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The Nature of Things

A blog about nature and the environment

Archive for August, 2008

Splash goes the osprey


So an osprey makes a pretty big and loud splash when it hits the water in pursuit of a fish. It’s an entry that would put them on the bottom of the scorer’s list at the Olympics, in terms of form. I recently spent a few days in Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, and the black-and-white birds would occasionally hover above and dive into a nearby pond and harbor in pursuit of a fish. tjndc5-5b1uv3l1rw5405fvgqo_layout.jpg

The loud splashing sound always caught my attention. Apparently, they are capable of hitting the water at 80 miles an hour in that pursuit.

I never had a camera handy, but here’s a YouTube clip showing such a plunging osprey.

The TJN photo shows an osprey returning to its nest at the Marshlands Conservancy in Rye in 1999.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, August 28th, 2008 at 5:07 pm |

Which way do you go


Apparently cows know more than they’re letting on. Bovines, as this NPR story (and lots of others) recently pointed out, seem to have an internal compass. Whether at rest or feeding, the animals seem to align themselves on a north-south axis. Forget looking for moss on the north side of a tree the next time you’re lost in the forest, just find a cow.

(AP photo)tjndc5-5bhy5dmqgp5goj1r6jw_layout.jpg

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, August 27th, 2008 at 3:26 pm |
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Have you seen my twin?


Today is garbage day in my neighborhood in Airmont.

We put the can out last night, but when we walked to the end of the driveway to collect the newspaper this morning — no can.

That’s right, someone STOLE my garbage can — with the garbage STILL IN IT.

I’m peeved. I just bought two new cans in the spring and it cost me $52 and change with tax. I desperately needed the cans since my others nearly had their bottoms shaved off after being dragged up and down the driveway for a number of years. The lids had been gone a while, as well, no doubt finding refuge in the same place as the world’s missing socks.

The new cans were black, tall, had wheels and a locking mechanism to keep out pests. Too bad they couldn’t keep thieves away!

Garbage cans serve an important purpose because they not only corral trash for the benefit of public health, they also keep garbage from the streets, where it can wash into storm drains or just make the neighborhood look blighted.

Anyway, annoyance quickly faded to concern as I began to imagine the worst: Garbage-Stealing Identity Thieves. I mean, that’s how identity thieves work, isn’t it? They get a pre-approved credit card or other offer made to you via the mail, pretend to be you, call the company, then get a card in your name?

I tried to think about the garbage I’d thrown out since Friday, when the last collection was made. I have no idea if I chucked anything important.

My next stop was the Ramapo Police Department, where two of the town’s finest took my report and asked me some questions. They suggested I shred way more than I’ve been doing lately. Also, I should consider spray-painting my house number on the can from now on. (How ugly those cans look!)

I also learned another nearby house in Ramapo had a similar can stolen today.

So I guess someone’s got a nice new pair of trash cans for their home while my family and another’s are out money and a can. Nice, huh?

One is the loneliest number

This can’s “twin” has been stolen. The empty space was once home to the missing can. img_0637.JPG

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Tuesday, August 26th, 2008 at 3:01 pm |
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Lobster sex


The chances of two adult lobsters making baby lobsters may take a hit from global warming. The carbon dioxide pollution that is playing a role in climate change can cause a weak acid to form in the world’s oceans. That could reduce “the fertilization of marine invertebrates and might eventually wipe out colonies of sea urchins, lobsters, mussels and oysters, according to a study.”

“Climate change and the subsequent acidification of the world’s oceans will significantly reduce the successful fertilization of certain marine species by the year 2100, said the report by Australian and Swedish scientists.

“If you look at projected rates (of acidity) for the year 2100, we are finding a 25 percent reduction in fertilization,” lead-scientist Jane Williamson from Macquarie University told Reuters on Friday.”

For other lobster information, here’s an earlier post.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, August 19th, 2008 at 1:39 pm |
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Holy Mackerel


I don’t know about their spiritual state, but this tub was full of Atlantic mackerel. This is my last Maine-vacation post (go here to see another). mack1.jpg

During one of our last nights in Maine, we went to a harborside lobster pound so my wife could have lobster. Right outside, the locals gather on a dock to fish. They were pulling in mackerel and attracting the attention of tourists, plus the attention of a harbor seal.

Whenever the seal would come in to steal some of the chum the fishermen threw in the water to attract the mackerel, the tourists would rush to that edge of the dock. That caused the dock to tilt REALLY close to the water, annoying some of the fishermen – who were already unhappy with the seal’s presence.

Anyway, this one guy was keeping his catch in this vat that sat in the water, allowing the fish to swim in circles as they awaited their fate. Apparently, the fish are an environmentally friendly choice for dinner. 

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, August 18th, 2008 at 11:28 am |
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Frog news


I found this tiny frog in my yard the other day. It’s a spring peeper, I’m almost positive. His blog debut is tied to a report I heard on the news the other night that the world’s frogs are disappearing. 

“Amphibians like the red-legged frog are Earth’s ultimate tough guy. For millions of years they’ve endured – even through previous mass extinctions. But now scientists say their numbers are declining at a rate that sends a deafening warning about human impact on climate change and the environment” 

 frog1.jpgFor more on frog issues, go here.   

