May 2017

Composite of three photos of trillium in bloom

5/1     A trio of trilliums decorated my walk in the woods today. These woodland wildflowers form several triads: three leaves, three sepals, three petals, three female and male flowers. They come in many shades and leaf patterns. Also, fern fiddleheads poked through the leaf carpet, a spring azure butterfly stopped to sip in a puddle and then spirited away. It was a fine May Day.

5/2     The rose-breasted grosbeaks are making their way north to their breeding areas. We were lucky to see two males by our feeder, but no sign of the ladies. The grosbeaks could winter as far south as Mexico. Perhaps they entered the US on an HB-1 visa, that’s HB for hungry birds.  — George Baum

Photo of two male rose-breasted grossbeaks on porch railing
Just a couple of guys on a road trip. Photo: George Baum

5/2     We had a bear visit last night – feeders to repair and replace. But the beehives have an electric fence. We learned from earlier experience!  — Whangtown Road

ISBN-13: 978-1930900783
Thanks for the snack! Photo: Doris Balant

5/3     It’s cool and cloudy with frost warnings in the news. The brand-new leaves trembled in the north breeze. Some flowers closed, saving their pollen, but wind-borne pollen coated everything inside and out.

5/6     More rain added to yesterday’s deluge and rainy evening: 2½ inches of precipitation in two days.

5/7     I knew something was amiss when I woke up Thursday morning and saw the bird bath knocked to the ground along with one of my metal fence poles. The fallen objects were clues that led my eyes downhill to my backyard apiary where I saw one of my hives lying askew.

The top box, on its side, was still intact. Propolis held it to the cover, but the bottom box was a testament to the night’s rampage: a black bear attack!

Five or six frames were scattered about on the ground in the rain with bees despondently clinging to the undersides sheltering from the rain. They were probably wondering what that big pink tongue was doing licking all their honey. One frame showed the bear’s calling card: five claw-marks scratched into the wax.  — Ralph Szur

Photo of honeycomb in frame showing bear claw-marks
The bees were not happy, but what could they do? Photo: Ralph Szur

5/7     Day three of cold rainy weather. The bees are cranky: it’s too cool to fly, pollen and nectar withheld. Those with hay fever are happy however.

5/8     The three-day weather forecast.

Monday 51°/41°
Tuesday 57°/38°
Wednesday 62°/48°

Carmel, NY? No! Juneau, AK !  — George Baum

5/9     The house wrens are back, oh no. But so is the Scarlet Tanager, I heard its “chip-brrrr” call and spotted the handsome flame-orange bird in my yard.

5/9     I collected a plate full of spring morels. Tonight: linguine with morels and olive oil, yum.  — Lisa Amejide

Photo of spring morels just gathered from the woods
Something special to look forward to each spring. Photo: Lisa Amejide

5/10     Brrr, 38° this morning. The basil seedling looked forlorn. The birds, and even the frogs, were quiet. Spring was in neutral, but the sun set at 8pm for the first time this year. Thoughts of the long days and extended twilight to come took away the chill.

5/11     My daughter sent me these photos of the nest on her front door wreath. The first egg was a blue, speckled egg as was the second which arrived a bit later. The next time she looked at the nest, there was a third egg, but it wasn’t blue, rather a white speckled thing. Now, the two blues have hatched but not the white egg.

Do you have any idea what kind of eggs these are and where the white speckled egg may have come from? We’ve heard of birds laying an egg in another bird’s nest but haven’t witnessed it firsthand. What are the chances the third bird will hatch and be cared for in that nest?  — Marty Collins

Photo of songbird nest with clutch of three speckled blue eggs

Photo of a bird nest containing a single cowbird egg
Left for involuntary nannies to raise.

Ed. Note: The speckled egg is from a brown-headed cowbird. It lays its eggs in other birds’ nests. When the cowbird hatches it’s usually bigger, gets more food, and pushes out the other nestlings. Don’t be mad, cowbirds evolved eating insects on buffalo and had to be on the move all the time. Since they are considered a threat to songbirds they parasitize, you can take the egg out, boil it and put it back. The cowbirds won’t return to lay another. It’s hard to tell what kind of bird laid the little blue eggs. Beautiful little nest, eh?

5/12     I hiked the Horsepound Brook flood plain in search of morels. I didn’t see any, but did find other delights: winter wrens and rose-breasted grosbeaks piped their ethereal calls; blue cohosh and dwarf ginseng carpeted the woodland floor and cool breezes rustled new tree leaves! That night I received a picture from a friend who was happy with his prize: a plateful of morel mushrooms!

