January – March 2013

3/01    Lake Gleneida is still iced in, but the diverting reservoir next to Magnetic Mine Road is open. Flocks of hooded mergansers have found the water and are chattering a happy return.

3/01    “Hopewell Junction, HRM 59: My bluebird nest boxes were busy with males calling for a mate from the rooftops. I suspect nest building will begin in the next few weeks. A dozen have wintered over and a brood of six had remained together. I will spend this weekend inspecting, cleaning and restoring their nest boxes. There [sic] great neighbors; they control my insects, provide a pleasant atmosphere and are all snoring by 9:30 PM.”  — Tom McDowell, Hudson River Almanac

3/02    Spring is on the way; song sparrows, cardinals, titmice, etc., were calling like crazy yesterday at Claire’s Nursery!

3/07    Egad! Another snow storm …13 inches cover my brave snowdrops which were just beginning to grow.

3/08    Red-winged blackbirds are back! They’re singing “conkaree” in the wetlands despite the snow, snow, snow … a few females mixed in, grackles as well, and brown-headed cowbirds and starlings. What a ruckus!

3/09    Honey bees are flying today and bringing back bright pollen from Chinese witch hazel, crocus, aconite, skunk cabbage and some red maple flowers, too.

3/10    There are 10 – 11 inches of snow here in South Salem, NY. The skunk cabbage has been up for 16 days along my stream. Daffodils were bursting up through the leaves Thurs afternoon. Spring is coming! I’m starting veg seeds indoors. I’m smelling the skunks who are waking up from hibernation, hearing coyotes and owls at night.  — Steve Miller

3/12    Saw many tree swallows feeding on insect-hatch at the great swamp in Patterson.  — Diana Lee

3/13    “Croton Point, HRM 34: After a full day of rain, a walk under sunny skies seemed a capital idea. Flocks of robins, brown-headed cowbirds, and grackles had joined the red-winged blackbirds. Buffleheads were exuberant in their courtship. A half a dozen male cardinals were loudly assuring one another that they were, indeed, ‘pretty, pretty, pretty birdies.'”  Hudson River Almanac  — Christopher Letts

3/15    Tree swallows were seen soaring and careening on the Hudson River today.

3/17    Five inches of snow finished by a glaze of ice has completely covered the snowdrops trying to push up through the soil.

3/20    Woodcocks heard “peenting” on Whangtown Road and, believe it or not, across from the gas station at the corner of Horsepound Road and Route 52. They are back, and there must be mud somewhere under the snow!

3/22    Little silken pussies brave the 22 degree temps on the willow branches.

3/21    I happened to look out my back window into the 200+ hundred acres that abut our southern property line. I spotted one of the most lovely creatures of the forest. For me it was only the second sighting in the 13 years I have lived here. Out of the pine-maple slope, down across the 5-inch ice-crusted snow, trotted an elegant red fox. It crossed from the bluebird box directly toward the house! It ambled up to the rear deck littered with the hulls of black-oil sunflowers from the feeder. I speculated that it was sniffing for the chipmunks that live near the sunflower discards. It was so resplendent in its silky coat with alert charming eyes. I stood in awe. The last time I saw a fox, I CSI’d the partially eaten pelt that I watched it bury under the snow. This time I took in the richness of living near a wild forest.  — Ralph Szur

3/23    Ice still thick enough to fish on the snow-white inlet of Horsepound Brook on the north side of the Nichols Road causeway, while on the south side hooded and common mergansers played and dove in the open waters. Catkins on alder are beginning to swell and dangle in the breeze.

3/23    As I was fueling the car at the Getty station on Route 52 at 10pm, the stillness of the night was broken by the unmistakable sound of the hookum pake – the American woodcock. What a wonderful harbinger of spring. Just that afternoon, we had flushed one on the edge of a vernal pond at Clearpool. It skittered away from the wetland feeding ground off into the brushy forest. The mating call has been described as “buzzy” and I would agree. This little bird was the object of the old saw used to trick unsuspecting victims. “Snipe hunting” with a sack was a hoax perpetrated on unsuspecting dupes.

The male woodcock, aka snipe, timber doodle, hokum pake, makes his presence known with the buzz call on the ground and overtops this with an arial performance designed to attract a female witnessing his acrobatics. This spring courtship ritual is as welcome as the sounds of the spring peepers. (Speaking of which, as I drove home from the station and parked the car I could hear the first spring call of the peepers emanating from the wet area adjacent to the Dean Pond outflow. Wow! Do these two portents really mean that the winter is finally over?)  — Ralph Szur

Drawing of woodcock Goin’ on a snipe hunt April 14 at 7PM

Editor’s note: If you would like to witness the mating flights of the American woodcock, join the Kent CAC and FroGS on Sunday evening, April 14 at 7PM. Please register: 228-5635.

3/24    The Amphibian Hunt at Clearpool, co-sponsored by the Kent CAC, brought 125 adults and children despite cool temperatures and inches of snow. After a brief introduction to the wonders of amphibians and importance of vernal pools, groups of families grabbed nets and followed staff to several wetlands on the Clearpool campus. This is the second annual amphibian hunt, and this time last year it was warm and the pools were filled with egg masses. Not so this year. It has been too cold for the mass migration of wood frogs, yellow-spotted salamanders, or the hatching of fairy shrimp.

There were, however, many of those amphibians who spend the winter in the wetlands: red-spotted newts, tadpoles, and aquatic invertebrates like giant water bugs, dragonfly larvae, and cadisfly larvae with bright green homes. Everyone had a good time, and we’ll be watching and listening for the next warm rain that starts in the afternoon and goes all night!

3/25    More snow predicted, but a few spring peepers were calling in the Ice Pond wetlands.

3/26    I overwintered five of my bee hives successfully as witnessed by the fact that all five hives had bees flying about as the temp hit close to 50 in the bright sun. I felt bad for those risky foragers as there was nothing out yet to satisfy their quest for nectar and pollen. In a few more days the maples will flower and perhaps the skunk cabbage has yielded some pollen from the flowers clustered on the spadix.  — Ralph Szur

3/27    A beautiful full moon tonight! It is called the Worm Moon, because the warm spring sun usually heats up the soil enough that earthworms become active, leaving their castings atop the soil as evidence that the growing season has begun! Not this year. Cooler than normal weather keeps the earthworms down deep!

3/31    March does go out like a lamb after all. Today was mild, the spring peepers were in full chorus, wood frogs were clucking. Honeybees are bringing in light green pollen, probably from the pussy willows. Red-winged blackbirds call, bluebirds chortle, even the slate-colored junco sing spring songs as they gather for their trip north to breeding grounds. Happy spring!

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