News That Matters - April 4, 2015

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Apr 4, 2015, 1:06:28 PM4/4/15
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KCAC Nature Almanac

March 2015

Photo of a snowy fork
                            in a path in the woods
Two roads diverged in a wood. Photo: Diana Lee

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.  — Robert Frost

3/1     March started gray, quiet and snowy all day long. The spring sun was hidden from view and it felt like January. The month did not come in like a lion, but it was not warm like a lamb either.

3/2     An article in the local paper said “coyote sightings are on the rise in Putnam County … a Carmel man walking his dog Tuesday morning reported observing a coyote in a wooded area near Lake Gleneida.”

3/4     It was warm enough today for snow to melt in the raindrops. All that water created huge puddles on the roadways. With another plunge in temperature predicted, there will be lots of dangerous patches of black ice on Kent’s roads.

Photo of
                            bluebird house with snow melting off
Bluebird home available – immediate occupancy. Photo: Beth Herr

3/5     Last night: a snow-covered landscape that provided its own light at midnight and a glimpse of movement outside back along the edge of the woods. I looked out and saw my first-ever gray fox here. I’ve seen them elsewhere but not here. A stunning-looking, light-footed traveler trotting across the snow pack. What a treat! I noticed its shorter legs and impressive tail compared with red foxes I’ve seen more often. Enough snow light even to see the beautiful gray-rust shading.  — Anne Swaim

3/5     Snow, then rain, then snow again. Another wintry day in March. Sigh.

Photo of snowy scene with ski
                            tracks
A cross-country ski sounds nice. Photo: Beth Herr

3/6     Yesterday’s snow did make for great skiing at Fahnestock State Park today. The dazzling crystals of snow balanced by a deep-blue sky highlighted the beauty of this public treasure. Canopus Lake, frozen solid and crisscrossed by ski tracks, was also investigated by four-legged creatures who left their perfect-register tracks as they meandered in search of food.

Photo of Canopus
                            Lake with snow coming down
White is pretty but green would be a nice change. Photo: Beth Herr

Photo of bobcat tracks on
                            smooth snow
Going out to eat. Photo: Beth Herr

3/7     Bright and sunny with a warming trend, aaah. Skiing in the Great Swamp was a dream – smooth, wide, flat – skis fly like a magic carpet ride.

3/9     From the Journal News today: “Wildlife rehabilitators say that animals – mainly waterfowl, owls, hawks and some mammals – are under serious stress due to the cold winter. Two months of snow cover and brutal bouts of arctic air are endangering wildlife … animals – mainly waterfowl, owls, hawks and some mammals – are under serious stress. Many have starved because their food sources have been covered with snow and ice and the water they need to survive has been frozen.

“‘It’s been a really hard, long, cold, desperate and brutal winter for wildlife,’ said Taffy Williams, a wildlife rehabilitator from Yonkers. ‘A lot of raptors, hawks and owls are being found dead.’ Animals have been foraging in places they usually don’t – risky places such as urban streets or sun-warmed banks along parkways.

“‘Anything that’s looking to graze, that includes deer, they’re having a hard time,’ Williams said. ‘The winter’s been really hard on shore birds and birds of prey and also song birds. They look on the ground for seeds and any kind of grazing material. A screech owl injured by a car in Pleasantville was also emaciated, a goose and mallard duck were found starving near the mostly frozen Bronx River, and a red tail hawk, now on the mend, was found near the reservoir in Yonkers.’”

Hoping for an early spring after this winter but one thing’s for certain – I will not be able to plant peas outside on St. Patty’s day as the garden is still covered with at least a foot of snow.  — Lou Tartaro

3/14     This morning I was walking over to my neighbor’s house to feed the cats and I heard the ubiquitous call of a red-winged blackbird from the marsh within the dense fog and freezing rain.  — Little Pond, Patterson

3/15     Reports trickle in: killdeer have been heard, mergansers and wood ducks have been seen in meltwater pools, and eagles are nesting.

3/18     We saw a raccoon at the bird-feeding area for the first time this year.  — Doris and Anne Balant

3/20     Spring began today. At 6:45pm, the vernal equinox arrived. But Mother Nature had other plans, dropping three inches of snow. All the recently melted openings were covered again, and a collective sigh was heard.

3/20     The red-winged blackbirds have arrived at Dean Pond’s wetlands, and flocks of robins warble their “cheerio” despite a snowy scene.  — Ralph Szur

3/20     Woodcock (mating dance) on Whangtown Road. Red maple buds swell, the mountains begin to blush. Skunk cabbage melts its spathes through the snow.

