Thursday, May 25, 2017

Do Mice Get Cavities? All About Mammal Teeth

rodent skullWhen my daughter was four, she once asked, “Do mice get cavities?” We were coming back from the dentist, so teeth were on her mind and so were mice, since her pet mouse had recently escaped. Later in the day, she asked if ducks had teeth; such is the ranging nature of her intellect.

Why all the toothy questions? Because our teeth are interesting. Ask a dentist. And so are the teeth of our wild neighbors. Teeth can tell a lot about a species’ line of work — particularly what they eat and how they catch their dinner. Teeth are action-oriented; incisors nip and gnaw, canines stab and hold, premolars cut, sheer, slice, and grind, molars mash and crush. Teeth forms hint at a species’ evolutionary story, and crown wear can tell much about the age of an animal. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 22, 2017

DEC Urges New Yorkers: If You Care, Leave It There

young buck fawnThe New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has cautioned visitors to natural areas against interacting with newborn fawns and other young wildlife as the peak birthing season starts. Those that see a fawn or other newborn wildlife should enjoy their encounter but keep it brief, maintain some distance, and not attempt to touch the animal.

This time of year, it is not unusual to see a young bird crouched in the yard or a young rabbit in the flower garden, both seemingly abandoned. Finding a deer fawn lying by itself is also common. Many people assume that young wildlife found alone are helpless and need assistance. However, human interaction typically does more damage than good. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

NY State Expands Emerald Ash Borer Quarantine

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Department of Agriculture and Markets (DAM) have announced that eight existing Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) Restricted Zones have been expanded and merged into a single Restricted Zone in order to strengthen the State’s efforts to slow the spread of this invasive pest.

The new EAB Restricted Zone includes part or all of Albany, Allegany, Broome, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Chenango, Chemung, Columbia, Cortland, Delaware, Dutchess, Erie, Genesee, Greene, Livingston, Madison, Monroe, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Orange, Orleans, Oswego, Otsego, Putnam, Rensselaer, Rockland, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Sullivan, Tioga, Tompkins, Ulster, Wayne, Westchester, Wyoming, and Yates counties. The EAB Restricted Zone prohibits the movement of EAB and potentially infested ash wood. The map is available on DEC’s website. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Winter Wrens in the Adirondacks

Spending time outdoors in the Adirondacks during spring is a rewarding experience, as the sounds that emanate from our forests, especially in the early morning, are sure to delight. While the musical calls produced by most birds are relatively short and composed of only a handful of notes, there are a few songs that are considerably longer and more complex.

The lengthiest and most intricate song that commonly graces our woodlands is one heard in patches of mixed forests where dense clusters of undergrowth or ground debris exist on the forest floor. This fast tempo melody is quite loud, yet comes from one of the smallest birds to nest in the Adirondacks – the winter wren. » Continue Reading.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Citizen Science: Project BudBurst

Participating in various Citizen Science projects allows my family to learn about our local landscape while contributing data to long-term science research. We’ve helped with FrogWatch USA, part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, to help familiarize us with our local wetlands through the identification of frog and toad calls. We contribute to Monarch Watch, which is currently focusing on the Spring First-of-Year Sightings. This year we started tracking various plants around our area.

Started in 2007, Project BudBurst is a Citizen Science project relying on volunteers across the United States to monitor native plants at various times throughout the seasons. Participants observe and record data based on leafing, flowering, and fruiting of various plants. Those stages are called the plant phenophases, the observable stages in the plant’s annual life cycle. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Only Bury Your Tree After It’s Dead

4H volunteer planting a tree in WarrensburgIn springtime, driving around on weekends makes me sad. Invariably I’ll pass someone out in their yard, shovel in hand, maybe with their kids or spouse, and they have a cute little tree from the garden center on one side of them, and a wicked deep hole in the ground on the other. If I wasn’t so shy, I’d stop and offer my condolences, because clearly they are having a funeral for the tree.

Here’s an arborist joke: What do you call a three-foot deep planting hole for a tree? Its grave. Tree root systems are broad — three times the branch length, barring an impediment — and shallow. Ninety percent of tree roots are in the top ten inches of soil, and 98% are in the top eighteen inches. Tree roots are shallow because they like to breathe on a regular basis. I think we can all relate to that. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Don’t Go Out Without A Net: It’s Black-fly Season in the Adirondacks

Bug net photo of and by Tracy Ormsbee

With the blooming of the first spring flowers comes another rite of spring: black flies. Consider this a warning, since you may have a little time before they start biting, according to scientist Curt Stager, a professor at Paul Smith’s College.

“They’re out already,” he said, adding, “Often they don’t bite right away. They just swarm and see what’s on the buffet.”

And that’s us. » Continue Reading.


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.


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