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The Nature of Things

A blog about nature and the environment

Archive for May, 2009

Congress to take up white nose

May
29

Two House subcommittees on Thursday will hold a hearing on what’s killing bats across the Northeast.

The hearing will explore the profound public health, environmental, and economic implications of white-nose syndrome (WNS) in bats, which, to date, has spread to at least nine states, from New Hampshire to West Virginia.   Bats, which can eat their body weight in insects each night, provide important ecosystem and economic services in suppressing insect populations, which can spread diseases and damage crops.  This oversight hearing will highlight the work of the Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, and U.S. Forest Service, in conjunction with state and local partners, to research, manage, coordinate, and educate the public on WNS.

The subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands and the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife will hold the joint hearing. Those bodies are part of the Committee on Natural Resources.

Environmental groups and others have been pressing Congress to fund more research on white-nose syndrome.

Previously on TNOT: Bats still threatened by mysterious ailment.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Friday, May 29th, 2009 at 5:52 pm |
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Blue whales off Long Island

May
28

Researchers have identified “for the first time . . . the voice of a singing blue whale about 70 miles off the Long Island and New York City coast, closer than ever.”

From today’s Ithaca Journal:

The whale’s sound was detected Jan. 10-11 using 10 Cornell acoustic recorders deployed about 10 miles off the entrance to New York Harbor and off Fire Island. A second blue whale was heard farther offshore in the direction of Bermuda.

The system of acoustic recorders previously confirmed the presence of migrating right whales, near New York harbor.

“This was a real treat,” said Christopher Clark, director of the Cornell Bioacoustics Research Program. While he suspected blue whales might be offshore, it’s amazing to think they’re so close to New York, he said.

“The largest animal on earth is just right there. You don’t have to go to Africa, you don’t have to go to Antarctica.”

Here’s Cornell’s report on the discovery, along with a decent video explaining the whole thing.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, May 28th, 2009 at 11:17 am |
| | 1 Comment »

A tent caterpillar

May
27

That’s what this guy is – an eastern tent caterpillar. It was on my grill cover yesterday evening. They’re called tent caterpillars because of the tents they spin around several tree branches, which they use to turn into moths.

There’s a photo of a tent on the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s page about caterpillar pests.

Here’s more information about tent caterpillars.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, May 27th, 2009 at 1:42 pm |
| | 2 Comments »

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A colony on West Branch Reservoir

May
21

Did you know double-crested cormorants use all types of stuff to build their nests? “Rope, deflated balloons, fishnet, and plastic debris . . . Parts of dead birds are commonly used too,” according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Cormorants are on my mind because I spotted a bunch of their nests in a tree next to the West Branch Reservoir, somewhere along Route 301 on the Carmel-Kent border. See photo.

I’ve always wondered whether the cormorants I see are of the double-crested variety or the great variety. But, as the Cornell lab points out, the double-crested cormorant is the “most numerous and widespread North American cormorant” and “the only one that occurs in large numbers inland as well as on the coast.”

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, May 21st, 2009 at 4:02 pm |
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A Lorax-centric gathering

May
19

You don’t have to venture to the ” far end of town where the Grickle-grass grows,” just to the Westchester Land Trust headquarters in Bedford Hills at 4 p.m. tomorrow for a reading of Dr. Suess’ “The Lorax” and a seed-planting activity.

The event is for parents and kids. Here’s more information, including other dates and times for other chances to hear Dr. Suess’ tale of environmental stewardship.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, May 19th, 2009 at 4:39 pm |
| | 4 Comments »

Dam regulations

May
19

The state Department of Environmental Conservation today announced a series of changes to its proposed dam safety regulations, which are meant to safeguard life and property downstream and make it easier for some dam owners to comply with the new regs.

The proposed regulations help ensure oversight of the more than 5,000 dams in New York State by requiring dam inspections by owners, regular maintenance, better recordkeeping and emergency planning. The regulations also detail the responsibilities of dam owners to meet modern safety standards. In response to public comments, for owners of certain types of dams, the revisions allow more time for compliance and refines whether financial security is required.

“Last year, we received important input from dam owners concerned about the cost and length of time required to comply with the proposed regulations, and from others looking for more assurance that the dam safety program will help protect their communities,” DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said. “The revised proposal addresses those concerns. Our staff worked hard to find ways to provide flexibility to owners based on the specifics of their dam’s condition in ways that do not compromise safety.”

