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The Nature of Things

A blog about nature and the environment

Archive for April, 2008

More random bird notes


Some bird observations and thoughts, including a video.

First of all, I missed the memo on the name change but the once Rufous-sided Towhee is now known as the Eastern Towhee. Seems it was decided that the towhee in the East differed enough from the towhee in the West to separate the two. The one in the West is now the Spotted Towhee. All of this came to my attention because I spotted one recently under our lilac bushes and grabbed the newest bird book in the house (Yes, we have more than one – An Audubon guide, a National Geographic guide and The Sibley Guide to Birds. The Sibley guide was published in 2000, Name change apparently happened in 1995. Hence its up-to-dateness.)

With the same book, I also figured out that the sparrow who has been singing almost continuously in an old apple tree in the front yard is a chipping sparrow. Not a big deal, I know. But I usually don’t care enough about sparrows to separate the songs from the trees from the white-throated sparrows, etc. You get the idea. To me a little brown bird is a little brown bird.

And, last but not least, here’s a video of a Carolina wren in my yard and a previous post on such a bird.


Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, April 30th, 2008 at 1:04 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

More money for river research


The state’s picking up $10 million of the $15 million tab to build a Hudson River research facility on the Troy riverfront, near Albany.

The Upper Hudson Research Center of the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries is expected to open in late 2010 and is where scientists and staff will work on an underwater network of sensors that will monitor the river 24/7. The institute and IBM announced the effort to build the network last summer. You can read that story after the break. Read more of this entry »

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, April 29th, 2008 at 1:20 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

Fishing and fish here and there


Drag a net through the shallows of the Hudson River and who knows what you’ll find. In this case, these seiners over the weekend came up with this chunky catfish. This was at Norrie Point, which I’ve featured here before.catfish.jpg

Those with the net also pulled up other river secrets, including a stickleback and a tessellated darter.

Want to try fishing yourself, at least with a rod and reel? The state has its annual free fishing weekend in June and a host of free fishing events scheduled around New York. To find boating and fishing spots along the Hudson, go here.

Plus, the Putnam County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs is holding a fishing clinic this Saturday (5/3) at Tilly Foster Farm in Southeast. “Learn everything you need to know to enjoy fishing for a lifetime,” the flier promises. Class size is limited to 60 and registration is required for the free event. Call 845-225-6312.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, April 29th, 2008 at 11:56 am |


Woodchuck-haters club


My bias against woodchucks is well-known, at least among family and friends. There’s nothing I would like to see more than the 2 (at least) that live on my property to disappear.

I’ve battled them for several years now as they or their ancestors personally helped themselves to the beans, lettuce, zucchini and, I swear, even cilantro in my garden. The war waged until last year, when I strengthened the garden’s defenses. In addition to the four-foot-tall fence, I added a foot-high barrier and an electric fence. fence.jpg

So from outside to inside, the garden’s perimeter goes like this: electric fence, foot-tall fence, four-foot fence. Each layer is separated from the next layer by about six inches or so. In addition, between the four-foot-tall fence and the one-foot-tall fence is a six-inch-wide strip of chicken wire that runs along the ground to prevent any burrowing.

The photograph shows the system. The green poles hold the electric fence. It’s really just two wires that run around the outside of the garden, about a foot or so off the ground, powered by two D batteries. (Yes, I’ve touched it. Mostly just a tingle. Unless you have no shoes on and the lawn is wet.)

All of that equaled no woodchuck issues last year. The critters are still living on my property. We see them a few times a week, chewing here or there. My 6-year-old daughter will sometimes go running out the door to chase one if she spots it from a window.

Here’s a handy guide for dealing with the freakin’ things.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, April 24th, 2008 at 11:47 am |

A hotel stay plus science


The finest linens. Big, flat-screen TV. Spacious closet with safe. Fully stocked honor bar. Oh, and the chance to do a bit of science and contribute to local environmental conservation efforts.

