a childhood saved

Nature Journal 1973

The text here is transcribed from my original handwritten notes, edited to fix spelling mistakes. Editorial comments or clarifications are in [brackets], and the text boxes on the right provide more detail on individuals, events, or situations highlighted with a yellow box (yellow box) in the journals.


January [see also my sketchbook pages for January]

1: 55° today—feels like spring! Took a very muddy trip to Brinton Brook Sanctuary.

6: 25°F, but sun makes ground warm. While lying on grass, I saw a small spider and an ant carrying a frozen aphid. Red-breasted nuthatch; oriole still here.

7: 14°F this morning.

8: Temperature was 8°F this morning. Cold!

9: Temp was 6°F this morning. Lake ice is 4-5 inches deep.

15: Oriole still here.

yellow box She wasn't really my mother. My mother died of cancer in December, 1967, when I was eight years old. My father re-married eight months later, and the woman I referred to in this journal as "my mother" was my stepmother, Betty.

24: My mother yellow box saw a hawk of some sort near the bird feeder.

29: Suddenly, last night, we had a snowstorm of about five inches. A birch trunk has fallen, two small trees have fallen, branches popping off, bushes collapsing. It's not a very deep snow but it's heavy.

31: Carolina wren still here, oriole still here.

February [sketchbook pages for February]

2: Raining today, heavily. Heavy fog blows eerily around trees. Oriole is not here today.

7: Oriole is gone for good.

yellow box Mrs. Anderson was the late Kaye Anderson, naturalist for the Saw Mill River Audubon Society and the Teatown Lake Reservation. She was an important mentor to me, encouraging and supporting my nature study and my artwork. I met her when she was editor of Saw Mill River Audubon's newsletter and I submitted some of my pen-and-ink drawings to her, which she published. She took me on birding trips and other events that she knew I'd want to participate in, and even helped get me a job at the Audubon Ecology Workshop in Greenwich, Connecticut when I was 18.

16: Still no oriole. On Feb 3, I went with Mrs. Anderson yellow box to see a barred owl at Teatown Lake Reservation.

17: 4°F this morning. Two carolina wrens, no oriole.

18: 2°F this morn, coldest all winter, coldest it'll get.

19: Saw a chipmunk today, temp is 40°F! Quite a change from yesterday. Cardinals and song sparrows really singing.

24: Redwing blackbird arrives. Went to Brinton, met Mr. Al Dann and Miss Rozz Cherr of Queens, New York. They are studying lichens, and I helped them. We saw some British soldier and pixie cup lichens.

March [sketchbook pages for March]

1: Grackles should arrive soon—I haven't seen any more redwings since Feb 24. Grackles did come this afternoon—one male singing so far.

2: Redwings all around. Temp this afternoon: 60°F!

3: One redpoll seen this afternoon.

8: Heavy rains this morn—high afternoon temp around 60°F. Makes lake ice very rotten-looking. Moths outside windows [at night].

9: Saw two white-tailed deer in Mr. Mandelbaum's field (at the entrance to Brook Lane) this evening at approx. 10:00 pm—quite a gorgeous sight!

10: Saw two great horned owls at 5:30-6:05 am near our house, first time I ever saw a great horned owl and they are big! I could only see the silhouettes and hear their booming voices. We also had two mallards in Lake Woodrock and the first flower this year: coltsfoot.

Great horned owl

12: Canada geese have been in and out of Lake Woodrock since yesterday.

13: No ice in lake this afternoon. I called Mrs. Anderson, and she told me about two great horned owls at Valeria Home, possibly the same two I spotted on the 10th.

16: Heard spring peepers at Westlake High School in Pleasantville this evening. I went there with Mrs. Anderson to see the annual Saw Mill River Audubon benefit meeting. It was a program about wolves, and there was a live wolf there.

17: Small thunderstorm today, also two hooded mergansers and myrtle is flowering.

18: Snowed today, melted early. Skunk cabbage flowering.

25: Heard one great horned owl at 5:30 am, near Furnace Brook.

