Tuesday, June 15, 2021

All about Brook Trout

brook trout The state fish of New York (and 9 other states). Perhaps the most sought after fish in the Adirondacks due to its elusiveness and beauty. If you have ever caught one, they are a thrill and an absolute gem to the eye. In my experience, no other fish that you try to catch feels like you are hunting with a fishing rod and line. They are tricky, and thus a true challenge. It sure is a splendid feeling catching one.

With that said, the majestic Brook Trout is the appropriate species to kick off the first species account in what will become a series for the Adirondack Almanack.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Report Dead or Dying Eastern Larch Trees (Tamaracks) to DEC

tamarackDEC has been receiving reports of dead and quickly-dying eastern larch/tamarack trees (Larix laricina) in the Adirondack region. Upon inspection, the trees have been found to be infested with the eastern larch beetle (Dendroctonus simplex LeConte) an insect native to NY that very rarely attacks healthy trees in the northeast.

DEC is seeking additional reports of dead or dying eastern larch trees in the Adirondacks so that we can better determine if this is a local infestation or a larger outbreak. If you have seen any in this region, please report it by sending photos and location information to DEC at foresthealth@dec.ny.gov, or by calling your local DEC office and speaking with a forester. You can find tamarack photos and identification tips on the Wild Adirondacks website.

Photo by Melissa Hart from the Paul Smith’s College VIC


Monday, June 14, 2021

Turtles: Mountain Reptiles on the Move

turtle crossing It’s Turtle Time and these shelled reptiles are making a public appearance here in the mountains. There are 356 species of turtle in the World with only four of them calling the Adirondack Park home; the snapping turtle, the painted turtle, the spotted turtle, and the wood turtle.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, June 14, 2021

Money Trees

nickel treeIf money grew on trees it seems that could result in vast monocultures, with ruinous environmental impacts. I suppose it depends on currency. If the money tree produced only Iranian rials or Venezualan bolivars, we’d likely consider it a noxious weed.

On the South Pacific island of New Caledonia, there’s a rainforest understory tree that doesn’t bear money; it is money. More or less. The milky sap of Pycnandra acuminata is 25% nickel, the exact same percentage of the shiny metal that the US has been putting in its nickels for the past 155 years (for perspective, nickel ore of 2% is high). To me, the fact a tropical tree can bleed money is nowhere near as strange as the fact that the thing is alive at all, given that even small amounts of nickel – we’re talking below one percent – will kill most plants.

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, June 12, 2021

Piracy in the Ausable?

As the great glacier that once covered most of the surface of New York State retreated towards the end of the Pleistoncene Epoch, Lake Champlain’s outlet to the north remained blocked. Champlain Valley remained mostly underwater until present day drainways emerged, and the land returned to their current elevations.

Water levels dropped in the valley and the Ausable River was building a delta at Wickham Marsh… until something caused the Ausable to abandon its delta for another at Ausable Point. What caused the Ausable River to divert its Wickham Marsh delta?

Stream Piracy (or stream capture) is a common event, where a river or a stream is diverted into the channel of a nearby river.  They are kept under control by feats of engineering. In the case of the Mississippi River, the Old River Control structure. “a mammoth floodgate system costing hundreds of millions of dollars for construction, operation, and maintenance that keeps the Mississippi on its course to New Orleans.”

Read the full story, written by Gary Henry, a Stream Restoration Associate of the Ausable River Association, by following this link to Ausableriver.org


Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Bald Eagle – A National and a New York State Conservation Success Story

adult bald eagle

According to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the bald eagle population in the lower 48 states has grown, since 2009, from just over 72,000, including roughly 30,000 breeding pairs, to an estimated 316,700 birds, something Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, recently called, “truly a historic conservation success story.” 

At the start of the 20th century, New York was home to more than 70 nesting pairs of bald eagles and was the wintering ground for several hundred. But by 1960, only one nesting pair remained and a scant few dozen overwintered here. Today however, as a result of protection and active management, New York State is home to more than 426 occupied bald eagle nest sites. (Source: New York Natural Heritage Program; a partnership between the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). 

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Construction Damage: the Root of the Problem

rootsIf April showers bring May flowers, then May flowers bring backhoes. Sure it doesn’t rhyme, but as posies push up, construction crews and equipment also emerge, so maybe it’s true.

Those considering an outdoor project this season should be aware that for landscape trees, soil compaction or/ and disturbance is the root of all evil. I suppose chainsaws and forest fires aren’t exactly kind to trees, but when you spot a sickly tree in a park, yard, or on the roadside, root damage is the ultimate cause in nearly all cases.

It takes minutes to inflict lethal damage to a tree by adding soil, driving, or excavating within its root zone. But several years can pass before the tree gets the memo that it’s dead, as fatal root damage shows up over time.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, May 31, 2021

Fairy Lights and Princesses of Darkness

fireflyThey’re devilishly intriguing, but fireflies, or lightning bugs as they are sometimes called, are angelic to watch. I have yet to hear of a single person who isn’t fascinated by the show that these glow-in-the-dark beetles put on. In the right location it can seem like a swirling, blinking Milky Way has come to visit. They are able to generate their cold-light flash thanks to a pair of chemicals they produce called luciferin and luciferase. Aside from the obvious and unfortunate name association there, the two light-emitting molecules are exemplars of morality and goodness in the chemical world.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, May 24, 2021

Meaty Matters: Mushrooms that eat animals

oyster mushroomsThe more we learn about nature, the more distressingly clear it is that nature doesn’t pay that much attention to the stuff we’ve spent decades writing about it. Recently it was established that animals play for sheer enjoyment – it’s not an evolutionary ruse to get them to practice real life, as we asserted for hundreds of years. Real life includes jubilant fun for the majority of animal species.

