Thursday, March 26, 2015

Winter To Spring In A Bear Cub’s Den

TOS_BlackBearBabiesThe forest is going through a seasonal transition, at a leisurely pace, and often invisibly. Bear cubs, for example, are maturing in hidden dens that we might pass right by.

Black bear (Ursus americanus) cubs are born in mid-January to early February. The newborns are blind, deaf, and toothless, and covered with hair so fine they appear bald. They weigh about a half a pound and are the size of small squirrels. Barely able to crawl, they sense the heat from their mother’s sparsely furred belly and find their way to her protective warmth. She nurses often, shifting position to assist them and to avoid rolling onto them. Her milk is a protein-rich twenty percent (or more) fat. (Human milk, by comparison, is about four percent fat.) » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

DEC Limes Pond in Five Ponds Wilderness

picking up lime at Stillwater ReserviorAs part an effort to mitigate the impact of acid rain and restore brook trout to the Adirondacks, state helicopters delivered 80 tons of lime to an acidified pond in the Five Ponds Wilderness Area in the Town of Webb in Herkimer County.

Over three days in early March, about 40 Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) staff and New York State Police helicopter crews conducted the liming operation, which included 120 helicopter flights to transport 160,000 pounds of lime from a staging area near the boat launch at Stillwater Reservoir to Bear Pond.  » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Great Backyard Bird Count Sets Species Record

Northern Flicker by Linda Izer in ArkansasParticipants from more than 100 countries submitted a record 147, 265,000 bird checklists for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count in February and broke the previous count record for the number of species identified. The 5,090 species reported represents nearly half the possible bird species in the world.

The four-day count marked the 18th year for the event which is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Survival Of The Fittest On The Pinnacle Trail

Coyote Track in WinterThe story was in the tracks. Thursday was cold, but sunny – I’d had a hunch that it might be a good day to get off the groomed trails and do some exploring. There were a couple of inches of fresh powder on top of a hard crust that covered probably two feet of snow, and skies as blue as they could be.

I drove up to Santa Clara and parked on route 458 by the gated road and the Pinnacle trail sign. It looked like two people had skied the old logging road the day before. Possibly earlier in the day, someone post-holing, walked in with a large dog. That person eventually put on snowshoes and continued to trudge in on top of the ski track. I just skied up onto the crust however, and glided along – probably the smoothest, easiest skiing I’d done all year. The person with the dog didn’t make it very far and turned around. Good – now I could start watching for wild animal tracks in the fresh snow. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Houseplants Can Thrive With Attention Now


6214PothosIvy3004The days are getting noticeably longer now, and even though our snow-covered gardens are weeks away from spring planting, my houseplants have noticed the difference and are starting to put out some new growth. March is a good time to direct my yearning to garden towards my houseplants while I wait for spring to arrive outdoors.

During the depths of winter most houseplants go into a slowed state of growth, so pruning or dividing them then would not be such a good idea. But now that they are waking up and putting out some new growth, they will be able to respond to the stress of pruning and re-potting with no problem. These practices do cause some stress to the plants but it also induces them to push out more new growth in response, so this really is the ideal time to work on your houseplants. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Comments On Bald Eagle ‘Conservation Plan’ Sought

2010-bald-eagle-kodiakThe NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) “Conservation Plan for Bald Eagles in New York State” is available for public review and comment. The document provides guidelines for the future management of America’s national bird (and national animal) in the State, where it prefers to live in mature forests near large bodies of water.

Bald eagles were once common in America, but their numbers began a dramatic decline as a result of hunting, logging, habitat loss, and pollution. The publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in 1962, and the modern environmental movement it helped launch, led to a new public awareness of the threats to wildlife from over-development and chemical poisoning. Eventually, that awareness and activism helped save bald eagles from extinction. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sneaky Ducks and Scrambled Eggs

TOS_WoodDuckBabiesIf you peek into a wood duck nesting box during the breeding cycle, you might find 10 to 11 eggs, which is the bird’s normal clutch size. But you might also stumble upon a box overflowing with as many as 30 eggs. How, you might ask, can one duck lay and care for so many eggs? The answer is: she can’t.

These huge piles of eggs result from intraspecific brood parasitism, otherwise known as egg dumping. This is when a bird lays eggs in a nest that does not belong to her. Waterfowl – and wood ducks in particular – often engage in this behavior. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Will Wolves Return To The Adirondacks?

CreeStanding in a snowy meadow in Wilmington, a wolf lifts its head and howls, breaking the near silence on a cold winter day. Just a few feet away Steve Hall watches the scene, a leash in his hand.

