September 2017

Photo of a meadow in the early fall; tall grasses ringed by orange-tinged trees
Each glorious fall day beckons us to get out and enjoy it while we can. Photo: Beth Herr

Bright yellow, red, and orange leaves hinted autumn at the month’s beginning. At its end, fall was in full blown brilliance. We had plenty of days without rain and many with sunny blue skies, cool weather for sleeping, and good winds for migrators. In the forest, flocks of birds were feeding in the trees while in the meadows the wind danced across little bluestem grasses. Even so it was hard not to feel a tinge of melancholy knowing this signaled season’s cascade to winter.

9/1     Bedford Audubon Hawkwatch: Sixteen migrants of seven species were spread out over the day at Chestnut Ridge, including northern harrier, six broad-winged hawks and three red-shouldered hawks – one of which was counted as a migrant. Non-raptor observations included four monarchs, three ruby-throated hummingbirds, two barn swallows, and eight cedar waxwings.  — Silvan Laan

9/1     For the last several weeks the roadsides have been at their summer best with the chicory, purple loosestrife, goldenrod and Queen Anne’s lace all resplendent from the car window. Walkers can see even more, including the elegantly slouching foxtail grass, delicate strings of jump seed flowers, polygonal coltsfoot leaves, rough barnyard grass, wild bergamot, wild basil, Japanese hedge parsley, jewelweed and many others.  — Nelson D. Johnson

9/2     Ooops! Almost stepped on a garter snake. And oh! Look what it had in its mouth. Though tempted to rescue the half-eaten pickerel frog, the hike resumed, and the snake finished its hard-earned meal.

Photo of an eastern garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) with a pickerel frog (Lithobates palustris) in its mouth
Catching a frog is hard. Especially if you have no hands or feet! Photo: Beth Herr

9/3     Reports of monarch numbers were encouraging already, but finding a monarch caterpillar in the garden was to rejoice in one miracle of nature in my own backyard. In just ten days the fat, striped caterpillar transformed into a winged beauty. Not only was that transformation miraculous, its upcoming flight to Mexico, a place it has never known, boggled the mind.

Three photos of a monarch butterfly as a caterpillar, a chrysilis and as an adult
A transformative experience. Photo: Beth Herr

Photo of a monarch butterfly caterpillar on a plant stem Photo of a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) chrysalis Photo of an adult monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

9/4     Along the path to the beach at Long Dock Park in Beacon, in the lee of trees and shrubs, we saw many butterflies, among them seven monarchs attracted to bright yellow stands of green-headed cornflowers. At the water’s edge, a strong south wind (remnant of Hurricane Harvey) blew through the Hudson Highlands, creating whitecaps offshore and pushing rollers up on the beach. The river was a warm 76° Fahrenheit.  — Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

9/4     Wildflowers adorn Kent’s roadways and meadows. Even the forest is filled with the white flowers of the wood asters. But one flower, a small beauty viewed only with belly on the ground, the bluecurls at the back door is prettiest of all.

Photo of forked bluecurls (Trichostema dichotomum) in bloom
Sometimes the prettiest of all is right by your back door. Photo: Beth Herr

9/6     Three inches drenched everything in the last 24 hours and likely filled some woodland pools just in time for one autumn-breeding amphibian: the marbled salamander.

9/8     It was an entertaining day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch in Bedford, with our best day yet for broad-winged hawks (13) and American kestrels (4). An immature northern harrier was a nice addition near closing time. Non-raptor observations included our best count so far for ruby-throated hummingbirds (24), as well as monarchs (18), cedar waxwings (65), and common nighthawks (17).  — Silvan Laan, Charlotte Catalano

9/12     I found a skull, most likely from a rabbit, partially broken. I also discovered some scat under my birdfeeder – not a bear, but a fox who visited several times at night. I thought he might have been hunting for rodents scavenging the birdseed, but would fox eat sunflower seed?  — Doris Balant

Ed. Note: Though foxes are carnivores they are opportunistic just like the coyotes. Seeds are an easy meal, high in protein, and probably go well with the grapes they are finding now!

