January 2018

Photos of needle ice formed on the lintel of the Mead Farm stone chamber
Photos of ice needles on the ceiling and ice stalagmites on the floor of the Mead Farm stone chamber
I know how ice needles form, but not cylindrical, flat-topped ice stalagmites. Photo: Eli Campbell

Photo of ice needles on the lintel of the Mead Farm stone chamber Closeup photo of ice needles on the lintel of the Mead Farm stone chamers lintel Photo of ice needles on the ceiling of the Mead Farm stone chamber Photo of the interior of the Mead Farm stone chamber showing ice stalagmites on the chamber floor

The frigid temperature, unique environment and hydrology of the stone chamber at the Mead Farm site created fantastic ice formations inside. Located along the trail to Hawk Rock, near the geographic center of our town, the chamber is worth hiking to see. Thanks to photographer Eli Campbell for venturing out on a freezing day to capture and share the scene. You’ve probably seen another of Eli’s photos – the huge photograph of autumn hanging in the foyer of Kent Town Hall.

1/1     We had a full “supermoon” on this frigid (-5° F) evening that was about seven percent larger than the average full moon. Supermoons occur when a full moon coincides with lunar perigee, when the moon is closest to the earth. This week’s supermoon was the second in a rare trilogy of supermoons: December 3, January 1, and January 31. The full moon of January was also called the Wolf Moon by native Algonquian peoples.  — Dave Lindemann.

1/1     The coldest New Year’s Day in 100 years with temperatures below freezing since Christmas Day was a chilly way to start the year. Ice thickened on ponds, streams, and lakes. Even Lake Gleneida’s edges whitened. Rhododendron leaves curled like green cigars, white pine needle clusters gathered and drooped, and birds hunkered in the pines, their feathered puffed. Brrr!

1/2     Several different golden eagles were spotted in Dutchess County today. There was an adult and an immature near Pine Plains and an adult in Dover Plains at the Ten Mile River Preserve. There has also been another immature near Stissing Mountain. In addition, in the last week, there was a golden eagle in Millbrook at Tamarack Pond, another golden eagle in Red Hook, and yet another in Amenia. I would guess that we are dealing with somewhere in the neighborhood of 4-6 individual golden eagles. These birds are still migrating and moving in and out, so they may well be just passing through the region.  — John Askildsen

1/2     In search of green, i tracked down an old spring to see if, even in below zero temps, the water would bubble up from the ground. Sure enough, water whorled silver sands as it seeped up at 46.8°. It was warm enough for life: brilliant green pond weed and water cress were encircled by rime ice crystals. The spring-like microclimate was a winter garden delight.

Photo of pond weed in a seep-fed pool, green while surrounded by snow
If there’s an ecological niche, even a small one, something will fill it. Photo: Beth Herr

1/2     The full wolf moon was huge as it rose tonight in the east. It was indeed super, appearing larger than usual with its close proximity to earth.

1/4     Snow had been merely mentioned for days, but this morning the “dusting” of snow became a bombogenesis, a cyclone bomb! What a storm. It thrashed and throttled Kent. It blasted the snow horizontally. Snowplows cleared roadways only to have it drift right back. Even after dark the wind raged.

1/5     The day after the Blizzard of 2018 we awoke to drifts, scallops, and scours. X-country skiing was fast on powdery snow, no discernible animal tracks yet. It was too cold at -3° last night.

1/6     It continued to howl the whole day long. It has been more than 36 hours of blasting, shrieking, endless wind. The only animal activity was at the bird feeder, as seemingly all life lay low.

1/7     We had a beautiful sunrise with clear, warm skies, low thermometer (-4°) but oh, what was that? Quiet…the wind had finally stopped and how loud the silence was!

1/8     I spotted otter tracks in and out of open water and crossing my bridge. I’ve seen the river otters frolicking and hunting only three times in the 37 years I’ve lived here. They’re a joy to behold!

Two hundred yards upstream the land is level, making a swamp of about 20 acres. Walking further back to my stable, tool shed, well house, and tea house with an inch of recent snow I saw tracks of many species of mammals and birds. Lots of life out there!  — Steve Miller

Photo of otter tracks in snow leading off into the distant woods.
Evidence of active otters. (Try saying that fast three times.) Photo: Steve Miller

1/10     For the first time in weeks the air was above freezing, and oh how balmy it felt. The snow melted a little, puddles formed, and cars sprayed salty grime. Away from the hustle-bustle, out in the frozen Great Swamp in Patterson, all was quiet. Wonderfully quiet. There was no wind, just the occasional drip of melting snow and soft bird song. While skiing in the floodplain, I discovered it was not so frozen after all. The warm mud was melting the snow from underneath. Better to ski away from the main channel today!

1/11     It felt like summer today; 50° can feel chilly or warm depending on the time of year. Today warmth was welcome. Snow dissolved on roadways only to be picked up by passing cars and flung on each other as gritty brine. It melted in the woods, softening animal tracks. While skiing along the Maybrook rail line in Holmes, I came across the track of a bounder – a squirrel or a mustelid (mink, otter, fisher) whose feet loped in tandem. Each paw print had filled with black birch seeds. These little tridents are consumed by many birds and mammals and are an important food source when all else is frozen solid. Falling in spirals from a woody stem, the three-pointed scales cradle tasty nutlets.

