Posts Tagged ‘science’

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Outside Story: Fabulous Forest Ferns

fernsWe all see our forests for the trees, but the woods are alive with other plants. Among the most common are ferns, which don’t just get by in the deep shade of the forest – they flourish.

Now, you might be thinking, don’t all those ferns look alike? They form a lovely verdant backdrop to the forest, but they don’t have the showy flowers and distinctive leaves that make other plants so easy to identify. But ferns are surprisingly easy to tell apart. And once you know the names of a few species, they’ll pop out at you as you wander along forest paths. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Dave Gibson: The APA Says Science Can Wait

Adirondack_Park_Agency_in_Ray_Brook_NYIt’s happened again. The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has eliminated a permit condition for advance studies to assure no harm comes to sensitive wildlife from new development on four mountain summits.

The entire project – a new Emergency Communication system for Essex County – could have still gone forward and been completed by next winter according to New York State Police – even with the permit condition in place. It’s remarkable how little pressure is required to cause APA to abandon its statutory purpose to protect delicate biological and physical resources of the Adirondack Park. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ruffed Grouse: Breaking The Sound Barrier

grouseA distant motor thud-thud-thuds as if trying to start, then dies away.  The noise repeats, and again dies off. I’ve been fooled by this sound, wondering who could be trying to start a 2-cylinder engine in the middle of the woods. This mechanical noise, of course, is really the drumming of a male ruffed grouse.

People once thought that male grouse struck their wings on a hollow log to produce this low whumping, but better observation revealed something far more astonishing. The bird stands bolt upright on a log, leans back on his tail, and fans his wings vigorously – so fast, in fact, that the wings achieve the same speed as the sound waves generated by their passage through the air. This causes the sound waves to “pile up” into a penetrating shock wave, also known as a sonic boom. For a one-and-a-quarter-pound grouse to exert such force takes strength and perseverance. Novice males have been observed going through all the motions and not producing any sound at all. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Maple Sugaring: Do New Tapping Strategies Hurt Trees?

sugaringOur sugarhouse is within walking distance of an elementary school, so we’ve given tapping demonstrations to hundreds of school kids over the years. At the part where someone drills a hole in the tree and it sort of bleeds, the next question is invariably: “Does tapping hurt the tree?”

The stock answer is no, as long as you don’t overdo it: use the smaller “health” spouts, follow conservative tapping guidelines, give the tree a year off if it looks stressed. As proof that sugaring is sustainable, we point to some of the trees in our sugarbush that have been tapped for close to a hundred years and are better off for it. Better off because we thin out the trees around them, giving the chosen trees extra light, water, and nutrients.

Their increased vigor, when compared to the maples in unmanaged sections of the forest, is plain to see.  But the sugarmaking being practiced today in many commercial bushes – including our own – is not the same sugarmaking that was practiced even 10 years ago. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Science Sundays at VIEW

monarch_butterfly_newScience on Sundays at  VIEW in Old Forge is continuing March 3 with “Migration of Monarch butterflies in and beyond New York” with Ernest Williams, co-author of The Stokes Butterfly Book, author of The Nature Handbook: A Guide to Observing the Great Outdoors, as well as other books, journals and numerous articles.

Recently quoted in New Scientist magazine regarding the monarch butterfly migration, the  Hamilton College Biology Professor stated that the Monarch butterfly species is not threatened, but rather its migration is endangered. Williams further states that if the climate alters, there are possibilities to consider such as a migratory shift further into Canada during summer or the monarchs may stop before reaching Mexico in the winter. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lost Brook Dispatches: Surveying Chains and Oxen

Saxon OxenWhat if I told you that the specifics of our American system of land measurement, with its miles and acres and such, was the direct result of a bunch of oxen standing tired in a field during a morning’s  plowing more than a thousand years ago.  Would you believe me?  Read on.

If you peruse historical documents pertaining to the great Adirondack surveys you will encounter a variety of measurement units.  Some, like feet and miles, will be common knowledge to you.  Others, like acres, will be familiar terms though you may not know precisely what they are.  But a few, like the chain, which seems to be the fundamental unit of surveying distance, may well be unknown.   Every major land division in the Adirondacks was originally measured in chains using an actual metal chain called a Gunter’s chain. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Backyard Bird Count: Adirondacks Still Underrepresented

GBBCIf thousands of New Yorkers counted birds in their backyards and across the landscape for four days in the middle of February, how many species would they find? And what species do you think they would spot most frequently?

Well, it happens that it is possible to answer these questions, and many more, for the past fifteen winters as a result of the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). This annual “citizen science” project  is designed to encourage bird enthusiasts to combine the pleasure of observing birds with gathering data that will help scientists better understand trends in bird populations and locations.

