May 2018

5/5     Saw an immature bald eagle at the 301 causeway over the West Branch Reservoir at 6:12 am yesterday.  — Fritz Beshar

5/6     Turtle Day yesterday was phenomenal. A group of 21 turtle hunters broke the record of the last ten years by finding 11 Eastern Box Turtles in a small designated area near our house.  — Anne Albright Smith

Photo of two eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina) on a forest floor
“Just tryin’ to blend in.” Photo: Anne Albright Smith

5/7     Spring wildflowers decorated the curtain of new green leaves. Pinxter azalea blossoms could be seen along route 301, decorating the roadway and along the trail pink gaywings added to the blush.

Photo of a gaywings (Polygala paucifolia) in bloom
Photo of pinxter azaleas (Rhododendron periclymenoides) in bloom
The amazing variety of shapes and colors never ceases to amaze. Photos: Beth Herr

5/8     Morning birdsong is a delight with new voices heard every day. Now the warblers are in full migration. Heard today: black and white, yellowthroat, yellow warblers and a vociferous warbling vireo.

5/13     Dutchess County, HRM 76: We went to see the Dutchman’s breeches on the slopes of a ravine threatened by mile-a-minute vines. The ravine overlooks an unnamed stream that feeds Sprout Brook. It was a bit late, and the flowers had been blown by the string of hot weather in recent days. We did see a small clump of toothwort and wake-robin. There were barely any flowers of trout-lily, though the leaves remained. Later in the year, cohosh will decorate with its blue berries – it was just beginning to flower. Above our heads on a tree branch was the reddest of signs, a scarlet tanager that conveniently lingered.  — Sue Mackson

5/15     Farmer’s Landing on the Hudson: The National Weather Service had us under a tornado warning. The rapidly approaching storm was coalescing into an ominous, black, wall cloud to the southwest. To the south, inky fingers were falling toward the ground portending possible touchdowns (tornadoes). Lightning was flashing here and there, backlighting the clouds. In the distance, thunder rumbled. Hail was hitting the river that had been whipped to a froth by the high winds – it sounded like buckshot. This was a massive storm of its own making. The wind fetching across the broad river was a steady 90mph. Trees were snapping, and branches-to-limbs were flying horizontally past me. The air was electric, the rain was torrential, and the noise was deafening. I felt like a journalist embedded on a battlefield.  — Tom Lake

5/15     I couldn’t believe my eyes, but was able to capture the image of a tornado with my cell phone on my way to Danbury.  — Jane Fowler

Photo of street scene showing wall cloud and tornado
There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. Wait. This is New York, not Kansas. Photo: Jane Fowler

5/16     OMG! An EF2 tornado hit our town of Carmel yesterday. Winds of 100 to 110 mph! Tremendous damage to homes and trees. I spent four hours clearing my driveway from fallen trees, the biggest, an 18 inch diameter oak. Power out. Here I am looking out from under one of the trees: You might remember in the movie, Jaws, when the captain says, “We need a bigger boat” … I’m saying, “I need a bigger saw”.  — Tore Heskestead

Photo of Tore Heskestead peeking out from under a fallen tree
A bigger saw. Definitely, a bigger saw. Photo: Tore Heskestead

5/17     Two days after the storm, most people are still in shock and without power. Everyone needs to tell their story when they meet in town. The anecdotes are astounding. So many people with trees through their roofs, trees across roads, and power lines in a tangle. A walk through the woods atop Barrett Hill followed the path of one microburst; over 40 trees were twisted, uprooted and snapped in half. Several of the trees were old white pines where the hawks and crows nest every year. Sure enough, laying among the broken limbs and snags was a beautiful Cooper’s hawk nest. Two eggs, with a fresh blush of blue were smashed, ending this year nesting attempt. After the walk, I watched a hummingbird whiz by the feeder. How did that little buzz bird manage to hold on during those wicked winds?

Photo of a Cooper's hawk (Accipiter cooperii) nest downed by the May 15 storm.
The big storm was hard on more than just humans. Photo: Beth Herr

5/21     Just a quick reminder to say summer, the time of the annual heat peak is approaching rapidly. It begins on the day of the highest sun angle in this hemisphere, one month from today. I mention this to say…get outside in the evenings if you can, or get up in the morning if that’s when you are up and about, and enjoy these lengthy light-filled days. Savor the light as it pours into your lives right now.  — Dave Hayes

5/21     Whoopee, today I saw my first monarch butterfly of the season flitting and feeding on the fragrant lilacs. What a sight, and what a smell!

Photo of a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on blooming lilacs
The king of butterflies comes for a visit. Photo: Beth Herr

5/22     I found the same young ring-neck snake that I found last year. He grew a lot. The first time I caught him he was much smaller. How cool is that!  — Jim Eyring

Photo of a young ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus) in the palm of Jim's hand
My! How much you’ve grown. Photo: Jim Eyring

5/23     I was a voyeur the other day, looking at a pair of pileated woodpeckers courting in my front yard. This image was taken through a window and screen, having learned that these shy birds will bolt if you make the slightest move to get in closer. Fifty yards with 400mm lens, hand held (with post capture help with PS’s new shake reduction filter).

It’s hard to tell who is Mr and who is Mrs. Both sport the beautiful red crest, but the red in the male’s crest extends all the way down to the beak. On the female, however, the red crest stops short of the beak, where it meets a patch of black.

Bottom line: I just felt lucky to witness one of nature’s exquisite courtship choreographies, which went on for about fifteen minutes. After awhile I put the camera down and enjoyed the moment.  — Charles Daviat

Photo of two pileated woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) in their courtship dance
“Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend…” Photo: Charles Daviat

5/25     From the shade of the forest edge it is easy to see sunlit action streak across the sky: busy honeybees shoot skyward and beyond in search of warm nectar and sticky pollen, red maple seeds spin slowly downward in elegant drifts, and other insects circle each other or hover in sunny streams of light.

After a long twilight, as both the humidity and temperature rose, the sound of gray tree frogs trilling became deafening, drowning out the occasional plunk of the green frogs and snores of pickerel frogs. The evening chorus tonight was louder than the bird song that fills the early morning hours.

5/27     A string of cool cloudy days, interspersed with sprinkles forced the bloom of several jelly mushrooms and brought slugs to the vegetable garden.

Photo of a witches' butter jelly fungus (Tremella mesenterica)
Photo of wood ear jelly fungus (Auricularia auricula-judae)
Witches’ butter and wood ears. It must have rained lately. Photos: Beth Herr

5/31     Thirty-eight species of birds were seen and/or heard in our neighborhood. The highlights were: the arrival on May 3 of rose-breasted grosbeaks and orioles, who have become regulars at the feeders – sometimes in little confrontations with the resident red-bellied woodpecker – and a pair of barn swallows nesting above our porch light. We wonder how long they will put up with our constant va-et-vient and door slamming. Update on their breeding success next time.  — Doris Balant

In June

  • Step outside at night to see fireflies and to enjoy the longest hours of twilight on June 21
  • Listen for the evening music of the wood thrush and veery and the beginning of summer cricket song
  • Watch for pink mountain laurel blossoms along Route 301, daisies along most roadways and lady slippers in the forest
  • Look for the babies: young fawns, turkey polts, coyote and fox pups and fledglings of all sorts are hiding in plain sight.