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Adirondack Explorer

Archive for the ‘Natural History’ Category

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


July, 2018

Annual Adirondack Loon Census Volunteers Needed


The Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Adirondack Program has announced a call for volunteers to survey loons on Adirondack lakes as part of the 18th Annual Adirondack Loon Census. The event will take place on Saturday, July 21, 2018, from 8 to 9 am. Participants can choose from a list of available lakes and ponds in the Adirondack region to sign up for and survey. With the help of local Adirondack residents and visitor volunteers, the census enables WCS to collect important data on the status of the breeding loon population in and around the Adirondack Park and across New York >>More


July, 2018

Eastern Musk Turtle: A Stinkpot’s Aposematic Stink Screen


I have always admired turtles and their armored ways; how they bask in the sun and retreat when the world is too much. Last summer, through the perseverance of a nine-year-old boy, I found myself holding a small, golf-ball-sized turtle. It had a pointed snout that had two white lines stretching above and below its eye and an olive-brown carapace with a garden of algae growing on it. Evan had captured this treasure from a local pond. We were using dip nets and strainers and our trays were already filled with dragonfly nymphs, aquatic snails, log cabin caddisfly larvae, and >>More


July, 2018

Paul Hetzler: More Blissful Ignorance, Please


It’s a rare blessing to have a job I absolutely love, but it’s not all roses. Although some of it is, literally, roses. All too often it is my dubious honor to bring to public awareness a new invasive pest or disease, and history has not always been kind to the bearers of bad news. There is an old saying that knowledge is power, but there is another one that ignorance is bliss, and some days I’d be happy to trade some alleged power for a little bliss. The 5th annual New York State Invasive Species Awareness Week began on >>More


July, 2018

Mallards: A Dissolute Dabbler’s Rise and Decline


Robert McCloskey’s Make way for Ducklings is one of my favorite childhood books. I loved the way Mr. and Mrs. Mallard interacted, their seemingly endless search for the perfect nesting place, the description of classic Boston neighborhoods, and the whimsical names of their eight ducklings. Not until I started reading the story to my own children, several years ago now, did I notice Mr. Mallard ditches Mrs. Mallard after the ducklings hatch, leaving her to tend to eight kids on her own, amid the dangers of snapping turtles and Boston traffic. It turns out Mr. Mallard, with his handsome green >>More


July, 2018

Stabilimenta: Northeastern Spider Silk Web Decoration


When I was little and tagging along when my dad tended his vegetables, I would sometimes find large black and yellow garden spiders. They were beautiful, and I noticed they had a curious trait: they often added a bright white decorative zigzag to their webs. I always wondered why, if a spider web is meant to catch insects unawares, these spiders would go to such effort to make their webs more visible? To answer this question, I recently spoke with Dr. Todd Blackledge, who researches spider silk and the web decorations of garden spiders. Garden spiders spin orb webs – >>More