Posts Tagged ‘Reptiles – Amphibians’

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The 4 x 4 Waverunner – Shape of Things to Come?

Even though the State Land Master plan didn’t address them specifically, in the mid-1990s the Adirondack Park Agency acted early on the use of Mountain Bikes on state land. Gibb Technologies’ new 4 x 4 waverunner combination, dubbed the Quadski, is a motorized vehicle that Peter Bauer, Executive Director of the Fund for Lake George and former head of the Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks, believes needs to be addressed early as well. Check out the video.

“[Mountain Biking] was a case of the APA acting on an issue before there was resource degradation, widespread established use, and where the SLMP had not contemplated an issue,” Bauer recently told the Almanack by e-mail. “[This] is an issue where the APA and DEC should act quickly and proactively or the trails and waters of the Adirondack Park will be changed forever.” The Aquada, another amphibious sport vehicle, has also been gaining ground after Sir Richard Branson became the first to cross the English Channel in one in 2004. » Continue Reading.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Paul Smith’s VIC To Host Wildlife Festival on Saturday

The Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) at Paul Smiths will host the Adirondack Wildlife Festival from 10am to 4pm on Saturday, Aug. 8. The annual event will feature children’s activities, live music, wildlife exhibits, food, trail walks, lectures and live animal demonstrations.

The day starts with live animal programs. Beth Bidwell, executive director of the Wildlife Institute of Eastern New York, will present reptiles, amphibians and a variety of Adirondack raptors. Providing informative and exciting programs to groups of all ages, she will give live demonstrations from 10am to 3pm.

Singer/songwriter Mark Rust, of Woodstock, is the featured musical act. From 10 to 11 am, he will welcome visitors with hammered dulcimer music. At noon, he will give a show for kids, “My Family’s Musical Traditions,” followed by a “How to Play the Spoons” workshop at 12:45pm in the Music Tent near the Butterfly House.

From 2 to 3pm, Rust will give a show titled “Our Families Came to Sing,” songs about family life and growing up. Rust’s performance showcases an impressive array of instruments, including fiddle, guitar, hammered dulcimer, mountain dulcimer and banjo.

Wildlife photographer Gerry Lemmo, of Queensbury, will be offering several programs: a Wildlife Walk at 11am; a BYOC (Bring Your Own Camera) Photography Walk at 1:15pm; and a slide show presentation titled ” Songbirds of the Adirondacks” at 3pm in the VIC theater. Participants will need to sign up and meet at the front desk for the two walks.

Displays will be set up by the DEC bureaus of wildlife, the DEC Hudson River Otter Stewardship Program, the New York State Bluebird Society and regional organizations.

Staff from the Wildlife Conservation Society will give a lecture titled “On the Scent of Adirondack Moose” at 11am in the VIC theater. APA Environmental Educator Milt Adams will present a lecture titled “Home Sweet Home: Interpreting Wildlife Habitat in the Adirondacks” at 1pm also in the VIC theater.

Free and open to the public, the Adirondack Wildlife Festival at the Paul Smiths VIC will be held rain or shine. Food and beverages will be available for purchase from 11am to 2pm in the Food Pavilion. Children’s activities will be led by VIC naturalists and volunteers from 10am to 3pm in the Sunspace. The Native Species Butterfly House will be open from 10am to 4pm.

The Adirondack Wildlife Festival is sponsored by the Adirondack Park Agency and the Adirondack Park Institute, the not-for-profit group that funds environmental educational programs, events, publications and curricula at the VICs.

The New York State Adirondack Park Agency operates two VICs, in Paul Smiths and Newcomb, which are open year-round from 9am to 5pm daily except Christmas and Thanksgiving. They offer a wide array of educational programs, miles of interpretive trails and visitor information services. Admission is free.

