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.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Understanding Spider Silk and Spider Webs

TOS_Spider_SilkThere is an all-natural material, produced at room temperature, that can be used to build homes, to make protective coverings, to hunt and trap, and even to swing through the air. It’s hypoallergenic, antimicrobial, and waterproof. On a per-weight basis it’s stronger than steel and more elastic than nylon or kevlar.

What is this remarkable material? Spider silk.

If it sounds impossible that a single material can be used for so many purposes, well, in a way it is. Depending on how you want to count them, there are seven or eight kinds of spider silk in the world, and any given spider species may make as many as six different kinds.


Monday, July 20, 2015

The Science Behind Fledging Birds

TOS_grouse_fledglingOn a recent afternoon, I saw a baby ruffed grouse about the size of a pin cushion scurry into the bushes. I had the same impulse I did as a 10-year-old when I scooped up a baby blue jay hopping around on a neighbor’s lawn: I wanted to “rescue” it.  Instead, I kept driving, leaving the tiny bird to its fate.

Fledging is perilous for all birds – most won’t survive their first year – but what exactly is that process? Do nestlings know when to leave or do the parents signal when it’s time? Do they all go at once? Will the parents continue to protect and feed them after they have fledged? And what should » Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Are American Elm Trees On The Rebound?

TOS_American_ElmOn a recent damp May morning I walked around Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, with arborist Brian Beaty. While he is responsible for all of the trees in the center of the campus, our visit focused on a small number of trees that require an inordinate amount of his attention. These were the college’s mature American elms – tall, elegant, and, most importantly, healthy.

Beaty wants to keep them that way, which is why he checks on the elms almost daily from early spring to late summer, and has his crew look them over every time they drive by one. “We don’t have a lot big elms left,” he explained. Of the hundreds of mature » Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Flat Stanley and the Dangerous Centipede

TOS_centipedeBiologists sometimes field questions about a “huge scary bug” that appeared in someone’s home or worse yet on their person. Most turn out to be benign organisms that ended up in the wrong place.

For me, the most common questions come in July, when male dobsonflies emerge. The males have impressive mandibles that look scary but are harmless to people. Recently however, one of these questions did actually involve something dangerous.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Tree Climbing Adirondack Foxes

Grey-Fox-Website_49When you think of foxes (if you ever do), you likely picture the ginger-coated red fox, like Mr. Tod from Beatrix Potter’s fantastical children’s tales, only without the dapper suitcoat and tweed knickers. It is the less common gray fox, however, that has been wandering the woods and fields near my home – and climbing the trees.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Samaras: Maple’s Other Delicacy

TOS_SamarasHelicopters. Keys. Whirligigs. Samaras. Whatever you call the winged seeds released by maple trees, here’s one more word for them: delicious.

Like many New Englanders, I have fond childhood memories of dropping maple “helicopters” from a height and watching them twist and twirl down to the ground. My children do the same now. They gather fistfuls of maple samaras, toss them over the railing of the upstairs porch, and watch them flutter earthward.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bee Mimics: Pretending To Be Bees

Honey beeA while back I had a few hives of honey bees parked at a beef farm down the road, tucked up against a stone wall just outside a pasture. One day the owner called to say that my bees had invaded a building in a barn complex and were laying eggs in manure puddles.

I went down to check it out, and the building did have a lot of buzzing insects butting their heads against the windows. I looked closer. They looked like honey bees, but… not quite. And there were weird larvae wriggling in water seeping from manure.


Monday, June 15, 2015

Being Prepared In The Adirondack Backcountry

Forest Rangers DEC PhotoIf you are traveling into the backcountry beyond the trailhead these tips are important to keep in mind:

* Be prepared, consider what you need to do to protect yourself and to protect the Adirondack Park.

* Plan ahead. Let friends of relatives know where you are going, when you plan to return and what to do if you do not return on time.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Whitetail Fawns Hide In Plain Sight

TOS_FawnLast May, while out hiking, I came across a young fawn curled up in the ferns only three feet from the Appalachian Trail. My husband and our dog had already walked right by without noticing it. I quickly snapped a few photos as the creature lay motionless, its large eyes wide open, a picture of innocence. Then I alerted my husband, we put the dog on a leash, and hurried away.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Wild Salads: Eat Your Weedies

TOS_wild_saladIn the early 1960s, Euell Gibbons wrote Stalking the Wild Asparagus and introduced millions of North Americans to the virtues of harvesting wild foods. Since that time, gathering wild edibles has become increasingly popular, and in our region, woods-grown delicacies such as ramps and fiddlehead ferns appear in grocery stores each spring.

Yet you don’t have to lace up your hiking boots to enjoy the wild repast. If you resist the urge to use herbicides, you are likely to find a diverse array of edible wild plants growing in your lawn and vegetable garden.


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