5/13     Two days of heavy rain dumped two inches in the rain gauge. Streams are high and gushing.

5/14     It had been raining off and on for quite a while, when at about 4:15pm I noticed the rain suddenly start to come down in buckets. “I hope this doesn’t go on too long,” I thought. A few minutes later, a distinct change in the rain’s roar caught my attention once again. The rain had changed to pea-sized hail. It was just pelting down and bouncing all over the place. The battering lasted about 45 seconds and then suddenly stopped altogether. No hail, no rain, no wind, just the dull gray of the thick, low clouds. The warm ground quickly melted all the hailstones except for those on the mesh seats of my patio chairs.  — Dave Ehnebuske

Photo of patio after a brief hailstorm
Suddenly there were little balls of ice jumping around. Photo: Dave Ehnebuske

5/16     What a lousy week it has been! Turtle monitoring has been disgustingly quiet, cold and windy. Finally, it was pleasant this morning and, to my great relief, my dog Diggy located a turtle. So what if it was one we already found – she doesn’t know that. I immediately recognized him by his extraordinary orange limbs, but I didn’t tell her that. So where are the turtles? Please cross your fingers that sightings increase!  — Anne Smith

5/16     Well, we were visited by a bear again, either late last night or very early this morning. We’ve brought the galvanized can with the locking lid in every night – i.e. the one with the black oil sunflower seed. But we’ve left the cans that contain the mixed seed and the safflower seed out. This time the bear got into the mixed seed can. There’s a large dent in the side and the lid is all screwed up. Guess we can’t leave seed of any kind in any container out during the spring, summer and fall months. That’s a bummer, because we spend more time watching the birds than we do watching TV. Seeing the birds on the deck makes us happy  — Don Turner

5/10     The air temperature reached 92° F today, tying the record high for the date.  — National Weather Service

5/18     The air temperature reached 94° F today, tying the record high for the date.  — National Weather Service

5/22     I found a Cooper’s Hawk (I believe I’ve correctly identified it) dead on its back in my side yard yesterday. I was shocked but not sorry because it’s been in the area for a while, pursued by my crows, but swooping in to catch songbirds at my feeder. But how in the world do you think it was killed? It wasn’t near a window, but near the deck railing. Maybe it flew up into the railing and broke its neck? Its left eye was bloodied, and when my yard-worker lifted it up onto a shovel to bury it, its body was on the shovel but its head flopped over the side, perhaps indicative of a broken neck? A week ago, I saw a crow entangle it in a downward spiral behind another house nearby. Could the crows have killed it? What is your thought on its demise, any ideas?  — Suzannah Glidden

Photo of a dead Cooper's hawk on its back in the  grass
The crows are happy today. Photo: Suzannah Glidden

Ed note: I once witnessed a crow kill and eat a starling on the lawn of the New York Botanical Garden. That crow nailed the starling, pinning it to the ground and eating it immediately. It was startling to watch. And of course, crows harass all kinds of birds of prey because those birds eat crow babies. But hawks are clever and have good eyesight. It’s hard to imagine a kill. Google had several stories about these two enemies locking talons in flight. So, the answer is I don’t know. A friend thought it was possible the crows got it, especially given the eye damage.

5/27     While on a tramp along the Highland Trail in Wonder Lake State Park, I spied several small groups of yellow stargrass in bloom.  — Dave Ehnebuske

Photo of yellow stargrass (Hypoxis hirsuta) in bloom
A lovely find on any hike. Photo: Dave Ehnebuske

5/31     After several days of gloomy, cool weather, the sun finally burned through the clouds and warmed everything. Winds shifted, bringing a southerly breeze. The humidity climbed, and gray tree frogs trilled and chirped. By sunset a thunderstorm blew through. It finally felt like a summer day.

5/31     An EF-1 tornado with estimated wind speeds of 100 mph touched down in the Town of Wappinger at 7:14pm, the weather service confirmed. It had an estimated path width of a quarter-mile and an estimated path length of 1.25 miles.

In June:

  • Taste and smell fragrant strawberries; watch for the full Strawberry Moon on the June 9
  • See if you can spot spittlebug foam on the plants in the meadows (the nymphs are hiding in the foam)
  • Watch for turtles on roadways. It’s turtle nesting season
  • Smell the blossoms of mountain laurel in the forest, and daisies and buttercups in the tall grass
  • Look for woodpeckers, thrushes, waxwings and other birds enjoying serviceberry (or shadbush) fruits
  • Enjoy the longest day of the year – the summer solstice – on June 21