May 2016

Photo of green meadow, looking north from the AT trail by route 52
Spring comes to our corner of the world. Photo: Dod Chahroudi

5/1     Steady, sweet, all day rain brought much-needed moisture to feed the explosion of green. The lacy gold buds have become a verdant curtain. Stone walls, neighbors’ windows and trash along the roadsides disappear, enveloped by new growth.

All this moisture means that mushrooms will burst into bloom. Time to look for the spring delicacy of the fungus world: morel season is here.

5/2     More rain today, soggy and dreary. The swallows flew so low over reservoirs and lakes that they brushed the water as they careened by. New leaves continued to fill the forest. The dogwoods and blueberries bloom, but in this cool, wet weather the pollinators stayed under cover.

5/3     A sad story to tell: Tom Hard built for us a two-story bird condo. This spring, both units were occupied by nesting tufted titmice. We enjoyed watching them alighting on a branch – building materials in their beaks – checking around for lurking prey and then quickly flying (not ducking) into their shelter. This morning the remains of their nest were hanging out of the front door and the masticated remains of a bird was lying below. We think our charming raccoon with his long fingers is the culprit. Perhaps someone has another explanation.  — George Baum

Photo of a titmouse nest destroyed by raccoon
When mean Mr. Raccoon pays a visit. Photo: George Baum

Photo of the scant remains of a titmouse after a raccoon visit
The criminal didn’t leave much behind. Photo: George Baum

5/3     Day three of rainy weather. Though not downpours, the showers ended the fire danger. And there was a new sound to the rain – the splash of drops on the new green leaves. Another new sound today, off in the forest, light and flutelike, the ethereal chords of the wood thrush. What a thrill to hear that sweet sound again.

5/4     While photographing some wild ginger at Pelton Pond, I was surprised to see a seedpod that bears a slight resemblance to jack-in-the-pulpit. I couldn’t find any reference to wild ginger having seedpods and was wondering if you could identify what plant the seedpod belongs to.  — Lou Tartaro

Ed. note: The seedpod was an emerging sarsaparilla flower!

Photo of wild ginger flower and 'strange seed pod'
Wild ginger and sarsaparilla: The makings of a new drink? Photo: Lou Tartaro

5/5     Five days of rainy weather add up to just under an inch of rain, dreary and cloudy and cool. The flowers and leaves and spring procession have halted, everything on hold and awaiting sunshine. Even the birds have stopped their morning songs. With pressure low and mist hanging, their calls are silenced. No need to waste energy on defending territory if the voice can’t be heard.

5/6     Another day of rain, and this was serious rain, almost an inch in one day. Weather forecasters on television say the sunshine is coming…everyone is tired of gloom.

5/7     A week long stretch of rainy cool weather almost ended today, as the clouds parted briefly mid-afternoon. It was as if the curtains opened, the spotlight struck the stage, and the spring show began. With no wind, and humidity high, the shadflies multiplied in minutes and truly were bothersome. For a few hours the bird song and bee buzz turned up the volume. Two box turtles were found out and about. But by day’s end, the cloud ceiling lowered, the hilltops disappeared and the lights went out on the show.

Photo of Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina)
“I’m just annoyed. If I were afraid, I’d close my plastron.” Photo: Beth Herr

5/8     A morning downpour started a dreary Mother’s Day; a half-inch of rain by noon bringing the week’s gloomy total to three inches. Then finally, the wind picked up, pushing the clouds to the sea. Honeybees burst out of their hives, finally released and ready for opening flowers.

5/9     The month opened with rose-breasted grosbeaks – as many as five males, with a few females regularly coming to the feeders for suet as well as seeds. Hungry from the long journey north? They were followed by several orioles, one male and several females, also feeding on suet, seeds and oranges.  — Whangtown Road

5/9     It was a beautiful breezy day with time to meander around Pelton Pond and Canopus Lake in Fahnestock State Park. The sun dazzled on the throats of yellow warblers tossing back their heads in song. The wildflowers were making up for a lost week: trilliums, mayflower, sarsaparilla and fern fiddleheads danced in the wind. Last year’s beech leaves have all dropped, pushed off by bursting buds. Kingbirds, ovenbirds and hummingbirds have returned!

5/10     Oh, a nicely placed rock to help me cross this small stream. (I did think that. I didn’t do that, as it moved to look at me. Photo is a reenactment.)  — Dod Chahroudi

Photo of a snapping turtle in a stream with a foot on it
Oh, wait. Rocks don’t look back at you! Photo: Dod Chahroudi

5/11-12  Fabulous warm and sunny days, leaves lengthen, flowers bloom. The air was filled with perfume: sweet vernal grass, bedstraws and even the spring-green had a smell.

