Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Seminar Set For Warrensburg

hemlock woody adelgidOn Thursday, February 9th, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Warren County will host a seminar on the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid.

Mark Whitmore of Cornell University one of the foremost authorities on the wooly adelgid will give a one-and-a-half-hour presentation starting at 10 am at the Cooperative Extension Education Center. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Inside An Adirondack Beaver Lodge in Winter

The lack of a deep covering of snow can be a benefit to some forms of wildlife, and a detriment to others. Yet for the beaver (Castor canadensis), a limited amount of snow on the ground has little impact on this rodent’s winter routine.

Throughout the autumn, when the water around its primary lodge remains open, the beaver scours the shore near and far in search of those select woody plants on which it relies for food. These items are severed at their base and floated to the area just outside the main entrance to the family’s winter shelter and then pushed underwater as deep as possible. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Arthropods Among Us

Not to alarm you, but you’re surrounded.

There, buzzing stupidly into the slats of your venetian blinds, is a house fly. Nearby, nestled in a crevice of the window-frame, a ladybug waits out the winter. In a corner overhead, a spindly house spider sits motionless in its haphazard web. Underfoot, bristly little carpet beetle larvae nibble at the fibers of an old rug. And that’s to say nothing of the dust mites, which are too small to see and too numerous to count. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Drought, Maple Trees, And Adirondack Maple Syrup

sugar mapleGiven that maple producers have to boil down roughly 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, you would think that dry weather might improve things. Obviously if drought could get rid of a bunch of water for free, the sap would become concentrated and you wouldn’t need to boil as much. Heck, in an extremely dry year maybe we could just drill into a maple and have granular sugar come dribbling out.

If only it worked that way. In general, a shortage of water during the growing season hampers the production of sugar and leads to lower sap sugar concentrations the following spring. Green plants have a magic formula for turning sunlight into sugar, and it calls for a few simple ingredients: water, carbon dioxide, sunlight and chlorophyll. If one item is missing, the transformation won’t work. I’m told most spells fail for want of a newt’s eye or some such, but if a thing as basic and usually commonplace as water is in short supply, the miracle of photosynthesis slows to a snail’s pace (which is likely used for some other spell). » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Questions About Winter Bird Feeding

Back in September, I put out the bird feeder. I try not to do it too early because, well . . . bears. My feathered friends emptied it in hours. A couple of refills later and I decided I couldn’t afford to put out the buffet that early. The weather was warm; natural feed had to be available.

The birds, ever optimistic, still dropped by. I started writing dialogue for them: » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Climate Change: Avoiding the ‘Natural Variations’ Pitfall

“Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”

For over a century, this comment has served as the standard retort when a friend or colleague laments hot and humid weather or complains about a massive snow storm. But when University at Albany Interim President James R. Stellar uses it to talk about work at UAlbany’s Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Studies (DAES), he’s not grumbling. He uses it as a setup line before he talks about what he, his colleagues, and many others in academia are actually doing about the weather as the world wrestles with persistent climate change caused by humans. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Diapause: Adirondack Insect Winter Inactivity

Individuals that lived in the area during 1980 might recall that snow had to be trucked onto the Nordic ski trails because of a near total absence of snow during that January. And in February of 1981, the December and January snowpack completely melted, and the ground started to thaw because of a month long period of record-breaking mild weather.

Most of the invertebrates that populate this climatic zone are well suited to deal with such intense thaws by experiencing a type of dormancy known as diapause. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Boxelders: The Kissing Bug

boxelder bugHoliday parties are great for mingling with friends, but also for meeting new folk. Once you loosen up a bit, you might even let a charming newcomer kiss you under the mistletoe before the night’s end. But perhaps not if the new arrival is uninvited. And no one wants to be kissed without permission. Especially by a bug.

Chances are better than usual you’ll run into uninvited house guests this winter, and you can blame it on the past summer. Hot dry conditions in 2016 helped boost the population of some habitual break-and-enter offenders known as boxelder bugs. These oval, beetle-like insects are black to dark brown with red cross-hatch markings. Other than being a darned nuisance, these native party-crashers are completely harmless. However, they look very similar to a potentially dangerous insect, to whom they are related. (Different families, but the same order; you might say they’re kissing cousins.) » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 26, 2016

Black Bears Seldom Attack People

black bearDespite all of the black-bear incidents this year, including many close encounters in the woods and in residential areas, there were no reported injuries to people.