The wolf on the other end of the leash is one of three owned by Hall and his wife, Wendy, a wildlife rehabilitator. The couple owns Adirondack Wildlife Refuge, and the animals are used for education, including popular “wolf walks.” During the walks, visitors hike with Hall and the wolves. Hall hopes the walks will give people a better understanding of animals that are commonly feared even though they rarely attack humans. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Nothing Rotten about Deadwood

TOS_WoodyDebrisA guy down the road has been working in his woods for the last couple of years. He’s cleaning them up. And I mean cleaning. He cuts the underbrush. Takes out the dead trees, the downed logs, the dead branches.

Okay, I confess. The neatnik in me is envious. Part of me would like my 70 acres of woods to look like a park. But that’s the problem. A park is not a forest and the forest is more than the trees. It’s an entire suite of complex systems, merging and interacting. An ecological orchestra in the woods.

Dead and dying wood, standing snags, rotting branches are more than Mother Nature’s litter. They’re an integral part of the forest symphony – what forestry types call “coarse woody debris,” or CWD for short. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

TR’s Diary Of An Adirondack Birding Trip

63061_covThe State University of New York Press is coming out with an edition of Teddy Roosevelt’s diaries from 1877 to 1886, when the future president was in his late teens and twenties. Given TR’s ties to the Adirondacks, I expected to find some entries from our neck of the woods and was not disappointed.

In 1877, Roosevelt and a friend, H.D. Minot, wrote a short article with a list of birds they had observed near Paul Smiths, The article – “The Summer Birds of the Adirondacks in Franklin County, N. Y.” – was TR’s first published work. Click here to read the article.

The article is based on three birding trips in the Adirondacks, in 1874, 1875, and 1877. Minot, a Harvard classmate, accompanied Roosevelt only on the last trip. TR’s diaries contain several short entries from that excursion.

The SUNY book, edited by Edward P. Kohn, a historian, is titled A Most Glorious Ride: The Diaries of Theodore Roosevelt 1877-1886. It is due out April 1.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How Wildlife Are Affected By Intense Cold

February 15 2015 Extreme ColdIntense cold is hard on all forms of wildlife, however, some of nature’s creatures are better adapted to deal with this type of adversity than others. Those animals whose geographic range extends well northward into Canada and Alaska have evolved various strategies to cope with prolonged bouts of sub-arctic weather and are quite capable of surviving the unrelenting cold that the Adirondacks has experienced this winter.

Conversely, some components of the Park’s fauna are on the northern fringe of their range and are better suited for functioning in a temperate region, such as southern New York and the mid-Atlantic States. These creatures are probably not faring well this season. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Tips for Game Camera Success

TOS.gamecameraillustrationMy town had the job of removing a dead beaver from a culvert pipe cage, a rather sad and odorous affair, but also an opportunity. I alerted the usual suspects – there’s nothing like a rotting carcass to bring camera trappers together – and we moved the body into the woods and set up a few cameras.

We placed the body in mature forest near the wetland. We figured that just about any of our meso-carnivores might appear: coyote, fox, fisher, and bobcat were all possibilities. We didn’t get the bobcat, but we did get the others, and the fisher photos were especially nice. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Should DEC Plan For The Return Of The Wolf?

March coverCan wolves return to the Adirondacks on their own? If so, should the state Department of Environmental Conservation develop a plan to facilitate their recovery?

These are questions discussed in Mike Lynch’s cover story for the March-April issue of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine—the second in a series of articles on the Adirondacks’ missing predators.

Some people believe that the wolf, like the moose before it, could disperse to the Adirondacks. The nearest wolf population is only a few hundred miles away in Algonquin Provincial Park. There also is a substantial wolf population in the western Great Lakes states. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Identifying Trees In Winter Using Buds

Tree BudsEvery winter I teach several tree identification classes to biology students. Cold or colder, it’s always outdoors, but if student evaluations are on the level, it’s always fun. Demonstrating how to tell one leaf-bereft hardwood from another is one thing.

Bark is not the best feature for identifying trees. Sure, white bark means birch, but some birches have black, yellow or reddish bark. Typical bark patterns, such as diamond-shaped furrows for ash, can be absent depending on site conditions and tree health. Cherry and ironwood bark have light-colored horizontal dashes called lenticels, but only on young wood. Not all hickories have shaggy bark. Bark may provide a clue, but it’s not to be trusted as a sole, or even a primary, source of information. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Porcupines: Waddling Through Winter

TOS_PorcupineWinterThe porcupine is one of the most unique and recognizable mammals in our region, and thanks to its short legs and fat body, it’s also one of the slowest.

Of course, a porcupine really has little need for anything faster than first gear, since its quills provide excellent protection from most predators.

It still surprises me though, that a short-legged herbivore that doesn’t hibernate manages to thrive in the deep snow of our northern forests. » Continue Reading.


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