June 2016

And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days.
— James Russell Lowell

6/1     Rare and sweet weather started the month. Lovely sunshine and breezes rustled green leaves and stirred birdsong. Blue skies with puffy white clouds morphed all day ending with a russet sunset.

6/2     I spied a baby robin in the crook of a magnolia tree, and focused my camera to take a picture. Up popped a friendly chipmunk to complete the scene. I wish I were a better photographer.   — Jim Gremlin

Photo of a chipmunk and a juvenile robin sitting in a magnolia
Chippie and Robin. Photo: Jim Gremlin

6/3     Another gorgeous breezy day added a gem to a string of summery baubles. The roadsides are dotted with color: pinks of wild sweet peas, yellows of buttercups, hawkweeds, and birds-foot trefoil, accented by chicory blues.

6/4     I took this shot in my neighbor’s stunning garden the other day – a beautiful butterfly landing on a lovely flower. As is my usual practice, I dove into Google this morning to learn a little more about both before blogging about the image. It’s an eastern tiger swallowtail, very common in eastern North America. And it’s a female because of the blue spots on the back of the wing. To attract these females into mating, the male of the species puts forth a pheromone, something akin to a perfume. Interesting what I could glean in 10 seconds, but more remarkable to me was realizing how, a relatively short time ago, I would have had to first travel to the library, and pull down and thumb through a volume from a set of 20 fat encyclopedias.  — Charles Daviat

Photo of an eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) female on flowering bush
Magic in the garden. Photo: Charles Daviat

6/6     Two families of starlings devastated a cake of suet in about 30 minutes, amid lots of squabbling, while a red-bellied woodpecker made a few attempts to get a bite. So, no more suet for a while.

6/5     Did the same supercell that passed over our house pass over yours around 7pm? It was really something here for about 15 minutes – the rain had to be coming down at a rate of about 4-6 inches an hour. We haven’t seen such a downpour since leaving Texas where we would get “Texas toad stranglers” like this one a couple of times a year. Once the cell passed by and (after flashing our lights a couple of times) the rain stopped. Just like that.  — Sabrina Court

6/5     A good soaking rain off and on all day helped replenish streams and give life to lawns, gardens, and deep forest. Aaah, a collective sigh rustled through the leaves. It was a good day for slugs, too.

6/7     A brilliant yellow-pink-purple sky was a splashy end to a beautiful June day. A mauve tinge glowed along the horizon until twilight ended at 9:45pm. Long, luxurious sunshine hours contrasted the winter sunsets of 5pm.

6/8     Yesterday’s sunny morning changed to sticky and humid after an afternoon thunderstorm rolled through. The unsettled weather lingered through today with more showers but much cooler air.

6/11     We had two raccoons bothering our hummingbird feeder this spring, a first. We put the seed feeders in a sealed bin at night to discourage raccoons (and bears) from considering our deck as a feeding area. Until now, that was the solution. Then these two raccoons with a taste for sweet water showed up. The solution was to put out a “special brew” for a couple of nights: sweet water with a few drops of Tabasco Sauce. That appears to have done the trick. They have not been back.  — Tom Fine, Brewster

6/12-14  Another string of fabulous days was highlighted by a beautiful hike in the Hudson Highlands. We walked up Mount Beacon on a side route, never reaching the top, but were rewarded with waterfalls, a sparkly reservoir, a flute performance by a woodthrush, and YIKES a rattlesnake! We spied its triangular head and went on high alert before counting the rattles. It spied us, too, and slowly moved off trail giving us a chance to breathe, marvel and snap a photo.  — Beth Herr, Lisa Amejide

Photo of timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)
Don’t tread on me! Photo: Beth Herr

6/14     A few weeks ago, the male bluebird began to proudly sit on top of the house designed for him. How delightful to watch him fly around the yard. He likes to sit on top of posts, and other open high points where he struts, watches, and perhaps admires the setting we created for him. The female would quickly dart into the house, perhaps to sit on eggs or arrange the furniture. How wonderful to be a spectator to this domestic activity.