Photo of skunk
                            cabbage flowers frosted with snow
See? Spring really is coming! Photo: Beth Herr

3/22     Looking out the window as the western sky turned from purple to black I was struck by the celestial silver jewelry of the moon and Venus.  — Dave Ehnebuske

Photo of the
                            crescent moon and Venus near each other in
                            the dark sky
Silver in the night sky. Photo: Dave Ehnebuske

3/23     Here is what we saw at our feeder during the Cornell Feederwatch program  — Doris Balant and Anne Balant-Campbell

Sightings and numbers from Cornell Feederwatch
Late February-March 2015, Whangtown Road, Town of Kent
0 Junco 30 Mourning dove
4 Blue jay 3 Chickadee
5 Goldfinch 12 Pine siskin
3 Titmouse 1 Nuthatch
5 House finch 1 Song sparrow
1 White-throated sparrow 1 Red-bellied woodpecker
1 Hairy woodpecker 2 Downy woodpecker
1 Yellow-bellied sapsucker 2 Rusty blackbird
2 Cowbird 1 Grackle
2 Starling 15 Red-winged blackbird
7 Canada goose 2 Cardinal
Reports are of largest number seen during two consecutive days of counting in the period 2/23–3/23.
Seen, but not at the feeder: red-tailed hawk, Cooper’s hawk, pileated woodpecker and barred owl calling.

3/24     Several mammals are picking up their activity levels: we heard a fox barking/shrieking. A short time later, several coyotes came up much closer to the house than normal and howled for quite a while.  — Doris Balant and Anne Balant-Campbell

3/25     Robins appear. These are robins from the south (T. migratorius) that we consider the harbingers of spring. The robins you see in winter have not migrated north too early by mistake. They have come south from Canada and are a different subspecies, T. m. nigrideus. They are uniformly darker or blackish on the head, with a dark gray back with slightly more red underparts.

Flock of red-wings singing in the Great Swamp.  — Doris Balant, Anne Balant Campbell

3/26     Foggy and warm though it looks quite wintry with every bit of air and ground a bleached, colorless white.

3/26     I couldn’t resist looking in down at my pond tonight to see if any sallies are moving to their mating pond. No salamanders yet but … found this guy. No peepers or wood frogs, but I’m happy with finding a greenie!  — John Foley

Photo of green frog in home pond
Didn't expect to find you here! Photo: John Foley

3/27     Heard my first woodcock!  — Dan Aitchison

3/29     Despite the melting snow, we have not seen any skunk cabbage as yet, and our aconite is still iced in.  — Doris Balant and Anne Balant-Campbell

3/30     As the snow melts, voles’ tunnels are exposed.

“These tunnels were excavated in the snow next to the ground in what is referred to as the subnivean layer. They lead from sleeping areas to known sources of food, and are advantageous to both mice and voles that travel in them – they provide thermal insulation by protecting them from the wind and cold, and they keep these rodents hidden from predators. Carbon dioxide, which builds up in the subnivean layer from animal respiration as well as CO₂ released from the ground, escapes through ventilation shafts, or air vents, that lead up to the surface of the snow.

“Voles stay in these tunnels as long as the snow is deep enough not to expose them, finding food in the form of plants, seeds and bark from bushes and shrubs as they dig through the snow. This winter has provided voles, mice and shrews with an extended period of protection, as hungry barred owls attest to.”  — from Naturally Curious with Mary Holland

3/31     The last day of March mirrored the long winter: ice still covers Dean Pond and Lake Carmel. Even deep Lake Gleneida is solid still. At day’s end large heavy snow flakes fell all afternoon. The sun sets so much later, the catkins lengthen and buds swell, but Old Man Winter lingers.

Photo of snow on tree
                            looking like Old Man Winter
You’re not rid of me yet. Photo: spinningwebbs.com

In April:

  • Take down the bird feeders. To prevent black bears from visiting backyard bird feeders, fish and wildlife departments in New England recommend taking down birdfeeders from April 1 through December 1.
  • Note the full “Grass Moon” on April 4
  • Don’t miss the peak of the Lyrids meteor shower on April 22
  • See the constellation Pleiades in the west just after sunset
  • Watch for bumblebees and chevrons of geese heading north
  • Listen for spring peepers, wood frogs and the first warblers
  • Be alert for frogs and salamanders crossing the roads on rainy nights
  • Get ready for the arrival of the shadflies
  • Look for trout lily and shadbush blooms by month’s end

May 15 Deadline Approaches for
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: herr...@comcast.net

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

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