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The Nature of Things

A blog about nature and the environment

Archive for May, 2008

The Rich Little of the bird world


There’s a mockingbird in my neighborhood that, I swear, doesn’t sleep. He sings morning, afternoon, evening and throughout the night.

And, as the northern mockingbird‘s name implies, he sings everyone else’s songs. I’ve heard him do a blue jay, a killdeer, a Carolina wren, a red-tailed hawk and even crickets. Unlike most birds, who stop learning songs at a young age, mockingbirds keep learning new ones and incorporating them into their repertoire. tjndc5-5b1wv58nl361le2eggqo_layout.jpg

Should you be plagued with a night singer, this site offer some tips. So far, mine isn’t a problem – especially since he tends to stay across the road.

Here’s a YouTube video of a singing mockingbird.

(The photo by TJN photographer Mark Vergari shows a territorial mockingbird defending its nest from passers-by outside the New Castle Town Hall in 1999.)

Posted by Mike Risinit on Saturday, May 31st, 2008 at 3:05 pm |

Got sheep or goats?


What do sheep, goats and cows have to do with the Indian Point nuclear power plants?

Members of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, also known as IPSEC, want to see if the milk from the animals shows signs of tritium or strontium 90.
If it does, it could indicate that the materials are in more places than previously believed.

Margo Schepart, of the Westchester Citizens Awareness Network, which works in coalition with IPSEC, said a survey was underway to pinpoint any exposure.
The owners of the plants, Entergy Nuclear Northeast, says there are no dairy animals in the 10-mile radius Emergency Planning Zone around Indian Point, according to IPSEC.

But the organization, which wants to shut down the plant because it feels it is unsafe, has already located several in Westchester.
Schepart said anyone with sheep, goats, cows or other lactating animals within the 10-mile radius can report the animals’ presence. Animals within the 5-mile radius are of particular interest, she said.

Report any animals to Margo Schepart at margofrances@yahoo.com.

Catch up with issues concerning Indian Point here.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Friday, May 30th, 2008 at 5:50 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

Help for shad


A comprehensive plan aimed at rebuilding the population of shad in the Hudson River, one of the Hudson’s signature species, and other fish stocks in the river was announced today by Gov. David Paterson. americanshad.jpg

The state this year enacted emergency regulations limiting shad fishing because their numbers are so low. Under the plan announced by Paterson, the state Department of Environmental Conservation will continue monitoring the population, use their permitting process for power plants to limit the amount of fish, larvae and eggs that are sucked in by cooling-water intakes, work to reduce the bycatch of shad during commercial fishing for other species, restore critical spawning and nursery habitats where young fish spend their time and conduct studies to determine the effects of predators and invasive species on shad.

Read more plus see the governor’s announcement after the break.

Read more of this entry »

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, May 29th, 2008 at 5:20 pm |


A fawn discovered


I’ve documented my dislike of woodchucks here several times, a feeling based on their penchant for eating my vegetable garden in previous years. So I’m not ashamed to admit that I quietly slipped out the kitchen door the other evening, after spying one of the buggers in the woods behind the house. I picked up a rock in the driveway with the hopes of at least putting a scare into the rodent.

As I crept up the hill, I stumbled upon a fawn laying in the bushes. Mother deer, as you may know, usually stash their young someplace. The doe returns to nurse her fawn. But by not hanging out with it, she doesn’t attract predators to her young.

Anyway, the fawn stayed there until well past sunset and wasn’t there in the morning. The (bad) photograph kind of shows the fawn curled up in the bushes. I didn’t want to get too close again and scare it away. The shiny spot is the flash reflecting in its eye. fawn.jpg

Needless to say, I gave up on the woodchuck pursuit.

