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The Nature of Things

A blog about nature and the environment

Archive for January, 2010

Free trees for schools


DEC Announces Free Tree Seedlings Available to Schools

Schools across New York can now receive free seedlings for spring planting through the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) School Seedling Program. The program provides 50 tree seedlings or a mixed packet of 30 wildlife shrubs to any public or private school that would like to participate.

“This program is a great way for children to connect with nature,” DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said. “Learning that trees have special needs in order to grow strong and healthy helps children play a role in improving our environment.”

The seedlings can be planted on school grounds or other community spaces. Teachers and students are encouraged to plan the project ahead of time by discussing the value trees contribute to the environment and to determine the objectives of the planting. Trees are instrumental in helping control erosion, enhance wildlife, provide windbreaks, and support many other conservation practices.

Planting 50 seedlings will require approximately 1,800 square feet, while the shrub planting will require about 900 square feet.

To participate, schools should contact DEC’s Saratoga Tree Nursery at (518) 587-1120, or the nearest DEC regional forestry office to request a “School Seedlings” brochure. The brochure contains all the information necessary to place an order. The information and application is also available online at www.dec.ny.gov/animals/9393.html . Applications must be received at the nursery by March 31, 2010.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Sunday, January 31st, 2010 at 6:18 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

Collapsing castle


Weather and old age are taking taking their toll on Bannerman Castle, the brick-and-concrete castle that sits on an island in the Hudson River just north of Cold Spring. It’s tower wall collapsed last month, advocates believe, because of ice and wind. Monday’s big storm brought down more of the historic structure, Neil Caplan, executive director of the Bannerman Castle Trust, told the Poughkeepsie Journal.

“The western wall is the only wall that remains,” Caplan said.

Earlier this month, Sen. Chuck Schumer pledged to seek money to help restore the castle. The island was bought in 1900 by Frank Bannerman VI, who began building the castle and several warehouses.  The structures were used as a storage depot for his military surplus wares.

The photo shows Thom Johnson of Peekskill in 2006 giving a tour of the property. (Photo by Randall Wolf of TJN.)

Photos of the December mishap can be found on the Bannerman Castle Trust’s Web site.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, January 26th, 2010 at 12:18 pm |

NYC wants to keep buying land


The New York City Department of Environmental Protection announced that the city filed a permit application with the state to continue purchasing land in its watershed. Since 1997, the city has sought to buy land around its reservoirs to protect the quality of its drinking water. Read the full announcement after the break. Read more of this entry »

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, January 26th, 2010 at 11:30 am |


River booklet for teachers


Teachers can get a copy of “Discover the Hudson River” from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, a 16-page booklet that “provides information about the Hudson watershed, the variety of wildlife the river supports, and the many ways people influence and are influenced by the river.”

“Discover the Hudson River “will be a valuable teaching tool for anyone interested in helping our younger generation to better understand the environment of the Hudson through its wildlife, watershed, history and people,” said DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis. “It’s a marvelous example of the positive work that can result from a successful collaboration between public and private entities.”

A preview can be found on DEC’s Web site.  Teachers who would like a free copy can get one directly from DEC’s Bureau of Environmental Education by e-mail or by calling 518-402-8043. Otherewise, they are $1.25 each and can be ordered here.

Here’s the full announcement.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, January 25th, 2010 at 12:21 pm |

Keeping Yogi and Boo Boo at bay


A recently published study determined that you may not be able to keep bears away from that “pick-a-nic” basket.

How do you scare a 300-pound black bear? This is not a riddle; it is what is in the best interest of the bear—and any nearby people. To keep bears at a safe distance from humans and sources of human food, national park personnel use various methods of aversive conditioning to scare these animals away. Pepper spray, chasing, and projectiles—shooting with rubber slugs, using slingshots, and throwing rocks—were the methods evaluated during a four-year study in Sequoia National Park, California.

Overall, aversive conditioning reduced but did not eliminate incidents of bears entering developed areas to forage for food. The study noted that in areas where bears require access to critical habitats, it may be best to seasonally exclude people rather than bears.

Read more about the study here.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Friday, January 22nd, 2010 at 11:39 am |
| | 1 Comment »

Want to raise pheasants?


