Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Oh, Rats! Controlling populations starts with prevention

ratsIt must be hard to foster a decent public image if your family was responsible for spreading the plagues across Europe, Asia and North Africa that killed between 75 and 200 million people. If rats were able to launch a rebranding campaign, it would never work. I imagine that even NetReputation.com would throw up their hands and give a refund.

But in spite of the many problems they cause, rats do have a few entries in the positive side of their ledger. In a CBC Radio interview, Bobby Corrigan, a renowned NYC rodentologist (yes, there is such a thing) said rats are “the most important mammal group to homo sapiens.” In addition to being test subjects for innumerable studies on human diseases and new drugs, rats have provided insights into our neurology which may not otherwise have been made, especially the way richness of environment affects brain development. They can sniff out land mines better than any human technology, and can accurately tell if a patient has tuberculosis.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, February 22, 2021

Helping deer get the food they need

Including Deer Habitat Management as Part of a Forest Management Plan 

In early fall, deer’s bodies begin converting large amounts of the food that they consume into stored fat and the deer start to put on weight. This occurs regardless of the quality of the nutrition that’s available, but in years when mast trees, such as oaks or beech, have produced an abundance of acorns or nuts, deer will seek out those high-energy foods, often remaining in areas where they can be found and pawing through the snow to get to them.

As the extreme cold sets in and snow accumulates, they’re forced to seek cover, and they become reliant upon that limited supply of stored fat to help carry them through the winter. If the season isn’t too brutally cold and the snow isn’t too deep, and if March brings welcome warmth and milder conditions overall, even deer that have been struggling will, most likely, survive. But, should winter refuse to let up, deer that have already burned through much of their winter fat reserves and can’t find enough food to sustain their weight will probably die.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, February 22, 2021

The Iconic Monarch Butterfly 

monarch caterpillarMany are familiar with the monarch butterfly, but did you know these important pollinators are in trouble? Over the past 20 years, the number of monarchs in North America has declined by over 90 percent! Loss of breeding and overwintering habitat, increased pesticide use, and climate change are some of the risks monarchs face. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that listing the monarch as an endangered or threatened species was “warranted but precluded,” meaning there are other species in greater trouble that need to be listed first.

Every fall, millions of monarchs across the northeast begin a journey to their wintering grounds in Mexico—a migration of up to 3,000 miles! However, don’t expect to see the same butterflies return to your backyard next year. You’re more likely to see their great-grandchildren or great-great-grandchildren. Every year, there are four generations of monarchs. When the fall migrants leave the wintering areas and head north in the spring, they will stop and breed as soon as they reach areas with milkweed—the only plant the monarch caterpillar eats—long before reaching the Northeast. The next two generations will continue to move north as the monarchs settle into their summer range. The fourth generation becomes the new fall migrants, starting the cycle over again. » Continue Reading.


Friday, February 19, 2021

Dragonflies: Learning to swim before they fly

adult dragonflyDragonflies are nature’s little aerial acrobats.  Likened in bodily shape to a helicopter with numerous maneuvers, they can fly straight up and down, forward and backward, hover and even mate mid-air

There are 7,000 species of dragonflies and mayflies, the dragon flies smaller cousin, in the world.

The Adirondacks are home to approximately 30 species of dragonflies. They typically stay close to water; most species of dragonfly spend the majority of their life underwater or close to the surface of the water. Depending on the species, dragonflies prefer ponds, marshes, or streams.

A dragonfly has a life span of more than a year, but very little of that life is actually as an adult dragonfly. There are three stages of the dragonfly life cycle, the egg, the nymph, and the adult dragonfly. Most of the life cycle of a dragonfly is lived out in the nymph stage where they aren’t seen at all, unless you are swimming underwater in a lake.

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Sunday, February 14, 2021

Ladybug = lovebug? Actually, not….

LadybugLady beetles may appear cute to the human eye, but in the insect world, they are fearsome predators. Considered by farmers to be a helpful pest control tool, lady beetles are welcome neighbors in Adirondack gardening communities. Nonetheless, there are controversial aspects surrounding these voracious insects. This article will describe the biology and taxonomy of the lady beetles, then discuss the multifaceted roles they play in both human and insect interactions.