Photo of the seed-filled tracks of a small bounding animal in snow. Photo Beth Herr
Phoro closeups of birch seeds
Birch seeds accumulate in indentations in snow. Photos: Beth Herr

Medioum closeup photo of birch seeds including some on a twig Closeup photo of birch seeds

1/12     A wall of pink awaited early risers this morning as a red sky in morning backlit the fog. Sailors took warning, rain followed, a drenching all-day rain, with wind mixed in. With snow-melt fog and dreary rain, the only good weather news was the temperature: 56°.

1/13     Well, what a week it has been. We went from -10° on Sunday morning, to 60° yesterday – a 70-degree change in January! Today it will go up to 35° and tonight go back down to around 0°! We had 8 inches or so of snow on the ground and almost all bodies of water were frozen. We had heavy rain for 36 hours along with the 60° temperatures, and now everything has melted. The rain is still pounding on the roof as I write.  — John Askildsen

1/14     This afternoon we went up to Bull’s Bridge to see the river with all the rain and snow melt. It was wicked. The water was the color of coffee and ripping. Then we headed up to Kent, Connecticut. On the way, I noticed the ice was breaking up in chunks as big as cars and buses. I looked in the rear view and saw the Housatonic river and blocks of ice breach Route 7!

Looking out over the river, it was in full break-up. The river was backing up weeks of below normal temp snow and ice. I was frightened. We rounded a bend and spotted a truck turning around to avoid the water on the road ahead. I told him it was far worse behind me. I drove through the water. Dangerous, I know, but there was no way we would have had time to get out before being taken in a cold river with fast moving ice. We obviously made it; so did the truck, but no one else came through after we did. There were voles and mice running up Route 7 and on slabs of ice bigger than my dining room table. We were lucky. It all happened in less than five minutes. We took the long way home.  — Jim Eyring

Photo of an ice dam starting to break up
At the moment it’s holding back a lot of water and ice. But when it starts moving, … Photo: Beth Herr

1/14     Runoff continues as the temperature plunges again, ditto the blasting winds. After the wind dies down, it will be time to go for an icicle hunt.

Photo of icicles and flow ice on the edge of a cliff
Guess who found the most icicles. Photo: Beth Herr

1/15     It was a cold morning walk, but the treasure i spied warmed my heart: ice crystals encircling a hole at my feet was evidence of a little mammal hidden in the tall grass, its breath frozen in time.

Photo of the entrance to a mole's burrow, surrounded by ice rime
Still breathing, I see. Photo: Beth Herr

1/17     It was gloomy yesterday as dark clouds hung low, but the predicted snow did not arrive until after dark. The flakes fell silently with no one to see; by morning a few inches coated the pines and tree branches. It continued to snow lightly half the day, which meant digging out cars, shoveling snow, plowing driveways, and taking a moment to enjoy the transformed landscape.

1/18     After the recent snowy, cold days, I found a red-shouldered hawk eyeing the bird feeder. A blue jay almost collided with her and then proceeded to call and torment her until she flew away.  — Diana Lee.

1/21     I came across this interesting ice display and immediately thought of Andy Goldsworthy – had he been here? Could it be? Well, probably not, but still a sight worth contemplating in its own natural beauty.  — Diana Lee

Photo of a circular sheet of ice, collapsed in the center, that formed over a now-drained puddle
Sometimes nature imitates art. Photo: Diana Lee

1/26     A mild weekend melted the last of the snow and the ice turned a leaden gray on Kent’s lakes and ponds. Many changes in the “dead” of winter.

1/28     Tonight there was a golden glow on the ridgeline. Look at the view from my front door as I went to bring in fire wood for the night.  — Tore Heskestead

Guess which direction Tore’s front door faces. Photo: Tore Heskestead

1/28     A late afternoon visitor came padding across the yard in front of the apiary. The trail cam caught Mr. Fox as he traversed the deer route in our yard.

Photo of a fox walking in a snowy landscape
Just looking for something to eat. Photo: Ralph Szur

1/29     Here are some of the 70+ cowbirds which have been visiting and decimating our bird seed almost daily since mid-January. We were concerned about loss of other bird species, especially warblers, due to the cowbirds’ unlovely habit of parasitizing other birds’ nests, but, according to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, their studies show that fragmentation and loss of habitat are mainly responsible for the decline of other songbirds. We also saw a couple of red-wings in the flock. Also, a ’possum has been dining pretty regularly on birdseed too, quite unbothered by the presence of humans or cats. There are actually three sheltering in Bruce’s shop.  — From the Campbell-Balant homestead.

You say we’re obligate brood parasites. We say we’re just gregarious nomads. Photo: Doris Balant

In February

  • Look to the skies:
    • The α-Centaurids meteors shoot across the sky on February 7,
    • A partial solar eclipse will dim the sun on February 15 in parts of Antarctica and southern South America,
    • Mercury will reach its greatest brightness on February 18 and
    • The Full Hunger Moon shines on February 28
  • Watch for snow fleas on snow, tunnels under snow, and animal tracks everywhere
  • Listen for foxes yelping (it’s mating season) and spring bird song on warm days
  • Sniff for skunks who may be out on milder evenings. (Yep, mating season – males can see tracks and smell female scents at night.)
  • Get ready for signs of spring: skunk cabbage flowers poke through the snow, red-winged blackbirds return