“What! Stop!” shrieked my step daughter. We ran to watch the terrible eviction of the bluebirds. A tiny wren was throwing the little eggs out of the house. In and out he went. He then began to toss out the bedding. What is going on, why not build your own nest? Have humans now infected these gentle, humble birds with our brutish nature?  — George and Kaye Baum

Photo of broken eastern bluebird egg
Sadly, it was not to be. Photo: George Baum

Photo of house wren moving in after evicting the bluebirds
Fixing up the newly acquired property. Photo: George Baum

6/15     I was working in my backyard apiary of 7 hives. There has been intense activity with reproductive swarms. I stopped 2 of them in mid-swarm by jamming an entrance reducer across the hive opening.

I made a vertical split, separating one hive into two with a board in between the hive bodies. One box contained the swarm cells, the unhatched new queens. All the ten queen cells were in the process of being broken down. Here is a “surgical” exposure of the queen larva made by the bees. In the full frame shot, note the intact queen cell at the top right.  — Ralph Szur

Photo of an exposed honey bee queen larva.
Hives regularly cull unneeded queens. Photo: Ralph Szur

Photo of a honey bee comb in a frame with swarm cells
Frame with intact queen cell at top right. Photo: Ralph Szur

6/15     The first fireflies of the season were flying above the green at the Kent Town Center tonight.

6/17     A drive along I-84 showed the brown patches of gypsy moth infestations along the mountains near the Hudson. And a hike in the highlands on a sunny day was filled with the “raindrop” sound of frass falling from the voracious caterpillars above me. The gypsy moth defoliation was severe but isolated. Many larva showed signs of fungus, some already dead.

6/18     Turtles’ nests were dug up along White Pond Road and reports of turtles crossing the road come in. It’s egg season for turtles, but baby season for most others. Cardinals feed their young on tree branches, coyotes train their pups with and yip and yowl choruses at night, while barred owls practice. There are fawns in the forest, ducklings on the pond, bird families in the meadows, but those turtle eggs will brood underground all summer. If they are not destroyed by raccoons, coyotes, shrews or roots, the babies may hatch and crawl to the surface in September!

Photo of an almost completely buried turtle egg
Working on becoming a turtle. In September, if all goes well. Photo: Anne Smith

6/19     My morning’s walk was almost as much an olfactory experience as a visual one. The predominant fragrance in the air was that of the pervasive marsh bedstraw, possibly the sole redeeming feature of this invasive European plant. Local patches of early milkweed, privet, multiflora rose, field bindweed and even Canada thistle mixed their scents as well, as did fresh-mown fields and lawns. This reminded me of the T.S. Eliot line about a perfume collection, how it “…troubled, confused and drowned the sense in odors.”  — Nelson D. Johnson

6/19     A crow landed at the birdbath with an entire rice cake in its beak. The bird dropped the cake into the water, let it sit for 15 seconds, then retrieved it and flipped it over. After another 15 seconds, the crow grabbed it, threw it to the ground and began eating by tearing it apart. That bird felt the same way I do about rice cakes.  — Andra Sramek

6/20     I was walking out to the end of the driveway this evening, taking the trash to the curb since tomorrow is trash pick-up, when I noticed the moon was just a little more than half-full and casting very clear shadows as I crossed a section of driveway open to the sky. As I got to the end of the driveway, a group of tall trees hid the moon from view. It was then that I noticed the driveway was covered with overlapping dapples of moonlight where it shown through small gaps in the tops of the trees. Looking closely at one that was separate from the rest, I noticed something interesting. The spot of moonlight was shaped like a half ellipse. Looking at the others I noticed that they were all roughly the same shape and were all oriented in the same way – opposite to the orientation of the half-moon. The spots of moonlight I was seeing on the driveway were all rough images of the moon projected through small openings between the leaves of the trees. The trees formed a bunch of pinhole cameras, each of which was projecting a separate image of the moon!   — Dave Ehnebuske

6/20     I took a nice walk in search of the strawberry moon. I found it rising over the hill reflecting in the wetlands. I stood and soaked in the quiet of the summer solstice, lightning bugs lighting up the fields, as I watched that pink moon bleeding into the clouds.   — Jenny Tkacz

6/21     The first day of summer, like the flick of a switch, was hot, hazy, and humid. Just in time for the solstice, St. Johnswort blossoms added their sunny faces. This green immigrant, brought to America in 1696 by Rosicrusian pilgrims fleeing from Germany, was considered the sacred herb of the sun. They used it during solstice bonfires and the Dutch hung a sprig above their doors to banish the evil eye. Today, it is used as an herbal supplement for the blues.

