Monday, May 15, 2017

Brown Trout Found In Heritage Brook Trout Pond

troutWhile fishing in Black Pond on a rainy mid-April day, Jake Kuryla caught a 13-inch brown trout. The fish surprised the Paul Smith’s College fisheries major because Black Pond is a specially designated brook trout water.

Located on Paul Smith’s College property in Paul Smiths, Black Pond is used to raise Windfall strain brook trout for stocking purposes.  Every fall, DEC live trap brook trout in the pond to get eggs from the females and milt (semen) from the males. The DEC then uses the fertilized eggs to raise young trout that are stocked in other ponds. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Wetlands: A Great Duckweed Migration

The word ‘migration’ conjures images of vast wildebeest or pronghorn herds crossing plains in unison, or hummingbirds traversing the Gulf of Mexico. When charismatic birds leave our Northeastern forests, migration is typically the explanation. But how can a group of plants disappear, without discarding leaves, stems, or other evidence of their presence?

Duckweeds are in the subfamily Lemnoideae and are the world’s smallest flowering plant. Their small oval leaves float on ponds and quiet backwaters. Root-like fibers dangle in the water. Although I’d noticed them on St. Michael’s College experimental ponds, as an entomologist, I’d never paid them close attention. Until they disappeared. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Porcupines And Their Need For Salt

Over the next several weeks, the buds on hardwood trees and shrubs will open and the forests will again be cloaked in green, providing our many herbivores with a welcome change in their diet. While many plant eaters are able to subsist on woody buds and cellulose laden layers of inner bark throughout winter, leafy matter provides far greater levels of nourishment. The porcupine, a common denizen of the deep Northwood’s forest, is among our region’s first order consumers to ingest greens when they emerge in spring.

In winter, the porcupine settles into a routine of eating only the bark and needles of a very few species of trees in the area around its den. The stomach and small intestine of this rodent contain strains of microorganisms that act on this ultra-high fiber material in order to derive the energy needed to remain alive in this climate. Yet the limited amount of nutrients, particularly nitrogen, in such plant tissues makes this type of food less than ideal for maintaining a healthy diet. Despite ingesting large volumes of woody matter each night in winter, the porcupine often loses weight continuously as this bleak season progresses. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Scarlet Tanagers: A Precious Stone with Wings

tanagerOne day last spring, I pulled into a parking lot in Thetford, Vermont, and saw a flash of brilliant red. Instantly, I knew it was a male scarlet tanager (Piranga olivacea). He was perched in a cluster of bushes and everything around him – the fresh spring leaves, a nearby robin, the recently revived grass – paled in comparison. Nothing could compete with his blaze of color.

This time of year, the male scarlet tanager has a ruby-red body, flanked by jet-black wings and an equally black tail. He’s like a precious stone with wings. The female is olive yellow, with brighter yellow on her throat and face. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Saturday Is A Global Big Day For Birders

yucatan jayThe third annual Global Big Day takes place on May 13, 2017. The term traditionally applies to any effort to identify as many bird species as possible in a single day. Bird watchers around the world are invited to watch and count birds for any length of time on that day and enter their observations online at eBird.org.

“The past two Global Big Days have set back-to-back world records for the most bird species seen in a single day,” says Chris Wood at the Cornell Lab. “During last year’s Global Big Day bird watchers from more than 150 countries tallied more than 60 percent of the world’s bird species.” » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Adirondack Name Game: Grass or Grasse River?

My recent story on the Adirondack pearl fishery in the Russell area of St. Lawrence County elicited a comment stating that two names, Plumb Brook and Grass River, had been misspelled, and that the correct terms were Plum Brook and Grasse River.

Local names for topographical features often become distorted over time, especially when usage is passed on by word of mouth, but it’s important to know place-name origins. In many cases, there are records giving the officially recognized names of streams, populated places, mountains, and the like. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Tomato Blight Conclusions and Confusion

early blightIf jumping to conclusions was a sport, I might have played pro. In my prime I went for the long jumps. Like concluding that since I had once casually said to my spouse that backyard laying hens might be fun, she would not be upset when months later I came home with four dozen layers, plus a dog from the farmer where I got the hens. Can’t say jumping to conclusions worked out real well for me, but we all dabble in it.

For example if you heard of a first-time Massachusetts politician with the last name Kennedy being sworn in to the U.S. House of Representatives, it would be normal to conclude she was related to Representative Joe Kennedy. A short jump, but there is a chance the two would not be related. So gardeners can be forgiven for concluding that two diseases that affect tomatoes and potatoes, both having the same last name, are related, or even the same thing. However, early blight is not related to late blight. Or urban blight for that matter. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Before The Black Flies Come, There Are Ants

carpenter antPrior to the start of black fly season, and continuing for several weeks after the swarms of those tiny, biting demons have faded, there is another insect onslaught that impacts numerous people throughout the Adirondacks. Shortly after the soil has thawed in spring, ants begin to invade the living space of humans, especially kitchens and dining areas where bits of food are readily available.

