March 2016

Photo of weeping willow tree in early spring
Early spring in Kent. Photo: Beth Herr

3/2      March gave a pretty good roar today. That strong wind with temperatures dropping made it less enjoyable to stay outside. But the sunshine was invigorating and I felt happy. It would’ve been a good maple-sugaring day.  — Steve Miller

3/8      Soft light of a warm morning. White-throated sparrows were singing. Dawn with birdsong. As sunrise advances, every few days another voice is added to the choir. Today song sparrows were sounding off along with the cardinals, jays, Carolina wrens and others.  — David Burg

3/8      At first light this morning, there was not a single sound of spring peepers from the vernal pool at Stony Kill Farm in Fishkill. But when I arrived home in late afternoon, the symphony had begun! A multitude of peepers were sounding off until a large flock of high-flyer geese came into earshot. In a split second, the peepers went absolutely silent and all I heard were the geese overhead. As soon as the high-flyers were out of earshot, the peepers started their singing once again. Coincidence?  — Andra Sramek

3/8      Spied a dead mink along the side of Farmers Mills Road.  — Bruce Campbell

3/9      A beautiful day. A walk in the woods brought me wood frogs, peepers, a blue azure butterfly, and a garter snake. Hello, Spring.  — Jenny Tcacz

3/9      Record-breaking temperatures across Kent today, 68° in some places.

3/10     For the second day, record-high temperatures in Kent.

3/10     Our phoebe is back singing with abandon. The woodcocks are courting and the red-wings are unenthusiastically singing near the cattail pond with all the conviction of a first rehearsal. There are no females about just yet. Today, down at ground level, under the leaf cover, a few hepatica flowers had opened. In a local ditch coltsfoot was up and open for business. And under my feeders, a fox sparrow scratched for sunflower seeds.  — Tom D.

3/14     There was an amazing influx of wood ducks into the Ice Pond roost area. Also heard, Atlantic leopard frog.  — Judy Kelley Moberg

3/14     We go out most nights. It has cooled a bit, and the wonderful warmth is gone. A raw windy day with rain put a damper on the spring rush. But the snow drops are up, the male red maple flowers are yellowing, the catkins on alders are expanding. There’s no stopping the spring parade now. Old man winter is just slowing it up a bit.

3/16     This young girl wasn’t at all too happy to see me yesterday morning!  — John Foley

Photo of a box turtle emerging from her hibernaculum
“Is it spring yet?” asked the box turtle from her hibernaculum. Photo: John Foley

3/17     Catkins hung long and dangly on the hazlenuts, birches, and alders. These pollen popsicles droop to expose their pollen to the spring breezes. There were no other leaves to slow the wind so the yellow grains were flowing freely. A closer look showed the brightly colored female flowers ready and waiting for the pollen to land.

Photo of hazel catkins on a branch. The photo has a small circle drawn on it indicating the location of the tiny female flower
Hazelnut catkins (male). Note the tiny female flower in the circle above and to the right of the photo’s center. Photo: Beth Herr

Close-up photo of tiny bright-red female hazelnut flower
Close-up of the female flower all set to catch a few pollen grains when the wind blows the right way. Photo: Beth Herr

3/18     Very early this morning, before peepers, before Canada geese or any other bird sounds, I could hear killdeer singing from the fields of Stony Kill Farm to the west. Hopefully the cold nights are winter’s last gasp. Even my crocuses were frozen solid this morning.  — Andra Sramek

3/19     Walked the NYCEP Dean Pond Recreation Unit on Horsepound Road. While the pussy willows were just peeking out of their covers, the sound of birdsong was everywhere. All our winter residents were setting up territory before those interlopers from Central and South America return. Cardinals, titmice, chickadees, robins (they never left), bluebirds, and woodpeckers all sang their delightful tunes. The returning red-winged blackbirds chimed in, and the juncos called as if to rally their numbers before taking off for their northern breeding grounds.

3/20     Although there had been speculation for many years that the “beak” or “mouth” at Hawk Rock would be illuminated during the equinox sunrise, to the best of my knowledge no one in recent memory had actually checked it out. Fortunately, the weather cooperated. Gerry McLoughlin and I hiked to Hawk Rock to witness the equinox sunrise event. We arrived shortly before 7am – sunrise for that date – but had to wait an additional 50 minutes before the sun actually rose over the hillside. As is the case at the Whangtown winter solstice chamber, it took an additional 10 minutes or so before the sun was high enough to illuminate portions of Hawk Rock.

