August 2017

Photo of rose milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) in bloom Phot of ironweed (Vernonia gigantea) in bloom Photo of Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum) with meadow in background

A trio of summer pinks. Photos: Photos: Doris Balant and Beth Herr

8/3     I spent the morning walking from discovery to discovery along the Appalachian Trail boardwalk north of Pawling. It was a summer symphony: families of young swallows twittered about, dragonflies cruised overhead, bluebirds, redwinged blackbirds and green herons added their tunes. The cattails were browning, the flowers were pinking, the sky was so blue.

8/4     As part of a line of widespread severe thunderstorms, a small tornado crossed the Great Sacandaga Lake today near Edinburg.  — National Weather Service

8/4     This morning as I walked out my back door I got tangled up in a spiderweb that spanned the whole doorframe. Quite a surprise! Once I figured out what was going on, I went looking for the maker. No luck. But I resolved to have a look again that evening. Sure enough, around 10:30, there she was hard at work rebuilding what I’d totally wrecked in a fraction of a second. By 11:30 she was definitely ready for business. And I was ready for mine. I flipped on the porch light and went around to the outside for a photo session.

She proved a patient subject, not reacting a bit to my camera’s flash. But when a moth, attracted by the porch light, flew into the web, bang, she was on it. In a matter of seconds the moth was securely wrapped with silk and tied to the web. I was fascinated to see that during the wrapping process, the spider made many, many strands of silk simultaneously – almost a little ribbon – so it only took a few deftly executed turns to completely envelope the moth.

Photo of a cat-faced spider (Araneus gemmoides) in the center of a web that spans a doorway
A jewel or cat-faced spider (Araneus gemmoides) waiting. Patiently. Photo: Dave Ehnebuske

8/6     Somewhere in Putnam County: Some of our neighbors keep a predatory eye out for them, but I had begun to disbelieve their claims that there were timber rattlesnakes in our immediate neighborhood. Today, finally, I came across one in mid-afternoon, stretched out full-length, sunning itself in the middle of the road. Sensing my presence, the snake made a slow and dignified exit.  — Will Vogel

Photo of a timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus), near the edge of a dirt roadway
We don’t have to like each other, but with mutual respect we can get along. Photo: Will Vogel

8/7     Meet Rocky, my flying squirrel. I rescued him after he somehow got into the house last fall, and was being persued by my cat, at about 2am. He loves sunflower seeds, hickory nuts and eats IKEA marzipan from my fingertip.   — Tore Heskestead

Photo of Rocky, a flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans)
Rocky poses for his picture. Photo: Tore Heskestead

8/8     The Mount Nimham fire tower was spruced up a little today. Beth painted over grafitti and picked up trash. Bill and Dave replaced the original 1940 timbers on one landing. This task requires skillful measuring and cutting of planks, contortionist clinging to saw rusted bolts, disregarding frightening heights, and about eight hours to complete one floor.

It was a timely task. The old boards that were replaced were riddled with the tunnels of carpenter bees. The perfectly circular chambers were drilled by the big black bees to house paralyzed insects to feed the bee larva that will hatch when the cycle begins next spring. The workmanship was true cabinetry.

The time at the tower had its rewards beyond the thrill seeing a finished platform and new paint: a concert by passing flocks of birds. Twenty or so bluebirds chortled and chirped, as if discussing the weather. They were followed by a group of cheerful goldfinches, then the high and quiet tinkle of waxwings.

Photo of Carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica) tunnels bored in a broken plank
For seventy-seven years, this board has been a safe place for the carpenter bees to nest. Photo: Beth Herr

8/11     The numbers and species of butterflies on our butterfly bushes seemed to peak today with a dozen tiger swallowtails, a black swallowtail, eight monarchs, seven great spangled fritillaries, several red-spotted purples, cabbage white butterflies, and many skippers.  — Tom Lake

8/12     I saw a bee wolf today: Sphecius speciosus (Eastern Cicada Killer) with a Tibicen species of cicada today at Ward Pound Ridge in Westchester County. Of course, the cicada is not dead. It is paralyzed and will not die until its vital organs are the last thing consumed by the wasp grub.  — Harry Zirlin

Photo of an eastern cicada killer (Sphecius speciosus) draggin a paralyzed cicada into its underground nest
Stocking the larder for the next generation. Photo: Harry Zirlin

8/13     It’s been a rather wonderful last three days full of birding at my favorite place: Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in South Jersey. Thousands of shorebirds are on the move. I saw some excellent birds including three Wilson’s pharalopes, an American avocet, a whimbrel, a marbled godwit and 11 other shorebird species.  — Anne Swaim

8/13     I was hiking in Fahnestock State Park with some friends when we spotted a monarch butterfly. In past years, they were so common that we barely found them noteworthy, but not this year. We started checking the common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), one of the host plants for monarch butterflies, and did find a monarch caterpillar, about two inches long. It will soon be going into its chrysalis stage, later to emerge as a butterfly.  — Jim Steck

8/14     Evening strolls crossing the Little Fill causeway on Nichols Road bring the evening roosts of the double crested cormorants into easy view. Their silhouettes dot the many trees spaced along the western edge of the reservoir. There must be over a hundred birds along the shore. By day, they hunt the abundant waters of Kent, by evening they quark and croak, adding an eerie air.

