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The Nature of Things

A blog about nature and the environment

Archive for March, 2007

Oh, my!



We know <a href=”http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060324/NEWS09/603240334/1025/news09″ target=”_blank”>coyotes</a> call our area home. <a href=”http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070210/NEWS04/702100339/1231″ target=”_blank”>Moose</a>, too, have been wandering around recently. <a href=”http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dfwmr/wildlife/wildgame/bear.htm” target=”_blank”>Black bears</a> are also on the list of our suburban wildlife. During recent work-related travels, I’ve heard of bears or their tracks being seen in Kent near the Boyd Corners Reservoir and in the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Westchester.

The bear shown above ambled into Purchase one summer day in 2005. He was eventually tranquilized by the state Department of Conservation and taken upstate. Last summer, a bruin or two showed up in Bedford and Spring Valley.

Feel free to share any news of bear sightings with The Nature of Things. You can add a comment to this posting or click on one of our names below a posting to get to an e-mail address.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, March 29th, 2007 at 2:21 pm |

Rebuilding the AT over Bear Mountain


The second season of work is getting under way at Bear Mountain, where volunteers are reconstructing a portion of the Appalachian Trail.

The public can get involved. Trail-building training sessions are offered for beginners, as well as those ready to hone intermediate skills.

The AT stretches from Maine to Georgia and is 2,174 miles long.

But the four most-traveled miles are those that take hikers over Bear Mountain.

As a result, that section of trail has taken quite a beating, what with all those pounding boots and trail shoes.

Most users are casual hikers visiting Bear Mountain State Park for the day.

The reconstruction seven-year project will reroute the trail, providing a novice-friendly path to the summit, where a handicapped-accessible area will be created (access will be from Perkins Memorial Drive). Trail signs and interpretive exhibits are also to be included.

The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, which is coordinating the work effort, will offer a tour of the new route between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday.

Get more details by logging onto <a href=”http://www.nynjtc.org/BearMountainTrails” target=”_blank”>Bear Mountain Trails</a> or by calling 201-512-9348, ext. 26.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Wednesday, March 28th, 2007 at 7:00 am |
| | 1 Comment »

Tour and learn about watersheds


A watershed is a basin, and all water falling within that basin makes its way downhill and into streams, creeks and rivers, which eventually enter the world’s oceans.

Watersheds can extend for miles beyond a river’s actual course and, like the river, also face threats from pollution and development.

Local watershed organizations work to highlight the problems and the solutions.

Take the Hackensack Riverkeeper, for example.

The Hackensack is a town down in “Jersey,� but it’s also a river that starts in Rockland, near the Clarkstown/Ramapo border. It provides drinking water to the county by filling the Lake Deforest reservoir, while also supplying many New Jersey communities. So what happens to the river in Rockland also has consequences for the Garden State.

The Hackensck Riverkeeper, a citizen-steward organization, continues to educate the public about the watershed and has just released its 2007 Eco-Program schedule of tours.

Forget about Hoffa and The Sopranos, a tour of the Meadowlands is perfectly safe, the Hackensack Riverkeeper assures us. You can float in a boat, or paddle a canoe or kayak. You can also opt for guided birding tours.

Log onto <a href=”http://www.hackensackriverkeeper.org” target=”_blank”>Hackensack Riverkeeper</a> for more information.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Tuesday, March 27th, 2007 at 3:48 pm |
| | 1 Comment »


Red-winged blackbirds


Even more than <a href=”http://nature.lohudblogs.com/2007/03/11/robin-on-the-lawn/” target=”_blank”>robins</a>, I find the song of <a href=”http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Red-winged_Blackbird.html#sound” target=”_blank”>red-winged blackbirds</a> to be a greater harbinger of spring. The small, well, black songbird with red shoulders (The males anyways. Females, like most songbirds, are drab.) show up in wet, marshy areas throughout the Lower Hudson Valley about now. I’ve been hearing them for about a week or 10 days.

Here’s a nice <a href=”http://outdoors.mainetoday.com/news/070325birding.html” target=”_blank”>read</a> on red-winged blackbirds and spring.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, March 26th, 2007 at 2:55 pm |



Just in case you were wondering, <a href=”http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleid=5244F57C-E7F2-99DF-3E40BA295C3DCC0A&chanId=sa028″ mce_href=”http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleid=5244F57C-E7F2-99DF-3E40BA295C3DCC0A&chanId=sa028″ target=”_blank”>check this out</a>.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Friday, March 23rd, 2007 at 8:07 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

See the light?


If a Westchester County lawmaker has his way, incandescent light bulbs may soon be hard to find around here.

Marty Rogowsky, D-Harrison, is proposing county legislation that will ban all such lighting in county-owned buildings after the last day of 2007. In addition, he wants to ban the sale of incandescent light bulbs in Westchester two years later.

