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The Nature of Things

A blog about nature and the environment

Archive for October, 2009

Got mice?

October
30

If you do, a family of barn owls would be happy to stop by for a snack. According to the Audubon Society, researchers found that a family of barn owls (mom, dad and six kids) “ate 1,000 mice, shrews and rats during a three month period.”

Such are the Halloween-related facts and fun on the society’s “Tricks and Treats for a Green Halloween.” page. Tidbits about spiders, owls and bats are available there, along with tips for a more environmentally friendly Halloween.

Carry reusable candy bags such as pillow cases or canvas bags that you and your kids can decorate and use again next year. They are more sturdy than plastic bags too.

If you actually do have mouse problems, here’s a page of tips on getting rid of the critters.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Friday, October 30th, 2009 at 11:22 am |
| | 46 Comments »

Federal money for sewer and water pipes clears big hurdle

October
28

New York communities moved a significant step closer to $322 million in federal money to rebuild crumbling water and sewer pipes, with Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, announcing that the money was included in combined House and Senate Interior appropriations bill.
“The federal government has stepped up to the plate to help localities break ground on many of these backlogged projects to maintain and upgrade the local water infrastructure and sewer system,”?Schumer said in announcing the $3.5 billion allocation nationwide. “Making these investments now will create jobs, ensure long-term economic competitiveness, and provide clean drinking water to residents in New York State and across the country.”
Schumer said no less than 30 percent of the funds will be made available as grants instead of loans, to lower local tax impact, and the money could be start to be dispersed by the end of the year.
An American Society of Civil Engineers report has detailed $20.42 billion in sewer and water infrastructure needs for New York.
New York communities outside New York City already have identified $3 billion in water infrastructure projects, according to loan applications to the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation. The Hudson Valley leads the list of regions, with $820 million.
The federal allotment roughly doubles the amount of money Washington approved in its current budget for the nation’s water needs.

Posted by Greg Clary on Wednesday, October 28th, 2009 at 2:23 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

Hudson River PCB dredging halts for season

October
27

General Electric’s dredging of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) finished up for the season early Tuesday morning, with the company removing more than 285,000 cubic yards of sediment since last spring. The amount was well above the Environmental Protection Agency’s goal of 265,000 cubic yards for Phase 1. Barges will continue at work on the river for the next couple of weeks, delivering and placing clean backfill in the areas that were dredged. Then the equipment will be demobilized for the winter. Next spring, divers will be back in the Hudson, replanting the underwater vegetation that was removed through dredging.

Posted by Greg Clary on Tuesday, October 27th, 2009 at 4:40 pm |
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A bobcat in Bedford

October
27

A reader from Bedford sent in this account — and a photo — about bobcats in her neighborhood. The photo, she said, was taken on Monday. bobcat

My name is Maria Kessel, and I live in a community called Hammond  Ridge in Bedford Corners, NY.  We are surrounded by a nature preserve,  which provides us with a beautiful canvas, not to mention a variety of wildlife. In the past 3 years,  many of my neighbors, including myself, have seen very large Bobcats  roaming around our properties.  Incredibly, my neighbor managed to take this photo just yesterday. We have e-mailed this picture  to our immediate neighbors,  but thought it  was important for you to publish this picture as it’s rare to see such large wildcats in the lower Hudson Valley.
I have more photos of the same Bobcat, and another photo of a large reddish Bobcat that was taken last June in another neighbor’s
driveway!!!!

Here’s information about bobcats in New York.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, October 27th, 2009 at 3:57 pm |
| | 4 Comments »

Bad news beetles

October
26

New York has the distinction of being the first place in the United States where the Asian longhorned beetle was found – Brooklyn in 1996. The beetle is a threat to hardwood trees — maples, oaks, etc. All of that is a lead-in to this story in Smithsonian Magazine, which looks at the discovery of the Asian longhorned beetle in Worcester, Mass. and contains the following, alarming three sentences.

“More troubling, the city sits at the southern edge of the great Northern hardwood forest, millions of contiguous acres stretching to Canada and the Great Lakes. If the beetle escaped into such a forest, it could prove the most devastating arboreal pest we’ve ever known, occasioning more damage than Dutch elm disease, gypsy moths and chestnut blight combined. It could change the face of the New England woods.”

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, October 26th, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
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Art from the swamp

October
23

The Friends of the Great Swamp — one of the state’s largest freshwater wetlands that stretches over parts of Putnam and Dutchess County — is hosting its annual art show and celebration this weekend. The event is Saturday (11 to 5) and Sunday (12 to 4) in Pawling.

