Nature

In search of natural darkness

In search of natural darkness

In our 21st century, more than half the world’s population lives in an urban environment, with natural nocturnal darkness a phenomenon many only read about. But we who live in a rural setting still mostly enjoy the natural night and its splendors. Still, there’s dark and then there’s really dark.

This week’s total eclipse

This week’s total eclipse

If you’ve seen the Great Pyramids, Machu Picchu, the Grand Canyon, the Taj Mahal, the Atacama Desert, the Himalayas and maybe even rented a houseboat on Lake Powell, is there any sight that can top all these? Yes. A total solar eclipse. Not a lunar eclipse. And certainly not a partial solar eclipse.

Foraging, herbal medicine workshops in Woodstock & Red Hook

Foraging, herbal medicine workshops in Woodstock & Red Hook

The back-to-the-land movement of the 1970s spurred a revival of interest not only in organic farming, but also in foraging for wild foods and medicinal herbs. Now, with epochal climate change driving the desire to get off the grid and live as sustainably as possible, a whole new generation too young to remember Euell Gibbons is turning its attention to these same pursuits. This weekend brings several local events on these themes.

On the rocks: Catskill clams

On the rocks: Catskill clams

Do clams have consciousness? Did our clams experience fear? Did they have any awareness of what had befallen them? Did they actually decide what to do? We really don’t know. We suspect that they may well have been equipped with some sort of automatic response system that allowed them to deal with what should have been a scary situation. We guess that we will never know for sure.

Snappers on the move

Snappers on the move

There’s a survival reason for their testy tempers: The plastron or underside shell of a snapping turtle doesn’t cover all of its abdomen, leaving plenty of room around the legs for swimming movements. There are thus soft parts exposed that make the animal vulnerable to any large predator that managed to grab onto it.

Make way for the red eft

Make way for the red eft

Human handling damages their skin’s protective mucus covering, leaving the animal exposed to attack by bacteria and other pathogens. That skin also exudes a toxin that deters predators, which partially explains the eft’s casual aplomb in taking a public stroll.

Everything you need to know about the timber rattlesnake

Everything you need to know about the timber rattlesnake

Timber Rattlers can be found in the mountainous areas of the Hudson Valley, including the Catskills and Shawangunks. There have been no recent recorded cases in New York State of human fatalities from a bite from a timber rattler, but symptoms may be severe, including nausea, vomiting, paralysis and tissue damage, and an allergic reaction can certainly be life-threatening. A dog twice bitten in Minnewaska State Park in 2014 succumbed to the venom.