Friday, March 16, 2018

Avoiding Conflicts With Adirondack Coyotes

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has issued the agency’s annual guidance on preventing conflicts between people and coyotes as spring temperatures approach.

With the onset of warmer weather, many of New York’s resident coyotes set up dens for pups that will arrive this spring. Coyotes are well adapted to suburban and even some urban environments, but for the most part they will avoid contact with people. However, conflicts with people and pets may result as coyotes tend to be territorial around den sites during the spring through mid-summer period as they forage almost constantly to provide food for their young. » Continue Reading.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

iSeeMammals: Black Bear Citizen Science

Bear at a feeder in Marathon Ontario - Cornell Lab of OrnithologyAs I write this at my home, there’s snow on the ground. But spring is almost here. In fact, as I opened the door to leave my house this morning, I was greeted by a sure sign of spring; the patently pungent smell of skunk! And I couldn’t help but wonder if the little stinker, indeed, missed or misted its adversary.

It never ceases to amaze me how animals can spend the winter months in hibernation (deep sleep) or torpor (a state of decreased physiological activity during periods of extreme cold; light hibernation) in order to survive months of harsh weather and scarcity of food. They’re waking up now, and coming out of their dens and lairs looking for (in the case of skunks, mates and) something to eat. » Continue Reading.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Early Birds Returning To Northern Forests

red winged black bird May is bird heaven in our region. All the species that headed south the previous year are back: the flycatchers, vireos and thrushes; the warblers, wrens and swallows; even the ruby-throated hummingbirds and scarlet tanagers are in full force. But May and its riches of bird seems distant in early March – too far into the future to even contemplate.

The first day of spring, on the other hand, is just around the corner. And while the Adirondack air may still be frigid and the ground often snow-covered, bird populations are nonetheless on the move. By St. Patrick’s Day or shortly thereafter, killdeer, tree swallows, eastern meadowlarks, phoebes and robins will be flitting through our woods and fields again. Red-winged blackbirds sometimes show up as early as late February. » Continue Reading.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Fagus Grandifolia: Beech Gone Wild

american beech treeThe sturdy, long-lived and stately American beech, Fagus grandifolia, has been slowly dying out since 1920, when a tiny European insect pest was accidentally released on our shores. Because of this lethal but unhurried tragedy, many forest tracts across the Northeast are being choked out by too many beech trees.

That’s right, beech decline has led to a proliferation of beech so extreme that in some places it is a threat to the health of future forests. With apologies to all the bovine readers out there, this qualifies as an oxymoron, I’m pretty sure. The ultimate cause of this weird situation is the aforementioned pest, but the proximate cause is a bad case of hormones being out of whack. » Continue Reading.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Backswimmers: Upside-Down Aquatics

backswimmerI 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.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Ed Zahniser: Woodpecker Wake-up Calls

downy woodpecker One morning early, as I slept in our mountain cabin Mateskared, a woodpecker landed on the cabin’s wood siding. Its profound rapid-fire pecking jerked me out of sound sleep.

Did we have robo-termites?

Not in the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.

Friday, March 2, 2018

This Weekend In An Adirondack Sugar Shack

Mike Todriff firing the sugar boiler in 2018 (Shannon Houlihan photo)It’s that time of year. The sap is running and the buckets and tanks are filling. Backyard syrup makers large and small have been taking advantage of the recent sugaring weather to fire their arches and settle into the ancient and accepted rite of watching the boil.

Whatever you call it – a sugar party, sugaring-off, maple days – people will gather this weekend in old sugar shacks across the Adirondacks around rising steam for one of the great revelries of the season. » Continue Reading.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

A Guide To Adirondack Maple Syrup

Maple Sugar bucket - Glenn PearsallIt’s sugaring season, so here’s a round-up of stories about the fine art of maple syrup making in the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Isolation and the Lonely Ants Club

carpenter antExcessive tinder is a major contributor to forest fires, but a shortage of Tinder can lead to an early death. For social animals like canines, deer, dolphins, elephants, primates such as bonobos and humans, and even bees and ants, contact with others is as essential to well-being as food and water.

A 2015 study done at Brigham Young University which garnered much news coverage in 2017 and early this year found that loneliness may be a greater health risk than smoking and obesity combined. » Continue Reading.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Otter Slides: Sliding Shenanigans

otter 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.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Science of Hoarfrost and Rime Ice

hoarfrostIn 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.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Cloning High Sugar Content Maples Focus of Research

NNYADP-funded research has produced the first Northern New York maple “sweet tree” clonesThe Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has posted the first results of a project evaluating the opportunity to clone high sugar maple trees. The long-term goal is to produce rooted “sweet tree” clones that maple producers can plant to enhance their sugarmaking operations.

Cornell University plant pathologist Keith L. Perry conducted the research in collaboration with Joe Orefice, director of the Cornell Uilhein Maple Research Forest in Lake Placid. » Continue Reading.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Invasive Species Awareness Week Begins Feb 26th

On the lookout for hungry bugsIn Grade 3, a brilliant joke made the rounds. We’d hold up a sheet of blank white paper and announce it was a polar bear in a snowstorm. Genius is relative for kids. But the first time I drove into a whiteout made me realize how accurate that “art” project was. Anything can hide behind a veneer of snow.

This leads me to ask why February 26-March 3 was chosen as “National Invasive Species Awareness Week.” By this time of year, our awareness has been blunted by a critical shortage of landscape: down is white, up is gray. Right now we’re aware it’s cold, and that the ground has been white for a long while. Seems like Microsoft or Elon Musk or whoever runs the “Special of the Week” calendar could find a better time for drawing folks’ attention to harmful invaders. » Continue Reading.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

It’s Time for the Great Backyard Bird Count

Counting birds may not be for everyone, but having an opportunity to be a part of a larger project always intrigues me. My family has participated in the annual Christmas Bird Count as well as FrogWatch USA for years. We have counted loons, released monarchs, and monitored nests.

These various citizen science projects all have the same thing in common, asking the general public to provide critical data for future conservation efforts. Some projects require a bit of training while other programs just require being consistent. No matter the project, my family is always willing to learn more about conservation and animals that are indicators of environmental health. » Continue Reading.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Brains Over Brawn for Male Hummingbirds

Long-billed HermitThe following comes from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

When male animals compete over mates, it’s often a showy affair: think of elk tangling antlers or tom turkeys strutting and gobbling. But for a Costa Rican hummingbird, it seems mental prowess holds the edge over mere physical flamboyance.

New experiments show that dominant male Long-billed Hermits have better spatial memories and sing more consistent songs than less successful males, according to research published this month in the journal Scientific Reports. The benefit of a good spatial memory even outweighs the advantages of bigger body size and extra flight power. » Continue Reading.

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