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, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Present For Nature

During this season of giving, it is only right to include the environment on your list of those that need a gift. While a tie, sweater, or a pair of socks is not appropriate for Mother Nature, the item that many individuals should consider bringing to our fields and forests is the ashes that are produced by wood stoves, fireplaces and outdoor wood boilers, as this material is one of the most precious commodities that our environment can use.

The off-white, powdery ash that is produced from the combustion of wood contains a variety of compounds that are beneficial to the soil, especially in the Adirondacks. Wood ash has been known for centuries to act as a fertilizing agent, and its importance in agriculture during the colonial era is well documented. The preparation of wood ash for commercial use was routinely conducted by treating the ash in large pots and creating a compound that was obviously labeled “potash”. (In 1790, Samuel Hopkins developed a more effective process for producing potash from wood ash and was granted the first patent. The U.S. Patent Office, a small government agency at the time, required final approval from both President George Washington and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson for a patent.) » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Winter and the Golden-Crowned Kinglet

It’s simple physics. In a cold environment, small objects lose heat at a faster rate than large objects. This is why most warm-blooded animals that reside in a northern climate tend to be large in size. Yet, for every rule, there is always an exception and when considering birds, the golden-crowned kinglet is a perplexing anomaly.

The golden-crowned kinglet is the smallest perching bird to inhabit the Adirondacks, as this delicate, olive colored creature is not much larger than a hummingbird, (which is classified in a group that is related to the swifts rather than the perching birds.) However, unlike our other small birds, like the warblers, vireos and wrens, the kinglet often remains in the Adirondacks throughout the dead of winter, traveling in small, loosely knit flocks in dense evergreen forests.
» Continue Reading.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Adirondack Reptiles: The Wood Turtle

Before winter sets in, all reptiles and amphibians must retreat to a location that provides shelter against the temperatures that would be lethal to their cold-blooded system. While some find refuge underground, others rely on the protection afforded by water and seek out a place on the bottom of an aquatic setting in which ice is unlikely to develop, even during periods of intense cold.

All turtles that live in the Adirondacks belong to this second group, including the wood turtle, a seldom encountered species that exists in limited numbers in scattered locations, especially in the eastern half of the Park.
» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Adirondack Wildlife: The Ermine and Snow

The near total lack of snow this year has been a disappointment to skiers that enjoy early season outings and big game hunters that like several inches of powder for tracking the movement of deer. For several members of our wildlife community, a forest floor that remains free of snow into the latter part of November becomes problematic, as a dark background contrasts with their newly developed coat of pure white fur.

Among the creatures that change color in autumn as part of a survival strategy is a small, yet especially fierce predator – the short-tailed weasel, better known to trappers and backwoods sportsmen as the ermine.
» Continue Reading.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Adirondack Birds: A Tough Season for the Robin

The time of migration for some birds, and their eventual destination, are very predictable. For others, however, it is impossible to say when they exit the general region and where they are going, other than somewhere south. One bird in this last group, illustrating the individualistic behavior patterns of the members of a single species, is the robin.

Along with being a harbinger of spring and ranking as our nation’s number one backyard bird, this orange-breasted songster has no set response to the lessening daylight and the onset of cold, other than to fatten up for the coming winter and eventually travel to a more hospitable climate.
» Continue Reading.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Prime Time For Hunting Whitetail Deer

Traditionally, it is between November 4th and 18th when the peak of the rutting or breeding season for the white-tailed deer occurs in the Adirondacks. Bucks are continuously on the move during these two weeks as they attempt to locate any doe that is nearing her initial heat period.

Also, as bucks expand their search for females outside their regular area of travel, males must continue to regularly return to their home range in order to ensure that rivals do not intrude into their domain.
» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

That Fuzzy White Stuff: Woolly Alder Aphids

When raking leaves, putting away patio furniture and dealing with other outdoor chores that should be done before winter sets in, an observant individual may notice small, fuzzy, bluish-white insects slowly drifting through the air.

Upon close examination, these gnat-like bugs have an abdomen covered with a mass of tiny, curly, white fibers and a thorax that is a light iridescent blue-green, especially near the base of their transparent wings. These tomato seed-sized invertebrates are known as woolly aphids, and although they are active from mid-spring through October, it is only after the leaves have fallen and they take to the air that they become marginally visible to anyone that spends time outside.
» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tom Kalinowski’s Winter Weather Forecast

Last Thursday, the Climate Prediction Center, the long range weather forecasting division of the National Weather Service, made its prediction for this coming winter with a rather unusual statement.

