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Adirondack Explorer

Archive for the ‘Natural History’ Category

December, 2015

The Lives Of Chipmunks In Winter


While many people consider chipmunks pests, they are one of our more endearing squirrels. I suspect that part of their charm comes from the fact that we don’t see them for almost half of the year. Contrary to popular belief, though, chipmunks don’t hibernate the winter away, not really. Unlike true hibernators, who sink so deeply into a comatose state that it takes a bit of doing to wake them up, chipmunks could be considered light sleepers. A true hibernator spends the summer and fall seeking out all possible food items and eating them. The goal is to put on >>More


December, 2015

DEC Proposes To OK Air Rifle Big Game Hunting


The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is now accepting public comment on proposed regulation changes that would allow the use of large bore air rifles to hunt big game beginning in the fall 2016 hunting seasons. DEC will accept written public comment on the proposed rule changes through February 8, 2016. DEC is proposing to amend the regulations found in Title 6 of the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations (6 NYCRR section 180.3) to allow the use of certain air-powered firearms for hunting big game.  According to a statement issued by DEC, “air-powered rifles that » >>More


December, 2015

What Colors Can Deer See?


If you’re a hunter who’s ever ordered something from a sporting goods company, it’s probably safe to assume that you’ve been so inundated with catalogs over the past four months. God help you if you save your seed catalogs, too. If you take a moment to flip through your now complete seasonal collection, you might find yourself wondering why during archery season in October the companies were trying to sell you the latest and greatest camo patterns that would make you invisible to deer, but then, during rifle season in November, the same companies tried to sell you glowing blaze >>More


December, 2015

Puffballs: Giants Of The Mushroom World


“Never eat anything bigger than your head.” I don’t know if cartoonist Bernard Kliban came up with that or if it’s a nugget of old folk wisdom. Certainly you should not eat anything that big without at least chewing it first. But if you like mushrooms, you can find wild ones that are in fact much larger than your head. The giant puffball, Calvatia gigantea, appears in late summer and early fall in pastures, lawns and deciduous forests. These brilliant white globes are the fruiting bodies of the actual fungus, which is out of sight below ground. They seem to >>More


December, 2015

Porcupines: The Original Bark Eaters


What fearless animal has an adorable face, plows snow all winter and has a six-million acre park named after it? One of 29 species worldwide, the North American porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) is the largest New World species, growing to 36 inches long and weighing as much as 35 pounds. That makes it the second-largest North American rodent behind the beaver, but still puny compared to an African crested porcupine which can exceed 60 pounds. It is also the only cold-hardy porcupine, and one of the few that regularly climb trees. Its name derives from the Latin for “quill pig,” but >>More


December, 2015

Owls Hunt In Winter With High Tech Audio Systems


For several days last winter, a barred owl perched atop a dead white birch tree in our field. As winters go, last year’s was very cold, and the owl puffed up against the stubbornly below-freezing temperatures, its streaky brown and white feathers fluffed and fluttering in the icy breeze. Occasionally the owl would move its head in a slow turn, from east to west to east again, dark eyes gazing at the field blanketed in deep snow. The owl was most likely listening more than watching, straining to hear the scratching of tiny feet moving under the thick layer of >>More


December, 2015

Frost Flowers: The Frozen Beauty Of Nature


These are one of the stranger ice formations found in the woods; crystallofolia are delicate ice formations that form from water emitted along a stem during a hard freeze in late fall/early winter. From Latin crystallus for ice and folium for leaf these are commonly called “frost flowers” or “feather frost”. A typical example looks like a small puff-ball of cotton candy, a few inches across, made up of clusters of thin, curved ice filaments.   The petals of frost flowers are very delicate and will break when touched. They usually melt or sublimate when exposed to sunlight and are usually >>More


December, 2015

Slime Mold: Aliens in the Landscape


Imagine if you ventured out on a rainy afternoon and found a bright yellow slime-blob slithering across your perennial gardens, one that had not been there the previous day. Let’s say this amoeba-like thing was growing larger by the minute as it dissolved and consumed organic matter it encountered on its way through your yard. You might look around for Steve McQueen and the rest of the cast of the 1958 classic horror film “The Blob,” right? Just before you called 911. While it sounds like fiction, this scenario does happen (minus Steve McQueen et al) during periods of wet >>More


December, 2015

Under Water December Is Peak Leaf Season


By December, foliage season is long over for us humans, but it’s peak season under the water. Last month, fallen leaves accumulated in our streams and rivers, starting a process that’s critical for the nourishment of everything from caddisflies on up the food chain to eagles and even people. In fact, most of the Northeast stream food supply originates in the form of fallen leaves. The bright yellow and red piles that accumulate on river rocks and fallen branches are not nearly ready for consumption by discerning invertebrates. The witch’s brew of natural chemical compounds that discourages insects from eating >>More


December, 2015

Under Water December Is Peak Leaf Season


By December, foliage season is long over for us humans, but it’s peak season under the water. Last month, fallen leaves accumulated in our streams and rivers, starting a process that’s critical for the nourishment of everything from caddisflies on up the food chain to eagles and even people. In fact, most of the Northeast stream food supply originates in the form of fallen leaves. The bright yellow and red piles that accumulate on river rocks and fallen branches are not nearly ready for consumption by discerning invertebrates. The witch’s brew of natural chemical compounds that discourages insects from eating >>More




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