If you were fortunate enough to grow up with freedom to roam outdoors, there are likely certain places that stick with you. For me, one of these places is a thicket of old mountain laurels that my brother and I hiked through on our way to an outcrop we called The Ledge. What I loved about them was how their shreddy, red-brown trunks forked and twisted, like trees in a fairy tale, or in the Haunted Forest on the way to Oz. In early summer, they held delicate pink and white flowers that were sticky to the touch — another sign that they were, if not enchanted, at least special. » Continue Reading.
Janet Hayward Burnham, of Bethel, Vermont, was driving to the bank one day when she saw a tree on the side of the road that looked like it was covered in decorative webbing, “cans and cans” of it, as if for Halloween. However, it was June.
Burnham is an illustrator, children’s book author, and writer of sweet (as opposed to sexy) romances and mysteries. She is, in other words, an intellectually curious person and she pulled over for a better look. From the sidewalk, she could see that the whole yard was covered in cottony webbing. Deep inside the webs were yellowish-white caterpillars with black heads. “I’d never seen anything like this in Vermont,” Burnham said. “Clearly, it was infested with something. What were they? Should we be concerned?” » Continue Reading.
The big white birds paddling gracefully across a Massachusetts pond last November surprised me. I’d grown up in the town I was visiting and had never seen swans there, although my friend assured me they were resident birds. The only mute swans I’d seen before, years ago, were floating along the River Thames between Eton College and Windsor Castle.
Swans in England have a long history, and the mute swans along the Thames are, by law, the property of the queen. Mute swans on our side of the Atlantic are a more modern phenomenon and have no such protection. In fact, wildlife managers have been working for years to reduce the population of this species in order to protect native habitat and waterfowl. » Continue Reading.
North Country Public Radio is like a river, working its way through the geography of the Adirondack North Country. We adjust to a changing and sometimes erratic environment, but we’re always there with a reliable flow of news, information, stories, and music of our communities, our country, and the world.
As we celebrate our fiftieth anniversary, I’d like to share some of the highlights of our history and my observations as station manager for the past thirty-five years. » Continue Reading.
No place in the state or nation is more vulnerable to aquatic invasive species (AIS) than the pristine waters of the Adirondacks. New York already has the highest number of non-native forest pests in the country and is adjacent to the continent’s main gateway for the introduction and spread of aquatic invasives — the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway. As the map shows, the Adirondack Park is literally surrounded by waterways that harbor dozens of destructive species threatening the Park. » Continue Reading.
When I was growing up, my family rented a vacation home on a mountain in southern Vermont. One night we were awakened by our dogs barking. Soon we heard a persistent gnawing on the outside of the house. My Dad went to investigate. His flashlight beam revealed a large porcupine with black, beady eyes. My father scared it away, but it returned other nights.
Why would a porcupine chew on a house? It’s not so much the wood they’re after; it’s the finish. Most paints, stains, and wood glues contain salt. And porcupines crave it, just as we humans crave potato chips and roasted peanuts. » Continue Reading.
Four unprecedented March Nor’easters caused millions of dollars in damage, kept utilities scrambling to restore power, and disrupted transportation up and down the east coast in 2018.
Choosing policies that will make matters worse should be the last thing to do in New York State, but that is what is happening in the Adirondacks and the Catskills. » Continue Reading.
There’s a myth environmental educators like to tell, and it goes something like this: after every long northern winter, spring returns. Days lengthen, temperatures rise, the snowpack slowly disappears, and one afternoon, it begins to rain – a soaking, 45-degree rain that continues well into the night.
On that one big night, all of the wood frogs and salamanders and spring peepers clamber out of their winter burrows and migrate – up to a quarter-mile, on tiny feet – to their breeding pools. An explosion of life, all on that one big night. We call this myth: Big Night.
In reality, most years, our region experiences several Big Nights, one or two Medium Nights, and sometimes a smattering of Small Nights. It all depends on the weather. » Continue Reading.
Often, during my forays into the woods behind our house, I wonder who might be occupying the holes carved into tree trunks by time and nature.
The barred owls I hear hoo-hoo-hoo-hooing, maybe, or the chittering red squirrels. And, chances are, there are raccoons in some of those hollows, high above the ground. » Continue Reading.
When you think about the iconic landforms of the Northeast, what comes to mind? The mountains, of course. The lakes. Of course. Rivers? Probably.
But there’s another. Stone walls. An estimated 100,000 miles of them. They might not be as impressive as the Great Range, Hudson Gorge, or Lake George, but collectively they make a big impact on the landscape and the creatures who live there. » Continue Reading.
I had just finished my safety talk to some middle school students when I heard a bloodcurdling scream. In many years handling aquatic insects and other small water creatures, I have never been wounded. Crayfish have once or twice gotten hold of me but never drawn blood. So I was quite surprised to hear through the minor chaos that a student had actually been bitten.
There were no crayfish where we sampled in Winooski, Vermont floodplain ponds and only one likely candidate to produce such a scream. It was the reason I had specifically warned my students to use forceps. » Continue Reading.
I have been living with an otter. He’s long and sleek, a graceful swimmer with an insatiable appetite for fish. At first he was just my boy, a chubby little toddler, happy to snuggle and follow his big sister around. But on the first snow fall of his second year of life, I watched him in his slick blue snowsuit climb up our steep hill, point his round little head down the hill and go, a daring headfirst belly slide. He repeated and repeated until at last he fell asleep at the bottom of his sliding trough, a smile on his red cheeked face. I knew then that I should have named him Lontra canadensis, instead of Liam Samuel. » Continue Reading.
In folklore and literature, Jack Frost is often portrayed as a mischievous guy, sort of Old Man Winter’s younger self. He’s a personification of everything cold. In our region he’s a busy guy, at least for half of the year.
And an artistic one.
He gets credit for painting the trees orange and yellow and red in the fall. And we’re all familiar with ground frost, that harbinger of winter that looks like a dusting of snow. This phenomenon occurs when the temperature of objects near the ground falls below freezing. Water in the air freezes onto objects, sometimes as what looks like frozen dewdrops, sometimes as branched crystals. » Continue Reading.
I have been keeping a close watch on my birdfeeders. Not only because I love seeing the juncos and goldfinches that arrive in flocks, and the black-capped chickadees that zip around, and even the blue jays that tend to scare everyone else away, but because I am hoping for some not-so-typical visitors: red crossbills and pine siskins. » Continue Reading.
While driving down from Isle La Motte in early December, my son and I noticed a fine skim of ice floating down the Alburg Passage. As it collided with the Route 2 bridge supports, it broke into rectangular fragments. I wondered if what I was seeing was typical, or a symptom of changing climate? But a single observation tells you only about the current weather, and says nothing about climate trends.
To understand long-term patterns requires long-term data. So I reviewed ice formation data on Lake Champlain. I learned that between 1816 and 1916, the lake was “closed” to navigation in 96 of 100 winters. In the last 30 winters, the lake has closed 13 times, and just three times this past decade. At first blush, this might seem like overwhelming evidence for less ice, but again, this is not the whole story. » Continue Reading.