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The Nature of Things

A blog about nature and the environment

Archive for June, 2010

GE getting help on PCB monitoring from Beacon Institute


The Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries has deployed its second real-time monitoring station in the Hudson River near the General Electric PCB area just north of Thompson Island Dam, to provide minute-to-minute data on the condition of the river. GE provided some of the equipment and help in setting up the device, which measures physical, chemical and biological information about the river. The institute and the company are collaborating to enhance monitoring of the upper Hudson, in particular the movement of sediments and polychlorinated biphenyls in the river during dredging. Data collected in the research effort will be made available publicly, and will be shared with state and federal regulatory agencies.

Posted by Greg Clary on Thursday, June 24th, 2010 at 4:37 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

Young wildlife on the menu for cats


Early summer brings easy (and preventable) pickings for outdoor house cats, according to the American Bird Conservancy. The situation, according to the conservancy and The Wildlife Society, is a bad one for both cat and prey.

“Cats and other predators probably kill more wildlife this time of the year than any other because newborn prey not only don’t have any physical defenses but they also have not fully developed the danger awareness regarding predators that comes with time,” said American Bird Conservancy Vice President Mike Parr. “This is the most important time of the year for cat owner’s to restrict outdoor activities of their pet,” he said.

“It’s also a common misconception that domestic cats can live easily outdoors,” says Michael Hutchins, Ph.D., Executive Director of TWS. “Well-meaning owners often think it’s okay to let them roam because cats seem independent by nature. And while they don’t always need the same care as dogs, the truth is dramatically different.”

Free-roaming or feral cats are at risk of early death or serious injury due to diseases, cars, poisons and predators such as dogs and coyotes. Outdoor cats typically live less than five years, whereas cats kept exclusively indoors can live to be 17 years or older.

Read the full release here.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, June 24th, 2010 at 2:17 pm |

Vermont nuclear plant design flaw helped cause radioactive water leak


Officials for the company that owns Indian Point say a design flaw that kept engineers from inspecting underground pipes helped cause a leak of radioactive water into the ground at Vermont Yankee, the state’s only nuclear plant.

The issue of what condition underground piping is in and how well it will hold up should a nuclear plant be relicensed has become a big issue with most of the nation’s plants – including Indian Point – trying to extend their operating licenses.

In a report released Tuesday, Entergy Vermont Yankee says a pipe tunnel was blocked with construction material left over from the plant’s construction in 1972 and prevented water contaminated with tritium from passing through the drain line and into a tank.

A separate pipe installed in 1978 created a pathway that allowed the contaminated water to reach the soil on the plant’s grounds.

The leak was reported Jan. 7. Plant officials say there’s no evidence of drinking water contamination.

Last month, plant officials announced that radioactive strontium-90 had been found in soil at the plant. Both those radioactive isotopes have leaked at Indian Point.

Posted by Greg Clary on Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
| | 1 Comment »


Longest day of the year


Summer came in at 7:28 a.m. today — which makes today the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

From National Geographic:

On the summer solstice, the Northern Hemisphere receives more sunlight than on any other day of the year, but that doesn’t mean the first day of summer is also the hottest day of summer.

Earth’s oceans and atmosphere act like heat sinks, absorbing and reradiating the sun’s rays over time. So even though the planet is absorbing lots of sunlight on the summer solstice, it takes several weeks to release it. As a result, the hottest days of summer usually occur in July or August.

Check out this Washington Post story to learn how folks celebrated at Stonehenge.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, June 21st, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
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Trouble sleeping


With no central air conditioning, the windows at home are open pretty much all the time once warm weather arrives. While the open windows bring in cooling breezes, nighttime sounds also waft in on the wind.

On Tuesday night, yapping coyotes, a mockingbird who sang for at least an hour starting at about 2:30 a.m. and a mouse scurrying in the bedroom wall kept me up for a while. OK, the last wasn’t necessarily outside, but its addition to the list makes a nice trio. Go here to hear coyotes at night.

