December 2017

When the month began, Kent’s lakes were filled with ducks, and eagles were reported on the reservoirs. The ground was crusted with surface ice, but moss was green and alive. Leaves crunched underfoot, black birch seeds littered the decks and walkways. By month’s end, after a record breaking cold, every lake was frozen solid and ice fishing groups had sprouted up. Two snowfalls transformed the forest with winter’s white, snow crunched under foot, prints filled with windblown birch seeds.

Close-up photo of very green moss in early December
Soon winter will cover Kent’s moss, but not today. Photo: Beth Herr

12/1     After devouring all my neighbor’s bird seed, a black bear visited my yard last night, taking down four feeders but leaving the poles standing. Sampling the buffet, the bear ate mixed seed, meal worms, and peanuts. It then took away the suet feeder with five suet logs, perhaps for a snack.  — Art Filler

12/3     Though the month of short days and long nights has begun, the witch-hazels are still blooming and fall moths are flying. The end of the day brought a winter treat – a pink, huge super moon rose early and provided bright light through the night.

12/5     Dark clouds rolled in bringing intermittent rain, but the downpour didn’t arrive until late night. A half inch of rain tamped down leaves and cleansed the air.

12/6     Rain ended by morning, and brisk winds that shifted to the north ushered the clouds away. At noon, even with the sun so close to the horizon it was a bright day. Though most leaves are gone, there was still beauty all around. Mountain ridges usually hidden by a green leaf-curtain, now border the winter-blue sky. At day’s end dark tree silhouettes stood crisp and distinct against the orange, pink and blue sunset.

Photo of gold-colored dried weeds against a bright blue winter sky
Winter paints nature with its own distinct brush. Photo: Beth Herr

12/8     Kent’s first snowfall was beautiful to behold and not so bad to drive in. Big starry flakes fell all day. The woods lay silent, dark, and deep. The neighborhoods dressed in holiday style.

12/12     Rain all day, much more than predicted, left everything soggy. Because it was warm, it smelled, too, of rich earth. But after nightfall, the wind picked up. It even sounded cold, and the deep freeze began.

12/14     Predator/Prey story in the snow. Can you read it? That does look like a wing imprint and since the animal tracks end where the wing print is, I would say the hawk had breakfast. New-fallen snow has an abundance of stories to tell. Put on your snow boots and go out to read what our animal friends are saying.  — Tore Heskestead

Photo of crow tracks and wing imprint in new snow
Nature writes in new snow. Photo: Tore Heskestead

Ed. Note: Those look like crow tracks to me. The crow seems to have walked around a bit, picked up something and then flown away.

12/13     Brrr. Wow, the howling winds increased with the daylight and still whistled after dark. Uncovered ears were painful. Bird activity slowed. Everything able to move sought cover.

12/16     Dutchess County Christmas Bird Count – section of the Dutchess Rail Trail. In addition to impressive numbers of starlings, robins, bluebirds, and cedar waxwings, we found a great blue heron hiding in a marsh in one of the few areas of open water  — Thomas and Aimee LaBarr

12/19     I was fortunate to view two immature bald eagles, maybe in between second and third year, sitting on the snow-covered ice on a small pond near Smalley Corners in Kent.  — Rich Singleton

12/21     Some KCAC members and friends gathered around a solstice bone-fire: pieces of 2-inch planks from 1940, debris from the fire tower landing replacement project, provided the base and the substance for renewal. Black birch branches added fragrance, balsam the customary evergreen, and two bones to keep away the dragons. The flames quickly enveloped the old, dry wood and strong winds whipped sparks and smoke upwards. The group stood witness to the wobble of the sun. Nine hours of daylight preceded the longest night of the year. Some tossed a twig in release, and all were grateful for the inevitable tilt towards spring and renewal.

12/23     Two days after the solstice, daylight increased by one minute. In two weeks, queen honey bees will begin to lay eggs.

12/24     Christmas Eve day on Nichol’s Street causeway was filled with winter drama with clouds dancing in the waters, a mallard pair feeding by the island, and some ghost rocks trapped on the icy side waiting, like me, for the spring thaw.  — Diana Lee

Photo of two rocks on the ice of a frozen reservoir
The ice is definitely getting thicker. Photo: Diana Lee

12/25     Putnam residents awakened to a White Christmas thanks to a three-inch snowfall that blanketed the Hudson Valley. Highway crews plowed, salted, and sanded roads for those venturing out-of-doors while strong winds pushed trees and limbs onto electric lines interrupting power for thousands of residents of east Putnam and kept utility linemen busy.  — Eric Gross as reported in The Putnam County News and Recorder

12/25     It had snowed last night and on the lawn I saw two suspicious reindeer.  — Ralph Szur

Photo looking down on a pair of snow-covered, rustic wooden reindeer statues.
The snow and cold almost brought last night’s prancing and pawing to a frozen stop. photo: Ralph Szur

12/26     Temps plunged as frigid polar air blued weather maps and kept all but the hardy indoors. The winds were stinging, unrelenting, but blue skies warmed the scene through the window glass.

Photo of snow-covered creek, woods and blue skies
Don’t miss it all by staying in until spring. Photo: Beth Herr

12/29     We have had a very active pileated woodpecker that flies tree-to-tree and calls to/at us whenever we are working outside (which we were doing up until about a week ago!). My mom just saw a hairy woodpecker at the feeder today. In general, they make themselves scarce, but maybe the harsh conditions are putting more pressure on them to come for the suet. We also had several deer checking out the feeder area today, and have had a possum as a regular “customer” for most of December.  — Anne Campbell

12/30     It was a lousy day for the annual Putnam County Christmas bird count. Some brave birders listened for owls in the dark hours before daybreak when it was only 4°. It was cloudy and gray, then visibility worsened with snow showers. Most birds were hunkered down in brush. Still, bird watchers waddled through the snow in search of anything on the wing. There were some delights: hermit thrushes puffed-up in the branches watching the snow, bluebirds and sapsuckers, and we even saw whet owls.

12/31     The year ends with the third coldest New Year’s Eve on record. Zero degrees at sunrise; the air so cold nostrils stick together, beards grow ice and cheeks glow red.

Photo of winter sunset over a reservoir
Sunset comes early and cold, but still beautiful. Photo: Beth Herr

In January

  • Look up at night: winter stargazing is amazingly clear for the full Trees Cracking Moon on January 2, and Orion the Hunter among winter constellations
  • Watch the birds: feeder activity is high on cold days. Woodpecker pairs are courting, great horned owls are on their nests. And watch the squirrels too, running around trees in mating frenzy.
  • Follow animal tracks in the snow: mice feeding on grass shoots and bark, birds feeding on birch seeds, coyotes and fox on the hunt, bobcat traipsing the length of fallen logs. Find life on the snow too: snow fleas around tree trunks, ribbon-winged stoneflies near stream banks.
  • If there is a January thaw, honeybees and other insects may fly about