Many New Yorkers are familiar with the red, round, and shiny lady beetles, but they may not be aware of the reason why they have their unusual name. In the 1690’s, this insect was named after the Virgin Mary, the “lady” that British farmers would pray to when their crops were afflicted by pests. The red coloration of the insect’s hardened outer wings, known as elytra, reminded them of the red cloak commonly worn by Mary in artwork of the time. In fact, all lady beetles are categorized in the family Coccinellidae, a term drawing its origins from the Latin coccinus, meaning “scarlet.” Many lady beetles are red; however, some are yellow, black, orange, pink, and/or white. 

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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Decoding katydids’ musical numbers

KatydidSome of us ride out the pandemic by basking in the pale glow of another Netflix binge. Insects play background roles in many of our favorite shows; therefore, my fellow couch surfers might be familiar with closed-caption terms like “insects trilling,” or “insects buzzing.”

While these phrases might capture the qualitative experience of arthropod auditory activities, they overlook the specificity of each message. Here in the Adirondacks, katydids are insects that can be heard producing tailor-made soundtracks through the summer into early fall. This article will describe the characteristics of katydids, explore the different types of songs produced by Adirondack katydids, and explain the impact these songs have on the local ecosystem.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

An Occasional Nip Does Some Good

CatnipA friend who once worked nights in a resort bar was asked by a patron where to find “weed.” As it happened, my pal’s day job was farming, and his truck had plenty of hay chaff, so as a prank he bagged some and gave it to the grateful chap. The next night the guy wanted more, claiming it was great, much to my friend’s surprise. “Who knows what else might be growing in the alfalfa,” he quipped to me with a shrug.

My first thought was that it could have been catnip (Nepeta cataria), a member of the mint family which has marked opioid-like effects on cats, and mild sedative effects on humans. It can be found in many herbal tea blends designed to help with stress or insomnia. Native to Europe, Africa and Asia, catnip long ago became naturalized in the Americas, and now grows pretty much everywhere except for the Arctic and high elevations. In fact, if you live in the country, you likely have some growing on your land.

» Continue Reading.


Friday, February 5, 2021

Red Foxes: Truly Magnetic Creatures

FoxIt takes a matter of seconds for residents here in the mountains to identify a fox.  These small, doglike creatures stick out like a sore thumb as they roam above the now cold, white landscape in their pursuit of their next meal.  Foxes are amazing creatures built for the hunt with numerous abilities that aid in survival.  What are these abilities?

Enhanced senses

It’s not evident from a distance but if you’re privileged to come into close proximity, you would see foxes have vertical pupils. This allows them to see well in the dark as well as giving them a wider field of view, 200 degrees compared to humans at 180 degrees.  Their eyes also have six to eight times more rod cells, allowing the fox to sense motion in the dark.

Foxes have quite the proboscis! They have a very keen sense of smell and have been known to find carcasses of livestock buried under deep snow and several inches below the surface. Their snouts are long and their noses are wet, allowing them to smell by dissolving the chemicals in the air and indicating the wind direction.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, February 4, 2021

Amphibian Migrations & Road Crossings Training for Volunteers Feb. 10

salamanderOn rainy spring nights when weather conditions are right, large numbers of salamanders and frogs emerge from winter hibernation in the forest and make their way to woodland pools, where they’ll mate and lay eggs. Many migrating amphibians need to cross roads to reach these vernal pools. The Amphibian Migrations and Road Crossings Project enlists volunteers to find locations in the Hudson Valley where migrations cross roads; document weather and traffic conditions; record migrating amphibians; and help them across the road.

Are you interested in volunteering? The Amphibian Migrations & Road Crossings (AM&RC) Project is offering an online training program on Wednesday, February 10, 4:30 p.m. – 6 p.m. This session will serve as an introduction to new participants and a refresher for returning volunteers. If you’ve never attended an AM&RC training, we strongly encourage you to watch the recorded training modules on YouTube for more in-depth instruction and information, prior to the online program.

The training on February 10 will include:

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Find out how to join the 24th annual Great Backyard Bird Count

Barred OwlThe Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is a fun event for bird watchers of all ages and abilities, from beginners to experts. The 24th annual GBBC will be held Friday, February 12, through Monday, February 15, 2021. Participants are needed! To help, you will need to count birds for at least 15 minutes (or longer if you wish) for one or more days of the four-day event. You can participate from your backyard, or anywhere in the world.

