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The Nature of Things

A blog about nature and the environment

Archive for May, 2007

New hurricane forecast released


Scientists at Colorado State University, who are experts in such matters, have released an updated forecast for the 2007 hurricane season, which starts tomorrow.
The new report, released today, forecasts a total of 17 named storms in the Atlantic basin, nine of which could become hurricanes, and five of which could be intense hurricanes.
The scientists also forecast the probabilities of where these hurricanes were likely to strike:
• 74 percent chance that a hurricane could strike along the entire U.S. coastline; the average for last century is 52 percent.
• 50 percent chance a hurricane could strike along the U.S. East Coast, including the Florida peninsula; the average for last century is 31 percent.
• 49 percent chance that a hurricane could hit along the Gulf Coast, from the Florida panhandle westward to Brownsville, Texas; the average for last century is 30 percent.
• above-average major hurricane landfall risk in the Caribbean.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Thursday, May 31st, 2007 at 2:27 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

A nod to John Belushi


I hear “Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheese” whenever the Carolina wren who hangs out behind my house lets loose with his song. The accepted “voice text” of this little bird’s loud song is “teakettle, teakettle, teakettle.”

I’m not sure what my interpretation signifies, whether it’s just affection for cheeseburgers or a remnant holdover in my brain from the Saturday Night Live skit. Unfortunately, that clip doesn’t seem to be on the Web. Here’s a transcript from a Larry King program on CNN, a tribute to John Belushi that included a clip of the skit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When do they stop serving breakfast?

BELUSHI: No, no breakfast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No breakfast? I just want a couple of eggs.

BELUSHI: No breakfast. Cheeseburger, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don’t want a cheeseburger.

BELUSHI: Come on, come on, come on, don’t give me that. Come on, let’s go. Let’s go. You want a cheeseburger? Everybody get cheeseburger. You want cheeseburger?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don’t want a cheeseburger. It’s too early for a cheeseburger.

BELUSHI: Too early for cheeseburger? Look, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger…

Anyway, for those not familiar with the birding world, words or phrases have been put to many bird songs as a way to remember and identify a species by sound. White-throated sparrows cry out “Poor Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody.” The Canadians among us might hear “O Sweet Canada, Canada.” Ovenbirds call for “teacher, teacher, teacher.”

The other thing that always strikes me about the Carolina wren in my yard is how loud the song is for such a tiny bird.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, May 31st, 2007 at 12:31 pm |

Celebrating Rachel Carson


The American bald eagle is due to be removed from the federal Endangered Species List any day now, and that is due in great part to the ban on DDT.
Back in 1962, Rachel Carson wrote a book “Silent Spring,� that essentially highlighted the impact of the DDT pesticide and the responsibility of people to care for the environment and its creatures.
Carson’s 100th birthday was May 27th, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, as well as other organizations, are celebrating throughout 2007 with exhibits, an online book club, and other activities designed to involve the public.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Thursday, May 31st, 2007 at 7:00 am |
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Idling school buses worse than re-starting


In case you haven’t heard, the results of a new EPA study concluded that idling school buses is actually worse than re-starting the vehicles.
The EPA studied school bus exhaust levels when the buses were parked but engines kept running and calculated the benefits from turning them off for various periods and then restarting them, an agency press release said.
The study concluded that idling for more than three minutes generates more pollution than stopping and re-starting the engine — debunking a widely held belief of some drivers. Turning the engine off cuts carbon monoxide, fine particles, nitrogen oxide, and carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas.
“Pollution from school buses has health implications for everyone, especially asthmatic children,” said Alan J. Steinberg, EPA Regional Administrator. “This study shows in no uncertain terms that allowing a bus to idle exposes children to more pollution and shows that a very simple step — shutting off that engine — can really make a difference.”
Under the study, EPA measured the pollution from six buses owned and operated by the Katonah-Lewisboro School District of New York. The level of pollution from buses that idled for more than three minutes was 66 percent higher in fine particles than pollution generated from shutting off the buses and then re-starting them.
Diesel exhaust particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and pose serious health risks, including aggravating the symptoms of asthma and other respiratory problems in healthy individuals. The Northeast has some of the highest asthma rates in the nation, including childhood asthma rates near 12 percent in areas of New York City, the EPA said.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Wednesday, May 30th, 2007 at 4:55 pm |

Help tidy up a wetland


Volunteers are needed for a Great Swamp cleanup on Saturday. The Friends of the Great Swamp are sponsoring the effort to neaten up one of the state’s largest freshwater wetlands. Those that want to spend a few hours picking up trash along roadsides and at access points to the swamp can meet at 10 a.m. at the Patterson Recreation Center, which is in Patterson at the end of Front Street.

The morning also includes an information session on the Bigger, Better Bottle Bill. The expanded bottle bill would require deposits on bottles of noncarbonated beverages – such as water and sports drinks- and would require beverage distributors transfer unredeemed deposits to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, May 30th, 2007 at 4:09 pm |
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Westchester Land Trust is moving


The Westchester Land Trust has been busy since its inception 19 years ago, as my colleague Noreen O’Donnell pointed out in her column over the weekend. So busy, in fact, that it’s outgrown its current home and, as Noreen writes, will be getting bigger digs courtesy of some like-minded neighbors.

