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The Nature of Things

A blog about nature and the environment

Archive for November, 2008

Deer news


Today was the opening day of deer season. So if you saw anyone toting a gun somewhere in Putnam County (bows only in Westchester), that was (most likely) why.

A round-up of deer news from across the state:

1. Deer charges car.

2. Hunting with bait is a no-no.

3. Deer-car collisions.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Saturday, November 15th, 2008 at 7:04 pm |
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Don’t feed the geese or the ducks


The state is asking residents to not feed geese, ducks, and other waterfowl after a dozen Canada geese were found sick or dead on a pond in Clinton County. The state Department of Environmental Conservation says:

“A necropsy of the dead geese determined that they were infected with Aspergillosis, a fungus that grows in the birds’ lungs and air sacs causing respiratory distress and, eventually, suffocation.

Aspergillosis is transmitted to waterfowl by the ingestion of moldy grain, such as bread or livestock feed. It has been known to cause large-scale mortality events in waterfowl, and for every one dead bird recovered, many more may die in remote locations or go unnoticed. Aspergillosis is not contagious and does not present a health risk to humans.”

So, in light of that, the DEC says stop feeding the waterfowl.

“DEC is asking the public to not feed geese, ducks, and other waterfowl to help prevent this disease and other negative impacts on waterfowl populations. Feeding causes poor nutrition, overcrowding, unnatural behavior, delayed migration, and facilitates the spread of diseases, like Aspergillosis, that may result in death.”

DEC recommends that anyone feeding waterfowl, stop before winter sets in, and remove any food, such as bread or corn, that is or may become moldy. In recognition that some insist on feeding, despite the negative impacts on waterfowl, DEC urges the following precautions to prevent the spread of Aspergillosis:

Only provide enough food that will be consumed in less than a day.
Remove all food and food remnants from the feeding area at the end of each day
Check the food while putting it out and remove any moldy food items.
NEVER feed moldy bread to any birds – throw it out.
Farmers should keep grain piles covered and dispose of moldy grain or silage by burial or tilling into the soil. Ducks and geese must be discouraged from using areas where moldy agricultural products have accumulated.

Please report diseased or dead waterfowl to your nearest Department of Environmental Conservation Wildlife Office. The phone number of the nearest DEC wildlife office may be obtained from the DEC web site at: http://www.dec.ny.gov/about/558.html.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, November 13th, 2008 at 12:34 pm |
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Goodbye dam


A dam on the Salmon River upstate, steps from the Canadian border, is set to disappear this week. Construction crews are slated to remove the concrete-and-stone structure, as part of a move to improve the river’s fish life as well as limit upstream flooding

American Rivers, a nonprofit dedicated to restoring rivers, has this to say about the removal of obsolete and deteriorating dams:

“While some dams are beneficial to society, many have outlived their usefulness and often do more harm than good. Some dams increase flood risks for communities, and old or poorly maintained dams are at risk of failure. According to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials, there are 10,213 high hazard potential dams across the United States that would pose a threat to human life if they were to fail.

Even small dams can pose a risk to anglers, paddlers, swimmers, and children playing nearby. These dams, with deadly recirculating currents that can appear immediately downstream, have been given the macabre nickname “drowning machines.”

Dams can also harm water quality, block migrating fish and wildlife, and limit river recreation opportunities

Communities that choose to pull out obsolete dams can benefit from better water quality, revitalized fisheries, new recreational opportunities, increased real estate values, and recovered land suitable for parks and other public use.”

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, November 12th, 2008 at 4:13 pm |
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A late weekend update


Did you know a “year-old cricket is a rarity?” If old age (90 days) doesn’t kill them, cold temperatures usually do.  With the mild evenings we had over the weekend, I was still hearing an occasional cricket chirp. But, since temperature is directly related to their chirping rate, this lone cricket sounded like a 45-rpm record being played at 33 1/3.

On Saturday morning, I walked outside to see these two turkey vultures sitting in the locust tree in our front yard.

Last but not least, I heard a barred owl Sunday night. During the summer, with the windows open, we’re sometimes woken up by a close-calling owl. Now, with the windows closed, it’s a much more muffled hooting. It takes a minute to register that you’ve heard an owl and then you have to focus and wait to hear it again.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, November 11th, 2008 at 12:17 pm |
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A love affair with the Hudson River


That’s what master photographer Ted Kawalerski of Sleepy Hollow will discuss tomorrow at the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries:

“With this photographic exhibit, Top to Bottom—The Hudson River, Kawalerski shares with viewers his deep personal connection to the Hudson River and his affection for the multicultural diversity of people who live along its banks.”

The exhibit opened last month and Kawalerski will hold his Q&A at 4 p.m. tomorrow.