We once held up “mate for life” critters like penguins and swans as exemplars of marital fidelity, only to later realize that while couples do stay together, you can bet the farm that in nesting season, both partners are slutting around like James Bond on ecstasy. And whitetail deer jumped out of the “herbivore” box we assigned them, caught on video with mouths full of carrion, or pulverizing mice to death for a snack. Despite lacking decent equipment to kill and consume prey, hippos, giraffes, and other “strict herbivores,” as we had described them, routinely break their vows of vegetarianism.

Fungi, whose job it is to decompose organic matter, also flunked biology class, because many common species hunt or trap live prey and then eat them. If I was vegan, I’d worry that chicken-of-the-woods (Laetiporus sulphureus), which has a texture and flavor similar to that of chicken, or beefsteak shelf fungi (Fistulina hepatica), with the look and feel of raw beef, might be gateway foods back to meatland. What would really blow my mind, though, would be deciding whether it was OK to eat mushrooms that thoughtlessly kill and consume animals.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, May 20, 2021

Threats to the Long-Lived Bald Eagle

Eagle Facts

The bald eagle is a long-lived bird, with a lifespan in the wild of more than 30 years. Bald eagles mate for life, returning to nest in the general area (within 250 miles) from which they fledged. Once a pair selects a nesting territory, they use it for the rest of their lives. However, bald eagles face threats to their long lifespan and nesting territories due to a wide range of human impacts including habitat loss and plastic pollution. Plastics can find their way into eagle nests in the form of nest building materials, can be ingested through scavenging or through their prey, or cause entanglement leading to injury or death.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, May 16, 2021

When it comes to baby animals, ‘if you care, leave them there’


fawnNew York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos reminds New Yorkers to appreciate wildlife from a safe distance and resist the urge to touch or pick up newborn fawns and other young wildlife. Human contact with wildlife can carry unintended consequences detrimental to the animals people intend to help.

“At this time of year, New Yorkers may encounter young or newborn wild animals in their yards and mistakenly think they need help to survive,” Seggos said. “While a baby rabbit or a recently fledged bird might appear abandoned, a parent is likely nearby, trying to remain out of view. Please do not touch a wild baby animal; instead, enjoy encounters with wildlife from a distance. Remember-if you care, leave it there.”

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, May 13, 2021

Gypsy moths: The destroyers

Gypsy Moth CaterpillarLike a B-grade horror film sequel, the aliens have awakened once again. Perhaps we felt a glimmer of hope at the end of the 2020 version when an entire generation of ruthless monsters died off in droves and left us in peace. But remember that closing shot of their disgusting, furry egg-mass blobs cleverly hidden out of sight? Well they’re hatching now.

If you missed last year’s gypsy moth performance, you have a better chance of catching it this season. Unfortunately. Based on egg-mass sampling, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation predicts that areas in central and western NYS which saw moderate to severe gypsy moth outbreaks last year can expect heavy damage this year. NYSDEC’s gypsy moth page can be found here.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Long eared owls always look surprised

Long Ear OwlOwls are birds of prey of the order Strigiformes, which are divided into two main families. Strigidae has 220 wide ranging species, for example round faced owls filling all possible sizes between the great horned owl and the elf owl. Tytonidae has 20 species, distributed worldwide everywhere but the polar regions and northern regions from Canada through eastern Russia, for example, heart faced owls like the barn owl.

Eight owls are found in the Adirondacks: Snowy owl seasonally, Great Horned owl, Barred owl, Long eared owl, Short eared owl, Barn owl, Eastern screech owl and Northern saw whet owl, all year-round residents.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Saw whet owls: A shrew’s nightmare

Saw whet owls appear nearly as strange as their name sounds. At seven to nine inches long, weighing in at two to six ounces, with a stubby wingspan of sixteen to nineteen inches, saw whets are the smallest owl in the Adirondacks, though surprisingly not the smallest in the world, coming in at twice the weight of the insect eating elf owls of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts. As with other raptors, female saw whets are larger than males.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, April 26, 2021

Hey bugs! Fear This!

colorado potato beetleNo offense, but Franklin D. Roosevelt should maybe bug off with his assertion that “…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” because fear is good for gardeners and farmers.

According to entomologists Nicholas Aflitto and Jennifer Thaler of the Cornell University-based New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYSPIM), it can be harnessed as a weapon against destructive pests. Turns out it’s possible to scare harmful insects out of gardens and crop fields.

Ascribing human feelings to bugs may be a stretch, but if something makes the critters run away and hide, it seems fair, not to mention simple, to call that fear instead of “a consistent generalized avoidance response in reaction to certain stimuli” or some such thing. After all, it took biologists a few hundred years to establish that various animals from elephants to birds and turtles really and truly play, and for no other reason than to have fun. Perhaps one day we’ll figure out that invertebrates have emotional lives, too. I suppose that might raise ethical issues around pest control, but let’s not go there just yet.

» Continue Reading.



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