Turns out, fawns-by-their-lonesome have become a problem this year, according to the Humane Society of the United States, in terms of people trying to “rescue” them.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, May 29th, 2008 at 2:36 pm |

Linking spirituality and the environment


The Episcopal Diocese of New York will hold an environmental conference for its congregations – stretching from the Catskills to New York City – from 9:30am – 3pm on Saturday, May 31, 2008 at the St. Mathew’s Church, 382 Cantitoe Street, Bedford, NY.

Program organizers say the purpose of the conference is twofold: to recognize humans’ integral spiritual relationship with the environment and to bring attention to the larger environmental issues that also affect all of our lives in the Hudson Valley region, with an emphasis on practical ways that we can take local action to make positive changes within our own communities.

The keynote speaker will be John Cronin, formerly the nation’s first Riverkeeper, now the Director of the Beacon Institute and Director of the Pace Academy for the Environment at Pace University.

Workshops will be held on:

“Greening Your Life” – Your buildings and lifestyle, in city and country.

“Advocacy”- Affecting your neighborhood, village, or city policy.

“What Has Changed, What Needs Changing?” – The negative effects of environmental change, and what to do about it.

“What We Eat” – Farmers markets, community supported agriculture.
Registration for the conference, which includes and an “environmental” lunch, is $20.
Register by phone at: 914-693-3848 or mail a check to:
Episcopal Diocese of New York
55 Cedar Street
Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522

For more information and to register online click here

If you feel more comfortable speaking or e-mailing someone directly, contact:

Rev. Stephen Holton, Committee Chairman – revholton@stpaulsonthehill.org or 914-941-6627


George Potanovic, Jr., Episcopal Environmental Committee member – georgep123@optonline.net or 845-429-2020

Posted by Greg Clary on Wednesday, May 28th, 2008 at 6:46 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

Smells like . . .


They have bomb-detecting dogs and seeing-eye dogs and, believe it or not, moose-poop sniffing dogs. From a story in today’s New York Times about moose returning to and gaining a hoof-hold in the Adirondacks:

“To better understand their lifestyle and behavior, the Wildlife Conservation Society sent specially trained dogs into the piney woods here recently, not in search of actual moose, but their scat, or excrement.”

Here’s a story out of Washington state about “scat-tracking dogs.”

“These pooches – which can identify poop deposited by such creatures as wolves, fishers and even whales – are moving from Seattle to the University of Washington’s 4,300-acre Pack Forest.”

Whales? How does that work?

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, May 28th, 2008 at 5:41 pm |
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Growing eagles


The young bald eagles in Southeast were sitting on their nest this morning, looking a bit bigger since the last time I checked in on them. Through a spotting scope, their yellow talons were easily visible planted on the nest’s edge. The pair are looking less gangly than in the past, more like adults — although it will be close to five years before they get the signature white head and tail.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, May 27th, 2008 at 12:02 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

Just when you think Hallmark knows all


Happy World Turtle Day. That’s what today is, a chance to think about our shell-carrying reptile friends and the need for more conservation efforts to protect them. That’s what the Humane Society of the United States says.tjndc5-5bhvno4iujmqxf756jw_layout.jpg

Click here for a TJN slide show from 2006 about bog turtle research in the Great Swamp. Both the slide show and the photo to the right of a bog turtle are courtesy of TJN photographer Frank Becerra.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Friday, May 23rd, 2008 at 11:11 am |
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Sewage in the Hudson needs addressing


After a Stony Point woman asked him the status of the Hudson River when it came to sewage treatment plants, the director of the DEC’s local regional office appeared to speak bluntly.

“We’re not where we should be,” said William Janeway, who leads the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Region 3 office. Region 3 includes the Lower Hudson Valley.

The remarks were made during a program on the status of Rockland’s water supply Wednesday.

Janeway said many existing treatment plants were old and needed updating, in part, because they overflow when rain infiltrates them, sending sewage into the Hudson.

