August – September 2015

Photo of kayakers exploring White Pond
It’s hard to beat a day on White Pond. Photo: Dod Chahroudi

The editor spent the month on another planet entirely, far away from Kent. Or so it felt. Traded the hot and dry days in the Hudson Highlands for a month long adventure in the hot and wet days of Hawaii. The islands were a world apart, and a fascinating magnification of ecological systems: mountain building, evolution, invasion of exotics. Upon returning to Kent, the garden was parched, the grass short and dry. The bird song was absent yet the cricket and katydid song was deafening. The rocks and deck at White Pond emerged from the depths; the water was warm and wonderful. Many Kent residents were enjoying all that the pond has to offer.

8/2     We heard barred owls – sounding like three at once – their typical calls mixed with excited, high-pitched chatter, probably immatures. We saw a black swallowtail sunning while house wrens nested in a bluebird box on the fence, cheeping while we gardened. Occasional barred owls are “talking” at night. At dawn, there are calls from wood thrush. During the day, the wood pewees, flickers and catbirds are vocal.  — Doris Balant

8/2     The first wood turtles began hatching at 68 days.  — Michael Musnick

Ed. note: Michael is a volunteer monitor studying turtle populations for Friends of the Great Swamp.

Photo of a wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) hatchling having a look around
The world is new every day. Photo: John Foley

8/23     I was greeted by a never-seen-here-before scene this morning: a black back yard! Hundreds of black birds had landed – common grackles and their “allies.” Their glossy feathers glowed iridescent in the dappled morning sunlight as they noisily and aggressively pecked at anything and everything in the grass, including each other. They skittishly retreated to the trees at each little threat, or perhaps collective suggestion, followed by a return in waves, hopscotching each other.  — Dave Lindemann

8/24     In about equal numbers, feeder visitors – many of which are immatures – consist now mainly of nuthatches, titmice, goldfinches, chickadees and a few wood doves. Woodpeckers have been absent until one or two downies started showing up recently.  — Doris Balant

8/28     I came upon a timber rattlesnake today while hiking in Putnam County’s Hudson Highlands. A drama had unfolded before I arrived as a red-tailed hawk had tried to snatch the snake. It looked like the snake was fine but that the hawk was wounded. I am fascinated by rattlesnakes; they are the most iconic example of real wilderness that we see here in the east, at least these days.  — Jim Nordgren

8/29     The Full Green Corn Moon

8/30     There is a big nectar flow in my area, maybe even bigger than in the spring. I’m guessing it’s a combination of knotweed and goldenrod, but mostly goldenrod from what I smell. Supers started filling last week.  — Bill Hesbach, beekeeper

8/31     90° Fahrenheit today; tenth day at 90° or more this month. No rain all month.

9/1     Bedford Audubon Hawk Watch: It was a surprisingly active day at Chestnut Ridge with a high presence of osprey (20). In mid-afternoon, a kettle of eight osprey traveled directly over the watch heading west. Non-raptor observations included two ruby-throated hummingbirds and a flock of cedar waxwings. The observation point for the hawk watch at Chestnut Ridge is at an elevation of about 770 feet, with a 180° view oriented to the east. Birders have been observing migrating raptors from Chestnut Ridge since at least 1978.  — Charlie Plimpton, Christiana Nicole Ricchezza, Tait Johansson

9/4     I was on my deck at dusk, looking skyward hoping for some nighthawks. I counted four (first-of-season for me). There were also more than 100 chimney swifts moving through, 80 common grackles (possibly going to roost), one osprey and a Cooper’s hawk.  — Larry Trachtenberg

9/7     Today the thermometer peaked at 85° Fahrenheit. It was a steamy week. Air temperatures rose over 90° on four of the week’s seven days. No rain in two weeks.

9/8     97° Fahrenheit! No rain in more than fifty days. And yet, the berries, apples, nuts and all manner of fruits are incredibly abundant.

Photo of ready-to-pick apples on the tree
A sure sign of fall in New York. Photo: Beth Herr

Photo of acorns attached to the tree
The squirrels have been waiting all summer for this. Photo: Beth Herr

9/11     Finally, over one inch of rain fell. Oh, the sweet sound of falling water. And this weather change will trigger many critters to make a move southward.

9/12     Chatham: There was an exceptionally large flight of songbirds down the Hudson River corridor last night. An acoustic station southeast of Albany detected 4000+ flight calls of migrant warblers. There have been six nights with 2000+ calls and three nights with 3000+ calls. Last night was the first with 4000+.