26: Saw an immature redwing today [actually probably just an adult with strange plumage, as March is too early for immatures!]. Plenty of spring peepers tonight.

29: Pussy willow has its yellow flowers; weeping willows and lilacs are hazed with buds. Many cowbirds around. Many grasses, shoots coming up.

31: Saw three pileated woodpeckers today, 2 males fighting at the Con Ed power line, the other one over Furnace Dock Road. The fight was absolutely spectacular, and I saw it all at a close range. One of the males flew at the other and crashed against him, whirring their wings. Finally they gave up, one flew across the road—I could see every feather, and the other flew onto a tree about five feet away! That's a rare sight! Also I went to Brinton, heard a few peepers, saw a Canada goose nesting near the entrance. We also have a mourning dove nesting near our house. Dandelions flowered today, and on Furnace Dock road there are many coltsfoots.

April [sketchbook pages for April]

1: Peepers calling at a distance.

2: Twigs on trees are turning different colors, nearly everything is green!

3: Saw a grackle gathering nesting material today. Trout lily leaves up, forsythia is blooming.

5: Whitlow grass flowering at Lake Woodrock beach.

6: Female redwing seen today. Mourning dove's nest (see March 31) has two eggs in it. Trout lily flowering and grape hyacinth.

7: Large-leaved and common blue violets flowering, also Carolina whitlow grass. Caught an American toad today.

14: Seflheal is flowering. Mallard nesting on top of muskrat house [on Sunny Island]. This is the same date as last year that the mallard has nested. Saw a red-breasted nuthatch, and a female redwing was gathering nest materials.

16: Pileated woodpeckers near Furnace Brook Lake. One ruby-crowned kinglet on Mt. Airy Road.

17: Mourning dove eggs hatched.

18: Spring-beauties flowering at Furnace Brook Lake. American toads really singing this evening-night. Leaves of Jack-in -the-Pulpit up, as are leaves of wild geranium.

19: Toads singing during the day, now. Found 3 mating pairs in Lake Woodrock. Many toads hit by cars on roads. Top temperature today was 75°F. Rue Anemone flowering.

20: Many mating pairs of toads in Lake woodrock. Bottom of lake near shore is covered with eggs.

deer tracks

21: Saw a female pileated woodpecker this morning at Furnace Brook Lake. Heard a barred owl in woods near our house. Went to Brinton, on the way saw marsh marigolds flowering. At the sanctuary, I saw a Louisiana water thrush, towhees, toads (American), hermit thrush, and heard peepers. At home, common cinquefoil and common strawberry flowering. Bloodroot is still blooming. Unfortunately, mallard eggs are crushed and eaten. But, over at Brinton, 6 Canada goslings hatched.

22: Two broad-winged hawks today. Gill-over-the-ground is flowering. Baby mourning doves fully fledged.

25: A fight between two snapping turtles this morning. This is a spectacular thing to watch, and it happens every year. The victor doesn't kill the other, but blood is often shed. [Note: these turtles were probably mating, not fighting.]

29: Went to Brinton: heard grouse drumming, almost saw one drum, saw wood thrush, house wren, blue-winged warbler. Wild geranium is flowering.

May [sketchbook pages for May]

2: Baltimore orioles back today.

3: Catbird back

6: Brinton: heard many blue-winged warblers, saw many myrtle warblers, black-and-white warblers, and pink moccasin-flower is flowering.

8: Snapping turtles fighting in the lake again.

19: Went to Brinton: saw indigo bunting near glacially smoothed rock ledge on yellow trail. White-tailed deer near "crossroad" trail. Veery near entrance. Canada mayflower is blossoming, saw and heard several ovenbirds. This trip was very early, about 4:00 am, cool, clear, about 48°F. Good sightings!!

28: Blackberry flowering.

June [sketchbook pages for June]

2: Blackberry, red clover, wood sorrel, spring vetch, all flowering. Also, smaller forget-me-not and blue-eyed grass.

8: Bladder campion flowering.

9: Saw four of the biggest (about 2 1/2 feet long) fish I ever saw fighting in Furnace Brook Lake. I couldn't identify them. They were grayish in color. [Note; these turned out to be carp, and were probably mating, not fighting].

