Saturday, April 13, 2019

A Tale of Two Sugar Making Seasons

sugaring The 2019 maple sugaring season has, for most, just ended in the Northeast. And so sugarmakers are tallying up their sap and syrup volumes to see how they made out. My sense, as a sugarmaker myself, is that most did well.

In tallying our own numbers, it was interesting to look at this year compared to last, as things unfolded in very different ways. In 2018 we collected our first sap on February 19, and our last on April 4. Within that 45-day window, we collected sap on 25 days. This year we collected our first sap on March 12 and our last on April 7. In that 28-day window, we collected on 26 days. In other words, we collected roughly the same number of days, it’s just that last season was drawn out, and this one was compressed. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

American Robins: Harbingers of Spring

Adult male American Robin feeding nestlings“The early bird catches the worm.” It’s an old adage that most likely refers to the American robin (Turdus Migratorius). This year, I first saw robins in late March, right around the time that maple sap started running.

As I write this, they’re still showing up, almost daily, apparently looking for fly nymphs resting on the ice and snow alongside the river. Just up the road, they’re already hopping around on bare areas in lawns, gardens, fields, and pastures; cocking their heads from side to side as they try to find a big, fat, tasty worm to eat. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, April 7, 2019

Wild Edibles Program In Warrensburg May 18th

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Warren County is set to present a program on wild edibles on Saturday, May 18th from 9 am to 4 pm at the CCE Education Center in Warrensburg. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 6, 2019

Springtime Foraging: Free Range Shopping

Despite a very long winter that has not yet left this area, spring is now gracing us all with the presence of dirty snow banks and ice. It is those ugly snowbanks that are a harbinger that spring’s Free Range Shopping is coming soon.

What is Free Range Shopping? It is a means of freely foraging nutritious and delicious food. By mid to late April, as top layers of soil are visible and warmed by the sun, delicious morsels will be offered. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 4, 2019

Northeastern Wolves: Then and Now

On a moonlit night two hundred years ago, a dog-shaped shadow slipped through the Vermont woods. The large, shaggy canid emerged onto a hilltop pasture, raised its muzzle, and howled – a deep, throaty howl that reverberated through the hills. A chorus of wolves responded.

Wolves were common in the Northeast and most of the U.S. when European settlers arrived. And it didn’t take long for the settlers, who were steeped in folklore that portrayed wolves as evil, to wage war. Towns enacted bounties, to which livestock owners were legally bound to contribute, for every dead wolf brought in. In 1657, New Haven, Connecticut, offered five pounds to anyone who could kill “one great black woolfe of a more than ordinaire bigness which is like to be more feirce and bould than the rest, and so occasions more hurt.” » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Race to the Bottom: Water Bears and Moss Piglets

water bear under microscopePint-size pets were practical, once upon a time. A hunter using a wolf-like dog to ferret out game would bring home less bacon than one who used a terrier for the same tracking services.

Presumably, small hunting dogs mating with dust-mops is what gave rise to Shih Tzus and other foofy mini-dogs, which sadly are no longer in high demand now that Roombas can do the same job for cheaper. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Conservation Minute: The Backyard Conservationist

lplc conservation minuteWhether you own acres of land or have a small flower garden, you have an important role to play in creating spaces that support wildlife. As our forests become more fragmented, its critical to start looking toward our front and back yards, and even our patios, to consider managing these spaces for biodiversity. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 1, 2019

Cooper’s Hawk

cooper hawk Once, when I was living in a house on the edge of a forest in Western Massachusetts, an early-spring storm blew in and left about a foot of snow in its wake. Worried about the birds, many of which had just returned to their northern breeding grounds, I spent the day replenishing the feeders and scattering extra seeds on the deck and in the yard. I watched through the sliding glass doors, as dozens of songbirds flitted in and out my view. It was a mesmerizing scene.

My reverie was broken, however, when a large bird torpedoed out of the woods and snatched one of the songbirds off the ground. It flew with such speed, I barely had time to register its presence. All of the birds, however, instantly dispersed, as if vaporized. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, March 31, 2019

Paul Hetzler: Let Them Eat Trees

Nearly all historians agree Marie Antoinette probably never coined the phrase “let them eat cake,” a saying already in popular culture before her time. The saying was ascribed to her by opponents to bolster her reputation as a callous and arrogant aristocrat. She would have seemed far more benevolent if she had said “let them eat trees.”

From remote villages to five-star urban restaurants, people around the world consume all manner of delectable dishes featuring second-hand wood. Although that is not generally how it is featured on the menu. Mushrooms such as inky cap, oyster and shiitake have a voracious appetite for wood, a substance that very few organisms eat because it is so hard to digest. Anyone who has tried to dine on lumber can attest to that. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 28, 2019

Exploring the History of Maple Syrup

Mike Todriff firing the sugar boiler in 2018 (Shannon Houlihan photo)I don’t think there’s a more magnificent forest tree or more glorious shade tree than the sugar maple (Acer saccharum); a deciduous tree that matures in 30-50 years, generally growing to between 70 and 90 feet tall, with a crown that turns a brilliant, fiery yellow, orange, or red at summer’s end. The sugar maple is the official state tree of New York, Vermont, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. It’s also the national tree of Canada. And the maple leaf is the Canadian national emblem.

For sugarmakers, this is maple season. Having tapped thousands of maple trees, they now harvest their reward; collecting the sap that brings the region’s maples out of winter dormancy and boiling it down, with pride and care, to just the right consistency for pure maple syrup and the delicious cream, candies, and confections made from maple sugar. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Remove Bird Feeders, Don’t Attract Bears

black bear The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has reminded New Yorkers to take steps to prevent bears from easily accessing food sources like bird feeders and garbage.

Due to poor natural food availability last fall, many black bears went into their dens with low fat reserves. As they begin to emerge from winter dens, they have already begun seeking out food sources around homes. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 25, 2019

Animal Population Estimates: What’s in a Number?

moose by adelaide tyrolForty years ago, amid the surge of legislation that accompanied the rise of the modern environmental movement, New Hampshire passed its first Endangered Species Conservation Act.

The goal was to protect wildlife facing extinction in the Granite State. There was just one problem: they had no list of exactly which species were threatened or endangered. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 18, 2019

The Mink: An Outside Story

otter by adelaide tyrolIt was a cold, snowy Sunday morning in the middle of January. I planned to heed the warnings encouraging motorists to stay off the road and turned the radio on to catch the end of an interview with poet Mary Oliver, recorded in 2015.

The poet had died earlier that week, at the age of 83. “Listening to the World” was the title of the conversation, ironic on a snowy morning when the earth seemed so quiet. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

Fireflies of Winter

winter lightning bug Like most people, I thought I knew where to find fireflies: in back yards and fields on summer nights, flickering on and off like dollhouse-sized lanterns or like Tinkerbell, the tiny fairy that the author of Peter Pan invented while observing fireflies near a Scottish lake.

I was only partly right. There are about 2,000 firefly species, but not all are nocturnal. Nor are they all flashy – some don’t light up at all. Furthermore, we don’t have to wait for summer to see one.

Meet Ellychnia corrusca, known as the winter dark, or diurnal, firefly. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Ornithology: The State Museum’s Bird Collection

Intern Eric Diaz preparing a Greater Shearwater specimen that was found on a Long Island beach The State Museum’s bird collection is always growing as scientists continue to prepare new specimens to document the current New York bird population.

Every time a bird specimen is prepared, State Museum scientists take tiny samples of different types of tissues (heart, liver, muscle, brain) and place them in a plastic vial that is stored in an ultra-cold freezer at -80 degrees Celsius (-112 Fahrenheit). » Continue Reading.