On Friday, land trust representatives, state Sen. Vincent Leibell and others are scheduled to announce a source of funding for the $500,000 worth of renovations and furnishings for WLT’s new HQ and a challenge donation that will benefit both land acquisition and the renovations.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, May 29th, 2007 at 2:45 pm |
| | 1 Comment »


Dude, where’s my water bowl?


Is your dog one of those canines who loves to scarf down a bit of goose poop while out on a walk? Does he or she think nothing of gobbling up some deer droppings or throwing herself onto something dead and rolling around on it?

All of those can be pitfalls for owners who take to the Lower Hudson Valley’s woods or fields (especially ball fields) for a romp with their best friend. In Arizona, dog owners have something else with which to contend.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, May 29th, 2007 at 12:30 pm |
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Biggest shad ever


A Massachusetts man now holds the New York state record for biggest shad ever caught, the state Department of environmental Conservation said.
Robert Kubica of Pittsfield, MA, caught his shad on May 9 in the Hudson River in Albany County. The fish weighed 9 pounds 4 ounces and was 28 inches long.
The State Record Program, a category of DEC’s Angler Achievement Awards Program, recognizes those anglers who break current New York State records for any of the 45 eligible fish species.
“Shad are among the few migratory species present in New York State waters, spending most of their lives in the ocean and returning up the rivers to spawn,” DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said. “The Hudson River has one of the largest runs of shad on the East Coast, making it a prime fishing spot this time of year.”
New York’s lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams produce large numbers of trophy-sized fish each year, Grannis said.
The DEC’s Angler Achievement Awards Program recognizes exceptional catches in several categories: Catch and Release, Annual Award, and State Record.
For details about the Angler Achievement Awards Program, visit the DEC web site.
The DEC also said that June 23 and 24 mark this year’s free fishing days. Anyone can fish in New York state waters without a license.

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

Beware of caterpillar pests


Those fuzzy, giant-dust bunny-looking things you may see clinging to trees in your yard are full of leaf-munching caterpillars. I usually see them on cherry and crabapple trees. The state Department of Environmental Conservation sent some tips out this week on how to deal with them. tent-caterpillars-may06.jpg

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete
Grannis today alerted residents to be on the lookout for common spring
insect defoliators and provided guidance on how to control these

“Overall populations of forest tent caterpillars, eastern tent
caterpillars, gypsy moth caterpillars, saddle prominent caterpillars
and a group of caterpillars commonly called inch-worms will be high
again this year,” Commissioner Grannis said. “Most trees will survive
an initial defoliation by these caterpillar pests in the early growing
season and will usually re-foliate in the early summer when they are
gone. Defoliation can weaken trees making them more susceptible to
other potential stressors such as drought, disease or other insects.
Therefore, consecutive years of defoliation can kill a tree.”

Fall surveys conducted by the DEC Forest Health crews have shown that
there are large populations of these defoliators in several counties,
most of which had caterpillar problems last year. Because these
caterpillars are somewhat mobile, the damage can easily spread past
these counties.

Effective mechanical treatment options for controlling infestation on
individual trees include hand removal of egg masses, inhabited
caterpillar tents and pupa, and installation of sticky tree wraps on
trunks to capture caterpillars as they move up and down trees.

If you choose to use pesticides to control defoliator infestations,
these treatments should be used wisely and according to label
instructions. DEC recommends using a New York State registered
pesticide business that employs certified pesticide applicators. Some
pesticides used to control harmful insects are contact poisons and
could endanger a variety of beneficial insects, such as honeybees, as
well as nesting birds and other animals. Spraying is not effective
against pupae or egg masses, and is less effective once caterpillars
reach one inch in length. To find a list of registered pesticide
businesses that can perform pesticide applications on your property,
visit DEC’s website at www.dec.ny.gov , and follow the link for
Pesticides under the Chemical & Pollution Control section on the

All treatments, mechanical and chemical, are most effective when
applied while the caterpillars less than an inch long. Generally,
treatments are less effective when leaf loss is noticeable. Do not
attempt to burn caterpillars and their tents while they are on trees.
This is hazardous to the health of the tree and can be very dangerous.
Contact your regional DEC office or county <a href=”http://www.cce.cornell.edu/” target=”_blank”>Cornell Cooperative Extension</a>
for additional information and
management options.

For more details regarding spring defoliators, including areas that
can be affected, visit DEC’s <a href=”http://www.dec.ny.gov/” target=”_blank”>Web site</a>
and follow the link to Insects & Other Species, under the Animal, Plants, Aquatic
Life section on the homepage.

More on tent caterpillars can be found <a href=”http://www.ca.uky.edu/entomology/entfacts/ef423.asp” target=”_blank”>here</a>.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Friday, May 25th, 2007 at 10:38 am |


Green Father’s Day


Celebrate your dad and the environment during the annual Clearwater Music and Environmental Festival: The Great Hudson River Revival from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. June 16 and 17, at Croton Point Park in Westchester County.
The event features loads of musical performances, dance, storytelling, sails on Tall Ships, waterfront activities and environmental education.
Among this year’s scheduled performers are Cowboy Junkies, Buffy Sainte Marie, Bruce Cockburn and Paul Winter.
What, no John Hall?
Get the deets: CLEARWATER.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Friday, May 25th, 2007 at 7:00 am |
| | 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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