April 2017

April is not the “cruelest month” for us, but rather a month of “firsts.” Every year the same excitement and pleasure when another creature announces itself. Early on came the peeper serenade with an occasional toad call, and we saw a dark form of Easter tiger swallowtail warming his wings for its first flight (though since then only an occasional cabbage butterfly!)  — Doris Balant

4/1     April Fool’s Day – we were fooled to think it is spring. Snow today. Lingering, late, warm light at day’s end however gave us the last laugh. The spring parade has begun!

Photo of a spring sunset through leafless trees
The promise of things to come. Photo: Beth Herr

4/3     Heavy rain throughout the day and night likely meant amphibians were migrating. Woodland pools filled with egg masses, pond edges rippled with life and roadways edged themselves in pothole puddles.

4/4     I heard a voice call “Phoebe” today. The little callers have returned from their wintering grounds to nest under eaves and rocky ledges. The waterfowl have returned as well, with common merganser pairs seen floating on Kent’s lakes.

4/5     After fog at daybreak, low hanging clouds lingered most of the day, the sun finally breaking through to light up a spring scene. Lawns greened up, mourning doves cooed, storm drains gurgled, phoebes proclaimed their return and the air warmed to a pleasant 60°. It is nice to know there are many warm sunny days ahead.

4/6     Heavy, steady rain fell all day, ending in a booming thunderstorm. Reservoirs rose higher, ponds expanded, the music of running water greeted every turn. With the ground saturated, the forest floor was a sodden brown carpet.

4/7     A bluebird sang near available housing this morning at dawn. Yes, please, there are multiple rooms to choose from, all available for a song!  — Anne Swaim

4/8     This noisy raptor landed near us and then flew from one tree to another before flying off. I thought it was a falcon but my son looked in the guides and thinks it may be a sharp-shinned hawk. Any thoughts?? He also photographed a visiting eagle and an osprey today.  — Gordon Douglas

Photo of a sharp-shinned hawk perched on a tree limb
Like you, I’m good at bridwatching. Photo: Gordon Douglas

Ed. note: We asked an expert and he concurs with your son. “It is in the genus Accipiter based on the slender body, long tail and rust-colored bars on the breast. The relatively small bill compared to the head and squared end of the tail are field marks for the sharp-shinned. In contrast Cooper’s has large bill compared to head and rounded end of the tail. The gray back and well-defined rust bars on the breast indicate adult sharp-shinned hawk.”  — Jim Utter

4/9     Yesterday I got to see the bald eagle that’s been hanging out in Haviland Hollow. Picture attached. Also saw kingfisher and flicker but they were too far away and fast to photograph.  — Justin Goodhart

Photo of a bald eagle perched dramatically on a tree limb
Yes, in Patterson! Photo: Justin Goodhart

4/9     Yellow-bellied sapsuckers drummed repeatedly in the forest today, staking out their territories. This handsome little woodpecker’s slow, measured strikes make it easy to identify by ear. Our other local woodpeckers hammer much more rapidly.

4/12     House wrens have returned, trilling with exuberance. Also trilling like miniature jingle bells in the distance, toads have dug themselves out of the mud and begun to mate. The swallows were everywhere. What a delight to watch them fly back and forth. Their boisterous loop-de-loops make them appear happy to be back. Cool nights and warm days delight everyone. Flowers begin to color the landscape and nature’s first green is gold: willows, coltsfoot, forsythia, and lawns glow.

Photo of boardwalk leading into a marsh in early spring
Ah, spring at last! Photo: Beth Herr

4/14     I went for my first paddle of the season on a sunny, warm day. I chose the Great Swamp and put in at the Environmental Center in Patterson. Although the water level was seasonally high I pondered whether I would encounter beaver dams that would necessitate a portage. Slipping along in a nice downstream current it wasn’t long before I encountered a log just below the surface. I managed to glide across. Thank goodness I waxed the hull last fall. I made a mental note that soon the falling water level will make this log an obstacle.

In the many oxbows I put up mallards. Near Pine Island I saw tree swallows and painted turtles hauled out on a branch. A chattering kingfisher led me downstream, while red-wings cavorted about. In the distance a great blue heron flapped northward, while bluebirds examined one of the ubiquitous tree cavities in the all-too-numerous standing dead trees. Looking at the girdling near the water line it is difficult to decipher whether it is caused by winter ice or beavers. I think the later…

In a water-level tree hollow, I thought I saw a muskrat, but upon closer inspection a mink made its appearance showing its lustrous brown pelt speckled with water pellets glistening in the sunshine. What a cast of characters!  — Ralph Szur

Photo from kayak of The Great Swamp in early spring
First paddle of the year. Photo: Ralph Szur

4/14     Spring azure butterflies flitted in the sunlight, giving glimpses of blue sky on their upper wings.

