August 2016

8/1     Every day there are half a dozen ruby-throats around the feeder, male and female. One female is incredibly territorial, and tries to chase the others away. The males fly back and forth, in a sweeping, pendulum motion, their ruby throats catching the sun, flashing like a jewel. I love these tiny birds with a ginormous attitude.  — Jenny Tcasz

8/1     As if on cue, the first katydid called tonight, ten days later than near the Hudson River. Kent’s hills, though on the same latitude as Cold Spring, make for a different climate zone. There will be more katydids to return the call of this lonely male. Its scratchedy-ratchety sound will be joined by hundreds more and soon the night sounds will be cacophonous.

8/2     Payback! I picked over two pounds of raspberries in an isolated part of Putnam Veteran’s Memorial Park, of all places. I turned it all into jam which tasted great on my Norwegian pancakes.  — Tore Heskestead

Overhead photo of wild raspberries in white collander
Soon you’ll be jam for my pancakes. Yum! Photo: Tore Heskestead

8/3     The clouds finally lifted after three days, and the winds began blowing from the north. The beautiful sunshine, clear blue skies and low humidity made for a fine day for outside activities. I spent mine in the bountiful garden.

  — The roadsides seemed draped in “dotted swiss” fabric: wild carrot’s lacy flowers mixed with the sky-blue chickory to make a lovely decoration. Bird song was diminished, but still the goldfinches sang while undulating across blue skies.

8/4     While we enjoy the warmth of summer, post-breeding wading birds and shorebirds, noticing the angle of the sun and the diminishing daylight, were instinctively recognizing the onset of autumn. The Hudson Valley provided a flyway this week for egrets, herons, sandpipers and others. While the shorebirds were slowly heading toward their wintering grounds, the egrets may well have been going in the opposite direction. Egrets commonly wander well north from their nesting colonies after the breeding season. The numbers of such wanderers, most juvenile birds, peak in August and September.  — Tom Lake

8/5     None of the praying mantids in Westchester County are native. They were deliberately introduced from Eurasia to control pests like Japanese beetles. They do no such thing. They sit around on flowers and kill our native butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. It’s guaranteed that they do far more harm than good.  — Harry Zirlin

Photo of a mantid capturing a butterfly
I may look like a stick, but that’s just to fool the natives. Photo: Harry Zirlin

8/10     Heat advisories posted. The nice weather ended with a dripping wet storm. The air, barely moving, seeped in from the south and cranked up the humidity. I could smell the mold growing in damp places.

8/11     Tonight was the height of the Perseid Meteor shower. The prediction was for up to 200 shooting stars an hour. Alas, at sunset the sky darkened, the clouds lowered and a doozy of a storm brought a light show of a different sort: Lightning lit up the sky far and near. Booming thunder echoed over Kent’s hills and drenching downpours came in waves all evening.

Photo of cloud-to-cloud lightning at night
Free light show! Come have a look! Photo: Karen Ferdinandsen Martinez

8/12     I was pulling some carrots for dinner and–I just could not separate them.  — Edie Keasbey

Photo of a pair of carrots that grew entwined with one another
Even vegetables like hugs. Photo: Edie Keasbey

8/12     It was so hot and humid tonight; 85° at 11pm. The katydids were singing so fast they sounded like maracas.

8/13     Unfortunately, the Star Party scheduled for tonight was canceled because of the threat of stormy weather and hazy skies. Sure enough, at 8:30 on the dot, the time the party was set to start, a big thunder boomer came rolling in. What a show of lightning and different colored clouds. Not much rain, but felt much better about postponing the event until September.

8/14     About 5:30 this afternoon, a big band of thunderstorms blew through the area from west to east. It didn’t last long, but, with lots of wind and rain, it was pretty wild while it was here. Bright flashes of lightning followed in just a couple of seconds by the boom of thunder let me know the action was just a few thousand feet overhead. By 5:45 it had blown through, and by 5:50 the sun popped out, providing us with this lovely rainbow.  — Dave Ehnebuske

Photo of a rainbow from a back garden
As the rain moved off to the east, the evening sun broke through. Photo: Dave Ehnebuske

8/15     While admiring and pruning my tomato vines I noticed the tops were missing…then I spied dark chunks of frass on the lower leaves…then the culprit…and then four more. The tomato hornworm invasion was squashed.  — Ralph Szur

Photo of a tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata) on the underside of a tomato vine
Which end is my head? Photo: Ralph Szur

8/15     The sizzling weather continued, and a dip in White Pond was not as refreshing as usual. The water level was so low with the dam work being done. Dead fish ringed the shoreline, hundreds of dead snails, murky water, thick weeds, and warm water made swimming less refreshing. But still, it was the coolest place in town.