DEC Accepting Applications for Pheasant Release Programs

Applications For Cooperative Programs Due By March 15

ALBANY, NY (01/19/2010)(readMedia)– The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced the opening of the application period for its two cooperative programs to enhance opportunities for pheasant hunting in New York State – The Day-Old Pheasant Chick Program and the Young Pheasant Release Program.

The programs provide pheasant hunting opportunities through a partnership amongst DEC, sportsmen and sportswomen, 4-H youth, and landowners who are interested in rearing and releasing pheasants.

In 2009, DEC distributed 50,293 day-old pheasant chicks and 13,880 young pheasants to qualified applicants through the two programs. Applications must be filed with a DEC regional wildlife manager by March 15, 2010.

The Day-Old Pheasant Chick Program began in the early 1900s. In the early days, pheasant eggs and chicks were distributed to farmers and rural youth. Today, day-old chicks are available at no cost to participants who are able to provide a brooding facility, a covered outdoor rearing pen, and an adequate release site. Approved applicants will receive the day-old chicks in April, May, or June.

Daily care is necessary to monitor the health of the birds and to ensure there is adequate feed and water for the rapidly growing chicks. The pheasants may be released when they are eight weeks old or older and no later than the end of the pheasant hunting season, which varies among different regions of the State. All release sites must be approved in advance by DEC and must be open for public hunting.

The Young Pheasant Release Program (YPRP) was developed in 1992 with assistance from organized sportsmen and sportswomen. The program distributes young pheasants (seven to 10 weeks old) free-of-charge to cooperators in June, July, and August. Birds are released into temporary holding pens built by the cooperators, who also provide food and water for two weeks as the birds acclimate to the surrounding habitat. The summer months are ideal for releasing young pheasants because of stable weather conditions, ample natural foods, and dense vegetative cover that helps the birds hide or escape from predators.

The YPRP is intended to provide a more traditional hunting experience for wild birds and provide an opportunity for hands-on involvement in improving pheasant hunting opportunities.

Each release site approved by DEC is eligible to receive 40 young pheasants. No YPRP birds can be released on private shooting preserves and all release sites must provide public pheasant hunting opportunities. The program is funded through the State Conservation Fund from license fees paid by hunters, trappers, and anglers.

Individuals interested in these programs should contact their nearest DEC regional office (please refer to offices listed below) for applications and additional information.

Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties:

21 South Putt Corners Rd.

New Paltz, NY 12561

(845) 256-3098

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, January 19th, 2010 at 5:26 pm |


How they eat


American goldfinches are pigs, or, at least, bird-feeder hogs. They can sit for what seems like an endless amount of time, chewing their way through a feeder’s worth of sunflower seeds, sort of like a big-league ballplayer. Since they are seed-eaters, they can quickly crack open a sunflower seed and move on to the next one.

Black-capped chickadees, however, are much slower. Insect-eaters during warmer months, they grab a seed from the feeder and take it to a nearby branch, where they break it open. From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

“They peck a hole in the shell, and then chip out and eat tiny bits of seed while expanding the hole.”

The video below shows what I mean.


Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, January 18th, 2010 at 3:08 pm |

Why we’re different from lower life forms


It’s because we can open a plastic bag.


I’m not sure if this gull was successful. But when I went outside later (gull, bag and its sandwich were in our Mount Kisco office parking lot), there was no sign of the bag or its contents.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Saturday, January 16th, 2010 at 10:32 am |

Eagles and ducks


Meet two nighttime neighbors, at least at George’s Island Park in Montrose: bald eagles and canvasbacks. Numerous eaglebald eagles come to roost in nearby trees on winter nights – more on that in an upcoming story. Canvasback ducks on a recent night bobbed in the cove just off the park, muttering an occasional “quack” as the sun went down.


Posted by Mike Risinit on Friday, January 15th, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
| | 1 Comment »


Almost a Chihuahua to go


Seems a red-tailed hawk over in nearby Danbury, Conn. had a hankering recently for Chihuahua. While the bird tried, he wasn’t successful in turning someone’s pet into his next meal.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, January 13th, 2010 at 1:13 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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