Monday, January 26, 2015

Blobs on Ice: Jelly Fungi Add Color to Winter

TOS_JellyFungusThey look like blobs of shiny tar, a melted lollipop, or a crayon left in the sun too long. They come in vivid colors from orange to yellow to white to black to pinkish. They have a disconcerting ability to mimic human body parts, such as ears and tongues, with Daliesque artfulness.

Jelly fungi.

They got their name because their tissues have the texture and consistency of, well, jelly. In some cases it’s more like rubber. The various species often carry imaginative common names: witch’s butter, snow fungus, jelly ear. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, January 22, 2015

Adventures in Snow Shoveling

BuscoPlowAdkAlmAbout a year ago on these pages, I shared a secret “illness”—snow shoveling—that has been with me since childhood. Besides the interesting and very funny comments that followed on Adirondack Almanack, personal emails arrived from those similarly afflicted. I did mention that more would come in the future, so here goes. Shoveling and keeping a 1500-foot path open for a decade of winters was the highlight of last year’s piece. That probably can’t be topped, but there is more insanity to report. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Mystery Middens: Red Squirrels In Winter

TOS_squirrelIn the woods behind our house, there’s a pile of cones and gnawed apart bracts – easily two feet deep and twice as wide – built against the trunk of a tall hemlock. We’ve watched over consecutive winters – when the newly discarded bracts stand out against the snowy white backdrop – as the heap continues to expand.

This pile, called a midden, is the work of a single red squirrel. Red squirrels are active year round and generally easy to spot – and even easier to hear as they scold passersby in their high, chattering voice. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Habitat Preserved For Rare Butterflies

9547454135_a755c9e431_oNational Grid has set aside five acres in Queensbury as a conservation easement for the rare Karner blue and frosted elfin butterflies.

The property is expected to support these butterflies by providing habitat for breeding, feeding, sheltering and range expansion. The land will serve as a dedicated butterfly preserve adjacent to an existing electric transmission line right-of-way owned and operated by National Grid, near Upper Sherman Avenue. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, January 13, 2015

DEC To Modify Dam For Spawning Salmon

Imperial DamBig changes are planned for the Imperial Dam on the Saranac River in Plattsburgh.

On Friday, the state Department of Conservation announced that it is taking comments on a plan to modify the dam, which is located a few miles upstream of Lake Champlain. The proposal calls for decreasing the height of the spillway by 8.5 feet and constructing a concrete fish ladder on the left bank, or northern side, of the dam, which the DEC owns. The other side is privately owned. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How Ice Storms Impact Trees

TOS.treesandiceIce storm.

If you live in northern New England, those words can send a chill up your spine. They portend demolition derbies on the roads, power outages and the ominous cracking sound of limbs breaking and trees falling in woods, parks and urban streets.

Snow we’re up for. Ice, not so much. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Environmental Conservation Police Hunting Season Report

ecoNew York State Department of Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) ticketed numerous poachers for violating hunting and firearm laws and regulation during the big game hunting season in DEC Region 5, which includes most of the Adirondack Park.

ECOs charged 152 individuals with a total of 270 total charges. The charges included 91 misdemeanors and 179 violations. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Meadow Vole in Winter

meadow voleNew Years is a time when many people contemplate shedding those extra pounds gained between Thanksgiving and Christmas. For numerous forms of wildlife, late autumn through winter can be a protracted season of weight loss, however, this is the result of shortages of food during these bleak months, rather than any conscious effort to become trim.

For the meadow vole, a weight loss phase of its life begins in mid autumn, causing this common rodent to lose more than a quarter of its body mass. This natural reduction in the intake of food is triggered by a specific decrease in the amount of daylight, known as photoperiodism, and typically occurs regardless of the availability of items to eat. » Continue Reading.



Monday, January 5, 2015

DEC Seeks Input on Threatened Species

Atlantic Sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrhynchus from artwork commissioned by the Fish and Wildlife Service in the 1970'sThe Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is revising its list of Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN), which includes species that are at risk in New York.  The list is now in it’s final draft form and DEC is seeking comments. » Continue Reading.



Sunday, January 4, 2015

Will Cougars Return To The Adirondacks?

Cougar in Montana Photo by BigStockPhoto dot comDarcy Wiltse, a veterinarian, was driving on Route 458 near Meacham Lake one night early last winter when she saw a large animal crossing the road. She’s convinced it was a cougar.

“I saw the whole profile again. I saw the body. I saw the tail,” said Wiltse. “She even hesitated on the other side of the road before she went into the trees.” » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Subnivean Zone: Life Under The Snow

TOS_under_snowEvery animal must develop its own way of dealing with winter. Migrate, hibernate, or insulate; these are common strategies. For a few small mammals, survival depends on the snow itself, and the deeper the better.

The subnivean zone is the area between the surface of the ground and the bottom of the snowpack. The word subnivean comes from the Latin “sub” (under) and “nives” (snow). Mice, voles, and shrews retreat here for protection from cold temperatures, bitter winds, and hungry predators. Food is right at hand: grass, leaves, bark, seeds, and insects are free and unfrozen. Under the snow, these tiny mammals create long tunnel systems complete with air shafts to the surface above. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Amy Ivy On Holiday Gift Plant Care

poinsettiasIf you were lucky enough to receive a gift plant or flower arrangement over the holidays, you may be wondering how to help it last as long as possible.

