January 2016

1/1     The new year began for sixteen nature lovers with KCAC’s New Year’s Day Ramble at Fred Dill Wildlife Sanctuary. What a perfect way to get planted in 2016. We walked in from the southern end, skirting Turtle Pond and stopping to ponder stone foundations and wolf oak trees. Once behind the hills and out of the wind, the tranquility in the midst of Carmel was remarkable. The rattle of the American beech leaves, the examination of our most common shrubs (spicebush, ironwood, hop hornbeam), and the discussion of neighbors was most interesting.

Photo of hikers in the woods on New Year's Day 2016
A lovely way to begin the new year. Photo: Ralph Szur

1/2     Some were up at 4:30am to look for owls as part of the 62nd Annual Putnam County Christmas Bird Count. More than 80 bird and nature enthusiasts became citizen scientists and added to a local and national database. It was a raw day with a relentless bone-chilling wind, but the naturalists stayed out until sunset. The birds stayed low in the thickets and were difficult to see in the low light. But with most bodies of water still ice-free, the numbers of ducks and geese were high. Here is the summary:

“We counted over 19,000 birds, an increase of 5,000 from last year. We had 79 species, two more than last year, and no Count Week birds unless somebody saw a ruby-crowned kinglet or snow goose by Tuesday night, January 5. The birds of note this year were first a broad-winged hawk. In 61 years of counting, only one other was reported. Also this year there was a big effort for owls, and birders were rewarded with not one but two saw-whet owls. Other uncommon birds reported were common loons, American widgeon, wood ducks, double-crested cormorants, peregrine falcons, 13 red-shouldered hawks (a new high), eastern towhee and fox sparrow. This was the first time we had no winter finches on the Putnam Count (including red-breasted nuthatch). Most impressive this year was the number of eastern bluebirds, beating the old record by about two hundred.”  — Charlie Roberts

Those whose bird-count areas included the Hudson River had huge numbers of snow geese to report. Here’s one example:

“We totaled 67 species of birds during this year’s Troy Christmas Bird Count. Among the highlights were between 7,330 and 19,229 snow geese (depending on which enormous flocks might have been double-counted). These were followed closely by roughly 15,650 Canada geese. The next most numerous were 3,948 European starlings, 2,400 American crows, 1,243 ring-billed gulls, and 1,033 herring gulls. A lark sparrow was new to our count.”  — Larry Alden

1/4     As I biked past Dean Pond at 3pm with the temperature a brisk 19°, I noticed that the northwest wind was piling wavelets against the shore creating skim ice along the edges. Forecast temp tonight, 7. Winter is here.  — Ralph Szur

Photo of skim ice along the edge of Dean Pond
Beautiful, fantastic shapes from simple processes. Photo: Ralph Szur

1/4     It was 26° this morning, a colder morning than most lately. The mercury fell still lower as frigid polar air pummeled Kent all day long. Birds stayed low and under cover, waterfowl left Lake Carmel (last night?), people bundled up or stayed inside. Ice has formed on small pools and wetlands, and has begun to rim the lakes.

1/5     This is a trail camera photo taken at 9am of what? Weasel? Fisher? It’s too small to be otter. It’s poking around the top of a beaver lodge.  — Gordon Douglas

Ed. Note: This is a nice image of a mink. They are active all winter long and hungry!

Photo of mink on a beaver lodge.
Just looking for breakfast. Photo: Gordon Douglas

1/5     Winds from the north howled all night long last night. There was still a bitter breeze this morning with the temperature at 4°. By day’s end, Dean Pond, Lake Carmel and all the little lakes in Kent were completely covered in ice. The sky was so clear, the sun so bright, with nary a cloud in sight.

1/6     The north wind has veered westerly and become almost calm. The sky is still clear and cloudless. While it reached 40° today, ice continued to thicken. A small group of ruddy ducks stood on one leg near a small patch of open water at the Lake Carmel causeway. Perhaps they were contemplating a move south to open water.

1/9     A dreary day, with drizzle just slicking up everything but not really getting things truly wet.

1/10     The warmest December on record made a seasonal cold snap in early January seem more severe than it actually was. The cold snap was followed by warming temperatures and a severe rainstorm – which thankfully didn’t turn into a blizzard. Immediately following the rainstorm, the wind was moving “waves of rainwater“ across the ice when the sun broke out and created a beautiful double rainbow over South Lake.  — Lou Tartaro

Phot of double rainbow over South Lake
Two for the price of one! Photo: Lou Tartaro

1/10     Lots of rain last night and today, accompanied by strong winds (40-60 mph), thunder, lightning, power outages, and to finish it all off, a wonderful rainbow. The resident beaver family on our pond must be in a state of panic. All of that lost water over the dam!  — John Askildsen

1/10     A double rainbow reflecting in the thin ice of Putnam Lake. I caught a glance of this from my window and ran down to the lake as quick as I could.  — Justin Goodhart

Photo of double rainbow over Putnam Lake
You can almost see the pot o’ gold. Photo: Justin Goodhart

1/10     A sodden, gray morning lowered to a drenching all-day downpour. Waves of rain soaked the Kent hillsides – one and a half inches – and awakened the streams. Tree branches were draped in raindrop crystals. Temperatures rose to an unbelievable-for-mid-January 58°. At sunset, the cloud line edged a golden sky. Winds kicked up ushering in clear, cold, clean air.

