Saturday, March 13, 2021

Eagle Banded 26 Years Ago Spotted In Lewis County

eaglesThis is an outstanding opportunity to see three American bald eagles devouring their lunch, but even more fantastic of an opportunity to be able to learn there’s more to the story.

Bill Straite of Oneida County sent us this photo a while ago. No doubt, it’s a great one! DEC wildlife biologists noticed right away the center eagle was banded, and contacted the federal bird banding laboratory to learn more about it.

The eagle was banded in June 1995 – 26 years ago – in Parishville, NY, St. Lawrence County.

Photo courtesy of Bill Straite.


Friday, March 12, 2021

Flight of the cicada: Insect gears up for big event

cicada maniaMeet the Cicada Beetle.  They are big, noisy and make an appearance by the billions every 13-17 years.

May 2021 marks the month and year that we here in New York will experience a natural phenomenon of the insect world.  This phenomenon about to happen is named Brood X or The Great Eastern Brood.  Starting in May of this year, for five to six weeks, it will be virtually impossible to miss Brood X, which will be the most widespread and prolific of the known generations of cicada in the U.S.

Cicadas are members of the superfamily Cicadidae and are physically distinguished by their stout bodies, broad heads, clear-membraned wings, and large compound eyes.

There are more than 3,000 species of cicadas, which fall into roughly two categories: annual cicadas, which are spotted every year, and periodical cicadas, which spend most of their lives underground and only emerge once every decade or two.  While annual cicadas can be found throughout the world, periodicals are unique to North America. Periodical broods are concentrated in the central and eastern regions of the United States, and some areas are home to multiple broods.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Loon Conservation Center rescues birds trapped in ice

The afternoon of Valentine’s Day, we received a report of 3 loons iced-in a small puddle near the west shore of Lake George, with an eagle sitting on the edge of the ice. Apparently a 4th loon had already met its demise, so it was important to rescue these trapped birds as soon as possible. Being late in the day, it was decided to attempt the rescue the following morning.

That area of the lake had just frozen in the previous week with a couple of days of below-zero temps, so the loons were trapped by quickly forming ice. We’ve had a relatively mild winter, thus some loons had wintered over on Lakes Champlain and George.

At this time of year, loons are molting out of their winter plumage and into their black and white breeding plumage. They also completely lose their flight feathers, so they are flightless for about a month until the new ones grow in. Thus, they can easily become trapped in a small pool of water if the ice forms quickly.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Maple Sap Runs on Gas

Some foods give you gas, but March is the time of year when gas gives you a delicious food. Maple syrup, which is nutritious enough to be listed by the US Department of Agriculture as a food, is carbon dioxide-powered. If it wasn’t for a bunch of little gas bubbles in the wood or xylem tissue, maple sap would not flow. Who knew that trees were carbonated?

A mere two decades ago, biologists and arborists were at a loss to explain what causes maple sap to run. They’d typically mumble something about vacuum and straws before changing the subject. Everyone was aware that below-freezing nights followed by warm days led to sap flow. But it wasn’t until recent years that the mechanism behind sap flow was better – although still not perfectly – understood.

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Friday, March 5, 2021

2021 outlook for monarchs in the Adirondacks

monarch butterflyThe size of the overwintering population of Eastern monarch butterflies was just released on Feb 25, and the number shows yet another decline (to a total of 2.1 hectares/ 5.2 acres; details are shown in the figure below). What does this mean for the Adirondacks this coming summer?  Monarchs were abundant in the Adirondack region in 2018, just as they had been decades ago, but 2021 will be a year of many fewer, just as it was in 2020 and most recent years.

Monarchs are in decline because of multiple threats throughout their life cycle: the loss of milkweed because of industrialized agriculture in their main midwestern breeding area; logging of the overwintering forests in Mexico; drought and loss of nectar sources due to climate change; and increasing severity of killing storms.

Recently the US Fish & Wildlife service declared monarchs to be “warranted but precluded” for listing under the Endangered Species Act. That decision is well explained at: https://monarchjointventure.org/blog/faqs-endangered-species-act-listing-decision-for-monarch-butterflies. It means that the federal government will take no actions for the time being to reverse this decline even though the current figure of 2.1 hectares is much below the estimated number of 6 hectares required to sustain monarch migration.

» Continue Reading.


