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.
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.
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.
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?
By 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.
In 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.
As 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.
While 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
On 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!
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.
Senescence 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.
The 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?
DEC asks the public to report moose sightings online as part of ongoing efforts to monitor moose across New York. While the Adirondacks are home to most New York moose, some live in the eastern part of the state along the Vermont and Massachusetts borders. Moose can also occasionally be found in southeastern New York and the Catskills, but these are usually individuals that have dispersed from other areas. In 2020, the public submitted over 250 moose observations to DEC, and approximately 50 have been reported so far this year.
By Alice Menis, Paul Smith’s College VIC Steward
Do you dream of finding an Adirondack moose? Look no further, here at the Paul Smith’s College Visitor Information Center we have had multiple sightings of a moose!
Our first photograph of the moose was taken via trail camera during a research project by STEM students at Paul Smith’s College. For the past few weeks, we have been finding tracks on our trails but no one reported a sighting until Wednesday, June 16, when a lucky hiker captured a picture of the moose on the Heron Marsh Trail. The moose has been hanging out near this trail because there is plenty of food in the marsh. Moose love to eat wetland plants such as pond lilies because of their high sodium content. Moose also enjoy leaves, twigs, and buds of hardwood and softwood trees and shrubs.
The American Marten is a truly enigmatic ambassador to all things wild. Sightings of these large members of the weasel family will brighten any family camping trip or bring a flash of raw wilderness while exploring the backcountry.
Amazingly there are actually two types of Marten in North America. “Martes Americana” – which is what we see on the Adirondacks and most of the mountainous parts of the northeastern United States and across Canada and also “Martes Caurina” who lives in the far Western parts of Canada and in the US Rockies as well as parts of California and Oregon.
While exploring Mother Nature over the many years we have been lucky enough to have seen both varieties in the wild although, Martes Caurina was a single and very brief but very close encounter. My wife Anne (who’s Marten Americana images are included with this article) and I were exploring the Rockies, actually looking for Grizzlies to film.