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 Adirondack Life, The Conservationist, and Adirondack Explorer magazines and a weekly nature column for the Lake Placid News. In addition, Tom’s books, An Adirondack Almanac, and his most recent work entitled Adirondack Nature Notes, focuses on various events that occur among the region’s flora and fauna during very specific times of the calendar year. He also spends time photographing wildlife. Tom’s pictures have appeared in various publications across the New York State.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Adirondack Wildlife: The American Toad

toad cropThe damp weather pattern over the Adirondacks since mid-May, while being a challenge to some creatures, has been most favorable to many others. Among those forms of wildlife that benefit from a moist atmosphere and frequent bouts of rain are the numerous terrestrial amphibians that occur in shady locations across the region.

While the Adirondacks is home to over a dozen species of these moisture-loving entities, the largest and most frequently encountered is the American Toad, a chubby and slow moving animal that is among the most recognizable members of our wildlife community. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Crayfish: An Adirondack Crustacean

CrayfishAdirondack waterways serve as home to a wealth of invertebrates that range in size from microscopic to those that are several inches in length. Among the giants of this complex and diverse group of organisms are the crayfish, which are larger, more robust and meaty than many vertebrate forms of life in our region.

Because of their size and abundance, crayfish are an important component of all fresh water environments; however these fierce-looking entities have not been as thoroughly researched and studied as have other creatures that reside in the same general surroundings. While the basics of their biology and natural history are known, much still remains to be learned regarding the individual species that populate the many bodies of water throughout the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Adirondack Fish: The Smallmouth Bass

800px-Smallmouth_bassThe prolonged period of hot and humid weather that the Adirondacks have recently experienced has warmed the waters in our many lakes and ponds to their highest temperatures of the season. This is a welcome occurrence to those that enjoy swimming and simply wading in our waterways, however it can create a challenge to those aquatic creatures that are better suited to the cool waters of our mountain wilderness.

Among the fish impacted by high water temperatures is a popular game species sought by anglers for its feisty temperament after being hooked and its mild and flavorful taste after being cooked- the smallmouth bass. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Adirondack Wildlife: Mice and More Mice

deer mouseThe growing season two years ago was considered to have been excellent. There were numerous periods of mild weather in the spring along with a lack of a late hard frost which allowed for an abundance of flowers to successfully begin their initial stage of developing our crops of seeds and berries. Summer that year provided ample sunshine and an adequate supply of rain to bring to maturity the numerous wild fruits and mast that can grow in this region.

Whenever an abundance of nutritious edibles develops in nature, there is an explosion in the population of mice, voles, chipmunks and other small creatures that utilize such items as their principle source of food. By the end of autumn, it became evident that the number of small herbivores, especially mice, was near or at an all time high for many areas throughout the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Nature: Where Are the Deer Flies?

800px-Chrysops_callidusThe daily round of intense rain that has plagued the region for the past several weeks has elevated most area waterways to abnormally high levels for this time of year, impacting many forms of animals. For one group of insects, the early summer flooding is particularly devastating, yet anyone that enjoys being outside at the start of this season can only view this widespread mortality as the silver lining to the persistent rains.

From late June through mid July, deer flies can be most annoying to hikers, campers, canoeists, and individuals that work in the garden, yet this year there seems to be a definite reduction, or complete absence of this annoying pest. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 1, 2013

The Dragonfly: Master of Flight

Slaty_Skimmer_on_flowerThe ability of a flying animal to move through the air varies greatly, with some creatures possessing an exceptional mastery of this skill. While many forms of life simply use their aerial capabilities to quickly and efficiently travel from one place to another, others have evolved extraordinary airborne talents. Bats, swallows and swifts are all well known for their highly maneuverable style of flight, allowing these hunters to pursue and capture bugs in the air. Yet, from an aerodynamic perspective, the most unique and complex flying creature in the Adirondacks is the dragonfly, which must be considered the true master of flight.

The dragonfly actually represents a group, or order, of insects known as Odonata, which encompasses many species of both dragonflies and damselflies. All of the individuals in this category have evolved a highly complex flight style produced by their two sets of long, slender and transparent wings. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Adirondack Insects: The Millipedes

Adirondack MillipedeThe bouts of overcast and rainy weather that the Adirondacks have experienced over the past few weeks have led to the proliferation of various forms of invertebrates that thrive in damp settings.

Among the arthropods that strongly favor moist conditions is a group of small, dark to nearly black, worm-like organisms that occasionally occur in fair numbers on the foundation of houses, on the side of stone walls, or in a masonry fire pit in front of a lean-to. These are the millipedes, a group of small, yet important, arthropods that play a vital role in our soil ecology. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Adirondack Wildlife: Southern Red-Backed Vole

800px-Red-backed_voleThe presence of some forms of wildlife is easy to note while others are nearly impossible to detect.  By restricting activities to places hidden from view, many creatures are able to maintain a secretive life.  Small size and protective coloration can further reduce the chances of some animals from ever being glimpsed even on those occasions when they temporarily venture into a more exposed location.  Not producing a call or any audible sound can also add to the stealth-like nature of many creatures, and failing to leave any visible sign of feeding or travel routes can make an animal unknown in those areas in which it is abundant.

