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Adirondack Explorer

Archive for the ‘Natural History’ Category

February, 2019

Roosting Crows: Birds of a Feather


Birds of a feather flock together. It’s a metaphor dating back to the sixteenth century; used even then in alluding to people with similar interests, motivation, loyalties, or like minds. It’s also a straightforward reference to the fact that birds congregate with others of their own species. So, when I’m asked, as I have been recently, about the considerable numbers of crows that people have seen roosting in the village of Malone, I’m inclined to simply answer, ‘birds of a feather…’ Roosting is a period of inactivity for birds; a time of rest and/or sleeping. Almost all birds gather to >>More


February, 2019

Viewpoint: Important Tick Research Needs Support


I’d been living in the North Country for about a month when I woke up to discover a red bulls eye on my left arm. Since, mentally and emotionally, I have never advanced much past the fourth grade, my first thought was: “Cool!” Because it was clearly visible, however, a number of people subsequently pointed out that this, technically, was nothing to celebrate. So I walked around for the next three days looking like the dog from the Target ads, while people dutifully commented on my impending doom. Nothing ever came of it. So far the only discomfort ticks have >>More


February, 2019

A Natural History of Adirondack Flying Squirrels


Adirondack Experience, The Museum on Blue Mountain Lake (ADKX) next 2019 Cabin Fever Sunday Series lecture, Night Moves: Natural History of Adirondack Flying Squirrels with Charlotte Demers, is set for February 24th, at 1:30 pm. Although seldom seen, two species of flying squirrel inhabit that Adirondack Park. Both play an important role in our ecosystem, but the occurrence of one species can be a great detriment to the survival of the other. Demers will focus on these nocturnal critters and the on-going research at the ESF Newcomb Campus that helps scientist understand how climate change may be impacting the health >>More


February, 2019

My First Trout and The Rainmakers


My advice to nine-year-old wanna-be trout anglers is: “Do not wear a sweater.” Repeat: “Do not wear a sweater.” My earliest trout fishing days in and around Bakers Mills in today’s Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area were frustrating because my own fishhook invariably caught mainly my sweater. And we mostly used night crawlers not artificial flies then. Better to wear something less adept at snagging stray hooks. Try thick vinyl, maybe. I was considered too young to carry a knife of my own. To resume fishing once I snagged my own sweater, I had to plead with Cub Schaefer to stop >>More


February, 2019

Feeding Deer Does Much Harm, Little Good


A few winters back, there was a doe who frequented our compost heap. The garden fence around it proved an inadequate barrier, as she simply hopped over it to nosh on the rotting shards of jack-o-lanterns and the latest veggie scraps tossed atop the pile. Not far from the garden sits an old orchard, and we’d also spot her there, scratching with sharp hooves to get to the long-frozen, shriveled fruit beneath the snow. Watching deer forage for whatever bits of food they can find through the cold months of winter, I can understand why some people feel an urge >>More


February, 2019

The Sociable Gray Squirrel


On winter mornings when I look out my window, I often see a gray squirrel clinging upside down to the post supporting my bird feeder, with his front paws in the tray, munching sunflower seeds. Sometimes, a much smaller red squirrel is perched on the opposite side of the feeder. This brings to mind my studies of squirrels years ago and the differences between the two species. For my thesis in biology at Williams College, I conducted a field study of social behavior and organization in the eastern gray squirrel in a suburban area in Williamstown, Massachusetts. My first step >>More


February, 2019

This Winter Vexing Bipolar Polar Vortex


I’d love to explain exactly what a polar vortex is, but I’ll spare you the details, mainly because I don’t know them. Apparently, the definition of a polar vortex has been changed by the American Meteorological Society three times in the last 20 years — even the experts are still trying to nail down what it is. Besides freaking cold, I mean. If the phenomenon is not entirely understood, it follows logically that all explanations are flawed, which makes me more comfortable adding mine to the mix. Some news reports have made it sound like this is new » Continue >>More


February, 2019

Adirondack Moose Survey Results: 175 in 83 Groups


New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced the completion of it’s annual aerial Adirondack moose survey, part of a collaborative study of the health of New York’s moose population. A total of 83 groups of one or more moose were observed during the survey’s 175 sightings, with all appearing healthy. After an absence of 120 years, moose recolonized New York in the 1980s. Since that time, biologists have been routinely monitoring moose in the state, informing the public about moose, and responding to situations where moose come into conflict with people. DEC wildlife staff conducted helicopter flights >>More


February, 2019

Beneath The Ice: The Quiet Parlor of the Fishes


When I’m skiing or skating across a pond, I observe the shoreline, surrounding hills, islands, maybe a woodpecker or blue jay winging its way to the opposite shore. I look up at the sky, the clouds, swirling snowflakes. But there is a world beneath my feet that I don’t see, in what Henry David Thoreau called “the quiet parlor of the fishes.” Beneath a layer of ice up to three feet thick, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and tiny invertebrates are going about their winter business. For most of these creatures, this means slowing their metabolism down to survive with reduced light >>More


February, 2019

Paul Hetzler: Playing Your Brains Out


Body-surfing monster waves in Australia; snowboarding down rooftops in Alaska on improvised boards; tobogganing into deliberate pileups at the bottom of steep hills — the range of unsupervised play that youngsters can get into is jaw-dropping. That’s not to mention the dangerous romping and horseplay, as well as rude games like spit-soccer in the pool. Honestly, they are such animals. Biologists have long pondered why so many animal species evolved to play, occasionally at their peril. And to some extent, they are still wondering. Juvenile play in primates such as humans and apes is well-documented, and other mammals such as >>More