5/14     A weasel made a nest in our walls, and this week mom moved her babies out. For a while we did not know what was in the walls; the babies made a high squealing sound, very much like Alvin and the Chipmunks. And then we saw the female with beautiful brown fur. She took the babies, one at a time, putting them in our shed before they all moved into the woods. We had never had a weasel here before, but then we also did not have a single mouse in the house since January. Now we know why.  — Linda Murphy, Tim Haley

5/14     The first thunderstorm of the season brought a half-inch of rain.

5/15     Brrr, forty degrees at daybreak and the wind is howling. What roller-coaster weather this spring!

5/16     Got an up-close look at a scarlet tanager singing, “chip-burrrrr,” while I was hiking at Canopus Lake.  — Dod Chahroudi

Photo of a scarlet tanager (Piranga olivacea) perched on a small branch
“You’ll know me if you see me. I’m really and truly red.” Photo: Dod Chahroudi

5/16     A big black bear was seen on the Madden property near the west end of Farmers Mills Road.  — Dorna Schroeter

5/17     The beavers and I are building a giant monument (huge piles of mud and sticks) to the futility of hard work at Turtle Pond on Farm to Market Road. They collect and add on the materials, then I dig it off into ever-growing sorted piles. I believe that both the beavers and humans can’t help but admire how much work we have accomplished. I’m thinking of using the materials to build a peninsula out into the pond, and then perhaps an island with a small connecting bridge. Will need metal framing to prevent the beavers from just recycling the materials back into the dam.

There have been times when the beavers disturb my digging channels through their dam with loud tail slapping. They calm down when I quietly talk to them, suggesting that they should go eat some water plants as all this expended energy must be making them hungry. They then swim a few circles and go off to do something else, hopefully including a healthy dinner.  — Dod Chahroudi

Photo of a North American beaver (Castor canadensis)
“I’m watching you, buddy. Looks to me like you’re up to no good.” Photo: Dod Chahroudi

5/20     After competing with house wrens for the space, tree swallows are happily nesting in the bluebird box on the vegetable garden fence. Phoebes just started a rather belated nest under the porch eaves. The orioles stopped coming to the feeder, as did the rose-breasted grosbeaks and the pair of catbirds.  — Doris Balant

Ed. note: Several subscribers asked why the numbers of birds diminished at their feeders. Most birds are busy raising their broods and dining on abundant food of great variety.

5/21     We’re hearing chestnut-sided and redstart warblers, turkeys, bluebirds and the beautiful wood thrush. A recent arrival is a great crested flycatcher with his brash “wheep.” Grey tree frogs signal enthusiastically, especially in the recent downpours. Meanwhile, we humans have almost completed construction of a big deer fence to enclose an ornamental garden and raised beds for berries. Last week we spotted a fox wandering in our pasture.  — Whangtown Road

Photo of American red fox (Vulpes vulpes fulvus)
“Let me help you with those pesky chipmunks.” Photo: Eli Campbell

5/22     The annual Hike to Hawk Rock brought 14 hikers to the heart of Kent. Folks enjoyed a leisurely and pleasant ramble past the Mead farm ruins, along the Horsepound Brook, past the lichen-encrusted rock shelter, and then picnicked around Hawk Rock. A phoebe had made a nest right on the side of the monolith. Last night’s rain dampened the forest floor and red efts were on the move. We saw more than thirty striking red salamanders.

Photo of a red eft - a juvenile eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens)
“Please don’t step on me, Amanda.” Photo: David Ehnebuske

Photo of Amanda Lynne in front of stone chamber entrance
“Welcome to my humble abode!” Photo: Beth Herr

5/25     BABIES!!!!! This is an amazing first-time experience for me. A hawk has made a nest by my driveway, and today I, for the first time, saw two little heads pop up over the top of the rim of the nest. In the second photo, you can see the baby stretching out its fuzzy wings… Gotta love Mother Nature!  — Tore Heskestad

Photo of hawk above her nest with nestlings.
Mama says, “Keep your heads down if you know what’s good for you.” Photo: Tore Heskestad

Photo of hawk nestlings spreading their newly fledged wings.
“Mama’s not around, so let’s have a look.” Photo: Tore Heskestad

5/30     As in every year past, this morning a mother snapping turtle came to lay her eggs in the manure pile behind the barn – a nice warm spot.  — Doris Balant

A common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) laying eggs
“I know a good place when I see one.” Photo: Doris Balant

In June

  • Summer begins on the solstice, June 20 at 6:34pm
  • The full Strawberry Moon shines on Kent on June 27
  • Fireflies flash their secret messages in grassy areas
  • Turtles, who know nothing abour cars, cross the road – it’s egg laying season. What do you do if you see a turtle crossing the road? Answer.
  • Bullfrogs sing “jug-o-rum”
  • Birds enjoy the season’s first ripe service berries
  • Night music begins

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.