July 2015

7/1     The first day of the Thunder Moon month began with a ripping storm at 5am dumping a half-inch of water in just an hour. Other regions had damaging winds, but Kent skirted the worst. By mid-morning, skies had cleared and a breezy, warm day followed.

7/2     From the beekeeper: Basswood is out. Bright yellow pollen from one single blossom, during the right weather conditions, can provide a honeybee with its full load. I’ve observed foragers working trees in levels – honeybees at the top and bumblebees lower. Standing under a grove of five full-grown trees on a warm sunny day is a nice mental adjustment and it smells good. Also still going strong is white milkweed, Canada thistle, common milkweed and white clover. In the offing I see summer sweet, Virginia creeper, poison ivy and the much-ado-about-nothing button bush.  — Bill Hesbeck

7/2     Fall migration has begun. I saw several adult ring-billed gulls winging down the Hudson River over the last two days. Their numbers will increase steadily now.  — Richard Guthrie

7/3     Sunny, brilliant day with low humidity, high-flying insects and fireworks ready to soar.

7/4     I saw one gray fox kit and one adult (presumably mother) this evening at dusk. They occasionally amble through the yard, so the den is likely nearby. The kit even went up a tree.  — Patricia Loquet

Through a unique adaptation in its claws, the gray fox, Urocyon cinereoargenteus, has the ability to climb – mostly scramble – up trees. This offers two major advantages: avoiding predators and expanding their range of food sources to include birds’ nests and eggs.  — Tom Lake

7/4     A hot, sunny Fourth of July. The evening was a sultry stage for fancy fireworks over Lake Carmel.

7/5     Fishkill: If I hadn’t seen this with my own eyes, I would not have believed it. A fledgling blue jay had been hanging around my yard for two days. It was able to hop but not fly. An adult blue jay had also been around, raising a ruckus with anybody or anything that might get a little too close to the little one hopping across the lawn, me included. This morning I looked at a bird bath that sits directly on the ground and perched on the rim was the little blue jay. In the five minutes I watched, two robins brought mouths-full of worms and insects. One waited patiently as the first robin fed the baby, and then took its turn feeding the little one. Robins feeding a blue jay? Neither returned, but the baby blue jay sat there happy.  — Andra Sramek

7/7     A nice southerly breeze kicked up today. In the afternoon thunderstorms skirted Kent all afternoon. Two separate boomers late in the day brought drenching downpours. The sound of the rainfall was heard long before it arrived, with a sustained soft sizzle in the distance for many minutes. Kent must have been just on the edge as the storm marched north. Afterwards the air was steaming, leaves were dripping, and the laundry was soaked with a third rinse.

Birdsong was still heard on this sunny July day. The wrens chattered incessantly of course, but also heard through the forest were the indigo buntings and happy goldfinches. Scarlet tanagers and peewees called. The dawn chorus was not as robust, but the sound of crickets and katydids made up the difference.

7/8     I was biking along the bike trail in Carmel when I found this hand-sized snapper crawling along the tarmac. It had freshly crawled out of a rain-swollen drainage stream running along the trail near the outflow of Lake Casse near Mahopac.  — Ralph Szur

Photo of a hand-sized common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina)
Hope you stick around for a long time. Photo: Ralph Szur

7/8     All the nice rain storms have produced a bumper crop of mushrooms. While walking in the woods I spied purple, orange, yellow, brown and white mushrooms popping up from the duff. There were trumpets and amanitas, corals and shelves. In the shopping bag were enough tasty treats for a gourmet dinner.

Photo of shopping bag containing wild mushrooms
Looks like dinner. Photo: Beth Herr

7/9     I was photographing in the early morning fog from a perfect perch among the pines. I felt the eerie, shiver-down-your-spine feeling when something oh-so-light brushes against your neck. I rubbed my neck and turned quickly just as the sun burned through the mist and backlit this spiderweb. Click! Click! The sun disappeared into the haze pretty much taking the web from sight as well.

Photo of a spiderweb against a cloudy sky
A momentary apparition. Photo: Charles Daviat

And it’s not just the things that escape your view. There are often mysteries beneath these visuals as well. Did you ever wonder why a spider doesn’t get caught in its own sticky web? Well, apparently over the hundred million years these eight-legged air-breathing arthropods have been building webs, they’ve developed several kinds of silk: some sticky for catching prey, some not sticky for building and walking on, some specialized for wrapping up dinner. The silk is stronger than steel relative to its weight, and much more flexible. I won’t get into the fascinating way these webs are built or how spiders (who don’t see very well) can tell when lunch has arrived. But you get the point. There is all this interesting stuff going on around us all the time.  — Charles Daviat

7/16     I discovered the reason I’ve seen dead bees hanging off milkweed. A visiting bee must accidentally slide one of its legs through a slit in the petals and into the interior of the flower. One of the sticky glandular structures with its two pollen-containing pollinia must become stuck to the bee’s leg. Unless the bee successfully removes both leg and attached gland and pollen sacs from the slit, the leg may be left behind, or the bee may die being permanently stuck to the flower.  — Bill Hesbeck

Photo of swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) in bloom
Milkweed feeds many species. Photo: Beth Herr

7/16     I walked along the meadow trail connecting the Nimham Mountain State Forest on Gypsy Trail Road at the border with the northern part of Putnam County Veterans’ Memorial Park. The three large meadows have not been mowed for years and have started to return to forest. But there were sunny edges for milkweed and Canada thistle to thrive, and a bright yellow carpet of bird’s foot trefoil in the grassy edges. Pollinators of all shapes and sizes made the warm air hum and buzz. Bees, bee flies, wasps, beetles and butterflies flitted by. Or fritted by. Large great spangled fritillaries erratically and quickly fritted by forest edges then stopped on the fragrant milkweed to feed. The silver on their underwings sparkled, the upper wings warmed to deep orange.

