Monday, July 28, 2014

Horntails: The Wasp and the Fungus

TOS_horntailNo one could fault you for running away, screaming in terror, if you saw a large, flying, cigar-shaped insect armed with a “stinger” bigger than a sewing needle. Thankfully, the female pigeon horntail wood wasp is harmless. That spear on its rear isn’t meant to pierce skin. It’s for drilling into wood; and it lays the foundation – literally – for a remarkable inter-species relationship.

Tremex columba is the scientific name for this member of the Siricidae family. Adult females measure one and a half to two inches, males slightly smaller. The female’s “stinger” is actually a specialized egg-laying organ called an ovipositor. This slender, hollow rod is divided top to bottom, both halves articulated. Serrations on the tip allow the wasp to saw into tree trunks, much like an electric knife cuts meat. Two additional segments on either side sandwich the ovipositor in a protective sheath. The whole apparatus originates midway down the underside of the wasp’s abdomen. » Continue Reading.



Monday, July 28, 2014

Lawrence Gooley: Peeking Into the Wilds

2aBrBearsFallsAbout a month ago, I wrote here about the educational and entertainment value of live, online wildlife cams and included links to some of the better ones. After all the wonderful sights we’ve seen during the past three weeks, I felt compelled to address the subject once more by mentioning the tremendous opportunity offered by one particular set of cams. If you love the Adirondacks, you have at least a general interest in wildlife, so you’re bound to enjoy this.

Cam technology isn’t perfected yet (glitches include freezes, pixelation, and failures), but when things are working well, it’s often much like watching a live TV show. And as I noted, animals are often sitting around doing pretty much nothing. That doesn’t prevent some folks from monitoring cams hour after hour, but for most of us, the best option is to have browsers open and check them occasionally (or perhaps sign up for alerts on sites that offer them). » Continue Reading.


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Monday, July 28, 2014

Northern Forest Atlas Project Planned

Blue Mountain Lake from Castle Rock (9)The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) recently received a grant from the International Paper Foundation to help publish the Northern Forest Atlas​, which will be released in a series of books, charts, digital applications, and posters documenting the habitats and ecosystems of the Northern Forest (forested areas located in northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine).

Jerry Jenkins, WCS ecologist and Atlas project director, is consolidating the enormous body of his ecological research from the past 45 years into a natural history interpretive collection to be released over the next five years. The project is expected to include professionally-designed graphic representations of the natural world to complement existing environmental education programs in the region and be a resource for field studies. » Continue Reading.



Friday, July 25, 2014

Ed Kanze: The Bloodletting

ed_kanze_bloodlettingThe day began with a mosquito attacking me before I got out of bed, and it went downhill from there. Cheer yourself up by listening to my tale of woe about a long day during the Adirondack bug season, when mosquitoes provide the wake-up call, blackflies and deerflies assault you for hours, and no-see-ums gnaw you to sleep in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze.

The podcast is produced by Mountain Lake PBS’s Josh Clement. Listen to past episodes by visiting Mountain Lake PBS’s Borderless North webpage at mountainlake.org/bn.



Thursday, July 24, 2014

Adirondack Insects: The Stable Fly

Stomoxys_calcitrans_on_aloe_veraDuring summer, both residents and visitors of the Adirondacks should be required to spend time on the water, preferably in a canoe, kayak or guideboat in order to experience the serenity and magnificence of slowly and silently moving across our fresh water environments. However, traveling over the surface of most waterways in a small, open, human-powered craft from July through mid August does have its cost, as people in such boats are occasionally subject to the harassment of a small, fast-moving fly inclined to bite on the upper part of the foot, or the lower section of an uncovered leg, particularly around the ankle. This unwelcome pest is most likely a species of stable fly (Stomoxys), a genus of flies belonging to the same family as the common house fly.

Stable flies are slightly more robust, yet smaller than the house fly, and are a little lighter in color. Additionally, stable flies are far more wary, as they are quick to burst into flight when something approaches them. Hitting one with a fly swatter is a far greater challenge than smacking the more sluggish house fly with the same long-handled instrument. And lacking a fly swatter in a boat can lead to great frustration, as it is impossible to kill these pests with any other object, other than the spray from a can of highly potent pesticide. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Campaign Seeks To Help Protect Nesting Adirondack Loons

2013-BRI-ACLC Limekiln Camera -Don't disturb nesting loonsBiodiversity Research Institute’s (BRI’s) Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation has announced a new campaign on Adirondack Gives, www.adirondackgives.org, the crowdfunding site for Adirondack region nonprofits.

