Before winter sets in, all reptiles and amphibians must retreat to a location that provides shelter against the temperatures that would be lethal to their cold-blooded system. While some find refuge underground, others rely on the protection afforded by water and seek out a place on the bottom of an aquatic setting in which ice is unlikely to develop, even during periods of intense cold.
All turtles that live in the Adirondacks belong to this second group, including the wood turtle, a seldom encountered species that exists in limited numbers in scattered locations, especially in the eastern half of the Park. » Continue Reading.
“We are part of a movement,” Dale Penny reminded the 50 people and representatives of 25 organizations gathered for the workshop on Nov. 3, 2012. Stewarding the Wild Adirondacks was the first workshop of its kind to bring as many of the Adirondack Park’s natural resource stewardship programs as possible together in one place to discuss ways to better collaborate. Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve was the workshop sponsor, and Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center its host. International Paper helped provide underwriting support for the event.
Dale Penny is president of the Student Conservation Association, America’s conservation service organization which places over 4,200 young people annually in demanding conservation and stewardship jobs in rural and urban settings across the country, including the Adirondack Park. » Continue Reading.
A new effort to protect the rare Bicknell’s Thrush by an alliance of North American scientists and conservationists is taking the unusual step of funding a team of Dominican biologists to work in the migratory songbird’s Caribbean wintering habitat.
The Bicknell’s Thrush Habitat Protection Fund at the Adirondack Community Trust has awarded a $5,000 grant to Grupo Jaragua, whose biologists will study the thrush in forested mountains on the Dominican Republic’s border with Haiti. The grant recognizes a need to protect the songbird across its entire range, particularly in its threatened winter destinations. » Continue Reading.
One autumn day, 15 years ago, I found myself perched on a ladder that was leaning against a highway sign on Interstate 89 somewhere in Vermont. There was a wooden box clamped to one of the sign poles at least 15 feet off the ground, although fear may have exaggerated that memory. I was providing a little autumn house-keeping for one of those nest boxes so it’d be ready when the kestrels returned to breed the next spring.
The box was one of 10 kestrel nest boxes then deployed along the interstate by the Vermont Agency of Transportation, or VTrans. It’s a feel-good project started in 1995 with $40, some scrap wood, and plenty of volunteer hours from VTrans employees, who built the boxes on their own time. Since then, about 90 kestrels have fledged and four orphaned young were fostered in the boxes. That’s a lot of bang for the buck, or rather, a lot of birds for the box. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced the results of last winter’s survey of the hibernating bats in New York. The survey was a cooperative effort among state wildlife officials, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and numerous volunteers to monitor the effects of white-nose disease, a fungal infection that has devastated regional bat populations since it was first documented in a cave near Albany (in Schoharie County) in 2006. Since then white nose disease has spread throughout the South, Midwest, and eastern parts of Canada. Earlier this month new cases were identified for the first time west of the Mississippi in Missouri.
According to a study in Science, little brown myotis, a once common local species, has experienced a population collapse that could lead to its extinction in the northeastern US within 20 years. The Forest Service recently estimated that the die-off from white-nose will leave 2.4 million pounds of bugs uneaten and a financial burden to farms. A growing scientific consensus agrees the cause is Geomyces destructans; there is still debate over whether or not it was introduced from Europe by cavers. » Continue Reading.
When entomologist James Needham arrived in Upper Saranac Lake in 1900 on a mission to study Adirondack aquatic insects, he found no room at the Saranac Inn. For the first 10 days, Needham, State Entomologist Ephraim P. Felt, and their assistant Cornelius Betten, were forced to find lodging two miles from the Adirondack Fish Hatchery where they hoped to “collect and study the habits of aquatic insects, paying special attention to the conditions necessary for the existence of the various species, their relative value as food for fishes, the relations of the forms to each other, and their life histories.” Although their study was short, it was also a historic first, up until that time all that had been written about Adirondack aquatic insects amounted to a few short paragraphs by former State Entomologist J. A. Lintner (1889). The daily trek to their study area didn’t diminish their enthusiasm. “I arrived at Saranac Inn on the evening of June 12m and at once began looking over the ground,” Needham recalled. “Dr. Felt came on the 14th, and spent the day with me canvassing the situations to be studied… and the regular work of the session was at once begun, to be continued without cessation to the date of closing [on August 20].” The study session was the first of a comprehensive study of aquatic insects in the state funded by the NYS Museum that also included short surveys in Old Forge and Lake George, and two additional trips to the Saranac Inn.
