November 2015

Indian summer arrived in November. Mild and sunny days were irresistible and many Kent residents were out and about as if with spring fever. The blossoms of the witch-hazel and the seeds of the wild clematis, Nature’s last hurrah, decorated the roadsides.

Photo of witch-hazel blooms in the last fall
Witch-hazel is named for its flexibility, not for casting spells. Photo: Beth Herr

Photo of Clematis virginiana in he late fall, showing the seed heads
Getting ready to plant some new clematis seeds. Photo: Beth Herr

11/1     While conducting a distance spotlighting survey of white-tailed deer in the Hudson Valley, we came upon two snakes – a timber rattlesnake and a copperhead. Other wildlife spotted included two red foxes, a skunk and a raccoon. The rattlesnake, about three feet long, slowly slithered across the woods road in front of our vehicle. The copperhead was slightly more difficult to see as it blended in very well with the fallen leaves and was staying perfectly still. Only its eerie eye shine in the headlights gave it away.  — Lilly Schelling, Environmental Management Bureau, NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation

Note: The omission of exact locations of easily threatened fauna becomes necessary following examples of human intrusion.  — Tom Lake.

Two photos of a copperhead snake (Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen), dorsal and lateral views
This is what I look like, but can you see me among the leaves? Photo: Beth Herr

11/2     From dawn until mid-morning, the lawn, garden and woods were filled with robins – a jolly sight. Scores if not hundreds were flipping leaves, cocking their heads, tut-tutting at one another. Did they fly all night? They were certainly not in a hurry and showed no signs of moving on. I was going to attack the leaves today but that can wait.  — Christopher Letts

11/3     While raking the oak leaves in the yard today, I was amused by the scurrying chipmunks. I pondered their frenzy and wondered when they would descend to their warm winter lairs. Just then, I watched one chipmunk disappear in the gravel parking area. Where could it have gone? I snapped a picture of the chipmunk escape hatch. This industrious chipmunk had tunneled through about a foot of stone. Chipmunks have several openings to their underground tunnel; this one was made to last, and probably leads to a snug, sturdy winter chamber. Chipmunks do not hibernate, but merely snooze. They wake up during warm periods and snack on stashed away nuts.

Photo of a chipmunk escape hole dug through a foot of gravel
The secret behind the disappearing trick. Photo: Beth Herr

11/4     The last of the red blueberry leaves persist and leave a brilliant red ring around White Pond.  — Dod Chouhroudi

Phot of late fall foliage at White Pond
Still water and late fall foliage. Photo: Dod Chahroudi

11/6     Summer weather in November – air temperatures for seven of the eight days exceeded 60° with five of those over 70°, including a day of record highs. The autumn migration of geese and blackbirds intensified.  — Tom Lake

11/7     Yesterday at breakfast time five swans flew in to the lake. Three were immature and still had vestiges of juvenile feather coloration. After lunch when our son Michael was photographing his spaniel puppy by the lake, the swans took flight to leave. Typically swans circle the lake twice to gain altitude before flying over the trees. This group simply took off straight heading over the dam. Michael swung his camera to catch them departing. One of the juveniles crashed into the upper branches of a swamp maple near us and fell, plunging into the lake. My lab, Marie, jumped in to get the swan. Fortunately it recovered and flapping its wings, it made good its escape. Later in the day the swans left successfully, albeit unseen by us.  — Gordon Douglas

11/9     There was some red-shouldered hawk activity today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch with a kettle of 13 spotted in mid-morning (season total 177). Non-raptor observations included three purple finches, 22 Canada geese, a common loon and five common ravens.  — Charlie Plimpton, Christiana Ricchezza, Jason Tellone

11/10     My wildlife camera caught a prowling fisher!  — John Foley

Photo from trail camera of a fisher (Martes pennanti)
Yes, I’m a fisher, but, no, I’m not big on fish. Photo: John Foley

11/12     Two blustery days bring down all the leaves.