The Paul Smiths VIC is located 12 miles north of Saranac Lake on Route 30. For more information about the VICs, log on to the centers’ Web site at www.adkvic.org.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

DEC, APA Remind Shoreline Owners About Regulations

Shoreline property owners and contractors who plan to construct, replace or expand structures located within shoreline setback areas or repair or install seawalls, riprap, docks, cribs and/or boathouses on waters within the Adirondack Park, are advised to contact the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) before undertaking any work according to the following press release from the state agencies, published here for your information:

Among the most valuable resources in the Park is the land along its thousands of streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. The shoreline is an important ecological feature that defines the transition zone between land and water. All levels of the food chain – from forage fish to large mouth bass, shorebirds to waterfowl, and amphibians to mammals – benefit from a “healthy” shoreline.

DEC and APA staff can determine if permits or variances are required and provide information on ways to minimize environmental damage associated with construction in and around protected waterways. The laws the APA and DEC administers protect wildlife habitat, water quality and the scenic appeal of Adirondack shorelines by establishing setbacks, lot widths and cutting restrictions.

“Shorelines are a valuable natural feature of the Adirondacks. The application of appropriate standards for shoreline structures protects the aesthetic character of our landscape as well as associated habitats for a variety of wildlife.” said Betsy Lowe, Regional Director for DEC Region 5

“Every year, our law enforcement officers encounter project sites along the water where work is underway without proper permits,” said Judy Drabicki, Regional Director for DEC Region 6

“Due to the 2008 APA rule changes pertaining to shoreline structures within the Adirondack Park, the public is strongly encouraged to also contact APA staff for regulatory advice before constructing, replacing or expanding shoreline structures,” said Curt Stiles, Chairman of the APA.

DEC has recently identified “Preferred Methods” for shoreline stabilization. These include preserving as much natural shoreline as possible; use of vegetation plantings, where feasible, to stabilize the shoreline, create habitat and reduce pollution from stormwater; and bioengineering which utilizes a combination of natural materials (sticks, logs, root wads, etc.) and applied engineering to correct shoreline problems.

More information on shoreline stabilization, including preferred and traditional methods, is available on the DEC website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/42519.html.

Contacts for shoreline projects in the Adirondack Park:

• All locations within the Adirondack Park – Adirondack Park Agency, in Ray Brook at (518) 891-4050

• Clinton, Essex, Franklin and Hamilton Counties – DEC Region 5 Environmental Permits Office in Ray Brook at (518)897-1234

• Fulton, Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties – DEC Region 5 Environmental Permits Office in Warrensburg at (518)623-1281

• Lewis, Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties – DEC Region 6 Environmental Permits Office in Watertown at (315)785-2245

• Herkimer and Oneida counties – DEC Region 6 Environmental Permits Office in Utica at (315)793-2555


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What is an Adirondack Wetland?

We have a new school program here at the Visitor Interpretive Centers: What is a Wetland? Since I am in the process of putting the finishing touches on this program, I thought it would make a good topic for the Almanack.

Put very simply, wetlands are lands that are, well, wet. That is to say, they are wet for part or all of the year. Some wetlands are obvious, like swamps, bogs and marshes that have sodden ground or standing water that you can see (or feel) every time you are there. Other wetlands, however, are seasonal, appearing when water levels are high, and disappearing in the heat of summer.

One of the Adirondack Park Agency’s responsibilities is protecting the integrity of wetlands within the Blue Line. They have staff who go into the field to conduct “wetland deliniations,” which are essentially determinations of the borders of wetlands. In order to do this, their staff look at three determining criteria: plant species, soil type(s) and hydrology.

The plant part is easy. There are species of plants that are either totally dependent on water (like pickerel weed and sphagnum moss), some that are in water two-thirds of the time you find them (like Joe-Pye-weed and black spruce), and others that are nowhere near water (like sugar maple and eastern white pine). If the area in question has a majority of plants in the first two categories, it is a wetland.

Soil types are kind of fun to determine. A core sample is taken within the test area. The soil from the sample is then compared to a soil chart, looking for evidence of oxidation. Oxidation indicates the presence of air in the soil. If there is no sign of oxidation, the soil is considered gleyed and is classified as a wetland soil. If oxidation has occurred, the soil will look rusty. If the amount of oxidation is minimal, the area is likely a seasonal wetland. On the other hand, if the soil is totally oxidized, then air gets through the layers year round and it is not a wetland.

