Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Monday, August 21, 2017

The North Country’s 1932 Solar Eclipse, And The Next One

The eclipse fever that has been sweeping the nation allows a glimpse of North Country life 85 years ago, when the path of totality clipped the region, allowing many upstate New York locations to experience 90 percent of the impact. It was a pretty exciting time, coming on the heels of the 1925 total solar eclipse in New York City. The Plattsburgh Sentinel reported on the viewing of that event at Saranac Lake.

“While not total, the eclipse was a magnificent spectacle, and during the greater portion, the sun was free of clouds. During the darkest period, snow fields and mountain ice caps were bathed in a violet light in which the shadows sharply were defined. The whole vast wilderness became a land of awesome beauty, with the snow and ice making a perfect background.”

In the Big Apple, the New York Stock Exchange and banks remained closed that day until after the eclipse. Many other cities did the same and launched special police patrols to prevent crimes that were normally committed under cover of darkness. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Eclipse: A Dragon Devours the Sun

solar eclipseMore than 3,000 years ago, the Chinese believed that a dragon ate the sun during a solar eclipse, so they gathered outdoors to drive away the beast by beating pots, pans and drums. Some 500 years later, the Greek poet Archilochus wrote that Zeus had turned day into night.

In Australian Aboriginal mythology, Earth basked in the sun-woman’s heat and light as she traveled across the sky. When the dark orb of the moon-man mated with the sun-woman’s bright circle of light, her fire was temporarily obscured. Traditional Navajo belief holds that anyone who looks directly at an eclipse not only damages their eyes, but also throws the universe out of balance.

Humankind witnesses many dazzling astronomical events, including comets, lunar eclipses and the Aurora Borealis, but nothing inspires the imagination quite like a solar eclipse — those times when the moon’s path across the heavens brings it directly between the sun and earth. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Art and Nature: A Paper-Maker in Newcomb

An impromptu paper-making lesson last weekThe following is an edited and abridged transcript of a recent conversation I had with Emma Lucille Percy, Artist in Residence at the SUNY-ESF Newcomb Campus.  Emma’s 12-week residency is generously sponsored in part by the Adirondack Park Institute and SUNY-ESF and is inspired by a college-wide commitment to strengthen the conversation between science and the arts and humanities.

There is still time to register for Emma’s final bookbinding workshop of the season at the Adirondack Interpretive Center in Newcomb, NY. This all-levels workshop is free and open to the public. Call (518) 582-2000 or email aic@esf.edu to register. To learn more about Emma’s work, click here. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Devil’s Shoelace: Doddering Assailants

Devil's Shoelace, Considering the climate where the personification of evil is alleged to make his home, you’d think the devil would wear flip-flops or something, but it seems he prefers lace-up footwear (Prada, I’m told). “Devil’s shoelaces” is one name applied to dodder (Cuscuta spp.), a parasitic plant that looks more like creepy yellow-orange spaghetti than a plant. Dodder is known by a whole slew of unflattering titles including wizard’s net, strangleweed, witch’s hair, and hellbine. As these names suggest, dodder has earned itself quite a sinister reputation, which is no big surprise, since parasites generally inspire collywobbles, not cuddles.

But the leafless, ghostly pale, tentacle-like dodder really ramps up the squirm factor. Research has shown it is able to recognize which plants are around it by sniffing them out. Every plant gives off a unique blend of compounds such as terpenes and esters, making it easy to tell cilantro from tomatoes with just one whiff. Not only can dodder distinguish one plant from another, it can sense which is more nutritious, and will move toward that one with great precision, and attack it. » Continue Reading.


Monday, August 14, 2017

Forest Landowners Take Note Of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

hemlock woolly adelgidEastern hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis) are one of the most beautiful conifers found in northern New York forests. It can take up to 300 years for them to reach mature heights of up to 70 feet and diameters of up to 3-feet. They commonly live for 500 years and can live for 800 years or longer. Many are among the oldest trees in the state.