The 16th annual GBBC, occurring over this President’s Day weekend (February 15-18) once again aims to develop a nationwide mid-winter bird census and calls on bird watchers everywhere to help assemble a picture of bird numbers and distribution. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Adirondack Birds: The Pine Siskin This Winter

Carduelis pinus by Wikimedia user CephasDuring winter, the possibility exists that a transient flock of birds may suddenly appear at a feeder and dominate the local seed supply for several weeks before exiting the area. The presence of a mob of gluttonous evening grosbeaks, redpolls or purple finches can quickly decimate a mass of sunflower seeds, leaving little for the regulars like chickadees, nuthatches, and an occasional blue jay or cardinal.

Yet despite the highly competitive feeding habits exhibited by the gregarious members of the finch family, there is always one irregular winter visitor that is enjoyable to have in the neighborhood for a few weeks. With a petite body shape, a stylish hint of yellow on its wings and tail, and a drawn-out, single syllable call that sounds more like an insect than a bird [audio], the pine siskin never fails to add a touch of charm to its surroundings. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Lost Brook Dispatches: Surveying, Out of Sight

Fallen Spruce and DuffThis week I return to my series on surveying.  Two weeks ago we got as far as revealing the basic idea and magical power of triangulation.  This wedding between shape and mathematical proportion transformed human knowledge and literally made all modern science, engineering, geography, architecture and cartography possible.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Climate Change: Entries From A 1970s Journal

PPR Headline 19 Apr 1976A few weeks ago, in a piece about old-time weather forecaster Billy Spinner, I mentioned insects on our sidewalk near Christmastime, which is certainly out of the ordinary in my life’s experience. In another piece in December, I mentioned the value of keeping a journal. The two subjects came together recently when I was pondering how the winters of my youth seem so different from those we are experiencing today. Of course, we can’t trust our memories, which again demonstrates the value of a journal.

Now don’t get all excited thinking that I’m trying to prove climate change or global warming. I do know that through my teen years (mainly the 1960s), little time was spent wondering if we would have a white Christmas each year. It was basically a given. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Local Maple Producers Sought for Research Project

sugar2The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP) 2013 Maple Research Project is in search of maple producers for research on improving sap yields and maple business profitability. The deadline to respond is Friday, February 1.  NNYADP-funded maple research is designed to support the idea that Northern New York can double its maple income to more than $10 million, based on a survey by Cornell University Northern New York Maple Specialist Michael Farrell.

Farrell, director of Cornell’s Uihlein Maple Forest in Lake Placid, says research data from maple tap spout-and-dropline combination trials at the Uihlein forest since 2010, and from similar evaluations conducted at Parker Family Maple Farm in West Chazy, NY, in 2011 and 2012 have shown promising results for improving yields by as much as 100 percent in some cases. A dropline is the length of tubing that runs from a spout on the tap into the tree to the lateral line that collects sap. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Sportsman Billy Spinner: Famous Folk Weather Forecaster

1938 Nov prediction 4WClimate change; global warming; superstorms; extended droughts; the hottest year ever; December tornadoes; on and on it goes. Changes are happening everywhere. Even here at home this year, worms and bugs on our sidewalk in mid-December! There have been so many devastating storms and floods and fires. We do benefit from modern forecasters using the most advanced technology to predict the weather, helping us to avoid any big surprises, or to at least prepare.

The same was true of weathermen seventy-five years ago: they did their best to predict what the weather would bring―days, weeks, and even months in advance. But they weren’t alone in doing so. Competing against them were country prognosticators who sometimes did better than the latest technology. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

New Study Favors Restoration of Cougars

A new study by wildlife biologist John Laundre concludes that the Adirondack Park has enough wild habitat and prey to support up to 350 cougars—a finding dismissed as “a fantasy” by another biologist who once investigated the feasibility of restoring cougars to the region.

“It’s a great idea. We looked at it thirty years ago,” said Rainer Brocke, a professor emeritus at the State University College of Environmental Science and Forestry. “We found there wasn’t any chance for them.” » Continue Reading.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Outside Story: How Do Trees Survive Winter Cold?

Trees are about half water, maybe a little less in winter. And if the temperature drops low enough, the water in even the most cold-hardy tree will freeze.

So how do trees survive below-freezing temperatures? They can’t move south or generate heat like a mammal. Sure, the below-ground parts of a tree are kept insulated by a layer of snow, and that is important to winter survival, but the exposed parts of a tree are not so protected. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Outside Story: Downy or Hairy Woodpecker?

“That’s a downy. No wait, it’s a hairy – definitely a hairy. Well, hang on…maybe it is a downy.” I admit it: I’ve had this happen to me more than once.

With the onset of winter, downy and hairy woodpeckers become more apparent– knocking away in our woods and stopping by our birdfeeders. With strikingly similar feather patterns, the two can be hard to distinguish if one only catches a glimpse. Both have black wings with white markings; white bellies, sides, and backs; and distinctively white- and black-striped heads. Males of both species have red patches on the backs of their heads, which females lack.
» Continue Reading.



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