8/19     Closed gentians are in flower. The difficulties that pollinators face when trying to enter these flowers is rewarded by large amounts of very sweet nectar. Up to 40% sugar! Flowers with a white “cross” showing at the tips of the petals are unpollinated, further enticing insects. Many are pollinated by bumblebees.  — John Dummerston

Photo of a closed gentian (Gentiana andrewsii) in bloom
We look closed, but we’re actually open for business. Photo: John Dummerston

8/19     From the casual demeanor of the juvenile hummingbirds at my feeder I have concluded that the very territorial adult males have gone south! This year’s young will stay longer, waiting for a cool front and winds from the north to ease their flight south.

8/20     August is the season when all flowers are pink or purple. Except for those that are white or yellow. And a few blue and a few red. Okay, does that cover it? My favorite month, except I like all the other months just as much when they arrive. Yeah, I am kind of a season slut. “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.  — David Burg

Photo of an overgrown meadow in bloom in late summer
Lazing in the late summer sun. Photo: David Burg

8/21     Shortly after the last rain several days ago, I noticed that a colony of tiny brown ants had started a pile of tailings from their ongoing mining operation. As the warm, rain-free days passed the pile increased in size, growing in both height and diameter while maintaining a nice circular rim around the entrance to the ants’ subterranean home. Think of the number of trips this pile represents. Think of how many ant colonies there are in the world. Think of how long ants have been around. Talk about a successful life-style!  — Dave Ehnebuske

Photo of a small (about 5cm) ant hill at the edge of a walkway
We are very good at this. Photo Dave Ehnebuske

8/21     It’s been hot these last few days, not the oppressive thermometer-popping high 90’s, but today’s 85° felt as warm. Winds directly from due south sucked the humidity up our way and turns leaves upside down. Their undersides showed that the breeze was not the predominant westerly they are accustomed to. By day’s end the clouds lowered and the soft pitter-pat of raindrops were so soothing. No gusty bursts, no lightning, only one toad-strangling downpour, then just a sweet rainfall to cool the hot ground.

8/22     Almost an inch and half of rain filled the gauge and watered the forest. Maybe that dose of moisture will prolong the green and postpone the leaf-drop and fall colors. It certainly brought out the mushrooms. A beautiful bloom of oyster mushrooms, smooth like baby skin and white, burst open with the rain.

Photo of white oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus sp.) on fallen tree trunk
Hard at work recycling this fallen tree. Photo: Lisa Ameijide

8/23     Albany, HRM 150: Twelve watchers witnessed a great show of migrating common nighthawks this evening at the Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center. Sixty-nine birds were counted, many of which flew directly over the viewing site at low altitude, providing some good looks at plumage differences between male and female.  — Tom Williams, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club

  — Ed. note: The common nighthawk (Chordeiles minor) is neither a hawk (it is in the nightjar family, which also includes the whip-poor-will) nor especially active in the dead of night. It forages on the wing for insects, chiefly at dawn and dusk. Nighthawks can seem quite numerous during late summer as large flocks form during migration, and they once commonly nested throughout New York State, often on flat gravel roofs in urban areas. However, the breeding population here has declined steeply in recent decades, and it is listed as a Species of Special Concern in New York.

8/23     It was 52° this morning. I turned off the fan, and brought out the quilt. While it warmed to the 80’s by afternoon, there were hints of autumn: the sweet fruity smell of grapes wafting on the northerly breeze, the lower slant of afternoon sun and a touch of red on the dewberry leaves.

Photo of dewberry (Rubus flagellaris) vine with leaves edged in red and purple
Fall is just around the corner. Photo: Beth Herr

8/29     My son Mark spotted and photographed this Cicada killer wasp in a field at Boscobel in late August. As I learned from him, this wasp paralyzes the cicada, brings it back to the nest and lays her eggs in it. When her larvae hatch, they feed on the cicada.  — Doris Balant

Photo of a cicada killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus) in the grass.
I’m really pretty harmless (unless you’re a cicada, of course). Photo: Mark Balant

8/31     It was a good month for butterflies, at least the fritillaries, cabbage whites, and tiger swallowtails were abundant. But nary a monarch was to be found in my garden or laying eggs on my milkweed. Until today…when not just one, but three beauties stopped to nectar on the thistle. These lately hatched monarchs are the ones who will travel all the way to Mexico, given good weather and lots of flowers to sip on the way.

Photo of a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on a thistle flower
A late summer visitor. Photo: Beth Herr

In September:

  • Watch for the full Hunting Moon while it is eclipsed by the earth on September 16.
  • Celebrate the end of summer and beginning of autumn on the equinox on September 22.
  • See the birds gather on the wires. The swallows discuss when to leave for the south, while the starlings discuss strategies for surviving winter in the north. Also, see bird activity in trees and shrubs as flocks of migrating songbirds stop to feed during the day.
  • Listen for cricket song to increase and katydids to slow as the temperatures drop.
  • Look for berries to redden, leaves to yellow, and hints of autumn’s coming grandeur. Asters, goldenrods, and Joe-Pye weed add even more color.
  • Watch for the large green darner dragonflies over sunny fields and gardens as they migrate south with the birds.
  • Keep an eye out for spiders and their dew-decorated webs. Spiderlings disperse on warm days by spinning a thread to catch the wind.
  • Check for mushrooms after heavy rains.