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Adirondack Explorer

Archive for the ‘Natural History’ Category

April, 2019

Northeastern Wolves: Then and Now


On a moonlit night two hundred years ago, a dog-shaped shadow slipped through the Vermont woods. The large, shaggy canid emerged onto a hilltop pasture, raised its muzzle, and howled – a deep, throaty howl that reverberated through the hills. A chorus of wolves responded. Wolves were common in the Northeast and most of the U.S. when European settlers arrived. And it didn’t take long for the settlers, who were steeped in folklore that portrayed wolves as evil, to wage war. Towns enacted bounties, to which livestock owners were legally bound to contribute, for every dead wolf brought in. In >>More


April, 2019

Race to the Bottom: Water Bears and Moss Piglets


Pint-size pets were practical, once upon a time. A hunter using a wolf-like dog to ferret out game would bring home less bacon than one who used a terrier for the same tracking services. Presumably, small hunting dogs mating with dust-mops is what gave rise to Shih Tzus and other foofy mini-dogs, which sadly are no longer in high demand now that Roombas can do the same job for cheaper. Recently there was a “teacup mini-pig” craze, but we but dumped them when they turned out to be ordinary piglets which would soon outgrow teacups, buckets, and bathtubs. Now it >>More


April, 2019

Conservation Minute: The Backyard Conservationist


Whether you own acres of land or have a small flower garden, you have an important role to play in creating spaces that support wildlife. As our forests become more fragmented, its critical to start looking toward our front and back yards, and even our patios, to consider managing these spaces for biodiversity. There are countless ways we can encourage wildlife to thrive in our yards, but plants are the most important resource to consider. Many insects and wildlife species have specific dietary and habitat needs. If their needs are not met, then your property cannot support those species. The >>More


April, 2019

Cooper’s Hawk


Once, when I was living in a house on the edge of a forest in Western Massachusetts, an early-spring storm blew in and left about a foot of snow in its wake. Worried about the birds, many of which had just returned to their northern breeding grounds, I spent the day replenishing the feeders and scattering extra seeds on the deck and in the yard. I watched through the sliding glass doors, as dozens of songbirds flitted in and out my view. It was a mesmerizing scene. My reverie was broken, however, when a large bird torpedoed out of the >>More


March, 2019

Paul Hetzler: Let Them Eat Trees


Nearly all historians agree Marie Antoinette probably never coined the phrase “let them eat cake,” a saying already in popular culture before her time. The saying was ascribed to her by opponents to bolster her reputation as a callous and arrogant aristocrat. She would have seemed far more benevolent if she had said “let them eat trees.” From remote villages to five-star urban restaurants, people around the world consume all manner of delectable dishes featuring second-hand wood. Although that is not generally how it is featured on the menu. Mushrooms such as inky cap, oyster and shiitake have a voracious >>More


March, 2019

Exploring the History of Maple Syrup


I don’t think there’s a more magnificent forest tree or more glorious shade tree than the sugar maple (Acer saccharum); a deciduous tree that matures in 30-50 years, generally growing to between 70 and 90 feet tall, with a crown that turns a brilliant, fiery yellow, orange, or red at summer’s end. The sugar maple is the official state tree of New York, Vermont, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. It’s also the national tree of Canada. And the maple leaf is the Canadian national emblem. For sugarmakers, this is maple season. Having tapped thousands of » Continue Reading. View original post.


March, 2019

Remove Bird Feeders, Don’t Attract Bears


The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has reminded New Yorkers to take steps to prevent bears from easily accessing food sources like bird feeders and garbage. Due to poor natural food availability last fall, many black bears went into their dens with low fat reserves. As they begin to emerge from winter dens, they have already begun seeking out food sources around homes. DEC has already received several reports that bears are knocking down bird feeders to eat the seed. Feeding bears either intentionally, which is illegal, or unintentionally through careless practices around properties, has consequences for >>More


March, 2019

Animal Population Estimates: What’s in a Number?


Forty years ago, amid the surge of legislation that accompanied the rise of the modern environmental movement, New Hampshire passed its first Endangered Species Conservation Act. The goal was to protect wildlife facing extinction in the Granite State. There was just one problem: they had no list of exactly which species were threatened or endangered. So, in December 1979, a gathering of more than 50 biologists, naturalists, and woodsmen was convened at the Harris Center for Conservation Education, where I now work. They divided into working groups on mammals, birds, and “cold-blooded vertebrates” – invertebrates and rare plants would have >>More


March, 2019

The Mink: An Outside Story


It was a cold, snowy Sunday morning in the middle of January. I planned to heed the warnings encouraging motorists to stay off the road and turned the radio on to catch the end of an interview with poet Mary Oliver, recorded in 2015. The poet had died earlier that week, at the age of 83. “Listening to the World” was the title of the conversation, ironic on a snowy morning when the earth seemed so quiet. After breakfast, I was gazing out my kitchen window toward the river, looking beyond the woodshed attached to the far side of our >>More


March, 2019

Fireflies of Winter


Like most people, I thought I knew where to find fireflies: in back yards and fields on summer nights, flickering on and off like dollhouse-sized lanterns or like Tinkerbell, the tiny fairy that the author of Peter Pan invented while observing fireflies near a Scottish lake. I was only partly right. There are about 2,000 firefly species, but not all are nocturnal. Nor are they all flashy – some don’t light up at all. Furthermore, we don’t have to wait for summer to see one. Meet Ellychnia corrusca, known as the winter dark, or diurnal, firefly. Although common, this insect >>More