Category Archives: Natural History

America’s Oldest Eastern Cottonwood Cut Down Near Newburgh


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Balmville Tree Newburgh Being Cut DownThe NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has cut down the Balmville Tree, a historic and unusually large Eastern Cottonwood tree that has been growing since before 1699 in Balmville, a hamlet in Town of Newburgh, Orange County. The tree sat at the intersection of River Road, Commonwealth Avenue and Balmville Road at a place commonly known as the Balmville Tree Circle. It was believed to be the oldest eastern cottonwood tree in America.

DEC issued a statement to the press saying the tree was deemed “an immediate threat to passing traffic” by DEC and Newburgh officials, “due to its deteriorated condition and a greatly expanded crack”.  The statement said DEC consulted with a professional arborist who inspected the tree and found it to be an extremely high risk to public safety and recommended removal. Continue reading

Lisa Amati Appointed New York State Paleontologist


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Lisa AmatiThe New York State Board of Regents has appointed Dr. Lisa Amati as New York State Paleontologist.

As State Paleontologist, Dr. Amati is responsible for curating the New York State Museum’s paleontology collection, conducting paleontological field and laboratory research, overseeing the development of research grants and participating in the development of public and educational programs. Continue reading

New Catskills Interpretive Center Opened


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Catskills Interpretive CenterThe Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner has officially opened the Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center on Route 28 in the Hamlet of Mt. Tremper, Town of Shandaken, Ulster County, which is expected to serve as a gateway for visitors to Catskills Forest Preserve to learn about the area’s outdoor recreation opportunities, its ecology, and according to a press release, its history. Continue reading

20th Annual Seven Years’ War College Deadline


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Fort Ticonderoga From Mount DefianceFort Ticonderoga will host its Twentieth Annual War College of the Seven Years’ War May 15-17, 2015. This annual conference focuses on the French & Indian War in North America (1754-1763), bringing together a panel of distinguished historians from around the country and beyond.

The War College takes place in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center and is open to the public; pre-registration is required. The registration deadline for this seminar is this Friday May 8, 2015. Continue reading

New York’s War on Animals (Conclusion)


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Vermin02 WhiteList1919After a “Black List” of animals was promulgated by New York State officials and an all-out war against these “vermin” was launched in the early 20th century, a competition grew among fish and game clubs across the state. Some clubs were founded for the specific purpose of complying with the state’s plea for help in eradicating unwanted animals.

Many clubs held contests, applying point systems to each animal on the list and awarding prizes to the winners. “Contest” was in some cases a misnomer: in many cases, it was a year-round process punctuated by periodic awards. Continue reading

A Century Ago: New York’s War on Animals


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Vermin01 BlackList1919Beware! Pictured here are your adversaries – the official enemies of the state. Don’t be distracted by the pretty colors, lovely feathers, or furry critters. These are vermin, and citizens are urged to kill them at every opportunity. The poster, by the way, represents only the top nine targets from a group of notorious killers, presented here alphabetically: bobcat, Cooper’s hawk, crow, English sparrow, goshawk, gray fox, great gray owl, great horned owl, house rat, “hunting” house cat, lynx, porcupine, red fox, red squirrel, sharp-shinned hawk, snowy owl, starling, weasel, and woodchuck. Kingfishers and a number of snakes were later added, and osprey were fair game as well.

While some of the phrases used above – “official enemies … kill them at every opportunity … new job requirement” – might sound like exaggerations, they were, in fact, official conservation policies of New York State a century ago. Continue reading

Greene Smith: Peterboro’s Avid Outdoorsman


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Smith BirdhouseThe important contributions to the field of ornithology of citizen-scientist Greene Smith have been obscured by the Underground Railroad and abolition fame of Smith’s father Gerrit Smith. As important and well-known as are the Underground Railroad sites on the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark in Peterboro NY, it is Greene’s Ornithon that most piques visitors’ curiosity about the builder and collector of that bird museum.

This public fascination prompted Norm Dann to turn the focus of his Smith research to Greene Smith and his Birdhouse. Dann’s study of family letters, military records, Greene’s personal Catalogue of Birds, the pursuit of Greene’s hunting apparatus, and the ownership and investigation of the Birdhouse site, have culminated in the March printing of Greene Smith and the WildLife: The Story of Peterboro’s Avid Outdoorsman – the first publication on this absorbing story. Continue reading

Roosevelt-Vanderbilt Site Seeks Garden Volunteers


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Val-Kill garden volunteersThe Roosevelt Vanderbilt National Historic Site seeks volunteer gardeners to assist with the restoration and maintenance of the landscape at the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site (Val-Kill). Volunteers will work under the direction of the national parks’ horticulturist on projects throughout the landscape and gardens. The volunteer gardening program takes place on Wednesdays from 9 am – 12 pm. Continue reading

Birds in History: New York’s Snoring Eagles?


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Bald EaglegovFrom a lifetime of experiences, and reading nature books since childhood, it’s true that I should know a little more about wildlife than the average Joe, but I lay no claim to being an expert. Learning something new is a principal reason for reading books, and of late, I’ve had occasion to indulge in several excellent Adirondack-related titles written between 1840 and 1920.

In one of them, a particular passage caused me to stop, backtrack, read it again, and then one more time in disbelief. Since other animal behavior described in the book held true, I supposed this one should as well, but I had reservations. Above all, one thing was certain: confirmation would be hilarious, at least to my thinking. The claim was that bald eagles snore. And not only that: they snore LOUDLY. Experienced guides and hunters claimed it to be true. Continue reading