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The Nature of Things

A blog about nature and the environment

Archive for September, 2007

Rainbows on the highway


Did you see the rainbows during Friday night’s rush hour, not the trout but the actual weather phenomena? I spied one while I was on the Sawmill River Parkway. By the time I hit Interstate 684, there was a double rainbow arching its way through the sky. I noticed passengers taking photos with their cell phones. About six cars were parked on the highway’s shoulder just before the Purdys exit and folks were getting out with cameras. 0.jpg

I took these two photos without exiting the car (don’t try that at home), so I apologize for the quality.


Posted by Mike Risinit on Sunday, September 30th, 2007 at 6:52 pm |

How big?


115 pounds. Imagine that on a birth announcement. Well, you could (maybe) if you were Momma Walrus at the New York Aquarium. There, the aquarium’s first-ever male Pacific walrus calf entered the world back in July. He had his coming-out party (as in his debut, not birth) this week. Home of Brooklyn’s biggest baby, proclaims the aquarium’s Web site.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Saturday, September 29th, 2007 at 10:28 am |

Pheasants among us


The state’s pheasant hunting season opens Monday and, in preparation for that, the state stocks some areas with farm-raised ring-necked pheasants. The lack of farmland – the birds’ preferred habitat – has caused the numbers of wild pheasants to plummet. joepheasant.jpgSo, each year the state raises some 25,000 ring-necked pheasants and then trucks them around New York. There will be a story in an upcoming TJN and on Lohud.com, with video. For now, enjoy these photos of TJN photographer Joe Larese making his photos and video.

That’s state wildlife biologist Pat Vissering below with Joe.


Posted by Mike Risinit on Friday, September 28th, 2007 at 5:18 pm |


Space for parking


Parking spaces – even the ones without meters – aren’t free. Researchers say adding more spaces to the American landscape just isn’t worth the “sprawl, polluted runoff and heat” generated by parking lots. If a study underway in Indiana is correct in its estimations, parking lots in the U.S. already cover an area larger than Connecticut.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, September 27th, 2007 at 1:37 pm |

Birds, cows and military hardware


Bovines, military hardware and conservation – that’s a poor imitation of the headline on this story about how the Army, Texas cattlemen and Environmental Defense are all pulling for the recovery of an endangered songbird. The bird in question is a black-capped vireo. There were only an estimated 350 of these tiny birds when it was added to the endangered species list in 1987.

Wondering why these disparate groups all care about the same little bird?

Recovery of an endangered species is fundamental to Environmental Defense’s mission, but why would a Cattlemen’s Association and the Army care about the well-being of a 4.5 inch-long songbird? The answer is that they expect that the vireo’s recovery will ease Endangered Species Act regulatory liability and land-use restrictions. As an additional bonus, restoration and maintenance of vireo habitat have proven compatible with livestock and military training activities.”

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, September 27th, 2007 at 10:33 am |

Bees on PBS


When you’re done watching “The War” on PBS, mark your viewing calender for Oct. 28 and the season premiere of PBS’ Nature. That show will focus on the worldwide die-off of honeybees.

This is the first in-depth documentary to cover this breaking story of ecological crisis,� says Fred Kaufman, executive producer of NATURE. “People may be stunned to discover just how dire the consequences of honeybee colony collapse could be.�

More from PBS:

Honeybees are responsible for one of every three bites of food we eat. Each year, they pollinate $14 billion worth of crops and seeds in the U.S. alone. Their total decimation would be catastrophic from the local to the global level – failed businesses, skyrocketing food prices, unsustainable labor costs, and depleted supplies of fruits, nuts, vegetables, plants, and more.”

For more on honeybees and Colony Collapse Disorder, go here and here.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, September 26th, 2007 at 4:06 pm |


Calling the Count from Sesame Street


One Broad-winged hawk. One American kestrel. Another Broad-winged. A Red-tailed hawk, etc. That could be you if you answer the Bedford Audubon Society’s call for volunteers to staff its annual hawk watch on the weekends. The society has an official weekday counter but is seeking some weekend relief. Click here for more information

The watch takes place on an easterly facing ridge in The Nature Conservancy’s Arthur W. Butler Sanctuary in Bedford.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, September 25th, 2007 at 3:02 pm |
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Cougar here, there, where?


A cougar by any other name could be a mountain lion or panther – or several other names. Nonetheless, some folks think they have been seeing the large cats next door in Connecticut. Such sightings are reported each year from Virginia through New England – an area from which the cats have been considered gone for at least 100 years.

Any actual cougars that have been spotted, wildlife officials maintain, have probably been pets that were released into the wild. That’s the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s take on the matter. But federal wildlife authorities are in the midst of collecting new information on the cats. So, if you have anything to share, click here.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, September 25th, 2007 at 11:31 am |
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Secrets in the Hudson River


More than 200 species of fish call the Hudson River home at some point in their lives. And yesterday, Tom Lake, an estuary naturalist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, pulled in a few of them during one of the Hudson River Valley Ramble sessions. lake.jpg

At Plum Point over in Orange County (it sits across the river from Bannerman Castle and Breakneck Ridge near Cold Spring), Lake strung a seine net out in the Hudson a few times. Each haul brought in hundreds of tiny, flopping fish (baby fish that were born tstripedbass1.jpghis year) and a few blue crabs. Most of the fish were blueback herring. But there were a few striped bass (see photo at left) and Atlantic menhaden (Photo below shows Lake holding a menhaden).

There were also several other species but I was more involved helping my 5-year-old daughter participate in the splashing and the fishing than in taking notes. menhaden.jpg

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, September 24th, 2007 at 12:43 pm |


Birds in Aisle 7


I saw a starling in Target yesterday. The bird was flying around the rear of the store in Mount Kisco, from the book section, over to electronics and back. That made me think of the birds, mainly house sparrows, I’ve seen in other big-box stores, such as The Home Depot, Lowes or BJ’s.

Apparently, those warehouse-sized stores are such known bird havens that the retailers routinely hire pest-control companies to evict the feathered visitors. One newspaper story I found compared the large stores of today to the barns of yesterday, saying the big-boxes provide a warm, predator-free, food-strewn environment.

Loading docks, attached garden centers and automatic doors become avian portals. According to a 2006 story, the in-store birds survive on foliage, spilled grass seed and birdseed and water inside the stores

Many of the sparrows I’ve seen appeared comfortable being inside the various stores, sitting on high shelves or casually flying around the aisles. The starling yesterday, however, seemed to be flustered, furiously flapping around the store and banging into the walls.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Friday, September 21st, 2007 at 10:30 am |
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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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