Posts Tagged ‘nature’

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.


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.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

North Country Woodpeckers: Signs of Spring

woodpeckerTrees speak many languages, their leaves whooshing in summer and trunks creaking in winter. At the onset of spring, trees become sounding boards for courtship. Before the thrushes and warblers and sparrows arrive to sing from branches and boughs, woodpeckers kick off the spring chorus with a drumroll.

Although woodpeckers certainly vocalize, usually with sharp calls or harsh chattering, drumming is one of the most reliable early signs of spring – a proclamation of territoriality and an advertisement to the opposite sex. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Adirondack Wildlife: The Belted Kingfisher

belted kingfisherTrout Season has opened, but humans, are not the only creatures that prowl the banks of remote streams, or visit the shores of backcountry ponds, in an attempt to snag a small brook trout. Throughout the Adirondacks, there are numerous forms of life that are well adapted for catching fish, and among the most colorful and noisy is the belted kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon).

With its large head, long, thick bill, jagged crest, and white band around its neck, the kingfisher provides a silhouette that is easily recognized. However, it is not the unique appearance of this stout bird that initially draws attention to its presence. Most anglers and individuals that simply spend time outdoors commonly become aware that a kingfisher is in the immediate area by noting its distinct rattling call. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sights and Sounds of Adirondack Woodcock

woodcockEvery year around this time, my husband, kids and I haul out the tent blind from our garage and set it up in the field in front of our house. We toss in a few folding chairs, a thermos, maybe a neighbor. At dusk, we take our seats.

First come the vocalizations – what are officially called “peents,” but sound more to us like the name Bert repeated in a froggy voice. A male American woodcock materializes – we never see the moment of arrival – and makes his way across the winter-flattened grass. His goal is to impress females hiding in the tree line, although I suspect he makes an impression on predators, too. He looks vulnerable, and more than a little ridiculous, with his plump shorebird body, letter-opener beak, and eyes positioned far back on his head. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Wood Ducks: Woods And Waters Working Together

wood duckStrong and frequent southerly breezes, a disappearing snow pack at low elevations and the presence of large stretches of open water along streams, in the backwater of rivers and in marshes prompt the return of numerous forms of waterfowl to the Adirondacks.

When the opportunity arises to reconnect with the area used for breeding, flat-billed, webbed-footed birds take advantage of the favorable conditions and fly north. Included with these returning birds is one of the most colorful and handsome species of waterfowl in North America – the wood duck. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Missing Lynx Return to New England

lynxIn the northern forest, a big gray cat crouches silently in a dense thicket of fir along a snowshoe hare run. Its pointed ears, topped with long tufts of black hair, twitch as it listens intently. The cat’s face is framed by a fur ruff and its yellow-green eyes are alert for movement. Suddenly, the lynx pounces, killing its prey with one quick bite to the neck. As it pads away with the hare, the lynx’s broad furry paws act like snowshoes, supporting it in the deep snow. Its short tail is tipped with black.

The Canada lynx, once eliminated from most of New England by forest clearing and unsustainable hunting and trapping, is making a comeback. Though still listed as a federally threatened species, there is an expanding breeding population in northern and western Maine, smaller numbers of lynx in northern New Hampshire, and intermittently, cats have been found in Vermont. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Time Travel in a Peat Bog

peat borerGutter pipes full of soggy peat show up on the bench by my office each March. This means one thing: my colleague Peter Hope’s Saint Michael’s College students are about to experience time travel. You might reasonably ask how pipes filled with peat could possibly relate to time travel. What? No DeLorean, flux capacitor, or 1.21 gigawatts of electricity? To answer, we need to consider where peat comes from, and how it forms.

Peat accumulates in bogs over millennia. Decomposing plant material consumes oxygen, and sphagnum moss turns water acidic by pulling minerals from the water and releasing acid. When dead plants and moss pile up in acidic water with little oxygen, they remain more or less preserved. The resulting accumulation is called ‘peat.’ » Continue Reading.


Friday, March 31, 2017

Owl Prowl at Lake George on Saturday

Our family always enjoys the opportunity for a night hike, snowshoe or ski. Being able to unwind at the end of the day helps us focus on our other senses, to listen to nature, and reconnect. One favorite way to unwind is calling in the owls. That activity wasn’t something that just showed up on our radar. It began with a local Owl Prowl and it has become part of an evening routine.

According to Lake George Land Conservancy (LGLC) Land Stewart Alex Novack, the LGLC’s April 1st Owl Prowl is a perfect opportunity to learn more about these nocturnal animals. The location for the free night-time hike was chosen because of the potential for interactions with owls. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Emerald Ash Borer Threatens St. Lawrence County

Kermit the Frog may have lamented “It’s not easy bein’ green,” but these days, everyone wants to market themselves as “green.” It seems to make us feel good. You might recall how in the early ’90s, lawn-care giant ChemLawn became (unfairly, to be honest) a magnet for public criticism as risks related to pesticide use became more widely known. With the help of some green paint for their trucks, and a pile of trademark lawyers, ChemLawn morphed into TruGreen, and just like that people started to like them better.

If “green” is a hot brand, then “emerald” must be tops. Who doesn’t like the Emerald Isle or the Emerald City, and now the 750lb. Bahia Emerald is on sale for around $400mil if you’re looking for a bargain. So right out of the box, the emerald ash borer (EAB) is ahead in the PR department. Plus, it’s gorgeous: a tiny streamlined beetle sporting a metallic green paint job with copper highlights. This, coupled with the fact that they’re not at the moment raining from the sky like a plague of locusts, may be why it’s hard to take the EAB threat seriously. But I’m betting a little “tea” will let the air out of EAB’s greenwash balloon. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Beaver Bird: The Adaptable Hooded Merganser

hooded merganserImagine ten nearly round white eggs snug in a hollow tree, lined with soft feathers plucked from the mother’s breast. The hen carefully tends the two-inch eggs for about a month until the chicks hatch. Prompted by their mother’s call, downy day-old chicks clamber up to the opening in the tree and leap into space, plunging head-over- tail some 50 feet down to bounce on the forest floor. They follow their mother on a perilous journey, sometimes of over a half-mile, to the relative safety of a marsh, beaver pond or woodland stream. She will protect the chicks for the next five weeks until they go out on their own.

Such is the life of a nascent hooded merganser. Chicks take to the water right away to hunt aquatic insects. As they quickly grow, keen eyesight underwater enables them hunt larger prey, such as tadpoles, frogs, small fish, mollusks, and crustaceans, including crayfish. Unique among our native pond-dwelling ducks, hooded mergansers eat fish as their main fare. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Adirondack Foxes Are Active in Late Winter

foxesThe first time I saw the fox last February, I did a double take. It was late morning when I glanced out the window on my way from one task to the next. The unexpected flash of red made me stop and forget about the morning’s to-do list.

I watched for several minutes as the fox trotted around boulders and past old apple trees. Every now and then it paused and cocked its head before continuing on a meandering path through the stubbly field. This would be the first of many sightings over the next several weeks. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Adirondack Wildlife: The Star-Nosed Mole

star nosed moleFor many Adirondack residents, the onset of mud season brings about the annual problem of water in the basement. Run-off from melting snow and rain, unable to percolate into the still frozen soil, pools on the ground and eventually drains to the lowest spot available. The foundation of older homes may collect some of this water, as do surface tunnels created by small creatures like moles and voles.

While spring flooding can be a serious survival issue for some subterranean mammals, it is not believed to be of any major concern to the star-nosed mole, one of the least physically attractive forms of wildlife in the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.