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.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Adirondack Ecology: Wildlife, Wilderness and Dead Wood

Discussions regarding the ecological value of wilderness compared to an actively managed forest often centers around the health and well being of specific members of the wildlife community. While the flora and fauna that a tract of wilderness supports may be strikingly similar to that which occurs in periodically logged woodlands, the relative abundance of the various plants and animals contained in each is often quite different.In wilderness regions, there eventually develops a much higher concentration of those organisms whose lives are connected either directly or indirectly to the presence of dead wood.

Forests that are protected from timber harvesting operations contain substantially more dead wood on the ground and on the stump. While some trees that succumb to a disease or insect infestation may remain upright for only a few years after they die, many remain standing for decades before they eventually fall. Standing dead trees, especially ones that are larger than a foot in diameter, harbor numerous living entities and provide many animals with shelter. » Continue Reading.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Tom Kalinowski: Avian Appetites

As summer enters its final few weeks, most Adirondack birds have completed the nesting process and now are busy preparing for the cooler months that lie ahead and their upcoming migration.

Soon after the last brood of young vacates the nest, most birds begin to travel more frequently outside the territory which they claimed earlier in the season. The strong territorial instincts that existed in nearly all species prior to and throughout the breeding period quickly fade as the young fledge. This can be noted by the absence of the songs that are commonly used to proclaim ownership to a particular location. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Adirondack Ragweed and Hay Fever Season

August is a month known for ripening raspberries and blackberries, the appearance of locally grown sweet corn and other fresh produce at farm stands, the return of back to school ads on TV, and the unwelcome arrival of hay fever season.

For many people, exposure to certain types of pollen triggers a most unpleasant nasal reaction that can linger for days. While the pollen of numerous plants contributes to this often severe irritation of the nose, sinus cavities and upper respiratory tract of many, ordinarily healthy people, ragweed is, by far, the leading culprit responsible for making life miserable for those unfortunate enough to be afflicted with this common medical condition. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Adirondack Wildlife: Crickets and Grasshoppers

The advent of late summer in the Adirondacks is when most species of crickets and many types of grasshoppers enter into the reproductive phase of their life cycle. This results in an annual production of commonly heard sounds, starting with the appearance of developing flocks of birds. It is as much a part of the background in the Park at this time of year as the blossoming of goldenrod in open fields and meadows and the presence of clusters of queen-Anne’s-lace lining sections of highways.

Crickets and grasshoppers, along with the katydids and locust, form an order of insects known as orthoptera, which means the straight-winged insects. While most crickets and some grasshoppers seem to lack any type of flying appendage, all members of this group of bugs have two sets of wings during their adult stage, which may, or may not, allow these stout-bodies creatures to fly. Rather than function as a structure for travel, their wings serve primarily to produce the sound used for attracting a breeding partner. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Adirondack Wildlife: The Flying Squirrels

In the days prior to and immediately following a full moon, there is often enough light in the hours after sunset for a person to meander along a well established woodland trail without the aid of a flashlight. By walking slowly and quietly, one can occasionally detect a small gray squirrel rustling about the dead leaves on the forest floor, climbing up a large trunk, or moving along the limb of a tree. While most squirrels strongly prefer to be active during the light of day, the flying squirrel favors the darkness of night and is the most common nocturnal tree dwelling mammal within the Park.

The flying squirrel is characterized by a loose fold of skin, called a patagium that extends from it front and hind legs and connects to its sides. This thin, furry membrane acts as a wing or airfoil when the animal stretches its appendages outward and enables it to glide forward as it slowly descends after leaping from a tree. The wide and flat tail of this rodent provides additional lift and greatly helps an airborne individual alter its flight path so it can accurately land at a selected spot. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 23, 2012

The Northeastern Pine Sawyer Beetle

From the afternoon into the early evening in mid to late summer, a silence often develops as the heat of the day peaks and then starts to cool; as birds cease to sing and amphibians lose their urge to call. In the stillness between periods when leaves rustle from light summer breezes, the sound of a grinding or twisting-scraping can be heard coming from a fallen softwood log or a dead standing evergreen.

This low volume creaking noise is particularly evident in downed white pine trunks that lie in open and semi-open settings. It is caused by the wood boring activity of the larvae of the Northeastern pine sawyer beetle (Monochamus notatus), a large, grotesque looking bug that is widespread across the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Adirondack Fishing: Trout and Low Water

Trout fishing is a challenging endeavor, yet it can be the most rewarding backcountry activity, as success ordinarily means a meal or two with a great tasting main course. Because trout require cool, clean waters in which to live, anglers who want to engage in this popular Adirondack summer pastime traditionally head to those places where conditions remain favorable for these hardy game fish.

