Monday, May 8, 2017

Before The Black Flies Come, There Are Ants

carpenter antPrior to the start of black fly season, and continuing for several weeks after the swarms of those tiny, biting demons have faded, there is another insect onslaught that impacts numerous people throughout the Adirondacks. Shortly after the soil has thawed in spring, ants begin to invade the living space of humans, especially kitchens and dining areas where bits of food are readily available.

Since there are so many types and species of ants in the North Country, it is impossible to say what kind of ant is appearing around countertops, near pantry closets, in garbage containers, and under tables where morsels of edibles lie undisturbed on the floor. However, it is easy to state that numerous ants readily welcome themselves indoors, as long as there is something worthwhile for them to collect and transport back to their colony. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Paul Hetzler: Keep Off the Grass

lawn careAs a kid of about five, I became suspicious of lawns. In a rare moment of TV viewing, I had seen a public-service ad wherein a bundle of green leafy stuff thudded into an eerily vacant playground while a baritone voice boomed out something like “Grass. We think it’s bad for kids. Stay away from it.” My mom insisted this was “bad grass” which did not grow in our yard. However, she declined to elaborate, which fueled my mistrust. So I kept off the lawn a while.

These days, “bread” is no longer money, “mint” is just a flavor, and the pernicious leafy stuff mostly goes by other names. There is only one grass, and it is almost time to cut it again. Jargon may change, but things like paying taxes and mowing lawns don’t seem to. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

History of Hunting North Country Freshwater Pearls (Conclusion)

Those freshwater pearl collectors searching Plumb Brook and other small tributaries (near Russell in St. Lawrence County) did so by the standard method of wading, hunched over, with pail in hand, and plucking clams from the gravelly streambed. The varying depths of the Grass River required more complex methods that were used in clamming operations elsewhere. Similar to how spruce-gum pickers used a spud (a long pole with a scraper attached to remove deposits from high in the trees), pearl fishers used spuds with a set of nippers that were used to clasp and retrieve clams from a riverbed. The catch was then deposited in a perforated pail worn around the neck.

In shallow currents, where visibility suffered, pearl fishers wore what was called a “glass”—a wooden box big enough to fit around the wearer’s head. While the top was open, the bottom had a glass plate, allowing the user to view the riverbed, snorkel-like, by pressing the glass-covered portion into the water. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Research Finds Increased Infected Ticks in Adirondacks

deer tickPaul Smith’s College’s efforts to monitor tick populations and tick-borne pathogens in the Adirondack region, in collaboration with the New York State Department of Health, have documented an increase in infected ticks in the North Country.

Focusing primarily on St. Lawrence, Clinton, Franklin and Essex counties, Paul Smith’s College biology professor Dr. Lee Ann Sporn, a team of students and Adirondack Watershed Institute stewards have been collecting blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, which are tested by the Department of Health for disease-causing agents. In addition to an increase in the bacteria causing Lyme disease, the researchers have also recently found ticks carrying the agent that causes human babesiosis for the first time ever in the North Country. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Native Plants: All About Wild Leeks

wild rampsThe white bulbs of wild leeks, also called ramps (especially in the south), can be eaten year round, but it’s the early leaves that are most appreciated. In pre-freezer days, ramps were the first greens available after five or so months of potatoes and they were considered important as well as good tasting. Ramp festivals are still held in much of Appalachia to celebrate the arrival of this nutritious fresh food, and these tourist attractions have become so successful that in some places ramps are over-harvested.

Wild leeks are spring ephemerals that have no flowers in the spring. I know this is confusing; there’s a tendency to call every spring-blooming thing an ephemeral. But most spring wildflowers keep their leaves through the summer and therefore don’t qualify – it’s the extra short lifespan of the photosynthetic machinery that defines a spring ephemeral, not the timing of flowering. The rounded flower heads of leeks appear in July, well after the leaves have withered and disappeared. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

1890s Adirondack Freshwater Pearl Fever

Balsam pillows, maple syrup, spruce gum, custom-made rustic furniture — they’re all products comprised of raw materials native to the Adirondacks. Other businesses, current or defunct, have similar roots, but occasionally in regional history we find homegrown livelihoods that seem an odd fit for the North Country. Among the unlikeliest of those is pearl harvesting — not in the St. Lawrence River or Lake Champlain, but in creeks and rivers of the Adirondacks and foothills.

Pearls, considered the oldest of the world’s gems, are deeply rooted in history dating back thousands of years. They were highly valued in ancient Chinese, Indian, Egyptian, Roman, and Arabian cultures. Polynesia, Ceylon, and the Persian Gulf were the primary pearl sources, but as man is wont to due, excessive harvesting badly depleted the world supply. While the search continued for natural alternatives, the first cultured pearl (cultivated through a process that imitated nature) was developed in the 1890s. Patent battles to control the method continued until 1916, but in the meantime, many countries turned to harvesting pearls from fresh-water clams. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Beloved Wild Center River Otter Dies

Officials at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake have announced the passing of Remy, one of the natural history museum’s four river otters. Remy, who was eight years old, passed away at The Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Health Center at Cornell University on April 23rd after a brief illness. A necropsy will be performed, with results expected in a few weeks. During his illness, Remy was under the care of Cornell staff.

