Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Devil’s Shoelace: Doddering Assailants

Devil's Shoelace, Considering the climate where the personification of evil is alleged to make his home, you’d think the devil would wear flip-flops or something, but it seems he prefers lace-up footwear (Prada, I’m told). “Devil’s shoelaces” is one name applied to dodder (Cuscuta spp.), a parasitic plant that looks more like creepy yellow-orange spaghetti than a plant. Dodder is known by a whole slew of unflattering titles including wizard’s net, strangleweed, witch’s hair, and hellbine. As these names suggest, dodder has earned itself quite a sinister reputation, which is no big surprise, since parasites generally inspire collywobbles, not cuddles.

But the leafless, ghostly pale, tentacle-like dodder really ramps up the squirm factor. Research has shown it is able to recognize which plants are around it by sniffing them out. Every plant gives off a unique blend of compounds such as terpenes and esters, making it easy to tell cilantro from tomatoes with just one whiff. Not only can dodder distinguish one plant from another, it can sense which is more nutritious, and will move toward that one with great precision, and attack it. » Continue Reading.


Monday, August 14, 2017

Forest Landowners Take Note Of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

hemlock woolly adelgidEastern hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis) are one of the most beautiful conifers found in northern New York forests. It can take up to 300 years for them to reach mature heights of up to 70 feet and diameters of up to 3-feet. They commonly live for 500 years and can live for 800 years or longer. Many are among the oldest trees in the state.

In their northern range, they’re found at a variety of elevations (sea level to near 5000 ft.) and on a multiplicity of sites (hillsides, valleys, shorelines, glacial ridges). Hemlocks are commonly found growing in mixed stands, with yellow birch, sugar maple, northern red oak, white ash, American beech, and white pine and can be distinguished from pine and by their short, flat needles. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Adirondack Dog-Strangling Vine

swallow-wortThis summer, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has come through with a new hope for the forces of good. Its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has opened a public comment period, ending on August 14, 2017, relating to the release of a non-native insect to control swallow-wort.

Sometimes called “dog-strangling vine,” this invasive plant from Eurasia doesn’t harm pets, but it does live up to its name as a strangler. There are two species of the perennial vine, and they are both adept at choking out wildflowers, forest seedlings, Christmas tree plantations, hay fields and other habitats. In the Eastern Lake Ontario region, it has proved capable of blanketing large tracts, hundreds of acres in some cases, to create permanent monocultures of tangled, toxic foliage. » Continue Reading.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Caddisflies: Submerged Silk Spinners

caddisflyA small boy asked “what’s your favorite insect?” I answered without hesitation: caddisflies. Not the short-lived adults, which while charming in their own hairy moth-like way, do not capture my attention. My caddisfly predilection is reserved for the larval stages that last for most of the insect’s one or, less often, two or three year life span. These larvae, like their caterpillar cousins, make and use silk in ways that fascinate me. Silk permits their use of a wide variety of freshwater habitats and food sources.

Consider the caddisflies of the family Rhyacophilidae. Their name translates to “rock loving,” and this preference serves them well in fast-flowing streams. They spin silk ropes that anchor firmly to rocky surfaces, helping them to defy the pull of currents, and stay off some trout’s dinner menu. Like ice climbers using crampons, they also have impressive claws that grow right out of their rear ends. Their anal claws and silk lines keep their bulging, segmented, Michelin-Man bodies secured while they scramble about, eating insects including other caddisflies. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Adirondack Insects: Forest Tent Caterpillars

forest tent caterpillarWalk through a hardwood forest this month and it may seem more like October than July. Trees that normally provide cool shade have bare crowns with just a hint of green. And is the bark on that sugar maple moving? This is not a trick of the light: you are, in fact, in the middle of a forest tent caterpillar outbreak.

Despite the name, forest tent caterpillars don’t actually build tents like their cousins the eastern tent caterpillars. Instead, you’ll find them congregated on silken mats on tree trunks or branches. If you’re in an infested area, they won’t be hard to find. Sugar maples and aspen are often the favorite host species in the Northeast, as well as birch, cherry, basswood, and ash. » Continue Reading.


Friday, July 28, 2017

Asian Longhorned Beetle Outreach and Survey Underway

On the lookout for hungry bugsThe New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that the annual Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) Swimming Pool Survey is underway, marking the program’s sixth summer of research work.

DEC invites pool owners, now through August 30, to check their pool filters and help keep watch for these invasive beetles before they cause serious damage to the State’s forests and street trees. DEC and partners will also be hanging tags on host trees to encourage people to learn more about ALB and to demonstrate the potential impacts in neighborhoods and parks. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

First Adirondack Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Infestation Confirmed

On the lookout for hungry bugsThe New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that “a minor infestation” of the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (Adelges tsugae) was confirmed on Forest Preserve lands in the town of Lake George in Warren County on July 1. This is the first known infestation of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) in the Adirondacks.

A small cluster of early stage HWA was detected on one branch of an old-growth Eastern hemlock tree on Prospect Mountain during a field trip by a Senior Ecologist from the Harvard Research Forest. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Participants Sought For Summer Wild Turkey Survey

Wild turkey hen with poults New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is encouraging New Yorkers to participate in a survey for wild turkeys and help state biologists better understand this iconic bird.

Since 1996, DEC has conducted the Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey to estimate the number of wild turkey poults (young turkey born this year) per hen statewide. Weather, predation, and habitat conditions during the breeding and brood-rearing seasons can all significantly impact nest success, hen survival, and poult survival. This index helps DEC to gauge reproductive success and predict the number of turkeys killed during the hunting season. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A North Country Eel Story That Will Leave You Squirming

When stuff doesn’t work, we either play Mr. Fixit or call someone. Whether it’s a job for your auto mechanic, furnace repair technician, or electrician, the expert usually has a good idea of what’s causing a particular problem. But sometimes malfunctions are real puzzlers.

