June-July 2018

6/1     This year's grand and fragrant display of black locust blossoms was now coming to its end. Black locusts reportedly produce abundant crops every other year or so, but this year the blossoms were especially profuse. From underneath a mixed stand of trees, flowering locust branches can be difficult to notice because even the lowest may be high overhead, with the locust's presence evident only as a white carpet of shed blossoms. From a distance, the locusts are more apparent, standing out in white stands against the green canopy.  — Nelson D. Johnson

6/1     For many years now the first part of June has brought a big snapping turtle to a dry sunny part of my yard to lay her eggs. I'm happy to report that this year was no exception, though the date of her arrival was about ten days earlier than in the past. It's interesting that she always chooses the same spot to within just a few feet.  — Dave Ehnebuske

I was here before you arrived and I'll be here after you're gone. Photo: Dave Ehnebuske

6/9     Unfortunately, a wood turtle laid her eggs inside our electrified garden fenced and wired enclosure. Wondering how she got in, and hoping she and babies can get out without getting electrocuted!  — Doris Balant

(Ed. note: Wood turtles have been photographed climbing fences; they are very agile for a turtle. As for the young, if they make it, they will hatch out underground on a warm day in September. About the size of a quarter the hatchlings may be able to walk right through. Keep a watch for them!)

6/10     Another cloudy and cool day, after a stretch of gloom. The bees don't seem to mind buzzing flowers, but the warmth and light of the sun is missing. It almost seems like another season, with cottonwood seeds floating on the wind like large snowflakes. Rolls of white fluff tumbled to road edges by the wind, and lined Kent's byways like a plow line. Up close, the seeds were dazzling.

Photo of sprigs of cottonwood seeds with the seed pods split open and the fluff showing
Like so many things in nature, these are amazing when viewed close up. Photo: Beth Herr

6/12     It was a fine, dry day, perfect for graffiti removal at the Mt. Nimham Fire Tower with Kent Conservation Foundation. Several volunteers stepped up to power wash paint from bedrock outcrops along the trail and from the stone chamber, while others stepped all the way up to the top of the tower to put on a fresh coat of paint. Special thanks to the members of the Putnam Riders and to the entire Gregori family.

Photo of six of the volunteers who helped with the fire tower clean-up
A sincere thanks to Team Volckmann, Team Gregori and to everyone who helped! Photo: Beth Herr

6/14     It was a glorious June day with birdsong and meadow wildflowers putting on a show. Bedstraws whitened the fields. New-mown hayfields released perfume. This smell, from the sweet vernal grass already gone to seed, is singular to early summer. The cut stems added fragrance to the warm breeze. White clouds dotted a deep blue sky, and dragonflies made the scene sparkle.

Photo of a meadow in summer with many wildflowers
The sheer quantity and diversity of life in a summer meadow is astonishing. Photo: Beth Herr

6/15     Another rare day in June, and a good day to paddle around White Pond. (Lots of other folks had the same idea so parking spilled out on to Mill Road.) Cruising dragonflies were so abundant, spadderdock water lilies bloomed around the edges, and kingbirds hunted from perches. The blue canopy was dotted with puffy white clouds and summer breezes kept the boat moving.

Photo of Spadderdock (Nuphar advena) in bloom
Spadderdock is kind of an odd name for a yellow pond-lily don't you think? Photo: Beth Herr

6/16     I was able to get a photo of the bird I mentioned to you that I can't find in my bird books. There are two of them. I see them every day. They are gray with a black “cap“ on the head and about the size of a cardinal. Would be great if you could identify them for me.  — Liz Alison

Ed. note: You have resident northern catbirds! No doubt you have heard their erratic but hubby song, or their “meow” call note.

Photo of a gray catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) on a gray wooden deck
The scientific name Dumetella carolinensis means “small Carolina bird of the thornbushes”. It refers to its habit of singing when hidden in undergrowth.[1] But catbird is a lot shorter. Photo: Liz Alison

6/18     It was an oven outside today with the thermometers cresting over 90°. The baked air stacked up dark clouds, cooking up a perfect summer storm: It started with distant thunder rumbling the humid air. Suddenly, the air pressure dropped and birds became silent. Soon whooshing updrafts kicked up leaves, then huge drops of rain were followed by a downpour. Lightning flashed close by and thunder rattled the windows. Water came in sheets, as frogs hopped in delight. But in just a few minutes it was over. Drip-drops, and clean, washed air breathed freshness into houses. Finally, just before civil twilight the sky was on fire. Ahhh…summertime in Kent.

6/19     A beautiful night visitor rested on my door this morning: A luna moth.  — Tore Heskestead

Photo of a luna moth (Actias luna) resting on a door
A beautiful night visitor just like the goddess the species was named after. Photo: Tore Heskestead

6/21     There is something ominous about the summer solstice. Even before summer starts for us, the days are getting shorter.  — George Baum

6/19     St. John's-wort showed it's sunny blossom just in time for the solstice. One of many green immigrants, the yellow flower arrived in 1696 with a group of Rosicrucians who treasured it. We love it today for it's sun-like blossoms, medicinal properties, and the yellow it adds to all the clovers and daisies in the fields. Take a close look at the leaves; tiny translucent circles lets light shine through creating miniature suns.