Needham and Felt identified a number waters to be studied. They were provided by the hatchery a space to work, the use of several hatching troughs for insect breeding, a carpenter bench and tools to build specialized breeding cages, and a small boat. They brought with them or acquired additional equipment necessary to sweep vegetation, raise insects, and store their collections. “Extensive use was made of white wash bowls, soup plates and saucers in the examination of our catch,” Needham reported.
The entomologists chose Little Clear creek on the hatchery grounds for their study area, which proved to be the most fruitful, but also the hatchery’s three fish propagating ponds, Little Clear, Little Green, and Bone. Twice they made trips to Lake Colby, Stony Brook (just north of Axton) and St. Regis, at the end of the carry from Little Clear, and the first week they spent mornings and evenings at Lake Clear.
The study they produced, “Aquatic Insects of the Adirondacks” (NYS Museum Bulletin 47, September 1901, link to pdf), proved to be the most important study of the subject for more than 100 years. It was one of the first truly scientific studies of aquatic insects in North America, and yielded life histories of more than 100 species, the discovery of 10 new species and and two new genera, plus additional information about Chironomidae dragon flies.
Needham, who studied under renowned entomologist John Henry Comstock (1849–1931), was then refining his pretracheation insect wing theory. Although discredited in 1938 by more refined studies, Needham’s work was the basis for the Comstock–Needham System of naming insect wing veins, considered “an important step in showing the homology of all insect wings.” Needham later replaced Comstock as head of the Department of Entomology at Cornell, a position he held for more than 20 years.
A new study by Luke Myers (a Saranac native) and Timothy Mihuc of the Lake Champlain Research Institute at SUNY Plattsburgh, along with Boris Kondratieff of Colorado State University, highlights the role of Needham and Betten in the rise to prominence of of aquatic insect entomology in New York State in the early 20th century and treads new ground as an important update to our knowledge of aquatic insects in the Adirondack region.
After four years of studying mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies, Myers (who did much of the fieldwork with the assistance of self-taught caddisfly expert D.E. Ruiter), Mihuc, and Kondratieff have produced what is being considered the most comprehensive biodiversity study of those aquatic insects in the Adirondacks.
According to a story by Mike Lynch in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, “Myers and his team examined 25,000 specimens from 465 locations. They found 509 species of mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies, including 99 that were reported in this state for the first time. They also discovered several species new to science and some species of conservation concern.”
Even given the new techniques and equipment available to modern researchers, that’s no mean feat. It’s also one that will be a welcome addition to those interested in the biodiversity of Adirondack wetlands and their place in the larger ecology of the region.
Photos: Above, Little Clear creek, Adirondack Fish Hatchery (1900 NYS Museum Photo); Middle, illustration from the 1901 report “Aquatic Insects – Sepedon and Tetanecera”; Below, Luke Myers working on the Raquette River near Axton Landing (Photo Provided).
The spattering of sizable tracts of boreal forests that remain in the Adirondacks serve as home to several species of birds that have evolved the ability to survive in northern taiga woodlands. Among the feathered creatures that are well adapted for a life in lowland stands of conifers is the spruce grouse (Falcipennis canadensis), a dark colored bird viewed by some as being as much a symbol of the Great Northwood’s as the moose.
As its name implies, the spruce grouse inhabits those softwood forests dominated mainly by spruce; yet not all spruce forests serve as home to this northern bird. High elevation forests that cover the upper slopes of our tallest peaks are not as suitable as lowland locations despite the similar presence of spruce and balsam fir. Because higher altitudes are more frequently buffeted by strong winds, the microclimate that exists there is more adverse than the one that characterizes sheltered, lowland settings. » Continue Reading.
Imagine if the population of Adirondack loons had declined more than 50 percent over the past two decades. Imagine too that loons stood a 35 percent chance of vanishing entirely from the Park by 2020.
Wouldn’t there be a public outcry from bird lovers and conservationists? Wouldn’t the Adirondack Council, which features a loon call on its website, be demanding that the state do something to stop the decline?
Don’t worry. The loon population appears to be stable. It’s only the spruce grouse that is in danger of vanishing from the Adirondack Park. » Continue Reading.
While walking through the West Virginian highlands, John Davis was struck by the character of the forest: all the trees were middle-aged and the ground was covered with ferns. There were almost no saplings or wildflowers.