Photo of sunset through rain-drenched screen
The rainbow was on the other side of the house. Photo: Beth Herr

1/11     It was the end of a cold winter’s day. At last light, with not a cloud in the sky and only a tiny sliver of moon, there was a soft orange border on the horizon. With stiff westerlies as a tailwind, four flocks of high-flyer geese came over, two abreast. They sounded like Canada geese but all I could see was their black silhouettes against a teal blue sky.  — Tom Lake

1/12     Just enough snow to dust the landscape with white and highlight the dark: little black tracks of mice and skunks on the driveway, the circles of open water rimmed with ice, and the black tree trunks trimmed in white. A lone, black silhouette on the edge of the ice in the center of Dean Pond, a muskrat sat grooming and thinking what a great winter this has been for muskrats.

Photo of muskrat at the edge of the ice on Dean Pond
A muskrat sat grooming and thinking. Photo: Beth Herr

1/14     Fahnestock State Park’s Pelton Pond was frozen over and covered with a light dusting of snow. The edge had a skirt of slightly deeper snow and I found the tracks of a coyote that had walked along the edge. There was at least enough ice for a 40-pound canid. As seen here before in winter, bluebirds were flitting among evergreen shrubs. Whenever the drabness of winter gets me down, I search for bluebirds; they have no equal in brightening the day.  — Tom Lake

1/15     The first ice fishing aficionado set up shop on northern Lake Carmel. The ice was thick enough to drill a hole in the center.

1/16     Yesterday afternoon I was looking over Little Pond and spied a pair of bluebirds flying from tree to tree. They had located a large, dead snag and the female appeared to be actively searching in the tree’s hollowed out cavities for a suitable nest. I was surprised to see this behavior so early in January.  — John Foley

1/18     For two days the wind has been relentless. Bitter cold blasts whip leaves into whirlwinds, and push bundled up humans inside as soon as possible.

1/23     The barometric pressure dropped throughout the night. Light snow began to fall at daybreak. It snowed all day, and hushed the hills. The occasional snowplow and the sound of the train in Patterson – audible in central Kent only during a low pressure system – were the only reminders of human life. Everyone hunkered down. Except the birds of course. Active the day long, and mindless of the howling wind, they brighten up an otherwise muted day.

Photo of snowy woodlans with ski tracks
Where we’ve been. Photo: Beth Herr

1/24     I left work last night at 4:30pm and got home by 6pm. The roads were pretty well cleared of snow from I-95 in Westchester, all the way to Dutchess County. Little to no traffic was a big plus for me. Interestingly, after exiting “Snowmageddon land,” I arrived home to find not one flake of snow on the ground. There was a distinct snow line about 8 miles south of my house where the snow just stopped, as though someone had turned off a weather switch. I stopped in Millbrook Village to pick up a few things and everything was quite normal except for my car, which was completely encrusted in ice and snow. I parked in front of Marona’s Market and people actually paused for a moment to look at my car with a slight expression of surprise.  — John Askildsen

1/24     It’s hard to tell how many inches of snow fell in Kent. The stiff winds piled the snow in three-foot drifts in some spots, and exposed grass in others. Light and fluffy, the 10 inches or so of brilliant white transformed the land. The wind howled all day, but the sky was a deep blue, the air clean, the snow sparkly.

1/24     Two days after the storm, the snow has melted from the top by the sun and wind, and from the bottom by the warm soil. Now there are only four inches of snow, but that’s still enough to ski on!

1/31     Launching kayaks across the ice, we paddled in open water surrounded by icy plates ringing trees along the East Branch of the Croton River. Slow moving parts of the river are still solid, quiet, and brooding. More open parts house a healthy flock of geese, a mallard couple, foraging chickadees, and the kingfisher whose call cheers the heart. The unexpected 56° day was a bone-warming surprise. Coming around a meander, a mahogany question mark revealed itself as an intrepid mink. A few hops and a fast swim across the river and – gone!  — Diana Lee

Photo taken from kayak of ice along the Croton East Branch
Icebreakers on the Croton. Photo: Diana Lee

1/31     It was a balmy 60° this afternoon and once again the honey bees were flying. This January “thaw” gives them a window to have a cleansing flight as they won’t defecate in their hive. It also was an opportunity for me to add 2 lbs of sugar cakes per hive to provide supplemental food.  — Ralph Szur

In February

  • Come to the Nature Lover’s Valentine’s Day Hike, Sunday, February 14 at 1pm for a walk around Lake Gleneida. Meet at the NYCDEP kiosk. Park on Route 301 across from the court house.
  • Discover Kent Town Center’s backyard. Meet at the Kent Public Library on Saturday, February 20 at 1:30pm. After a short introduction, hikers will go outside to learn to identify rocks, winter trees and discover how animals spend the winter. Perfect for the whole family, this outing is a part of the Town of Kent’s Winter Festival.
  • Watch for blooms of skunk cabbage and furry pussy willows.
  • Don’t miss the Full Hunger Moon on February 22.
  • Listen for yelps marking the mating season for foxes
  • Watch for tracks and smells of love-struck skunks.
  • Keep an eye open for the return of the red-winged blackbirds.
  • See if you can spot maple sap drips from broken branches.
  • Watch willow branches turn yellow and red maples make the mountain sides blush.

Photo of ice forming between sedge and moss clumps
Geometry in nature. Photo: Beth Herr

Kent Nature Almanac Photo Competition

Grab your camera and capture the nature of Kent. Send your best images to enter a juried photo competition. The winning photos will be exhibited at the Kent Public Library for the month of December and will be included in the Kent Nature Almanac. Beautiful scenery is easy to find in our town. Abundant biodiversity awaits in Kent’s lakes, cliffs, forests and backyards. Focus your camera and capture the beauty.

A maximum of three submissions per photographer will be considered for the show. They will be judged on artistic merit and how they express an aspect of nature in Kent. Explain where and why you took the photos. Recommended photo size: 1920 x 2400 pixels or larger.

Send to: herrszur@comcast.net

There is time to capture a winning image in the four coming seasons. The deadline for submitting images for the contest is October 31, 2016.