Sunday, November 18, 2018

Wild Turkeys Facing An Uncertain Future

wild turkey - maleThe wild turkey, Meleagris gallopavo, is one of only two domesticated birds native to North America. The Muscovy duck is the other. Five sub-species make up the entire North American population. The most abundant is the eastern wild turkey, sub-species silvestris, meaning forest, which ranges across the entire eastern half of the United States and parts of eastern Canada. They’re readily identified by their brown-tipped tail feathers, which spread into a fan when the birds are courting or alarmed and by the bold black and white bar pattern displayed on their wing feathers. This is the same turkey variety encountered by the Pilgrims. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, November 17, 2018

Flight of the Flunker Moth

winter moths In early November, I flicked on the porch light and took out the trash. In the brief time it took, a couple of late-season moths found their way to my porch light, and as I slipped through the back door, one of them joined me inside. I cupped my uninvited guest under a drinking glass and took him out for liberation; and “him” turned out to be correct.

Before the release, I couldn’t resist a closer look. It was unmistakable: a “flunker moth.” But don’t expend energy on a Google search; it will come up empty because the term is a Vermont original coined perhaps by the venerable Dr. Ross Bell or by students in his Field Zoology course which I had the privilege to take in the 1990s. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Happy As A Clam: Anthropomorphizing Animals

Wile E CoyoteHappiness may be elusive, but it sure has spawned a lot of aphorisms. Folk-wisdom indicates one can be happy as a pig in poop — or in mud, which makes me wonder if those two hogs are equally content, and if they had other options. It also suggests you can be pleased as a pig in a peach orchard, which would make sense unless harvest season was over. Additionally, one might feel happy as a pup with two tails, a monkey with a peanut machine, or a clam at high tide.

With such a menagerie of animal comparisons, it seems fair to ask if animals are able to feel emotions such as happiness. Most biologists caution against anthropomorphizing, a term which sounds like it could mean morphing into an animal, in which case I would agree, because who knows if you would make it back again. Actually what they are saying is that we should not ascribe human-like motives or emotions to wild or domestic animals. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Boxelder and its Namesake Bugs

Boxelder bug Comedian Rodney Dangerfield’s shtick was the phrase, “I don’t get no respect,” always followed by one of his great self-deprecatory one-liners.

If Rodney Dangerfield were a tree, he might be Acer negundo – the boxelder, which also gets no respect. When boxelder isn’t being ignored, it’s being disparaged, dismissed, or damned with faint praise.

Boxelder, also known as ash-leaved maple, can be a fairly big tree: it can grow 50 to 75 feet tall and more than two feet in diameter, though it often has multiple trunks. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Master Gardener Training Planned For Warren County

master gardenerApplication are now being accepted for the Warren County Master Gardener training program that will begin in January 2019. The program is open to anyone who has an interest in expanding their gardening experience and knowledge. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Study: Widely Used Repellent Lethal For Salamanders

Salamander Insect repellents containing picaridin can be lethal to salamanders. So reports a new study published in Biology Letters that investigated how exposure to two common insect repellents influenced the survival of aquatic salamander and mosquito larvae.

Insect repellents are a defense against mosquito bites and mosquito-borne diseases like dengue, chikungunya, Zika, and West Nile virus. Salamanders provide natural mosquito control. During their aquatic juvenile phase, they forage on mosquito larvae, keeping populations of these nuisance insects in check. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, October 28, 2018

Tiny Owls Are On The Move

Saw Whet Owl Every autumn, when the air tastes of apples and leaves crunch underfoot, my thoughts turn to tiny owls – northern saw-whet owls (Aegolius acadicus) to be exact. Just eight inches in length with a round head and bright yellow eyes, the saw-whet is arguably New England’s most endearing owl. Deer mice, I suspect, would beg to differ.

Saw-whets are small, secretive, nocturnal, and very often silent. As a result, until relatively recently, their migration patterns were poorly understood. Project Owlnet, a network of researchers spanning much of North America with a particular concentration in the northeastern U.S., is changing that. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, October 27, 2018

Animal Intelligence: Head of the Class

brain sizesWhen the topic of animal intelligence comes up, we might argue whether a crow or a parrot is the more clever, or if dolphins are smarter than manatees. Seldom do we ascribe smarts to life-forms such as insects, plants or fungi. And it is rare indeed that we question our intellectual primacy among animals. It is true that no other species can point to monumental achievements such as the Colosseum, acid rain, nerve gas and atomic bombs. But that does not mean other species are bird-brained. Metaphorically speaking.

It makes sense that elephants and whales are whiz-kids, given the size of their heads. Depending on species, whale brains weigh between 12 and 18 pounds (5.4-8 kg.), and Dumbo’s cranium would tip the scale at around 11 lbs. (5.1 kg.). Compared to them, our 3-pound (1.3 kg.) brains are small potatoes. What sets mammal brains apart from other classes of animal is the neocortex, the outermost region of the brain responsible for higher functions such as language and abstract thinking. » Continue Reading.


