May 2015

5/1     Marsh marigolds blooming in wetland areas along Shrade Road, rose-breasted grosbeak at feeder, a Louisiana waterthrush – which is actually a warbler and has a sweet melodic call – near Kentwood Lake, and an ovenbird! Have been hearing yellow warblers and chestnut-sided warblers in the Patterson/Holmes area but not yet here in Kent.  — Anne and Doris Balant

5/2     Dean Pond on Horsepound Road, a glacial water feature with deep water and unusual plants, was chosen by a pair of wood ducks for a nesting site. The red and green aquatic plants provide food, the surrounding shrubs provide hiding places, and the dead trees provide cavities for the wood duck. I rustled up mom and dad as I walked by, and noticed sparkling insects on the wing. One mayfly, newly hatched and hardened, landed on my hat.

Photo of a mayfly on a cloth hat brim
Here today, gone tomorrow. I’m from the order Ephemenoptera. Photo: Beth Herr

5/3     The KCAC held the annual spring hike to Hawk Rock on a fine spring day. The forest was decorated in a fine mist of new spring green. The marsh marigolds, violets, and wood anemones decorated the forest floor. The rock stood in the quiet – sentinel of this forest for thousands of years – a witness to the Wappinger people and the ever-changing wildlife. What a treasure Kent keeps in the heart of town.

Photo of a marsh marigold in bloom
Marsh marigolds, another sure sign it‘s early May. Photo: Beth Herr

5/4     Eastern tent caterpillars have webbed limb forks in black cherry trees. Tent caterpillars leave the web to feed on the leaves but return to its gauzy shelter while they digest their meal. Sometimes the caterpillars can strip a whole tree of leaves. Most trees leaf out again, but at much cost to their stores of starches.

Photo of eastern tent caterpillar tent
The very hungry caterpillar and several hundred hungry brothers and sisters live here. Photo: Beth Herr

5/5     Toads calling at last. Their melodic trilling is so completely unexpected from a creature with such an ungainly appearance.  — Whangtown Road

5/5     A valiant crew of volunteers parked themselves beneath the Mount Nimham fire tower and assisted the two intrepid carpenters who worked for three full days atop the tower replacing the 1940 floor and installing painted murals and a new hand rail. Assorted tools, portable generators, ropes and pulleys, and hard hats were at the ready. It took a day to tear out the old floor, and two to put in pressure-treated lumber and the four mural panels painted by the Go Green Club of George Fischer Middle School.

The days were sunny and dry, the shadflies fierce and hungry. Most volunteers were covered with itchy bites at day‘s end. But the sense of accomplishment, the fine spring days filled with bird song, and the appreciative hikers made the work worthwhile.

5/7     A red fox sat under the birdfeeder outside our kitchen. Later we heard foxes barking (shrieking sound) in the late evening and night.

Winds from the south have brought waves of migrants at night, and every day there is a new song in the forest and fields. Here‘s a list from Whangtown Road: male indigo bunting at feeder, wood thrushes, ruby-throated hummingbird, veery, crested flycatcher, Canada warbler, blue-winged warbler and a catbird. A turkey has been hanging around and sometimes runs right by our front door looking somewhat alarmed and confused.

And in Patterson: black-and-white warbler, redstart, blue-winged warbler, chestnut-sided warbler.  — Anne and Doris Balant

5/12     It was a very sultry afternoon, a prelude to summer. The air temperature was 84°.

5/13     While filling my bird feeders this morning I was being watched by a large black bear about fifteen feet away from me, just sitting and watching my every move. I remained calm and walked back into my house. The bear proceeded to take down my feeders and then walked through my yard like it owned it, stopping at my bird bath for a nice cold drink. It stayed for 30 minutes or so. I now have my bird feeders on twelve-foot-high cables.  — Diane Anderson, Fishkill

5/14     The male hummingbirds have been at my feeder for more than a week. I have been watching for the females to arrive. And today, the first female came for some nectar.

While out walking in a wet meadow at mid-day, I came upon a female spotted turtle. This handsome turtle, a representative of a “Species of Special Concern,” was either heading to summer feeding grounds or to a sandy nesting area. While those yellow spots might seem like a beacon to a predator, they are great camouflage when the turtle is under water. The yellow spots become sparkles of sunlight on a rippled surface. Spotted turtles need four distinct habitats to survive: vernal pools or isolated wetlands for overwintering, wet meadows for feeding, woodland streams and swamps in the autumn.

Photo of a spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata) on grass
Do you have more spots on your left or your right? Photo: Beth Herr

5/15     The field crickets have begun to chirp – their mating calls rev up the warmer it gets.

5/20     Baby bluebirds hatched and are hungry. It must be easy for mother bluebird to drop a caterpillar into the yellow target of the open-mouthed hatchlings.

Photo of eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis) babies in nest
Feed me! Photo: Beth Herr

5/21     The last few days were cool and cloudy, with temperatures dipping at night. Sweaters and scarfs were needed again and tender plants brought in at night or covered with cloches.

5/22     Sitting at the dinner table, I was astounded to see a red fox trot along the edge of lawn. The sunlight was low, and backlit the glistening blond fur. What a regal beast. The fox pounced, four feet off the ground, and landed squarely but missed her mark. She turned her head left, right, left, right, listening for the mouse or vole trying to escape under the vegetation. The fox pounced again and again and finally came up with a furry meal in her teeth.