Since there are so many types and species of ants in the North Country, it is impossible to say what kind of ant is appearing around countertops, near pantry closets, in garbage containers, and under tables where morsels of edibles lie undisturbed on the floor. However, it is easy to state that numerous ants readily welcome themselves indoors, as long as there is something worthwhile for them to collect and transport back to their colony. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Paul Hetzler: Keep Off the Grass

lawn careAs a kid of about five, I became suspicious of lawns. In a rare moment of TV viewing, I had seen a public-service ad wherein a bundle of green leafy stuff thudded into an eerily vacant playground while a baritone voice boomed out something like “Grass. We think it’s bad for kids. Stay away from it.” My mom insisted this was “bad grass” which did not grow in our yard. However, she declined to elaborate, which fueled my mistrust. So I kept off the lawn a while.

These days, “bread” is no longer money, “mint” is just a flavor, and the pernicious leafy stuff mostly goes by other names. There is only one grass, and it is almost time to cut it again. Jargon may change, but things like paying taxes and mowing lawns don’t seem to. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

History of Hunting North Country Freshwater Pearls (Conclusion)

Those freshwater pearl collectors searching Plumb Brook and other small tributaries (near Russell in St. Lawrence County) did so by the standard method of wading, hunched over, with pail in hand, and plucking clams from the gravelly streambed. The varying depths of the Grass River required more complex methods that were used in clamming operations elsewhere. Similar to how spruce-gum pickers used a spud (a long pole with a scraper attached to remove deposits from high in the trees), pearl fishers used spuds with a set of nippers that were used to clasp and retrieve clams from a riverbed. The catch was then deposited in a perforated pail worn around the neck.

In shallow currents, where visibility suffered, pearl fishers wore what was called a “glass”—a wooden box big enough to fit around the wearer’s head. While the top was open, the bottom had a glass plate, allowing the user to view the riverbed, snorkel-like, by pressing the glass-covered portion into the water. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Research Finds Increased Infected Ticks in Adirondacks

deer tickPaul Smith’s College’s efforts to monitor tick populations and tick-borne pathogens in the Adirondack region, in collaboration with the New York State Department of Health, have documented an increase in infected ticks in the North Country.

Focusing primarily on St. Lawrence, Clinton, Franklin and Essex counties, Paul Smith’s College biology professor Dr. Lee Ann Sporn, a team of students and Adirondack Watershed Institute stewards have been collecting blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, which are tested by the Department of Health for disease-causing agents. In addition to an increase in the bacteria causing Lyme disease, the researchers have also recently found ticks carrying the agent that causes human babesiosis for the first time ever in the North Country. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Native Plants: All About Wild Leeks

wild rampsThe white bulbs of wild leeks, also called ramps (especially in the south), can be eaten year round, but it’s the early leaves that are most appreciated. In pre-freezer days, ramps were the first greens available after five or so months of potatoes and they were considered important as well as good tasting. Ramp festivals are still held in much of Appalachia to celebrate the arrival of this nutritious fresh food, and these tourist attractions have become so successful that in some places ramps are over-harvested.

Wild leeks are spring ephemerals that have no flowers in the spring. I know this is confusing; there’s a tendency to call every spring-blooming thing an ephemeral. But most spring wildflowers keep their leaves through the summer and therefore don’t qualify – it’s the extra short lifespan of the photosynthetic machinery that defines a spring ephemeral, not the timing of flowering. The rounded flower heads of leeks appear in July, well after the leaves have withered and disappeared. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

1890s Adirondack Freshwater Pearl Fever

Balsam pillows, maple syrup, spruce gum, custom-made rustic furniture — they’re all products comprised of raw materials native to the Adirondacks. Other businesses, current or defunct, have similar roots, but occasionally in regional history we find homegrown livelihoods that seem an odd fit for the North Country. Among the unlikeliest of those is pearl harvesting — not in the St. Lawrence River or Lake Champlain, but in creeks and rivers of the Adirondacks and foothills.

Pearls, considered the oldest of the world’s gems, are deeply rooted in history dating back thousands of years. They were highly valued in ancient Chinese, Indian, Egyptian, Roman, and Arabian cultures. Polynesia, Ceylon, and the Persian Gulf were the primary pearl sources, but as man is wont to due, excessive harvesting badly depleted the world supply. While the search continued for natural alternatives, the first cultured pearl (cultivated through a process that imitated nature) was developed in the 1890s. Patent battles to control the method continued until 1916, but in the meantime, many countries turned to harvesting pearls from fresh-water clams. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Beloved Wild Center River Otter Dies

Officials at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake have announced the passing of Remy, one of the natural history museum’s four river otters. Remy, who was eight years old, passed away at The Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Health Center at Cornell University on April 23rd after a brief illness. A necropsy will be performed, with results expected in a few weeks. During his illness, Remy was under the care of Cornell staff.

Remy was born in 2009 at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium and came to The Wild Center in 2010. Typically, in the wild, otters live approximately 8-12 years.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

North Country Woodpeckers: Signs of Spring

woodpeckerTrees speak many languages, their leaves whooshing in summer and trunks creaking in winter. At the onset of spring, trees become sounding boards for courtship. Before the thrushes and warblers and sparrows arrive to sing from branches and boughs, woodpeckers kick off the spring chorus with a drumroll.

Although woodpeckers certainly vocalize, usually with sharp calls or harsh chattering, drumming is one of the most reliable early signs of spring – a proclamation of territoriality and an advertisement to the opposite sex. » Continue Reading.