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Adirondack Explorer

Archive for the ‘Natural History’ Category

August, 2018

Examining Threats to Monarch Butterfly Migration


The monarch butterfly may be the most recognized butterfly in the world. With the exception of the Polar Regions, the medium-size butterflies can be found on every continent on Earth. Their spectacular migration in eastern North America, from breeding locations in Canada and the United States to overwintering sites in Mexico, is nothing short of a miracle and has been the subject of decades of study. Monarchs have four life stages; egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa, and adult (butterfly). The search for milkweed, the only food that monarch larvae eat, is the sole reason for the annual monarch migration. This is >>More


August, 2018

Wildlife: The Adirondack Frog and Toad Choir


If you walk by a pond on a summer evening, you may hear the deep “jug-o-rum” of a bullfrog or the “tung” of a green frog, sounding like a plucked banjo string. Sometimes you’ll hear a whole chorus of frogs, the songs competing with each other for attention. The frogs are not singing for our enjoyment, of course. Most frog sounds we hear are advertisement calls to attract mates, and the callers are usually males. In some species, these vocalizations also help male frogs maintain territories against other males. If you look closely around the shore of a pond, you >>More


August, 2018

Kingfishers: Birds of Middle Earth


I usually hear the kingfisher before I see it. If I’m reading by the lake, its harsh, rattling call gets my attention. I look up to see the flashy blue-and-white bird fly to a new perch or hover over the water scanning for small fish and crayfish. If I’m kayaking, I try to follow it along the shore as it moves from one overhanging limb to another. This lasts for about two moves: they are easily disturbed and are fast fliers. Stalking the bird recently, I began to wonder about its nest. As common as belted kingfishers are, I didn’t >>More


August, 2018

Juvenile Ospreys Rescued From Burning Power Pole


NYS Environmental Conservation Officer (ECO) Stephen Gonyeau reported that on July 27th he was called to Putnam, east of Lake George, to assist with an osprey nest that had caught fire on a power pole. Gonyeau said he arrived to find two juveniles on the ground and learned that a third had been transported to a wildlife rehabilitator, but was unable to recover from its injuries. DEC reported that the power company repaired the damaged pole and placed a nesting platform on top. One of the juveniles was returned to the nest and the remaining osprey was transported to a >>More


August, 2018

The Northeast’s Most Alarming Insect


If freshwater insects did senior superlatives before graduating from aquatic life, what would yearbook entries say about dobsonflies? Largest? Most ferocious? Most likely to change names? Most likely to bite a human? Or to be used as fish bait? Or to be confused with a centipede? All of these superlatives apply to larval hellgrammites – insects that, upon emerging from the water, promptly change names to become dobsonflies. These fascinating predators spend their larval stage eating other invertebrates, including other hellgrammites. They’re equipped with impressive mandibles that can open wider than the width of their own heads and can handily >>More


August, 2018

Monarch Butterfly Lecture Planned At Wild Center


AdkAction has announced a free lecture, “Monarchs in a Changing World,” by Dr. Karen Oberhauser on Friday, August 10 at 6 pm in the Flammer Theater at The Wild Center. Monarchs, like many other organisms, are facing the challenges of a rapidly changing climate. Their capacity to cope with these changes remains uncertain. Climate also affects monarchs indirectly, by altering the habitats and plant species on which they depend, or the distribution and abundance of their predators and parasites. Dr. Oberhauser will explain her work using climate models to understand how these direct and indirect inputs might affect monarch in >>More


July, 2018

Deer Flies—Away!


Toothaches, difficult break-ups, and traffic accidents. With some things in life, if you have one, you have one too many. This applies to deer flies, those hard-biting pests with a knack for moving in at the instant your hands are full. And the same goes for their beefier cousin the horse fly. Deer and horse flies are in the family Tabanidae, a group of aquatic insects comprising over 4,000 species worldwide. Fortunately, we “only” have around 100 species of deer flies and 200 of horse flies in our region. It is the female deer and horse flies which slash you >>More


July, 2018

Living With Wildlife: The House Wren Eviction


One afternoon in early June, a small brown bird swooped down in front of our kitchen window. I wondered where it had swooped from when, a minute later, I saw it fly back up, with a sliver of straw in its beak. I went out the back door, onto the deck, in time to see the bird exiting the shower vent on the gable end of the house. It was a house wren, and it was building a nest in my house. Tip to tail, house wrens, Troglodytes aedon, are generally about 5 inches long and weigh about .4 oz. >>More


July, 2018

Fire on the Altona Flat Rock: Déjà Vu


Recent news stories on both sides of Lake Champlain reported a huge, dark cloud of smoke rising above northern Clinton County. A section of the Altona Flat Rock was afire, and within a day, more than 300 acres were scorched. Dry conditions across the North Country were cited as the reason it spread so quickly, but there were other factors I happen to be familiar with because the first book I wrote, back in 1980, was titled A History of the Altona Flat Rock. The area in question comprises fifteen square miles of uninhabited wildlands which, by nature, is a >>More


July, 2018

Dry Weather May Mean Less Lyme Disease


Over the past few decades, black-legged tick populations have grown relentlessly. These are the ticks that carry Lyme disease, and so what was once a novelty illness has become a rite of passage for many. It’s probably safe to say that by now everyone reading this knows someone who’s had the disease, if they haven’t had it themselves. But some years are worse than others when it comes to Lyme disease infection rates, so the obvious question is: what causes this? Part of the answer involves the number of deer and small mammals around. There’s been elegant science done that >>More