“The photographs convey his unique perspective on what people who live in river communities see every day, as well as what he has personally witnessed during this 20-year project. From a large area of the coastline that has been industrial for many years to old manufacturing facilities, train tracks and power lines – all are part of the landscape and worthy of inclusion in his rich tapestry of light, nature, humans and manmade form. Rather than look away, Kawalerski carefully integrates this aesthetic with the untouched and pristine elements of the river.”

For directions, including how to get there by train on the Hudson line, go here.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Friday, November 7th, 2008 at 11:29 am |
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Another moose sighting


This one comes from a Yonkers man, who spotted a moose alongside the Taconic State Parkway in Putnam County. Here’s his email detailing the experience.

My wife and I had the unusual experience of sighting a moose in Putnam County. Here are some basic facts:

Date: Sunday Nov. 2, 2008
Time: 10:35AM EST
Place: North side of the large gravel lot where the Park Police have a sub station on the Taconic State Parkway a half mile north of Rt 301 (Cold Spring Turnpike).
GPS: N41.4767 W73.8185
Sky: Clear sun, few to no clouds.

Description: I saw no antlers. The coat appeared somewhat matted. It looked like it was a little under weight which makes me think it was a female. There was no collar. There was no sign of injury or difficulty walking.

Circumstances of observation: While traveling north on the Taconic Parkway with my wife, I stopped in the gravel lot . . . I stopped the car in the north side of the lot, facing north. The moose was not in sight when we pulled in . . . . (M)y wife spotted the moose coming out of the woods. It appeared to come out to observe us. We were about 40 yards away. It walked around the north edge of the lot a few times and returned to the woods. Our time of observation was about 8 minutes. We stayed in our car and did not make any noise. The wooded area appears to drop off in elevation quickly so our observation ended once it was off the gravel lot. Also its appearance blended in with the woods perfectly.

While it appeared to be observing us, it did not walk straight towards us. We did not feel threatened. My impression is it would have taken off if we were to approach it.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, November 6th, 2008 at 5:37 pm |
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Skunk talk


Social thermoregulation is the means by which some skunks get through the winter. In other words, they cuddle, according to this study I found on the Web.

“While most male skunks den underground alone during the winter, a group of female skunks will often snuggle together with one male in communal dens.”

I was poking around the Internet for skunk info because I almost hit one last night on my way home. It was trying to cross Interstate 84 close to midnight and I caught a fleeting glimpse of it in my headlights. 0.jpg

While they may settle in for a long nap or two once winter gets here, they do tend to be out and about during the colder months, as the state Department of Environmental Conservation points out.

The photo by TJN photographer Mark Vergari shows Jim Horton, owner of QualityPro Pest and Wildlife Services in Hawthorne, and a skunk he removed from someone’s home.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, November 5th, 2008 at 10:24 am |
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Crashing deer


Driving the roads of the Lower Hudson Valley, we all know to watch out for deer. But consider having deer crash into your house, as apparently happened in Nebraska.

“Monnie and Harvey Maske came home from church Sunday to find their home in shambles. There was broken glass, furniture knocked over and blood everywhere.

We thought somebody tried to trash the place. We walked into the living room and Harvey saw the window broken and he said it had to be a deer,” said Monnie Maske.

Harvey was right.”

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, November 4th, 2008 at 6:27 pm |

White-Nose Syndrome Update


Scientists have identified the fungus associated with the mysterious ailment that is decimating bat populations throughout the Northeast. White-Nose Syndrome, named for the white fungus found on the muzzles of dead bats, is taking its name from a member of the Geomyces genus.

From National Geographic:

“It’s a cold-loving fungus known to be associated with Arctic permafrost soils,” said study co-author David Blehert, a microbiologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin.

Northeastern U.S. caves maintain year-round temperatures between 35 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit (2 and 15 degrees Celsius)—well within the fungus’s reproductive range.

Since the winter of 2006 to 2007, white-nose syndrome has caused 80- to 97-percent-mortality rates in some large hibernation colonies, putting some species at serious risk.

Here’s a story I did back in the summer about white-nose syndrome.

As the Boston Globe reported this week, it’s still not clear what’s actually killing the bats.

It’s not clear why the bats are dying – the leading hypothesis is that the fungus bothers the bats so much that they wake up to groom themselves during the exact time they need to be conserving energy to make it through the long winter. In Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut, hundreds of skinny bats last winter were found weakly flying in the middle of the day – possibly looking for food.

It’s unusual for a fungus to be a primary cause of death. Normally, they tend to be secondary infections – so scientists originally thought the bat fungus couldn’t be the main culprit. Yet if it is, Blehert said, it may have parallels to chytridiomycosis, a lethal skin fungus that has caused worldwide amphibian declines.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Saturday, November 1st, 2008 at 8:40 am |
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