Last night’s sounds included a super-loud cricket and a barred owl who was in a competition with our neighbor’s rooster.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, June 17th, 2010 at 2:16 pm |
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Big bird and little bird news


First, the bald eagles raising a family behind a Southeast shopping center. They don’t have two kids this year, they have three. During a peek at the nest last week, I could see two eaglets but there was a third bird laying down in the nest. I couldn’t make out then what it was.

On Thursday I took another look and saw it was another eaglet. So, there are three. They were all hanging onto branches around the nest and flapping their wings. Pete Nye of the state’s endangered species unit said eagles learn how to fly after about 10 to 12 weeks in the nest. I first spotted the young eagles on April 7, so were getting close to flight time.

And, remember the Carolina wrens raising a family in a bucket in my garage? Well, the eggs hatched about five days ago. I figured out this morning how the adult wrens get into the garage. They walk in under the door. The photo below shows a wren peeking out to make sure the coast is clear before exiting the garage.

The wren parents were busy feeding their kids this morning. Here’s another photo of one of them carrying something en route to the nest.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Friday, June 11th, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
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Dining buddies


I finally captured a photo of a hummingbird and a woodpecker together at my hummingbird feeder ( I know, Woo-hoo!). Personal sarcasm aside, I had mentioned in an earlier post how downy woodpeckers seem to appreciate a drink from the hummingbird feeder.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, June 10th, 2010 at 4:18 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

Eagle update


The two eaglets (and I’m not sure anymore if that is the right number) in the nest behind a Southeast shopping center aren’t so little anymore. They were perched on the edge of the nest today, covered in brown feathers and with beaks and talons that looked very adult like. What a difference a couple of months make.

I checked out the nest this morning. No adults were present that I could see but there was a third eagle laying in the nest. It would stretch a wing on occasion or stick out a foot but I never was able to see its head or tail to figure out if it was a young one. In the 20 minutes or so I watched the nest, it also never raised itself up and was more of a brown pile in the nest, compared to the two young ones I could see proudly panting in the sun.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, June 7th, 2010 at 12:15 pm |
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A woodpecker among hummingbirds


Ruby-throated hummingbirds are flocking to my hummingbird feeder at home. But so are woodpeckers, apparently of the downy variety. Sometimes, there’s a woodpecker on one side of the feeder and a hummingbird on the other, a gathering I haven’t been able to capture yet with a camera.

Anyway, I thought the woodpeckers were attracted by the black ants that, attracted by the sugar water, gather on the feeder. But several websites, including the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, say the woodpeckers, like the hummingbirds, are sipping the water.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, June 3rd, 2010 at 2:44 pm |


Deer hunting expanding this fall in select Westchester Parks


Building on the success of a 2009 pilot program, the Westchester County Parks Department will open sections of Muscoot Farm and Lasdon Park and Arboretum, both in Somers, and, new this year, Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Cross River and Mountain Lakes Park in North Salem for bow hunting deer in the autumn of 2010. Participants will be selected by testing and lottery.

Applicants must prove county residency and pass a proficiency test by hitting a 9-inch target at 25 yards, three out of three tries, using field tips only, at Blue Mountain Sportsman Center in Peekskill on June 23, 24, 25, 26 or 27. Following the proficiency test, qualified hunters will be selected by lottery. There is no fee for applying or testing, but those selected for the program will pay an administrative fee of $25.

The program will run from October 16 through December 31, 2010; the parks will remain open during the season and informational signs will be posted for hunters and park visitors. A detailed safety program will be in effect.

Applications are available at all four parks and at www.westchestergov.com/parks for downloading and printing. Signed applications must be received in the County Parks Department administrative office at 25 Moore Avenue, Mount Kisco 10549, attention Deer Management Program by June 18, 2010 at 4 p.m. Prospective hunters should read and thoroughly understand all requirements because there will be a zero-tolerance policy for non-compliance.

For more information call (914) 864-7327.

Posted by Greg Clary on Tuesday, June 1st, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

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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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