While the wildlife community in the Adirondacks harbors many such elusive entities, it is the southern red-backed vole that tops the list of our region’s most abundant, yet rarely seen mammals.  » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Adirondack Wildlife: The Porcupine Gives Birth

Porcupine Baby PorcupetteJune is the month when many forms of wildlife give birth in the Adirondacks. The last week in May and early June marks the start of a nearly four month long interval of weather favorable for birth and the period of development following birth that young birds, mammals, some reptiles, fish and bugs need before they are mature enough to successfully contend with the life threatening challenges posed by the change in seasons.

Among the creatures that bear their young shortly after Memorial Day is the porcupine, a large and cold-hardy rodent known for its unique system of defense. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Bug Season: Some Tips For Avoiding Black Flies

A-Buckskin-Man-s-Pocket-46Late May and early June is the peak of black fly season in the Adirondacks, and the intensity and aggressiveness of the swarms of these small, dark-colored biting bugs varies greatly from one location to another and from one year to the next. From all indications, this year seems to be one in which there is a definite abundance of black flies in our forests, much to the delight of numerous species of insect eating birds that migrate north to feast on the seasonal abundance of bugs, but much to the dismay of hikers, campers and canoeists that want a wilderness experience free of flying insect vermin.
» Continue Reading.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Adirondack Insects: Mayflies

DSCN1675As the water warms in streams, rivers and lakes, there is an explosion of invertebrate activity, when the hoards of aquatic bugs that pass much of the year on the bottom are stimulated by the favorable thermal conditions which allow them to continue with their life cycle. Among the insects preparing to leave the safety of some protective nook, or transition into a stage that no longer perfectly matches the surroundings, are the mayflies, an exceptionally prolific and ecologically significant group of aquatic organisms.

Mayflies form a category, or order, of insects known as Ephemeroptera, which literally translates into the short-lived insects. This label is somewhat a misnomer, as most mayflies have a life span of one full year. Nearly this entire period, however, is spent underwater, initially in the embryonic form of an egg and then as a naiad passing from one nymph stage into another as they consume and convert microscopic matter in the water into body tissue. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 6, 2013

Adirondack Birds: Soulful Music of the Hermit Thrush

Hermit ThrushIn the weeks surrounding the emergence of leaves on the shrubs and trees in the Adirondacks a rich variety of sounds, unlike that which is heard during any other time of the year, occurs in our forests. Some participants in this natural symphony bellow out a perky series of melodious notes, like the winter wren and red-eyed vireo, while others such as the robin and white-throated sparrow have a more stately quality to their voice.

A few, like the ovenbird and chestnut-sided warbler, contribute an intense and serious refrain to the mix, and then there is the soulful music of the hermit thrush, which frequently opts to perform solo after most of the other voices have subsided for the evening. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Adirondack Wildlife: Living With Wasps

Bee Hive CollectiveAfter the ground thaws and the soil finally begins to warm, the multitude of invertebrates that passed the winter burrowed deep within the thermally protective bed of fallen leaves, rotting bark and decomposing wood emerges from their long period of dormancy. Among the many flying bugs that are currently working their way to the surface and returning to a life above ground are the wasps. After exiting their subterranean winter retreat, these often feared stinging insects explore the immediate surroundings in an effort to locate a suitable spot in which to establish a colony for the approaching growing season.

In early autumn, numerous females with a functional reproductive system are produced in each colony. Shortly after transitioning into adults, these females abandon their nest, along with the drones or males, never to return to the colony. The receptive females quickly breed and acquire enough sperm during a single mating encounter to last for the remainder of their life. Within a few days after mating, the males die, but the fertilized females often prowl the area for food before retiring for the winter. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Adirondack Birds: The Dark-Eyed Junco

600px-Dark-eyed_Junco-27527Strong southerly wind in spring not only brings periods of mild weather to our region, but also helps usher in numerous species of migratory birds from their wintering grounds. Among the early arrivals to the Adirondacks, often before the snow finally disappears from wooded areas and north-facing hillsides, is a cold-hardy member of the sparrow family. Although this handsome bird is just as abundant throughout the Park as the white-throated sparrow, even in the harsh climate of upper elevations, the dark-eyed junco does not enjoy the same level of notoriety as its white-throated cousin.

The dark-eyed junco, (Junco hyemalis) known to most as simply a junco, is a common bird that is easy to recognize. The slate-gray color of its head and back stands in sharp contrast to its white underside and its stubby, creamy-pink bill. Also, the junco has white outer tail feathers that become particularly noticeable when it flicks it tail. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Adirondack Amphibians: Spring Peepers

Silence still prevails along the shores of marshes clad in alders, willows, dogwoods and wild raisins, but this will change shortly. The warmth forecast for the coming week should be sufficient to finally melt any remaining patches of snow and ice still on the edge of open wetlands. Additionally, the appearance of the sun and a period of mild showers should help eliminate the remnants of frost in the upper parts of the soil.

As the ground loses its winter characteristics, the spring peeper is quick to awaken from its winter dormancy, crawl from its shallow, subterranean shelter along with countless numbers of fellow peepers, and travel to a nearby marshy setting. Once it arrives at the water’s edge, this amphibian loudly announces its presence and willingness to breed. » Continue Reading.


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