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Adirondack Explorer

Archive for the ‘Natural History’ Category

February, 2019

This Winter Vexing Bipolar Polar Vortex


I’d love to explain exactly what a polar vortex is, but I’ll spare you the details, mainly because I don’t know them. Apparently, the definition of a polar vortex has been changed by the American Meteorological Society three times in the last 20 years — even the experts are still trying to nail down what it is. Besides freaking cold, I mean. If the phenomenon is not entirely understood, it follows logically that all explanations are flawed, which makes me more comfortable adding mine to the mix. Some news reports have made it sound like this is new » Continue >>More


February, 2019

Adirondack Moose Survey Results: 175 in 83 Groups


New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced the completion of it’s annual aerial Adirondack moose survey, part of a collaborative study of the health of New York’s moose population. A total of 83 groups of one or more moose were observed during the survey’s 175 sightings, with all appearing healthy. After an absence of 120 years, moose recolonized New York in the 1980s. Since that time, biologists have been routinely monitoring moose in the state, informing the public about moose, and responding to situations where moose come into conflict with people. DEC wildlife staff conducted helicopter flights >>More


February, 2019

Beneath The Ice: The Quiet Parlor of the Fishes


When I’m skiing or skating across a pond, I observe the shoreline, surrounding hills, islands, maybe a woodpecker or blue jay winging its way to the opposite shore. I look up at the sky, the clouds, swirling snowflakes. But there is a world beneath my feet that I don’t see, in what Henry David Thoreau called “the quiet parlor of the fishes.” Beneath a layer of ice up to three feet thick, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and tiny invertebrates are going about their winter business. For most of these creatures, this means slowing their metabolism down to survive with reduced light >>More


February, 2019

Paul Hetzler: Playing Your Brains Out


Body-surfing monster waves in Australia; snowboarding down rooftops in Alaska on improvised boards; tobogganing into deliberate pileups at the bottom of steep hills — the range of unsupervised play that youngsters can get into is jaw-dropping. That’s not to mention the dangerous romping and horseplay, as well as rude games like spit-soccer in the pool. Honestly, they are such animals. Biologists have long pondered why so many animal species evolved to play, occasionally at their peril. And to some extent, they are still wondering. Juvenile play in primates such as humans and apes is well-documented, and other mammals such as >>More


February, 2019

Tyler Socash: An Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve


Think about the last unexpected mammal, bird, or amphibian that you crossed paths with in a wild space. Perhaps it was a black-backed woodpecker near a bog. Maybe it was an unassuming spotted salamander among the fallen leaves. I once saw a frolicking family of fishers on a walk in the woods. Anecdotal wildlife encounters help to remind us we aren’t alone in this world. We share natural landscapes with thousands of species who call them home.  But look at a map of the Eastern Adirondacks and a few things stand out: Lake Champlain’s massive coastline, the Adirondack Forest Preserve >>More


January, 2019

Whitney’s Elk Relocation Experiment


In the early 1900s, numerous elk were set loose at several places in the Adirondacks, with the hope of re-introducing the species. These efforts, made possible by private individuals, were described briefly in a book by William Temple Hornaday, American Natural History: A Foundation of Useful Knowledge of the Higher Animals of North America, Volume 2 (published in 1914). The Albany Evening Journal (Sept. 10, 1903) related that 43 elk from Wyoming had been shipped in two railroad cars, and delivered at Paul Smith’s. There, they were to be released into a forest owned by Paul Smith at St. Regis >>More


January, 2019

At ADKX: An Adirondack Backyard Bio Survey Talk


The 2019 Cabin Fever Sunday Series, featuring seven events that look deeper into Adirondack history and culture, is underway at Adirondack Experience, The Museum on Blue Mountain Lake (ADKX). The next event, Who’s There: An Adirondack Backyard Biological Survey with Ed Kanze, is set for January 27, at 1:30 pm. For nearly nineteen years, Ed Kanze and his family have been surveying the flora, fauna, fungi, and everything else that’s alive on the eighteen acres along the Saranac River that they call home. They’ve found most of the expected things – robins, whitetail deer, red maple trees, balsam firs – plus >>More


January, 2019

Some Science Behind Lake Champlain’s Ice


Come mid-January, when I’m acclimatized to winter, I enjoy an occasional stroll on the icy surface of Lake Champlain. I favor bays sheltered from the brunt of winter winds where the ice has had ample time to thicken. I pull microspikes on over my boots and off I go. There’s room to roam between Burlington and the breakwater that parallels the shoreline. The lake ice locks spectacular natural art in place. Bubbles trapped under December ice are entombed as January’s ice forms below. Crystalline patterns resembling minute stars form during the various freezing and thawing cycles that occur as lake >>More


January, 2019

Adaptations to Extremes: Art, Science Panel Discussion


The Lake George Arts Project’s Courthouse Gallery has announced “Adaptations to Extremes,” an Art-Science exhibition set to run from January 19th to February 22nd. An opening reception has been set for Saturday, January 19th from 4 to 6 pm, and a panel discussion writer Michael Coffey serving as moderator on Sunday, January 20th at the Bolton Historical Museum at 3 pm. Both events are free and open to the public. A major theme in the biological sciences is the way in which organisms adapt to environmental extremes. The Santa Barbara Basin is a bowl-shaped geological formation off the coast of >>More


January, 2019

Remembering Elk Herds in the Adirondacks


Hundreds of years ago, haunting bugle-like calls echoed through these hills and valleys. The sounds were made by bull elk to attract mates and fend off rivals. Elk in the Northeast?  Yes, elk were once the most widely distributed of North American hoofed mammals. Millions roamed over much of the U.S. and Canada. Adaptable to a variety of habitats, elk were found in the Adirondacks, and in most ecosystems except the tundra, deserts, and the Gulf Coast. The specific range and number of elk that inhabited the Northeast are unknown, but fossil bones of elk have been found in shell >>More