Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Fall Webworms: Spinning their way through the season

webwormsAs fall sets in, it’s not difficult to identify the tiny creatures called fall webworms.  This time of year, these masses of larva have been busy recreating scenes from sleepy hollow as they prepare to over winter in the pupa stage.

This display of web weaving starts when the adult tiger moth lays her eggs on the underside of leaves in ‘hair’-covered clusters of a few hundred.  Host plant selection is dependent on factors like the plant’s degree of sun exposure, age, environmental stress undergone, toughness, and nutritional quality. For an insect that needs energy for processes like dispersal or diapause, consuming plants that provide a lot of carbohydrates could is beneficial; for a female insect that is producing eggs, consuming plants that provide a lot of protein is beneficial. In the eastern U.S., pecan trees, black walnut, American elm, hickory, fruit trees, and some maples are preferred hosts.

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Thursday, October 7, 2021

Butterfly house: Where Humanity and Nature Unite

butterfly house

SKY Lyfe was born out of love for the tiny life keepers, we call bees and butterflies.  As apiarists and lepidopterists our hearts were moved over a decade ago, to research and support some of the World’s most innocent insects as well as one of the most feared. It is our mission to bring awareness to these creatures, in hopes of conserving their lives and global importance to humans and animals alike.

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Saturday, October 2, 2021

Loon Center Rescues Two Tangled Loons

loonThe Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation (ACLC) is very pleased to announce it helped save two juvenile loons after they were severely tangled in fishing gear. 

The first loon was found Sept. 14 on Trout Lake with a large treble-hook lure that had become ensnared in both its feet. Local residents, Lynne Butterworth and John Rendinaro, reported the loon to Dr. Nina Schoch, Executive Director of the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, who provided guidance in how to catch the loon. Ellie George, one of the ACLC’s field staff, and her husband, Cal, removed the hooks and lure from the loon’s feet, and then brought the injured bird to Dr. Schoch, who cleaned its wounds, treated it with antibiotics and fluids, and banded it to aid in subsequent observations.

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Friday, October 1, 2021

Did You Know? Wood frogs have teeth

wood frog

For some people, the thought of a frog brings up mental pictures of small, toothless amphibians.  Not many care to catch one of these leaping beauties to do an oral exam but if you were to, you would find most frogs indeed have teeth.  Here in the Adirondacks, one of these toothed wonders is the wood frog.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Monster Mosquitoes

Psorophora ciliata

As the Dalai Lama once said, “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” Really all it takes is one or two of the little whiners in your tent to spoil a night’s sleep. I’m convinced their ear-buzzing is an adaptation to raise a victim’s blood pressure so they fill up faster. Makes you wish you could return the favor somehow. 

Well if mosquitoes actually slept, there is something that would likely keep them up at night: The Mosquito Monster! Or rather, the monster mosquito, Psorophora ciliata (sore AH fur uh silly AHT uh). In addition to terrorizing campers and picnickers, this hulking menace, which is two to three times the size of most species, regularly dines on its smaller kin. 

Such inter-family cannibalism only goes on in the larval stage, but I like to imagine that when an adult Psorophora ciliata touches down, the average mosquito would back away slowly, saying “Hey, this arm’s all yours, buddy. I was just leaving anyway and please don’t eat me, heh,” or a pheromone message to that effect. 

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Monday, September 13, 2021

Asters and Goldenrod: Late Season Native Perennials

Monarch-Butterfly-on-New-England-Aster-2-–-Rick-L-Hansen-US-Fish-and-Wildlife-Service.

As autumn approaches, the days grow shorter, evenings grow cooler, acorns fall from the oaks, and the maples, in anticipation of the coming change of season, start to reveal hints of the glorious spectacle of color that lies ahead.

It’s also the time of year when the goldenrod and the asters (also called starworts or frost flowers) present their showy blooms along roadsides and forest edges, in woodland openings, meadows, and old fields, and along stream banks. At a time when most other perennials have finished blooming, their eye-catching flowers are an abundant source of nectar for bees and butterflies, including adult monarchs, setting out on their remarkable flight to overwintering sites in the high-mountain forests of central Mexico. The seeds of both (and the insect larvae that feed on the plants themselves) are a valuable food source for birds, including migratory birds making their way south, and for many small mammals, as well.

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Sunday, September 12, 2021

When Flowers Sleep (or Are They Just Pretending?)

flowers

Like the bees, once the temperature gets to 50 degrees and above my husband and I are outside on the move.  Its not hard to notice the changes in the view from morning to evening when you spend nearly 80 percent of your time in nature like we do.  In the morning the wild flowers are on display, bringing life and a multitude color to a mountain landscape but in the evening the once vibrant petals close and shades of green take over.

Have these flowers become sleepy and fallen into a slumber and if they’re not sleeping, why have they closed for the night?

