Almanack Contributor Guest Contributor

Guest Essayist

The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional guest essays from Adirondack residents, visitors, and those with a biding interest in the Adirondack Park.

Submissions should be directed to Almanack editor John Warren at adkalmanack@gmail.com.


Monday, July 25, 2016

Myths About Solar Power And The Adirondacks

us solar pv instalationsSolarize Tri-Lakes is a group of volunteers raising awareness about the benefits of installing solar or photovoltaic electricity (PV).

With solar technology changing so rapidly, it can be difficult to tell the difference between truth and common misconceptions. Here is our attempt to debunk some of these myths.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Herping: The Sounds Of Amphibians

toad cropIts that time of the year when kids dart to ponds with nets in hand, searching for amphibians. Frogs, toads, newts and salamanders are among us! In early spring some species use vernal pools as breeding and incubating grounds.

A vernal pool is a temporary body of water that resembles a large puddle. There are obligate indicator (dependent) species and facultative (use only for part of the life cycle) species. The obligate indicator species are wood frogs, eastern spade-foot toads (Scaphiopus holbrooki), and the Jefferson/ blue spotted complex salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonium x laterale). The facultative species are most of the other frogs/toads, a few reptiles, as well » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Adirondack Wildlife: Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds

the outsider hummingbirdZzz-zzzt. Sitting on my deck on a summer afternoon, I’m often distracted by a hummingbird whizzing by. The tiny bundle of energy hovers in front of a row of jewelweed, probing each pendulous orange flower with its long beak, then backs up and darts to the next. My dozing cat raises his head and observes the hummingbird as it zips by, heading for the cardinal flower. “Don’t you even think it,” I admonish him.

This bee-like creature is a ruby-throated hummingbird, the only species of hummingbird found in our region. Iridescent green with a white breast, it is named for the male’s scarlet throat (the female » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

How Do Cowbirds Get To Be Cowbirds

TOS cowbirdsUnlike the majority of birds, brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater) do not start life surrounded by their own kind. The females do not build nests, but instead add their eggs to the clutches of other birds—usually one per nest, but sometimes several. Host birds generally do not recognize the dumped egg and will tend to it and the hatchling as one of their own. This means that all baby cowbirds spend the first weeks of their lives in the company of warblers or cardinals or any one of the many species whose nests are parasitized.

So why don’t they end up singing like cardinals? Or eating like warblers? Why » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Adirondack Wildflowers: Jack-in-the-Pulpit

jack pulpit the outsiderJack-in- the-pulpits (Arisaema triphyllum) are not the most colorful spring flowers, but what they lack in beauty they make up for in interesting characteristics. These easily-identified plants are full of surprises, from their ability to change from male to female (and back) to the bite of their calcium oxalate crystals, which can make your tongue feel like it’s full of burning splinters.

Jack-in- the-pulpit surfaces in wet, shaded woodland areas in mid-spring as a purpley-brown spike, all tucked up within itself. As the days meander toward summer, this spike unfolds into leaves and flower, with the plants growing as tall as two feet. The floral anatomy here » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

After DDT: The Return Of Bald Eagles

bald eagle the outsiderTo the delight of all who revel in the grace and beauty of nature, bald eagles are soaring above the Northeast in numbers unseen for over a century.

We’ve come a long way since the days when poor farming and logging practices denuded our forests, choking streams with silt and compromising the food chain.

We now know that if you degrade the eagle’s habitat and pollute the water you affect the entire web of life, including fish-eating birds in the skies above.


Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Lives of Pileated Woodpeckers

tos pileated woodpeckerWuk-wuk- wuk-wuk! With a rattling call, a large bird took off from a tree and flew in an undulating fashion across our field towards the woods. It was black and the size of a crow, but flashes of white on the underside of its wings and a red crest on its head easily identified it as a pileated woodpecker.

We had seen the unmistakable signs of pileateds foraging for insects in the adjacent woodland: huge rectangular holes excavated in trees with big wood chips littering the ground below, long strips of bark pulled off a dead elm, a rotten log torn apart. We had heard their loud drumming » Continue Reading.


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Adirondack Wildlife: Angry Birds

angry birds TOSOne morning in mid-March, I opened the door to discover a dark-eyed junco frenetically battling another bird. Or at least it thought it was another bird. His nemesis was, in fact, his own reflection in the stainless-steel chimney of my wood stove. The junco was perched on a bracket between the chimney and the house and every few seconds would flutter in front of his reflection and repeatedly peck it.

The chimney was still cool, as I had started a fire only minutes before, but I assumed that eventually the heat would deter the bird from getting too close and that would be the end of that. But » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Adirondack Snakes: Smelling With A Forked Tongue

TOS snakeDid you ever use your hands to scoop the air toward your nose when someone takes a pie out of the oven? Snakes are doing the same thing when they flick their forked tongues.

“They are manipulating the air, bringing chemicals from the air or the ground closer so they can figure out what kind of habitat they’re in, whether there are any predators nearby, and what food items are around,” explained biologist William Ryerson. This time of year, a number of our native species may also use their tongues to track the pheromone trails of potential mates, sometimes over long distances.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Signs Of Spring: Robins On The Nest

the outsider robinWe noticed the first robin in our yard this year in early March. Normally these famous spring harbingers, who move in comically stilted hops across our front lawn, don’t show up until at least April Fool’s Day. Their earlier-than-usual arrival made me wonder how robins decide to begin a spring migration.

The American robin, with its celebrated rusty-red breast, is a short-distance migrant. These members of the thrush family – the brightly-hued eastern bluebird and the melodious hermit thrush are cousins – move based on a number of factors, mainly related to food supply and the weather.


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