5/23     I have this big turkey vulture hanging around in the trees and the cliff at the back of my property. Today I followed her for a bit and found her nest in the cliff on the back of my property. The eggs are about the size of my hand. And mommy, up in the trees overhead, was keenly aware of me.  — Bill Volckmann

Photo of turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) nest with two eggs
Mommy is watching. Don‘t even think about getting any closer. Photo: Bill Volckmann

5/23     It was 40° this morning; not quite a frost, but close. The spring sun warmed the dry air. Fire alerts were posted for our area. Stiff breezes from the north and low humidity made for a dangerous mix despite the abundant green vegetation.

A bike ride heading south from Lake Gleneida was like riding through a perfumery. The white clusters of black locust flowers exuded fragrance as thick as honey. Blossoms from the sweet smelling autumn olive shrubs mixed with whiffs of sweet vernal grass and new-mowed lawns.

And the sounds from the cool green forest provided a changing repertoire of bird song: the ethereal flute of the wood thrush, then the clear, loud “Who am I? I don‘t know!” of the red-eyed vireo, the raspy cheerio of the scarlet tanager, followed by the sweet-sweet of the yellow warbler. It was a fine ride.

5/24     A small hawk perched on our barn. It was either a Cooper‘s or a sharp-shinned hawk. According to the helpful website form Cornell, “Separating sharp-shinned hawks from Cooper‘s hawks is one of the classic birding challenges.” We agree! We only saw it with the naked eye, and only briefly, but we think it was the slightly larger Copper‘s hawk. Both species are fast fliers that frequent woodland environments and hunt mice and birds.  — Anne and Doris Balant

5/25     Stiff breezes from the south ramped up the humidity and the temperatures, lowering the threat of fire. Kent experienced August‘s rainfall in May with little over one inch of rain so far this month. The gray tree frogs didn‘t seem to mind: their evening chorus was loud and long near a breeding pond on Horsepound Road. Nice nighttime music!

5/27     Today on a patio lamp I came across this hardworking bald-faced hornet queen coming and going from her newly built nest. Building this complicated structure, laying the first eggs and rearing the first brood all on her own is a lot of work and a delicate time in her species‘ life cycle. I wish she had chosen a slightly different location for her home. While she was okay with me watching her from only a few feet away, her offspring probably won‘t be quite so tolerant. We‘ll see.  — Dave Ehnebuske

Photo of a bald-faced hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) queen on newly constructed nest
Quite an undertaking for one lone insect. Photo: Dave Ehnebuske

5/27     Around 7am on Cornwall Hill Road in Patterson, near the Great Swamp Wildlife Management Area, we found a moderate-sized snapping turtle (shell about a foot long) in the middle of the road right next to the railroad tracks. It was a cool morning and she seemed to be resting and waiting for the sun to warm her up. According to the NYS DEC, “Females move to upland nesting locations predominantly in the early morning or early evening” and they usually lay their eggs in June.

She may have been on her way to lay her eggs, and in any case, we wanted to move her away from the tracks and across the road in the direction she had been heading so she would not go back into danger. However, given the long neck and sheer strength and aggression, I would not handle a snapper of that size. I attempted to prod the turtle to encourage her to move using a long piece of plastic trim I found on the roadside, but she turned towards it aggressively, rotating back towards the direction from which she had come. Finally, she bit the end of the plastic and held on tightly. The old saying that “a turtle will not let go until it thunders” worked to our advantage here. I was able to drag her gently to the correct side of the road before she released her hold. Per the DEC, the snapping turtle is the official NYS reptile.

Three barn swallows had a very noisy altercation with a male bluebird next to the bluebird nesting box on our garden fence. Perhaps the swallows were thinking of moving in, and the bluebird was not willing to give it up.  — Bruce Campbell

5/28     A steamy summer-like day ended in not one, but two drenching thunderstorms. The 1½ inches of rain was welcome as was that wonderful smell of rain on hot pavement. The gusts of wind brought down scores of beautiful tulip tree flowers allowing a close look at these high-in-the-tree blossoms.

Photo of tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) blossoms and leaves
In Kent, beautiful flowers sometimes drop from the sky. Photo: Beth Herr

5/29     The air is filled with floating cottonwood seeds and twirling red maple helicopters.

5/30     The month of May, so laden with wonderful flowers, ended with two days of rain. The precipitation was welcome and put an end to worries about August-like drought and fire alerts. The roadways are edged with purple wild geraniums, the daisies begin to dot the meadows, and the bird song is full and vibrant.

Photo of jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) in bloom
Here‘s Jack! Photo: Beth Herr

In June

  • Visit the Kent Public Library to see the winners of the Kent Nature Almanac Photo Competition
  • See the full Strawberry Moon on June 2
  • Watch for turtles crossing the roads to lay their eggs
  • Note goldfinches (our latest nesters) using last year’s cattail fluff or thistle down to line their nests
  • Don‘t miss the summer solstice on June 21
  • Listen for the trill of the gray tree frogs on hot, humid nights as they congregate at mating ponds
  • Watch for the appearance of fireflies and June bugs

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