“Most of us go through the day in the dark about how individual habits contribute to global warming,” Rogowsky said in announcing the legislation. “We need to turn on the light, so to speak, in all of us and get to the point where everyone is aware that simple painless measures like switching what kind of light bulb you use, are the kinds of battles that will win the war on global warming.”

Rogowsky joins the growing chorus of those who want people to use only compact fluorescents bulbs, which cost more on the front end, but save electricity/money with each use and reduce the need to burn fossil fuels to produce power. That means fewer greenhouse gases being spewed into the environment.

The potential savings in both money and electricity are fairly substantial, as much as 75 percent by some estimates. The compacts last longer too.

I recently started using them at home and though they seem a little dim when you first turn them on, they brighten to full power quickly. It’s a good reminder that the landscape for powering our lives is changing.

Whether Rogowsky can succeed is legislating what can and can’t be sold in Westchester is a question for another time.

Posted by Greg Clary on Wednesday, March 21st, 2007 at 3:37 pm |


Speak chickadee?



You probably don’t. But the <a href=”http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/White-breasted_Nuthatch.html” target=”_blank”>white-breasted nuthatches</a> that tend to hang out with <a href=”http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Black-capped_Chickadee.html” target=”_blank”>black-capped chickadees</a> apparently do. Anyone with a bird feeder in the Lower Hudson Valley can’t help but notice the gray-and-white birds (pictured below) that walk head first down tree trunks.

nuthatch.jpg Long wintertime companions of chickadees — those two plus tufted titmice move in flocks together— nuthatches, according to a University of Washington researcher, are able to <a href=”http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/03/20/ap/tech/main2590197.shtml” target=”_blank”>understand what chickadees are saying</a>.

Next time you look out your window at the birds congregating around your feeder, you now know they know something you don’t know.

For the scientifically minded, here’s the study’s <a href=”http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/0605183104v1″ target=”_blank”>abstract</a>.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, March 21st, 2007 at 1:20 pm |
| | Comments Off on Speak chickadee?

Spring is almost 24 hours away


Winter ends and spring officially begins at 8:07 P.M. tomorrow, when the sun crosses directly over the equator. For those who can’t keep their equinoxes straight from their solstices, check out this site from the <a href=”http://www.nmm.ac.uk/server/show/conWebDoc.3843″ target=”_blank”>Royal Observatory</a> in England.

Check out NOAA’s <a href=”http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2007/s2819.htm” target=”_blank”>report</a> on how this winter compared to others.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, March 19th, 2007 at 4:01 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

Spring is coming


Supposedly. So they say. If you want a glimpse ahead into the next season, check out the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s <a href=”http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2007/s2818.htm” target=”_blank”>Spring Outlook</a>. Oh, and don’t forget where you put your <a href=”http://www.erh.noaa.gov/forecast/MapClick.php?CityName=White+Plains&state=NY&site=OKX” target=”_blank”>snow shovel</a>.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, March 15th, 2007 at 3:50 pm |


Swan 507 passed away


Some of you may remember the <a href=”” target=”_blank”>story</a> about researchers tracking Hudson River swans by strapping Global Positioning Systems to their backs. As part of their study that began in 2004, Fred Koontz, the executive director of Teatown Lake Reservation, and his colleague, Susan Elbin of the Wildlife Trust ,rounded up eight birds this past summer and placed transmitters on them. Five of the transmitters kept working and Swan No. 507 was the first to leave the area. He headed down to the Jersey shore.

When we last wrote about No. 507, close to the end of January, he was near Toms River N.J. Unfortunately that was about the extent of his travels. Koontz said a motorist found the bird “lethargic on the side of the road” at the end of February. The swan eventually died from lead poisoning, Koontz said, probably from either ingesting fishing sinkers or lead shot. The federal government banned lead shot for waterfowl hunting in the late 80s/early 90s but swans really dig into a river or inlet’s bottom when feeding and could find some old, buried pellets, Koontz said.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, March 14th, 2007 at 12:18 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

About this blog
The Nature of Things provides a chance to talk about the wild denizens that share the Lower Hudson Valley with us and the natural settings that make this place home for everyone. From Long Island Sound to the Hudson River to the Great Swamp and beyond, almost anything related to the environment is fair game in this blog.


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About the authors
SBenischekJournal News staff writer Greg Clary writes Earth Watch, reporting on environmental issues in the lower Hudson region. Clary has been a reporter, editor and columnist at the Journal News since 1988 and has covered police and courts, transportation, municipal government, development and the environment in the Lower Hudson Valley, among other topics.
Laura IncalcaterraLaura Incalcaterra covers the environment, open space and zoning and planning issues for The Journal News. A Boston College graduate, Laura grew up in Rockland, attended East Ramapo schools and has worked for The Journal News since 1993. Laura has written features and covered North Rockland, crime, government and a host of other issues.
SBenischekMike Risinit covers Patterson and Kent in Putnam County, as well as environmental topics touching on the Hudson River and the Great Swamp. Risinit has been a reporter at The Journal News since 1998.
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