April 2015

4/1     A mountain lion was seen on Farmers Mills Road!

Only kidding, April Fool’s Day. There was another joke today – big snowflakes fell all afternoon and created a winter scene on the first day of April.

4/1     Wood ducks flew in to roost in the wetlands north of Ice Pond after sunset. There were more than 300, some in pairs, as heavy snowflakes fell, proving the migration is timed with photoperiodism and not the weather.  — Judy Kelley-Moberg

4/2     I had forgotten how the trails at Nimham Mountain State Forest can reflect the fickleness of early spring – a mixture of mud, stream, collapsing soil, snow patches and even good ol’ terra firma. The microclimates are evident at a glance with south-facing, less-treed areas clearing out first, and shadier north-facing areas still with one foot in winter.  — Diana Lee

Photo of our early spring woodland
A nice day for a walk. Photo: Diana Lee

4/2     Leaving my house this morning, I saw the most flights of Canada geese heading north – ten in ten minutes – that I have seen this spring. One thing caught my attention: The strings of geese, all of them, were not as long as I remember in prior years.  — Lee Banner

4/2     I hived a package of bees after having waited through yesterday’s intermittent snow. Today was a balmy 65-degree day and I decided to inspect an overwintered hive. The bees were joyously flying all over, newly hatched workers exhibiting play flights, and a large volume of activity was taking place on the landing board. I knew that there was no nectar source yet for the bees as the red maple was just swelling. I peered intently at the entrance, and thought it was just wishful thinking that I saw pollen on a bee adorning its pollen baskets. About 30 bees later I saw bright yellow pollen in a bee’s baskets. Hallelujah! The beginning of the honey flow is on. From here on out it will only get better. Birds are on the move too!  — Ralph Szur

Photo of a honey bee with both pollen baskets stuffd full
There’s pollen; it has to be spring. Photo: Graham White

4/2     Today a fox sparrow scratched through the leaf litter along a fence row. A grackle fed under a neighbor’s feeders. Two phoebes hunted in a willow thicket. A tree sparrow flitted overhead. A pair of red-shouldered hawks circled. And hundreds of Canada geese streamed north, many at such altitudes that they were visible only with binoculars.

4/4     Spring peepers jingling! The sweet, sometimes deafening sound of the little tree frogs is a classic spring sound in Kent. The spring music begins. Rain and warm temps at day’s end brought the night alive – the smell of skunk, frogs crossing the road and warm, warm, warm rain. Yay!

4/4     Finally my snowdrops made their appearance…spring has really arrived!  — Rich Harrison

4/4     I visited a vernal pool and there was a mass migration of wood frogs on the forest floor. I found a few spotted salamanders and a Jefferson salamander in the water but most of the pool was still frozen. Last night, I went behind my house and found about a dozen male spotteds with spermatophores but no frogs.  — John Foley

Ed. note: The large mole salamanders, yellow-spotted and the rarer Jefferson salamanders migrate to vernal pools to mate. The males and females rub chins, circle each other, and the males leave sperm packages, spermatophores, for the females to ingest through their cloacal opening. Sometimes the spermatopores litter the leaf bottom and last for days if not taken by the females.

Photo of a spotted salamander in a vernal pool
On the prowl, salamander-style. Photo: Beth Herr

4/5     This sunny day held the promise of spring with rewards for a long winter: tree swallows were seen doing loop-de-loops in the Great Swamp, phoebes announced their return saying their name over and over, robins bobbed on greening lawns with ears turned to hear the earthworms moving.

4/6     A pair of wood ducks landed on our small pond, and the first phoebe arrived (one pair usually nests on top of one of the columns of our front porch) and a flicker appeared, seen several times since.

4/6     On my bike ride I heard peepers and wood frogs on the Horsepound Road DEC land.  — Ralph Szur

4/6     The day started at just above freezing, with all the lakes still iced over. But by day’s end, the ice on the Middle Branch and Gleneida had darkened to a deep slate gray, the first mourning cloak butterfly was sunning itself and a bright yellow coltsfoot flowered in the sixty-degree afternoon.

Photo of newly emerged mourning cloak butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa) sunning its wings
The sun feels so good. I’ve been waiting all winter for this day! Photo: Beth Herr

4/6     A visit to a vernal pool on Horsepound Road proved the spring cycle has begun. Hundreds of wood frogs chorused and traps were set to confirm. Many wood frogs were captured, counted, and released.

Photo of wood frogs in a trap, ready for counting.
How many wood frongs are there today? Photo: Beth Herr

4/8     The sky was low and gray; the ice on Lake Gleneida ashen, too. Brisk wind from the north meant wrapping up in my winter scarf again.

4/9     Spring really is coming and this weekend promises to be our first real taste of a new season. Already the daffodils and crocuses are working their way up through the soil and detritus that’s built up since last fall, bringing new color to what has been a drab season.

As of this morning, returning hummingbirds are reported in central New Jersey making their way north at about 50 miles per day. This means it’s time to put your feeders out because those little guys are going to be hungry when they get here!

