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The Nature of Things

A blog about nature and the environment

Archive for July, 2009

Following the sun


Heliotropism. That’s what sunflowers (and other plants) practice as they follow the sun across the sky during the day. This summer, obviously, is not a good one to do that.

But, these two photos show the sunflowers in my front yard following the sun. In the morning, the tops of the plants are facing east (to the left in the top photo). By evening, they are tilted to the  west (the right in the bottom photo).

Posted by Mike Risinit on Friday, July 31st, 2009 at 12:16 pm |
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Snakes in a car


No word yet if Samuel L. Jackson is considering the following scenario for a sequel to “Snakes on a Plane,” but maybe it’s got potential.

Police say a driver blamed a car crash in Hartford, Conn., on two pet baby snakes that he said escaped from his pants pockets as he was driving.

“Enough is enough! I have had it with these (bleeping) snakes on this (bleeping) plane!”

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, July 29th, 2009 at 10:58 am |
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Another view of the Hudson


This one comes from a visit to the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse, which sits between the city of Hudson in Columbia County and the village of Athens in Greene County. Or in other words, the lighthouse is about 115 river miles above the Battery (river mile 0). Tarrytown is at about river mile 28.

A Google map below the photo shows where Hudson and Athens are in relation to a chunk of the Hudson Valley. The photo looks upriver.

<iframe width=”300″ height=”300″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” marginheight=”0″ marginwidth=”0″ src=”http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&amp;source=s_q&amp;hl=en&amp;geocode=&amp;q=hudson+athens+lighthouse&amp;sll=37.0625,-95.677068&amp;sspn=44.879582,89.033203&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;ll=42.252918,-73.808899&amp;spn=0.609892,0.823975&amp;z=9&amp;output=embed”></iframe><br /><small><a href=”http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&amp;source=embed&amp;hl=en&amp;geocode=&amp;q=hudson+athens+lighthouse&amp;sll=37.0625,-95.677068&amp;sspn=44.879582,89.033203&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;ll=42.252918,-73.808899&amp;spn=0.609892,0.823975&amp;z=9″ style=”color:#0000FF;text-align:left”>

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, July 28th, 2009 at 3:58 pm |


Raising a family


It must be tough being a mom and trying to keep your young ones dry when it rains seemingly every day.

That’s what this robin is struggling with, as she tries to shelter her brood from the weather. The photos come courtesy of my colleague Tracey Princiotta, who lives in Somers and has the nest close to her front door.

The other photo below is more along the lines of “It’s summer and the living is easy.” This one comes from my colleague, Frank Becerra, a TJN/Lohud photographer, and shows a family of red foxes enjoying a warm day earlier this month in Southeast. Being a red fox apparently isn’t all that easy, either, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Bold italics are my addition.

The life of a red fox is hazardous from birth. Litters of nearly naked, blind and deaf newborn pups are left in dens while vixens (a.k.a. mom) search for food. The pups are vulnerable to any mammal or reptile that can crawl about in the burrow.

Long-tailed weasels, ermine, skunks, mink, gray foxes, snakes, or woodchucks are the most likely threats.

As the pups emerge from dens at about four weeks of age (in April) they become the prey of hawks by day, or owls by night. They also are vulnerable to crows, coyotes, gray foxes, bobcats, house cats, and dogs. If the den is close to a road, pups often are killed by car and truck traffic. When pups find exposed mice in newly cut hayfields in June, they are drawn into the open and again become vulnerable to owls and hawks.

Here’s an AP story about red foxes showing up in downtown Detroit.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, July 28th, 2009 at 11:55 am |
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Dogs days+cicadas=feels like summer


Ever wonder where the phrase “dog days of summer” comes from? It’s got nothing to do with your pet but rather the dog star, Sirius. Here’s more about the dog days.

The buzzing sound you hear on most sultry days are cicadas.

Previously on TNOT: You say si-key-duh, I say si-kah-duh

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, July 27th, 2009 at 3:50 pm |
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Jersey wildlife


There have been a few crazy wildlife stories out of New Jersey this week. In case you missed them, we have

1. An angry turkey

2. Threatening woodhuck maced, bear raids freezer

Posted by Mike Risinit on Friday, July 24th, 2009 at 11:13 am |


Solar eclipse


This century’s longest solar eclipse was visible over parts of Asia today. You can check out a video here. Worth a look since a longer eclipse will not take place until 2132. Here’s more on the event.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
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A bat in the house


Found a bat in the house yesterday. I didn’t spend too much time trying to identify it, but I’m pretty sure it was a little brown bat. The only family member interested in the winged creature was the cat.

I appreciate bats and the role they play in the natural world gobbling up insects. But I always find it a bit disconcerting to find one in the house. It’s the third time in the past several years.

Here are some handy, dandy tips on dealing with a bat in your home.

Of course, bats have their own problems to worry about, namely white-nose syndrome. You can add wind turbines to their list.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, July 21st, 2009 at 11:17 am |
| | 1 Comment »

Rain and butterflies


During all the wet weather recently, at one point I wondered what butterflies do in the rain. I figured a few raindrops can’t be good for their thin wings. Turns out, according to this NYT’s Q&A, that rain isn’t a good thing for the flying creatures.

Raindrops are as threatening to the light-bodied butterfly as the bucket of water propped over the door in a silent comedy film would be to a human being.

The photo shows what I think is a silver-spotted skipper butterfly on a purple coneflower in my front yard.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, July 20th, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
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Bees at Beczak


It’s just fun to say. Go ahead. Say it . . . Bees at Beczak. That’s what next Sunday will bring at the environmental education center in Yonkers.

Local beekeeper Charles Branch will share first person adventures with honeybees at Beczak Environmental Education Center on Sunday, July 26 at 11 AM. During the program, called Honeybee Hives, children will peer into an observation hive, find the queen, and taste honey right from the comb. Reservations are required: Call Dorene at 914 377-1900 x 13 or email dsukup@beczak.org.

Branch runs Let it Bee, a local honey company (with apologies to Paul, of course). From the Beczak Environmental Education Center’s announcement:

A fine carpenter who specializes in historic preservation, Charles Branch entertained a quiet fascination with honeybees for years. In 2004 he enrolled in a beekeeping course at BYBA, the Backyard Beekeeping Association. The result, Let It Bee honey, is available at Whole Foods, New York City’s Murray’s Cheese, Irvington’s market, Geordanes, the Hastings Farmers Market, and more.

Photo supplied by Beczak and shows one of Branch’s hives.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Sunday, July 19th, 2009 at 5:07 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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