January 2012

1/1    Dill Preserve – the fourth annual New Year’s Day Hike; read about the event here.

1/6    Did you see that sunset? Such golden furrows glowing amid hot pink and aqua!

1/7    Another mild January record-breaking 63 degree Saturday! It was perfect for exploring our neighborhood: snow free trails invite hiking. We investigated the new North Hollow preserve (260 acres). It protects the Great Swamp watershed on Haviland Hollow Road and connects to Cranberry Mountain Multiple Use Area (now totaling 782 acres). Trails are planned to a lemon-squeeze cascade and nice, rocky hilltop views along the chestnut oak ridge. These contiguous open space properties provide valuable corridors and reservoirs for wildlife as well as make for fun explorations!  —Ralph Szur, Judy Kelley-Moberg, Jill Eisenstein, Beth Herr

(Ed. note: The Friends of the Great Swamp are sponsoring a hike there on Sunday, February 12. Contact Judy Kelley Moberg 845-878-7740.)

1/9    The full Snow Moon rose a half hour before a golden sunset adding warmth to a snow-less landscape

Kayaking in the Great Swamp from Green Chimneys North, I spied 3 mourning doves and some mallards in the lower swamp, but more than 150 mallards in the far upper reaches – behind the farm. What a surprise! I flushed them three times. The last time, they flew south, back down the river so I had a relatively long time to count them. Also heard swans vocalizing! I’d never heard them before.

There is still grass that is golden mixed in with green in some areas while most of the grasses are winter brown. There is ice on the edges of the river and in slow moving areas. There was ice an inch thick and about six inches above the water rimming various trees. The water is moving quite rapidly for this time of year. Especially surprising is how rapid it was in the upper reaches of the swamp. I even checked to see if something had happened to the resident beavers, but, no, they are snug and warm in their well “ mudded” lodge with many newly stripped branches strewn about.  — Diana Lee

1/10    A pair of ravens clicked, clonked, and cawed above the larch trees at Mt. Nimham Multiple Use Area on Gypsy Trail Road.

1/12    Headline in today’s paper: “Mild Weather Harsh for Allergies”. I wonder how the mild, snow-less winter (so far) has affected wildlife? The moles, voles, shrews must miss their winter cover, while raptors enjoy an open hunting ground; lyme ticks need the humidity of snow, while turkey, deer, and squirrels thrive. As for people, it’s a much easier winter with easy hiking for many while those who make maple syrup for the rest of us are facing a bleak season.

1/17    The ice on Dean Pond cracks, pings, clangs as its winter grip tightens

1/19    A Day for the Birds. It was a rushed morning. I had a few hours in which to get shopping chores done before tackling writing assignments. Even my evening was going to be busy – a nighttime meeting of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Families Growing Together program to be held in the Donald B. Smith office complex. I gave my work table a quick once over before grabbing my purse and keys off the nearby chair. No need for the camera, I thought, although I usually take it with me when I go out. A quick glance at my watch confirmed what I feared. It was 9:45 a.m. and I was already 45 minutes behind schedule.

My beloved Yukon, a 1996 GMC truck, kicks right in but I always give her several minutes to fully warm-up. If not, the brakes don’t engage immediately and more than once, in a rush to dash off somewhere, I’ve almost backed into the stonewall across the street. I’ve learned to allow her a few minutes of warming up in place, not unlike myself when getting up in the morning. Sigh.

Nimham Road to Farmers Mills to White Pond to Route 52 to I-84 was my route to Danbury. Traffic permitting, I could be at Staples by 10:10 easily. As I pulled onto White Pond, no cars were in sight at the Multiple Use parking lot or on the road for that matter. Picking up speed on the deserted road, I looked across the pond see if it was fully frozen. It didn’t appear to me that it was entirely solid. I had just written an article about ice skating there and wondered if it was safe enough to skate on.

Turning my attention back to the road ahead, I noticed a large black bird overhead in the distance, descending and getting larger as we approached each other. The bird’s wingspan was astonishing and I braked to watch as it flew directly over the Yukon, its white head allowing for instant identification. I turned and looked out a passenger side window to watch as it gracefully swooped down and perched atop a leafless tree just off the road. Without thinking, I reached to the front seat where I always keep my camera and swore rather vehemently at myself for leaving it at home. As I backed up slowly to get a closer view, the eagle titlted its head slightly as though to gauge the danger factor of a truck nearing its perch but then
dismissed us rather regally with a head jerk as it returned to its more important watch over the pond.

Before driving away and not caring now at all about the time, I made several pointed mental notes notes to myself: It’s eagle watch time in the area. Teatown’s Eagle Fest is coming up on Feb. 4. Don’t rush when driving by their natural habitats. I recalled seeing eagles along West Branch several years ago. So … stop rushing. Slow down. And don’t ever leave home without the camera!

I did slow down. One great sighting brought out the urge to be more watchful for the rest of the drive. That’s probably why I saw the hawk on the ground alongside the entry ramp as I drove onto I-84 a few minutes later.  — Marty Collins

1/21    Our first real snow storm of the winter brings 5 inches of fluffy flakes and magically transforms our landscape.

1/25    Mergansers, buffleheads, Canada geese, and others enjoy the open water on Lake Glenida.

1/26    As I looked out our window today, a flash of red caught my eye in the field below our driveway. It turned out to be a male cardinal. Isn’t it unusual to see a cardinal at this time of year? Unusual or not, it was delightful to see him.  — Jean Ehnebuske

(Ed. note: the Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis after its brilliant red robes, is a year round resident in our area…now. In the last hundred years or so their numbers have increased as they expanded their range from the south where they are abundant. (The first documented nest in our area was found in 1943). The Cardinal is most loved by its northern neighbors who enjoy the vivid red against bleakness of winter: it is the official state bird of seven states, primarily in the northern part of its range).

1/31    January leaves like a lamb with a sunny 55 degree day. Nice hike around White Pond where there is ice, but melted shorelines, especially the warmer northern end where skunk cabbage flowers, with their round, red and green checkered skins push through the mud to join the witches’ hats of curled up leaves, already greening up. More about this early bloomer and others next month.