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Saturday, September 11, 2021

My Loon Friend: A Story of Trust and Healing 

loonBy Ronni Tichenor 

We have a camp on the south shore of 4th Lake, in the Fulton Chain, and early one  morning in August, I was on our dock practicing my yoga. I was about to release my Down Dog  position, when movement on the water caught my eye. It was a loon, less than ten feet off the  dock, swimming slowly by. I froze, fearing that any movement would scare it and cause it to  dive, which meant I could not see very clearly because, in my head-down position, my hair hung  over my face. The loon appeared to have a fish in its mouth—but then I thought I could see little  legs on the side, so I said, “No—it’s a crawfish.” We had seen a couple of loon families in the  previous days, so I thought the loon was delivering breakfast to someone. Once it had swum  away, my husband came down to the dock. He had been up at the house, watching from a  distance. “Wow,” he said, “that was so close.” We went on about our day—he went for a bike  ride, I went for a walk. 

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Monday, September 6, 2021

Update on New Songbird Illness

Blue Jay by Ryan MarcumIn the spring and summer of 2021, the public reported many deaths in young songbirds—common grackles, American robins, blue jays, and other species—in the mid-Atlantic states. It was thought to be a new disease, or syndrome. Birds had swollen crusty eyes and/or an inability to hop or fly. Scientists at several regional laboratories have not been able to find a common disease agent or toxin that is the same for these bird deaths. They have ruled out many likely possibilities however, including: West Nile Virus, finch conjunctivitis, Avian Influenza, SARS-CoV-2 (virus that causes COVID-19 in humans), Newcastle Disease, various fungi, bacteria, parasites and viruses, and common toxins—including many pesticides.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Metal Heads and Canine Compasses

scooby dooAs the title of the animated American TV series Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! suggests, getting lost was a frequent premise. From 1969 to 1985, the cadre of teen gumshoes spent about half their time looking for young Shaggy, who always disappeared to smoke a joint (so it was implied), and then to satisfy his raging munchies afterward. His dog Scooby-Doo of course tagged along for the food. I recall one episode where Shaggy attempts to navigate a forest by looking for moss on the north sides of trees. He should have just asked Scooby to point North.

A 2013 paper published in Frontiers in Zoology suggests that dogs line up with Earth’s North-South axis when they defecate. Researchers took two years to observe 1,893 poop events, somehow accounting for a range of weather factors, before concluding that the number one element that influenced how dogs did a Number Two was Earth’s magnetic field. Perhaps the hound-winding pre-poop turning dance most dogs perform is to calibrate their internal compass.

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Monday, August 9, 2021

Report Your Turkey Sightings This August

wild turkeysWhile you are exploring the forests and fields around your home or driving through the state’s beautiful landscapes this summer, be sure to keep an eye out for wild turkeys.

DEC uses reported observations of wild turkeys to track changes in abundance and productivity (number of poults produced per adult hen) over time and in different parts of the state. It also helps forecast hunting prospects for the coming fall season and for subsequent spring seasons. Submit your observations online. To see results from previous summer surveys, please visit DEC’s website.

Photo courtesy of G. Ellmers


Friday, August 6, 2021

A tagged Monarch Butterfly from Paul Smith’s found in Mexico

monarch butterflyOn a warm sunny day in late September the Monarch butterflies at the Paul Smith’s College Visitors Interpretive Center (VIC) readied for their journey to Mexico. In our butterfly house we tag monarchs so they can be tracked on their journey south. They are tagged with small stickers and given individual numbers. This year one very special Monarch from our butterfly house, number AAMZ679, was found in El Rosario, Mexico! This means this Monarch butterfly traveled 3,000 miles from the Butterfly House to reach El Rosario!

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Friday, July 30, 2021

Short-eared owls: Wide-ranging, funny in flight

Photo by Joe Kostoss

Short-eared owls are one of the most widely ranging members of the Strigidae owl family, absent only from Australia and Antarctica. They favor grasslands, fields, tundra, meadows, airports, marshes and bogs, any open habitat home to their favorite prey, moles, voles, deer mice, shrews, small birds, and insects.

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Monday, July 26, 2021

When Trees Go over the Hill

bur oak treeSenescence is the decline in vigor that happens to all creatures great and diminutive as they approach their species’ life-expectancy limit. Individual genetics matter, too, as does environment. For us, eating and sleeping well, cultivating gratitude, and laughing a lot can keep us healthier for longer. But at some point, even the best-preserved specimen can’t avoid the end.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Rent a Bear Canister, Save a Life

bear cubThe black bear’s sleek black coat and seven-foot frame used to symbolize Adirondack wilderness. The black bear could be found munching on berries or grabbing fish from a stream. Today, black bears in the High Peaks scavenge for food left out by backpackers and hikers. Black bears are opportunist hunters and will eat whatever is the easiest to find. Why bother hunting when a human has a feast prepared?

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