4/15     As I started to prepare breakfast, I stopped as I remembered that these unseasonably warm days may be forcing one of my favorite wild edibles that would make a perfect complement to a fried egg. Still in my PJs, I slipped out the back door, down the ski trail adjacent to our land and veered off into the woods to my pickin’ place. The “ramps” were just starting to emerge. The leaves of the wild leeks, not yet unfurled, made for easy harvesting with no fear of pulling up the entire plant, bulb and all. I like to conserve them to reproduce so I only take the leaves. What a wild gourmet treat.  — Ralph Szur

Photo of ramps on cutting board, ready to be chopped up
Either we all eat ’em or no one does. Photo: Ralph Szur

4/16     It was a hot, sunny, and very windy Easter Day! The warmest Easter ever recorded. Stiff winds from the south cranked up the heat and raised a fire alert in our region.

Toads trilled along the bicycle path. Cottonwood flowers littered the ground, their buds sticky with the viscous sap prized by honeybees for making their hive glue, “propolis.”

4/17     Dutchman’s breeches, blue cohosh and wild ginger are among the spring ephemerals in flower today. Spicebush tinted the pond margins and damp thickets buttery yellow. The twisty little red flowers of beaked hazelnut dotted dry thickets. Painted turtles basked on a mat of cattails.

4/18     I spied a barred owl from my window and caught it on camera.  — Eli Campbell

Photo of a barred owl perched in a tree
Yes, we see each other. Photo: Eli Campbell

4/23     A sunny, mild Sunday after a cool and cloudy period made folks head out to enjoy the warmth. Fisher-folk took to causeways, gardeners raked and lawn mowers buzzed. The shadbush bloom added lace to the greening hills. Songbirds, a little later than their usual arrival dates, added action and music to brushy areas and tree tops. Yellow-throated warblers and white-throated sparrows sang. The tree swallows chattered and debated atop dead tree trunks. At day’s end a brilliant salmon sky added confection to a very sweet day.

4/24     Some spring wildflowers are worth a drive. Today I went in search of woodlands with limy soil to find the exquisite hepatica blossoms. It meant a ride to Croton Point Park; hepatica thrives there atop heaped middens of oyster shells left by thousands of native people over centuries. Sure enough, though the day was gray, the hepatica shone white, pink, and lavender in abundance.

Photo of hepatica in bloom among the leaf litter
““Anemone hepatica” is a much nicer name than “liverwort.” Photo: Beth Herr

4/25     Spring changes can be dizzying. So much happens so quickly. This morning, cloudy and gray, I was admiring the lacy forest tapestry of spring greens, yellows and reds. Then I realized that the papery beech leaves were gone. They had decorated the woodland all winter, but emerging growth had silently released these hangers-on. Sometimes I am witness to this two-day process, but not this year. Time to take a walk.

Photo of a trout lily in bloom
A sure sign of spring. Photo: Amanda Lynne

4/27     Another gloomy day in a long string left everyone looking for sun. It was mild however, even foggy in the morning. Trilliums bloomed as the warmth cranked up the trill of American toads in shallow waters. Predictably, the density of shad flies rose with the temperature. Pesky and persistent, the little midges circled my head and bombed my hat brim.

4/28     At first glance the smooth-as-glass reservoirs seemed skimmed in fog. On closer look, a thick blanket of pollen clouded the sky’s reflection. Oak, birch, and maple pollen predominate; no doubt it will be time to dust at home. It was above 80° by day’s end, sultry and warm. The spring peepers, gray tree frogs, and barred owl songs filled the summer-like night air.

Photo of leaf with dew-drop and tree pollen
Tree pollen gets everywhere. Photo: Beth Herr

4/29     Tree frogs are calling and the first warblers are singing: yellow, parula, black-throated green, and Northern water thrush. A red-shouldered hawk is a frequent flier, also resting occasionally on the pasture fence. But most interesting is a daily visitor, a fox, coming down from the woods to take a lap on Whangtown Road before disappearing again. He and our cats seem to have figured out a modus vivendi.  — Doris Balant

Photo of a red fox and a house cat warily eyeing one another
Modus vivendi. At least for now. Photo: Doris Balant

4/30     The morning after I put a new batch of bees in the hive they had created these three beautiful little combs.  — Bruce Campbell

Photo of three newly fashioned honey combs
The bees have been busy getting ready for summer. Photo: Bruce Campbell

In May

  • Go outside to see your moon shadow the night of the full Flower (or Planting) Moon on the May 10
  • Spot fireflies in fields and along woodland edges by month’s end
  • Watch for the return of the scissor-tailed barn swallows and hummingbirds
  • Listen for the flute-like calls of wood thrushes and veeries, especially just before sunset
  • Be alert for the musical calls of tanagers and rose-breasted grosbeaks during the day
  • Get up early to enjoy the dawn the songbird chorus
  • Stop to hear the plunk of the green frog and the snore of the pickerel frog by almost any pond
  • See dragonflies begin cruising on warm days
  • Don’t miss lilacs, buttercups, and apple trees in bloom