Remy was born in 2009 at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium and came to The Wild Center in 2010. Typically, in the wild, otters live approximately 8-12 years.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

North Country Woodpeckers: Signs of Spring

woodpeckerTrees speak many languages, their leaves whooshing in summer and trunks creaking in winter. At the onset of spring, trees become sounding boards for courtship. Before the thrushes and warblers and sparrows arrive to sing from branches and boughs, woodpeckers kick off the spring chorus with a drumroll.

Although woodpeckers certainly vocalize, usually with sharp calls or harsh chattering, drumming is one of the most reliable early signs of spring – a proclamation of territoriality and an advertisement to the opposite sex. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Emerging Concerns Over Banded Mystery Snails

Banded Mystery SnailThe warming temperatures and receding ice are giving way to open water and increased recreational activities. It is time once again to think about aquatic invasive species. An emerging threat to our fish populations and bird populations is the Banded Mystery Snail.

The Banded Mystery Snail (Viviparus georgianus) a non-native species to the Adirondacks was introduced in 1867 into the Hudson River. It is historically native to Florida and Georgia among other southeastern states. It has been found in many bodies of water located within New York, including Lake Champlain and Lake George. The public, officials and scientists have not taken much note of this non-native species believing that any environmental impacts would be negligible. Current data is showcasing a different picture and further research is needed. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Adirondack Wildlife: The Belted Kingfisher

belted kingfisherTrout Season has opened, but humans, are not the only creatures that prowl the banks of remote streams, or visit the shores of backcountry ponds, in an attempt to snag a small brook trout. Throughout the Adirondacks, there are numerous forms of life that are well adapted for catching fish, and among the most colorful and noisy is the belted kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon).

With its large head, long, thick bill, jagged crest, and white band around its neck, the kingfisher provides a silhouette that is easily recognized. However, it is not the unique appearance of this stout bird that initially draws attention to its presence. Most anglers and individuals that simply spend time outdoors commonly become aware that a kingfisher is in the immediate area by noting its distinct rattling call. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sights and Sounds of Adirondack Woodcock

woodcockEvery year around this time, my husband, kids and I haul out the tent blind from our garage and set it up in the field in front of our house. We toss in a few folding chairs, a thermos, maybe a neighbor. At dusk, we take our seats.

First come the vocalizations – what are officially called “peents,” but sound more to us like the name Bert repeated in a froggy voice. A male American woodcock materializes – we never see the moment of arrival – and makes his way across the winter-flattened grass. His goal is to impress females hiding in the tree line, although I suspect he makes an impression on predators, too. He looks vulnerable, and more than a little ridiculous, with his plump shorebird body, letter-opener beak, and eyes positioned far back on his head. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Wood Ducks: Woods And Waters Working Together

wood duckStrong and frequent southerly breezes, a disappearing snow pack at low elevations and the presence of large stretches of open water along streams, in the backwater of rivers and in marshes prompt the return of numerous forms of waterfowl to the Adirondacks.

When the opportunity arises to reconnect with the area used for breeding, flat-billed, webbed-footed birds take advantage of the favorable conditions and fly north. Included with these returning birds is one of the most colorful and handsome species of waterfowl in North America – the wood duck. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Update On Lake Placid Maple Sap Tubing Research

Maple sap tubing trial at Uihlein Research ForestThe Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has posted the latest research results from NNY Maple Specialist Michael Farrell, director of the Cornell Uihlein Research Forest in Lake Placid, NY.

Farrell evaluated the production efficiencies of two sizes of maple sap tubing in gravity-based collection systems. The Evaluating 3/16-inch Maple Sap Tubing Systems Under Natural Flow and Artificial Vacuum Systems in NNY report can be viewed here.

Newly-developed 3/16-inch interior diameter tubing has been suggested as a way to achieve greater and easier natural vacuum pressure to draw sap from the taphole in a maple tree. Each additional inch of vacuum results in an average increase of five to seven percent more sap. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Missing Lynx Return to New England

lynxIn the northern forest, a big gray cat crouches silently in a dense thicket of fir along a snowshoe hare run. Its pointed ears, topped with long tufts of black hair, twitch as it listens intently. The cat’s face is framed by a fur ruff and its yellow-green eyes are alert for movement. Suddenly, the lynx pounces, killing its prey with one quick bite to the neck. As it pads away with the hare, the lynx’s broad furry paws act like snowshoes, supporting it in the deep snow. Its short tail is tipped with black.

The Canada lynx, once eliminated from most of New England by forest clearing and unsustainable hunting and trapping, is making a comeback. Though still listed as a federally threatened species, there is an expanding breeding population in northern and western Maine, smaller numbers of lynx in northern New Hampshire, and intermittently, cats have been found in Vermont. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Time Travel in a Peat Bog

peat borerGutter pipes full of soggy peat show up on the bench by my office each March. This means one thing: my colleague Peter Hope’s Saint Michael’s College students are about to experience time travel. You might reasonably ask how pipes filled with peat could possibly relate to time travel. What? No DeLorean, flux capacitor, or 1.21 gigawatts of electricity? To answer, we need to consider where peat comes from, and how it forms.

Peat accumulates in bogs over millennia. Decomposing plant material consumes oxygen, and sphagnum moss turns water acidic by pulling minerals from the water and releasing acid. When dead plants and moss pile up in acidic water with little oxygen, they remain more or less preserved. The resulting accumulation is called ‘peat.’ » Continue Reading.


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