As the landscape here in the Adirondacks changes from a sea of green to a frozen wonderland, coniferous trees now become the highlight of the forest flora. The cones that are produced come in a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on the species of pine, and are prolific throughout the mountains as decorative items we see on wreaths, baskets arrangements and swags both inside and outside the homes of residents. Aside from their decorating uses, pine cones play an important role in nature. Like all plant parts, they have a very specific function in the plant world. There are approximately 6 species of pine tree in the Adirondacks that are identified by their needle like leaves, seed bearing cones and the bark. Each cone produced has its unique size and shape and seed capacity. » Continue Reading.
Helping the snow birds that stick around
When we hear the term “Snow Birds,” we naturally think of a person who migrates from the colder northern parts of North America to warmer southern locales but birds here in the Adirondacks also claim this title and fittingly so.
As winter approaches the mountains, an entire orchestra of song birds migrates to a warmer, southern winter territory. The morning music of feathered chirpers throughout the spring and summer months have flown away not to return until April-May next year.
These flying migrators range from 29 species of warblers to various populations for thrushes, sparrows, flickers, bluebirds, buntings, sapsuckers, wrens and hummingbirds. This does not leave winter void of the sound of winged music, there are songbirds that remain and brave the cold.
The Woolly Bear’s Winter Weather Prediction
Many of us have heard of the story that a small, fuzzy caterpillar Called the Woolly Bear (aka woolly worm or hedgehog caterpillar) carried the prediction of the coming winter on its back. Whatever name you choose to call them, these cuddly looking caterpillars are often found in the autumn after they have left their food plants, a variety of grasses and weeds, in search of a sheltered spot where they can hibernate as larvae for the winter.
According to folklore, the amount of black on the woolly bear in autumn varies proportionately with the severity of the coming winter in the geographical area where the caterpillar is found. The longer the woolly bear’s black bands, the longer, colder, snowier, and more severe the winter will be. Similarly, the wider the middle brown band is associated with a milder upcoming winter. The position of the longest dark bands supposedly indicates which part of winter will be coldest or hardest. If the head end of the caterpillar is dark, the beginning of winter will be severe. If the tail end is dark, the end of winter will be cold. In addition, the woolly bear caterpillar has 13 segments to its body, which traditional forecasters say correspond to the 13 weeks of winter.
Rainbows: Beyond the Arch
Rainbows require two things: sunlight, and water. Rainbows can be seen not just in the rain but also in the mist, spray, fog, and dew.
The best place to consistently find both of these things and spot a complete rainbow, is a tall mountain or ridge where it is or has just rained, making the Adirondack high peaks an amazing place to view this natural wonder. A rainbow is a meteorological phenomenon that is caused by reflection, refraction and dispersion of light in water droplets resulting in a spectrum of light appearing in the sky. Similar to a mirage, a rainbow is formed when light rays bend, creating an effect that is visible, but not able to be touched or approached.
Striped Maples: Changes happening below the surface
During the fall, a change occurs with maple trees that is prominent and apparent. As the daylight hours decrease green leaves turn to colors of vibrant yellow, burnt orange and an array of shades of red.
There is a list of species of Maples that add to this colorful splendor, from Sugar, Norway, Amur and more but one in particular changes more than its leaf color — the Striped Maple.
Many people have a hard time identifying the different species of maple by the bark in Summer but the Striped Maple possess a smooth, variegated green, reptilian-looking bark that can be noticed with ease.
Adirondack Moose Sightings: Rare and Majestic
Most of New York’s moose are located in the Adirondack Mountains and the Taconic Highlands along the Massachusetts and Vermont borders although young males have been known to wander south of the Adirondacks to mate and establish territory.
It is estimated that approximately 400 moose reside here in the mountains. Currently there are six moose in New York that carry GPS collars, which allow biologists to track their movements and determine the number of calves that are born to adult females.
The moose is the largest and heaviest species in the deer family. Two of the most amazing attributes of a moose are its sheer size and its antlers.
Adirondack Monarch Tagging: Tracking Migration
Monarch butterflies are an iconic species, easily recognized by their vibrant orange and black wings speckled with white dots and can be seen feeding in fields and open areas here in the Adirondacks.
Winged With Hope: Fixing broken monarch wings
Most people have seen the small, flying murals called butterflies. Nature’s living pieces of art that remain an endless show of life and beauty drawn upon wings of flight. The carrier of this splendor, a delicate butterfly.
