September 2016

9/1     Just as the page on the calendar turned, a cold front pressed through and brought in a taste of autumn: clear blue skies, wind from the north, scudding clouds, and the smell of leaves, grapes, berries and mushrooms came with the breeze.

9/2     Have you seen a hairnet on your Monarda? All kinds of things are going on in your garden. Much is easy to miss. — at Brine Garden with Duncan.

Photo of a nearly spherical spiderweb  covering a spent Monarda bloom
Hairnet by Arachne’s daughters. Photo: Duncan Brine

9/3     Is it normal for maples to drop seeds at this time of the year?  — George Baum

Ed. note: Every maple species is different: red maples seeds fall first thing in the spring, getting a good jumpstart on the growing season (which is why they are so ubiquitous). Norway maple seeds are helicoptering now, before leaf drop. The same is true for our lovely sugar maples, which drop their samaras before their leaves. That said, I’ve watched seeds fall early, then seen the tree dead the next season. No doubt the maples are not happy with this heat or the drought.

9/4     I found a tiny snakeling in my kitchen one night. It was one I had never seen before and never heard of when I looked it up. It was a northern ringneck snake. In retrospect, I wish I had taken a picture of it, but there was too much interest from the cats. So out it went. Very pretty grey with an orange ring.

Ed. note: A ringneck snake is a nice find. They are beautiful! Some have a more yellow tone, some bright orange. They have the endearing quality of playing dead when provoked, flipping over, and showing their colors. They are hard to keep as pets because they eat salamander tails and little wormy things. They used to be more common, but not so around here anymore.

9/5     Using an underwater camera at White Pond, Dod Chahroudi captured the elegant stems of the water celery reaching for the sun. The water was thick with vegetation: hot temperatures plus the lowered level from the dam work gave the underwater garden a boost.

Underwater photo showing water celery (Vallisneria americana) tendrils reaching to the water's surface
Race to the top. Photo: Dod Chahroudi

9/9     Bedford, Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. We counted two migrating sharp-shinned hawks and one red-tailed hawk today. In midday, we spotted two juvenile red-tailed hawks doing battle just south of the platform. In late afternoon, a sharp-shinned hawk headed north had us wondering: Was it local, or hunting? Non-raptor observations included a nighthawk and various ravens.  — Anna Butler

9/12     The harvest from the garden at the end of Whangtown Road paints a colorful scene and fills the house with the smell of ripening peaches. Yum.

Photo of late summer harvest from home garder
A scrumptious and handsome pay-off for hard work. Photo: The Campbells

9/12     My yard is covered with webs made sparkly by the morning dew.  — Edie Keasbey

Photo of a doily-spider's web filled with dew drops
More handiwork from Arachne’s daughters. Photo: Edie Keasbey

Ed. note: Doily spiders make their webs on mowed grass, while the orb weavers prefer tall grass meadows. Spiderwebs are hard to detect on dry days, but given moisture from dew or mist, their designs are revealed.

9/12     Jewelweed flowers decorate the lowlands; the bright orange flowers dangle from tall, leafy, succulent stems. They decorate the woods in late summer. A close look reveals three petals spotted with brown, and three sepals, one of which wraps around to form a long spur creating a perfect nectar ampule for migrating hummingbirds. Perhaps the name refers to the blossoms that hang like jewels on a necklace or to the water droplets that glisten on glaucous leaves, or to the turquoise-colored seeds. Coils shoot the seeds out great distances when disturbed which explains the other common name for this plant: touch-me-not.

Photo of ripe and unripe jewelweed seeds on the open palm of a hand
Are these why it’s called “jewelweed”?. Photo: Beth Herr

9/16     A brilliant, shining Harvest Moon lit up the sky tonight. This moon is nearest to the autumnal equinox and historically gave local farmers extra hours of light to get crops in.

9/21     Bedford, Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. The anticipated big push of broad-winged hawks (197) finally arrived today along with 26 sharp-shinned hawks. Among the non-raptor observations were 94 cedar waxwings, two monarchs, and two ruby-throated hummingbirds.  — Anna Butler, Allen Kurtz, Brendan Popp, Charles Bobelis, Jack Kozuchowski, Tait Johansson, Tony Loomis

9/22     This morning around 9:30. I hadn’t even finished my first cup of coffee so the pictures I took are a little too blurry to use. A bear was standing next to a pot on a plant stand. I measured the height. The bear stands about 32 – 33 inches high at the shoulder, when on all four feet.  — Don Turner

9/24     Look at the chickens in my yard guarded by a panther.  — Lou Tartaro

Photo of panther statue atop a log with 'chicken of the woods' mushrooms (Laetiporus sulphureus) growing on it
“Chicken of the woods” mushrooms, that is. Photo: Lou Tartaro

9/29     This subspecies of goldenrod is called wrinkled leaf and one I look forward to each fall. The only issue is that it’s usually late to bloom and this year was even later. It’s out now and I’m seeing a flow of sorts. By the way, my area doesn’t hold any kind of distinguished provenance, you have it also and it will bloom until frost. Most years I can harvest off this bloom, but this year I’m just grateful the bees can build stores.  — Bill Hesbach.

Photo of wrinkled leaf goldenrod (Solidago rugosa) in bloom
Bees count on these. These count on bees (and beetles). Photo: Bill Hesbach

9/29     Saw a bumblebee sleeping on a flower. At this time of year, the workers stop returning to the hive as the work of making new queens is complete. Only the new queens will survive the winter, to begin new hives of their own in the spring. The workers that made it possible perish alone in the cold, but their genome is closely aligned with that of their sister queens and so it must be worth it from an evolutionary perspective. Still, there are species of bumblebees which evolved to circumvent the system and have only queens who kill queens of other species and have their offspring raised by the dead queen’s daughters. Such species are here in NYC.  — Harry Zirlin

Photo of a bumblebee resting in a yellow flower
It’s been a long day. Photo: Harry Zirlin

9/30     The month ended with the beginning of autumn. I hiked the AT trail heading east from Stormville Mountain and enjoyed flocks of warblers flitting in the branches, the sweeping view across the valley toward the Catskills, and scores of colorful asters and goldenrods.

Photo of edge of meadow with blooming goldenrod in the foreground
Golden autumn days. Photo: Beth Herr

In October

  • Listen for the last of the cricket calls during the day and a few katydids on warm nights
  • Watch as the leaves lose green chlorophyll revealing ochers in birches, vermillion in sweet gum, flame orange in sugar maples and bright yellow of tulip trees.
  • Look for mushrooms a few days after a good rainfall
  • Scan the skies for the last of the migrating hawks when winds are from the north
  • Enjoy a berry feast for the eyes: bright red spice bush berries, deep blue viburnum drupes, fragrant grapes, white dogwood and poison ivy berries, and bright orange bittersweet fruits

Kent Nature Almanac Photo Competition

Submission Deadline October 31!

Photo of an eastern red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) in bloom
Photo: Dave Ehnebuske

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 December 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

Beautiful fall weather ensures there is still time to capture a winning image. The deadline for submitting images for the contest is October 31, 2016.