Posts Tagged ‘nature’

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

Eastern Forest Birds Face Wintering Grounds Habitat Loss

Rose-breasted GrosbeakWithin the next few decades, human-caused habitat loss looms as the greatest threat to some North American breeding birds and the problem will be most severe on their wintering grounds, according to a new study published  in the journal Global Change Biology. By the end of this century, the study’s authors say predicted changes in rainfall and temperature will compound the problem for birds that breed in eastern North America and winter in Central America. Migrant wintering grounds are important because the birds spend a greater proportion of the year in these places.

The scientists ran dozens of scenarios to predict what the future might look like for 21 species, most of them flycatchers, vireos, and warblers. They used observations that volunteers entered into the eBird database from 2004 through 2014 to establish where and in what density the species are found throughout the year. Then, they layered in modeled climate change projections (temperature and rainfall) and habitat data (land-use changes and the location of protected areas). » 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.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Being There: Forest Bathing and River Walking

riverwalk“We just completed our nature therapy training in May,” Helene Gibbons said when I met her last week at Origin Coffee in Saranac Lake. “We learned how to guide people to open their senses to the forest, to become immersed in the sights, smells, sounds and textures of the natural world.” As Helene is a yoga teacher, I saw how she could apply similar principles to meandering through the woods. She’s been guiding students through yoga poses and leading them into meditation for years.

“Suzanne Weirich and I traveled to Chicago for a seven day training at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois,” she continued. “With this Forest Therapy Guide Training we’re ready help people immerse themselves in the natural environment, called Forest Bathing.” » 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.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

William Henry Jackson’s Early Adirondack Color Postcards

1902 Jackson ADK carryOne of the greatest landscape photographers during the latter half of the Nineteenth Century was William Henry Jackson (April 4, 1843 – June 30, 1942). A native son of the Adirondacks Jackson was born in Keeseville, New York to George Jackson and Harriet Allen. Harriet was a talented water-colorist and William inherited her artistic flair. His first job as an artist in 1858 was a re-toucher for a photography studio in Troy New York.

In 1866 after serving in the Civil War, Jackson boarded a Union Pacific train to the end of the line in Omaha, Nebraska. There he entered the photography business. The Union Pacific gave him a commission in 1869 to document the scenery along their routes for promotional purposes. It was this work that was discovered by Ferdinand Hayden who invited Jackson on the 1870 U.S. government survey (predecessor of the U.S. Geologic Survey) of the Yellowstone River and Rocky Mountains. He was also on the 1871 Hayden Geologic Survey which led to the creation of Yellowstone as America’s first National Park. It was Jackson’s images that played an important role in convincing Congress to establish the Park in 1872. » 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.


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

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.


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.


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