Finally, we come to hydrology: is there water present? If there is visual evidence of innundation or saturation, you have a wetland. Do you see water? Does it squish underfoot? Is there a line of debris along the shoreline, below which the shore is scoured of vegetation? Are there areas of dead trees, where the trees essentially drowned from flooding? These are all indicators of wetland habitats.

Why is the APA so concerned about wetlands? Wetlands are extremely important habitats. Far too many people are unaware of just how important they are. Over the course of my career in environmental education, I’ve come to conclusion that many people think that those of us who promote the protection of wetlands are merely looking at them as animal homes, but the truth is that while indeed they are imporant for all kinds of wildlife, they are also so very important for people.

For one thing, wetlands clean and filter all sorts of pollutants from our water. These pollutants range from toxic chemicals to seemingly harmless fertilizers, like nitrogen and phosphorous. We know that nitrogen and phosphorous are essential for healthy soil and plants, but when large amounts enter lakes, ponds or streams, the result is potentially harmful algal blooms and excessive growth of water weeds, which can choke waterways and reduce oxygen levels in the water, resulting in the death of fish and aquatic invertebrates.

Wetlands also act as giant sponges. Every time it rains, wetlands soak up the water and release it slowly. This helps protect areas downstream from severe flooding. Look at places around the globe that suffer from massive floods today. Chances are that over the last century or two the associated wetlands have been changed or entirely removed. Without the mediating effects of these “sponges,” the water now rushes downstream, gathering speed and volume, with nothing to slow its progress as it rushes to the sea. This leads to the next benefit we get from wetlands.

Wetlands reduce soil erosion by slowing down the flow. With slower moving water, shorelines are not eaten away, and silt can fall out of the water, leaving cleaner, clearer water to continue downstream.

And, of course, wetlands are vital habitats for fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects and mammals.

Did you know that one of the deciding factors for the establishment of the Adirondack Park over one hundred years ago was protection of our waters? The Adirondack region is the source of much of the drinking water for downstate New York. With all the unregulated logging that was done in the 1800s, vast areas of land were left denuded of trees, and as a result, streams and rivers were severely impacted. Some had reduced flow, others were no longer clean as a result of runoff. You can listen to a reenactment of the 1894 New York State Constitutional Convention at the Newcomb VIC that lays out these very concerns.

So, yes, wetlands are important and we need to protect them. After all, there is only a limited amount of freshwater on this planet, and all environmental reports these days suggest that freshwater will soon become more valuable than gold. We need to protect our freshwater so that it will always be there when we need it, and this means protecting our wetlands.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Red Efts: Nifty Adirondack Salamanders

Earlier this spring, after our first few bouts of significant rain, the red efts were on the move. They were tiny, measuring just a bit over an inch from the tip of the snout to the tip of the tail, but their bright orange skin made them stand out brilliantly against the dark gray pavement of the road, and each one that I found got a lift as I carried it to a safer location off the road and into the woods.

Red efts are the terrestrial form of the eastern (or red-spotted) newt, Notophthalmus viridescens. More than just larvae, but not quite adults yet, red efts can be considered the teenager stage in the eastern newt’s life. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Master Forest Owner Training, SUNY-ESF-AEC

Well, I’m here at the Huntington Research Forest / SUNY-ESF Adirondack Ecological Center (AEC), checked in, bag unpacked, and we’ve already made some general introductions and had dinner together at the dining hall. Laurel Gailor, Natural Resources Educator for Warren County Cornell Cooperative Extension and Cornell Department of Natural Resources Program Director Gary Goff (who is primarily leading the training) welcomed me with internet access and a map and schedule.

There are twenty folks here for the training including large landowners and small representing 3,400 combined acres in Warren, Essex, Hamilton, Tioga, and even Broome County. Most are retirement-age men, but we have a handful of women. The group looks pretty diverse as far as experience. Several have been foresters or in the forestry industry for many years, one dairy and maple producer, three engineers, two corrections officers, one college administrator, one principal, two teachers, an anthropologist and a superintendent of highways. One trainee working on his town’s comprehensive plan.

