Winter 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.
They 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.
The arrival of weather with temperatures favorable for snowmaking, blustery northwest winds, and damp, unstable air that produces periodic bouts of flurries forces many forms of wildlife into a less active routine and causes them to spend more time in some type of shelter. As the length of their daily confinement to a nest or den increases, there is an expansion of the population of tiny organisms that make their home on the skin of many forms of wildlife.
While vast stretches of wilderness serve the ecological needs of numerous warm-blooded animals, the microenvironment that exists at the very base of a mammal’s dense coat of fur provides countless invertebrates with the space they need in which to carry out their life cycle. » Continue Reading.
If you’re observant, you’ve noticed them in fall and winter: peculiar lumps that bulge from the stems of certain goldenrods. If you go ice-fishing, you may slice open the lumps and pluck out the grubs inside for bait.
Preparations among the members of our wildlife community have been underway for weeks, if not months, for the arrival of snow and temperatures low enough to freeze the upper layer of soil. Most bugs are genetically programmed to enter a dormant stage of their life in advance of this onset of adverse weather, and the mammals of the area are well along in the process of modifying their physical structure (accumulating fat and growing a thick layer of fur) in order to cope.
Many species of birds have either left, or will soon be exiting, our region because of the inhospitable conditions building throughout the northern latitudes. Among our migratory birds is a member of the woodpecker family forced to leave because of its preference for pecking at the soil, rather than on trees, for its meal of bugs. The northern flicker has body shape, plumage characteristics and pecking talents similar to its non-migratory relatives; however this common seasonal resident of the Adirondacks is now on its way, or will be leaving shortly, for a more temperate climatic zone. » Continue Reading.
Last week, an article appeared in the Science Section of the New York Times exploring the decline in the moose population in many sections of North America. While several potential causes for this widespread die-off were cited, much attention was given to the role of the winter tick in impacting the health and well being of this large, hoofed mammal.
As a rule, ticks are not considered to be a serious problem in the Adirondacks, especially in the more mountainous areas of the Park. However, the thought of a devastating tick infestation developing across our region is unsettling to outdoor enthusiasts that prefer to hike, camp and explore when the weather is cool. » Continue Reading.
Winter is approaching, and rather more quickly than I would really like. Sure, I’ve got the new stove and a shed chock full of dry hardwood, but I have to admit that I’ve really enjoyed our summer-like fall. “They” are calling for snow next week, but we’ll see what happens.
I had an inkling that this was coming anyway. Yes, I know that it’s October and that it’s a reasonable assumption to think that we’ll be getting snow soon. But last Friday, I got home from work and opened the front door. I let Pico and the cats out to enjoy the sunshine and warm weather. But when I went inside the cabin, I found a sight that told me winter was right around the corner. » Continue Reading.
As a nature writer and photographer, I spend a lot of my time peering closely at leaves, twigs, and flowers, seeking what lurks in their midst. So it was that I discovered Phymata, the Ambush Bug. I was walking slowly through a meadow, bent over almost double as I carried a tripod-mounted camera instead of a magnifying glass. Spotting a fly on a daisy, I approached slowly, finding it odd that the insect didn’t move away from me. Puzzled, I looked closer and found a small, bulbous-eyed bug, his mouthparts embedded in the fly.Ambush bugs lurk in the foliage, waiting for prey to come near. When they spot a victim they leap from cover, impale the hapless creature with a penetrating beak, pump liquefying enzyme into its body, and slurp up dinner.
Although their specialty is disguise, their appearance, revealed, is daunting. If they were blown up to the size of a car, they would put a Bradley Fighting Vehicle to shame. Armored and massively muscular, they easily capture and overpower prey many times their own size. Of course, a little perspective is in order: this is a bug that could easily fit on the real estate of my smallest fingernail, with plenty of room to maneuver. » Continue Reading.
Spiders! Some of us hate them but we have every reason to love, or at least tolerate, their presence in our lives. Spiders eat mosquitoes. They eat blackflies. They eat deer flies. They almost never bite us, partly because the great majority of them lack the inclination and the anatomy to puncture human skin. Some spiders jump, others build webs, and some run around like wolves and are called wolf spiders. At our house, we welcome all spiders. But be careful if you go to Sydney…Learn more in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze. » Continue Reading.
