The loathsome deer tick, also known as the black-legged tick, is defined more by the disease it spreads than by its own characteristics. Deer ticks, a name that came about due to its habit of parasitizing white-tailed deer, are transmitters or vectors for Lyme disease microbes that they acquire by feeding on infected mice and rodents. Lyme disease, if untreated can cause a variety of health issues including facial paralysis, heart palpitations, arthritis, severe headaches, and neurological disorders. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme disease is currently one of the fastest-growing and most commonly reported vector-borne diseases in the United States. More than 14,000 cases are reported annually, but because the symptoms so closely resemble the flu and usually go away without treatment, scientists estimate as many as nine out of every ten cases go unreported. » Continue Reading.
Posts Tagged ‘nature’
If you take a walk in the woods on a summer evening, you may be treated to the ethereal, flute-like song of the hermit thrush, often the only bird still singing at dusk (and the first bird to sing in the morning).
In 1882, naturalist Montague Chamberlain described it as a “vesper hymn that flows so gently out upon the hushed air of the gathering twilight.” The hermit thrush, once nicknamed American nightingale, is among North America’s finest songsters; its beautiful song is one of the reasons Vermont chose the hermit thrush as its state bird. » Continue Reading.
Coinciding with the onset of bug season in the Adirondacks is the return of our insect eating birds. While nearly all of these perching birds have an attractive musical call that announces their presence, most maintain a secretive routine so they are rarely spotted.
The swallows are the most visible bug consumers as their preference for perching in exposed places and feeding over open settings allows these skilled aerialists to be regularly seen.
Additionally, their habit of placing their nest close to human dwellings and in plain view of any passerby makes them well known to residents and visitors of the Park.
» Continue Reading.
For years, biologists have been working to improve conditions for the native fish in Lake Champlain. Among other things, they have removed old dams to help spawning salmon migrate up rivers and have reduced the population of sea lampreys that prey on salmon and lake trout.
Now scientists are trying to fully understand how salmon are impacted by alewives, an invasive species that has become a main source of food for salmon, a keystone predator that eats smaller fish.
Alewives were first discovered in Lake Champlain’s Missisquoi Bay, in Vermont, in 2003. Since then, they have grown in number and replaced native rainbow smelt as the main forage fish for predators in the lake, and they are likely here to stay. » Continue Reading.
At some point in the last 20 years, ticks have moved up on the Most Feared Insect ladder, thanks to the spread, and the greater understanding, of lyme disease. Early on, lyme’s vagaries and a lack of medical advancement made for a tricky diagnosis; after standard blood work came up blank, doctors would tell men to suck it up, and women that they were hormonal.
Thankfully, we have a better handle on it today, and while the disease is still terribly problematic, we at least know what we’re up against, and someone who contracts it has a far better chance of being properly diagnosed and treated.
But even though, rationally, I know this knowledge is all for the good, my emotional side pines for blissful ignorance, when ticks were of no more concern than congressional oversight committees. It’s kind of a Wile E. Coyote situation, in which he walks off a cliff, and as long as he doesn’t know he’s walked off a cliff he’s fine — he keeps walking on air, until he looks down and sees where he is, and which point he plummets to the bottom of the canyon. » Continue Reading.
Among the many groups of insects that exist on our planet, the most abundant, diverse and ecologically successful are the beetles. And while many of these hard-shelled bugs are viewed as ugly and unwanted by humans, the ladybug beetle is considered to be one of the most attractive and environmentally friendly creatures in nature.
With a conspicuous dome-shaped, orange shell marked with black spots, the ladybug is difficult to mistake for any other invertebrate. Like all insects, there are numerous species of ladybugs that reside in our region, and the subtle differences in the color and pattern of its markings is the common means of distinguishing among the members of this insect group. » Continue Reading.
They’re a bit like the guests who overstay their welcome in your home, leaving their sheets rumpled in the bed, eating your food, and inviting more family members to join them.
Something like this has been happening to National Grid on one of their power poles across Route 28 from the Chain Lakes Road in the hamlet of Indian Lake. Osprey built a nest a year and a half ago in this desirable location near Lake Abanakee. Osprey like to build their “stick nests” on channel markers, dead trees, and poles like the ones National Grid uses for their power lines across New York State.
So last fall National Grid, working with the Department of Environmental Conservation, removed the Lake Abanakee nest. And this spring, the birds returned to the pole and rebuilt. » Continue Reading.
When 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.
The 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.
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.
In 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.
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.
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.
One 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.
The 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.