November 2017

11/1     One lonely looking pair of mergansers on Little Fill just arrived from Canada, the first of many waterfowl headed soon to Kent’s abundant waters. Nuts and acorns litter the woodlands. Though most leaves are down, the ocher of hickory and oak gild the gray hillsides.

A closer inspection of a lingering clump of leaves reveals a brown papery pendant hung ready to endure winter winds: this durable cocoon houses a giant sphinx moth caterpillar. Next spring, if it does not get eaten, a brilliant and big Cecropia moth will emerge.

Photo of a Sphinx (Cecropia) moth cocoon
It’s a sphinx. If all goes well, when the weather warms it will come to life phoenix-like!. Photo: Beth Herr

11/2     We took this picture yesterday – isn’t that late for monarch to still be here? And what about those blooming asters?

Photo of a monarch butterfly on blooming asters
It’s a long way to Mexico. Winter’s a comin’. Maybe it’s time to get a move on. Photo: Doris Balant

11/4     The Great Swamp was adorned with the fall palette of beiges, reds, and burnt orange as I ventured in on November third. Birds are fewer in song and sight, though crickets are still very much in the aural world. The gray of tree trunks is making its statement about winter’s imminent appearance. Beaver seem unconcerned as their lodge is still not mudded – natural and handy insulation. A slick otter swam into the crook of a meander and even though I practiced my quiet paddling and unpredictable strokes to gain another view, I was greeted only with water-soaked logs!  — Diana Lee

Photo of a scene in the Great Swamp showing fall colors
The Great Swamp’s great fall palette. Photo: Diana Lee

11/4     It was a pretty wild day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch as we passed the 7,000 mark for migrants this season. It was a big day for red-shouldered hawks with no fewer than 167 counted, sometimes in kettles of up to 26 birds, intermixed with red-tailed hawks (22) and turkey vultures (242). An unidentified accipiter passed by, most likely a northern goshawk. Non-raptor observations included monarchs (12) and common loons (3).  — Silvan Laan, Blake Auchincloss, Steve Tulchin

11/7     It was a mild day that dimmed with the hours. By dark, heavy raindrops fell, then turned icy. As I drove on I-84 after dark, heavy and huge snowflakes pelted the windshield, a surprise winter appetizer.

11/8     Hot-umn abruptly ended, blasted away by bracing winds that started before dawn. The cold was a surprise. Folks needed hats and gloves as they hunkered over leaning into the wind.

11/9     Temps plunged to a low of 15° as Kent had it first hard frost. The cold, still air last night meant perfect conditions for ice formation. At daybreak sparkly crystals edged leaves, branches and grass. Low streams of sunlight melted the white fringe quickly. The garden plants have blackened and bent. Leaves dropped silently in the still air.

Photo of ice-rimmed leaves in various pastel autumn shades
In Nature, beauty can be found on all scales, if you’ll just look for it. Photo: Beth Herr

11/12     The air temperature fell to 25° today, tying the record low for the date.  — National Weather Service

11/12     The “endless summer” has ended. Yesterday we enjoyed warm weather and “summer nature.” Now it feels like winter. During the past week I spotted orange sulphur and monarch butterflies, found ten species of mushrooms including the deadly destroying angel and the edible shaggy mane, and enjoyed many flowers including red clover, dandelion, aster, butter-and-eggs and Queen Anne’s lace. The long summer into autumn was much enjoyed.  — Edward Mertz

11/12     There are more than ten lakes in Kent, plus reservoirs which provide ample space for newly arrived waterfowl. But for some reason most of the birds choose Lake Carmel. Today there were several rafts of mergansers, ruddy ducks, and handsome buffleheads. Out in the open, splashing water and careening gulls meant something was going on. Through the binoculars it was interesting to watch over 200 ducks dipping and diving for fish. Maybe the birds prefer Lake Carmel because it is shallow with lots of little fish, or is it just the wind direction that brings them here?

11/14     Sunny skies and shifting winds allowed temps to finally return to normal. Last week’s deep freeze has changed the landscape. Leaf drop has ended except for those lingering on oaks and beech trees. The Japanese maple leaves are black and the garden plants are crumpled and forlorn. Still, there is beauty everywhere: low sunlight creates long shadows and backlit red wine berry bristles. Witch-hazel blossoms are yellow stars in a deep blue sky. Soft breezes rattle the papery oak leaves. The call of the ravens echoes off the hillside. Brilliant red winter berries decorate the green mountain laurel and moss.

Close-up photo of subtly colored moss, lichen, and fungi
Winter brings Nature’s more subtle colors to the fore. Photo: Beth Herr

11/15     It was another successful volunteer work day at the Mt. Nimham fire tower. Three carpenter-climbers cut away the 1940 wood planks, sawed through rusted bolts, painted exposed metal, and installed pre-cut pressure-treated wood. The new landings are handsome, thanks to dedicated community leaders.

Photo of partially removed landing in the Mount Nimham fire tower. Photo: Dave Ehnebuske
Next spring we’ll stain them. Photo: Dave Ehnebuske

11/18     With a cold, dreary rain it really felt like November. The hours of sunlight have declined – sunset arrived so soon to end the day, and darkness prevailed. With another month of shrinking daylight ahead, the urge to hibernate under a warm blanket led to a little nap.

11/23     It was appropriate on Thanksgiving Eve that 50 wild turkeys came out of the woods, marching, with the older birds seemingly in charge. I also found some conclusive evidence with my feeders that a black bear had been around last night.  — Diane Anderson

11/24     It was a fine Thanksgiving Day with brilliant blue skies, gentle breezes and scudding clouds. Local roads were quiet. I walked the causeway on Nichols Road without interruption from road traffic. There was much to be thankful for: clean water, clean air, and 200 or so winter water fowl feeding in the lee of the mountain. I crisscrossed the roadway several times admiring the ducks. A lone stranger fishing on the shoreline said on one pass: “Did you see the eagles?” Though I had been looking in their direction for almost an hour, I missed two white-headed bald eagle adults and two spotted juveniles sunning in the trees. Right here in our backyard, and right under my nose: gratitude.

11/25     Ten hikers enjoyed Kent CAC’s Walk Off the Turkey excursion through Dill Preserve to read the history and natural seasons of the landscape. Highlights included: great views of the old racetrack and the failed-railroad stonework, sunlit beech and oak leaves, mounds of verdant moss, and several kinds of mushrooms.

11/30     The month ended in a great show of waterfowl all over town. In the last few weeks there have been thousands of ducks on Lake Carmel, hundreds on Lake Gleneida and any number on Kent’s other lakes. Common and hooded mergansers, geese and buffleheads, ruddy ducks and golden eyes, canvasbacks and mallards. With the glass of binoculars through the glass of the windshield, entertaining birding in the car on chilly days was easy to find.

In December

  • Look to the skies for a full super Long Night Moon on December 3, the Geminid meteor showers on December 12, Mercury and Venus in conjunction (remarkably close) on the December 15 and the Ursids meteor shower on the December 20. Mark the shortest day of the year – the winter solstice – on December 21.
  • Search for winter color: the red stems of dogwood, the green glow of moss and the brilliant red of berries.
  • Be on the lookout for bald eagles near reservoirs, their white heads visible in the trees. Their feeding behavior a thrill to watch.
  • Find bird nests in the woods. (Can you tell what fibers were used?) Animal tracks in the snow. (Can you tell what happened?)
  • Listen for owls calling at night as they court and set up breeding territories.