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Adirondack Explorer

Archive for the ‘Natural History’ Category

May, 2017

Porcupines And Their Need For Salt


Over the next several weeks, the buds on hardwood trees and shrubs will open and the forests will again be cloaked in green, providing our many herbivores with a welcome change in their diet. While many plant eaters are able to subsist on woody buds and cellulose laden layers of inner bark throughout winter, leafy matter provides far greater levels of nourishment. The porcupine, a common denizen of the deep Northwood’s forest, is among our region’s first order consumers to ingest greens when they emerge in spring. In winter, the porcupine settles into a routine of eating only the bark >>More


May, 2017

Scarlet Tanagers: A Precious Stone with Wings


One day last spring, I pulled into a parking lot in Thetford, Vermont, and saw a flash of brilliant red. Instantly, I knew it was a male scarlet tanager (Piranga olivacea). He was perched in a cluster of bushes and everything around him – the fresh spring leaves, a nearby robin, the recently revived grass – paled in comparison. Nothing could compete with his blaze of color. This time of year, the male scarlet tanager has a ruby-red body, flanked by jet-black wings and an equally black tail. He’s like a precious stone with wings. The female is olive yellow, with >>More


May, 2017

Saturday Is A Global Big Day For Birders


The third annual Global Big Day takes place on May 13, 2017. The term traditionally applies to any effort to identify as many bird species as possible in a single day. Bird watchers around the world are invited to watch and count birds for any length of time on that day and enter their observations online at eBird.org. “The past two Global Big Days have set back-to-back world records for the most bird species seen in a single day,” says Chris Wood at the Cornell Lab. “During last year’s Global Big Day bird watchers from more than 150 countries tallied more than 60 percent of the world’s >>More


May, 2017

Adirondack Name Game: Grass or Grasse River?


My recent story on the Adirondack pearl fishery in the Russell area of St. Lawrence County elicited a comment stating that two names, Plumb Brook and Grass River, had been misspelled, and that the correct terms were Plum Brook and Grasse River. Local names for topographical features often become distorted over time, especially when usage is passed on by word of mouth, but it’s important to know place-name origins. In many cases, there are records giving the officially recognized names of streams, populated places, mountains, and the like. While writing the piece on pearl fishing, due diligence led me to >>More


May, 2017

Tomato Blight Conclusions and Confusion


If jumping to conclusions was a sport, I might have played pro. In my prime I went for the long jumps. Like concluding that since I had once casually said to my spouse that backyard laying hens might be fun, she would not be upset when months later I came home with four dozen layers, plus a dog from the farmer where I got the hens. Can’t say jumping to conclusions worked out real well for me, but we all dabble in it. For example if you heard of a first-time Massachusetts politician with the last name Kennedy being sworn >>More


May, 2017

Before The Black Flies Come, There Are Ants


Prior to the start of black fly season, and continuing for several weeks after the swarms of those tiny, biting demons have faded, there is another insect onslaught that impacts numerous people throughout the Adirondacks. Shortly after the soil has thawed in spring, ants begin to invade the living space of humans, especially kitchens and dining areas where bits of food are readily available. Since there are so many types and species of ants in the North Country, it is impossible to say what kind of ant is appearing around countertops, near pantry closets, in garbage containers, and under tables >>More


May, 2017

Paul Hetzler: Keep Off the Grass


As a kid of about five, I became suspicious of lawns. In a rare moment of TV viewing, I had seen a public-service ad wherein a bundle of green leafy stuff thudded into an eerily vacant playground while a baritone voice boomed out something like “Grass. We think it’s bad for kids. Stay away from it.” My mom insisted this was “bad grass” which did not grow in our yard. However, she declined to elaborate, which fueled my mistrust. So I kept off the lawn a while. These days, “bread” is no longer money, “mint” is just a flavor, and >>More


May, 2017

The Hunt For Adirondack Freshwater Pearls (Conclusion)


Those freshwater pearl collectors searching Plumb Brook and other small tributaries (near Russell in St. Lawrence County) did so by the standard method of wading, hunched over, with pail in hand, and plucking clams from the gravelly streambed. The varying depths of the Grass River required more complex methods that were used in clamming operations elsewhere. Similar to how spruce-gum pickers used a spud (a long pole with a scraper attached to remove deposits from high in the trees), pearl fishers used spuds with a set of nippers that were used to clasp and retrieve clams from a riverbed. The >>More


April, 2017

Research Finds Increased Infected Ticks in Adirondacks


Paul Smith’s College’s efforts to monitor tick populations and tick-borne pathogens in the Adirondack region, in collaboration with the New York State Department of Health, have documented an increase in infected ticks in the North Country. Focusing primarily on St. Lawrence, Clinton, Franklin and Essex counties, Paul Smith’s College biology professor Dr. Lee Ann Sporn, a team of students and Adirondack Watershed Institute stewards have been collecting blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, which are tested by the Department of Health for disease-causing agents. In addition to an increase in the bacteria causing Lyme disease, the researchers have also >>More


April, 2017

Native Plants: All About Wild Leeks


The white bulbs of wild leeks, also called ramps (especially in the south), can be eaten year round, but it’s the early leaves that are most appreciated. In pre-freezer days, ramps were the first greens available after five or so months of potatoes and they were considered important as well as good tasting. Ramp festivals are still held in much of Appalachia to celebrate the arrival of this nutritious fresh food, and these tourist attractions have become so successful that in some places ramps are over-harvested. Wild leeks are spring ephemerals that have no flowers in the spring. I know >>More