Posts Tagged ‘science’

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Chemistry And Physics Of Lake Ice

Skating on Thin IceLast night, the floodlights were on at my favorite skating lake. Several children wearing plastic skates and shiny helmets were gliding on the ice, shepherded by young parents. A father pulled a Nordic-looking sled with upturned runners, his bundled-up cargo insisting, “More!” each time he stopped. They were enjoying one of winter’s greatest gifts: the smooth, frozen surfaces of our northern lakes and ponds.

The gift is ephemeral. Some winters, our skates never leave the basement. Other years, the snow holds off and there’s black ice before Christmas. We skate as much as we can, knowing our days of clear ice are numbered. As winter progresses, rain may turn the surface to water — but the temperature plummets again and the resurfaced plane draws us back. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

El Niño May Offer Surprises For Backyard Bird Count

unnamedWith Niño having warmed Pacific waters to temperatures matching the highest ever recorded, participants in the 2016 Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) may be in for a few surprises.

The 19th annual Bird Count is taking place worldwide February 12 through 15. Information gathered and reported online at birdcount.org will help scientists track changes in bird distribution, some of which may be traced to El Niño storms and the unusual weather patterns the Adirondacks have been seeing lately.

“The most recent big El Niño took place during the winter of 1997-98,” according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Marshall Iliff, a leader of the eBird program which collects worldwide bird counts year-round and also provides the backbone for the GBBC. “The GBBC was launched in February 1998 and was pretty small at first. This will be the first time we’ll have tens of thousands of people doing the count during a whopper El Niño.” » Continue Reading.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Adirondack Journal of Environmental Studies Published

AJES.20.Cover1The Adirondack Research Consortium and Union College have partnered to publish Volume 20 of the Adirondack Journal of Environmental Studies (AJES). The avian-themed edition features Teddy Roosevelt’s summer bird list and Larry Master’s Christmas bird count.

Leading scientists have contributed research to the journal including, “Songbird Research from Sphagnum Bog to Alpine Summit” by Amy Sauer and David Evers, and “State of the Birds in Exurbia” by Michale Glennon and Heidi Kretser. In all, this edition features 11 articles, one organizational profile of Northern New York Audubon, and color photos contributed by Larry Master. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Understanding The Language Of Crows

TOS_Crow“Caw! Caw!” Every spring we hear it. And my wife says, “that’s My Crow.” It’s apparently the bird’s name. She capitalizes it in her tone. I think she hasn’t bestowed a more formal name because she doesn’t know whether it’s a male or female.

My Crow is likely part of an extended family of crows that lives in our area. We think they nest in the tall pines on our south neighbor’s woodlot, but they forage over our woods and fields as well.

“How do you know it’s your crow?” I ask. “I can tell by the sound of its voice,” she says. “It’s different. Raspier. It makes a sort of throaty chuckle the other crows don’t make.” » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 28, 2015

A North Country Doctor Provides the Breath of Life

IsaacPatchenOf the many great stories about old country doctors, one of my favorites happened in the North Country just a few minutes south of Plattsburgh. The doctor’s name was Isaac Hutinac Patchen. His grandfather, Claude Hutinac, married a woman whose surname was Patchen. Their son, Stephen (Isaac’s father), fought in five Revolutionary War battles and endured the terrible suffering at Valley Forge. Following the war, he assumed his mother’s surname, and family members henceforth were known as Patchens.

Isaac Patchen was born around 1793, and at age 20 he began medical training. At the time, he lived in Vermont’s Lake Champlain Islands and in northern New York, where war was affecting locals on both sides of the lake. On September 11, 1814, during the Battle of Plattsburgh, he joined a militia force and volunteered to pursue fleeing enemy soldiers. More than twenty men were captured, and years later, Isaac received a land grant of 160 acres in return for a job well done. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

What Colors Can Deer See?

TOS_Deer_VisionIf you’re a hunter who’s ever ordered something from a sporting goods company, it’s probably safe to assume that you’ve been so inundated with catalogs over the past four months. God help you if you save your seed catalogs, too.

If you take a moment to flip through your now complete seasonal collection, you might find yourself wondering why during archery season in October the companies were trying to sell you the latest and greatest camo patterns that would make you invisible to deer, but then, during rifle season in November, the same companies tried to sell you glowing blaze orange suits – but don’t worry, deer can’t see those colors anyway. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Owls Hunt In Winter With High Tech Audio Systems

TOS_Barred_Owl_winterFor several days last winter, a barred owl perched atop a dead white birch tree in our field. As winters go, last year’s was very cold, and the owl puffed up against the stubbornly below-freezing temperatures, its streaky brown and white feathers fluffed and fluttering in the icy breeze. Occasionally the owl would move its head in a slow turn, from east to west to east again, dark eyes gazing at the field blanketed in deep snow.

The owl was most likely listening more than watching, straining to hear the scratching of tiny feet moving under the thick layer of white. Owls are remarkably skilled at finding and catching prey, but even they struggle to survive a long, cold season. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

When Mushrooms Attack: The Fungus Among Us

Oyster MushroomsThe oyster mushroom: delicious, frequently spotted on veggie pizzas, and predatory. That’s right. The hyphae of many fungi, including the oyster mushroom, attack and paralyze prey. Then, as R. Greg Thorn of Western University enthusiastically described, the fungi “grow down their throats and digest them from the inside.”

Oyster mushrooms live in the trunks of dead or dying hardwoods. A couple different species grow in the Northeast, each preferring different tree species. Pleurotus ostreatus, the oyster mushroom that you find in the grocery store, is the least picky about where it grows, and it puts out its fruiting bodies from spring to fall.

Because they live on dead trees, these fungi have limited access to nitrogen. Dead wood has plenty of cellulose and lignin, but very little nitrogen-containing protein. So, like carnivorous plants (which are actually omnivorous, despite the label), oyster mushrooms have evolved a bag of tricks to supplement their diet by attracting and consuming nitrogen-rich prey. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

New Study: Adirondack Sugar Maples In Decline

Colorful autumn foliage

The iconic sugar maple, one of the most economically and ecologically important trees in the eastern United States and Canada, shows signs of being in decline, according to research results published today (Oct. 21, 2015) in the journal Ecosphere.

Scientists at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) analyzed growth rings from hundreds of trees in the Adirondacks and found a decline in the growth rate began for a majority of sugar maple trees after 1970. The reasons for the decline are unclear. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Distressing Colors: Early Leaf Change An Unhealthy Sign

Early leaf colorIf trees held a race to see which would be among the first to have their leaves turn color, the winners would be losers. Premature leaf color change is a reliable indicator of failing health, and the worse a tree’s condition, the sooner it begins to turn.

Precious few places in the world have a fall color show like ours, and the display that northern hardwoods produce each autumn never fails to fill me with awe and appreciation. But when it starts in July, as was the case again this year on some roadside maples, I know those trees aren’t long for this world. In early August even some forest hardwoods growing on thin rocky soils began to show color, which is also unusual. » Continue Reading.


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