Friday, February 26, 2021

Woodpeckers: Nature’s Tree Drummers

woodpeckerIf you have a love for the great outdoors, chances are you have heard and or seen “Tree Drummers,” the creatures we call woodpeckers.  There are nine species of woodpeckers here in New York; Pileated Woodpeckers, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Yellow-bellied Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, American Three-toed Woodpeckers, and Black-backed Woodpeckers.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Oh, Rats! Controlling populations starts with prevention

ratsIt must be hard to foster a decent public image if your family was responsible for spreading the plagues across Europe, Asia and North Africa that killed between 75 and 200 million people. If rats were able to launch a rebranding campaign, it would never work. I imagine that even NetReputation.com would throw up their hands and give a refund.

But in spite of the many problems they cause, rats do have a few entries in the positive side of their ledger. In a CBC Radio interview, Bobby Corrigan, a renowned NYC rodentologist (yes, there is such a thing) said rats are “the most important mammal group to homo sapiens.” In addition to being test subjects for innumerable studies on human diseases and new drugs, rats have provided insights into our neurology which may not otherwise have been made, especially the way richness of environment affects brain development. They can sniff out land mines better than any human technology, and can accurately tell if a patient has tuberculosis.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, February 22, 2021

Helping deer get the food they need

Including Deer Habitat Management as Part of a Forest Management Plan 

In early fall, deer’s bodies begin converting large amounts of the food that they consume into stored fat and the deer start to put on weight. This occurs regardless of the quality of the nutrition that’s available, but in years when mast trees, such as oaks or beech, have produced an abundance of acorns or nuts, deer will seek out those high-energy foods, often remaining in areas where they can be found and pawing through the snow to get to them.

As the extreme cold sets in and snow accumulates, they’re forced to seek cover, and they become reliant upon that limited supply of stored fat to help carry them through the winter. If the season isn’t too brutally cold and the snow isn’t too deep, and if March brings welcome warmth and milder conditions overall, even deer that have been struggling will, most likely, survive. But, should winter refuse to let up, deer that have already burned through much of their winter fat reserves and can’t find enough food to sustain their weight will probably die.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, February 22, 2021

The Iconic Monarch Butterfly 

monarch caterpillarMany are familiar with the monarch butterfly, but did you know these important pollinators are in trouble? Over the past 20 years, the number of monarchs in North America has declined by over 90 percent! Loss of breeding and overwintering habitat, increased pesticide use, and climate change are some of the risks monarchs face. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that listing the monarch as an endangered or threatened species was “warranted but precluded,” meaning there are other species in greater trouble that need to be listed first.

Every fall, millions of monarchs across the northeast begin a journey to their wintering grounds in Mexico—a migration of up to 3,000 miles! However, don’t expect to see the same butterflies return to your backyard next year. You’re more likely to see their great-grandchildren or great-great-grandchildren. Every year, there are four generations of monarchs. When the fall migrants leave the wintering areas and head north in the spring, they will stop and breed as soon as they reach areas with milkweed—the only plant the monarch caterpillar eats—long before reaching the Northeast. The next two generations will continue to move north as the monarchs settle into their summer range. The fourth generation becomes the new fall migrants, starting the cycle over again. » Continue Reading.


Friday, February 19, 2021

Dragonflies: Learning to swim before they fly

adult dragonflyDragonflies are nature’s little aerial acrobats.  Likened in bodily shape to a helicopter with numerous maneuvers, they can fly straight up and down, forward and backward, hover and even mate mid-air

There are 7,000 species of dragonflies and mayflies, the dragon flies smaller cousin, in the world.

The Adirondacks are home to approximately 30 species of dragonflies. They typically stay close to water; most species of dragonfly spend the majority of their life underwater or close to the surface of the water. Depending on the species, dragonflies prefer ponds, marshes, or streams.

A dragonfly has a life span of more than a year, but very little of that life is actually as an adult dragonfly. There are three stages of the dragonfly life cycle, the egg, the nymph, and the adult dragonfly. Most of the life cycle of a dragonfly is lived out in the nymph stage where they aren’t seen at all, unless you are swimming underwater in a lake.

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Sunday, February 14, 2021

Ladybug = lovebug? Actually, not….