Monday, October 22, 2018

Shady Characters: Paul Hetzler On Nature

shady charactersRegular Adirondack Almanack contributor Paul Hetzler is the author of a new book of nature essays, Shady Characters: Plant Vampires, Caterpillar Soup, Leprechaun Trees and Other Hilarities of the Natural World (Lexingford Publishing, 2018).

Paul Hetzler knows all about nature in all its wonders, complexities, and hilarities, and weaves considerable wit with a range of wisdom. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, October 20, 2018

Mallards: The Chevy Impala of Ducks

Mallard Ducks My francophone wife is often amused as I commence à apprendre la langue, like the time I said connard when I meant canard. For the monolingual English-speakers out there, canard means duck, while the rough equivalent of connard is a word that rhymes with “spithead,” and that you don’t want your kids to say. But where mallards and other puddle-ducks are concerned, the two are related. The drake (male) can be an absolute connard sometimes.

The Darwinian principle “survival of the fittest” is not always about who wins the antler fight or arm-wresting contest. Fitness means being well-suited to one’s environment so as to live long enough to reproduce and thus pass on one’s DNA. Above all else, it means being adaptable. » Continue Reading.


Monday, October 15, 2018

Toad Toxin: Don’t Mess with Anaxyrus

american toad When my kids were toddlers, they discovered, quite happily, a toad in a damp corner of their sandbox, tucked into the shade beneath the small, triangular piece of wood that served as a seat. The toad seemed to spend most days there, probably waiting until dark to emerge and hunt bugs and slugs.

Thankfully, back then, we had a more mature dog who was wise in the ways of the world – not the goofy pup we have now, who I’m sure will learn the hard way not to eat toads. Many a clueless canine has clamped its mouth around an American toad – the species found most commonly in our region – only to be introduced to bufotoxins, a toad’s best defense against being eaten. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, October 14, 2018

Indian Pipe: Ghost Flowers of the Forest

indian pipe On a walk in the woods in early fall, you may see a cluster of waxy, white stems with tiny, scale-like leaves rising out of the leaf litter or pine needles. At the end of each translucent stem is an odd, bell-shaped flower. This is Indian pipe, named for its resemblance to the clay pipes once smoked by Native Americans and early settlers.

Indian pipe, also known as corpse plant and ghost flower, has an unusual strategy for survival. It lacks the green pigment chlorophyll, and therefore cannot make its own food through photosynthesis as most plants do. Indian pipe and its relatives were formerly believed to live off decaying organic matter and were called saprophytes. However, more recent research has revealed that the plant is a parasite, sucking up nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi in the soil. Trees and mycorrhizal fungi have a symbiotic relationship: the fungi absorb nutrients from the trees; the trees benefit by increasing the surface area of their root systems, allowing them to drink in more water and minerals. Indian pipe interjects itself into this relationship, absorbing nutrients from the mycorrhizal fungi but giving nothing back. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, October 7, 2018

On The Watch For Porcelain Berry

porcelain berries A total lunar eclipse is likely more common than the swift removal of a novel invasive plant infestation, but fingers are crossed that such a thing happened in St. Lawrence County this summer. The plant eradication, I mean — we all know about the celestial event this past July, the first central lunar eclipse since June 2011. Thanks to the sharp eyes of Dr. Tony Beane, a Professor of Veterinary Science at SUNY Canton who is also an avid naturalist, an exotic vine capable of smothering fields and forests has been eliminated within weeks of its confirmation in the Ogdensburg area. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, October 6, 2018

DEC Advises Public To Watch for Adirondack Moose

Adirondack moose 3 (DEC Photo)Motorists should be alert for moose on roadways in the Adirondacks and surrounding areas at this time of year during peak moose activity, advises the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

Early fall is the breeding season for moose in northern New York. During this time moose are wandering looking for mates, leading them to areas where they are not typically seen. While this improves the opportunities for people to enjoy sighting of a moose, it also increases the danger of colliding with one on the roadway. » Continue Reading.


Friday, October 5, 2018

Adirondack Loon Celebration, Art Show At Paul Smith’s VIC

The loon is such an iconic symbol of wilderness with its haunting call, red eyes, and distinctive markings. With all wildlife, we need to understand how to respect its boundaries while admiring it in its natural habitat. Thanks to the Adirondack Loon Center for Loon Conservation, there is a place to learn more about this aquatic bird.

The annual Adirondack Loon Celebration takes place at the Paul Smith’s VIC, October 7 from 1 to 5 pm, with a schedule of activities emphasizing the importance of loons to the Adirondack ecosystem. Live music with Celia Evans, Green Goddess food, silent auction, children’s activities, and other loon related activities are just part of the fun-filled day. » Continue Reading.