Posted by Mike Risinit on Saturday, August 16th, 2008 at 3:48 pm |
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A baby big brown moth


Look what Zachary found in a neighbor’s yard: a Polyphemus caterpillar. Zachary is 8, lives in New Rochelle and is the son of Danielle Perillat, a photo editor here at Lohud/TJN.

This is the second, staff-related Polyphemus incident this summer. Editor Scott Faubel’s wife took a photo of a Polyphemus moth a few weeks ago. cat.jpg

Anyway, Danielle said she convinced Zachary to let the caterpillar go so it could find the right plant to build a cocoon on and complete its transformation to a moth. They don’t appear to be picky about where they make their cocoons, according to this Web site.

“Host plants of Polyphemus caterpillars include many trees and shrubs, such as: oaks, maples, pines, birches, American Hornbeam, hawthorns, American Beech, ash, Witch Hazel, Black Walnut, Yellow Poplar, Black Cherry, Quaking Aspen, Elderberry, alders, Sassafras, blueberries, grapes, willows, hickories, elms, chestnuts, and American Sycamore.”

The strawberries were just Zachary’s attempt to be a good host.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, August 14th, 2008 at 4:18 pm |

One less bear in Connecticut


A New Milford, Conn. man shot a mother bear yesterday after it threatened him, according to this story in the Danbury News-Times. They have video and a photo gallery with the story.

Here’s a prior post leading you back to a recap of LoHud bear activity in the spring.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, August 14th, 2008 at 12:08 pm |
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Meet Camp Hill Farm


John McDowell and Alexandra Spadea, the husband and wife who run Camp Hill Farm in Pomona, will open their place to the public this Saturday.

The couple has been working one acre of the six-acre plot housing the farm in hopes of creating a model pocket farm that can be duplicated in suburban communities to provide locally-grown food. Supporters say growing more food locally puts the freshest vegetables and fruits on the tables of area residents, and reduces the need for truck deliveries of food, reducing fuel consumption and air pollution.

The McDowells will host an open house — wait, make that an open farm — from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday at 126 Camp Hill Road. It will feature biodynamic and organic food, recipes prepared by local chefs, music, and talks on the overall mission of Camp Hill Farm.

The program will also serve as a fundraiser for the nonprofit farm, costing $30 per adult and $10 per child age 10 and older. There’s no charge for younger kids. Guests can also buy half or full baskets of fresh-picked produce for an additional charge.

Get the details here.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Tuesday, August 12th, 2008 at 11:40 pm |


Trees and, wait, are those elected officials?


I am not in the habit of speaking on my cell phone while walking in the park. I find it rude to others who may also be enjoying the outdoors, plus it distracts me from the surroundings.

But this morning an important matter had me on the phone while walking through the woods at Demarest Kill County Park in New City. I had the phone in my right hand and my dog’s leash in my left.

Suddenly I saw this crowd of people coming toward me. I couldn’t make anyone out at first, then my mind began processing the sight before me. Slowly, slowly, slowly it dawned on me: That’s Congresswoman Nita Lowey. Here. In the woods. In Demarest Kill Park.


I walked by the crowd, and they me, until a few hellos began. In the mix was Clarkstown Town Clerk David Carlucci, Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, and Clarkstown Highway Superintendent Wayne Ballard. All of the officials had taken time today to meet with members of the Rockland AmeriCorps program.

Later, I connected with the workers in the parking lot, along with Ballard and Kathy Galione, who directs the local AmeriCorps, which is part of the Rockland County Youth Bureau.

Tina Garcia, 19, of Sloatsburg, and Daniel Hoffman, 19, of New City, said rather than ask Lowey questions, the congresswoman asked the workers about their duties.

Garcia explained that workers assigned to the county Parks Department were maintaining trails, to ensure safety, and working to address any drainage problems.

Hoffman, assigned to the Clarkstown Highway Department for the summer, explained how workers walked along local streams, relieving small blockages and reporting larger ones for removal by highway crews.

Sean Ballard, 18, of New City and assigned to the county Parks Department, said he enjoyed all the hard work the program required this summer.

“I loved it. It was pretty interesting. I got to meet some pretty interesting people,” Ballard said. (Yes, his father is Wayne Ballard.)

Bobby Malka, 20, also of New City and also assigned to parks duty, said the toughest part of the job was rerouting a trail off Route 303, back behind the Saturn dealership in West Nyack. The trail crossed private property and needed to be put back onto public property, he said.

The payoff came when he saw people using the trail he’d worked so hard to build.

“It’s nice to see some people walk it,” Malka said.

Also at Demarest Kill today were Michael O’Keeffe, 21, of Pearl River, and Corey Campbell, 19, of Suffern, both assigned to the Clarkstown High Department; and Nate Aurell, 19, of Orangeburg, assigned to the county Parks Department.

AmeriCorps pays a salary and an educational grant to those who complete a certain amount of training and field work that can include jobs ranging from park maintenance to mapping the routes of streams.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Tuesday, August 12th, 2008 at 11:19 pm |
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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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