That’s what guests at The Ritz-Carlton can get if they sign up for a Give Back Getaway. Stay at The Ritz-Carlton in White Plains and choose that package, and you’ll be whisked away to Teatown Lake Reservation in Yorktown. Once there, you’ll be greeted by the center’s staff, given an orientation and spend a few hours surveying and mapping invasive plants at the preserve.

The hotel bills the program as a meaningful way for guests to give back to the community. Teatown Executive Director Fred Koontz said the undertaking will allow Teatown to collect data it might not otherwise get to. Participants will walk the trails and use GPS units to mark the location of invasive plants, such as Japanese barberry.

Other Ritz-Carlton locations offer the chance to help propagate young mangrove trees or assist with the recovery of the blue iguana. The program also features Give Back categories of hunger and poverty relief and the well-being of disadvantaged children.

The Teatown package carries a $100 fee for adults and $50 for children, which I’m thinking is above and beyond the room rates.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008 at 4:57 pm |

They’re everywhere


They look like some miniature Stars-Wars-villain spaceship: a somewhat triangular-shaped pod with three black spikes. Such are the seeds of Eurasian water chestnut. Eurasian water chestnut clogs parts of the Hudson River and is on the state’s most-wanted aquatic invasive-plant list. chestnut2.jpg

And the seed pods are seemingly everywhere, washed up on the river’s shore. I’ve seen oodles at Norrie Point and the ones in the photographs were in Beacon. In the shoreline photo below, look for the black pods among all the driftwood.

Betsy Blair, manager of the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve, said the plants were released in a garden pond near Schenectady in the late 19th century.


“They gradually made their way into the Mohawk River and down to the Hudson, making their appearance in the late 1930s or so. They now occupy about 2% of the river’s surface area, although you might think it’s more when viewing some of the larger patches of bright green floating vegetation during the growing season,” she wrote in an e-mail.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008 at 4:05 pm |


An Earth Day challenge


Want to be a green school? To mark Earth Day, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation and Education Department announced a Green Schools Challenge to boost recycling in schools across the state.

The yearlong competition, according to the announcement, will determine what schools can do to, among other efforts, recycle paper, metal, glass and other materials; buy and promote recycled products and reuse packaging; and conserve water and energy.

The hoped-for goal is to announce winners a year from now, on Earth Day 2009.

More information and an application can be found on the DEC’s Web site.

For more Earth Day stuff, such as book suggestions, head over to the paper’s book blog.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008 at 1:13 pm |

More Pete Seeger


With Earth Day upon us tomorrow, here’s a video of Pete Seeger. The man who helped launch the Clearwater in a bid for a cleaner Hudson River entertained a bit yesterday at the Beacon Sloop Club’s Earth Day Festival.

Here’s a prior post on Pete.


Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, April 21st, 2008 at 4:41 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

Give your opinion on Indian Point, only not this week


Sorry folks, I got the date wrong for the Indian Point meetings to help a panel of experts learn what the public is concerned about at the nuclear plant. I thought it was Monday April 21, but it’s Monday April 28. My sincere apology. The times and location are correct in the blog item below.

Posted by Greg Clary on Monday, April 21st, 2008 at 2:56 pm |


Give your opinion on Indian Point


The panel conducting an independent safety evaluation of Indian Point for the nuclear plant’s owners will hold two public meetings Monday to hear what questions the public would like to be answered about operations at the facility. The 10-expert group has been commissioned by Entergy Nuclear to look into nuclear safety, security and emergency preparedness in Indian Point as the plant applies for a 20-year operating license extension. Those who would like to speak at the meeting should e-mail safety@nyindianpoint.org. Those unable to attend can submit questions or comments for the panel at the same e-mail address. The meetings are 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday at Cortlandt Colonial Reception Hall, 714 Albany Post Road, Cortlandt Manor.

Posted by Greg Clary on Friday, April 18th, 2008 at 4:58 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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