I’m happy to report that the illumination of the “mouth” was very pronounced while the rest of the head – with the exception of the chin – wasn’t. Granted the sun always rises in the east, but I plan on visiting Hawk Rock at sunrise during different times of the year to verify if the illumination of the mouth occurs year round as opposed to being an equinox event. Whether it’s by accident or design, the equinox sunrise at Hawk Rock is a sight worth witnessing.  — Lou Tartaro

Photo of the head of Hawk Rock at sunrise on the spring equinox
Greeting the spring equinox as I have for millennia. Photo: Lou Tartaro

3/21     The vernal equinox brought with it atypically cold air temperatures. Happy First Day of Spring – celebrated with a fine dusting of snow! No worries, the driveways and roadways were clear as old man winter hangs on with just a sigh of snowflakes. By noon, all the snow had vanished. The daffodils were revealed again, as young man spring grabbed the warm soil. A deep, beautiful blue sky gleamed as the winds whistled through the branches. Soon there will be leaves hushing and rustling.

3/23     In most of the Hudson Valley, it seems the amphibian breeding season was underway on March 10, when wood frogs, spotted salamanders, and Jefferson-bluespotted salamander hybrids were observed on their migrations to woodland pools. Since that rainy night, there’s been little precipitation and no snow to melt, so these pools may be a little drier than is typical for the season. The amphibians rely on adequate inundation for eggs to hatch and young to develop before the pools dry up, usually in summer. I’ve been visiting a particularly shallow woodland pool in Rosendale; today it had dried up considerably, leaving spotted salamander and wood frog egg masses out of the water. They appeared to still be viable, although a little dry and sticky on the outside, and we returned them to the now-small pool. The unusual dry winter reminds us of how vulnerable woodland pool breeding habitat may be to climate change, and how important it is to proactively conserve these critical habitats.  — Laura Heady

Photo of a vernal pool along the Appalachian Train near Stormville, NY
They look tranquil and empty, but if you visit a vernal pool and look closely you’ll see lots going on. Photo: Dod Chahroudi

3/25     The phoebes have returned. All day their exuberant, incessant boast is heard, as they sing their name over and over. “Phoebe, phoebe.” Any other animal and it would be annoying. But this is a wonderful sign of much bird song to come.

3/26     As the sun came out today, the bloodroot began to open.  — Yvonne Lynn

Photo of bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) in bloom
Sanguinaria canadensis:Even the taxonomists think the juice looks like blood. Photo: Beth Herr

3/26     About 20 Kent neighbors joined KCAC’s Woodcock Walk tonight at the Great Swamp Wildlife Management Area. It was splendid evening with clear skies and birdsong. There was a chilling breeze atop the hill, but after a ramble down through the meadows, the wind diminished. Hikers enjoyed sunset and twilight accompanied by the music of bluebirds, tree swallows, robins and pairs of wood ducks. Other treasures were: a preying mantis egg case, male and female pussy willows, and pheasant feathers. At twenty minutes after sunset, and just before dark, those who waited were rewarded with the peenting, twittering, chirping, and spectacular mating display of six or more woodcocks.

3/28     This morning we were delighted to see not one but two pileated woodpeckers chipping away on the split end of a trunk some 20 feet high. We have also seen red-tailed hawks more frequently this spring. The one bird we would like to see go away are the juncos. They seem to think cold weather will linger.  — George and Kaye Baum

3/28     Here is a list of first sightings highlighting the return of songbirds and other animals who made spring music as heard on Whangtown Road:

3/2 fox sparrows, Canada geese on the pond, white-throated sparrows calling in the woods, house sparrows, crows, robins
3/7 rusty blackbirds
3/9 spring peepers
3/9 wood frogs
3/9 cowbirds
3/12 coyote concert at 1am
3/21 grackles
3/23 phoebe, checking out its usual nesting site under porch roof
3/28 starlings
3/29 flickers grazing on the lawn

  — Doris Balant

In April

  • Listen for the calls of the first warblers to return: pine, palm, blue-winged and yellow warblers. Just before dawn a bird orchestra heralds the sun.
  • Watch as American beech leaves still hanging on from last season are finally pushed off by swelling buds. This can happen in a single day.
  • Observe the Full Grass Moon on April 22
  • Don’t miss the Lyrid meteor shower peak on April 23
  • Enjoy anenomes, columbine, bloodroot and jack-in-the-pulpit as they begin to bloom
  • Watch for the raptor migration to begin
  • Look for trees to flower too: shadbush, dogwood, white pine and tulip
  • Be aware that woodchucks and skunks give birth, but the little ones won’t come out until late summer

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