Despite the numerous frosts that our region experienced in September, there continue to be many types of bugs that remain active into the autumn in the Adirondacks. Among these hardy invertebrates, and the ones that are quite conspicuous to anyone that spends time working in the yard, garden or on the wood pile, are the harvestmen, known to most as the daddy-longlegs.
Like spiders, the harvestmen are classified as arachnids because of their body structure, having 4 sets of legs and a set of arm-like appendages near their mouth. (In the harvestmen, these arms, known as pedipalps, are barely visible, yet are still of great use to this creature in grabbing and holding items it wants to eat.) It is easy to understand how these arachnids acquired their popular name, as the lengthy thread-like legs that surround their small body are proportionately longer than those of nearly any other bug. » Continue Reading.
As the days become shorter and the nights cooler, there is a change in the population status and activity level of the numerous bugs that reside in the Adirondacks. While many invertebrates begin to die en masse in the final weeks of summer, the numbers of others increase at this time of year. Colonies of yellow jackets, bees and some wasps reach their peak during the harvest season as these nectar consuming creatures concentrate their foraging efforts on the crop of late blooming wildflowers.
At the top of the list of plants that support various species of flies, moths, bees, hornets and butterflies from Labor Day well past the equinox are the asters, a large and diverse collection of wildflowers as much a part of late summer and early autumn as ripening apples, the sound of crickets and developing flocks of birds. » Continue Reading.
The Monarch butterfly Eastern migration will survive the current crisis and make a come-back, although probably never again to the population levels seen in the 1990s, predicted noted Monarch scientist Dr. Orley “Chip” Taylor in a lecture at The Wild Center Friday night.
Adirondack residents still turning over milkweed leaves this season in search of as glimpse of a Monarch caterpillar or larvae will probably be disappointed, Dr. Taylor said, because the Monarchs arrived at this northern latitude too late and in too few numbers to produce a generation here this year.
Dr. Taylor’s lecture to an audience of nearly 100 Friday night at The Wild Center in a visit sponsored by AdkAction.org as part of its butterfly and milkweed conservation initiative this year. Taylor is a University of Kansas professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and founder of Monarch Watch. » Continue Reading.
On the lower levels of the food chain, danger is rarely out of spitting distance. Risk from predators has spurred the evolution of many clever adaptations – camouflage coloring, speedy retreat, distasteful secretions, and armor plating among them. Small jumping insects known as froghoppers approach concealment in a unique way: their developing nymphs cover themselves in a bubble bath. From this trick they derive their common name, “spittle bug.”
If you investigate the clumps of white froth, sometimes referred to as ‘cow spit’ or ‘frog spit,’ that appear on plant stems this time of year, you’ll find that each dollop of foam envelops a soft, greenish insect. Who would have thought that froth, so soft and insubstantial, could be protective? Yet predators can’t see the bug for the bubbles, and if they probe the foam, they soon find that it has an acrid taste. The spittle bug’s foam is also a good insulator against heat and cold. And it is a great moisturizer, without which the soft-bodied nymph would soon dry up. » Continue Reading.
Mid-August is the time in the Adirondacks when the foliage of some red maples turns a bright reddish-orange, the sound of crickets replaces the music of our many songbirds, and blackberries start to ripen on their thorny canes. It is also when birds are more regularly seen in flocks rather than individually as they perch on a wire, forage in a field or fly across a road.
The territorial nature and belligerent behavior exhibited by adults toward neighbors from early spring through the end of the breeding season now fades like the chlorophyll in leaves during the latter weeks of September. Thus, a more gregarious lifestyle develops among the members of the same species and results in the formation of flocks for resting, foraging, traveling, and roosting at night. » Continue Reading.
Some catch their prey while in flight; others sit and wait for prey to come near. They’re a group of birds known as aerial insectivores, and they’re in trouble. In the northeast region, this diverse group consists of 19 species that, as their name implies, feed almost exclusively on flying insects. Some, such as the barn swallow and eastern phoebe, are quite common and well-known, while others, such as the olive-sided flycatcher and eastern wood-pewee, are relatively unknown to non-birders.
Unfortunately, as a group, aerial insectivores have been declining steadily across northeastern North America for the last 25 years or so. Flycatchers, swallows, and nightjars (the whip-poor-will and common nighthawk) have been particularly affected. » Continue Reading.
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