Larger tributaries that flow at higher elevations, streams that run down the north slope of a mountain, shady, gravel-bottom stretches of water that frequently undercut their banks and deep holes that lie on the edge of an eddy are all places in which trout can still be caught during July and August. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 9, 2012

In The Adirondack Dirt: Earthworms and Drought

Hit and miss rain showers and scattered thunderstorms have provided much of the precipitation over the Adirondacks during this past month. This has allowed some locations to maintain an adequate level of soil moisture while causing conditions in other places to become especially dry.

The lack of periodic soaking rains, along with the abundance of sunshine and long stretches of above average temperatures has impacted the lives of a multitude of soil organisms, particularly earthworms which are highly sensitive to dry conditions. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Adirondack Fish: The Redbelly Dace

Summer is the season for being on the water in the Adirondacks, and a canoe or kayak is the perfect way to explore the many ponds, slow-moving rivers and marshes that exist throughout the Park. While these shallow, muddy-bottomed settings may not be great for swimming, the rusty-tan water occasionally covered with patches of floating leaves and strands of submerged vegetation does teem with life. Among the residents of these quiet, weedy waterways is the redbelly dace (Phoxinus eos), a common and widespread member of the minnow family of fish. » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Adirondack Bug Season: Biting Midges

A screened-in porch is an ideal place to relax on a summer evening in the Adirondacks. The tight, wire mesh that covers the walls allows the enjoyment of nature’s unique fragrances and wildlife sounds without the harassment of mosquitoes and other flying nocturnal pests. However, during the early parts of summer, there is one bug that can detract from the backwoods ambiance of that peaceful Adirondack evening. Biting midges are small enough to pass through traditional screens, allowing them access to any individual wanting to enjoy the evening.

The biting midges form a large group of exceedingly small true flies that are roughly the size of a sand grain, and are known to many as punkies or no-see-ums. The latter common name comes from this bug’s ability to remain unseen in low light conditions, such as on a porch after sunset, even when one of these pests has started to chew into your skin. Despite their dark color, no-see-ums are still a challenge to see clearly, even when standing against a patch of light colored skin. On a person with a dark complexion, punkies can be impossible to spot, regardless of how good the light may happen to be. » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 18, 2012

The Attack of the Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed GrouseIt is traditional backwoods wisdom to avoid getting between a mother and her babies, and while this advice usually pertains to the black bear, it could also apply to several other forms of wildlife that reside in the Adirondacks.

In late spring many infants are emerging from the safety of their den or nest and most mothers try to provide some form of protection from potential danger to their babies. Perhaps the most remarkable display of parental courage for a creature of its size is seen in the hen ruffed grouse. This bird will aggressively confront and challenge any human that happens to come too close to its recently hatched chicks. » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 11, 2012

The American Marten in the High Peaks

At the start of summer, the High Peak wilderness experiences a sharp expansion of its wildlife community.

Insects adapted for survival in an often cool, high-elevation environment have emerged from their long winter dormancy and are now engaged in eating and breeding. Various species of birds have traveled to our upper elevation slopes to mate and nest, and numerous mammals that reside in this harsh climatic zone are now busy rearing infants which can temporarily double their populations.

One predator that is occasionally seen by people who pass through this region and whose young are currently developing to the stage at which they are leaving their mother’s den for the first time is the American marten (Martes Americana), a creature that symbolizes the great North woods character of the Central Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The White Admiral Butterfly

Forest clearings in the Adirondacks are especially attractive settings for many forms of wildlife. The warmth of the ground when the sun is shining is particularly inviting to cold-blooded creatures, and the stands of trees that surround these openings in the canopy serve as a source of food and shelter.

Clearings created during logging operations, wide sections along secondary roads, and the open space that typically exists around lean-tos and campsites are places frequented by numerous animals. Among the creatures easily observed during the coming month in these sunny oases of our deciduous and mixed woodlands is a strikingly attractive, black butterfly with a distinct white strip across its wings. The white admiral butterfly (Limenitis arthemis) is a common component of our fauna and regularly lingers around small forest clearings during the early summer throughout the Park. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Late Spring and the Gray Tree Frog

Spring is a season when the greatest abundance of natural sounds echo across the landscape. During the day, birds are primarily responsible for the variety of musical calls; however as darkness approaches, especially when the weather is mild, the voices of amphibians produce our most captivating sounds.

Around the alder-laden shores of ponds, marshes and rivers, choruses of tiny spring peepers regularly drown out the songs sung by all other creatures. During the latter part of May, after dusk, toads can be seen heading to similar shallow wooded waterways to engage in their nocturnal serenade. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Adirondack Birding: The Barn Swallow

Barn SwallowCoinciding with the onset of bug season in the Adirondacks is the return of our insect eating birds. While nearly all of these perching birds have an attractive musical call that announces their presence, most maintain a secretive routine so they are rarely spotted.

The swallows are the most visible bug consumers as their preference for perching in exposed places and feeding over open settings allows these skilled aerialists to be regularly seen.

Additionally, their habit of placing their nest close to human dwellings and in plain view of any passerby makes them well known to residents and visitors of the Park.
» Continue Reading.


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