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Adirondack Explorer

Archive for the ‘Natural History’ Category

August, 2013

Adirondack Wildlife: The Gray Fox


The end of August through mid-September is the time in the Adirondacks when the urge to be independent becomes strong enough in fox pups to cause them to vacate their parents’ territory and seek out a place they can claim as their own. As the near adult-size animal travels for many dozens, to a hundred miles or more searching for a suitable setting without a current resident, it may occasionally be glimpsed, especially around dusk and dawn, walking across a road, meandering through a backyard, trotting along the edge of a field or quietly weaving its way into a brushy >>More


August, 2013

Adirondack Birds: The Science of Wing Sounds


As the summer bird chorus wanes, we might remember that song can arrive in unexpected ways. Drumming heads, clacking bills, and dancing feet create nonvocal sound. Even flight, that foremost avian feat, creates music of its own. Wings can sing – sound is created by the asymmetry, anatomy, and arrangement of individual flight feathers as they vibrate through the air. A number of birds use wing song to communicate, both with their own species and as a way to thwart predators. Dramatic lift offs can match the best vocal alarms. The explosive flight of a ruffed grouse may distract (or >>More


August, 2013

Nature Wars: Wildlife Comebacks and Backyard Battlegrounds


This may be hard to believe but it is very likely that more people live in closer proximity to more wild animals, birds and trees in the eastern United States today than anywhere on the planet at any time in history. For nature lovers, this should be wonderful news – unless, perhaps, you are one of more than 4,000 drivers who will hit a deer today, your child’s soccer field is carpeted with goose droppings, coyotes are killing your pets, the neighbor’s cat has turned your bird feeder into a fast-food outlet, wild turkeys have eaten your newly-planted seed corn, >>More


August, 2013

Adirondack Outdoors: Understanding Spittle Bugs


On the lower levels of the food chain, danger is rarely out of spitting distance. Risk from predators has spurred the evolution of many clever adaptations – camouflage coloring, speedy retreat, distasteful secretions, and armor plating among them. Small jumping insects known as froghoppers approach concealment in a unique way: their developing nymphs cover themselves in a bubble bath. From this trick they derive their common name, “spittle bug.” If you investigate the clumps of white froth, sometimes referred to as ‘cow spit’ or ‘frog spit,’ that appear on plant stems this time of year, you’ll find that each dollop >>More


August, 2013

Adirondack Wildlife: Flocking Birds


Mid-August is the time in the Adirondacks when the foliage of some red maples turns a bright reddish-orange, the sound of crickets replaces the music of our many songbirds, and blackberries start to ripen on their thorny canes. It is also when birds are more regularly seen in flocks rather than individually as they perch on a wire, forage in a field or fly across a road. The territorial nature and belligerent behavior exhibited by adults toward neighbors from early spring through the end of the breeding season now fades like the chlorophyll in leaves during the latter weeks of >>More


August, 2013

Dwarf Wedgemussels: Fishing for a Ride


Last week my eight-year-old nephew, Romeo, got on an animals kick. He’s an inquisitive kid who’s fascinated by things like white blood cells and he absolutely loves sharks. So, knowing that I was some sort of fish doctor, he made his fifty-seventh inquiry in what I learned was to be a series of 2000 questions, “what are the strongest animals in the water?” “Mussels,” I replied. My nephew’s eyebrows scrunched in mild displeasure (sort of like yours are now) because the joke was borderline funny, barely punny and the opposite of true. Regardless, I had an opening to use some new-found knowledge about the dwarf >>More


August, 2013

Adirondack Wildlife: The American Toad


The damp weather pattern over the Adirondacks since mid-May, while being a challenge to some creatures, has been most favorable to many others. Among those forms of wildlife that benefit from a moist atmosphere and frequent bouts of rain are the numerous terrestrial amphibians that occur in shady locations across the region. While the Adirondacks is home to over a dozen species of these moisture-loving entities, the largest and most frequently encountered is the American Toad, a chubby and slow moving animal that is among the most recognizable members of our wildlife community. When full grown, a toad is about >>More


July, 2013

Pool Owners Sought For Invasive Species Citizen Science


Pool owners are being asked to join in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for their second annual Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) Swimming Pool Survey now through August 30 in order to help keep watch for these exotic, invasive beetles before they cause serious damage to our forests and street trees. The Citizen Pool Survey takes place this time of year when ALBs are expected to become adults, emerge from the trees they are infesting and become active outside those trees. ALBs are originally from Asia and although they have yet to establish themselves in the Adirondacks, >>More


July, 2013

The Crayfish: An Adirondack Crustacean


Adirondack waterways serve as home to a wealth of invertebrates that range in size from microscopic to those that are several inches in length. Among the giants of this complex and diverse group of organisms are the crayfish, which are larger, more robust and meaty than many vertebrate forms of life in our region. Because of their size and abundance, crayfish are an important component of all fresh water environments; however these fierce-looking entities have not been as thoroughly researched and studied as have other creatures that reside in the same general surroundings. While the basics of their biology and >>More


July, 2013

Crowdsourced Data Reveal Feats of Bird Migration


For centuries people have marveled at the migratory abilities of birds, but new research is now putting numbers on those seasonal feats—for more than a hundred  species at a time—using data contributed by thousands of amateur bird watchers. In all, more than 2.3 million sightings were summarized to reveal migratory routes of 102 species in North America, in a paper being  published August 1 in Ecology. The results provide a fascinating glimpse at an astonishing range of species: for instance, the tiny Calliope Hummingbird crosses the continent almost three times as fast as the Northern Shoveler, which outweighs it more >>More