“You could almost call them fern glades,” he said. “To the eye, they’re very pretty, but they’re biologically impoverished. These forests just aren’t regenerating themselves.”
The problem is that deer are overbrowsing. And the solution, Davis says, is to bring back the cougar.
A former conservation director of the Adirondack Council, Davis this week finished a 7,600-mile, 280-day journey from the southern tip of Florida to the eastern tip of the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec. He traveled mostly by foot, bike, and canoe. » Continue Reading.
Interest in bats has steadily increased over the past several years as the problem of white-nose syndrome has become more acute, especially in the Adirondacks. As people become more familiar with this unique group of mammals, numerous questions regarding their ability to survive the ravages of this rapidly spreading disease continually arise.
While there are answers to a few questions, most have none, other than “best guesses” or “ideas” from very intelligent wildlife biologists who have regularly studied these creatures. However, even the experts are limited in responding to some questions about bats, as there has not been much research conducted into numerous aspects of their natural history and population status, especially here in the Park. Although some features of bats are well known, many habits and behavioral traits of these winged animals still remain a mystery. » Continue Reading.
Despite remarkable similarities in appearance, flying styles and behaviors, not all bats are created equal. In the Adirondacks, there are approximately nine species of these dark, winged mammals during the summer months, yet all possess their own unique physical characteristics and habits.
The manner in which bats deal with the total lack of flying insects that occurs with the onset of winter is one feature that illustrates how bats are different. Even though more than half the species that populate our region migrate to and then enter caves or mines that extend deep underground, all have definite preferences for below the surface. While some species proceed far from the entrance in order to reach warmer and damper locations, others favor cooler and drier spots closer to the world above. » Continue Reading.
Reuben Cary shot the last wolf in the Adirondacks in 1899 … or so he thought. Afterward, he posed next to the carcass for a photo. The stuffed wolf is now on exhibit in the Adirondack Museum.
Cary’s claim to fame is no longer valid. A new study by two scientists from the New York State Museum found that at least three wild wolves have been shot in the Northeast in recent decades, including one in the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.
A researcher who has studied the endangered bog turtle will discuss ways to save their habitat in an upcoming lecture at Paul Smith’s College.
According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the bog turtle is the state’s smallest. It reaches a maximum length of 4.5 inches. While considered threatened nationwide, they are endangered in New York; development in the southeastern part of the state, the species’ primary habitat here, has hindered the turtle from moving into new areas as existing habitat is lost. Dr. Kevin Shoemaker will lead off this fall’s Fisheries & Wildlife Science Seminar Series on Friday, Sept. 23, with “Scaling Up Bog Turtle Conservation in New York.”
Shoemaker, a postdoctoral associate at Stony Brook University, studies how wildlife populations are affected by habitat alteration. He hopes to help humans co-exist with wildlife by making those connections understandable.
Two other lectures are scheduled this semester: Dr. Dennis Murray of Trent University in Ontario will discuss “New World Wolves: Confusion, Controversy and Conservation” on Friday, Oct. 14, and Tim McKay of Colgate University will deliver a lecture called “Ecology of North America’s Smallest Mammals: The Shrews” on Friday, Nov. 4.
All lectures will be held at 10:10 a.m. in the Pine Room of the Joan Weill Student Center.
The news that a mountain lion killed on a Connecticut highway had migrated more than 1,500 miles from South Dakota raises an intriguing question: could the cats return to the Adirondacks someday?
The short answer: “someday” is a long way off.
Christopher Spatz, president of the Cougar Rewilding Foundation, said it took twenty years for cougars from the South Dakota’s Black Hills to establish a small population (thirteen adults) in the Nebraska panhandle—just 120 miles away.
“It might take them forty years to get to Minnesota,” he said. “If you project that eastward, you’re talking a century before they get to the Adirondacks.” » Continue Reading.
A State Museum scientist has co-authored a new research article, representing the most detailed genomic study of its kind, which shows that wolves and coyotes in the eastern United States are hybrids between gray wolves, coyotes and domestic dogs.
Dr. Roland Kays, the Museum’s curator of mammals, was one of 15 other national and international scientists who collaborated on the study that used unprecedented genetic technology, developed from the dog genome, to survey the global genetic diversity in dogs, wolves and coyotes. The study used over 48,000 genetic markers, making it the most detailed genomic study of any wild vertebrate species. » Continue Reading.
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