LadybugLady beetles may appear cute to the human eye, but in the insect world, they are fearsome predators. Considered by farmers to be a helpful pest control tool, lady beetles are welcome neighbors in Adirondack gardening communities. Nonetheless, there are controversial aspects surrounding these voracious insects. This article will describe the biology and taxonomy of the lady beetles, then discuss the multifaceted roles they play in both human and insect interactions.

Many New Yorkers are familiar with the red, round, and shiny lady beetles, but they may not be aware of the reason why they have their unusual name. In the 1690’s, this insect was named after the Virgin Mary, the “lady” that British farmers would pray to when their crops were afflicted by pests. The red coloration of the insect’s hardened outer wings, known as elytra, reminded them of the red cloak commonly worn by Mary in artwork of the time. In fact, all lady beetles are categorized in the family Coccinellidae, a term drawing its origins from the Latin coccinus, meaning “scarlet.” Many lady beetles are red; however, some are yellow, black, orange, pink, and/or white. 

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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Decoding katydids’ musical numbers

KatydidSome of us ride out the pandemic by basking in the pale glow of another Netflix binge. Insects play background roles in many of our favorite shows; therefore, my fellow couch surfers might be familiar with closed-caption terms like “insects trilling,” or “insects buzzing.”

While these phrases might capture the qualitative experience of arthropod auditory activities, they overlook the specificity of each message. Here in the Adirondacks, katydids are insects that can be heard producing tailor-made soundtracks through the summer into early fall. This article will describe the characteristics of katydids, explore the different types of songs produced by Adirondack katydids, and explain the impact these songs have on the local ecosystem.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2021

An Occasional Nip Does Some Good

CatnipA friend who once worked nights in a resort bar was asked by a patron where to find “weed.” As it happened, my pal’s day job was farming, and his truck had plenty of hay chaff, so as a prank he bagged some and gave it to the grateful chap. The next night the guy wanted more, claiming it was great, much to my friend’s surprise. “Who knows what else might be growing in the alfalfa,” he quipped to me with a shrug.

My first thought was that it could have been catnip (Nepeta cataria), a member of the mint family which has marked opioid-like effects on cats, and mild sedative effects on humans. It can be found in many herbal tea blends designed to help with stress or insomnia. Native to Europe, Africa and Asia, catnip long ago became naturalized in the Americas, and now grows pretty much everywhere except for the Arctic and high elevations. In fact, if you live in the country, you likely have some growing on your land.

» Continue Reading.


Friday, February 5, 2021

Red Foxes: Truly Magnetic Creatures

FoxIt takes a matter of seconds for residents here in the mountains to identify a fox.  These small, doglike creatures stick out like a sore thumb as they roam above the now cold, white landscape in their pursuit of their next meal.  Foxes are amazing creatures built for the hunt with numerous abilities that aid in survival.  What are these abilities?

Enhanced senses

It’s not evident from a distance but if you’re privileged to come into close proximity, you would see foxes have vertical pupils. This allows them to see well in the dark as well as giving them a wider field of view, 200 degrees compared to humans at 180 degrees.  Their eyes also have six to eight times more rod cells, allowing the fox to sense motion in the dark.

Foxes have quite the proboscis! They have a very keen sense of smell and have been known to find carcasses of livestock buried under deep snow and several inches below the surface. Their snouts are long and their noses are wet, allowing them to smell by dissolving the chemicals in the air and indicating the wind direction.

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Thursday, February 4, 2021

Amphibian Migrations & Road Crossings Training for Volunteers Feb. 10

salamanderOn rainy spring nights when weather conditions are right, large numbers of salamanders and frogs emerge from winter hibernation in the forest and make their way to woodland pools, where they’ll mate and lay eggs. Many migrating amphibians need to cross roads to reach these vernal pools. The Amphibian Migrations and Road Crossings Project enlists volunteers to find locations in the Hudson Valley where migrations cross roads; document weather and traffic conditions; record migrating amphibians; and help them across the road.

Are you interested in volunteering? The Amphibian Migrations & Road Crossings (AM&RC) Project is offering an online training program on Wednesday, February 10, 4:30 p.m. – 6 p.m. This session will serve as an introduction to new participants and a refresher for returning volunteers. If you’ve never attended an AM&RC training, we strongly encourage you to watch the recorded training modules on YouTube for more in-depth instruction and information, prior to the online program.

The training on February 10 will include:

» Continue Reading.