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.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Black and Yellow Birch: Tasty Teas From Trees

TOS_birch_teaScratch and then sniff a black or yellow birch twig, and the pleasant aroma will likely put a smile on your face. What you are smelling is oil of wintergreen (methyl salicylate). This chemical compound is present in the inner bark in both species, although typically to a greater degree in black birch. In the trees, as well as several edible berries that grow in our region, the compound serves as a defense against herbivorous insects. Most people, however, enjoy the taste.

You can make a very nice wintergreen-flavored tea from peeled black or yellow birch twigs. I advise against trying to brew this the traditional way, though (i.e., steeping twigs in boiling water). The reason is » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Lessons Of Awkward Adolescent Eagles

TOS_EaglesA deer died by the river near my home. The crows found it, as did other scavengers – a bald eagle, and two big brown raptors that were hard to identify. Both had white flecking on their heads, wings and bodies, but the markings didn’t match up, bird to bird. They looked unkempt and more than a little disreputable.

It turns out these were also bald eagles, but young birds, dressed in dark plumage. In common with some other long-lived species, eagles have an extended adolescence. They require about four to five years to mature. During this period they don’t find mates, establish territories, or conform to the adult dress code.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Road Salt Use Wasteful, Damaging

TOS_SALT_BRINEAll of a sudden, sap season is here and winter’s on its way out. Chances are though, a few more snow or ice squalls are still to come. The next time you find yourself driving behind a big plow truck, take a look at what’s coming out of the spreader. What is used makes a difference for wildlife, especially as the snow melts.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Common Myths About Adirondack Nature

TOS_barred_owlWalking through the woods on a cool spring morning, I saw a barred owl in an old maple tree. I circled the owl three times from a distance. Its head kept turning to follow me, tracking my movements with three complete revolutions.

One of the owl’s chicks had fallen from the nest, so I climbed the tree and placed the chick back in it. Then the owl flew up and pushed the chick out of the nest onto the ground, where it lay in a pile of melting snow.

One of the owl’s chicks had fallen from the nest, so I climbed the tree and placed the chick back in it. Then the owl flew up and » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Winter To Spring In A Bear Cub’s Den

TOS_BlackBearBabiesThe forest is going through a seasonal transition, at a leisurely pace, and often invisibly. Bear cubs, for example, are maturing in hidden dens that we might pass right by.

Black bear (Ursus americanus) cubs are born in mid-January to early February. The newborns are blind, deaf, and toothless, and covered with hair so fine they appear bald. They weigh about a half a pound and are the size of small squirrels. Barely able to crawl, they sense the heat from their mother’s sparsely furred belly and find their way to her protective warmth. She nurses often, shifting position to assist them and to avoid rolling onto them. Her milk is a protein-rich twenty percent (or » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sneaky Ducks and Scrambled Eggs

TOS_WoodDuckBabiesIf you peek into a wood duck nesting box during the breeding cycle, you might find 10 to 11 eggs, which is the bird’s normal clutch size. But you might also stumble upon a box overflowing with as many as 30 eggs. How, you might ask, can one duck lay and care for so many eggs? The answer is: she can’t.

These huge piles of eggs result from intraspecific brood parasitism, otherwise known as egg dumping. This is when a bird lays eggs in a nest that does not belong to her. Waterfowl – and wood ducks in particular – often engage in this behavior.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Nothing Rotten about Deadwood

TOS_WoodyDebrisA guy down the road has been working in his woods for the last couple of years. He’s cleaning them up. And I mean cleaning. He cuts the underbrush. Takes out the dead trees, the downed logs, the dead branches.

Okay, I confess. The neatnik in me is envious. Part of me would like my 70 acres of woods to look like a park. But that’s the problem. A park is not a forest and the forest is more than the trees. It’s an entire suite of complex systems, merging and interacting. An ecological orchestra in the woods.

Dead and dying wood, standing snags, rotting branches are more than Mother Nature’s litter. They’re an integral part » Continue Reading.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Tips for Game Camera Success

TOS.gamecameraillustrationMy town had the job of removing a dead beaver from a culvert pipe cage, a rather sad and odorous affair, but also an opportunity. I alerted the usual suspects – there’s nothing like a rotting carcass to bring camera trappers together – and we moved the body into the woods and set up a few cameras.

We placed the body in mature forest near the wetland. We figured that just about any of our meso-carnivores might appear: coyote, fox, fisher, and bobcat were all possibilities. We didn’t get the bobcat, but we did get the others, and the fisher photos were especially nice.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Porcupines: Waddling Through Winter

TOS_PorcupineWinterThe porcupine is one of the most unique and recognizable mammals in our region, and thanks to its short legs and fat body, it’s also one of the slowest.

Of course, a porcupine really has little need for anything faster than first gear, since its quills provide excellent protection from most predators.

It still surprises me though, that a short-legged herbivore that doesn’t hibernate manages to thrive in the deep snow of our northern forests.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

What Wildlife Gets Inside Your Home?

TOS_mouseWe two-leggeds build inviting habitats and fill them with ample food supplies. We heat these spaces in winter, cool them in summer, and keep them dry year-round. And when our wild neighbors have the audacity to move in, we frequently kill them on sight.

My wife and I recently restored an old brick farmhouse that was built in 1790, back when Vermont was still an independent republic. We removed walls and ceilings to expose and repair the original structure, then vacuumed every nook and cranny to remove debris left behind by two centuries of sundry inhabitants.


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