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Adirondack Explorer

Archive for the ‘Natural History’ Category

August, 2013

Eastern White Pine: A Meat-Eater?


Plants are not often thought of as predators. They’re the nice guys. With over 300,000 species known to exist, only a small fraction are known to be meat-eaters. In our northern bogs, for example, insects are trapped on the sticky hairs of sundew or drowned in the pitcher plant’s water Research now suggests that at least one tree may owe its size to more than just sun, water and good soils. The eastern white pine is one of the tallest native tree species in our region. Give them a few hundred years in ideal floodplain habitat, with roots sunk deep >>More


August, 2013

A Visit With Monarch Butterfly Specialist Chip Taylor


The Monarch butterfly Eastern migration will survive the current crisis and make a come-back, although probably never again to the population levels seen in the 1990s, predicted noted Monarch scientist Dr. Orley “Chip” Taylor in a lecture at The Wild Center Friday night. Adirondack residents still turning over milkweed leaves this season in search of as glimpse of a Monarch caterpillar or larvae will probably be disappointed, Dr. Taylor said, because the Monarchs arrived at this northern latitude too late and in too few numbers to produce a generation here this year. Dr. Taylor’s lecture to an audience of nearly >>More


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