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Adirondack Explorer

Archive for the ‘Natural History’ Category

July, 2019

Brook Floater Mussels


Freshwater mussels are not exactly charismatic. They don’t flit gracefully about like a Karner blue butterfly, or munch on clover like a cottontail. They aren’t known for their sweet songs like a wood thrush, and they don’t close down traffic on the first rainy night of spring like spotted salamanders. They are fish parasites at one stage of their lives, and they don’t even taste good like their saltwater cousins. But America can boast that it is home to the greatest variety of freshwater mussels in the world, so there’s that. And if you were wondering what the most imperiled >>More


July, 2019

Native Lupine, Pollinators and the Karner Blue


Lupine is one of the most spectacular flowers of early summer, painting long stretches of roadside with shades of purple and blue. Thanks to this tall, showy plant, even a stop-and-go drive to Boston’s Logan Airport has its moments of beauty (as I recently had occasion to observe). Full sun and dry, sandy soil are just right for lupine. Although many people don’t know it, the lupine we typically see in the Northeast is “not from around here.” It’s a non-native plant that was imported to eastern gardens from parts of the western U.S. and escaped cultivation. Our native lupine >>More


July, 2019

The Short, Productive Life of the Luna Moth


On early summer nights I sometimes see large, pale green moths with long, twisted tails fluttering near our porch light. Later, I often find them dead on the ground. These beautiful moths are luna moths, named for the Roman goddess of the moon. Each of their four wings has a transparent, moon-shaped eyespot. The luna moth (Actias luna) is one of the largest species of moths in North America, with a wingspan of three to four inches. It inhabits deciduous forests, where its green wings blend in among the leaves. The moths I’ve seen near my porch light were likely >>More


July, 2019

Oak Wilt And Invasive Species Vigilance


It’s hard to be cheerful in a job where I am expected to keep up on each newly arrived or imminent threat from invasive insects, novel plant diseases, and worrisome trends in the environment. Although I typically deflate everyone’s happy-bubble when I give a talk, I’ve discovered we need not fret that the sky is going to fall. The National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP) is a joint effort of research institutions, government agencies and nonprofit groups; their mission is to monitor stuff which falls to Earth that is not some form of water. Since one of the » Continue Reading. >>More


July, 2019

Charges Filed in Massive Illegal Reptile Case


New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) charged an Allegany man with multiple violations in connection with an ongoing investigation into the illegal possession and sale of wildlife, resulting in what they say is the largest seizure of illegal reptiles in New York State history. Several of the animals seized were threatened species or species of special concern. Venomous reptiles, including three king cobras, one of which was over 10 feet long, and six Gila monsters were among the animals allegedly illegally housed at the residence. Because of their potential to >>More


July, 2019

Fishhook Waterflea Infests Lake Champlain


Anglers returning from the waters of Lake Champlain at Shelburne Bay have reported large quantities of invasive fishhook waterflea fouling their gear. Boat launch stewards with the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP) noted this week that nearly all fishing boats returning to the Shelburne Bay and Converse Bay launches had downriggers infested with the tiny organisms. LCBP stewards removed, treated, and disposed of the fishhook waterfleas. The alarming news for anglers and lake ecology comes during the busy holiday period of Canada Day on July 1 and the July 4th holiday in the U.S. Like the » Continue Reading. View >>More


July, 2019

Be Informed About Harmful Algal Blooms


New York Sea Grant is reminding the public to be informed about harmful algal blooms (HABs), how to avoid exposure of oneself and pets, and where to report potential HABs. In a statement to the press, Jesse Lepak, Ph.D., Great Lakes Fisheries and Ecosystem Health Specialist with New York Sea Grant said: “Not all algal blooms are harmful, but some dense populations of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, can produce toxins that can have serious effects on liver, nervous system, and skin of humans and their pets.” Toxic HABs can develop in less than 24 hours, so pet owners >>More


July, 2019

Hummingbird Moths, A Primer


One afternoon last summer, my partner Rick called me out onto our deck to see a tiny hummingbird. Not just tiny, but the tiniest hummingbird he had ever seen. My curiosity piqued, I walked out and there it was – hovering in front of the bee balm, sipping nectar and beating its wings at an impossible rate. It was a rich rust color and about an inch and a half long. By comparison, the smallest ruby-throated hummingbirds are twice that length. This was truly the most diminutive hummingbird imaginable. Or was it? When I first spotted it, I was certain >>More


July, 2019

2018 Giant Hogweed Eradication Efforts Report Issued


New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that statewide efforts to control giant hogweed are making headway in eradicating this large, invasive, and dangerous plant. The Giant Hogweed Program, managed by DEC’s Division of Lands and Forests, is in its twelfth year and has eradicated the plants from 623 sites, with another 448 plant-free sites being monitored. Giant hogweed can cause severe skin and eye irritation, including painful burns and scarring when skin exposed to its sap becomes more sensitive to UV radiation. As a noxious weed, is unlawful to propagate, sell, or transport. In addition to >>More


June, 2019

Rare Plants Inhabit Adirondack Ice Meadows


Now that the weather has finally warmed up, we can appreciate ice a little more. Among other things, ice greatly improves summertime drinks, and an icy watermelon is hands-down better than a warm one. And in this part of the world, ice also provides us with unique wildflower meadows. Along stretches of riverbank in the Southern Adirondacks, rare Arctic-type flowers are blooming now in the fragile slices of native grasslands that are meticulously groomed each year by the scouring action of ice and melt-water. Known as ice meadows, these habitats are few and far between in the world. They are >>More