In their northern range, they’re found at a variety of elevations (sea level to near 5000 ft.) and on a multiplicity of sites (hillsides, valleys, shorelines, glacial ridges). Hemlocks are commonly found growing in mixed stands, with yellow birch, sugar maple, northern red oak, white ash, American beech, and white pine and can be distinguished from pine and by their short, flat needles. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Adirondack Dog-Strangling Vine

swallow-wortThis summer, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has come through with a new hope for the forces of good. Its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has opened a public comment period, ending on August 14, 2017, relating to the release of a non-native insect to control swallow-wort.

Sometimes called “dog-strangling vine,” this invasive plant from Eurasia doesn’t harm pets, but it does live up to its name as a strangler. There are two species of the perennial vine, and they are both adept at choking out wildflowers, forest seedlings, Christmas tree plantations, hay fields and other habitats. In the Eastern Lake Ontario region, it has proved capable of blanketing large tracts, hundreds of acres in some cases, to create permanent monocultures of tangled, toxic foliage. » Continue Reading.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Caddisflies: Submerged Silk Spinners

caddisflyA small boy asked “what’s your favorite insect?” I answered without hesitation: caddisflies. Not the short-lived adults, which while charming in their own hairy moth-like way, do not capture my attention. My caddisfly predilection is reserved for the larval stages that last for most of the insect’s one or, less often, two or three year life span. These larvae, like their caterpillar cousins, make and use silk in ways that fascinate me. Silk permits their use of a wide variety of freshwater habitats and food sources.

Consider the caddisflies of the family Rhyacophilidae. Their name translates to “rock loving,” and this preference serves them well in fast-flowing streams. They spin silk ropes that anchor firmly to rocky surfaces, helping them to defy the pull of currents, and stay off some trout’s dinner menu. Like ice climbers using crampons, they also have impressive claws that grow right out of their rear ends. Their anal claws and silk lines keep their bulging, segmented, Michelin-Man bodies secured while they scramble about, eating insects including other caddisflies. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Eastern Forest Birds Face Wintering Grounds Habitat Loss

Rose-breasted GrosbeakWithin the next few decades, human-caused habitat loss looms as the greatest threat to some North American breeding birds and the problem will be most severe on their wintering grounds, according to a new study published  in the journal Global Change Biology. By the end of this century, the study’s authors say predicted changes in rainfall and temperature will compound the problem for birds that breed in eastern North America and winter in Central America. Migrant wintering grounds are important because the birds spend a greater proportion of the year in these places.

The scientists ran dozens of scenarios to predict what the future might look like for 21 species, most of them flycatchers, vireos, and warblers. They used observations that volunteers entered into the eBird database from 2004 through 2014 to establish where and in what density the species are found throughout the year. Then, they layered in modeled climate change projections (temperature and rainfall) and habitat data (land-use changes and the location of protected areas). » Continue Reading.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Adirondack Insects: Forest Tent Caterpillars

forest tent caterpillarWalk through a hardwood forest this month and it may seem more like October than July. Trees that normally provide cool shade have bare crowns with just a hint of green. And is the bark on that sugar maple moving? This is not a trick of the light: you are, in fact, in the middle of a forest tent caterpillar outbreak.

Despite the name, forest tent caterpillars don’t actually build tents like their cousins the eastern tent caterpillars. Instead, you’ll find them congregated on silken mats on tree trunks or branches. If you’re in an infested area, they won’t be hard to find. Sugar maples and aspen are often the favorite host species in the Northeast, as well as birch, cherry, basswood, and ash. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Being There: Forest Bathing and River Walking

riverwalk“We just completed our nature therapy training in May,” Helene Gibbons said when I met her last week at Origin Coffee in Saranac Lake. “We learned how to guide people to open their senses to the forest, to become immersed in the sights, smells, sounds and textures of the natural world.” As Helene is a yoga teacher, I saw how she could apply similar principles to meandering through the woods. She’s been guiding students through yoga poses and leading them into meditation for years.