From the 1870s well into the 1900s, mystery surrounded many incidents where faucets or pipes were opened but the water didn’t flow. When that happened, there were real consequences: a factory couldn’t operate or a school might close. For citizens lucky enough to have running water in their homes, it meant going without — or, if it were available, hauling water from community wells.

For a plumber, the natural assumption was that a clog was the culprit — a piece of clothing, a collection of sediment, or an accumulation of greasy materials. When nothing of the sort was found using the usual tools, a difficult search ensued — unless plumber was experienced. In that case, he might have suspected eels. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

American Goldfinch: Common Bird With Uncommon Habits

goldfinchI love the fact that there is always something new to observe in nature. Take goldfinches, for example. I have often watched them devour milkweed seeds from an acrobatic, upside-down position. Recently, I spotted several bright yellow males perched atop dandelion stems, plucking the seedheads at a frenzied pace. Previously, I had only seen them snag dandelions in mid-air.

Of all our native songbirds, American goldfinches (Spinus tristis) are perhaps the most consistent vegetarians. Thistles are a favorite food source and nest material. Sunflower seeds are another top meal choice, something you have probably observed if you offer these popular seeds in a feeder. Aside from our freebies, goldfinches also eat seeds from grasses, weeds, teasel, mullein, and ragweed, along with birch and alder buds, maple sap, and berries. An uncommon agility allows them to extract seeds from any position. Their short, pointed, conical bills are well-suited to crack open hulls and other tough packaging. » Continue Reading.


Friday, July 21, 2017

A Look Inside New Adirondack Loon Center

Carved loon at newly opened Adirondack Center for Loon ConservationThe Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation began in 1998 and was run out of Executive Director Nina Schoch’s residence before moving in with Adirondack Hamlets to Huts in 2016. In April, the organization received its non-profit status and a new location for its center at 15 Broadway in Saranac Lake.

The new space will accommodate its growth – triple the number of full-time workers – and plans to expand education offerings. Here’s a look inside: » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Wildlife Friendly Farming is Topic for CATS Summer Intern

coyote photographed by local trail camA research project examining wildlife friendly farming in the Champlain Valley is currently underway by Alex Caskey, graduate student at Tufts University. Caskey is a summer intern in a project sponsored by Champlain Area Trails (CATS), the Eddy Foundation and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

Caskey is currently conducting interviews with local farmers about their interactions, positive and negative, with local wildlife. The results of his inquiry will create a baseline of current practices in wildlife friendly farming for future investigation and recommendations for wildlife friendly practices in agriculture. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Pollinator Science Lectures Planned For Wild Center, View

pollinators programAdkAction will host Dr. Christina Grozinger, associate professor of entomology at Penn State University and the director of the Penn State Center for Pollinator Research at The Wild Center and View Arts on Wednesday and Thursday, July 19th and 20th for a lecture titled, “The Global Pollinator Crisis.”

Receptions will be held at 6 pm, and the lectures will begin at 7 pm. The Wild Center lecture requires an RSVP, both lectures are free and open to the public.

Grozinger will explain the importance of pollinators such as bees to agricultural production. She will also discuss the various reasons for the global declines in pollinator populations that have been documented in recent years, including pesticides, parasites, viruses, reduced genetic diversity, poor management practices of managed pollinator populations, and habitat destruction. She will highlight ongoing research at Penn State University, where scientists are seeking to better understand the impacts of these factors on pollinator health, and to find solutions that could be implemented locally, nationally, and globally. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 17, 2017

The Dirt On Adirondack Moles

star nosed moleMy dog watched intently as an area of soil in our backyard vibrated and formed a slight ridge. Suddenly he began digging, revealing a mole below ground. Before Cody could pounce, I grabbed his collar and pulled him away. This was not the first time I’d rescued a mole. When I lived on a country estate years ago, my landlord disliked the mounds and ridges on his lawn and set traps — the kind that spear moles. I would sneak outside at night and spring the traps. Moles are fascinating creatures specialized for underground living. Though they resemble rodents, they are insectivores, and are more closely related to shrews. Shaped like an Idaho potato, moles have a reduced pelvis and hind legs, enabling them to turn easily in narrow tunnels. Powerful shoulders and front legs and shovel-like feet with heavy claws and a sixth digit aid in digging. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Biting Midges: Part of Life in the Adirondacks

A screened-in porch is an ideal place to relax on a summer evening in the Adirondacks. The tight, wire mesh that covers the walls allows the enjoyment of nature’s unique fragrances and wildlife sounds without the harassment of mosquitoes and other flying nocturnal pests. However, during the early parts of summer, there is one bug that can detract from the backwoods ambiance of that peaceful Adirondack evening. Biting midges are small enough to pass through traditional screens, allowing them access to any individual wanting to enjoy the evening.

The biting midges form a large group of exceedingly small true flies that are roughly the size of a sand grain, and are known to many as punkies or no-see-ums. The latter common name comes from this bug’s ability to remain unseen in low light conditions, such as on a porch after sunset, even when one of these pests has started to chew into your skin. Despite their dark color, no-see-ums are still a challenge to see clearly, even when standing against a patch of light colored skin. On a person with a dark complexion, punkies can be impossible to spot, regardless of how good the light may happen to be. » Continue Reading.


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