The Journal News focused on the problem in a special report published in 2007. We noted it wasn’t just older systems needing updating that posed a problem, but that several upstate communities have no real treatment operation and simply discharge their sewage directly into the Hudson. The practice harkens back to earlier days when many held the belief that “dilution is the solution.”

Riverkeeper, the environmental watchdog that advocates for the health of the Hudson, also issued a report in 2007 after conducting water sampling. The results, compiled in partnership with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, showed that on certain days and in certain places along the river, the water was simply too dirty for ingesting, as can occur when swimming, etc.

Janeway said a recent state report determined that more than $30 BILLION in clean water projects are needed throughout New York. He also said that New York state now ranked 49th out of the 50 states in lowest per capita spending when it came to funding clean water and other environmental projects.

Compounding the problem is the fact that the state also no longer reimburses municipalities to help them build or update sewer treatment plants, Janeway said. The projects often cost millions of dollars.

Janeway said the state is trying to find solutions.

Coming up next: Why some opposed to the re-licensing of Indian Point want to know if you’ve got goats. Check back later for more.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Friday, May 23rd, 2008 at 1:55 am |
| | 1 Comment »


Rockland’s water supply lures crowd


So a good 50 or so people gathered at the Suffern Library just a few hours ago to participate in a program on the status of Rockland’s water supply.

The speakers included William “Willie” Janeway, who directs the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Region 3 office; United Water New York spokesman Steve Goudsmith; and Alison Keimowitz, a geochemist with Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades.


Here’s a meeting photo by George Potanovic, a photographer who is also president of the Stony Point Action Committee for the Environment, that shows Nisan Banin, of Stony Point, asking Goudsmith (left) and Janeway a question.

Janeway told the crowd that the state planned to look at any projects that came before it “holistically.” Too many times in the past, projects were located at in isolation, without considering the wider picture.

His remarks were partly made in connection to United Water’s plan to build a Hudson River water treatment plant.

The company announced in 2006 that it intended to build the plant and deliver the water to its Rockland customers.

Some of those customers raised issues, directing to the questions to Goudsmith.

Among the questions:

Salt & power: Marjorie Rothenberg, of Suffern, wanted to know how the company would return salt removed from the river water back to the Hudson in low concentrations if it didn’t heavily water it down. She also wanted to know how much electricity the plant would require. Goudsmith said he’d get the answers.

Waste place: Susan Filgueras, of the Stony Point Action Committee for the Environment, wanted to know where the waste from the treatment plant would be sent.
Goudsmith said the Joint Regional Sewer Plant, but Filgueras said that wasn’t possible because the plant was virtually at capacity.

Why not Ambrey?: Potanovic, the director of SPACE, wanted to know how the company determined that building and operating a plant was cheaper than building a reservoir at Ambrey Pond in Stony Point. Goudsmith said the company’s analysis showed it would be cheaper. He also said obtaining the necessary permits to build a dam at Ambrey would be challenging.

New Jersey concerns: Patsy Wooters, co-chair of the Torne Valley Preservation Association, wondered if more water might be released from Rockland reservoirs into New Jersey if the plant was to be built. She wanted to know if our Garden State neighbors would pay less for their water, since it’s source would be rain and melted snow, whereas at least some of Rockland’s water would come from a more expense source.

Janet Burnet, director of the Ramapo River Watershed Intermunicipal Committee, wanted to know if United Water New York and United Water New Jersey spoke to each other, in terms of taking a regional approach, when trying to address water concerns.

Goudsmith said everybody was looking for more water supply and that UWNY/UWNJ did what benefited their individual companies. He said UWNJ customers would likely see increases for water just like everybody else as the company worked on its supply.

If you’d like more details on the meeting, see my story in today’s issue of The Journal News, or look under the Rockland news section on this web site.

Also, check back later for info from Janeway on how much New York does — or rather, doesn’t — spend on environmental programs such as reimbursing municipalities for upgrading their sewer treatment plants.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Thursday, May 22nd, 2008 at 1:35 am |

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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