The highlight of tonight’s session (yes, I said tonight, the schedule runs to 8 or 9 pm each night) was an introduction to the Huntington Forest and the Adirondack Ecological Center by the center’s program director Paul Hai. Hai reviewed the history of the Huntington Forest, so I thought I’d relate some of what he said here.

SUNY-ESF is the oldest college in the US solely dedicated to the study of the environment. It was founded in 1911 as the College of Forestry at Syracuse, although Cornell University actually established the first New York State College of Forestry in 1898 under Bernhard Fernow. It was the first professional college of forestry in North America but didn’t last long. Fernow established a research forest near Saranac Lake (I’ve written about that in the past), but opposition from local wealthy landowners and pressure applied to the state legislature forced the closure of both the research forest and Cornell’s Forestry School in about 1909.

Syracuse took up the mantle in 1911 and in 1932 the Huntington family (famed for their connection to the trans-continental railroad and first owners of the Pine Knot Great Camp) donated some 15,000 acres to the College of Forestry. The Huntington Forest allows “research on a landscape scale,” according to Hai, largely because it is private land and therefore outside the constitutional “forever wild” clause. The goal at Huntington is to study the wildlife and biology of the Adirondack / Northern Forest Ecosystem, but also the dynamics of a healthy forest products economy. The AEC has been conducting one of the longest whitetail deer studies in America, and more recently they have been studying how road salt affects amphibians.

In the 1950s cutting-method blocks were established in the Huntington Forest, and later this week we’ll be able to walk through a half century of forestry methods in just a few miles.

Much of what has been learned through research being conducted published in a variety of peer reviewed journals. AEC maintains a list of publications online.

Breakfast at 6:45 am – I’ll try and report more around noon.


Monday, April 20, 2009

A Dry White(water) Season

Low snowpack and scarce April showers have led to burn bans around the Adirondack Park. The drought also has river paddlers wandering, searching for streams pushy enough to float their colorful little boats.

“Whitewater kayakers are being forced into summer habits of traveling downstream, unfortunately by car, to seek water levels suitable enough to sink their paddles in,” writes Jason Smith, on Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters blog. “The Hudson River along with the Moose River, in the central Adirondacks, offer reliable spring flow and are popular spring runs. But even these mighty rivers are running lower than usual. . . . [D]on’t be alarmed if you see a vehicle loaded with short, plastic kayaks driving aimlessly around your neighborhood.”

Other Adirondack critters known to crave a good spring rain are amphibians. In Paul Smiths, in the high-elevation north-central Adirondacks where ice was still on ponds as of Thursday, wood frogs and spotted salamanders began to move on a warm rainy night about two weeks ago, observes Curt Stager, professor of biology at Paul Smith’s College. The cold-blooded creatures live buried in the forest floor most of the year, braving exposure to predators and car tires on rainy April nights to travel to the ephemeral ponds where they breed. Peepers, American toads and other frogs and salamanders also congregate at waterholes this time of year.

Showers Saturday gave creeks and rivers a noticeable boost. The last two weeks had brought snow and then unrelenting sun. “They [herps] have been dribbling around. It was an early start and then it got cut off by the dry weather,” says Stager, who studies local phenology. “Every year is a little different in the Adirondacks. You’ve got to watch it for decades to notice a real pattern.”

High/dry kayaker sketch courtesy of Jason Smith


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Wild Center: Local Leader on Adirondack Climate Change

Two years ago I was lamenting that no local public leaders were stepping up to the plate on trying to understand what global climate change would mean for the Adirondacks (and it’s ski-tourism industry) – thankfully, that has changed. The Wild Center in Tupper Lake has taken on the lead role of informing their neighbors about the potential impacts of global warming (such as the impact on amphibians), showing local builders what they can do to mitigate those affects, and organizing scientific meetings to discuss and asses the progress of climate change in the Adirondacks.