If you’re curious about how to participate, Union College’s Kelly Adirondack Center is hosting a Zoom conversation at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 6. Featuring John Loz, President of Southern Adirondack Audubon and Chair of the Board of Audubon New York Chapters. John will discuss this year’s boon of irruptive finches and talk about all the other birds people are seeing. He’ll also share how to contribute to this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count and how to view other birders’ entries. Space at this event is limited to facilitate conversation so please register by emailing Margie Amodeo at [email protected].

Each checklist submitted during the GBBC helps researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society learn more about how birds are doing and how to protect them. Last year, almost 270,000 people participated in the GBBC. Let’s top that number this year! For more information or to submit checklists visit the GBBC website.

Photo of barred owl by Fred Couse.


Saturday, January 30, 2021

Bald Eagle Viewing in Winter

Bald eagleWinter is a great time to view bald eagles in New York State. Viewing from a safe distance and at planned observation sites can offer an exhilarating and memorable experience. Wintering eagles begin arriving in December and concentrations peak in January and February. Most are heading back to their nests by mid-March.

The Hudson River, the Upper Delaware River watershed, and sections of the St. Lawrence River are great places to view bald eagles in the winter. DEC maintains two well-marked viewing areas in the Mongaup Valley on the Rio and Mongaup Falls reservoirs.

The following tips will help you to have the best possible experience:

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, January 28, 2021

DEC’s tips for avoiding coyote conflicts

Eastern coyote radio-collared by researchers at DEC and SUNY ESFThe New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued guidance to help prevent conflicts between people and coyotes.

“Coyotes may become more territorial during the breeding and pup-rearing seasons, which in New York run from January through March, increasing the risk for potential conflicts with people and pets,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “While coyotes are an important part of New York’s ecosystem, New Yorkers are encouraged to be aware of the increased risks for conflicts and follow DEC’s guidance to prevent coyote encounters.”

The Eastern coyote is found in many habitats, from rural farmland and forests to populated suburban and urban areas across New York State. Coyotes are well adapted to suburban and even urban environments and tend to avoid conflicts with people. However, conflicts with people and pets may occur, particularly during the spring denning and pupping period. If coyotes learn to associate food, such as garbage or pet food, with peoples’ homes, these animals may lose their natural fear of humans and increase the potential for close encounters or conflicts.

To reduce or prevent conflicts with coyotes, New Yorkers are encouraged to take the following steps:

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Assassins and Hunters Lurk in the Shadows

Masked hunterIf you were to confide in a friend that you’ve seen dust-bunnies under the bed come to life, and that you think masked hunters have been stalking you at night inside your house, well, hopefully that’s a REAL good friend. Of course they’d feel a lot better once you explained that masked hunters are a type of assassin bug belonging to the order Hemiptera (true bugs).

Native to Europe and Africa, masked hunters are now widespread throughout North America. These fierce predators of insects and other arthropods get their name from a curious habit of coating, or masking, themselves with detritus and dust as a form of camouflage. Mature adults are shiny, black beetle-like insects measuring about three-quarters of an inch long. During their long “childhood,” though, masked hunters are neither dark nor shiny.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Hardy ground beetles stay active in the cold

For those of us who don’t ice fish or ski, the best part of winter in northern New York is the lack of mosquitoes. Thick blankets of snow muffle the whizzing fervor of our least welcome trail partners, but not all insects go dormant in the winter months.  The family of insects known as ground beetles contains species that remain active throughout the year.

» Continue Reading.


Friday, January 15, 2021

Surviving The Freeze: Animals in Winter

Winter in the mountains is marked by abundant snowfall.  As mountain residents we are hard wired for winter preparation.  When the trees have shed most of their leaves and become an array of barren branches, we like the squirrels are diligently preparing for a long, cold winter.  Barbeque grills and lawn furniture get tucked away, wood piles are stacked wide and tall, fuel tanks filled, snow blowers fueled up and snow shovels are conveniently propped near the entrance of homes.

We are prepared and equipped for nature’s cold, white glitter we call snow.  With the average daily winter temperature being approximately sixteen degrees, double stuffed jackets, insulated boots and hat & mittens become the general attire.  We have our own form of hibernation as we load our cupboards with yummy snacks and settle in for a Netflix marathon.

» Continue Reading.



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