9/13     On a well-traveled side road in Kent, off Horsepound Road, a light-coated coyote ran at top speed across the road in front of me. (Not close enough to be a near miss, thankfully.) I noticed that it was coming from my neighbor’s yard where there are chickens. I assume it was stalking them, but I haven’t heard if his quest was successful – I didn’t see one in its mouth. Clearly it was in a hurry to get back into the woods. For he’d many miles to go that night, before he reached his den-o.  — Mary Schreiber

9/14     Remnants of Hurricane Irma stirred humidity, clouds, spotty rain, and thunder. It was mild compared to what happened in the southern states. But it did bring back the sounds of grey tree frogs and katydids. Students stepped from school buses in shorts and sleeveless shirts. While it felt like an August day, the sun was gone by 7pm.

9/15     I took down my hummingbird feeder today; I hadn’t seen activity there for a few days. The hummers who summered here have started their journey to Central America. There were still some little hummingbirds feeding on garden flowers, but they were just passing through.

9/17     The past few days have felt like summer with high humidity and warmth. The mornings were foggy and damp, but by afternoon the fog burned off and a summer-like heat returned. The katydids sang loudly again at night. Tree frogs called as if rain were eminent. And puffy clouds stacked higher and higher.

9/18     The neighborhood barred owls were hooting it up tonight. I heard at least three vocalizing in the woods on Barrett Hill. With the mountain top mostly wild there are many acres for the owls to nest and raise a brood. Though many of our summer songbirds are heading south at night, the owls will soon be setting up territory and getting ready to breed in a few months. Perhaps all the hooting was the young of the year testing out the echoes around the mountain.

9/19     As leaves fall, views into the woods deepen, rock outcroppings come into view, the shape of the land intrigues, beckons.  — Duncan Brine

9/20     I heard a chipmunk “chirping” all day today, starting at daybreak. Sounding much like a clucking hen or turkey, chipmunks sometimes use a chirp call to drive away an intruder, but this chipping was incessant (and how the “chip-munk” got its name). A female will chirp like this from the moment she gets up until the evening, taking only short breaks to drink or eat. This is a mating-season call which is usually heard in the spring, but when the weather is warm long into autumn, robust females will mate again. This girl was looking for the right guy.

9/23     I thought you might enjoy seeing this gorgeous caterpillar – I looked it up so I know it is the spicebush swallowtail. While we were on a mushroom walk, a friend found it and was going to bring it back to the picnic tables for all to see, but I asked him to please put it back where he found it! So he did. The picture and description in my caterpillar book showed that spicebush caterpillars are green, but when I read the details it said that the orange (and yellow) color meant that it was prepupal. So it had stopped eating, I guess, and was about to turn itself into a pupa. I am so glad I convinced my friend to put it right back where he found it.  — Diane Alden

Photo of a golden-colored spicebush swallowtail (Papilio troilus) caterpillar on brown leaves
I was green. Now I’m gold. Soon I’ll be black, white and powder blue! Photo: Diane Alden

9/24     It was so hot today. It was 90° in the shade and things were baking. It hasn’t rained for three weeks, and things are looking crisp. Most notable are the sugar maples: all around the town of Kent I’ve noticed so many maples dropping curled and yellowed leaves before the seeds fall. Signs of stress and loss of vigor were evident on almost every sugar maple. What is going on?

9/25     The sugar maples aren’t as colorful as usual. Might they be on one knee in protest for more than they can say?  — Duncan Brine

9/30     What is that bump on my deck railing? A close look shows it’s a clay pot sculpted by a potter wasp as a home for its offspring. The babies have left their home already, exiting through a hole they chewed. The pottery remains, evidence of nature’s perfection. Too small for my mantle, unfortunately.

Close-up photo of an empty potter wasp (Eumenes sp.) nest
The kids grew up and left an empty nest. Photo: Beth Herr

In October

  • Look to the dark skies at night during the new moon and the Orionid Meteor Shower on October 20.
  • Watch for wildlife: bears fatten up on bees and birdseed, salamanders search for winter quarters on humid days, geese are on the wing while yellow-rumped warblers feed on berries.
  • Enjoy the last of the wildflowers: yellow witch-hazel blossoms in the forest, asters and goldenrods along the roadways.
  • Track the sun as it moves south, rising at 6:53am and setting 6:36pm on October 1 and waning to sunrise at 7:27am and sunset at 5:51pm at the end of the month.
  • Smell the grapes while you watch for the return of the juncos.
  • Listen to cricket chorus even after a frost.