A butterfly has four wings – two on each side. They are broken into two forewings and two hindwings. The wings are attached to the second and third thoracic segments. When a butterfly is in flight, the wings move up and down in a figure-eight pattern.
Butterfly wings are made up of two chitinous layers. Each wing is covered by thousands of colorful scales and hairs. These wing scales are tiny overlapping pieces of chitin on a butterfly wing only seen in detail under a microscope. They are attached at the body wall and are modified, plate-like setae or hairs.
Honeybee Festooning: Stretching for the Comb
One of the most amazing activities in a honeybee’s lifetime is rarely seen by humans and occurs by the workings of numerous architect-minded, honeycomb-building, wax-producing bees.
Building comb is a multi-skill effort, involving bees strung from comb to comb like a tapestry of lacework, hanging together leg to leg in sheets between the frames to build new comb in a process called “festooning.” While festooning, bees measure the open space, create blueprints for future comb, act as self-made scaffolding, promoting stretching of the abdomen which aids in wax production.
How the Honey Pot is Filled
Honey is the only food made by an insect that is eaten both by humans and the insect itself. Bears, badgers and other animals also eat honey and have long been raiding the winter stores of their winged friends to harvest this tasty treat.
Honey is a very stable food that naturally resists molds, fungi and other bacteria, allowing it to last for years without refrigeration. It is well known that honey is made by a colony of honey bees living in a nest or in a hive if kept by a beekeeper.
A typical bee hive will house about 60,000 bees, most of them workers, industriously making honey and the honeycombs in which the honey is stored. That’s a lot of honey bees, working very hard to produce honey for the colony. It takes about 556 foraging bees to visit 2 million flowers, just to make a pound of honey!
This Pollinator Hums but is Not a Bee!
Hummingbirds are some of the most vibrant and aerobatic creatures witnessed here in the Adirondacks. They are known as hummingbirds because of the humming sound created by their beating wings, which flap at high frequencies audible to humans. They hover in mid-air at wing-flapping rates that vary from around 12 beats per second to an excess of 80 beats per second, the smaller the species the faster the wing flapping.
There are more than 300 species of hummingbirds found exclusively in the Americas from Alaska to Chile and are classified as the smallest bird species. With most of this species measuring 3–5 inches in length and weighing about the same as a penny or .09 oz. The runt of these species is the bee hummingbird that is approximately 2 inches long and weighs less than .07 oz.
Sharing ‘the buzz’ about native bees
There are an estimated 4,000 species of bees native to North American and range in size from carpenter bees, which are over an inch long, to tiny Perdita bees that barely reach 1/16 of an inch.
Native bees range in color from black or brown with yellow, orange, white, or pearl-colored markings. Others have body parts in metallic green or blue. Some are furry, while others are almost hairless.
Bees belong to the insect order Hymenoptera, which means “membrane-winged. These insects possess two pairs of wings, a distinct “waist,” and mouthparts adapted for biting or chewing. Bees are distinguished by their branched body hairs which are helpful in trapping pollen grains, and their wide leg segments.
The common names of bees often reflect nesting styles and other behaviors. Carpenter, mason, plasterer, leafcutter, digger, and polyester bees are named for the females’ nest-building techniques, whereas orchard, gourd, and alkali bees are named for their preferred habitat.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtails: Wings of the Woodlands
The eastern tiger swallowtail lives in deciduous woods along streams, rivers and swamps and can be seen flying along the roadways here in the Mountains. Eastern tiger swallowtails are loners but are known to be quite friendly to humans and have been observed following people around their yard or in Fields.
Males are yellow or yellow-orange with black tiger stripes. Their wings are bordered in black with yellow spots, and there are black “tiger stripes” running across the top of their wings. Their long black tails have blue patches on them.
Females can range in color from the yellow of the male to an almost solid bluish-black. The black form of the eastern tiger swallowtail is most common in the southern part of its range in areas also inhabited by the pipevine swallowtail, a butterfly that has an unpleasant taste. The black form of the eastern tiger swallowtail may be an example of deceptive coloration using mimicry by pretending to be the poisonous pipevine.
10 ways you can help pollinators
Pollinators are in trouble.
Unfortunately, pollinators are in decline worldwide. Habitat loss, invasive species, parasites, and pesticides are largely to blame.
You can help save pollinators. Here are 10 ways you can directly help pollinators which protects and restore these critically important wildlife species.
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