Almanack Contributor Tom Kalinowski

Tom Kalinowski

Tom Kalinowski is an avid outdoor enthusiast who taught field biology and ecology at Saranac Lake High School for 33 years.

He has written numerous articles on natural history for a variety of magazines and wrote a weekly nature column for the Lake Placid News for nearly ten years.

Tom has also written several books which focus on various events that occur among the region’s flora and fauna during very specific times of the calendar year. Along with writing, he also spends time photographing wildlife.




Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Return of the Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture of over florida (Wiki Commons)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.



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Late Spring In The Adirondacks

Owl's HeadSpring 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.



Thursday, March 6, 2014

Adirondack Insects: Extreme Cold And Climate Change

100_1407Weather 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.



Tuesday, February 25, 2014

An Avian Chameleon: The Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper (Wikimedia Photo)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.



Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Nature’s Valentine’s Day: Wildlife Reproduction

birds and beesMid-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.



Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Adirondack Geology: The World Of Talus Slopes

talus screeGeological 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.



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Looking For Cougars In The Adirondacks

cougar trackLast 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.



Monday, January 13, 2014

Adirondack Wildlife: The Ruffed Grouse This Winter

Ruffed GrouseThe 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.



Monday, December 30, 2013

Finding Snowy Owls in the Adirondacks

Snowy OwlThe vast expanses of wilderness forests that cover the Adirondacks serve as home to many forms of wildlife adapted for survival in areas where visibility is limited by trees and grasses, and grains are nearly non-existent.

Large open areas scattered throughout the Park serve to support the collection of creatures that require much greater visibility and food sources that exist on the soil’s surface. Among those animals drawn toward these open spaces is the snowy owl, which regularly migrates southward from its arctic breeding grounds in autumn to establish a winter hunting territory in more hospitable surroundings.



Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Arctic Cold And The Frost Line

frost line depth map New YorkWinter seems to have come early to the Adirondacks, as below zero temperatures and periodic bouts of measureable snowfall have been a part of our weather pattern since the last few weeks of November. The arctic air that has regularly swept across the region has made a sizeable dent in everyone’s wood pile, placed a strain on car batteries and forced many to wear Christmas sweaters on a daily basis.

The intense cold has also pushed the frost line down in numerous spots, which greatly impacts the existence of those creatures that attempt to survive this season by burrowing into the soil. It is difficult to determine how deep the frost » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Birds This Winter: The American Goldfinch

447px-American_goldfinch_winter_fNoting what visitors appear at a bird feeder in winter can provide some revealing information on the status of the local populations of the feathered creatures hardy enough to remain in the Adirondacks after cold weather becomes established. Aside from the regular flocks of black-capped chickadees, a pair or two of red-breasted nuthatches and blue jays, there may be juncos, redpolls, evening grosbeaks, pine siskins, purple finches and other closely related seed eaters.

This year, at least around my house in Saranac Lake, there has been a healthy number of American goldfinches, which is not surprising considering this past summer’s weather. From mid May through the first week in July, record setting rains soaked the region, » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Adirondack Wildlife: The Short-Tailed Shrew

Short Tailed shrewThe powdery layer of snow covering the forest floor across the Adirondacks is still too thin in many areas for back country skiing and snowshoeing; however, several inches of fluff is ideal for noting the tracks of wildlife. Among the most common of mammals that populate the Park is a miniature predator, whose tracks typically appear from beneath an old stump, a rotted log, a surface boulder or a pile of brush and zigzag in an erratic pattern for roughly a dozen feet before disappearing under some other chunk of debris.

In our mixed forests and woodland edges, the short-tailed shrew is a prolific, but rarely seen, member of the wildlife community, yet its » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mites: Wildlife Bed Bugs

mitesThe arrival of weather with temperatures favorable for snowmaking, blustery northwest winds, and damp, unstable air that produces periodic bouts of flurries forces many forms of wildlife into a less active routine and causes them to spend more time in some type of shelter. As the length of their daily confinement to a nest or den increases, there is an expansion of the population of tiny organisms that make their home on the skin of many forms of wildlife.

