Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Underground Dirt On Tree Roots

tos tree rootsYou can pretty much count on a tree to stay in one place, at least in the real world. Not so in fiction. Remember the walking, talking Ents in the Lord of the Rings movies? Or Groot, the tree-like alien in the science fiction film Guardians of the Galaxy?

Roots anchor a tree, of course, allowing it to stand up to much of what nature can throw at it; they also provide life-giving nutrients. Tree roots are a marvel of evolution: part of a whole-tree plumbing system that makes the one in your house seem primitive. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 12, 2016

The Dry Weather And Adirondack Fall Foliage

DSCN4905It turns out that, in terms of fall foliage, the color of too dry is officially known as “blah.” This would undoubtedly be the least popular color selection if it was included in a jumbo pack of Crayolas. Basically, it is a jumble of faded hues with a mottled brown patina throughout. This year’s dry summer could mean that “blah” may feature prominently in Mother Nature’s fall hardwood forest palette.

Why would a prolonged lack of moisture affect autumn color? Let’s look at what makes leaves colorful in the first place. Among the things we learned — and probably forgot right away — in Junior High Biology is that leaves are green because of chlorophyll, the amazing molecule that converts light, water and carbon dioxide into sugar and oxygen. Its intense green tends to mask colors such as orange and yellow that are present in leaves in lower concentrations. When chlorophyll dies off in the fall, those “weaker” colors are revealed. » Continue Reading.


Friday, September 9, 2016

Master Naturalist Training Set For Malone

Cornell Cooperative Extension LogoAre you interested in learning more about the habitats, plants, and animals of New York State? Are you a citizen, landowner, teacher, park naturalist, land trust employee, conservation planning board member or natural resource professional looking to increase your knowledge of the natural environment? Cornell Cooperative Extension will offer a Master Naturalist Training at 4-H Camp Overlook in Malone, NY from September 23-25, 2016. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Non-Biting Midges In The Adirondacks

male midge tosClouds of tiny insects, rising and falling hypnotically along lake shores, contribute to the ambiance of warm summer evenings. My recent bike ride was interrupted by a lungful of this ambiance.

If you find yourself in a similar predicament, you might wonder what these miniscule flies were doing before being swallowed, where they came from, whether they bite, and whether we need these interrupters of peaceful lakeside jaunts. We’ll get to these questions, but first, let me say that as an ecologist, I find these insects to be among the most fascinating and important freshwater invertebrates. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, September 4, 2016

Comments Sought On Changes to Fishing Regulations

DEC LogoThe New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is accepting comments on proposed changes to freshwater fishing regulations through October 7, 2016.  DEC modifies freshwater sportfishing regulations approximately every two years.

The new freshwater sportfishing regulations are scheduled to take effect on April 1, 2017. Once enacted, the new regulations will be included in the 2017-18 Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Invasive Spiny Waterflea Confirmed in Indian Lake

Two adult spiny waterfleas on the tip of a pinky finger. The specimen on the left has yet to be hatched offspring in the brood pouch on its backSpiny waterflea, an invasive zooplankton, continues to spread in the Adirondacks. First discovered in Great Sacandaga Lake in 2008, it has quickly spread into at least eight other lakes in the region.

Most recently, a new population was detected in Indian Lake in Hamilton County.  Up until this detection, Indian Lake was considered to be the Adirondack’s largest invasive species free lake.

The discovery was reported to the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) by a Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute (AWI) boat launch steward. An angler, who was fishing in a deeper section of the lake, collected the spiny waterflea on his fishing line. Because of its long spines, it can get easily caught on fishing line, especially on down-rigor lines, that are used to fish in deeper water. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Annual Adirondack Habitat Awareness Day Sept 4th

wolf by Terry HawthorneThe 9th Annual Adirondack Habitat Awareness Day will take place on Sunday, September 4th, at the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge, at 977 Springfield Road in Wilmington, and it’s all about change in the Adirondacks: changing climate, changing wildlife and changing realities.

Visitors will be able to meet and learn about gray wolves, coywolves, coyotes, fox, bobcat, fisher, and porcupines, along with bald eagles, hawks, falcons and owls. Professor Curt Stager of Paul Smiths College, an accomplished ecologist, paleoclimatologist, and author of Deep Future and Field Notes from the Northern Forest, and more, will be keynote speaker, and will team with Paul Smiths’ students for other educational opportunites.

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Birdsong: Singing a Different Tune

chickadee tosBirdsong has always fascinated humans. Besides waking some of us up a wee bit too early in the morning, it has inspired musical compositions and immortal poetry. It has produced lush descriptions, like those of the early 1900s field guide author F. Schuyler Mathews, who wrote of the wood thrush’s song: “It is like the harmonious tinkling of crystal wine-glasses, combined with the vox angelica stop of the cathedral organ.”

Simon Pease Cheney, Mathews’ contemporary, wrote in Woods Notes Wild, that “one is oblivious to all else, and ready to believe that the little song is not of earth but a wandering strain from the skies.” » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Steve Hall: Feathers, Dinosaurs and Birds

ArchæopteryxDinosaurs were the dominant life form on earth for 170 million years, finally going extinct at the end of the cretaceous period, 65 million years ago, when a huge comet crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. Birds of prey are descended from theropods, a type of dinosaur that walked on its hind legs, while their smaller forelimbs were used, like arms and hands, for reaching and grabbing.

