The populations of all forms of wildlife continuously rise and fall as a number of highly changeable environmental factors influences the success, or failure of each species. While variations in the abundance, or scarcity of many of our shy and secretive creatures, like the short-tailed shrew, flying squirrel and ermine, go completely unnoticed, the ups and downs in the number of animals that maintain a high profile can be quite evident, especially to anyone that spends a fair amount of time outdoors. In my neighborhood this year, there is a definite upsurge in the population of red squirrels, as there are more of these small, yet conspicuous rusty-tan rodents running around than in recent years.
As the bright yellow tops of goldenrod begin to fade in fields, and the foliage of the red maple increasingly begins its change to a bright reddish-orange, gulls engage in a nomadic phase of their life and can often be seen visiting a variety of settings within the Adirondacks.
Within the boundaries of the Park, two species of “seagulls” are seasonal components of our fauna; however, the slightly smaller ring-billed gull is far more common and likely to be observed than the nearly identically colored herring gull.
The Adirondacks, with its vast expanses of wilderness forests, abundant stretches of pristine wetlands, waterways and rugged mountain terrain, serves as home to many forms of wildlife. While all of these creatures have uniquely appealing traits and exhibit their own brand of personal charm, few possess the backwoods’ magic and allure of the moose. Part of this beast’s popularity lies in its massive size, which can range from several hundred pounds for a juvenile to 700 and 800 pounds for a healthy adult. The moose also wins affection with its unusually lanky body features, long snout, and awkward gait.
In an attempt to spotlight and honor New York State’s largest » Continue Reading.
August is when a majority of wildlife families dissolve, as the young gradually start to wander from their parent’s care and begin finding food for themselves and developing the strategies for surviving on their own. Among the many maturing creatures achieving independence as summer wanes are the young of the various species of bats that exist within the Park. Regardless of their habitat and the types of bugs on which they prey, all juvenile bats are now capturing their own food and exploring their surroundings without the supervision of their mother.
During summer, both residents and visitors of the Adirondacks should be required to spend time on the water, preferably in a canoe, kayak or guideboat in order to experience the serenity and magnificence of slowly and silently moving across our fresh water environments. However, traveling over the surface of most waterways in a small, open, human-powered craft from July through mid August does have its cost, as people in such boats are occasionally subject to the harassment of a small, fast-moving fly inclined to bite on the upper part of the foot, or the lower section of an uncovered leg, particularly around the ankle. This unwelcome pest is most likely a species of stable fly (Stomoxys), » Continue Reading.
Following the July 4th weekend, there typically occur stretches of pleasant, sunny weather with highs in the 80’s. This elevates the temperature of the water in the many aquatic settings throughout the Adirondacks to their highest levels of the year and creates conditions ideal for swimming and for our warm water fishes.
Among the residents of lakes and rivers that thrive when the water becomes suitable for wading, lounging, and frolicking are the sunfish, and along the rocky shores of our glacially formed lakes and boulder laden waterways is the rock bass, a ubiquitous and always hungry fish that has frequent encounters with any novice angler that fishes these sites.
The overwhelming abundance of pesky insects in and around aquatic areas in the Adirondacks from late spring through mid summer can discourage travel to these picturesque settings, however, the hordes of bothersome bugs that thrive in wetlands help support the rich diversity of life that occurs around these places.
Among the birds that seek out mosquito, black fly, and deer fly infested streams, swamps and shrubby lake shores is a common and vocal warbler whose voice regularly echoes across these watery habitats. Despite its small size and effective protective coloration, the common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) can be seen by anyone passing through its domain as it bellows out its characteristic song from a perch that temporarily » Continue Reading.
Around the time when the puffy, spherical clusters of seeds appear on dandelions, male hummingbirds are engaging in their courtship flights, and hoards of black flies arrive when the air become humid, June bugs make their annual appearance during the evening around porch lights, street lamps, and well illuminated windows.
When indoors at this time of year after dark, it is common to hear the sound of this hefty, hard-shelled bug repeatedly flying into a screen, continuously beating its wings against a window pane, or buzzing around an outside light, as if attempting to get directly into the source of illumination.
Priorities! Just like humans, some forms of wildlife are faced with the dilemma of not having enough time during the day to deal with all the issues that confront them. Over the course of the next several weeks, many black bears in the Adirondacks temporarily elect to put their nagging appetite on hold and channel the vast majority of their time and energy into finding a mate and winning the affection of a potential breeding partner.
In winter, the black bear experiences a profound state of dormancy in which many individuals lose from 15% to 20%, or more, of their autumn body weight. Once they emerge from their den in spring, » Continue Reading.
The late spring that the Adirondacks has experienced this year delayed the “ice-out” time on our lakes and ponds by several weeks. This pushed back some of the events in the lives of the numerous aquatic animals that reside in these bodies of water. Among the largest creatures to occur in many of our sizeable lakes, noted for spawning shortly after the ice breaks up, is a meaty fish sought after by anglers for its flavorful taste.
