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Adirondack Explorer

Archive for the ‘Natural History’ Category

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


April, 2017

1890s Adirondack Freshwater Pearl Fever


Balsam pillows, maple syrup, spruce gum, custom-made rustic furniture — they’re all products comprised of raw materials native to the Adirondacks. Other businesses, current or defunct, have similar roots, but occasionally in regional history we find homegrown livelihoods that seem an odd fit for the North Country. Among the unlikeliest of those is pearl harvesting — not in the St. Lawrence River or Lake Champlain, but in creeks and rivers of the Adirondacks and foothills. Pearls, considered the oldest of the world’s gems, are deeply rooted in history dating back thousands of years. They were highly valued in ancient Chinese, >>More


April, 2017

North Country Woodpeckers: Signs of Spring


Trees speak many languages, their leaves whooshing in summer and trunks creaking in winter. At the onset of spring, trees become sounding boards for courtship. Before the thrushes and warblers and sparrows arrive to sing from branches and boughs, woodpeckers kick off the spring chorus with a drumroll. Although woodpeckers certainly vocalize, usually with sharp calls or harsh chattering, drumming is one of the most reliable early signs of spring – a proclamation of territoriality and an advertisement to the opposite sex. Drumming is not to be confused with the arrhythmic tapping we hear from woodpeckers (and other cavity nesters >>More


April, 2017

Beloved Wild Center River Otter Dies


Officials at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake have announced the passing of Remy, one of the natural history museum’s four river otters. Remy, who was eight years old, passed away at The Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Health Center at Cornell University on April 23rd after a brief illness. A necropsy will be performed, with results expected in a few weeks. During his illness, Remy was under the care of Cornell staff. Remy was born in 2009 at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium and came to The Wild Center in 2010. Typically, in the wild, otters live approximately 8-12 >>More


April, 2017

Emerging Concerns Over Banded Mystery Snails


The warming temperatures and receding ice are giving way to open water and increased recreational activities. It is time once again to think about aquatic invasive species. An emerging threat to our fish populations and bird populations is the Banded Mystery Snail. The Banded Mystery Snail (Viviparus georgianus) a non-native species to the Adirondacks was introduced in 1867 into the Hudson River. It is historically native to Florida and Georgia among other southeastern states. It has been found in many bodies of water located within New York, including Lake Champlain and Lake George. The public, officials and scientists have not >>More




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