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.
Posts Tagged ‘nature’
It’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.
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.
New York State’s fourth annual Invasive Species Awareness Week (ISAW) will take place July 9th-15th. The Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) is collaborating with various partner organizations to offer more than 15 invasive species related events, including Backcountry Water Monitors Training, Terrestrial Invasive Plant ID & Survey Training, Lake Champlain Water Chestnut Paddle & Pull, and Adirondack Invaders Day at The Wild Center. » Continue Reading.
I give a lot of tours at my 80-acre homestead, and have found that most visitors are delighted for the opportunity to connect nature with real life. Those of us who spend much time rubbing elbows with nature might say that it is real life, but for many people the connection is a serendipitous anomaly.
“Remember teaberry gum?” I like to ask as we walk along a wide, sunny woods path. “That stuff that used to be around when we were kids, in the red package?”
They always nod, even the people who are probably too young to have ever encountered teaberry gum on the shelves at the corner variety store. They suspect I’m leading up to something big and don’t want to miss out.
I reach down and pluck a shiny leaf from a wintergreen plant growing along the edge of the footpath, snap it into several pieces, and rub it between my fingers to release the oils. After taking a whiff myself — both as a show of good faith and to ascertain that it is sufficiently aromatic for a show-and-tell specimen — I offer it up for sniffs all around. » Continue Reading.
Pollinator Week may be over, but efforts continue to educate on the global and regional importance of pollinators and to show people what they can do to help.
Events will be going on throughout the summer to educate the public, including lectures by Dr. Christina Grozinger, Director of Penn State University’s Center for Pollinator Research, July 19 at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake and July 20 at View Arts in Old Forge; showings of the film “More Than Honey” about why bees are facing extinction; gardening and beekeeping workshops and opportunities for learning to identify and monitor pollinators. See a calendar of events here. » Continue Reading.
As spring’s crescendo of birdsong mellows now to a steadier summer trill, I listen for melodies I don’t recognize and try to figure out which birds are singing. I look through binoculars at their feathers, the color variations along head and chest, the size of their beaks, the shape of their wings, and the tilt of their tails in my flailing attempts to distinguish one species from another. Rarely have I considered feet in my casual observations, although this part of a bird’s anatomy can be highly specialized for various uses.
“When you look at the foot of a bird, they’re not all the same,” said Kevin McGowan of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “All the birds basically started off with three toes forward, one back. From that, they’ve evolved in a number of different ways for various reasons.”
Birds walk on those toes – not the entire foot. The backward-bending joint we may consider a knee is actually the birds’ ankle. The feet consist mainly of bones and tendons, with very little muscle and few blood vessels. » Continue Reading.
A SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry undergraduate received the Hudson River Foundation’s Polgar Fellowship this summer to conduct water sampling in Wolf Lake on SUNY-ESF’s Huntington Wildlife Forest (HWF) under my guidance.
Sampling will be conducted to determine if water quality changes observed over the past few summers in Wolf Lake might be due to a relatively unknown but widespread organism, the freshwater jellyfish Craspedacusta sowerbii. » Continue Reading.
Scanning a sunlit pond floor for crayfish, I was distracted by seven dark spots gliding in a tight formation. Six crisp oval shadows surrounded a faint, less distinct silhouette. The shapes slid slowly and then, with a rapid motion, accelerated before slowing to another glide. I can remember seeing this pattern as a child, in my first explorations of pond life.
Water strider shadows are far larger than the insects casting them. To visualize the surprising proportion of legs to body, it may help to think in human scale. For mathematical simplicity, picture a six-foot-tall man lying flat on the water surface. Imagine that attached near his hips he has a pair of seven-foot-long, stick-skinny legs pointing back at a 45 degree angle. Just forward of these spindles he has another pair pointing forward at a 45 degree angle; these are nine feet long. A pair of three-foot-long arms point forward and each has a single claw protruding from the palm. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Pollinator Project (APP) is a new initiative of AdkAction in partnership with The Wild Center, The Lake Placid Land Conservancy, and Common Ground Gardens, that features an extensive program of educational activities and events throughout the summer. The program will kick off at area farmers’ markets and The Wild Center during National Pollinator Week, June 19-25th.
Film showings, hands-on beekeeping, gardening and citizen science workshops, and free public lectures by pollinator researchers are planned throughout the Adirondacks to help inspire individual and collective action to help pollinators thrive. Highlights of the programming are two free public lectures from Dr. Christina Grozinger, Director of the Center for Pollinator Research at Penn State University, at The Wild Center on July 19th and at View Arts in Old Forge on July 20th. » Continue Reading.
The “fisher cat” is neither of those things. Doesn’t fish. Isn’t a cat. In fact, a lot more of what people think they know about the fisher is wrong. It’s almost like we made up the animal.
The fisher, Pekania pennanti, is a big forest-dwelling weasel, related to the American marten, and native to North America. The common name has nothing to do with fish, but instead derives from French and Dutch words for the pelt of a European polecat, to which it is distantly related. Native American tribes had their own names for the animal, many of which translate roughly as “big marten.” » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has reminded the public that the state’s native turtles are on the move in seeking sandy areas or loose soil to lay their eggs. Drivers that see a turtle on the road should use caution and should not swerve suddenly or leave their lane of travel, but take care to avoid hitting turtles while driving.
In New York, thousands of turtles are killed each year when they are struck by vehicles as the turtles migrate to their nesting areas. New York’s 11 native species of land turtles are in decline, and turtles can take more than 10 years to reach breeding age. The reptiles lay just one small clutch of eggs each year, which means the loss of a breeding female can have a significant effect on the local turtle population. » Continue Reading.
The loathsome deer tick, also known as the black-legged tick, is defined more by the disease it spreads than by its own characteristics. Deer ticks, a name that came about due to its habit of parasitizing white-tailed deer, are transmitters or vectors for Lyme disease microbes that they acquire by feeding on infected mice and rodents. Lyme disease, if untreated can cause a variety of health issues including facial paralysis, heart palpitations, arthritis, severe headaches, and neurological disorders. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme disease is currently one of the fastest-growing and most commonly reported vector-borne diseases in the United States. More than 14,000 cases are reported annually, but because the symptoms so closely resemble the flu and usually go away without treatment, scientists estimate as many as nine out of every ten cases go unreported. » Continue Reading.
If you take a walk in the woods on a summer evening, you may be treated to the ethereal, flute-like song of the hermit thrush, often the only bird still singing at dusk (and the first bird to sing in the morning).
In 1882, naturalist Montague Chamberlain described it as a “vesper hymn that flows so gently out upon the hushed air of the gathering twilight.” The hermit thrush, once nicknamed American nightingale, is among North America’s finest songsters; its beautiful song is one of the reasons Vermont chose the hermit thrush as its state bird. » Continue Reading.
Coinciding with the onset of bug season in the Adirondacks is the return of our insect eating birds. While nearly all of these perching birds have an attractive musical call that announces their presence, most maintain a secretive routine so they are rarely spotted.
The swallows are the most visible bug consumers as their preference for perching in exposed places and feeding over open settings allows these skilled aerialists to be regularly seen.
Additionally, their habit of placing their nest close to human dwellings and in plain view of any passerby makes them well known to residents and visitors of the Park.
» Continue Reading.