6/24     We have turned the astronomical corner. Today, we have one minute less light than yesterday (15 hours and 10 minutes at our latitude). Enjoy summer before the days darken and the flurries fly.  — Tore Heskestead

6/27     Families gathered at sunset at the Kent Town Center armed with jars and nets, ready to find fireflies. Members of KCAC pointed out where to find glowworms (firefly larvae), and how tell the different species apart. Everyone caught something – a good dose of summer twilight in a meadow and two species of lightning bugs.

Photo of a male common eastern firefly (Photinus pyralis) in a jar
Voted Kent's flashiest resident since at least 1767 when Linnaeus named them. Photo: Beth Herr

6/28     Looking for places to bring people to see butterflies on KCAC's annual count next week, I stopped first at the Veterans' Park. I was greeted by a sweet perfume permeating the air. I followed my nose, and then my ears, to find an abundance of fragrant flowers on the basswood trees. The huge number of flies, bees, bumbles, and other pollinators attracted to the nectar made the air sound fried.

Photo of an American Basswood tree in bloom with a bumble bee on a blossom
Busy bee isn't just a cliche, you know. Photo: Beth Herr

6/30     Not much to report, it is just interesting to see what the birds are doing. There's still an occasional hopeful visitor to the now-empty feeders, downy woodpeckers sliding up and down the pole. But bluebirds and phoebes use the feeder as a perch to spot insects. The barn swallow nest on our front porch is abandoned. Sadly, we found two very young, dead on the floor. The two vultures were “grazing” in our pasture after it was mowed, searching for mice? moles?  — Balant/Campbell

Photo of two turkey vultures searching a mowed pasture
This is a big pasture. Surely something yummy got caught in the mower. We just have to find it. Photo: Doris Balant

7/1     Bursts of pink blossoms signal the common milkweed's availability for insects seeking pollen or nectar and monarch butterflies seeking a place to lay their eggs. At closer inspection the flowers sport “hoods” and “horns” with their five petals. Crab spiders lurk inside waiting for prey. Usually one milkweed plant is an entire ecosystem with aphids, milkweed beetles, and a host of other insects. But take a look at this picture of blossoms. Can you find an insect?

Photo of common milkweed in bloom.
Nature threw a party and (almost) no one came. Is there a message here? Photo: Beth Herr

7/2     This hot and humid July day dictated the day's hiking destination: Stone Church in Dover, where canyon breezes and moss mixed with ferns reward the walk with cool and calm. There are many delights on this walk (there is a hot, sunny stretch through a meadow). And once again, I found something curious dangling from a thread by the dark, moist walls near the cave. What creature makes such a beautiful orb suspended so delicately?

Photo of a blooming St. John's wort with a spider web attached to its blossom
The difference between utility and utility plus beauty is the difference between telephone wires and the spider web. Edwin Way Teale Photo: Beth Herr

7/4     A hot and hazy holiday was perfect for those near the water. Barely a breeze, but the air was humid and unstable. Cumulus clouds clambered higher until afternoon when thunder rolled around Kent's mountains. There was no cold front sliding through, or swift cool breezes after. But all around thunder pounded for hours north and south of us.

7/5     I heard the first cicada song at the end of this very hot and humid day. The newly emerged insect buzzed on and on for over two minutes and ended with a slow rattle. Perhaps it sings with joy to be in the treetop after seven years underground?

7/6     Welcome to my yearly territorial battle with our backyard hummingbird. I'm not totally certain it's the same female as the previous two years, but I have reasons to think so. Whatever the case, it's been a fascinating dance. Each year I invade her garden space more closely and she allows it, meaning she continues to feed even with my encroaching presence. But this year she's expressing her annoyance more aggressively, with more frequent dive-bombing attacks, hovering just a few feet from the camera lens. At the same distances without the camera she pretty much leaves me be. With the camera, well I'm thinking of wearing my bike helmet. Doesn't she know who pays the taxes here?  — Charles Daviat

Photo of a clearly annoyed female ruby-throated hummingbord in flight
I'm with Thoreau – live simply and don’t pay taxes! Photo: Charles Daviat

7/6     I visited several meadows in Kent to find the best place for the coming Butterfly Walk. The most productive spot, the meadow at NYCDEP's Dean Pond Unit had several species. But the meadow trail has not been mowed and tick count is high, so it would not be a good place to bring enthusiasts. Many ringlets danced above the grasses; fritillaries were most common; and the one eastern tailed blue butterfly was a gem. The highlight was not a butterfly but a big patch of gorgeous Canada lilies.

Photo of a big stand of Canada lilies in bloom
A beautiful nod to a summer’s day. Photo Beth Herr

7/7     The weather was perfect for the KCAC annual butterfly count: yesterday's humidity was breezed away and sunny skies prevailed. At the Nimham Headquaters on Gipsy Trail Road there were many flowers blooming, but not so many butterflies. Citizen scientists counted many great spangled fritillaries, monarchs, several skippers, one pearl crescent. Some years we've seen over 60 species and hundreds of skippers, but not this year.