The El Niño event that had started to slowly develop and was expected to strengthen and influence weather patterns across our continent, suddenly vanished. (El Niño is a cyclical warming of the surface water in the western tropical Pacific Ocean and helps to establish a broad area of high pressure over this equatorial region which can greatly impact weather patterns over the U.S., especially in the northeast.) » Continue Reading.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Adirondack Wildlife: Skunk on the Prowl

The rainy weather that has persisted over the past month has returned the water in our rivers, lakes, and ponds to levels typical for this time of year, rejuvenated the trees and shrubs in our forests and the grass and weeds in our lawns.

It has also restored the moist soil environment necessary for the continued activity of numerous invertebrates, terrestrial amphibians, and other creatures that reside on the ground and in the dirt. Despite several frosts and the record cold this past Friday night that temporarily froze the surface of the soil, many of the organisms that exist in the ground remain active well into the autumn.
» Continue Reading.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Adirondack Amphibians: Spring Peepers in Autumn

On calm, mild evenings in autumn, such as those that occurred last Wednesday and Thursday, a familiar sound may be heard coming from a stand of trees close to an alder thicket or a woodland swamp. A crisp, one-note “peep” infrequently breaks the silence in these wooded settings at night and during the day when the air is unseasonably warm and moist.

This distinct call can perplex anyone who has visited a wetland in spring. Can it possibly be a spring peeper, known for producing the seasonal chorus of natural music after the soil thaws in April? Following a summer of silence, the male spring peeper redevelops an urge to announce its presence, this time in the area in which it may have spent the past several months.
» Continue Reading.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Adirondack Wildlife: Osprey Exit the Park

As the temperatures in the many lakes and ponds that dot the Adirondacks begin to cool, the fish inhabitants of these waterways start to spend more of their time at greater depths. While this change in the routine of these gilled vertebrates impacts the way late season anglers pursue them, it also affects the life of our region’s most effective surface fish predator – the osprey.

With its 4 to 5 foot wing span and 2 foot long body, the osprey is a bird that is difficult to overlook as it soars over a picturesque mountain lake, or perches on the limb close to the shore of a pristine pond. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Adirondack Natural History: Bugs and Frost

For many locations in the Adirondacks, the growing season ended last week when the temperature dropped into the mid-20’s. The hard frost that formed on unprotected garden vegetables and cultivated flowers that were not covered was enough to destroy these sensitive forms of vegetation, along with many herbaceous plants that thrive in fields and meadows.

However, not all places in the region experienced freezing temperatures, as the calm air that permitted heat to be radiated from the atmosphere into space also allowed many spots to retain just enough warmth to stay several degrees above 32. In heavily wooded areas, the dense canopy of leaves that still exists is able to act like a sheet of plastic placed over a garden and trap the warmth of the ground beneath it. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Adirondack Moose On The Move

Mid to late September in the Adirondacks is marked by hints of bright autumn colors, a lack of biting bugs, the reappearance of the grayish-brown coat of dense winter fur on the white-tail deer, and the greatly increased chance of seeing a moose. Although moose are massive in size and might appear to be easy to spot, these giants of the Great Northwoods mostly confine their activities to densely wooded areas in which visibility is low and human travel is severely limited. Additionally, moose prefer to forage during periods of twilight, when their chocolate-brown coat causes them to blend into a dark background.

Around the time of the autumn equinox, moose experience an awakening reproductive urge. This powerful drive often causes individuals to abandon the setting in which they routinely forage and begin to seek out members of the opposite sex. While these long-legged beasts are known to travel a dozen miles or more during a single morning or evening when on the search for food, moose periodically wander much further in the weeks between Labor Day and Columbus Day as they try to locate breeding partners. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Birding: The Great Warbler Migration

For most birds, autumn is a time of migration. As is the case in spring, not all species engage in their bouts of long distance travel at the same time; some are known for heading out early while others linger in the region for several additional months before starting their journey.

Among the birds that are quick to depart the North Country are the warblers, a large group of small, delicate creatures that abound in the vast expanses of forests when daylight is at a maximum and bugs are at their peak. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 3, 2012

When Whitetail Deer Antlers Lose Their Velvet

The rapid loss of daylight at this time of year triggers many events in nature, including several changes in the white-tailed deer. It is in early September that a deer’s chestnut-tan summer coat begins to be replaced with much thicker and darker colored fur that is better adapted to retain body heat and conceal this big game creature in the dimmer light of winter.

Deer also experience an increase in their appetite as summer wanes in an attempt to build deposits of fat that also act as insulation and can serve as fuel when food becomes scarce during the dead of winter. Additionally, the first week of September is when bucks in the Adirondacks rub the velvety covering of skin off their set of antlers, their initial preparation for the rutting or mating season that will arrive in approximately two months. » Continue Reading.


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