The walleye is a cold-tolerant creature common to various lakes across the Park, and a fish that attracts those sportsmen that enjoy the challenge of fishing at a time when the water is only a few degrees above freezing, » Continue Reading.
Spring is the time of year when most male birds support their brightest colored plumage. This makes them more attractive to a potential mate for the breeding season, however it also makes them more visible to any human traveling through their domain.
Among the birds far more likely to be seen during spring than at any other time of year is the hooded merganser, a handsome species of waterfowl that commonly resides in the many wooded wetlands scattered across the Park.
The unseasonably cool and overcast weather pattern that has prevailed over the Adirondacks for the past several months has impacted many forms of wildlife, especially the cold-blooded creatures that are early to awaken from their winter dormancy. Among the organisms that return to an active state as soon as the surroundings thaw are two common and highly vocal amphibians that spend winter embedded in the upper layer of soil, or beneath a pile of rotting, organic debris on the forest floor.
Within a few days of the frost melting from the ground around them, both the wood frog and spring peeper experience biochemical changes throughout their body that reactivate the tissues » Continue Reading.
The very rapid loss of the snow pack that covered our region has created flooding concerns, curtailed, or completely ended, back country skiing for another year and has greatly improved foraging conditions for our ground feeding birds. Among the avian summer residents that benefit from periods of unseasonably warm weather, and the accompanying loss of snow, is a bird renowned for its scavenging talents.
Over eons of time, the turkey vulture has evolved various features to locate and capitalize on recently thawed carcasses of animals that were unable to survive the winter, and has become one of the most effective and visible scavengers in the Park.
Spring seems to be painfully slow in returning to the Adirondacks this year. Substantial amounts of snow still linger in most places, and ice continues to cover the surface of nearly all stationary bodies of water throughout the Park. Despite the reluctance of winter to yield to spring, scattered patches of land devoid of ice and snow always develop in late March and early April, signaling the coming change in seasons.
These places of bare ground and open water inevitably attract birds that have returned northward in the weeks around the vernal equinox in their attempt to reach their breeding grounds early and lay claim to a prime mating territory.
Weather anomalies impact the lives of most creatures, including humans, and this year’s protracted winter season is slowly taking its toll on people that dislike the snow and cold, as well as on various members of our wildlife community. While all animals native to the Adirondacks have evolved the ability to survive the rigors of a harsh and prolonged winter, some of the recent arrivals to the region may not be faring as well in this unrelenting, sub-arctic weather siege.
Over the past decade or two, the climate in the Adirondacks has slowly warmed enough to allow numerous forms of life to creep northward and expand their geographic range into our lowlands and valleys. For » Continue Reading.
The fields and forests of the Adirondacks support many forms of animal life, even during winter, yet many of our wildlife residents are next to impossible to glimpse. Some, like moles, shrews and voles prefer an existence below the surface of the snow, while others such as fisher, bobcat and ermine have adapted a shy and secretive lifestyle causing them to spend nearly all of their time in remote sections of dense woodlands where visibility is limited, making a chance sighting rare. Others, like flying squirrels and owls conduct their affairs under the cover of darkness and seldom are viewed.
One small bird, considered by ornithologists to be widespread throughout the Park year round, » Continue Reading.
Mid-February weather is often quite harsh in the Adirondacks. However the eventual arrival of spring in another month, or two, causes numerous forms of wildlife to begin preparations for the inevitable change in seasons.
Despite frigid temperatures, blustery winds, deep snow, and limited sources of food, numerous creatures begin to focus a portion of their time and energy towards activities associated with breeding, rather then concentrating solely on the challenges of survival.
Geological forces over millions of years coupled with the action of glaciers and weather have created massive piles of boulders at the base of towering rock walls and steep slopes in numerous locations throughout the Adirondacks.
Some of the more prominent accumulation of talus, sometimes called scree by climbers, occurs around Chapel Pond, throughout the Wilmington Notch, in the Cascades, around portions of Bald Mountain near Old Forge, and in many places near the shores of Lake Champlain. Talus is also present along the edges of some sections of rivers and larger streams that cut through substantial deposits of bedrock.
Last week, the organization, PROTECT the Adirondacks, announced that they plan to begin a program, entitled Cougar Watch, for developing a database of Mountain Lion sightings in and around the Park. For years, many reputable individuals have claimed to have glimpsed this large member of the cat family, which has led some people to wonder whether a small population of these highly adaptable predators currently exists within the boundaries of the Blue Line. With all the sightings entered into a publicly accessible database, it might be easier to draw some conclusions regarding the status of this reclusive feline in northern New York.
The lack of a substantial accumulation of snow this winter has created hardship for those forms of wildlife that seek shelter from below zero temperatures and gusty winds by embedding themselves in the powdery covering that typically covers the ground at this time of year.
The insulating value of a fairly deep snow pack affords excellent protection against the elements for many creatures small enough to utilize this seasonal layer of material. Among the more sizeable members of the wildlife community that use snow for shelter is the ruffed grouse, well known for plunging head first into a pile of powder in its attempt to completely cover itself with this unlikely natural blanket for an » Continue Reading.