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Adirondack Explorer

Archive for the ‘Natural History’ Category

December, 2018

Paul Hetzler: Dreaming Of A Local Christmas


Even Santa Claus himself cannot grant a wish for a white Christmas — it is a coin toss whether the holiday will be snow-covered or green this year. A verdant landscape is not our Christmas ideal, but we can keep more greenbacks in the hands of local people, and keep our Christmas trees and other accents fresh and green for longer, when we buy local trees and wreaths. Not only are Christmas trees a renewable resource, they boost the regional economy. Even if you don’t have the time to cut your own at a tree farm, do yourself a favor >>More


December, 2018

Study: Changing Winds May Affect Migratory Birds


Under future climate scenarios, changing winds may make it harder for North American birds to migrate southward in the autumn, but make it easier for them to come back north in the spring according to researchers from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. They came to this conclusion using data from 143 weather radar stations to estimate the altitude, density, and direction birds took during spring and autumn migrations over several years. They also extracted wind data from 28 different climate change projections in the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Their findings were published in >>More


December, 2018

New Maple, Birch Tapping Research Released


The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has posted a research update with data to help maple and birch syrup producers respond to variable climate conditions. The project has established baseline data for what are hoped to be continuing efforts to determine the optimal time to begin tapping birch trees in conjunction with maple production. The report posted under the Maple tab at www.nnyagdev.org compares sap and syrup yields based on various tapping times of maple and birch trees at the Uilhein Maple Research Forest in Lake Placid, and at the Paul’s Smith College Forest in Paul Smiths. The » >>More


December, 2018

American Mountain Ash


There’s a giant living in Coös County, New Hampshire. It’s a 61-foot tall tree, the country’s largest known American mountain ash. At last measurement, it stood at a height of 61 feet and had a circumference of 70 inches. That’s outstanding for a tree that’s described by most sources, including my old dendrology textbook, as “a small tree or shrub.” This tree is a champion — but the species as a whole has a lot going for it. I love the mountain ash for the beauty of its white flower clusters and red berries. More importantly, though, it fills an >>More


December, 2018

Poinsettias Have a Long and Colorful History


Poinsettias are among the most popular potted flowering or foliage plants of the Christmas Season. They have been for decades. According to the most recent United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics available, the wholesale value of U.S. grown poinsettias was roughly $140 million in 2015; $143.7 million in 2014. (By comparison, the 2015 wholesale value of orchids was about $288.3 million; chrysanthemums, $16.7 million; Easter lilies, $24.3 million.) Long-recognized as the largest and most successful poinsettia breeder in the world, Paul Ecke Ranch in Encinitas, California was founded in 1924, by German immigrant entrepreneurs who moved to the US >>More


December, 2018

Slowing Aquatic Invasive Spread in 2019 Webinar Series


The 2019 edition of the Watercraft Inspection Program Leader educational webinar series developed by New York Sea Grant and featuring coastal science and AIS specialists begins on January 17 and will connect participants from multiple states. Four sessions in the webinar series will address issues associated with recreational boating as a key pathway in the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS), making watercraft inspection a critical contributor to limiting the spread of AIS among the more than 7,000 lakes, ponds, and rivers in New York State and waters elsewhere. Participants can join any or all of the one-hour, free-access webinars >>More


December, 2018

The Porcupine


I once lived in a cottage perched atop a sloping field in Western Massachusetts. It was the lone structure at the edge of undeveloped forest and sat far from the road. The cottage had a large front deck with an expansive view and a smaller one in back that faced the forest. It was under the small deck that a porcupine took up residence one fall, for a stay that turned out to be briefer than I would have liked. Since he wasn’t damaging the house, and didn’t seem aggressive, I didn’t mind his presence. Until my dog, Beckett, met >>More


December, 2018

Intoxication: Animals and Alcohol


It’s the time of year when the landscape is laid bare, the ground is impenetrable with frost, and flying insects have faded into memory. As fall slides into winter, resident songbirds like robins and waxwings must switch from their warm weather diets of earthworms and arthropods to the best of what’s left: fruit, and lots of it. As it turns out, this is also the time of year when conditions become ripe for the conversion of fruit sugars into alcohol via natural fermentation. Studies show that waxwings, whose winter diet is comprised almost exclusively of fruit, metabolize alcohol seven times >>More


December, 2018

Gray Jays: Souls of Dead Woodsmen


The sound of a gray jay (Perisoreus canadensis) evokes an image of the North Woods: dark green spruce trees, spire-like balsam fir, and bare-branched tamaracks silhouetted against a raw, slate-colored sky; the smell of woodsmoke in the air and a dusting of fresh snow on the ground. I see these birds occasionally around our cabin in northern New Hampshire and on hikes at higher elevations in the White Mountains. They’ve always had an air of mystery about them. The bird is often heard before it’s seen. The gray jay has a number of calls, whistles, and imitations in his repertoire: >>More


December, 2018

Paul Hetzler Ranting About Ravens


Over the past two decades, biologists have been busy studying one of our native mythological birds. At once the most widely distributed member of the crow family, and a figure revered across the globe by civilizations both ancient and modern, the common raven (Corvus corax) is anything but ordinary. In Norse mythology, the god Odin had two ravens who flew around the world gathering information for him, and the Irish giant and culture-hero Cú Chulainn was honored by a visit from the goddess Morrígan who appeared as a raven. To the modern Haida and Tlingit peoples out West, the raven >>More