Next month, The Wild Center will be taking another important step with a another significant conference – American Response to Climate Change Conference: The Adirondack Model. This latest event follows-up on the national leadership meeting held this past June that addressed greenhouse gas abatement policies for the United States. This conference, however, will have a regional approach, with a focus on the Adirondacks. The work of the Adirondack Conference will, in part, be shaped by the research, findings and recommendations from the national conference. According to the website:

The primary conference objective will be to develop a Climate Action Plan for the Adirondacks. This will include specific action recommendations for individuals, communities, and enterprises; detailing climate change driven economic opportunities and benefits for region; concrete time-bound goals for efficiency improvements in buildings and transportation; alternative fuels and small scale power generation options; the role of Adirondack forests and natural systems mitigating greenhouse gas emissions; adaptation measures for local government and economics in changing climate; the role of local governments; policy recommendations for region and state; identification of priority messages and strategies for broad communication efforts; and the creation of an ongoing structure to forward action after the conference.

More than 150 leaders from businesses, local and state government, academia, Adirondack non-profits, and experts in climate mitigation in the areas of building efficiency, alternative fuel sources, small scale power generation technologies, transportation, natural systems and resources, rural areas and local economies.

The conference will take place on November 18th and 19th, 2008; Conservationist of the Year Bill McKibben will be a featured speaker.

BTW, on October 22nd, The Wild Center will announce, with its research partner the Wildlife Conservation Society and Jerry Jenkins, author of The Adirondack Atlas, a major research effort concerning impacts of climate change in the Adirondacks.

Congratulations Wild Center, for showing the way in making our region a leader in the discussions over local impacts to global warming.


Saturday, August 9, 2008

Paul Smiths VIC’s Adirondack Wildlife Festival

Another announcement forwarded to you from Andy Flynn:

PAUL SMITHS, NY – The increasing need for wind energy in New York state and the exploding moose population in the Adirondacks will top the list of Adirondack Wildlife Festival programs on Sunday, Aug. 10 at the Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) in Paul Smiths. The annual event, held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., will also feature children’s activities, live music, wildlife exhibits, food, trail walks and live animal demonstrations. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

1800s Adirondack Natural History Survey Online

The mid-1800s Natural History Survey of New York has been posted online at the New York State Library here. According to a recent note from the Library’s staff:

The Natural History Survey of New York, undertaken in the mid-1800s, covered zoology, flora, mineralogy, geology, agriculture and paleontology. The NYS Library has digitized the first three components of the survey so far. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Our Endangered Adirondack Amphibians

This weekend The Wild Center in Tupper Lake is hosting a special symposium that will look at the global and local health of amphibians (frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, etc) and what it means for the Adirondacks and our planet (details below, along with a full list of Adirondack amphibians).

Probably because they lived in two polluted worlds – they are cold-blooded animals that metamorphose from a water-breathing juvenile to an air-breathing adult – amphibian populations around the globe are threatened or extinct. Some scientists believe it’s related to environmental pollutants, development that reduces their habitat, and global warming (which exacerbates pathogen outbreaks) are to blame.

This brings up the DEC’s Amphibian & Reptile Atlas Project (known as the Herp Atlas), a ten year survey (1990-1999) documenting the distribution of New York State’s herpetofauna. Using more than 1,200 volunteers, the project hoped to count 20 species in each survey block (based on 7.5′ topographic quadrangles) – that number was lowered by the end of the project to 15 species in each block – the data is lame, and hasn’t been exploited as far as I can see.

What data there has been made available is here, although I’m not sure why it hasn’t been included in the USGS North American Amphibian Monitoring Program.
Records prior to 1989 were also supposed to be compiled for a historic database, but the online data doesn’t even include 1999’s findings, let alone any historic data or analysis. So all the public really has to work with is a simple map and a series of fact sheets on the state’s amphibians and reptiles.

We have to wonder (no we don’t, we already know) why the Whitetail-deer management effort is so comprehensive, when the the herps are given short-shrift. The fact is that amphibians are experiencing an obvious and serious decline that suggests they may be “toads in the coal mine.” How about at least a Landowner’s Guide for Managing Amphibians?