Photo of a group of double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) roosting in a tree
Birds of a feather flock together. Photo: Beth Herr

8/16     This afternoon I was eating lunch at my friend’s house on White Pond Road, down the street from my place when I spotted a critter just sitting quietly in the shade of a tree off to the left, next to the pond. I could see it was not just a house cat, but not what it was. After a few minutes, when the critter got up and moved and I realized it was a bobcat, complete with stubby tail! She proceeded to casually walk into the brush around the back of the pond and disappear. A minute later a squirrel came along looking for walnuts under the same tree, all the while looking in the direction in which the bobcat had disappeared.

About two minutes later we again spotted the bobcat casually walking by the pond, now with the squirrel hanging from its mouth. She disappeared into the brush, no doubt to head back to her den to feed her kittens. So, the bobcat and squirrel had been in a standoff and the bobcat crept all the way around the pond to sneak up on the squirrel from behind so as to catch her supper!  — Bill Volckmann

8/20     The butterfly bush attracted a bejeweled cast of characters this week: irridescent-green hummingbird heads, golden fuzzy bumblebees carrying amber pollen, ruby red coats on the hummingbird moths, citrine swallowtails, coral butterflies, and a raft of little shiny flying things all enjoyed a sip of nectar while putting on a show.

Closeup photo of a female tiger-swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) hindwing showing the colored scales
Nature’s organization, complexity and astounding beauty shows at many scales. Photo: Beth Herr

8/21     At today’s viewing of the solar eclipse, visitors brought everything from eclipse glasses to cereal boxes with pinholes in them to protect their eyes while they watched the phenomenon occur. Meanwhile, nature provided its own viewing apparatus made of leaves! Check out how gaps in the leaf canopy focus images of the eclipse onto the ground to create a spectacular sight!

Photo of a partial solar eclipse, projected onto the roots of a tree by gaps in the leaf canopy
Nature was the first to invent the magic lantern. Photo: Beth Herr

8/22     Alas, though today’s was a steamy morning filled with cricket song and wildflower blossoms, it also marked only one-month of summer to go. The calendar’s advance is reflected in bits of red and yellow along the roadways. Goldenrods join ironweed and Joe Pye weed, flags of autumn’s approach.

8/23     I came upon a old tree along the trail. At its center was dark hole, old wood where a branch had been. Inside was a thriving community of miniature mushrooms barely an inch tall. It was a miniature forest inside the aging trunk.

Photo of an army of tiny white mushrooms
What’s the collective noun for a whole bunch of mushrooms? Photo: Beth Herr

8/27     Yesterday while working on the fire tower we were treated to a concert by a flock of bluebirds in the trees around the tower, saw an owl fly past early in the morning and then in late morning witnessed a bald eagle circling around the mountain top for a short while. The folks at Clearpool Education Center spotted a local bear making his way up the west side of Nimham Mountain, toward the fire lookout tower. Though we looked, the wolunteers at the fire tower were not lucky enough to see the bear, who likely saw and heard the activity at the top and veered off for a quieter venue for some berries far from the noisy humans.  — Bill Volckman

8/27     All around the beetles were flourishing today: ladybugs and fireflies plied the meadows, Japanese beetles and potato beetles fed in the garden, the whirligigs and diving beetles made circles on the pond. On Nimham Mountain the beetles were numerous. Picking up litter around the mountain top I unknowingly picked up something that had died inside a bottle. When I emptied the trash bucket, out scrambled 20 or more carrion beetles. Nature’s garbage crew was at work. (Some species of carrion beetles can dig beneath a dead animal until it is buried. Then they lay their eggs on the carcass.)

8/30     The season’s first ripening peaches warmed the dining room with their sweet fragrance and sunny colors. It’s time to put some summer into jars!

Phoro of just harvested peaches on dining room table
Summer, waiting to be put into jars. Photo: Beth Herr

In September

  • Watch out for yellow jackets questing sugary treats
  • Look for the berry bonanza: poison ivy, Virginia creeper, and sumac fruits for the migrating birds; apples, grapes, plums for us
  • Don’t miss the Full Hunter Moon on September 6
  • Watch the sun rise on September 22 at 6:43am. It will be due east of you. At 4:01pm it’s the equinox! We’re leaving summer behind
  • Enjoy purple and white asters, goldenrods and grasses
  • Bird migration is in full swing. Notice flocks of gathering swallows, hawks high in the clouds, and starlings gathering for protection
  • Notice insect sounds and sights: unending cricket song and abundant, active dragonflies