Photo of Saint John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) in bloom
No need to be depressed. The heralds of sunny summer days are here! Photo: Beth Herr

6/21     We’ve had a week of hot sunny days and relatively cool nights and NO RAIN. A paddle around White Pond, water levels lowered during dam repair, made the drought seem more extreme. The shoreline has shrunken, exposing middens of freshwater clam shells.

6/21     Insect traps set at Bear Mountain State Park came back positive for the southern pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis), a bark beetle native to the forests of the southern United States, Mexico and Mesoamerica. They were also found in last year’s samples, indicating that the beetle is very likely established at Bear Mountain. If you are looking for a hike this weekend, we need monitors to go out and do a ground survey and look for signs of infestation. This would involve looking for any pitch pines or other pines with the rusty-red “popcorns,” “copper-tops,” or no needles at all. This is a true early detection and rapid response scenario. If you help out with this effort to locate infested trees at Bear Mountain, please let us know what you find. Contact Heather Darley, Assistant Invasives Program Coordinator at invasives@nynjtc.org.  — Linda Rohleder

Photo of southern pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis) compared to a grain of rice and a black turpentine beetle (Dendroctonus terebrans)Photo of southern pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis)
Keep a sharp eye out for these tiny invaders. You might also see their larger, less destructive cousins, the black turpentine beetle. Photos: US Forest Service

6/24     The aptly named butter-and-eggs is in flower, and common evening primrose is brightening riverside thickets, ditches and weedy areas.

6/25     Swamp azaleas bloom around Turtle Pond.  — Dod Chahroudi

Photo of swamp azalea (Rhododendron viscosum) blossom.
Worth a trip to smell these in bloom. Photo: Dod Chahroudi

6/25     For several nights we heard a strange call, off and on all night, that we identified, thanks to the Cornell allaboutbirds website, as “sustained defensive hiss” by barn owls. Barred owls were calling, too. A wood frog and a wood (box) turtle came out to watch our gardening efforts. Fireflies are starting to appear, especially on a recent rainy night. We’re seeing very few butterflies: just one spicebush swallowtail and one great spangled fritillary. We’re watching to see if monarchs will come to the few common milkweed plants (Asclepias syriaca) in our field. We also planted some swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).  — Doris Balant

6/26     Sweet, gentle rain fell after a hot afternoon, cooling the air and giving the parched plants a long overdue drink.

6/26     Bird song diminishes. Only the wren throws back its head in song all the day long. Baby birds can be heard learning their language: the barred owls practice, “Who cooks for you?”

6/28     How different the cloudy day seemed; three-quarters of an inch of rain fell yesterday and overnight. The plants, insects and mammals gulped the water and parched ground softened.

6/30     It’s interesting to see the change of bird feeder visitors over the month. Now mainly finches all day – the rosy male house finch with his little pale brown ladies and youngsters, brightened by the lovely goldfinches. Then just a bird or two from most of the earlier visitors, a lone male rose-breasted grosbeak (is he always the same one?), one or two grackles or catbirds, a nuthatch, a downy or a red-bellied woodpecker. It seems they’re saying, “Let’s eat out,” for a change from their woodland diet.

It’s fun to watch hummingbirds flying in and out through the deer fence to sample asters and echinacea in our new garden. And now we have the orchestra, led by the cardinals, veeries and thrushes fluting; house wrens filling in the obligato passages; sapsuckers on timpani; and “Wichita-Wichita” calls from the marsh.  — Doris Balant

In July

  • Watch for the full Thunder Moon on July 19
  • Listen for the insect chorus day and night
  • See frogs active in the uplands and milkweed in bloom (Are there any monarch butterflies?)
  • Look along the shore for birds beginning to migrate. In the woods the yellow warblers, waterthrushes and bobolinks leave
  • Pick wild blueberries and wineberries

Photo of an eastern red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) in bloom
After the Rain. Photo: Dave Ehnebuske

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 two coming seasons. The deadline for submitting images for the contest is October 31, 2016.