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The Nature of Things

A blog about nature and the environment

Archive for August, 2007

A few degrees of something


Greenhouse gases likely drove near-record warmth last year, both here and across the country. That’s according to a new NOAA study. Check out the map, which shows how far above the average annual temperature various parts of the country were. Last year’s average temperature was the second highest since record-keeping began in 1895.

There’s that, then there’s this: Dueling almanacs differ on their winter weather predictions.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Friday, August 31st, 2007 at 5:31 pm |
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Mercury in little birds


Songbirds along the New England coast – including in nearby Westport, Conn. – have been found to have elevated levels of mercury. The toxic chemical can affect humans and wildlife and has long been known as an environmental contaminant.

Freshwater fish are a well-known reservoir of mercury. The salt marsh sharp-tailed sparrows that were studied had mercury levels well above the levels found in loons and bald eagles, which feed on such fish. Researchers from the Biodiversity Research Institute in Maine said the study showed mercury wasn’t just a problem limited to freshwater areas and birds that eat fish. The sparrows eat seeds and insects.

It also points to the need for a  national mercury monitoring program, which is being pushed for by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. has signed onto the effort.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, August 30th, 2007 at 1:20 pm |
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Drinking the Hudson


Hudson River on tap. That’s a possibility over in Rockland County, where United Water New York plans to build a desalination plant on the river to add to Rockland’s water supply. Check out my colleague Laura Incalcaterra’s story on the matter.

The Hudson does supply water to some municipalities. Poughkeepsie, for instance, pulls drinking water from the river.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, August 29th, 2007 at 5:27 pm |
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Moon over LoHud


We’re on a first-name basis with the moon in my house. Her name is Luna. If you have small children, you will know that comes from the television show “Bear in the Big Blue House.” Bear ends each show by stepping out onto his balcony and recapping his day with Luna.

At home, we don’t talk to the moon but we have been enjoying the large moon rising each night this week as the sun goes down. This month’s full moon (two days ago) is known as the Green Corn Moon.

Then there was this week’s lunar eclipse. I didn’t witness it but if anyone wants to supply a review, feel free to add a comment. Here’s a news story from Australia that features video. MSNBC has a good, online round-up of the event.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, August 29th, 2007 at 3:04 pm |
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Beware the yellow jacket. I was out in Brewster this morning and had to spend part of my time swatting away these annoying (and potentially painful) insects. Not sure what was attracting them to me since I wasn’t holding any food, but it is that time of year when yellow jackets become very active.

The insects are actually wasps. Apparently, the shortening days and cooling weather makes the buggers testy. They can be bad news for those allergic to them.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, August 28th, 2007 at 6:22 pm |

Green schools


Is your college or university adopting environmentally sustainable practices? A report card from the Sustainable Endowments Institute “takes into account 26 indicators, from green building initiatives to endowment investment policies, and uses an A to F letter grading system to evaluate performance.”

The report looks at 100 colleges.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Friday, August 24th, 2007 at 6:12 pm |


Natural bug dope


Do mosquitoes love you? Worried about using synthetic bug spray? Then head over to the paper’s In the Garden blog and learn about a Putnam woman making and marketing a homemade, all-natural bug spray. Here’s a video about it.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Friday, August 24th, 2007 at 1:56 pm |
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River news


News from (or rather along) the Hudson River today includes a probe of contamination in Cold Spring and a proposed new look for a Yonkers marina.

The state is paying for most of the cost of the Cold Spring investigation with money from the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Friday, August 24th, 2007 at 11:29 am |

Where was Hitchcock?


Thieving birds. That was my thought after spending Monday on a Rhode Island beach. The photograph shows a gull who knows what kind of snacks he likes. The bird grabbed a small bag of something – potato chips, cookies, who knows – from someone and managed to open the package. 03.jpg

That was an interesting feat to witness. But a little while later, one of his feathered colleagues swooped down and plucked half of a ham-and-cheese sandwich (on a roll) OUT OF MY WIFE’S HAND. It happened so fast that no one could warn her about the impending pilfering.

Of course, the whole thing led to a related thought about Alfred Hitchcock and his angry-avian-centric movie.

According to SeaWorld (of all places), some species of gulls exhibit a characteristic called kleptoparasitism, which means they steal prey (food) from other birds.

Here are some facts about ring-billed gulls, many of which hang out in the Lower Hudson Valley’s parking lots, ball fields, etc.

While we’re on the subject of sea-related birds, check out this story on cormorants in yesterday’s NYT — which, in keeping with a summer-related theme, could be titled “Where the Birds Puke.”

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, August 23rd, 2007 at 5:05 pm |
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I spy a goldfinch and another


Lately, I’ve been noticing American goldfinches. Whether it’s walking to the mailbox or driving, I feel like I’m often seeing those yellow birds. This article from the Bangor (Maine) Daily News kind of explains why. tjndc5-5bhwnpl32y01cqjgi6jw_layout.jpgUnlike their other feathered counterparts who make a spectacle of themselves earlier in the year, goldfinches wait until about now.

(The photo is by TJN photographer Kathy Gardner.)

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007 at 2:57 pm |

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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