“FrOGS has invited over 90 artists to show their artistic creations inspired by the scenic landscapes, beautiful plants and intriguing animals that can be seen in the great swamp and its environs. Join us for a special benefit auction of the Plein Air works Saturday evening at 5 PM.”

Posted by Mike Risinit on Friday, October 23rd, 2009 at 11:03 am |
| | 1 Comment »

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An Interstate eagle

October
21

I spotted a bald eagle this morning perched in a tree along Interstate 84 in Putnam County. The bird was sitting in Kent, not far from the Bowen Road overpass. I got off the highway and circled back to the overpass to make sure I saw what I saw. He’s in the upper right-hand corner of the second photo, the blotch in the tree. That gives you some sense of his perch. It’s the section of highway between exits 17 and 18.

eagle1

eagle2

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, October 21st, 2009 at 5:04 pm |
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Nuke plant testing sirens

October
21

Indian Point will conduct a full-volume test of its emergency alert sirens Thursday at 10:30 a.m. The four-minute test will involve all four counties — Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and Orange — within the 10-mile emergency evacuation zone. There will be an activation of the Emergency Alert System on radio and television stations immediately following the test. No action by the public is required. The siren system may be tested for sound again in the afternoon, at 1:00 p.m., if an additional test is determined to be needed during the morning sounding.

Posted by Greg Clary on Wednesday, October 21st, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
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Like spaghetti

October
19

Sucking down an eel, I’m thinking, is like sucking down a giant piece of spaghetti. But then I wouldn’t know, since I’m not this great egret that was trying to have eel for one. egret

I spotted him during my recent visit to Cape May. I’m not sure if he ever finished his meal. After struggling for a bit and trying to swallow the fish (The birds have a long straight bill, better for plucking fish from the shallows and just swallowing them. There’s usually no biting or ripping of flesh involved.), he flew off with it for a bit of privacy, I’m thinking.

Here’s a video I found of a great blue heron swallowing an eel.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, October 19th, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
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Burn, baby, burn – NOT!

October
16

If you’ve been burning your trash and raked leaves in a charred, 55-gallon drum in the backyard, it’s time to find another way.
On Wednesday, New York environmental regulators banned such burning statewide, closing the gap in a patchwork of local restrictions and out-of-date state statutes.
Not so long ago, burning trash was the norm, whether in building incinerators in more populated areas or in tended fires in more open spaces.
You can still have your backyard campfire, whether ceremonial or for food and warmth, but the rest of that pyromania is taboo.
God knows there’s a bit of the fire-tender in all of us. It goes back to when fire was tamed and can be as relaxing as it is warming.
The problem is, when people get to put whatever they want into fire, it ends up creating health problems that don’t show up as quickly as smoke in your nostrils when the wind changes.
Primarily, this statewide ban is focusing on dioxins and other chemicals that float up with the smoke and end up messing up lungs and a host of other organs.
What happens typically is backyard fires aren’t that hot. Sure, they’ll burn you and all, but compared to the 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit that burn plants reach, they’re mild.
Put plastic water bottles into those little fires and they’ll melt in a real cool way, but what’s melting is actually being carried into the atmosphere and ultimately into our bodies.
“These regulations are long overdue,” said Laura Haight of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “Since 1972, the state has prohibited open burning in communities with populations over 20,000, but burning trash has continued to be a common practice in many less-densely populated, rural, parts of the state.”
Haight said our waste stream has gotten more toxic and consequently so have the fumes that come when some of it is burned.
She calls it a “witches brew” of polyvinylchloride, or PVC, and other types of plastic, treated wood, batteries and even bleached and colored paper.
David Carpenter, a professor at the SUNY Albany Institute for Health and the Environment, says the major source of the cancer-causing dioxins in New York is backyard burning.
“Twenty years ago it was incinerators,” Carpenter said. “That changed with that ban.”
Carpenter said dioxins aren’t something that humans would make intentionally. It’s produced anytime anything with chlorine is burned below 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit .
“It deposits on vegetables, on the grass that cows eat,” he said. “It’s a very nasty substance. It increases the risk of cancer at any concentration. We must get dioxin out of the food supply.”
Since open burning is the largest cause of wildfires, the new restrictions should help on that front as well.
As someone who watched the side of a hill next to his house catch on fire one afternoon many years ago, I can still recall the terror when that little barrel fire almost raged out of control.
I thought I was on top of the situation until a moment of inattention showed me I wasn’t.
Who doesn’t love the smell of burning leaves or a backyard burn?
With the leaves changing color, this time of year has always had its own smell because we thought there was no problem doing what we’ve always done.
Now it’s clear that we can’t keep doing that.

Posted by Greg Clary on Friday, October 16th, 2009 at 12:43 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

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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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