While vast stretches of wilderness serve the ecological needs of numerous warm-blooded animals, the microenvironment that exists at the very base of a mammal’s dense coat of fur provides countless invertebrates with the space they need in » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Deer Rutting Season in the Adirondacks

white_tailed_deer1According to most sportsmen, the second week of November in the Adirondacks is the best time for deer hunting, as this is the peak of the rutting, or breeding season in our region.

Driven by a surge of hormones, the bucks, especially the largest and oldest males with their impressive rack of antlers, are now continuously on the move as they attempt to locate females nearing their estrous, or heat period. Rather than spend time resting or sleeping, bucks are on the go day and night in the days prior to, and immediately after, Veteran’s Day, as these individuals experience an innate urge to focus all their time and energy into spreading their genetic composition into » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Adirondack Fish: Spawning Lake Trout

Spawning Lake troutAs cold weather becomes more common and intense, the temperature of lakes, ponds and marshes drop significantly, with ice soon appearing over the surface of our smaller and more shallow waterways. As these aquatic settings continue to relinquish heat to the atmosphere, most of their resident, cold-blooded creatures are forced by the low temperatures to become extremely lethargic or lapse into a dormant state until spring.

There are, however, a few forms of life that remain active throughout the winter, as these entities are well adapted for an existence in frigid waters. Among the animals that thrive in northern lakes, even during winter, is the lake trout, a sizeable predator that resides only in our » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Birds: The Departure of the Northern Flicker

Northern_flicker_pairPreparations among the members of our wildlife community have been underway for weeks, if not months, for the arrival of snow and temperatures low enough to freeze the upper layer of soil. Most bugs are genetically programmed to enter a dormant stage of their life in advance of this onset of adverse weather, and the mammals of the area are well along in the process of modifying their physical structure (accumulating fat and growing a thick layer of fur) in order to cope.

Many species of birds have either left, or will soon be exiting, our region because of the inhospitable conditions building throughout the northern latitudes. Among our migratory birds is a member of the » Continue Reading.



Monday, October 21, 2013

Adirondack Moose and Winter Ticks

Moose Calf Suffering from Tick InfestationLast week, an article appeared in the Science Section of the New York Times exploring the decline in the moose population in many sections of North America. While several potential causes for this widespread die-off were cited, much attention was given to the role of the winter tick in impacting the health and well being of this large, hoofed mammal.

As a rule, ticks are not considered to be a serious problem in the Adirondacks, especially in the more mountainous areas of the Park. However, the thought of a devastating tick infestation developing across our region is unsettling to outdoor enthusiasts that prefer to hike, camp and explore when » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Wildlife Preparing for Winter: The Garter Snake

Garter SnakeMigration is the seasonal movement of an animal population in response to changing environmental conditions. While birds are best known for employing this survival strategy to cope with winter, many other forms of wildlife also engage in some form of relocation during autumn to deal with prolonged bouts of cold and an absence of food. Among the migratory reptiles in the Adirondacks is an abundant and widespread snake familiar to anyone that spends time outdoors – the garter snake.

As daylight wanes and the temperatures cool, garter snakes begin to travel to various sites that afford protection from the intense cold that settles over our mountainous region in winter. Typically, garter snakes rely on specific » Continue Reading.



Monday, October 7, 2013

Wildlife and People: The Bear Facts

Bear Warning SignIn the Adirondacks, all forms of wildlife have a natural fear of humans. This is the primary reason why hikers, campers, and individuals sitting on their back porch don’t generally see many creatures, despite being outside for long periods of time.

Should a healthy animal detect the presence of a person, it inevitably hides or immediately flees in order to avoid being seen.



Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Harvestmen: Daddy Longlegs

200Despite the numerous frosts that our region experienced in September, there continue to be many types of bugs that remain active into the autumn in the Adirondacks. Among these hardy invertebrates, and the ones that are quite conspicuous to anyone that spends time working in the yard, garden or on the wood pile, are the harvestmen, known to most as the daddy-longlegs.

Like spiders, the harvestmen are classified as arachnids because of their body structure, having 4 sets of legs and a set of arm-like appendages near their mouth. (In the harvestmen, these arms, known as pedipalps, are barely visible, yet are still of great use to this creature in grabbing and holding items it wants » Continue Reading.



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