Friday, January 4, 2019

Winter Weather: Sundogs and Halos and Glitter – Oh, My!

sun dogs Had a unicorn pranced across the trail in front of me, I wouldn’t have been surprised.

It was one of those sparkly winter days, when snow drapes fir trees and glints across the landscape. I was at the top of Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire’s Franconia Notch, and an undercast made it seem as if the summit were a sunny island above a sea of clouds. To add to the wonder, there was something magical happening in the sky, which shimmered with color and light. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, January 3, 2019

Emerging Invasive Forest Pests Educational Program Planned

Young spotted lanternflies An educational program, “Emerging Invasive Forest Pests: Identification, Prevention & Management,” has been set for Wednesday, January 16th, 2019 from 9 am to 3:30 pm at the St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES Education Center’s Classroom A, 40 West Main Street in Canton, NY.

The program will provide information on four invasive species in the Adirondacks, Asian Spotted Lanternfly; Asian Earthworms; Oak Wilt; and Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, as well as a Hemlock Woolly Adelgid scouting trip. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 31, 2018

Perihelion: Proximity Doesn’t Always Generate Heat

PerithelionFew things seem as remote as the January sun in the North East. We see the light, but we feel almost no heat. In this way, winter can feel like a kind of exile – there’s a sense that the Earth has been flung to the farthest reaches of its orbit.

The idea that the winter sun is remote, however, is misguided. In fact, the Earth is closest to the sun when the Northern Hemisphere is in the deep freeze of winter. This extreme proximity is known as perihelion, and in 2019 it will take place on January 3. Conversely, aphelion – when the Earth is farthest from the sun – takes place during the height of summer, this year on the Fourth of July. The exact dates vary slightly every year, but always occur in January and July. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 24, 2018

The Disappearing, Reappearing, American Marten

marten Some people keep lifelong birding lists. I’ve tried, but birds and I have never really hit it off. Too many colors, too many species, and I’m tone deaf, so birding by ear is completely beyond me.

I do keep a lifelong weasel list. I can tell you exactly where I was when I saw my first white-coated ermine and how many times I’ve seen a mink. My best fisher sighting was particularly memorable: I watched in awe as it jumped from tree to tree in pursuit of a gray squirrel. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 23, 2018

Paul Hetzler: Please Don’t Hum Along

frequency range of human voicesIn the ninth grade I was in chorus for a few months until the instructor offered me an “A” for the rest of the year if I dropped her class. True story. You would think a guy who likes music but can’t sing would at least enjoy humming, but that depends. Research has shown that humming can cause anxiety, depression, insomnia, and in some cases, ghosts. Also true — though of course I left out a few details there.

Humming to a song because you don’t know (or can’t sing) the words is harmless, unless maybe it is incessant and happens to irritate your co-workers. But many industrial processes like blast furnaces, cooling towers, and giant compressors and vacuum pumps can emit low-frequency or infrasound hums able to travel tens of miles. Because human-caused hums have unusually long wavelengths — in some cases more than a mile — the hum can travel easily over mountains and through buildings. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 22, 2018

Minimizing Salt Injury to Trees and Shrubs

Every winter brings its annual a-salt on roads and walkways. In icy conditions, salt may be necessary for safety, but too much of it is worse than a bad pun. Cars, equipment, and concrete suffer in obvious ways, but damage to trees and other woody plants is less visible. Salt injures trees and shrubs by several means.

When road-salt spray hits twigs, buds and, in the case of evergreens, foliage, such direct contact causes yellowing of needles, and subsequent death of evergreen twigs and limbs. It also leads to stunted or deformed growth, such as witches’ brooms, on hardwoods. Severe or repeated direct exposure, especially for sensitive species like white pine or cedar, can kill the whole tree. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 20, 2018

Paul Hetzler: Dreaming Of A Local Christmas

Even Santa Claus himself cannot grant a wish for a white Christmas — it is a coin toss whether the holiday will be snow-covered or green this year. A verdant landscape is not our Christmas ideal, but we can keep more greenbacks in the hands of local people, and keep our Christmas trees and other accents fresh and green for longer, when we buy local trees and wreaths.

Not only are Christmas trees a renewable resource, they boost the regional economy. Even if you don’t have the time to cut your own at a tree farm, do yourself a favor this year and purchase a natural tree from a local vendor. She or he can help you choose the best kind for your preference, and also let you know how fresh they are. Some trees at large retail outlets are cut weeks, if not months, before they show up at stores. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Study: Changing Winds May Affect Migratory Birds

Eastern MeadowlarkUnder future climate scenarios, changing winds may make it harder for North American birds to migrate southward in the autumn, but make it easier for them to come back north in the spring according to researchers from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

They came to this conclusion using data from 143 weather radar stations to estimate the altitude, density, and direction birds took during spring and autumn migrations over several years. They also extracted wind data from 28 different climate change projections in the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Their findings were published in the journal Global Change Biology. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 18, 2018

New Maple, Birch Tapping Research Released

march maple tappingThe Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has posted a research update with data to help maple and birch syrup producers respond to variable climate conditions.