11/13     Three bluebirds flitted about the magnolia, while robins and a flicker spent the day near feeders.  — Doris Balant

11/17     Cornell Feederwatch observations 11/16-17: Highest numbers seen at one time on the observation days: mourning doves 10, blue jays 8, downy woodpeckers 2, titmice 2, white-breasted nuthatches 1, juncos 6, goldfinches 3, house finches 2, red-bellied woodpeckers 3 and cardinals from time to time.  — Doris Balant

11/17     Lake Carmel was loaded with ducks today! There were rafts of hundreds of common mergansers in the open waters, flotillas of ruddy ducks, occasional ring-necked and hooded mergansers. All were floating and diving and preening – spending their weeks here until the ice sends them further south.

11/18     Clouds cleared mid-morning.

11/22     It was cool at midnight (38°) and fairly bright (three days to full moon), so the woods were a collection of gray shadows. Coyotes were on the prowl. I guessed at least three, maybe four. The acoustics of the night gave their yips and soft howls a surround-sound effect, but I knew they were not far off, just to the west. Small mammals must have been on high alert.  — Tom Lake

11/25     The full Wolf Moon, rising early as the sun set, filled the sky with light all night long. The great constellation Orion was still visible despite the bright moon. Orion, the hunter, will be visible throughout the cold months. You can track his hunt across the night sky. In late November he begins his twelve-hour trek from east to west around 7pm. Each night he starts a little earlier so that, come May, he’ll finish his daily hunt early, disappearing in the west just as night falls.

11/26     What spectacular sunsets have lit up the evening skies of Kent this month. The sun sets early, at 4:27pm today. After it sinks below the horizon, darkness falls early. No longer the hour-long twilights of summer, winter’s dusk is brief but brilliant. Clouds that reflect the pinks, golds, and blues make the short burst of color worthy of a long look.

11/27      A thick fog hung low over Kent this morning. Dean Pond looks drastically different from a month ago. Gone are the deep blue waters and colorful reflections of red-leaved trees. Now the pond is somber and gray. Fog drifts over the dead cattails, creating a scene of gloom.

But by midday, warm winds from the south lifted the fog and warmed the air. Temps reached 64°, and a pale silver sun shone through a veil of high clouds. It was a perfect day for an autumn walk.

Four Kent residents joined the Walk Off the Turkey hike, led by CAC member Dave Ehnebuske, around Wonder Lake. Jackets and sweaters were not necessary as the hikers climbed up and around Bare Hill. Wonder Lake was beautiful, quiet, and serene. The trails were easy to follow, almost as if leaf-blown, which was a pleasant surprise so soon after leaf fall. Several hikers were encountered. This state park is used by many Kent residents.

Photo of Marty Collins, Dave Ehnebuske and Phil Tolmach on trail at Wonder Lake State Park
A lovely day for a walk around Wonder Lake. Photo: Beth Herr

11/28     Brrr. A taste of winter with temps in the 30’s and skim ice on Dean Pond.

11/29     Are bluebirds confused by this warm weather? We noticed them flitting around our yard a few weeks ago and now they have been poking their heads into the birdhouse as if feeding some chicks.  — George Baum

Ed. Note: Your bluebirds will winter here, right in Kent. On cold nights they may slumber together in tree cavities or nest boxes. I have seen as many as 14 bluebirds exit their night chamber on cold mornings. Perhaps your bluebirds were checking out their winter accommodations. They will eat berries but on warm February days they will be picking stoneflies and other small insects off the snow.

11/29     Tonight, for the first time in about six years, we had several coyotes calling in the moonlight, their voices clear and close. Perhaps we’re getting new neighbors to fill an ecological niche that’s been empty for a while. Hope so.  — Dave and Jean Ehnebuske

In December watch for:

  • Mice in the house as they seek warmth for the winter!
  • The full Long Night Moon on Christmas night, December 25
  • Red berries on partridge, winterberry, multiflora rose and barberry, bright red stems of red osier dogwood in wet areas
  • Bracket fungi on dead tress
  • Green! Moss, ferns, plant rosettes, spotted wintergreen and mountain laurel stay green all winter
  • The winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year on December 21
  • Animal tracks after the first snowfall