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Adirondack Explorer

Archive for the ‘Natural History’ Category

February, 2017

An Ill Wind: The Health Effects of Wind


Bad-hair days might be a personal frustration, possibly even a social calamity, but bad-air days can send the population of a whole region into a tailspin. Literally. By “bad air” I don’t mean urban smog, although that certainly merits an article, if not an actual solution. And while the fetid pong in one’s dorm room after an Oktoberfest all-you- can-drink bratwurst bash and sauerkraut-eating contest might bring tears to one’s eyes, that’s not the bad air I’m considering. Under certain weather conditions, air becomes laden with positively charged ions, which is not a plus, as they can adversely affect our >>More


February, 2017

DEC Announces 2016 Bear Hunting Results


The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that bear hunters in New York State killed 1,539 black bears during the 2016 hunting seasons. Hunters took a total of 1,025 black bears in the Southern Zone, about 10 percent fewer than in 2015, but slightly more than the recent five-year average. Nearly equal numbers of bears were killed during the bow season, 379 bears, and regular season, 398 bears. The early season, which occurs only in a handful of management units in the Catskill region, yielded 228 bears. In the Northern Zone, 514 bears were killed, approximately 12 percent fewer >>More


February, 2017

Tipulidae: The Cute Faced Crane Fly


An email chirped in my inbox; “Check out the cute face on this insect we found.” I opened the attachment (yes, from a reliable source). My colleague Professor Peter Hope had taken a spectacular photograph through his microscope. The larva in question had fallen into a pit trap set by our first-year Saint Michael’s College students in Camp Johnson in Colchester. The ‘face’ seemed to have two very circular black eyes, a downturned smile, and a wild cartoonish hairstyle sprouting from lobes radiating in five directions. My esteemed colleague, a gifted botanist, had photographed the rear end of a crane >>More


February, 2017

Great Gray Owls in Northern New York


In most winters great gray owls remain in their great north woods home in Canada, the mountains of the western U.S., northern Europe, and Siberia. But every four years or so, apparently motivated by a shortage of food (primarily voles), many of these owls will move southward in search of food. In northeastern North America, the owls usually stay just north of the border, apparently finding suitable vole populations in southern Quebec and Ontario, but a handful of individuals will sometimes move further south into northern New York and New England. This is one such winter with a number » >>More


February, 2017

Adirondack Researchers Explore Birch Syrup Production


The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has posted the results of a project exploring opportunities for regional maple sugarmakers to produce birch syrup. Four sugarhouses participated in the 2015-2016 birch syrup project; one each in Clinton, Essex, Franklin and Jefferson counties. Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center Maple Program transported the sap collected from 61 paper birch trees there 20 miles to the Uihlein Forest sugarhouse for processing. Project leader Michael L. Farrell noted that the trial at Paul Smith’s also produced conclusive evidence that using 5/16-inch spouts will provide significantly more sap than 3/16-inch spouts. In Ellenburg Center, >>More


February, 2017

20th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count Feb 17th


The 20th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is taking place February 17 to 20 in backyards, parks, nature centers, on hiking trails, school grounds, balconies, and beaches — anywhere you find birds. Bird watchers count the birds they see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, then enter their checklists at birdcount.org. All the data contribute to a snapshot of bird distribution and help scientists see changes over the past 20 years. Varying weather conditions so far this winter are producing a few trends that GBBC participants can watch for during the count. eBird >>More


February, 2017

Adirondack Wildlife: The Disappearing Spruce Grouse


The spattering of sizable tracts of boreal forests that remain in the Adirondacks serve as home to several species of birds that have evolved the ability to survive in northern taiga woodlands. Among the feathered creatures that are well adapted for a life in lowland stands of conifers is the spruce grouse (Falcipennis canadensis), a dark colored bird viewed by some as being as much a symbol of the Great Northwood’s as the moose. As its name implies, the spruce grouse inhabits those softwood forests dominated mainly by spruce; yet not all spruce forests serve as home to this northern >>More


February, 2017

Adirondack Wildlife: American Mink


If the river otter is the most aquatic member of the mustelid family, and weasels represent the terrestrial branch of the clan, the American mink is the adept middle child, taking advantage of its adaptations both in the water and on land to make a living. Like both otters and weasels, mink have long, sleek bodies, the sharp teeth of a predator, and small – but keen – ears and eyes. Their fur – long a fashion staple – is a combination of oily guard hairs, which afford some water-repellency, and an undercoat that grows thick in winter to provide >>More


February, 2017

Adirondack Tree Bark in Winter


It’s winter. Hardwood trees are bare. But that doesn’t mean the woods are bereft of interest. Winter, when sunlight slants in, is the time when bark comes into its own. Pause to take in the aged-brass bark of a yellow birch, or the hand-sized bark plates on a big white pine. Bark is beautiful. And practical. A protective tissue, a defense against insects, fungi, fire, and deer, it has a lot in common with human skin. Bark includes a cork layer of dead cells — the bark you see — and the cork cambium, made up of living cells. A >>More


February, 2017

Adirondack Wildlife: Raccoons in Winter


All mammals experience difficulty sleeping when it becomes too warm. Because of an insulating layer of fat and an exceptionally thick, dense coat of fur, this temperature is far lower for members of our wildlife community in winter than during summer. From Thanksgiving through early April, several successive nights with the air hovering around the freezing point is warm enough to cause the raccoon to stir from its prolonged winter slumber and emerge from its den. If the wind is light and there is no precipitation falling, this familiar nocturnal marauder begins to explore the surrounding area for anything edible. >>More