April 2018

Winter held a cool grip on April’s weather with nary a warm spring teaser, and several mornings of surprise snow. Mostly cloudy and cool, the advance of migrating birds and fresh green were much delayed. Luckily the lengthening twilight and daylight confirmed that it was indeed spring.

4/1     Sounds like snow again tomorrow morning! But here’s a ray of hope: hepaticas are blooming at NYBG. Perhaps we’ll see them in another week or 10 days up here.  — Carol Gracie

Photo of common hepatica in bloom at the New York Botanical Gardens
The official flower of the Sweden Democrats. A good choice for a political party in a place where people really look forward to spring. Photo: Carol Gracie

4/1     The benefits of getting up early: Looking out our side bedroom window and finding two foxes playing and chasing each other back and forth along a giant downed tree. Looking out our back window and seeing a rather large opossum wandering through the yard, up our hill and down into a jumble of rocks. Kelly then says, “Let’s look out our front window and see if there are any more creatures.” And of course there is a sweet deer having a morning graze.  — Justin Goodhart

4/1     Signs of spring can be found in Kent! Nature’s first green is gold: The sunny coltsfoot finally blooms along the roadways, lacy spicebush blossoms decorate the forest and willow trees turn golden.

4/2     I planted early spring crops. It snowed today which is great for the new seed beds. Snow is “poor man’s fertilizer.” Nitrogen attaches to the snowflakes as they fall through the atmosphere. It is then released gradually into the soil as the snow melts. The blanket of snow will also keep the soil warm.  — Rick Saracelli

4/1     Our first black bear of the season showed up yesterday, far earlier than previous years (May-June). I first noticed that my bird feeder (twenty-feet up on a cable) was disturbed and the baffle over the feeder was broken. Last night, after dark, I turned on our spotlight to see what wildlife was around and there was the bear, walking through the yard sniffing around. We got six-inches of snow overnight, and this morning, we tracked the bear’s huge paw prints. They were all over the yard, but the bear did no damage.  — Diane Anderson

4/3     This cute guy showed up in my backyard. First one I have seen in our area.  — George Baum

Photo of an American red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) digging in leaf litter.
“I just know I buried a pine cone somewhere around here. Where could it be?” Photo: George Baum

4/6     Tree swallows have returned and were spotted doing aerial displays over Kent’s lakes and reservoirs. No action at nest boxes or tree cavities, and like the red-winged blackbirds, they hunker down in huge flocks in the marshes at night.

4/6     Day-long rain and low clouds cast gloom but brought almost an inch of water to thaw the ground. It was chilly too. The strong winds lashing Kent for the last two days just made it feel colder.

4/7     Sapsuckers got on their drum sets, especially enjoying the sound they can make on the metal “Posted” signs marking the boundary of DEP land.  — Doris Balant

4/8     “Our” fox, the regular visitor from last year, stopped by.  — Doris Balant

4/9     There is a bear in the neighborhood. We have not seen it, only its aftermath, but others have spotted it nearby. It has tumbled over one of my hives twice. Neither has bees, and only the one tumbled has much honey (neither hive overwintered). But my bees come on Saturday so I must do something soon!  — Steve Walkley

Photo of a bear-tumbled beehive.
Bears sure do know a good thing when they find it. And they remember where it is. Photo: Steve Walkley

4/13     It was a mild day, almost reaching 50°, and good for hiking. I went to look for trailing arbutus at Cranberry Mountain Wildlife Management Area where it has been recorded. (This sweet little flower hugs the ground and loves acidic ridges. It used to be abundant, but was over-collected by people and over-browsed by deer. No arbutus today, perhaps it’s still too early. Of note were several broken trees damaged by winter winds, some snapped like pencils. The wounds were so new they were weeping sap. It was warm enough that flying insects could find their way to the sugar smörgåsbord.

Photo of a black birch tree stump snapped off several feet from the ground in a winter storm, now oozing sap icicles.

Photo of a variety if insects dining on sap oozing from a wind-snapped tree stump
Anyone who says there’s no free lunch hasn’t looked very hard or is a member of a very picky species. Photo: Beth Herr

4/13     I found trailing arbutus along the red trail at Clearpool near wintergreen and mountain laurel!  — Polly Goodwin

4/14     My first butterfly sighting!! And since the Norwegian translation for butterfly is “summer bird,” need I say more?  — Tore Heskestead

Photo of a mourning cloak butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa) sunning itself on a rock
“I survived the winter in pretty good shape, don’t you think?” Photo: Tore Heskestead

4/14     The great blue heron rookery (in Westchester, along Route 121) was quiet, with about a dozen herons incubating eggs. Some nests appeared to be empty, but there may have been a heron hidden from view. Two nests had a heron standing for a long period of time with no activity. Those may have been guardians, watching over their mates, hidden from view. Every now and then a heron would fly in and circle around before landing on a nest, switching places with its mate. This will be the routine until the eggs hatch in a couple of weeks.  — Jim Steck

Ed. Note: If you want to look at similar activity at another heron rookery, bring your binoculars and drive north on Route 22 until you get to Cousin’s Deli, north of Pawling. After a donut or two, and before you get in your car, look west across the roadway to see many active blue heron nests.