14: Asiatic dayflower in bloom.

16: Spiderwort flowering, also found a few dug-up but uneaten turtle eggs. Put one in a pot of soil to see if it will hatch later on.yellow box

yellow box I kept the turtle egg in a flowerpot on a sunny windowsill in my room, and watered the pot once a week or so. The egg eventually hatched; see the entry below for September 2. I was painting my room at the beginning of September, and the floor was covered with newspapers. I awoke that morning to a scratching sound on the newspapers, and thought it was a mouse. But when I got out of bed, I discovered a baby snapping turtle. I took it down to the lake and let it go.

17: Hedge bindweed flowering.

25: Horse-nettle flowering, also a few days ago I found a dug-up cluster of 32 uneaten turtle eggs!

30: Common mullein is flowering.

July [sketchbook pages for July]

1: Two-hour walk at Brinton. Highlights were a green heron, veery, grouse drumming, purple loosestrife flowering, black-eyed susans, jewelweed, indian pipes. Butter-and-eggs, and chickory were also flowering.

16: Heard first annual cicada today. Nothing much has been happening!

18: Heard a yellow-billed cuckoo today, also heard one on July 15. It was probably the same one.

19: Saw a melanistic chipmunk (live and wild) near the Handlers' house on Furnace Dock Road. I see him every once in a while when I ride my bicycle around there. Kingfishers ave been making a big racket for a few days.

31: Hear a screech owl tonight at 8:35-8:45 pm. He called quite a few times. Came close, but I couldn't see him. Katydids are singing more tonight. It is a hot night, humidity is rising. Field crickets make up most of the noise, however. Learned today that the two wolves, Jethro and Clem (see March 16) have been poisoned and killed in New York City. This is very, very saddening.

August [sketchbook pages for August]

1: Common evening primrose flowering in the tennis court.

5: Took a walk at Brinton, saw two worm-eating warblers! Also saw one indigo bunting. Plus twelve other bird species.

6: Observed that burdock is flowering near our house.

7: At 5:00 am, heard a screech owl. Also spotted a Fowler's toad in the afternoon, and two Canada geese in the early evening.

screech owl

12: Talked to Mrs. Anderson today, told her about a "millipede invasion" around our house. She said that another person had reported many millipedes.

13: Two screech owls at around 10:00 pm.

14: One screech owl at around 9:00 am.

15: Somewhere, I have read that one rarely sees or hears the Baltimore oriole in August. I have been hearing an exception to that rule for the past week or so. Perhaps he is that same "Balti-moron" that stayed with us until February 2nd of this year. Today, I noticed that some millipedes look like they are mating: one is on top of the other.

16: One large woodchuck in our yard today, first time I ever saw a woodchuck alive on our property. He was eating plants in the grass. Saw him at 8:00 am.

20: Millipede numbers diminishing. For the past few weeks, our oaks have been shedding sap, great amounts of it "drizzling" down from the twigs or leaves. It leaves a sticky residue on everything, cars, rocks, dogs, people, wood, etc.

23: Raccoons common last night; this morning temp 50°F! Really nice and cool! Fall is coming. This afternoon, at around 2:45, I spotted five broad-winged hawks circling over the lake area. This sighting convinces me that fall is really coming, and it also saddened me a bit—the hawks were getting ready to "kettle" (group or flock) for the fall migration. I enjoyed their "company" this summer.

25: Watched a gray squirrel sunbathing on a branch this morning. He stretched out and almost went to sleep, soaking up the warm sun.

27: Large flock of Canada geese flew overhead this morning. Also, quite a few leaves are coming down or changing color, especially in dogwood, hickory, and birch.

29: Two broad-wings at 10:40 this morning and one screech owl at 10:00 this night.

September [sketchbook pages for September]

2: The turtle egg that I put in soil to hatch (see June 16) hatched today—it was a baby snapping turtle!

4: Two Canada geese are in our lake.

monarch butterfly

5: Screech owl at 5:15 am.

7: The grackle migration is on! Saw many grackles around, all calling and flying around.