The project has established baseline data for what are hoped to be continuing efforts to determine the optimal time to begin tapping birch trees in conjunction with maple production. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 17, 2018

American Mountain Ash

mountain ash There’s a giant living in Coös County, New Hampshire. It’s a 61-foot tall tree, the country’s largest known American mountain ash. At last measurement, it stood at a height of 61 feet and had a circumference of 70 inches. That’s outstanding for a tree that’s described by most sources, including my old dendrology textbook, as “a small tree or shrub.”

This tree is a champion — but the species as a whole has a lot going for it. I love the mountain ash for the beauty of its white flower clusters and red berries. More importantly, though, it fills an important spot on the menu for birds and mammals, especially in winter. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 17, 2018

Poinsettias Have a Long and Colorful History

PoinsettiasPoinsettias are among the most popular potted flowering or foliage plants of the Christmas Season. They have been for decades. According to the most recent United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics available, the wholesale value of U.S. grown poinsettias was roughly $140 million in 2015; $143.7 million in 2014. (By comparison, the 2015 wholesale value of orchids was about $288.3 million; chrysanthemums, $16.7 million; Easter lilies, $24.3 million.)

Long-recognized as the largest and most successful poinsettia breeder in the world, Paul Ecke Ranch in Encinitas, California was founded in 1924, by German immigrant entrepreneurs who moved to the US in 1902. For three generations, the Ecke family grew and sold poinsettias; first as field-grown landscape and mother plants and as cut flowers and, eventually, as greenhouse-grown stock plants. They moved their stock production facility to Guatemala during the 1990s and, in 2012, sold the business and the name. The leadership team stayed on. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 16, 2018

Slowing Aquatic Invasive Spread in 2019 Webinar Series

NYSG Launch ManualThe 2019 edition of the Watercraft Inspection Program Leader educational webinar series developed by New York Sea Grant and featuring coastal science and AIS specialists begins on January 17 and will connect participants from multiple states.

Four sessions in the webinar series will address issues associated with recreational boating as a key pathway in the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS), making watercraft inspection a critical contributor to limiting the spread of AIS among the more than 7,000 lakes, ponds, and rivers in New York State and waters elsewhere. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Porcupine

porcupine I once lived in a cottage perched atop a sloping field in Western Massachusetts. It was the lone structure at the edge of undeveloped forest and sat far from the road. The cottage had a large front deck with an expansive view and a smaller one in back that faced the forest. It was under the small deck that a porcupine took up residence one fall, for a stay that turned out to be briefer than I would have liked.

Since he wasn’t damaging the house, and didn’t seem aggressive, I didn’t mind his presence. Until my dog, Beckett, met him. Beckett, a 55-pound mixed breed, could not learn the porcupine lesson. He was always certain that this time – this time – he would be victorious. Fed up with yanking quills out of him or taking him to the vet after especially bad encounters, I was desperate to figure out how to share the space peaceably with our resident rodent. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 8, 2018

Intoxication: Animals and Alcohol

drunk bird It’s the time of year when the landscape is laid bare, the ground is impenetrable with frost, and flying insects have faded into memory. As fall slides into winter, resident songbirds like robins and waxwings must switch from their warm weather diets of earthworms and arthropods to the best of what’s left: fruit, and lots of it. As it turns out, this is also the time of year when conditions become ripe for the conversion of fruit sugars into alcohol via natural fermentation.

Studies show that waxwings, whose winter diet is comprised almost exclusively of fruit, metabolize alcohol seven times faster than finches (seed eaters) and three times faster than starlings (omnivores). In addition, a waxwing’s liver constitutes nearly 5 percent of its total body weight, compared to just under 3 percent for starlings and finches. Larger livers and higher rates of alcohol metabolism likely evolved in response to occasional exposure to fermented fruit. For the most part, these adaptations enable waxwings to dine on boozy berries without ill effect. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Gray Jays: Souls of Dead Woodsmen

gray jay The sound of a gray jay (Perisoreus canadensis) evokes an image of the North Woods: dark green spruce trees, spire-like balsam fir, and bare-branched tamaracks silhouetted against a raw, slate-colored sky; the smell of woodsmoke in the air and a dusting of fresh snow on the ground. I see these birds occasionally around our cabin in northern New Hampshire and on hikes at higher elevations in the White Mountains. They’ve always had an air of mystery about them.

The bird is often heard before it’s seen. The gray jay has a number of calls, whistles, and imitations in his repertoire: many are harsh sounding, and I have witnessed gray jays mimic the scream of the blue jay. My favorite call, though, is what some ornithologists refer to as “the whisper song.” This is a soft, warbling chatter that can sound either cheerful or melancholy – depending, I suppose, on the mood of the listener. Not long after hearing the whisper song, a group of birds will suddenly appear, silently swooping and gliding from branch to branch. » Continue Reading.