“Suzanne Weirich and I traveled to Chicago for a seven day training at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois,” she continued. “With this Forest Therapy Guide Training we’re ready help people immerse themselves in the natural environment, called Forest Bathing.” » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Participants Sought For Summer Wild Turkey Survey

Wild turkey hen with poults New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is encouraging New Yorkers to participate in a survey for wild turkeys and help state biologists better understand this iconic bird.

Since 1996, DEC has conducted the Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey to estimate the number of wild turkey poults (young turkey born this year) per hen statewide. Weather, predation, and habitat conditions during the breeding and brood-rearing seasons can all significantly impact nest success, hen survival, and poult survival. This index helps DEC to gauge reproductive success and predict the number of turkeys killed during the hunting season. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A North Country Eel Story That Will Leave You Squirming

When stuff doesn’t work, we either play Mr. Fixit or call someone. Whether it’s a job for your auto mechanic, furnace repair technician, or electrician, the expert usually has a good idea of what’s causing a particular problem. But sometimes malfunctions are real puzzlers.

From the 1870s well into the 1900s, mystery surrounded many incidents where faucets or pipes were opened but the water didn’t flow. When that happened, there were real consequences: a factory couldn’t operate or a school might close. For citizens lucky enough to have running water in their homes, it meant going without — or, if it were available, hauling water from community wells.

For a plumber, the natural assumption was that a clog was the culprit — a piece of clothing, a collection of sediment, or an accumulation of greasy materials. When nothing of the sort was found using the usual tools, a difficult search ensued — unless plumber was experienced. In that case, he might have suspected eels. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

American Goldfinch: Common Bird With Uncommon Habits

goldfinchI love the fact that there is always something new to observe in nature. Take goldfinches, for example. I have often watched them devour milkweed seeds from an acrobatic, upside-down position. Recently, I spotted several bright yellow males perched atop dandelion stems, plucking the seedheads at a frenzied pace. Previously, I had only seen them snag dandelions in mid-air.

Of all our native songbirds, American goldfinches (Spinus tristis) are perhaps the most consistent vegetarians. Thistles are a favorite food source and nest material. Sunflower seeds are another top meal choice, something you have probably observed if you offer these popular seeds in a feeder. Aside from our freebies, goldfinches also eat seeds from grasses, weeds, teasel, mullein, and ragweed, along with birch and alder buds, maple sap, and berries. An uncommon agility allows them to extract seeds from any position. Their short, pointed, conical bills are well-suited to crack open hulls and other tough packaging. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

William Henry Jackson’s Early Adirondack Color Postcards

1902 Jackson ADK carryOne of the greatest landscape photographers during the latter half of the Nineteenth Century was William Henry Jackson (April 4, 1843 – June 30, 1942). A native son of the Adirondacks Jackson was born in Keeseville, New York to George Jackson and Harriet Allen. Harriet was a talented water-colorist and William inherited her artistic flair. His first job as an artist in 1858 was a re-toucher for a photography studio in Troy New York.

In 1866 after serving in the Civil War, Jackson boarded a Union Pacific train to the end of the line in Omaha, Nebraska. There he entered the photography business. The Union Pacific gave him a commission in 1869 to document the scenery along their routes for promotional purposes. It was this work that was discovered by Ferdinand Hayden who invited Jackson on the 1870 U.S. government survey (predecessor of the U.S. Geologic Survey) of the Yellowstone River and Rocky Mountains. He was also on the 1871 Hayden Geologic Survey which led to the creation of Yellowstone as America’s first National Park. It was Jackson’s images that played an important role in convincing Congress to establish the Park in 1872. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Wildlife Friendly Farming is Topic for CATS Summer Intern

coyote photographed by local trail camA research project examining wildlife friendly farming in the Champlain Valley is currently underway by Alex Caskey, graduate student at Tufts University. Caskey is a summer intern in a project sponsored by Champlain Area Trails (CATS), the Eddy Foundation and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

Caskey is currently conducting interviews with local farmers about their interactions, positive and negative, with local wildlife. The results of his inquiry will create a baseline of current practices in wildlife friendly farming for future investigation and recommendations for wildlife friendly practices in agriculture. » Continue Reading.


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