The maple sap is flowing and the tree buds are red and ready to burst. The willows have greened up and everything is just waiting to burst back into life. And if you’re a vegetable gardener, I’ll bet the flats are full and you’re getting impatient! Once the soil dries out a bit, peas and lettuces and radishes can go in. It’s coming.  — Jeff Green

4/10     I had observed a pair of ducks flying over my house toward the lake several times in the past week or so. They were obviously interested in one of the only patches of open water by the lake shore. Although they frequent that spot daily throughout the year along with the ducklings in late spring / early summer, I couldn’t get both a duck and the lake front in the same shot. So here’s a photo of a yearling doe – taken just a week or so previously – showing the patch of open water.  — Lou Tartaro

Photo of a yearling doe standing in snow next to an open patch of water at the edge of a lake
Lots of us stop by for a drink, some by air, some on foot. Photo: Lou Tartaro

4/10     Yellow-bellied sapsuckers were drumming all day, sometimes on the metal DEP signs. Their irregular staccato beat is distinctive.  — Anne Balant-Campbell and Doris Balant

4/12     It was a brilliant morning with hundreds of tree swallows flashing bright in the sunshine. At least one barn swallow was among them, the first I had seen this season. Flickers were drumming and whinnying from one end of Croton Point Park to the other.  — Christopher Letts

4/18     Heard toads trilling in the afternoon on Cornwall Hill Road in Patterson, but have not yet heard them near our house as we usually do. We also saw woods ducks there in the marshy area near the railroad crossing.  — Anne Balant-Campbell and Doris Balant

4/18     Today early saxifrage is in flower. Also a single red trillium had opened as had a single trout lily, a single myrtle and a single stem of dutchman’s breeches. All were found in the warmest, most favorable micro-climate I know of. The race is on for spring ephemerals that need to do their flowering and their photosynthesizing before the trees open their leaves! Trailing arbutus is budded and wild ginger is pushing up leaves.

4/20     Rain all day, with windy gusts and the first thunderstorm of the season (not counting the one during the blizzard last winter). Over an inch of rain fell which may be enough to stop the brush fire alerts.

4/21     The birdsong at dawn has become nearly deafening, with cardinals, white-throated sparrows, flickers, titmice, and chickadees all contributing. The many goldfinches in summer plumage have turned our yard into a grove of lemon trees.  — Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

4/21     Towhee under feeder – they are around but do not typically come to the feeder.  — Whangtown Road

4/22     Earth Day was filled with spring flowers. The prettiest were the sprays of hepatica in purples, pinks and whites. Next to the hepatica the first wild ginger flowers appeared, low to the ground, the color of raw meat and smelling the same to attract carrion flies.

Photo of hepatica (Hepatica nobilis) in bloom
It may be called “common hepatica” but that doesn’t make it less beautiful. Photo: Beth Herr

Photo of wild ginger (Asarum canadense) in bloom
Wild ginger in bloom. Photo: Beth Herr

4/23     Snow!

4/24     We spotted a bald eagle by Lake Carmel, on Terry Hill Road close to Route 311, near the junction with Lakeshore Drive. It was in a tree about 50 feet up. Its size and the white head made for a definite identification. The red-bellied woodpecker continues to be a regular at our feeder. We have stopped feeding suet now that the weather is warm, but the red-belly seems to be picking seeds up from the ground.  — Anne Balant-Campbell and Doris Balant

4/24     As we pulled into our driveway this evening, we were greeted by the inquiring faces of three or four fox kits and one adult. The adult turned her back and sat down while the kits continued their wrestling and exploration. The kits had grown significantly since the last time we saw them and were now a quarter the size of Mom. Another immediately noticeable change was the color of their fur. It was now turning the same red color as Mom’s, still partly charcoal but well on its way to the beautiful coat of the adults. After a while they went for the cover of our shed. We wondered if we were mistaken several weeks ago when we thought they had left, or perhaps they were just making a return visit.  — Bruce Iacono, Maureen Iacono, Brewster

4/24     Below freezing at daybreak. Was that our last frost?

4/25     We have been enjoying the bright yellow flowers that we see on the roadsides that are neither dandelions nor winter aconite. I think they are coltsfoot.  — Anne Balant-Campbell and Doris Balant

Photo of coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) in bloom
The sunny faces of coltsfoot are a cheery sign of spring. Photo: Beth Herr

The last days of April were warm and delightful. Every night winds from the south brought more migrant songbirds. The songs of ovenbirds, persistent wrens, and all sorts of new warblers were heard. The forest was festooned in a lacy green. The landscape was visible through the trees because the leaves are still small.

In May, watch for:

  • The full Flower Moon on May 3
  • Baby birds hatching and the dawn chorus peaking
  • Dragonflies returning
  • Yellow pollen from white pine flowers covering everything
  • Cottonwood seeds lining the roads like swirling snow

Last Day to Enter Is Friday!
Kent Nature Almanac Photo Competition

Photo of lone leafless tree in a misty, snow-covered landscape
A lone sentinel guards a misty landscape. Photo: Beth Herr

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 June 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

The deadline for submitting images for the competition is May 15, 2015.

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