Sunday, September 23, 2018

Early Success In Grasse River Freshwater Mussel Relocation

East elliptio mussel East elliptio mussel provided by DECNew York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that an innovative project that is relocating freshwater mussels in the Grasse River during an ongoing river remediation project is showing early signs of success and reporting a 98 percent survival rate.

As part of an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-led cleanup project to remove polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from river sediments, a seven-mile stretch of the lower Grasse River in northern New York in being dredged and capped starting next year. Before dredging begins, DEC is collecting mussels from the river bottom and temporarily placing them in areas that won’t be subject to capping or dredging. The New York State Museum, St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, and SUNY Cobleskill are collaborating with DEC on the project. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, September 22, 2018

Whirligig Beetles: Four Eyes On You

whirligig beetle “What’s this shiny black beetle with four eyes?” asked Erin Hayes-Pontius, a visiting UVM student, from her microscope. Without glancing up from my own scope I answered, “that’s a whirligig beetle.” Erin’s answer came back: “err, cute … but what’s it really called?”

I will grant you that the name whirligig is a bit odd – particularly when applied to an inert pickled beetle – but there are excellent reasons it. In life, whirligig beetles weave and whirl on pond and river surfaces amongst dozens of their peers. They move like miniature motor boats that appear to lack rudder function. There’s method to this seeming madness. The mesmerizing movement confuses predators, who find it difficult to focus on any one individual. Ecologists call this phenomenon predator dilution. It’s like the old joke about the two friends and the tiger: “I don’t need to outrun the tiger, I just need to outrun you!” » Continue Reading.


Thursday, September 20, 2018

Indian Lake’s Moose Festival Is This Weekend

According to the Great Adirondack Moose Festival Chairperson Brenda Valentine, it’s difficult for her to believe that it has been nine years since this celebration of everything moose took over the streets of Indian Lake.

The festival celebrating New York State’s largest land mammal is back this weekend (Sept. 22-23) with more hikes, vendors, and information regarding the return on the Adirondack moose. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Where the Birds Are: Advances In Fall Bird Migration Forecasting

Magnolia Warblers September is the peak of autumn bird migration, and billions of birds are winging their way south in dramatic pulses. A new study published in the journal Science reports that scientists can now reliably predict these waves of bird migration up to seven days in advance. The study details the underlying methods that power migration forecasts, which can be used as a bird conservation tool.

In this study, the researchers quantified 23 years of spring bird migration across the United States using 143 weather radars, highly sensitive sensors that scientists can use to monitor bird movements. They filtered out precipitation and trained a machine learning model to associate atmospheric conditions with levels of bird migration countrywide. Eighty percent of variation in bird migration intensity was explained by the model. To view a radar loop depicting bird migration during spring 2018, click here. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Fifty Shades of Nightshade: From Delicious to Deadly

Deadly Nightshade courtesy Köhler's Medicinal Plants 1887Many nightshades are safe and delicious, and go well in sandwiches and sauces. A few are deadly, dished up mainly by criminals, but most occupy a gray area between these two extremes. Worldwide, there are around 2,700 shades of nightshade, a family known to Latin geeks as Solanaceae. The family comprises tasty crops like tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, and tomatillos. It is also composed in part by jimsonweed and other shady characters which have wrought mayhem and death, both accidental and intentional, throughout history.

Nightshades are present on every continent except Antarctica, though Australia and South America have the greatest diversity, and overall numbers, of species. Tobacco is one of the most economically important nightshades, while other family members, for example petunias and Chinese lanterns, spice up our yards. The majority of nightshades are wild species, some of which have been used as sources of medicine for millennia. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, September 16, 2018

Snakes On The Beach: Our Northern Watersnakes

water snake The northern watersnake, Nerodia sipedon, has a lot going against it in the eyes of most people. I’ve watched this medium- to large-sized snake clear a crowded lakeside beach in a matter of moments.

As the local naturalist in my small town, I’ve become this snake’s self-appointed public defender. I’ve stopped children chasing it with large sticks, parents with rocks ready to throw, and once, a policeman who came ready to shoot.

“But it is poisonous, right?” he supposed. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

It’s Town of Johnsburg History Weekend

The Town of Johnsburg is connecting its history through storytelling and activities for the third year. The annual Johnsburg History Weekend blends together a grave yard tour, live music, lectures, and children’s activities to make history come alive.

“There is so much history in the North Creek area,” says North Creek Railway Preservation Society President Ellen Schaeffer. ”We approached the town three years ago to make the third weekend in September be The Town of Johnsburg History weekend. So much of our history was being forgotten.”

Schaeffer explains how 25 years ago a group of concerned citizens saw the deterioration of the North Creek train depot. The platform and depot where Teddy Roosevelt learned about President McKinley’s death and his own presidential succession on September 14, 1901 was becoming just another forgotten piece of history. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 10, 2018

Invasive Species And Their Consequences

Contact with the sap of giant hogweed It seemed like a good idea. Let’s start a silk industry in the United States. Silk is a valuable cloth in demand all over the world. And insects do the work. All we need to do is import some gypsy moths from France; then just sit back and wait for the money to roll in.

