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Adirondack Explorer

Archive for the ‘Natural History’ Category

November, 2017

Wood Turtles In The Adirondacks


Before winter sets in, all reptiles and amphibians must retreat to a location that provides shelter against the temperatures that would be lethal to their cold-blooded system. While some find refuge underground, others rely on the protection afforded by water and seek out a place on the bottom of an aquatic setting in which ice is unlikely to develop, even during periods of intense cold. All turtles that live in the Adirondacks belong to this second group, including the wood turtle, a seldom encountered species that exists in limited numbers in scattered locations, especially in the eastern half of the >>More


November, 2017

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Bio Control Lab Established


The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Cornell University have announced the creation of a new biocontrol laboratory on the Cornell campus focused on protecting the state’s population of hemlock trees. The $1.2 million lab, partially funded by DEC with monies from the State’s Environmental Protection Fund and headed by Cornell entomologist Mark Whitmore, is expected to be dedicated to researching and rearing biological controls to stop the spread of the invasive pest Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA), which is threatening trees in about half of New York’s 62 counties and more than 15 other states. HWA, a >>More


November, 2017

Coyotes Prepare for Winter


Eight years ago, my husband and I planted 128 fruit trees on a hillside, mostly apples, but the back few rows included stone fruits. Our apples began producing with gusto after only a few years. We made gallons of cider and sold bushels of heirloom apples. But the plums have required patience. Their blossoms are so delicate and our springs so unpredictable that after eight years, there are still varieties we have yet to taste. Over these eight years, we have been loyal. We have not eaten anyone else’s plums. This year, we were rewarded when all five of our >>More


November, 2017

Marcescence: An Ecological Mystery


We’re blessed to live in an area that offers some of the most beautiful fall foliage found anywhere in the world. And this fall proved to be one of the most remarkably enduring that I’ve ever experienced; the maples, birches, poplars, oaks, and beeches creating a landscape literally exploding in shades of gold, crimson, and orange, which lasted for several weeks. As cold weather approaches, many species of trees shed their leaves as a strategy to reduce water loss and frost damage. Triggered by hormone change (the balance of auxin levels between leaves and branches), it’s all part of » >>More


November, 2017

Winter and the Golden-Crowned Kinglet


It’s simple physics. In a cold environment, small objects lose heat at a faster rate than large objects. This is why most warm-blooded animals that reside in a northern climate tend to be large in size. Yet, for every rule, there is always an exception and when considering birds, the golden-crowned kinglet is a perplexing anomaly. The golden-crowned kinglet is the smallest perching bird to inhabit the Adirondacks, as this delicate, olive colored creature is not much larger than a hummingbird, (which is classified in a group that is related to the swifts rather than the perching birds.) However, unlike >>More


November, 2017

Gray Squirrels, Nut Trees, and Forest Fragmentation


“Squirrels have been criticized for hiding nuts in various places for future use and then forgetting the places. Well, squirrels do not bother with minor details like that. They have other things on their mind, such as hiding more nuts where they can’t find them.” Unfortunately, that succulent passage was penned in 1949 by W. Cuppy in his book How To Attract A Wombat. I say unfortunately because I wanted to write it first, but was unable to get born in time. The trade-off, which is that I got to be a lot younger than him, probably worked out for >>More


November, 2017

Succession: How A Forest Can Create and Re-Creates Itself


A few years ago, I started an observational experiment in forest succession on a couple of acres where we once pastured sheep and goats. Rocky and wet, without livestock it was hard to keep cleared. So, I let the forest recreate itself and just watched the process unfold. It’s a process that has taken place across much of the Northeast since the mid-1800s. Forest succession is, simply, a “sequence of tree species, over time,” the “replacement of plant species due to differences in competitiveness due to different environmental conditions,” explained Kevin Smith, the supervisory plant physiologist at the US Forest >>More


November, 2017

A Chance To Learn More About Honeybees


The honeybee, Apis mellifera, is the most widely used managed bee in the world. According to the American Beekeeping Federation, there are an estimated 2.7 million managed honeybee colonies in the U.S. today, two-thirds of which travel the country each year pollinating crops and producing honey and beeswax. Honeybees and other pollinators are essential for maintaining floral diversity and for producing many important agricultural crops that feed residents of New York and other areas of the world. Among them are almonds, oranges, apples, cherries, pears, cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, alfalfa, soy beans, sugar beets, asparagus, broccoli, squash, tomatoes, green beans, carrots, and onions; some of >>More


November, 2017

Goldenrod Golf Ball Galls


A few Thanksgivings ago, my then-ten-year-old daughter and I went for an afternoon stroll. Unseasonably warm weather made for a longer than planned walk through a power line right-of-way and on down through steeply sloping woods to the Winooski River. As we moved through the tall scrub, Lauren’s interest was drawn to the golf ball-sized swellings on desiccated goldenrod stalks. As usual, she had many really good questions: what were these woody spheres on dead plants; why did some have holes; what did they look like inside? We pocketed a few and continued our walk. The soft silty river bank >>More


November, 2017

DEC: Avoid Caves and Mines to Protect Bats


The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has urged outdoor adventurers to suspend exploration of cave and mine sites that may serve as seasonal homes for hibernating bats. Human disturbances are especially harmful to the State’s bat population since the arrival of the disease known as white-nose syndrome, which has killed more than 90 percent of bats at hibernation sites in New York. All posted notices restricting the use of caves and mines should be followed. If New Yorkers or visitors to the State encounter hibernating bats while underground, DEC encourages them to leave the area as quickly and quietly >>More