Here are the details for the Wild Center’s Amphibian Weekend, which is free for members or with paid admission:

July 26 – 11am-12pm: “Amphibians of New York State” in the Flammer Theater with Dr. Glenn Johnson, Professor Biology at SUNY Potsdam and co-author of Reptiles and Amphibians of New York State 12pm-12:30pm: Amphibian encounter with a Wild Center naturalists in the Great Hall. 1pm-2pm: Lecture in Flammer Theater Why Amphibians Matter with Dr. Kevin Zippel, Program Director of Amphibian Ark, a scientific initiative sponsored by the Chicago Zoological Society . The Chicago Zoological Society is leading zoos worldwide in the globally coordinated public awareness campaign entitled “2008 The Year of the Frog.” 2-2:30pm: Amphibian encounter with a Wild Center naturalists in The Great Hall. 3pm-4pm: Children’s Program in The Great Hall with Wild Center naturalists called “Cyclin’ Around the Pond: The Life Cycles of Amphibians in Blue Pond”.

July 27 – 11am-12pm: Get “Up Close with Wild Center Amphibians” in the Flammer Theater with our own amphibian biologist, Frank Panaro. This program will cover the biology of Adirondack amphibians with special glimpses of them under the camera. 12-12:30pm: Amphibian encounter with a Wild Center naturalists in the Great Hall 1pm-2pm: Lecture in Flammer Theater entitled “Conservation of Kihansi Spray Toad” with Dr. Jennifer Pramuk, Curator of Herpetology at The Bronx Zoo. Other topics covered will be global amphibian health and zoo initiatives to protect and conserve amphibians worldwide. 2pm-2:30pm: Amphibian Encounter with a Wild Center naturalists in the Great Hall 3pm-4pm: Family Art Program- “Flippin’ Frogs and Slithery Salamanders”- Origami frogs and salamanders (the frogs can actually flip!).

Here is a complete list of amphibians from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry:

Salamanders (Order Caudata)

Mole Salamanders (Family Ambystomidae)
Blue-spotted salamander ~ Ambystoma laterale
Spotter salamander ~ Ambystoma maculatum

Lungless Salamanders (Family Plethodontidae)
Spring salamander ~ Gyrinophilus porphyriticus
Four-toed salamander ~ Hemidactylium scutatum
Red-backed salamander ~ Plethodon cinereus
Two-lined salamander ~ Eurycea bislineata
Mountain dusky salamander ~ Desmognathus ochrophaeus
Northern dusky salamander ~ Desmognathus fuscus

Newts (Family Salamandridae)
Red-spotted newt ~ Notophthalmus viridescens

Mudpuppies (Family Proteidae)
Mud puppy ~ Necturus maculosus

Frogs and Toad (Order Anura)

True Toads (Family Bufonidae)
American toad ~ Bufo americanus

Treefrogs (Family Hylidae)

Spring peeper ~ Hyla crucifer
Gray tree frog ~ Hyla versicolor

True Frogs (Family Ranidae)

Bullfrog ~ Rana catesbeiana
Green frog ~ Rana clamitans
Mink frog ~ Rana septentrionalis
Wood frog ~ Rana sylvatica
Leopard frog ~ Rana pipiens
Pickerel frog ~ Rana palustris


Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Biggest Threats to Adirondack Water Resources

The Adirondack Council has released a report that outlines eight major threats to Adirondack water resources. Titled Adirondack Waters: Resource at Risk [pdf], the 32-page booklet describes the threats and what can be done about them. The eight risks include: Acid Rain, Mercury Pollution, Global Climate Change, Aquatic Invasive Species, Inadequate Sewage Treatment, Suburban Sprawl, Diverting Adirondack Waters, and Road Salt.

Acid Rain – More than 700 bodies of water in the Adirondack Park have been damaged and native fish, amphibians, and other aquatic life are threatened. Although they may look clear and pristine, the appearance of water bodies damaged by acid rain is actually due to a lack of native life in the water. Recently, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), which provides for the largest reductions in the pollutants that cause acid rain since the passage of the original Clean Air Act in 1963. Congress needs to put these new rules into law. » Continue Reading.


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