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Adirondack Explorer

Archive for the ‘Natural History’ Category

December, 2017

Adirondack Insects: Cluster Flies


So here’s my movie concept: during a laboratory accident, a scientist exchanges his DNA with a fly. Over the next few weeks, our hero slowly shrinks in size and transforms into an insect with black spiky body hair, maroon eyes, and translucent, buzzing wings. What distinguishes this movie from previous versions of “The Fly” is that this time, the scientist swaps his genes with a cluster fly. Instead of developing super-fast reflexes, he becomes clumsy and lethargic. Instead of rampaging through a city terrorizing people, he alternates his time between crashing against the window and lying upside-down on the floor, >>More


December, 2017

Magic Mushrooms and Red Noses: Holiday Bioluminescence


As a kid I was enthralled by TV nonfiction shows. Nova and Frontline had great stuff, but my favorites were Christmas documentaries like Frosty the Snowman. Over the years I’ve been disappointed that no further work seems to have been done on the many questions left hanging by the original researchers. Take the whole glowing-nose thing. First documented back in 1939 by Robert L. May in his book Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the story surrounding the phenomenon is well-known. Since no one has come up with a scientific explanation, I have decided to tackle the issue. Bioluminescence is a natural >>More


December, 2017

Lake George Land Conservancy’s Christmas Bird Count


For the past twenty years, the Lake George Land Conservancy (LGLC) has contributed data to the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, a national bird census tracking the status of bird populations across North America now in its 118th year. From December 14 through January 5, volunteers across the country brave the elements to count local birds for one day within a designated 15-mile circle. All data is then reported back to the Audubon Society. According to LGLC Communications and Outreach manager Sarah Hoffman, everyone is welcome to participate. There are regular contributors each year to the LGLC Bird Count so >>More


December, 2017

Adirondack Wildlife: The Ermine and Snow


The snow around the region this week is a blessing.  For several members of our wildlife community, a forest floor that remains free of snow into December becomes problematic, as a dark background contrasts with their newly developed coat of pure white fur. Among the creatures that change color in autumn as part of a survival strategy is a small, yet especially fierce predator – the short-tailed weasel, better known to trappers and backwoods sportsmen as the ermine. In summer, the ermine has a thin, light brown coat that causes it to blend into any woodland setting. Additionally, the small >>More


December, 2017

The Afterlife of Logs


My three children have participated in a Four Winds Nature Institute program that recruits adult family members to lead grade-school nature learning. I have worked with several moms and dads over the years to pull together materials for hands-on lessons about communities, habitats, and the natural world. The activities usually ended with crowd-pleasing puppet shows. During my first year in the program, in a rare moment of advance planning, I read the entire year’s program, and was glad I did: “Snags and Rotting Logs” was scheduled for November, when I anticipated most logs would be frozen or buried in snow. >>More


December, 2017

Winter Raptors and the Washington Co Grasslands


Grassland habitat, such as that found at the Washington County Grasslands, are home to significant populations of some of the highest priority birds for conservation in the Atlantic Flyway. These birds depend on hayfields, pastures, and other agricultural lands. More than two-thirds of New York’s farmland has been lost during the past century and Breeding Bird Survey data shows a 90% decrease in grassland birds since 1966. Grasslands are home to many birds during the spring and summer breeding season. They also provide habitat through the winter for raptors such as the state-listed short-eared owl (endangered) and northern harrier (threatened). To >>More


December, 2017

John Davis Publishes Book on Split Rock Wildway


Essex resident John Davis and local artists have produced a new book showcasing the ecological importance, conservation value, and natural beauty of Split Rock Wildway. Split Rock Wildway: Scouting the Adirondack Park’s Most Diverse Wildlife Corridor examines the wooded hills and adjacent waterways that link Lake Champlain with the Adirondack High Peaks. Davis’s perspective is complemented with illustrations and photographs contributed by Bill Amadon, Sheri Amsel, Larry Barns, Steven Kellogg, Roderick MacIver, Larry Master, and Kevin Raines. John Davis lives with his family in the Split Rock Wildway, where he care-takes Hemlock Rock Wildlife Sanctuary. He is a volunteer land >>More


December, 2017

Nuthatches: The Upside Down Birds


Like many people who watch birds, I have my favorites. The nuthatches, for instance. Quirky little birds. Shaped like stubby cigars, with their short tails and thick necks. And that disconcerting habit of spending time upside down. I wish I could do that. Of course, I wish I could walk up walls and hang from the ceiling like a gecko, too. But why do nuthatches walk down the trunks of trees, anyway? “There’s no definitive answer to that,” said Cameron Ghalambor, a professor of biology at Colorado State University who has studied red-breasted nuthatches. The theory is the birds benefit >>More


December, 2017

Living With Liverworts


I followed a stream downhill through the woods as it coursed through a small ravine. At the base of the hill, just before the brook entered a wetland, a patch of unusual-looking plants was growing amongst moss on a decaying tree root that spanned the stream. They were round and flat with lobed edges, and only the size of a dime. A couple of other patches grew nearby. Here the plants had branched out from their round bases, extending flat green ribbons across the damp soil. These odd plants are liverworts, named for the resemblance of lobed species to the >>More


December, 2017

Buy Local Christmas Trees, Support Local Growers


Christmas trees can be seen everywhere during the holiday season. And, because of this, we often think of Christmas tree farming as a seasonal business, which it certainly isn’t. To be successful, year-round management and maintenance are needed. And the work is often labor-intensive, and/or needing to be completed under adverse weather conditions. When starting out, Christmas tree farmers must plan ahead and be able to invest a minimum of six to ten years of hard work and money in their business enterprise before any financial return is realized. Startup operations include soil preparation and planting of new seedlings. Additionally, >>More