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.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Adirondack Phoebe: Summer House Guests

phoebesPerhaps the phoebe selected her nesting spot during the few days my family was away from home at the end of April. Otherwise, I can’t quite figure her decision to build a nest atop the back porch light, right next to a doorway used regularly by three children and a rambunctious puppy.

To protect the nest, we took to unloading the minivan on the other side of the house, avoiding the back door altogether, and moving into and out of the adjacent garage as quietly as possible. No doubt, we’re not alone in changing our habits for the sake of a resident phoebe family. » Continue Reading.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Watch Out! Adirondack Plants That Burn

wild parsnip Summertime is the eight-week (give or take) interval for which most of us wait all year, the season for beaches, barbeques and back-country rambling. And it is also a time to watch out for burns: sunburned skin, blackened burgers, and vindictive vegetables. My best advice, respectively, for these dangers is: SPF 50, stay focused on that grill, and read on.

I know that vegetables are not really vindictive, but it sounds crazy to talk about them as a burning hazard. There are a number of plants whose sap can cause serious chemical burns, and one of them is a common and widespread invasive species, the wild parsnip. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Finding New Ways To Avoid Adirondack Roadkill

RoadkillMany of us are familiar with the guilt of hitting an animal while driving. The way that its body weight seems to travel through the frame of the car is difficult to forget.

But the fact remains that we have places to be and even a few well-intentioned road signs cannot slow us down. In our ceaseless efforts to connect our world, we don’t always consider the ways that our road network has fragmented the animal habitats it paves over.

The unpleasant task of shoveling the battered carrion from our roadways falls to local highway departments. But what exactly happens to the bodies from there? I reached out to representatives from a few local county highway departments and it turns out their methods vary, but most are taken to landfills or compost bins. Scavengers remove many of these animals before road crews have a chance to clear the roads, a valuable but underappreciated ecosystem service provided by crows, ravens, foxes, and the like.

A study published in the New Zealand Journal of Zoology found that seasonal peaks in road kill for specific species was dependent upon breeding periods and dispersal. Deer and moose are particularly vulnerable to vehicle collisions during their fall mating seasons, according to a representative for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Disseminating information on these predictable changes in animal behavior provides some aid, but the number of incidents remains troubling. This suggests that accommodating for animal behavior could be more effective than attempting to educate human drivers. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

New Record Established For New York’s Breeding Bald Eagles

bald eaglesBald eagles are being seen in historic numbers across New York and the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has reported the highest number of nesting pairs, an estimated 323 breeding pairs, since the agency undertook a restoration effort in 1976. Exact estimates will be determined over the course of the breeding season as biologists compile ground reports and surveys.

A record number of 53 new nesting territories were verified in 2016, increasing the total number of breeding territories in New York State to 442. Nesting territories are areas known to be occupied by bald eagles and are the locations included in DEC survey and monitoring efforts. Of these 442 territories, 309 (70 percent) were confirmed to host breeding pairs of eagles last year. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Survey Evaluates Health of Northern New York Bees

Cornell University Honey Bee Extension Associate Emma Mullen inspects a hive in Northern NY The results of a survey, believed to be the first of its kind, to identify the health of Northern New York bees, as well as the presence of key parasites and pathogens in regional bee colonies have been posted.

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program provided a small grant for a survey of Northern New York bee colonies to contribute to regional knowledge and educate regional beekeepers on practices to better maintain the health of their bees and their businesses.

The data on the levels of 8 viruses in the NNY bee colonies contributes to a statewide database on the factors influencing pollinator health and identifying current management practices by beekeepers. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Adirondack Fisheries: The Redbelly Dace

Summer is the season for being on the water in the Adirondacks, and a canoe or kayak is the perfect way to explore the many ponds, slow-moving rivers and marshes that exist throughout the Park. While these shallow, muddy-bottomed settings may not be great for swimming, the rusty-tan water occasionally covered with patches of floating leaves and strands of submerged vegetation does teem with life. Among the residents of these quiet, weedy waterways is the redbelly dace (Phoxinus eos), a common and widespread member of the minnow family of fish. » Continue Reading.


Friday, July 7, 2017

A Call For Citizen Scientists To Remove Asian Clams In Sandy Bay

Citizen Scientists participating in the Lake George Association's first Asian Clam Citizen Science Day.Last year, 475 Asian clams — a small clam, less than 1.5 inches in size, that can spread rapidly — were removed from Lake George, thanks to a half day of work from about 20 volunteers as part of the Lake George Association’s Asian Clam Citizen Science Day in Sandy Bay.

The association hopes for a similar result this year from 10 am to 1 pm Monday July 10 when it holds its second Asian Clam Citizen Science Day as part of New York’s Invasive Species Awareness Week July 9 through 15. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Unintended Consequences: North Country Starlings

starlingIt’s the classic story of unintended consequences.

In 1890, Eugene Schieffelin released 60 starlings in New York’s Central Park with the hope of establishing a breeding population. Just in case the experiment wasn’t successful, he released another 40 the next year.

Schieffelin was a big Shakespeare fan and he wanted to bring to the New World all the European birds mentioned in The Bard’s plays. Starlings appear in Henry IV, Part 1, in case you are wondering. Schieffelin was also a member of the American Acclimatization Society, a group that advocated shifting species around the globe. It apparently seemed like a good idea at the time and had the support of a lot of scientists. Now we know it’s not. But it’s too late. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Adirondack Butterflies: The White Admiral

Forest clearings in the Adirondacks are especially attractive settings for many forms of wildlife. The warmth of the ground when the sun is shining is particularly inviting to cold-blooded creatures, and the stands of trees that surround these openings in the canopy serve as a source of food and shelter.

Clearings created during logging operations, wide sections along secondary roads, and the open space that typically exists around lean-tos and campsites are places frequented by numerous animals. Among the creatures easily observed during the coming month in these sunny oases of our deciduous and mixed woodlands is a strikingly attractive, black butterfly with a distinct white strip across its wings. The white admiral butterfly (Limenitis arthemis) is a common component of our fauna and regularly lingers around small forest clearings during the early summer throughout the Park. » Continue Reading.


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