Saturday, December 30, 2017

Tim Rowland On Adirondack Winter

adirondack winter tim rowlandYou know you’re starting to acclimate to the North Country when you see the thermometer reading 24 degrees and you wonder if it’s even worth building a fire.

At this particular moment, anything above 20 would seem like a steam bath. As I did my morning chores, the mercury hovered (which feels like the wrong word) at 12 below; the horse droppings clacked against each other in the muck bucket like billiard balls, and a couple of eggs had frozen and burst before I came to collect them.

We do not take the cold lightly. We have read all the literature, bought all the appropriate gear and taken all the appropriate advice. But while maintaining the proper respect, there is also something attractive about the cold. It’s a fine line, I know. But we have come here from a region where, as Mark Twain said of India, “hot” is a relative term and used to distinguish temperatures that would melt a doorknob from those that would just make it mushy. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Beech Bark Disease

beech bark diseaseIf you’ve ever seen chevrons on the bark of an American beech, you know you’re looking at a tree that’s been hugged by a black bear. And you’ve likely been impressed with the bear’s climbing ability. And perhaps looked over your shoulder while you were busy being impressed.

But bear-clawed beeches aren’t as common as they once were. The American beech, Fagus grandiflora, has become another member of the North American “trees-devastated-by-imported-pests-and-diseases” club.

Beech trees are still out there in the forest. But many of the big ones are gone, victims of the notorious beech bark disease. It’s a one-two punch — a tiny scale insect bores holes in the bark and a fungus marches in and infects the tree. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 24, 2017

(Flying) Reindeer and Climate

reindeerI recall years ago; two young boys having a conversation. “There’s no such thing as Santa Clause,” the older boy insisted. But the younger boy wasn’t buying it. Come Christmas Eve, he was going to stay up all night, just to catch a glimpse of old Santa and his legendary sleigh full of presents. What excited the little guy the most though, was the thought of seeing those remarkable flying “reindeer on the roof!”

“Santa’s reindeer really can fly, can’t they?” he asked me, catching me completely off guard. I hesitated; then told him that reindeer were deer; very much like the whitetails we see around here, but with thicker bodies, shorter legs, and broader hooves. I added that whitetails and reindeer are cousins. And that moose and elk are reindeer cousins, too. Fortunately, he let it go at that. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 23, 2017

New Stoddard Book of Lake George Photos

water and light book coverThe Chapman Historical Museum in Glens Falls has just published Water & Light: S.R. Stoddard’s Lake George, a new work on the photography of Seneca Ray Stoddard.

The 160-page book features 150 of Stoddard’s photos, as well as some samples of his painting, sketches and cartography.

As a 19th century American photographer, S. R. Stoddard is often ranked with William Henry Jackson and Carlton Watkins, and the quality of his photographic compositions is compared with many of the Hudson River School painters. It is estimated Stoddard took some ten thousand images in the Adirondack Mountains alone. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 17, 2017

Adirondack Insects: Cluster Flies

cluster fliesSo here’s my movie concept: during a laboratory accident, a scientist exchanges his DNA with a fly. Over the next few weeks, our hero slowly shrinks in size and transforms into an insect with black spiky body hair, maroon eyes, and translucent, buzzing wings.

What distinguishes this movie from previous versions of “The Fly” is that this time, the scientist swaps his genes with a cluster fly. Instead of developing super-fast reflexes, he becomes clumsy and lethargic. Instead of rampaging through a city terrorizing people, he alternates his time between crashing against the window and lying upside-down on the floor, twitching. The crisis comes when his irritated girlfriend picks him up with a tissue and tosses him outside. He soars into the clear blue winter sky… but then his wings freeze. The final image: a tiny crater in the snow. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Magic Mushrooms and Red Noses: Holiday Bioluminescence

rudolphAs a kid I was enthralled by TV nonfiction shows. Nova and Frontline had great stuff, but my favorites were Christmas documentaries like Frosty the Snowman. Over the years I’ve been disappointed that no further work seems to have been done on the many questions left hanging by the original researchers.

Take the whole glowing-nose thing. First documented back in 1939 by Robert L. May in his book Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the story surrounding the phenomenon is well-known. Since no one has come up with a scientific explanation, I have decided to tackle the issue. Bioluminescence is a natural process wherein fungi, microbes, insects or marine animals emit light as a result of chemical reactions which they control, and there are a number of ways a reindeer may have naturally developed a lighted nose. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Lake George Land Conservancy’s Christmas Bird Count

For the past twenty years, the Lake George Land Conservancy (LGLC) has contributed data to the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, a national bird census tracking the status of bird populations across North America now in its 118th year.