9: At 6:05 am, heard a great horned owl near Furnace Dock Road. At 6:25, I heard what sounded very much like a fox barking. It was almost owl-like, but with a sharper tone to it. Also, a few weeks ago, I heard a possible bobcat in our woods. It was an almost human cry, and I wrote to Dr. D.F. Hoffmeister of the Museum at Urbana, Illinois, and he wrote back that "The scream of the bobcat is very much like that of a human and from your description I would think that is what you heard."

10: Temp this morning was 44°F.

11: Large flock of about 200 or so grackles.

12: Two mallards, male and female in lake this morning. Canada geese still around. Also, at 9:30 am, heard a great horned owl, probably near Lake Woodrock.

21: Temperature 40°F this morn. One screech owl at 6:41 am; it was quite light outside!

26: Screech owl at 7:00 this morn!

27: Large mass-migration of reddish colored ants at driveway. Many were males with wings. There were at least 150 individuals, probably more.


1: Temp this morning was 40°F. Not as cold as last year (see October 1, 1972).

4: Two wood ducks in lake this morning.

7: Excellent day at Brinton!! Saw several large flocks of Canada geese, heard a great horned owl in distance, saw a migrating kestrel, heard a wood duck, and, an unforgettable experience—two broad-winged hawks on the red trail—one was attracted by my imitation of a squeaking mouse, and he flew above me onto a tree. I kept squeaking and he kept looking. Finally he flew to a lower branch about 30 feet away. I took my emergency raincoat in its pouch and threw it about five feet ahead of me, squeaking all the time. The hawk took off, flew straight towards me until at a distance of about 10 feet away, he saw me and veered off. WOW!!!!

10: Have been hearing screech owls nearly every morning—one calling now at 6:45 am. Also, on the 8th, I saw our first juncos of the year.

11: Temp this morning was 38°F. Also, Lake Woodrock is being drained.

15: At around 10:30 am, I heard that possible bobcat noise, see September 9.

19: Temperature this morn was 33°F, first frost.

20: Saw a tremendous cloud of at least one thousand grackles today!

21: Heard screech and great horned owls today. Juncos quite common, white-throated sparrows singing a lot. also saw ruby-crowned kinglets in birch tree near our house.

26: Received a note today from Mr. Wayne Trimm, art director of The Conservationist magazine. In July of this year, I wrote a potential article with a drawing included, for the magazine. Mr. Trimm answered this letter very kindly, and said that "we are seriously considering using them in some future issue." This is really exciting! [You can see the article as published here]

27: Many red skimmer dragonflies out today, over 5 of them landed on me during the course of the day.

28: This morning, saw two wood ducks, one mockingbird, many juncos at our house. Today we have had 26 days consecutively with no measurable precipitation! This is a record for October.

29: Measurable precipitation today: we're in the midst of a "good" old-fashioned Nor'easter.

30: Storm over, two "woodies" [wood ducks] in our lake this morning, male and female. Stuffed my first animal today, a shrew I found dead in our front yard. The skin came out looking pretty good.


1: Almost all leaves off most trees now.

6: Snow flurries today, first "snow" this season, only about 30-40 seconds of snow!

7: Seems like we're going to have a really cool night tonight: at 7:00 it was about 35°F.

8: Did have a really cool night: temp this morning was 26°F. What a frost we had, to! Snow flurries expected tomorrow.

11: Temp this morn was 22°F. Much of our lake thinly coated with ice.


2: Temp this morning was 20°F.

3: Temp this morning was 23°F.

8: Received another letter from Wayne Trimm.

10: Thinking about our two bird counts on the 15th and 16th: Peekskill and Saw Mill River Audubon counts.

11: Snow flurries on and off today.

15: Didn't go to the count today, will go to Saw Mill River Audubon count tomorrow.

16: Had a real good day! See bird notebook for results. Snowed today.

17: Much snow and ice this morning, snow day, no school. Six or seven inches.

18: Temp this morning was 16°F.

19: Temp this morning was 15°F.

31: Still a few small patches of snow are around. Nothing much of interest has been happening.

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