4/14     Unusual: a flicker at the feeder today.  — Doris Balant

4/15     Fox sparrows hung on until 4/10, but today were “replaced” by chipping sparrows.  — Doris Balant

4/16     Our small red maple was adorned this morning with what seemed like a bird on every branch. These were male American goldfinches, and the red maple was instantly transformed into a lemon tree.  — Phyllis Lake

4/16     Ugh, woke up to snow on the deck, sleet on the windows, and a howling wind. The rain is really coming down now. It’s a good day for ducks and frogs, and when it’s over, the brooks will be roaring. But for now, I wish it were sunny and warm.

4/17     The rain gauge verified that a two full inches of rain washed Kent clean. The rain rinsed winter’s sand off roadways and cars, but the depth of potholes was masked by big puddles. The air was fresh, but still chilly. The bees are not flying but the male flowers on the maple trees are ringed in gold pollen. Reports of honeybee hives starving and warblers arriving when no insects are flying are reminders of a cooler than normal spring.

4/17     There was a dusting of snow on the ground to start the day. Sigh. But by late afternoon the sun warmed the air a little and buds were swelling. I noticed just a few beech leaves are still hanging but most have been pushed off by new, furry, perfectly folded leaves.

Close-up photo of an American beech leaf-bud in the process of openeing up
It’s a miracle! Photo: Beth Herr

4/19     Kent woke to a dusting of snow on the ground and cool weather. Again. Waterfowl and swallows have returned, but raft together waiting for warmth to disperse and nest. The daffodil buds are yellow, but stay closed. Baby green leaves in the garden hug the ground and wait for warmth. Given a few mild days, nature will explode into action. But for now, everyone waits.

4/19     On a ramble through the woods on this brilliant but cool spring afternoon, I couldn’t help but notice that up in the hills the beech leaf-buds haven’t quite developed enough to push off last year’s leaves as they have lower down. We’re right on the brink.  — Dave Ehnebuske

Photo of American beech twig with leaf bud and still-cliniging leaves from last summer
Just a few hundred feet of elevation makes all the difference. Photo: Dave Ehnebuske

4/23     Warm sun flipped the switch and spring was turned on: There were large patches of trout lily in bloom. A lot of yellow-rumped warblers were mating – absolutely no modesty. The most interesting sighting was of a great egret trying to swallow a large fish. The tail was sticking out of his mouth. He finally flew to the rocks in the center of the lake. I watched him for ten minutes trying to swallow the fish. It finally went down into his throat, but it made a big lump there. He kept drinking water trying to get it to go on down. I walked all the way about the reservoir and he was still on that rock when I was leaving. I hope his saliva and juices will break it down so he can swallow it.  — Yvonne Lynn

4/23     We saw tons of Dutchman’s breeches (including a few pinkish ones), lots of trout lily, plenty of bloodroot, cut-leaved toothwort in bud, hepatica, a couple of violets, the budding pussy-toes, a tiny chickweed, wood anemone, spicebush, and too much lesser celandine.  — Carol Gracie

4/25     Beavers took down a birch. What’s woodpecker up to?  — Gordon Douglas

Trailcam photo of s piliated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) on a tree stump feeding on sap-loving insects
Could it be the beavers felled the tree, the bugs found the sap from the stump and the woodpecker found the bugs? Round and round it goes. Photo: Gordon Douglas

4/26     We re-found box turtle number 38: We first met her in 2010, removed her 11 eggs from a nest on the aqueduct in 2012, and took them to rehabilitator Patricia Johnson in Peekskill. Three of those eggs hatched and we released the hatchlings back in their home territory in 2013. (even recovered two of them as yearlings in 2014) In the meantime number 38 sustained a major injury on the aqueduct and after observing her behavior for several days we took her back to Patricia where she has been cared for ever since. She has done well under Patricia’s expertise, and now she has just emerged from hibernation!

Photo of an eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) just emerging from hibernation
“Ugh. Is it spring already? Seems like I just went to sleep.” Photo: Patricia Johnson

4/27     Look what I spied, or what spied me, out in my shade-garden.  — Jim Eyring

Photo of an eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) in a domestic garden
It’s a good thing bunnies are wary; word has it hawks, falcons and owls live very near this garden. Photo: Jim Eyring

4/29     This eastern bluebird boy brightened up an otherwise rainy cool spring morning last week. Don’t know why his special shade of blue is so visually soul-stirring, but it is.  — Charles Daviet

Photo of an eastern bluebird perched on a broken log-post
A bright spot in a gray day. Photo: Charles Daviet

4/29     I heard toads along Schrade Road today.  — Doris Balant

In May

  • Look to the skies for the full Flower Moon on May 29, meteor showers on the 5th, 8th, 12th and conjunctions of the moon with Venus, Juniper, and Saturn.
  • Listen as the dawn chorus of birds turns up the volume and the number of performers. This is the best time to see the colorful warblers before the vegetation closes the curtain.
  • Watch for turtles as they emerge from hibernacula and are active on warm humid days.
  • Walk in the woods for trout lilies, columbine, trilliums and other spring ephemerals.
  • Sniff the air for lilac perfume, the fragrance of fresh-cut grass, and the freshness of growing green leaves.
  • Join the annual Hike to Hawk Rock May 20 at 11AM, bring lunch and sturdy shoes for this three-mile loop to the heart of Kent.