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The Nature of Things

A blog about nature and the environment

Archive for August, 2009

Fisher news


More fishers – members of the weasel family – are calling the suburbs of Albany home these days, according to this newspaper story.

I wrote a story a few summers ago about how fishers, once gone from the area, are making a comeback. I pasted it after the break. The photo, by TJN photographer Joe Larese, shows Teatown Executive Director Fred Koontz holding a baby fisher found near the Yorktown preserve.

Anyway, what also caught my eye is both the above Albany-area story and the current edition of the Hudson River Almanac (a regular synopsis of various fauna and flora sightings near the river) mention some folks mistake fishers for mountain lions/panthers.

8/14 – Rockland-Bergen Counties, HRM 25-15: It began last winter, maybe even earlier – several reports of large, black cats, always one, sometimes two, as in Sparkill’s Tallman Mountain State Park in March.
Many eyewitnesses believe they are black panthers. Area law enforcement patrols have been increased, cameras have been set to capture nighttime images, and trackers hired to find whatever it is that so many people have been seeing. So far, evidence from the trackers includes scratches on trees and some paw prints that might be from a large cat. With bobcats and bears around, such identification can be problematic. If it is a large cat, it almost certainly would have to be a mountain lion. Oddly, no one has reported a missing mountain lion. However, if it was a deliberate release, that would be expected.

This is the third mountain lion report in the last three months. The first two were in Dutchess County in May and July. Following an investigation, neither produced any evidence other than eyewitness observation. There has been no documented proof of a home-grown wild mountain lion in New York State for over 100 years. It is not impossible that one might someday show up wandering in from Canada or northern New England. What is needed is DNA, from scat, fur, or the animal itself. Even a good, verifiable photo would help with identification. Peter Nye, NYSDEC Endangered Species Unit leader, suspects that if it is not an escaped pet, he’d bet it would be a fisher. A large fisher can be the size of a small mountain lion.
– Tom Lake

Some of you may recall all the talk of a panther possibly roaming Rockland County.

And, speaking of fishers, after the break is my earlier story. Read more of this entry »

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, August 27th, 2009 at 4:54 pm |

Why a hurricane means no swimming


The video below shows the waves rolling in Sunday at Misquamicut State Beach in Rhode Island as Hurricane Bill passed by out at sea. Swimming wasn’t allowed that day. The lifeguards, at one point, had classified the wave height as “you better not find out,” which was written on the board where the daily air and water temps were usually listed.


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The strip of sand you can see in the video is all that existed of the beach. I was sitting against the dunes when I shot the video and the waves would occasionally roll across the entire beach.

As of Monday, the storm was heading into the North Atlantic where it was expected to break apart. As you probably heard, a wave from the storm knocked three people in Maine into the ocean, and one of the victims – a 7-year-old girl – died.

Next up is Danny.

As an aside, I never realized storm names were so informal: Bill instead of William, Danny instead of Daniel.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, August 26th, 2009 at 11:18 am |
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Deer reproduction is fairer than we thought


Turns out, it’s not just the dominant, mature bucks that are getting the does, according to a study published this month in the Journal of Mammalogy. (I never know what’s going to show up in my in-box . . .)  Every buck apparently has its chance to contribute to the next generation of deer, not just the bigger, better bucks.

The study “bucks long-standing assumptions about white-tailed deer mating patterns. Studies characterizing male reproductive success as highly skewed with a small number of mature dominant males monopolizing breeding are criticized for depending too heavily on behavioral observations and circumstantial evidence. In the current study, physically immature males, 1.5 to 2.5 years of age, were found to have fathered 30 to 33 percent of offspring in the populations examined, even where larger, mature males were present.

Social dominance alone may not guarantee reproductive success, the study finds. Ecological and behavioral variables also may be at work, limiting the ability of individual males to control access to females. Young or subdominant males may be successful in fertilization by using alternative strategies that do not rely on dominance.

