Friday, January 10, 2014

Adirondack Weather: Rain, Sleet or Snow?

sleetsnowiceMany years ago, I lived in San José, California where the weather forecast went something like this: Sunny for three weeks, one day of rain, followed by many more weeks of sun. There was a sameness to the weather that bordered on the banal and never made me wonder what was going on.

Not so here in the Northeast. The mercurial nature of our weather keeps us wondering from day to day – often hour to hour – when it’s going to change. The uncertainty is never more present than in the winter, when at times we’re blessed with that trifecta of miserable driving conditions: snow, sleet, and freezing rain.

Why is it that a day could start with a delicate snowfall and suddenly shift to a clattering sleet and end in an icy glaze – but the mercury doesn’t move? Or the temperature will be 30 degrees in both Elizabethtown and Plattsburgh, but snow will fall in one and freezing rain in the other? Clearly the thermometer is telling only part of the story. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Psychrophiles: Some Organisms Like It Cold

psychrophilesWe humans tend to cringe at winter temperatures. We put on extra layers, crank up the thermostat, and wait impatiently for the tell-tale drip of spring thaw. However, there are plenty of tiny organisms all around us that aren’t just biding their time; they’re thriving in the bitter cold. If you could listen to as well as watch them under a microscope, you wouldn’t hear a single complaint about the temperature.

Psychrophiles, literally “cold lovers,” are organisms adapted to live at extremely cold temperatures. These are single-celled life forms, most often bacteria, but also blue green algae, yeasts, and fungi that can grow at temperatures as low as -13 degrees. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Adirondack Ice: When The Lake Goes Boom, Boom, Boom

Andy Coney Lake PhotoIt started on the Eve before Christmas Eve, if a natural process can ever be said to have started.  Better said it was a turning point in continuing events.  Despite an early ice-in and mounds of lake effect snow only recently, for the weekend we’d had wet days with heavy rain and overnights above freezing.

Jokes at the Fire Department were that Santa Claus would arrive across the ice on water skis pulled by snowmobile to Sunday’s annual kids’ party.  (Instead he came by fire engine as he always does.)  But Monday as the afternoon ebbed, the slow drizzle grew slower and flecked into tiny snow.  Soggy-bottomed tracks left skiing one way were glazed coming back.  Wet, black roads are suddenly white. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Ed Kanze: Coming And Going On Well-Trodden Paths

ed_kanze_winterWhose woods are these I think I know—-they’re ours, although the bank that holds our mortgage might qualify the claim. Out in them for a winter walk, I enjoy seeing signs of the comings and goings of wild neighbors. Their tracks and mine overlap, and the thought of it gives me pleasure.

Listen to my thoughts after coming in out of the snow in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Adirondack Wildlife: Black Bear Bones

bear_bonesDeep in the winter-dark woods, beneath the roots of a fallen tree, a mother black bear hibernates with her two yearling cubs. In the spring, they will wake up in a near starvation condition, their fat reserves depleted. The mother bear’s bones, however, will be as strong and as thick as the day she lay down, and her young may even have added bone mass over the winter.

Bears are the only animals known to maintain their bone mass during prolonged periods of inactivity. To consider what a feat this is, consider humans’ susceptibility to bone loss: astronauts who spend six months in the weightless environment of space can lose nearly ten percent of their bone mass, and people forced to spend several months in bed may experience similar declines.

So why are bears different? And what can we learn from their biochemical processes that may help us treat osteoporosis and other bone diseases? » Continue Reading.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Proposed Regs Aimed At Controlling Wild Boar

feral-hogs1 nps.govNew York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner (DEC) has announced the proposal of new regulations that would prohibit hunting or trapping of free-ranging Eurasian boars in New York. The proposal is designed to ensure maximum effectiveness of DEC’s statewide eradication efforts. Public comments on the proposed regulations will be accepted until January 25, 2014.

Eurasian boars were brought to North America centuries ago and wild populations numbering in the millions now occur across much of the southern U.S. In recent years, wild boar populations have been appearing in more northern states too, often as a result of escapes from enclosed shooting facilities that offer “wild boar hunts.” » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Finding Snowy Owls in the Adirondacks

Snowy OwlThe vast expanses of wilderness forests that cover the Adirondacks serve as home to many forms of wildlife adapted for survival in areas where visibility is limited by trees and grasses, and grains are nearly non-existent.

Large open areas scattered throughout the Park serve to support the collection of creatures that require much greater visibility and food sources that exist on the soil’s surface. Among those animals drawn toward these open spaces is the snowy owl, which regularly migrates southward from its arctic breeding grounds in autumn to establish a winter hunting territory in more hospitable surroundings. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Arctic Cold And The Frost Line

frost line depth map New YorkWinter seems to have come early to the Adirondacks, as below zero temperatures and periodic bouts of measureable snowfall have been a part of our weather pattern since the last few weeks of November. The arctic air that has regularly swept across the region has made a sizeable dent in everyone’s wood pile, placed a strain on car batteries and forced many to wear Christmas sweaters on a daily basis.