From December 14 through January 5, volunteers across the country brave the elements to count local birds for one day within a designated 15-mile circle. All data is then reported back to the Audubon Society. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Adirondack Wildlife: The Ermine and Snow

The snow around the region this week is a blessing.  For several members of our wildlife community, a forest floor that remains free of snow into December becomes problematic, as a dark background contrasts with their newly developed coat of pure white fur.

Among the creatures that change color in autumn as part of a survival strategy is a small, yet especially fierce predator – the short-tailed weasel, better known to trappers and backwoods sportsmen as the ermine.
» Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Afterlife of Logs

polyporeMy three children have participated in a Four Winds Nature Institute program that recruits adult family members to lead grade-school nature learning. I have worked with several moms and dads over the years to pull together materials for hands-on lessons about communities, habitats, and the natural world. The activities usually ended with crowd-pleasing puppet shows.

During my first year in the program, in a rare moment of advance planning, I read the entire year’s program, and was glad I did: “Snags and Rotting Logs” was scheduled for November, when I anticipated most logs would be frozen or buried in snow. Regardless of frost or snow, I expected that some interesting invertebrates would have tunneled deep into the soil to wait out Vermont’s winter, leaving little more than wood for the students to dissect. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Winter Raptors and the Washington Co Grasslands

raptors Grassland habitat, such as that found at the Washington County Grasslands, are home to significant populations of some of the highest priority birds for conservation in the Atlantic Flyway.

These birds depend on hayfields, pastures, and other agricultural lands. More than two-thirds of New York’s farmland has been lost during the past century and Breeding Bird Survey data shows a 90% decrease in grassland birds since 1966. » Continue Reading.


Friday, December 8, 2017

John Davis Publishes Book on Split Rock Wildway

split rock wild forest bookEssex resident John Davis and local artists have produced a new book showcasing the ecological importance, conservation value, and natural beauty of Split Rock Wildway.

Split Rock Wildway: Scouting the Adirondack Park’s Most Diverse Wildlife Corridor examines the wooded hills and adjacent waterways that link Lake Champlain with the Adirondack High Peaks.

Davis’s perspective is complemented with illustrations and photographs contributed by Bill Amadon, Sheri Amsel, Larry Barns, Steven Kellogg, Roderick MacIver, Larry Master, and Kevin Raines.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Nuthatches: The Upside Down Birds

nuthatchLike many people who watch birds, I have my favorites. The nuthatches, for instance.

Quirky little birds. Shaped like stubby cigars, with their short tails and thick necks. And that disconcerting habit of spending time upside down. I wish I could do that. Of course, I wish I could walk up walls and hang from the ceiling like a gecko, too.

But why do nuthatches walk down the trunks of trees, anyway? » Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Living With Liverworts

liverwortI followed a stream downhill through the woods as it coursed through a small ravine. At the base of the hill, just before the brook entered a wetland, a patch of unusual-looking plants was growing amongst moss on a decaying tree root that spanned the stream. They were round and flat with lobed edges, and only the size of a dime. A couple of other patches grew nearby. Here the plants had branched out from their round bases, extending flat green ribbons across the damp soil.

These odd plants are liverworts, named for the resemblance of lobed species to the human liver. Liverworts are often confused with mosses and both are bryophytes, though recent evidence indicates that they may not be closely related. Liverworts have no roots, tubes, or veins to transport water and nutrients, but they anchor their bodies to soil or rock with threadlike filaments called rhizoids. They rely on diffusion (movement from an area of higher to one of lower concentration) to move water in and out. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 2, 2017

Buy Local Christmas Trees, Support Local Growers

Christmas Tree PlantationChristmas trees can be seen everywhere during the holiday season. And, because of this, we often think of Christmas tree farming as a seasonal business, which it certainly isn’t.

To be successful, year-round management and maintenance are needed. And the work is often labor-intensive, and/or needing to be completed under adverse weather conditions. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Champlain Area Trails’ Owl Prowl Is Back

owlChamplain Area Trails (CATS) is holding an Owl Prowl on Friday, December 15, at 5:30 pm at the Black Kettle Trail in Essex.

Naturalist and teacher Gregg VanDeusen will teach participants about the various species of owls in the Champlain Valley area and will make owl calls to elicit their responses.

VanDeusen will also discuss other types of wildlife in the area and copping with the dark. All ages are welcome on this family-friendly hike. » Continue Reading.