The campaign will provide support for the placement of trail cameras near approximately 30 Common Loon nest sites in the Adirondack Park to document nesting behaviors, clutch size, and hatch dates for Adirondack loons, and to assess the primary factors (e.g., predation, human disturbance) impacting the birds during incubation.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) provided the cameras for this project. Support from this campaign, which is seeking to raise $1,100 over the next two months, will cover the cost of the lithium-ion batteries and high capacity SD cards used in the cameras. » Continue Reading.



Monday, July 21, 2014

The Skinny on Snake Skins

TOS_Black_Rat_SnakeIf you have a wood pile, you may have come across a shed snake skin ― a translucent, onion skin-like wrapper imprinted with the snake’s scale pattern. Or perhaps you’ve seen one along a foundation or stone wall. Why do snakes shed their skin?

Most animals, including humans, shed skin cells, explained herpetologist Jim Andrews, who coordinates the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas. “The difference is that humans are continually shedding skin. Snakes shed only periodically; hence they shed the entire skin at once.” » Continue Reading.



Friday, July 18, 2014

Ed Kanze: The Unsung, Well Sung, Pine Warbler

ed_kanze_pine_warblerThe pine warbler is often heard but rarely seen. To identify one of these birds, even at close range, you’ve got to inventory its features, hear it sing if possible, and ponder. Listen here as I welcome one of these feathered flying insect-eaters to our bird feeder in this week’s edition of All Things natural with Ed Kanze.

The podcast is produced by Mountain Lake PBS’s Josh Clement. Listen to past episodes by visiting Mountain Lake PBS’s Borderless North webpage at mountainlake.org/bn.



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Learning To Keep Our Distance From Nesting Loons

2003-WFS Turtle Pd loon-7+t300There is a loon on Lake Placid’s Mirror Lake that seems almost tame. Sometimes when my family and I are out canoeing it seems to follow us. It is that very familiarity and comfortableness with nature that causes a conflict between humans and nesting loons.

Though Dr. Nina Schoch, Wildlife Veterinarian with the Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) assures me that particular loon isn’t nesting if it’s in the center of the lake and not issue warning signs. According to Schoch there are specific ways for humans to tell if they are distressing loons. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Moose At Helldiver Pond In The Moose River Plains

Moose At Helldiver Pond by John Warren

Perhaps the most photographed moose in the Adirondacks is this visitor to Helldiver Pond in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest between Indian Lake and Inlet. This photo was taken Friday afternoon (on a long lens in order to keep a respectful distance).



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

WCS Calls for Volunteers to Survey Adirondack Loons

Loons  Jlarsenmaher 2The Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Adirondack Program is seeking volunteers to help census loons on Adirondack lakes as part of the fourteenth Annual Adirondack Loon Census taking place from 8:00–9:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 19.

With the help of local Adirondack residents and visitor volunteers, the census enables WCS to collect important data on the status of the breeding loon population in and around the Adirondack Park and across New York State. The results help guide management decisions and policies affecting loons. » Continue Reading.



Friday, July 11, 2014

Ed Kanze: Ticks Looking For Good Hosts

ed_kanze_tickLike it or not, they’re waiting for you. Legs reach out, legs with highly receptive sensory organs on them, and they know you’re coming. Brush past the wrong blade of grass, and you’ve got a hitchhiker, one that could possibly make you sick. What to do? Listen and learn about how ticks play the game of life and how you can beat them in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze.

The podcast is produced by Mountain Lake PBS’s Josh Clement. Listen to past episodes by visiting Mountain Lake PBS’s Borderless North webpage at mountainlake.org/bn.



Thursday, July 10, 2014

Adirondack Fish: The Rock Bass

Rock BassFollowing the July 4th weekend, there typically occur stretches of pleasant, sunny weather with highs in the 80′s. This elevates the temperature of the water in the many aquatic settings throughout the Adirondacks to their highest levels of the year and creates conditions ideal for swimming and for our warm water fishes.

Among the residents of lakes and rivers that thrive when the water becomes suitable for wading, lounging, and frolicking are the sunfish, and along the rocky shores of our glacially formed lakes and boulder laden waterways is the rock bass, a ubiquitous and always hungry fish that has frequent encounters with any novice angler that fishes these sites. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Adirondack Moose: Why The Big Nose?

Moose_noseThe silhouette of a moose is noticeably different from that of its deer cousins. Its bulky, hunched body sits on tall, improbably proportioned legs. And then there’s that nose. It’s long and broad – a full sixty-five percent of the moose’s head length – with enlarged nostrils that are positioned not in the front of the face, but off to the sides. By the nose alone, there’s little chance of mistaking Bullwinkle for Bambi.