The intense cold has also pushed the frost line down in numerous spots, which greatly impacts the existence of those creatures that attempt to survive this season by burrowing into the soil. It is difficult to determine how deep the frost line has advanced, as this critical feature of the winter environment varies greatly from one spot to another. » Continue Reading.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Ed Kanze: The Strange Case of The Frozen Frogs

ed_kanze_frogThis is a story of fire and ice in which the ice comes first. Two frogs are found by a class of school kids, the amphibians frozen in the ice covering a pond.

Were the frogs alive, and if so, what came of them? Listen here as I tell a tale of joy, sorrow, and irony in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

DEC Seeks Help With Wild Turkey Research

QF Turkey cropOver the past 10 years wild turkey populations have declined in many parts of New York State. In an effort to better understand the factors influencing population changes and how these changes affect turkey management, DEC is beginning the second year of a four-year study. This project is expected to provide wildlife managers with current estimates of harvest and survival rates for female wild turkeys, or hens, in New York and guide future management efforts.

Beginning in January, DEC will embark on a statewide effort to capture wild turkey hens and fit them with leg bands to obtain accurate data on survival and harvest. A small number of these birds will also be tagged with satellite radio-transmitters. All of the work will be done by DEC personnel on both public and private lands from January through March. The research will be concentrated in DEC Regions 3 through 9 where turkey populations are largest. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Join the 2013 Christmas Bird Count

ChristmasBirdCount_newThis will be the first time that my family makes counting birds part of our holiday tradition, though the National Audubon Society has been conducting its Christmas Bird Count (CBC) for the past 114 years. This year we, along with numerous others, will be walking roads, peering at backyard feeders and looking to the skies to track birds.

Over the past few years we’ve taken steps to learn more about birds by participating in various bird counts organized by the National Audubon Society. Putting up a bird feeder is one of the things we manage to do no matter where we’ve lived. It is so peaceful watching our feathery friends come and go. We have a bird poster near the window in case any newcomer visits our feeder. Along the way we’ve learned what food attracts which birds and how to avoid the squirrels. Well, the squirrels are still a work in progress. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Winter Wildlife: Snow Fleas

snowflea_fcps_edu3003They aren’t fleas and they’re not especially fond of snow, but other than that, snow fleas are aptly named.

On a sunny winter day you may notice tiny, dark flecks bouncing on the snow, often concentrated near the bases of trees or collecting in footprints and other indentations. While snow fleas are the size of actual fleas, don’t worry about infestation — they’re not interested in either you or your pets (please don’t take that personally). Try not to step on them, as they’ve given us the means to improve both organ transplantation and ice cream. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Porcupine Courtship: A Raucous Affair

porkyIn November, as the last colors of autumn are fading, the stark outlines of tree branches are revealed. During this time you might be lucky enough to see an occasional dark mass, looking from a distance like a burl.

Recently, on a hike through a dense forest, I spied one such anomaly high up in a white ash tree. Walking closer, I saw that this shape was a porcupine. It seemed asleep. After circling the area looking for quills and other markings, I shuffled noisily away. When I turned back, the porcupine was heading further up the tree. The branch it clung to bent precariously as the wind picked up, but the tenacious climber hung on. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Muzzleloading Season: One Last Shot

Muzzleloading Season in the adirondacksNew York’s northern zone regular firearm season came to an end this past Sunday, but that doesn’t mean it’s over for diehards here in the Adirondacks. There is a one week slot of traditional muzzleloader hunting in designated zones that gives hunters another chance to harvest a whitetail before the long winter.

Although it’s going to be cold and snowy, I’ll venture out this weekend. In the winter months deer herd-up. They congregate together for safety and warmth and often when you find one, there are several others around. That’s a perfect scenario for hunters. Although it may sound like shooting fish in a barrel, deer are very smart and can still be very hard to catch. The bucks are in the finally stages of the breeding season. I have seen does being bred by male deer well into the month of December and this late season can be an excellent chance to harvest a mature whitetail. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Learn About Visiting Snowy Owls

Snowy OwlWe’re experiencing what could be the largest-ever influx of Arctic Snowy Owls into the Northeast and the Great Lakes states, and more may be on the way.  Dr. Kevin McGowan, a biologist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology,  says this may be the first wave and we should expect more.

“More than likely these Snowy Owls are moving south from the Arctic because of a shortage of their favorite food up north—lemmings, or because of a bumper crop of young,” he said, “We can expect them to stick around through early spring before they head back to the Arctic again.”

This year’s Snowy Owl irruption is the largest recorded in decades in the Northeast and is an excellent opportunity to see these birds, so here are a few online resources to get you up to speed on our latest high profile visitors. » Continue Reading.


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