Read the full announcement.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, May 19th, 2009 at 3:50 pm |
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Quad learning and lectures

May
18

The Beczak Environmental Education Center in Yonkers has a slew of upcoming events planned as part of the 400th anniversary celebration of Henry Hudson’s voyage up the Hudson. From Beczak:

Saturday, May 30, 7:00-9:00 PM, $5 per person
The Dutch Influence on the American Kitchen. Food historian Peter G. Rose explores the foods brought to America by the Dutch more than three centuries ago, and the way these were adapted to new circumstances. Slides of 17th century Dutch art works depicting various foodstuffs are part of this lecture. Includes live music and refreshments.

Saturday, June 27, 7:00-9:00 PM, $5 per person
The Mannahatta Project. Dr. Eric Sanderson, a landscape ecologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, presents an astounding three-dimensional virtual re-creation what Manhattan looked before the arrival of Europeans. See the forests of Times Square, the meadows of Harlem, and the wetlands of downtown. This program celebrates the release of Dr. Sanderson’s new book, Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City. Includes live music and refreshments.

Saturday, July 18, 7:00-9:00 PM, $5 per person
Life Along the Hudson. Photographer Joseph Squillante presents a stirring visual journey of people and scenes along the Hudson. His award-winning work captures the beauty and romantic quality of the river while offering portraits of people who live  along its shores, including farmers, fisherman, and biologists. Includes live music and refreshments.

All of the above take place at Beczak, 35 Alexander Street, Yonkers, NY — just two minutes from Yonkers Metro-North Station. Free parking is available.

The photo, by the way, is meant to show two Manhattans — one that Hudson saw and, obviously, today’s version — and goes along with the June 27 talk by Eric Sanderson.

Dr. Sanderson’s multi-media presentation shows the original ecology of Manhattan—a vast deciduous forest, home to bears, wolves, songbirds, and salamanders, with clear, clean waters jumping with fish. It was a natural landscape of hills, valleys, forests, fields, freshwater wetlands, salt marshes, beaches, springs, ponds and streams, supporting a rich and abundant community of wildlife and sustaining people for perhaps 5000 years before Europeans arrived on the scene in 1609.   In fact, with over 55 different ecological communities, Mannahatta’s biodiversity per acre rivaled that of national parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Great Smoky Mountains!

Photo credit: © Markley Boyer / Mannahatta Project / Wildlife Conservation Society.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, May 18th, 2009 at 1:40 pm |
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New trail opening

May
15

The Putnam County Land Trust will officially open its newest trail tomorrow (Saturday): Turtle Pond Trail at its Laurel Ledges Preserve in Patterson. Festivities start at 1 p.m.

The trail skirts the northern edge of Turtle Pond (formerly Mendel Pond). Acquired through a (federal) grant from Bill and Sheila Hamilton, the pond serves vital wildlife needs for resting, nesting and food sources.

Steven Maddock of Mahopac Scout Troop 1 earned his Eagle Scout Badge through the planning, fund raising and construction of this trail. The Turtle Pond Trail as it will be called features over 1500 feet of trail including a 30 foot floating boardwalk.

The Opening Program will feature brief remarks and a walk on the trail led by PCLT board member and eminent naturalist, Beth Herr. The public is invited to attend. There is no fee. The ceremony be held at the Trail Head located on Cornwall Hill Road between Rte 164 and Couch Road and the walk will leave from there as well.

After the break, read a story I wrote back in December about the trail’s construction. Read more of this entry »

Posted by Mike Risinit on Friday, May 15th, 2009 at 4:03 pm |
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One of the last rivermen is gone

May
13

Like a few reporters here over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of talking with Bob Gabrielson Sr. of Nyack about his life spent on the Hudson River in pursuit of shad, crab, and other offerings. As the river’s fisheries have suffered, the number of commercial fishermen making a living from the Hudson has declined.

Now, Gabrielson is gone. He passed away on Monday.

(Photo by TJN photographer Matt Brown in 2003.)

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 at 1:04 pm |
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It’s a tough world out there

May
13

So that robin’s nest near my front porch that had four eggs in it now has just one — and no sign of mom. As recently as Monday evening, I saw mom sitting on the nest. But, when I peeked in this morning, most of the eggs were gone and no adults were present.

I wrote a post about the nest last week, which prompted my colleague Tracey to mention a similar occurrence at her house: eggs present then absent.

A poke around the ol’ WWW found that lots of other animals consider robin eggs to be a delicacy. Snakes, squirrels, blue jays and crows are the main predators of robin eggs. And, mom’s not capable of moving the eggs, so there goes that warm and fuzzy scenario.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 at 10:45 am |
| | 3 Comments »

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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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