The most critical factors, and this goes for all houseplants, is to water them properly and be sure the excess water can drain out. Some potting mixes are loose and drain quickly while others are more dense and hold water longer.  It’s essential to look closely and give your plants as much water as they need, when they need it, rather than setting a schedule of watering everything once a week. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Dave Gibson: Christmas Bird Counting

Phyllis Burchett - Audubon Photo AwardsPreparing for the annual Christmas Bird Count is, like the entire holiday season, on the hectic side. The binoculars and spotting scopes have been set aside and need to be found. Packing a good lunch a few hours in advance is a good idea, but rarely accomplished.

My highest hurdle is getting up and out early in the morning to meet my team of counters, whose punctuality and other habits, after nearly thirty years of counting in the dead of winter, are rather well known. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Christmas Tree Farmer’s Year in Review

TOS.ChristmasTreeWalking through a large chain store this past October – at least a week before Halloween – I stumbled upon a display of decorations. Not witches and pumpkins, but trees and bells. There’s no question that retailers are intent on pushing the start of the Christmas season earlier and earlier, but we Christmas tree growers still have them beat; for us, it’s a nearly year-round endeavor.

Spring is one of the busiest times on a Christmas tree farm, yet it sometimes requires an agonizingly long wait before work can get started. It can take weeks of warmer weather to thaw the soil enough to plant the next rotation of trees. » Continue Reading.



Saturday, December 20, 2014

Sixty Hours Without Power

December storm 2014, 27 inchesEssex County Officials have asked NYSEG to request more crews in addition to the 30 trucks already on the job. NYSEG Representatives have stated that they have, and there are 25-30 more crew on their way… and that the New York State Emergency Management Office and the Governor’s Office have been continuously advised of power outages.

–  Jay Supervisor Randy Douglas in an e-mail residents December 11th.

The “Beep-Beep” woke me up. Then again “Beep-Beep.” I knew what that meant. It was the notification mechanism on our smoke detectors designed to send a warning signal indicating no electric power. This did not surprise me since a snowstorm had been predicted. It was still dark this Wednesday morning. I went back to sleep, unconcerned, having weathered many power-outages before. » Continue Reading.


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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Winter Solstice Will Be Marked With Meteors

TOS_WinterSolsticeEvery year, I eagerly await the winter solstice, which this year falls on this Sunday, December 21. My anticipation is driven not from an affection for winter, but a hunger for sunlight. I want the ever-shrinking days of autumn to be over and done and the slow, steady march towards late-evening sunsets to begin. So really it’s not the winter solstice I await, so much as being on the other side of it.

But this December I’ve decided to pay attention and learn more about the day itself. Turns out to have been a good choice, as this year’s solstice proves to be more interesting than most. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Trip To Moody’s For The Perfect Christmas Tree

MoodyFarm_newOur Christmas tree tradition always involves sturdy boots, a saw, braving the cold and most likely a snowball fight that ends with someone crying.

There are many places around the Adirondacks to find the perfect Christmas tree. Every year my family has an open invitation to explore our neighbor’s property, but most of the time we enjoy walking the fields of one of the nearby tree farms. » Continue Reading.



Monday, December 15, 2014

New Report Considers Future Of Lake Trout

Spawning-Lake-troutSince the retreat of the glaciers, lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) have been the top native predator in Adirondack waters. These northern fish require true cold (less than 55°F) and move downward when surface waters warm in late spring and summer. Consequently, they are isolated to the largest and deepest Adirondack lakes – most of them deeper than 30 feet – where they stay in the dark chilly depths all summer and early fall. The species name namaycush is believed to be an Algonquin term for “dweller of the deep.”

This need for very cold, clean, high-oxygen water can bring to light otherwise invisible changes beneath the surface. Water quality in the Adirondack interior, where we don’t have much industry or farming, can be  abstract. You usually can’t see it, touch it or even taste it. But lake trout make the health of our coldest lakes real and tangible. » Continue Reading.



Monday, December 15, 2014

Wildlife Animosity: Crows and Owls

crowsAnimosity is an emotion not solely restricted to humans, as several forms of wildlife occasionally display an outward aversion to specific creatures, even through such an antagonistic attitude seems to have little to no value to their current survival.

Perhaps the best example of such an overt repulsion of one animal for another is the crow’s reaction to seeing an owl at this time of year. Upon detecting one of these round-faced predators, a crow quickly starts producing a squawking caw designed to summon any other crows in the immediate area. It is believed by some naturalists that a crow, upon hearing this alarm sound, will relay the information to others unable to hear the initial call that an owl has been spotted. This is an attempt to assemble as sizeable a mob of birds as possible. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

How Beavers Survive Adirondack Winters

TOS_BeaverOne fall a young beaver, probably a two-year-old kicked out by its parents, built a small lodge in the old mill pond below our house. On cold January days when temperatures were below zero, I looked at the snow-covered lodge and wondered if the beaver was still alive. But when the ice melted in late March, it was swimming around again.

Mortality rates are higher among young, lone beavers than established adults. Winter is especially daunting: no sooner had the mill pond beaver taken up residence, than it had to prepare for months of cold and food scarcity. How did it survive? » Continue Reading.



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