June – July 2012

6/1    I spotted this spider which spun a web on the railing by my front steps. It is somewhat unusual – at least to me – and I was wondering if anyone knew the species.
— Lou Tartaro

Lou's Spider in webCan anyone ID this spider? — Photo by Lou Tartaro

Ed. note: This is not an easy spider to identify. As Lou says, it’s definitely not one of the usual ones!

6/3    On today’s Mountain Laurel Hike at Clearpool ten hikers enjoyed a scramble over the rocks and ridges in search of the pink and white blossoms of the mountain laurel. The bloom was pink and the forest was dotted with confection-like flowers. The walkers learned about the extraordinary pollination mechanism, and “projectile pollination” and about the interesting history of the laurel. A plant list was started for the Kent Natural Resource Inventory. The list will also serve as baseline data for the Clearpool Model Forest.

6/4    Full “Planting Moon”

6/7    About a week before the big event my friend Michael and I prepared a pair of binoculars for the observation. We mounted them on a sturdy tripod and rigged up a small screen on a rod that extended several feet behind the ocular lenses. Then we fitted a cardboard shade with two circular holes cut into it over the objective lenses. We snapped a lens cover on one of the objective lenses. The result was a strange-looking contraption with three legs and an eye-patch. But when we took it outside and pointed it carefully at the sun, it projected a lovely, sharp image of the solar disk complete with sunspots on the screen, right in the middle of the shadow cast by the shade.

Great! Now if only the weather cooperates. The big day—June 5—rolled around. The forecast wasn’t what we hoped for: Partly cloudy in the morning with thickening clouds and a good chance of rain during the hours before sunset. There wasn’t much to do except wait until 6:03 PM and see what happened. After all, the rain date was a ways off: December 11, 2117, to be exact.

At about 5:45 PM we set up on a friend’s patio with a great, unobstructed view to the west. A few more friends showed up. Perfect, except for the thick gray clouds out there. But a few minutes later, a break in the clouds let the solar disk pop into view on the screen. The sunspots had moved quite a bit, but otherwise it looked about the same as when we had tried it out a few days earlier. The hole in the clouds quickly closed, and we could see long streamers of rain coming towards us across the valley.

Inside we went with our observing equipment. 6:03 came and went. Oh well, we missed the beginning. But then about 6:25 the rain ended as quickly as it had come and another hole appeared in the cloud cover. Through the back window of our friend’s house, the sunlight poured in. Through the one-eyed binocular and onto the screen it went. Suddenly, despite the scudding clouds, there it was; what we had all come to see: A small, perfectly circular black dot on the face of the sun—Venus making its way across the solar disk in transit.

Solar transit of VenusVenus transiting the sun — Photo by Lucille Corrier

We all had a good look at it, snapped a few pictures, talked about what was going on out there and why the transit is so rare. We played Sousa’s “Transit of Venus March” composed to commemorate the 1882 transit and watched the black dot move further into the disk of the sun. As we watched, the clouds thickened, the portal to space closed up, and the transit was no more…at least in Kent.  — Dave Ehnebuske

6/10   Indian pipes push their white curved flowers up through the soil, a sure sign of mid-summer.

6/17   Shades of pink line Kent’s roadways with crown vetch and dames’ rockets dotted with the bringht yellows of birdsfoot trefoil and sunny buttercups.

6/18   A string of sunny, warm, rare days in June make the late nesters sing louder and sweeter: Catbirds, indigo buntings, orioles and robins serenade on a summer day.

6/20   Summer beings and the sun “stands still” or is at solstice:

Date Sunrise Sunset
6/20 5:33am 8:53pm
6/21 5:33am 8:53pm
6/22 5:33am 8:53pm
6/23 5:34am 8:54pm

The sun “stood still” and two days after the solstice, the days got two minutes shorter, and so we begin the slow, sure slide down into winter. For now though, the fireflies add silent sparkle to summer evenings, bull frogs and green frogs chorus at twilight, butterflies and bees abound, and the grass grows green.

6/20   We have had two different snapping turtles come up to our property from the lake across the street to lay eggs. One is a regular visitor who always lays her eggs in our manure pile each spring. This year she came early, around Memorial Day. Her eggs are likely to hatch early as well, because the heat from the manure pile will make them develop more rapidly. The incubation period ranges from 9 to 18 weeks depending on temperature. The other one laid her eggs on the softer soil in the upper corner of our paddock on June 9th. Both turtles are good-sized and probably weigh 20-30 pounds. Despite their reputation for ferocity, snapping turtles that are laying eggs do not seem to act aggressive, even if one gets fairly close.

We also found a wood turtle on our property. This turtle is about the size of a box tortoise, but does not have the hinged lower shell. It is colloquially known as “Ol’ Redlegs” which is an apt description. The carapace is fairly plain on top with beautifully differentiated scales, and marked with yellow on the bottom. According to the Audubon field guide, this turtle can climb a 6-foot chain link fence. It certainly had no problem traversing our property. The next morning, we found it sunning itself on a rock, about 200 feet from where we had sighted it originally.

Wood TurtleWood turtle — Photo by Anne Balant-Campbell

The other night, we heard a fox calling. They have an eerie, shrieking bark and they tend to roam rapidly around while calling. The neighborhood dogs were all barking and my horse was acting very fearful, but the red fox is not a threat to livestock or pets. Apparently the females call during mating season but that takes place in late winter or early spring, so most likely this fox was calling to locate other foxes for a different reason.
— Anne Balant-Campbell

Ed. note: The wood turtle is a very good find. They are a species of special concern in NY state. They have several habitat requirements during the year: rivers and creeks to hibernate and wander, upland sandy areas for nesting, swamps for feeding. Thier shell is sculpted as if carved in wood, hence the name. River turtle would be more descriptive of their life style as they spend more than half their year in moving water.

7/3    Full “Thunder Moon”

7/4    After sunset, the fireflies and one little brown bat danced in the night sky.

7/9    Butterflies weave in and out of the garden: tiger swallowtails and red admirals are everywhere as are the cabbage whites.

7/10   The first tomato from the garden is ripe!

7/13   Most baby birds have fledged from their nests and are active and noisy, chatting and begging for food from their parents, except for the indigo buntings and goldfinches who are actively nesting. Some bluebirds are raising their third broods!

7/14   Common milkweed blooms and attracts pollinators (bees, moths, butterflies, and even flies) and especially the monarch butterflies. They will soon lay their eggs on the underside of the milkweed leaves.

7/19   Heard the first cicada sing its hot-summer-day song. The snowy tree crickets begin to fill the air with their music.

7/22   Flickers feed on the ground and are probably eating ants. They eat more ants than any other North American bird, using their long tongues which have a strongly alkaline sticky surface and may neutralize the formic acid that ants contain.

7/25   Frogs are active in the uplands—saw pickerel frogs in the grass and wood frogs in the forest, gray tree frogs call before the rain.

7/26   The first cicadas call at night, the summer night chorus begins while meadow crickets sing all day long.

7/30   White Pond is a warm 78 degrees. Perfect for a cool swim. The aquatic plants are blooming, especially the wild celery.

7/30   Joe-Pye weed just begins to bloom, with bumblebees covering the blossoms. The first golden rods blooms…can autumn be far behind?

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