7/9     The trill, chatter, grating, and clicking sounds of periodical cicadas authenticate the hot days of summer. We heard them for the first time today (89°F).  — Tom Lake

7/9     Eleven days with no rain. Temperatures climb. We sure could use a shower.

7/10     Milkweeds and No butterflies?  — Doris Balant

7/11     I watched as a female monarch oviposited more than 20 eggs on one feeble milkweed plant. Three days later they had hatched. In an effort to assure enough leaves for the growing larvae, I moved them each to an individual plant. Hopefully I'll see more monarchs in the garden in about 15 days!

Composite photo showing monarch butterfly egg, newly hatched caterpillar, transfer to new leaf, and in its new home
Let’s spread you guys out a little so you'll have enough to eat. Photo: Beth Herr

7/10     The air temperature today reached 90°F. This was the eighth day in the last eleven where Albany's air temperatures reached or exceed 90°.  — National Weather Service

7/10     I have three hawks who seem to enjoy my driveway. (It could be the squirrels.) They usually fly away as soon as a car approaches but this one stays put. I can get within 25 feet. It looks like a red-shouldered hawk.  — Tore Heskestead

Photo of a red-shouldered hawk perched on a tipped-over tree stump
Helping to keep the squirrel population in check. Photo: Tore Heskestead

7/10     I had a walk this late morning looking for butterflies. The path goes right past a very big patch of milkweed (tens of thousands of individual flowers open). On the entire walk, I found five Cabbage Whites and no other butterflies. The sun was out most of the time. Very good carnivorous plants, rose pogonias, rattlesnake orchids, veeries, and other fun things but where the heck were the butterflies?  — Elise Barry

7/10     Reports show butterfly numbers are down in the region. Here is a sampling:

Spent about two hours looking for butterflies. Numbers were low given the date and the good conditions (low 80s, full sun); missed a number of expected species, and numbers generally were very low: eastern tiger swallowtail – 1, American copper – 1, Edwards' hairstreak – 3, gray hairstreak – 1, eastern tailed blue – 1, pearl crescent – 4, and one red-spotted purple  — Brian Cassie, Massachusetts

Thirteen years ago I went and sat in a field full of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). The photographs I took of insects visiting the fragrant blossoms ended up being the subject of my first children's book, Milkweed Visitors. The number and diversity of invertebrates in that patch of milkweed was astounding. Over a decade later I find milkweed flowers alarmingly free of insect visitors. I first noticed this several years ago, and unfortunately the trend has continued. An occasional honey bee or bumblebee, perhaps a swallowtail butterfly or a red milkweed beetle or two can be seen, but nowhere near the number or variety of insects that you found just a few years ago.  — Mary Holland, Vermont

Where are the butterflies? I saw only one each: monarch, black swallowtail, fritillary and snout, and three or four hummingbird clearwing moths that are always in the monarda in my “meadow”. Sad story!  — Doris Balant

7/14     Last August, I reported a northern fence lizard on a trail just upriver from Peekskill. This was a new location and a very important record for the New York Natural Heritage Program. I returned there today hoping I might spot one again. I was unsuccessful, but I did manage to find a young five-lined skink (another first for me) sitting on a fallen tree.  — Steve Rappaport

7/18     Our gorgeous gray fox with no tail showed up in the backyard late this afternoon with a pup. Recently, we have been seeing her almost every day, after not seeing her since late April.  — Diane Anderson

7/26     A string of unusual weather: sun, downpour, clouds, repeat, left Kent soggy. Dew points remained in the 70's all week, cloudbursts brought three inches of rain. The drought that started this month is over.

7/31     Check out this beauty I encountered deep in the woods of Michael Ciaiola Conservation Area! I gasped in delight when it closed its wings and I saw the glorious red spots on the underside. Later in the day, I'm outside gardening and just saw another one of the same!  — Amanda Lynne

Red-spotted purple butterfly wings open to show their purple side

Photo of a red-spotted purple butterfly with wings folded to show the red spots on the underside
A lovely find, whether in the woods or in the garden. Photo: Amanda Lynne

Ed. note: What a nice find and closeup: red-spotted purples can be seen both in the woods and in the garden. It is as large as all our swallowtails, but missing that tail, for a quick fly-by ID. Their larval food plant is cherry trees, so this gorgeous butterfly can be found throughout Kent.

In August

  • Look to the night skies for the Perseids meteor shower on July 12, a conjunction of the Moon and Venus on the 14th and the Moon and Saturn on the 21st, and the Full Green Corn Moon on the 26th.
  • Listen for the cicadas' rattle during the day, the katydids' rasper during the night, and cricket song all the time.
  • Be alert for the signs of this year's bird migration. Migration has already begun for shorebirds. Other birds will begin to gather before leaving: swallows on power lines, chimney swifts in flocks, songbirds in the shrubs, and starlings in their winter murmurations.
  • Watch near the tops of tree for the fall webworms to appear; in the meadows for goldenrods, joe-pye and iron weeds; and aster in the woods.
  • Enjoy garden fruits and ripe local corn!