Theropods are usually represented by T-Rex, Allosaurus and Velociraptor, though most theropods were no larger than dogs. During this long period, the earth underwent climate change, just as it does today, and fossilized remains indicate that feathers began to develop about 150 million years ago, and those theropods which developed them survived to breed in cooler temperatures, while those lacking them perished. » Continue Reading.


Friday, August 19, 2016

North Country SPCA Open House Saturday

The North Country SPCA will hold its fourth annual open house celebration this Saturday, August 20th from 10 am to 3 pm at the Frances Miller Adoption Center located at 7700 Route 9N in Elizabethtown.

The open house is free and will offer a variety of activities for the whole family, including face-painting, games, music and more. Local vendors from around the Adirondacks will be selling hand-crafted goods, there will be dog agility and training demonstrations, and dog microchipping for only $20 per dog. The day will also offer free adoptions of the SPCA’s many dogs and cats to approved applicants. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Managing Private Woodlands Sustainably Workshop

monitoringChamplain Area Trails (CATS), in conjunction with Shirley Forests will present a free workshop on Saturday, August 20 at the Whallonsburg Grange Hall in Whallonsburg, NY from 10:30 am to 3 pm on sustainable forest management.

Speakers will include Frank Shirley, president and Tim Castner, vice president of Shirley Forests, Chris Maron, executive director of Champlain Area Trails, Gary Goff, retired from Cornell Extension, and Deborah Boyce, forestry consultant.

Shirley Forest was established in 1955 by Dr. Hardy L. Shirley, then Dean of the SUNY College of Forestry. In 1978 the forest was incorporated, and in 1980 management of the forest was passed on to his children, Frank C. Shirley, Jon H. Shirley, and Emily Castner who are currently in the process of passing the forest on to the third generation, with Timothy Castner as vice president and David Shirley as treasurer. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Elise Tillinghast: A Squirrel As My Co-Pilot

squirrel TOSThe first red squirrel appeared at about 50 mph. It climbed up over my headrest and landed in my lap. I don’t recall the next few seconds very clearly, but according to my 5-year-old daughter Lucy, I yelled something along the lines of, “oo squirrel. oo oo. squirrel squirrel.”

What I do remember is concentrating on finding a safe place to pull over, and my surprise that the squirrel remained in my lap for the duration. It had a warm, soft weight. Puppy-like. I brought the car to a stop by some woods and pushed the button to the passenger side window. The squirrel came out of stasis, ricocheted off the steering wheel, and launched itself into the bushes.

And that, I thought, was the end of the anecdote. No harm done, and a cautionary tale about why it’s unwise to leave the sun roof open in squirrel country. » Continue Reading.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Good News For Wild Bees?

honeybees the outside storyThe honey bee is an introduced species in North America. It’s only been here about 400 years, brought by English colonists who found none after stumbling ashore and then promptly put in an order with their backers back home.

The honey bee, more properly known as the European honey bee, took to its new home, spreading across the continent faster than its keepers. Thomas Jefferson, an astute observer of nature if there ever was one, wrote that Native Americans called them “the white man’s fly.”

Bee colonies thrived in hollow trees as well as in hollow logs called “bee gums” (later bee hives) kept by beekeepers. Thrived, that is, until recently, when wild honeybee populations crashed. Of several contributing factors, the main one is undoubtedly Varroa destructor, a bloodsucking mite native to Asia.. Like a tiny eight-legged vampire, the pencil point-sized red mite latches onto a bee and sucks its hemolymph (the bee version of blood) while spreading debilitating viruses. The mite’s introduction in the mid 1990s caused a crisis in American beekeeping and swept wild colonies from the woods. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

New Book Recounts Story Of ‘Adirondack’ Cougar

courgar courtesy Bigstockphoto.comOn a snowy winter night in Lake George, in 2010, Cindy Eggleston’s motion-detecting light came on in her back yard. She looked out her kitchen window and saw a big cat. A really big cat. Her husband, a retired conservation officer, guessed that it must have been a bobcat. No, she said, “it had a long tail.” So he went out to look around. In the snow he found huge tracks and, eventually, a hair sample. DNA analysis subsequently showed that these hairs came from a cougar, an animal whose last proven presence in the Adirondacks had occurred over a century before.

The life and death of this wandering cougar, along with a history of this splendid animal in North America and a discussion of its current status, are the subjects of Heart of a Lion: A Lone Cat’s Walk across America, a fascinating book by William Stolzenburg. He debunks myths and spins an engaging and often sad story. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Killdeer: The Pasture Plover

I always do a second take when I see a killdeer skittering across a northern New Hampshire lawn, more than 100 miles from any ocean. These lanky birds look and move like they belong at the shore, running along the edges of waves. Despite their shorebird appearance, killdeer are present throughout our region – in yards, fields, parking lots, and even atop gravel rooftops.

“They’re one of our plovers, which you do usually see along the shore,” said Rebecca Suomala, a wildlife biologist with New Hampshire Audubon. “They just have a different niche.” » Continue Reading.