There are traditional explanations for the moose’s unusual looking nose. Wabanaki tribes share tales of the hero Gluskap, who squeezed the moose, shrinking him from a giant’s size and creating an animal with a bulging proboscis. As for a scientific explanation, recent research suggests at least two possibilities. » Continue Reading.



Monday, July 7, 2014

Natural History Online: Watching Wildlife Cameras

Idaho'sDecorahEaglesAs a lifelong fan of wildlife observation, I’m living the dream thanks to modern technology.  As a young child a half century ago, I would regularly peek in on the nests of robins and other birds to see what was going on. For hours on end, I’d observe the nests of sunfish, bass, and lampreys in the river that flowed along our yard. I’d capture crayfish, plus fingerlings of northern pike, muskie, and other native fish and raise them in an aquarium. The excitement of learning while observing was intoxicating.

In adulthood, I did more of the same, adding photography to the mix—not that the nature photographs were of great quality, but they did capture some interesting moments. Today, all those things from the past have evolved into a spectacular learning tool: online wildlife cams. » Continue Reading.



Friday, July 4, 2014

Mink, Muskrat, Beaver Or Otter: Who Goes There?

ed_kanze_ottersNow you see it, now you don’t: something brown in or near the water, hopping, swimming, or doing something else that catches your eye. The suspect list includes mink, muskrat, beaver, and otter. Listen here as I discuss what to look for and how to tell the difference in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze.

The podcast is produced by Mountain Lake PBS’s Josh Clement. Listen to past episodes by visiting Mountain Lake PBS’s Borderless North webpage at mountainlake.org/bn.



Thursday, July 3, 2014

BuzzzFest Returns To The Wild Center July 5th

Buzz FestThe Wild Center will celebrate some of your favorite creepy crawlies, at BuzzzFest on Saturday, July 5th.  BuzzzFest honors the creatures that make the world go round, from dragonflies to monarchs and all the buzzing, chirping and crawling things in between. This year there is a special tip of the antennae to honeybees.

Participants will be able to pet some crazy creepy crawlies from the Utica Zoo Mobile, join a dragonfly safari, visit The Butterfly Garden or talk with a bee hive expert to show see how to raise your own bees. Historical beekeeping gadgets and pictures from the Adirondack Museum will be featured. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Green Herons: Birds That Bait

1024px-Green_Heron_North_Pond_ChicagoI’m always entranced watching the hunting behavior of long-legged wading birds like great blue herons and snowy egrets. They stand motionless for long minutes at the edge of a pond or swamp, waiting for prey to swim within striking distance. It’s a technique sometimes described as stalking, and it convinces me that those birds have far more patience than I do. I would go hungry if I were restricted to that strategy, since I get antsy after just a few seconds of standing motionless. I’m much more like the reddish egret of the Florida coastline, running around in knee-deep water with wings outstretched, chasing my meal rather than waiting for it to come to me.

Green herons have a hunting technique that involves neither pure stalking, nor the kinetic approach of the reddish egret. They are one of only a handful of North American bird species that are known to use tools to capture food. » Continue Reading.



Monday, June 30, 2014

Owl Pellets: Down the Hatch and Back Again

Owl_Pellet“She’s so cute!” a little girl coos to the snowy white owl. The owl blinks languidly, ignoring her admirer. No doubt she is used to human attention, as she is one of the more popular raptors housed at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science Nature Center (VINS) in Quechee, Vermont. She likewise ignores the decapitated rat in her food bowl, chirruping softly as if dissatisfied with what’s on the menu. I wait patiently, hoping to witness the moment when she gulps it down.

Owls eat their smaller prey whole, or tear larger prey into chunks with their beaks and talons. Sooner or later, that owl will grab the raw rat out of her food bowl with her sharp beak and knock it back like a shot of whiskey. It will slide down her esophagus and into her two-chambered stomach. The first chamber, called the proventriculus, or glandular stomach, secretes digestive enzymes to break down all the easily digestible parts. Much like our own stomach, this chamber will liquefy the soft tissue (the gooey stuff, including muscle, fat and organs). Whatever isn’t digested in the first chamber, such as the bones, fur and teeth, will pass through to the second chamber, called the gizzard. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Snails: Slime is Sublime

TOS_snailOnce, hiking on the west coast, I picked up a big, bright yellow banana slug from the forest floor and brought it to my wife. She remembers that too – vividly.

Ok, ok, I know, snails and slugs have a high yuck factor. But take a moment and really watch one. You’ll see an intricately evolved creature of almost fluid grace.

Snails and slugs ­­– basically a slug is a snail without a shell – are gastropods, meaning “belly-footed.” There are tens of thousands of species worldwide. And while there are no banana slugs in this part of the country, ninety-plus species of snails ooze across northern fields and forests. » Continue Reading.



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