Other butterflies about were orange sulphurs, dun skippers and the big yellow tiger swallowtails. Many wood satyrs slowly and lowly lilted along in the shade. But the greatest thrill of the walk was a gray beauty: a banded hairstreak, beautiful and new. It provided a great show, sawing its wings to attract attention to fake antennae and eyespots.

Photo of a banded hairstreak (Satyrium calanus) on a milkweed bloom
Bands on the wings, bands on the legs, bands on the antennae. Photo: Beth Herr

Warm days, and very cool nights in the low 50s provided a break from the three H’s – heat, humidity and haze. Gray tree frogs called loudly hoping for a soaker.

7/18     Today’s scheduled butterfly count was dampened and canceled by steady early morning rain and oppressive humidity. Not an insect was flying – wasp, bee or butterfly – but hanging instead below the leaves waiting for sunlight to dry the air and warm flight muscles. Later in the day, things changed. Our sun showed its face and cranked up the thermostat. And the air was buzzing again with insect business.

7/19     This was a good day to see and count winged beauties: early sunshine, little breeze, but the humidity made it tough for the counters. Starting at the meadows in Nimham Mountain State Forest on Gypsy Trail Road, and stepping into puddles of shade, five newbie butterfliers watched for flutter-bys on milkweeds, thistles and clover. Eastern tailed blues delighted the eye, sulphurs raced, dun skippers confused, while the most numerous butterflies seen were also the largest in size: great spangled fritillaries showed burnt orange above and creamy yellow below. When these butterflies stopped to feed on flowers and banked their wings to the sun, silver bangles shimmered and oohs and aahs were heard. They fritted about all day, living up to their name. Also seen later at the Dean Pond Unit meadows on Horsepound Road: wood nymphs, hairstreaks, tiger swallowtails and a beautiful red-spotted purple.

Photo of a red-spotted Purple butterfly (Limenitis arthemis astyanax) resting with wings open
How can they be so stunning? Photo: Beth Herr

7/19     A baby robin showed up on our fountain. It is scared literally stiff and has barely moved in an hour. Kaye feels I should feed it by masticating a worm. Any other suggestions?  — George Baum

Ed. note: Baby robins, and other young birds, often leave the nests and then are fed by doting parents who follow and feed them. Watch for the begging posture and flutter of wings.

7/19     I picked a pocketful and several mouthfuls of sweet blueberries.

Photo of lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) with berries
Organic, fast, healthy and free. Photo: Beth Herr

7/20     Hot, hot, hot. The best place to be today was near water. A kayak excursion through the Hudson Highlands was a great reminder of the beauty, history, and nature of our home. The sharp-pointed seeds of the water chestnut, called devil’s heads, littered the shore. Marsh mallows, prickly pear cactus, and many berry bushes decorated the scene. Ducks and geese sat in the shade under the mulberry trees just waiting for the tasty fruit to fall their way – an easy meal for a lazy summer day.

7/21     After a hot dry stretch of 90° days, a late afternoon thunderstorm quenched the land. The roadways steamed. The air stilled. The humidity was enough to bring the snails out into view. Both the invasive brown-lipped snail, and the native oval amber snail were abundant on the green stems.

Photo of an oval amber snail (Novisuccinea ovalis) on a leaf
Oval amber snail, Novisuccinea ovalis. Photo: Beth Herr

Photo of a brown-lipped snail (Cepaea nemoralis) on a plant stem
Brown-lipped snail, Cepaea nemoralis. Photo: Beth Herr

7/22     Heard the first cicada call today, a sure sign that summer is at its peak. The decline is soon to follow as goldenrods and Queen Anne’s lace begin to bloom.

7/23     The bluebirds have started a third family for this summer with four azure eggs in the nest. No need for mother bluebird to brood the eggs; it is warm enough for her to feed herself while waiting for the little ones to hatch.

7/30     Well, the end of the story is pictured below but getting there wasn’t so easy.  — Charles Daviat

Photo of an eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis) nest with eggs
Brood number three. Whew! Photo: Charles Daviat

7/31     Danced with our moon-shadows by the light of the first blue moon since August 2012.  — Dave and Jean Ehnebuske

In August

  • Pesky yellow jackets near picnic sweets show thay’ve changed their diet from proteins to sugars
  • Barn swallows and tree swallows begin to gather
  • The Perseid meteor shower puts on its annual show August 11-13
  • Shorebirds, yellow warblers and northern waterthrushes already begin to move south
  • Mornings become quiet, hot afternoons fill with the buzz of cicadas and the ratchet-scratchet of katydids announce nightfall
  • Spiderwebs become more abundant and bejeweled on dewy mornings
  • Asters and goldenrods begin to bloom
  • The full Green Corn moon appears on August 29

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