So, the moths were imported. They escaped. And today, gypsy moths are a major threat to U.S. forests. Gypsy moths are just one example of an invasive species. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, September 9, 2018

Invasives: A New Tick Species Is Spreading

longhorned tick courtesy wikimedia user CommonsourceYears ago I read an author interview, and although I don’t recall her name, one of the images she raised has stayed with me. It’s not an exact quote, but she said something to the effect that writing ought to feel to an author as if they were water skiing behind their work, not towing it like a barge. In general, I find this to be the case. The hours or days of research which go into an article are hardly exhilarating, but the wave-jumping that comes after shrinking those pages of facts into 800 words makes it worth the effort.

However, when I tried to water-ski behind a brand-new invasive tick that can reproduce without mating, drain the blood out of livestock, and potentially carry ten or more human diseases, including one similar to Ebola, something changed. A few topics whip across the water at high speed. Most at least pull me at a leisurely pace. This one made me drop the whole water skiing idea and swim for my life. Turns out there is a limit to how many miles you can get out of happy imagery. And to how long a writer should be allowed to spend alone in a room with the same metaphor. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, September 8, 2018

Thank A (Native) Thistle

thistleThere will always be thistle, said the late U.S. Poet Laureate Maxine Kumin in one of her poems, because “Sheep will not eat it / nor horses nor cattle / unless they are starving.” She described it “choking the sweet grass / defeating the clover,” and pricking the hands with its spines.

Okay, I guess thistles are not everyone’s favorite wildflower, but I’ve always liked them. I’m not a farmer, so it’s easy for me to say. I like them because they’re pretty, they remind me of Scotland, and they’re like grocery stores for goldfinches. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Great Adirondack Moose Festival Sept 22-23

Moose cow and calfThe 9th Annual Great Adirondack Moose Festival has been set for September 22nd and 23rd, 2018 in Indian Lake. Moose-themed family activities will be held throughout town, and visitors are encouraged to explore the region’s peaks and valleys, rivers and lakes.

Attendees can participate programs, games, contests, exhibitions – many in the name of the elusive and majestic moose. The half-ton mammal has made a come-back in the Adirondacks. The Annual Great Adirondack Moose Festival is sponsored by the Indian Lake Chamber of Commerce and a host of regional and local business sponsors. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 3, 2018

Leeches: They Don’t All Suck Blood

leech Most folks who’ve enjoyed a dip in the local swimming hole – whether at a pond, lake, or river – have probably found, on occasion, a leech or two stuck to their skin while toweling off afterwards. Although some might think these slimy little suckers are gross, they mean – and do – no harm. They’re just hungry.

“With some 600 species, there’s a surprising amount of diversity,” said Adam Weaver, a biology professor at Vermont’s Saint Michael’s College. And the majority of leeches aren’t even bloodsuckers.

Weaver said scientists estimate about 10 percent of leech species – which are found from the tropics to desert watering holes to Antarctica – are parasitic, and only a couple of the 70 or so freshwater species found in North America are bloodsuckers. The rest get their nourishment primarily from eating larvae, invertebrates, and decaying matter. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Early Fall Leaf Color: The Science

Seems like competitiveness may be part of human DNA. But it does not always pay to be first.

No prize awaits the fastest car that passes a radar patrol, or the first person to come down with the flu at the office. And for trees, the first ones to turn color in autumn are not envied by their peers. If trees experience envy, which no one knows. The first trees to show orange and red and drop their leaves are telling us to get quotes from a tree-removal company, because they are not going to last.

The reason that some trees turn color ahead of their compatriots has to do with their balance sheets. Trees are meticulous accountants, and tend to be good savers that never live beyond their means. When it’s no longer profitable to operate, they start closing down for the season. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Adirondack Habitat Awareness Day 2018

Black bear enclosure provided by Adirondack WildThe 11th Annual Adirondack Habitat Awareness Day is set to be celebrated at the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge at 977 Springfield Road in Wilmington, on Sunday September 2nd, from 10 am to 6 pm. The Theme this year will be the ongoing challenges Adirondack Wildlife face in a changing climate.

The following topics will be discussed at the wolf, coyote and bear enclosures throughout the day: » Continue Reading.


Saturday, August 25, 2018

Meet Rosy Maple, Contender for Cutest Moth

Rosy Maple Moth The church service was about to begin when some breathless kids pulled me out of my seat to “come see this awesome, pretty, pink-and-yellow, fuzzy baby moth!” on the Sunday school door. It was a rosy maple moth, Dryocampa rubicunda, notable for its dipped-in-sherbet coloring.

The moth’s coloring can vary from pink to purple and from yellow to white. “Our” moth had purplish-pink forewings with a creamy-yellow band across the middle. The hindwings were pale yellow with a touch of pink along the edges. Its woolly body was bright yellow above and raspberry pink below. The same pink spilled onto the legs, much to the surprise and delight of the kids. The head looked like a yellow craft pompom. With wings spread wide, the moth was just over an inch across and just under an inch long. » Continue Reading.