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Adirondack Explorer

Archive for the ‘Natural History’ Category

October, 2013

Growing the Great Pumpkin in Northern New York


In the Peanuts comic strip, the precocious, blanket-toting Linus waited faithfully for The Great Pumpkin all night on Halloween in spite of being disappointed every year. Perhaps his unwavering belief in the mythical pumpkin was spurred on by the fact that almost every year brings the world a bigger “great pumpkin” of the sort one can measure and—at least potentially—eat.Of the approximately 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins grown annually in the U.S., only a very few are grown for size. Primarily within the last thirty years, giant pumpkin enthusiasts (that’s regular-size people, giant produce) have developed varieties that attain jaw-dropping >>More


October, 2013

Wildlife Preparing for Winter: The Garter Snake


Migration is the seasonal movement of an animal population in response to changing environmental conditions. While birds are best known for employing this survival strategy to cope with winter, many other forms of wildlife also engage in some form of relocation during autumn to deal with prolonged bouts of cold and an absence of food. Among the migratory reptiles in the Adirondacks is an abundant and widespread snake familiar to anyone that spends time outdoors – the garter snake. As daylight wanes and the temperatures cool, garter snakes begin to travel to various sites that afford protection from the intense >>More


October, 2013

Adirondack Insects: An Ambush In The Meadow


As a nature writer and photographer, I spend a lot of my time peering closely at leaves, twigs, and flowers, seeking what lurks in their midst. So it was that I discovered Phymata, the Ambush Bug. I was walking slowly through a meadow, bent over almost double as I carried a tripod-mounted camera instead of a magnifying glass. Spotting a fly on a daisy, I approached slowly, finding it odd that the insect didn’t move away from me. Puzzled, I looked closer and found a small, bulbous-eyed bug, his mouthparts embedded in the fly.Ambush bugs lurk in the foliage, waiting >>More


October, 2013

Ed Kanze: Arachnophilia


Spiders! Some of us hate them but we have every reason to love, or at least tolerate, their presence in our lives. Spiders eat mosquitoes. They eat blackflies. They eat deer flies. They almost never bite us, partly because the great majority of them lack the inclination and the anatomy to puncture human skin. Some spiders jump, others build webs, and some run around like wolves and are called wolf spiders. At our house, we welcome all spiders. But be careful if you go to Sydney… Learn more here in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze. >>More


October, 2013

Celebrate Loons at the Paul Smith’s VIC


There is something quite mystical about hearing a loon. Whether it’s the haunting wail that echoes across lakes or the territorial male yodel, the loon’s calls can silence everyone around it as people search for the source of the sound. I was recently paddling a nearby Adirondack pond and was followed by a common loon.  It gave that shrill laughing sound called tremolo that is used to signal alarm. I can only assume that we were too close to its chicks. It seemed that no matter where we went, it didn’t want to share the waterway with us. We finally >>More


October, 2013

Adirondack Forests: Explaining Fall Color Change


As a very young lad I was told that the summer sun bleached pigment from clothes hung on the line, and saved up the colors to paint on autumn leaves. It occurs to me that solar dryers (a.k.a. laundry lines) and fall leaf colors are similar in that they operate free of charge, but their performance depends on the weather. The same clear-sky conditions that produce dry, good-smelling (and a teensy bit faded) laundry also make for the best leaf color. While the former process is well-understood, the latter is a story fraught with murder and intrigue, and requires some >>More


October, 2013

Wildlife and People: The Bear Facts


In the Adirondacks, all forms of wildlife have a natural fear of humans. This is the primary reason why hikers, campers, and individuals sitting on their back porch don’t generally see many creatures, despite being outside for long periods of time. Should a healthy animal detect the presence of a person, it inevitably hides or immediately flees in order to avoid being seen. While curiosity is a common trait among children and many adults, this attribute is not as strong in wildlife and certainly does not exist in situations when they accidentally stray close to a human. Food and hunger, >>More


October, 2013

Cabin Life: A Fox On The Road And A Fire In The Stove


Growing up, I lived in only two houses.   Both had fireplaces, so fall was always special to me.  From eating roasted pumpkin seeds in front of the fire to cuddling under a blanket and watching a movie while the snow fell outside, we usually had a fire going if we were home for the night.  I miss those days, but I have taken a big step towards making the cabin more like the home of my childhood. Last week, my new (new to me) stove was delivered and installed.  There’s a shiny new chimney poking up above the peak of >>More


October, 2013

Adirondack Wildlife: Wood Turtles


Since as far back as I can remember, the sight of a group of turtles basking on a log has made me pause to enjoy their prehistoric appearance. Most summer days during my early childhood were spent wading in neighborhood ponds to stalk painted turtles and spotted turtles with a long-handled net, while avoiding the larger snapping turtles that were lurking beneath the surface. Stumbling upon an eastern box turtle or a musk turtle, something that has happened far too infrequently, was often the natural history highlight of my year. This summer, I had what may be my best turtle >>More


October, 2013

Ed Kanze: Confessions Of A Cereal Killer


Murder? You bet it is. When we think of predators, we generally think of animals that kill other animals. But plant-eaters are killers, too. Listen here to a cereal killer confess to its heartless crimes. Into the brew of “All Things Natural” naturalist and writer Ed Kanze throws in a kitchen sink’s worth of topical matter. One week he might write about how your beloved pet dog is really a wolf (the DNA doesn’t lie), and the next contemplate the sex lives of trees or the lonely life of the bobcat. He writes the pieces not just for nature lovers, >>More