.  — Edie Keasbey

Photo of two cecropia moths on a leaf, mating
Cecropia moths – Photo: Edie Keasbey

6/13     The Kent CAC fire tower crew spent the day adding braces to the lower steps of the Mount Nimham fire tower. It was raining and misting on and off all day. This was a good thing: the concrete could set without the likelihood of vandals on the scene later. The volunteers had to clean up the area first – this time picking up smashed watermelons and stereo equipment. The garbage was likely someone’s study of gravity. Sadly, “gravity studies” seem to happen frequently during warm weather.

6/13     A Full Flower Moon limns the hills of Kent.

6/15     Bullfrogs jug-o-rum all night long; the mating season is in full gear. Most tadpoles will transform into adults next summer, but for some it takes yet another year.

6/18     Finally the mountain laurel is blooming!

Photo of blooming mountain laurel leaning over the water of White Pond
Pale pink bee lures attract photographers, too! – Photo: Beth Herr

6/21     The summer solstice, occurring early this morning, marks the beginning of summer and the longest day of the year. The sun set at 8:30 while the long, peaceful twilight lasted until almost 10:00 at night.

6/23     A string of sunny beautiful days with dry warm breezes makes for green gardens, lots of flowers, and a sweet perfumery in Kent.

6/22     We stopped at the mouth of Furnace Brook and spotted a great blue heron standing on a log in the middle of the outlet. It was motionless until a pair of mute swans swam close, at which point the heron held its wings out, cormorant-like. The swans then changed direction and moved away. Just before we left, the air filled with swarms of barn swallows. Flitting across the water and into the trees, their deeply forked tails, bright blue heads and backs, and reddish-orange breasts were evident in the bright sunlight.  — Dorothy and Bob Ferguson

6/22     The dawn chorus of birds is beginning to quiet down. During the day the wrens, indigo buntings, robins, and vireos continue to sing, and in the evening the veery still plays her flute. But mostly the evening is given over to the songs of gray tree frogs and crickets. Our meadow music intensifies.

6/22     Mulberries splatter the sidewalks and roads, while elderberry is just beginning to flower. St. John’s wort blooms are surrounded by red clover, chicory and a multitude of flowers. Queen Anne’s lace has joined the summer show.

Photo of a footpath through a meadow in full bloom
How many kinds of plants are there in a meadow? – Photo: Beth Herr

6/26     The farmers mowed their first cutting of hay up in the Harlem Valley. Are there any farmers in Kent still taking advantage of these dry breezes to cure their hay?

6/27     I spied on nature’s art today: water striders, those insects capable of walking on water, skittered across a sunlit pool of water along Horsepound Road. The shadows we see come from the dimples their feet make in the surface of the water. Water strider legs are covered with branched, waxy, air-trapping hairs that let the striders spread their weight enough to make dents in the water without breaking through.

Overhead photo of water striders (family Gerridae) in calm shallow water, visible mostly by the shadows they cast on the bottom
You can see the shadows their feet make, but can you see the water striders? – Photo: Beth Herr

6/28     I saw a black bear, about 200 pounds, crossing Route 52 just north of the Kent Recycling Center!  — Janis Bolbrock

6/29     Goldfinches nest the latest in Kent. They gather last year’s cattail fluff or this year’s thistledown to line their nests. Usually their flight is like a roller-coaster, undulating across the sky. But now they switch to a slow motion moth-like level flight to display their colors and sing to potential mates.

In July watch for:

  • The Full Thunder Moon on July 12
  • The peak of dragonfly activity
  • Pickerel frogs in the wet grass
  • The cicadas singing during the day, and katydids in the evening
  • The lingering summer twilight
  • Skipper butterflies everywhere
  • Blueberries ready to pick
  • Pondweeds in blossom

Leave a Reply

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