This is the fourth year of monitoring fall flight calling from this location atop the Columbia Land Conservancy building in downtown Chatham. There is no indication the calling was exacerbated due to disorientation by artificial light. It appeared to be just one and sometimes two calls per individual passing over. This suggests an unusually large pulse of migrants today in the New York City area, more than 100 miles to the south.  — Bill Evans

9/12     The rain brought a huge bloom of mushrooms of every shape and color. I took a picture of the smallest I could find.

Photo of hundreds of small, white mushrooms near tree roots
How do so many appear over night? Photo: Beth Herr

9/13     Wappinger: With careful observation, it is not difficult to discern that the half-dozen ruby-throated hummingbirds stopping by our feeders now are in migration. The four local birds that spent the summer here (pair and offspring) likely left more than a week ago and are sampling someone else’s feeders to the south. The present birds are a bit more wary, a lot more skittish and frequently will not settle but rather drink from a hover.  — Tom Lake

9/16     Bedford Audubon Hawk Watch: In the first hour at the Chestnut Ridge hawk watch we saw broad-winged hawks rise from the trees and form kettles to the south and east. The next few hours were extremely busy with many healthy kettles passing through. Approximately 1,400 broad-wings were counted in one hour at midday. The total for the day reached 3,361. Non-raptor observations included seven ruby-throated hummingbirds and 48 monarch butterflies.  — Allen Kurtz, Steve Walter, Tait Johansson, Tony Loomis, Wes MacKenzie

9/18     I found these two northern walking sticks (Diapheromera femorata) preparing for egg-laying season (end of September into early October). It’s amazing how well equipped they are for this task. The eggs, which are dropped one at a time from high above the ground, overwinter in the leaf litter into which they fall. In the spring the nymphs hatch and find plants to climb. There they feed at night and hide out by day until late in the summer when the males go looking for females to start the cycle anew.  — Dave Ehnebuske

Photo of mating northern walking sticks (Diapheromera femorata) on a window
Getting ready for the next cycle. Photo: Dave Ehnebuske

9/19     While hiking at Wonder Lake State Park, I saw more than a dozen northern leopard frogs leap from the trail as I approached. They were all juveniles about the size of a quarter, and it was encouraging to see so many in spite of the lack of rain. On a log I also saw a very large slug, about four inches long, that I had never seen before. It turned out to be a spotted garden slug (Limax maximus), an introduced species from Europe. I am glad that I haven’t seen any around my garden.  — Jim Steck

9/20     A cold front blew through overnight, setting up a beautiful fall day. Surely all the hummingbirds caught the tail winds and headed south. The male hummers left a few weeks ago. Now even the females were gone – time to take in the feeders.

9/27     In case you missed it, the sun, earth and moon lined up last night to put on a show – sometimes referred to as the “blood moon.” A rare event, the last time it happened was 33 years ago. Rare because two things must occur at the same time: the moon has to be at its perigee – closest to the earth in its orbit, called a “super moon” – and the moon has to be totally eclipsed by the earth. The red coloring occurs when some of the sun’s rays get refracted through the earth’s atmosphere, landing on the shadowed moon, similar to what happens during beautiful sunsets.

Don’t worry if you did missed the show in person – put the next one on your calendar: October 8, 2033. Don’t you love it that our part of the universe is so predictable, ordered and precise? And that someone knows how to calculate these celestial movements?  — Charles Daviat

Photo of the perigee moon eclipsed by the earth
All lunar eclipses are great. But only some are super great! Photo: Charles Daviat

9/28     Pileated woodpeckers are calling during the day, and coyotes are howling at night. Increasingly at the feeder as the month wore on: fall goldfinches, white-breasted nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, an occasional house finch, chickadees, of course, and mourning doves.  — Doris Balant

Photo of fall foliage and blue sky in still water
Take the time to reflect on nature’s wonders. Photo: Dod Chahroudi

On Sunday, October 11, from 2 – 4 PM, the Kent Conservation Advisory Committee (CAC) and the Kent Conservation Foundation (KCF) will host a festival at the Mount Nimham Fire Tower to commemorate its restoration ten years ago and to celebrate its value to the community. We would be honored and delighted to have you join us.

The event will begin with a presentation of the colors followed by welcoming remarks and will feature live music, exhibits, activities for children, and the opportunity to climb to the top of the 80-foot fire tower. Please park at the DEC parking lot on Gipsy Trail Road. Since driving to the top of Mount Nimham is prohibited, shuttles will be running from the parking lot to the top beginning at 1 PM. To view a map of the area, please see docs.kentcac.info/gtdecparking.

Prior to the festival, the CAC will host its annual Fall Foliage Hike. Those who wish to participate should pack a lunch and water and meet at 11:30 AM in the DEC parking lot. The guided hike through the woods will get hikers to the top in time for the beginning of the festival.

In case of threatening weather, visit kentcac.info to find out the latest status regarding the hike and the festival.