Historically, few people have been injured by bears in the Adirondacks, although many have come extremely close to them. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 26, 2016

Loon Rescue at Follensby Clear Pond

Gary Lee during a Loon rescue on Follensby Clear Pond in December 2016 photo by Mike LynchOn Wednesday, December 21, volunteers and staff from BRI’s Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation rescued a loon that had become iced-in on a pond in the northern Adirondacks.

The roughly three-year-old bird was contained in a small area of open water on Follensby Clear Pond near Upper Saranac Lake. The ice was an estimated five inches thick, and the bird had become trapped while it waited for its winter flight feathers to grow in. The bird had kept the water open through its movements. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Summer of 2016 Was Bad News For Bears

black bear Jean Belanger was starting a climb at the Beer Walls in Chapel Pond Canyon when his girlfriend, Isabel Rodriguez, yelled up to him to come down right away. “That usually means I have a spider on my back,” Belanger said.

But there was no spider this time. Instead Rodriguez had spotted an approaching mother bear and its cub. After quickly descending, Belanger walked a short distance away from the bears and started yelling and clapping. “They didn’t make any aggressive moves toward me at all,” he said. “It was really the packs they were walking toward.”

Bear experts recommend that people do what Belanger did when they encounter a black bear in the woods: make a lot of noise to scare the animal away. Black bears are generally fearful of humans, unless they have come to associate people with food. In these cases, the bears can become bold but will still usually run from people. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Trees of Christmas

christmas treeYou picked it out, maybe cut it down, brought it home, watered it, and decorated it. But do you know what species of tree that is surrounded by presents in your living room?

If you purchased your Christmas tree rather than cutting it out of the woods, chances are it’s either a balsam fir (Abies balsamea) or a fraser fir (Abies fraseri) – these are the two species most commonly grown on Christmas tree farms in northern New England. Balsam fir is found naturally everywhere, from Alberta to Pennsylvania, and has the largest range of any North American fir species. It’s perhaps best known for its aroma – when people say they want a tree that smells like Christmas, they’re talking about a balsam. Fraser fir, native to the Appalachian Mountains, doesn’t have the same trademark scent, but it does have a little more visual flourish in the form of elegant blue-green needles with silvery-white undersides. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Christmas Yule Log Tradition

yule logsApparently, the ceremonial burning of a large chunk of wood on or near the winter solstice (Yule to the old Germanic peoples) may have begun as a Nordic custom in the 6th century, possibly earlier. Known as a Yule clog, Yule block, Christmas log and other variants, the Yule log was purported to bring good luck in the new year if it burned all day long without being fully consumed. A remnant was always saved, and used to light the following year’s log. Though the tradition is much less common today, it has not been completely extinguished (so to speak).

Given the climate there, it is no surprise that the hardy folks in northern Europe thought the best way to observe a winter holiday was to light a tree trunk on fire and gather round it. That’s probably what I would have done, too. The French, on the other hand, put a whole new twist on the thing, inventing a delicious Yule log cake that they never burn, at least not intentionally. It took them a dozen or so centuries to come up with the recipe, but let’s not complain. You don’t have to go to France to check out a bûche de Noël — in Quebec you can find Yule log pastries that are works of art in addition to being delectable. (In an ironic twist, the bûche glacée de Noel, or frozen Christmas log, is gaining popularity in France and its territories.) » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

New Study On DNA Based Detection of Brook Trout Streams

brook-troutResearch conducted by Paul Smith’s College biology professor Dr. Lee Ann Sporn and fisheries and wildlife science graduate Jacob Ball was part of a study published in the journal Transactions of the American Fisheries Society this December.

The study, “Efficacy of Environmental DNA to Detect and Quantify Brook Trout Populations in Headwater Streams of the Adirondack Mountains, New York,” focused on using environmental DNA, or eDNA, to determine if a fish species – in this case, brook trout – are present in a stream by using a single water sample. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Outside Story: Carpenter Ants

carpenter-antMention carpenter ants, and Declan McCabe, chair of the biology department at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont, thinks about the time he got a lungful of formic acid. He had taken a class into the field to survey insects. He saw a huge ant and sucked it up into his aspirator. Yes, a straw-like aspirator is an important tool for entomologists, who clearly aren’t worried about getting too close to their work. He successfully captured the ant and then took a breath. His lungs burned. That big ant had used the classic ant defense of spraying formic acid.

Mention carpenter ants, and Rachel Maccini, of the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Cooperative Extension, thinks of the calls that pour into the extension’s hotline each spring, each caller wondering if those ants suddenly crawling across the rug, the couch, and the kitchen counter are going to take the house down. » Continue Reading.


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