Male mating tactics include roaming widely in search of females in heat. Paying proper attention to a doe is another method—males may spend up to 24 hours “tending” to a receptive female. The study also cites evidence of female promiscuity among white-tailed deer that could make finding a mate easier for male deer of any age.”

You can find the scientific article explaining everything here.

The photo by TJN photographer Angela Gaul shows two bucks in Upper Nyack in 2008.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 at 2:03 pm |


Black-and-yellow things in my yard


I know, it sounds like something from Sesame Street. And it’s not like these things were all over my yard. They were all hanging out on a butterfly bush. From the top, we have a sphinx moth, a bumblebee, what I think is a  giant swallowtail and an eastern tiger swallowtail.

The tiger swallowtail looks like its seen better days. He’s missing a few pieces from the margin of his right wing, most likely, I’m thinking, because a bird tried to eat him.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, August 18th, 2009 at 11:03 am |

Mahopac man catches record-size bullhead


Glenn Collacuro of Mahopac now holds the state record for the biggest brown bullhead ever caught, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said today.

Collacuro caught the fish Aug. 1 in Lake Mahopac. The bullhead, a member of the catfish family, weighed 7 pounds and 6 ounces and was 22 inches long. It was more than a pound heavier than the previous record-holding bullhead.

Find a photo of Collacuro and his catch here. Information on the state’s catfish species can be found here and here.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, August 17th, 2009 at 1:16 pm |

Watch out for that . . . old fort.


Dredging the Hudson River for PCBs isn’t any easy job, I’m thinking. Ripping out part of an 18th-century fort doesn’t make it any easier. Dredging, by the way, resumed this week after a short delay.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Friday, August 14th, 2009 at 3:12 pm |
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A beautiful bird


Check out this photo of a beautiful red-tailed hawk made by my colleague Robert Rodriguez. Robert spotted the hawk this morning in the parking lot of the paper’s main office in Harrison. He said he was surprised the bird was hanging out where it was since nearby landscapers were making a racket.

The hawk, he said, eventually took off for a more secluded spot. Here’s a story about a red-tailed hawk that knocked out power to part of a Massachusetts town.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, August 13th, 2009 at 11:44 am |

Lizards among us


Four species of lizards call New York home: northern fence lizard, five-lined skink, coal skink and the introduced Italian wall lizard. The last sounds like an ingredient that might interest Mario. But,  anyway . . .

It’s not like the state is overrun with the creatures. They exist in small pockets in various locations, as the state Department of Environmental Conservation points out in this week’s Outdoor Discovery. The newsletter includes a host of info on the lizards.

The closest population, I think, are five-lined skinks that hang out on Storm King Mountain and, I seem to recall, can also be found at Little Stony Point in Philipstown.

Now, the photo to the right doesn’t have much to do with this post, except for the large, fake lizard visible in it. But I found it in our archives and just had to share. Here’s the caption: Godzilla stomps the ground and spread around clouds of dust, being assisted by a Toho Company film production staff during the filming of Toho’s 24th Godzilla movie at its studio in Tokyo Thursday, Aug. 3, 2000. A total of 1,500 legendary lizard fans have applied to a week-long “see the Godzilla filming tour” organized by the film production and a travel agency. Showing to the public of the filming of Japan’s quintessential B-movie monster is the first time in the 46 years history. The latest movie “Godzilla versus Megaguirus” will be shown in Japan early 2001. (AP PHoto/Tsugufumi Matsumoto)

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, August 12th, 2009 at 11:14 am |

No “the” in Smokey Bear


Smokey Bear (“Only you can prevent forest fires.”) is 65 years old today. He’s also bilingual now: “Solo tu puedes prevenir los incendios forestales.”

Read about his birthday celebration here and his Spanish-speaking skills here.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, August 10th, 2009 at 4:36 pm |
| | 1 Comment »


Name this bug


Anybody out there want to try and identify this dragonfly? He (or she) was hanging out on my porch last night, enjoying the buffet of bugs that are drawn to the porch lights.

In case you were wondering, there are about 450 species of dragonflies throughout North America.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, August 10th, 2009 at 12:35 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

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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