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.



Wednesday, December 3, 2014

How Do Toads Avoid Croaking in Winter?

TOS_ToadOne warm fall day, while standing outside a lodge I manage, I noticed movement inside one of the window wells around the basement. Realizing that something noteworthy was about to happen, I ran inside to alert our guests.

Together we all crouched to watch the methodical shaking of the earth below us. Slowly the ground moved a little to the left, then to the right, then there was a pause, then left again, right again. Eventually something reached the surface. I reached my hand out and gently touched the rough, bumpy, and very well camouflaged back of an American toad. It continued to emerge, fully exposing its body. The guests and I started pondering all sorts of questions about toads and their habits, but the biggest question of all was: where do toads go in the winter? » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

1816: An Adirondack Year Without Summer

Caldera_Mt_Tambora_Sumbawa_IndonesiaLast week’s cold snap, news reports about the Polar Vortex, and a November snowfall of historic proportions in Buffalo and Watertown has some folks teasing that they could use a little global warming about now. Adding to the concern is a recent book by John L. Casey, former space shuttle engineer and NASA consultant. Casey claims that it is solar activity, namely sunspot eruptions – and not carbon emissions – that trigger climate changes here on earth. The recent diminished solar activity, he claims, will cause the earth to rapidity grow colder. Casey’s book Dark Winter predicts the worst of the cooling cycle will hit in the late 2020s and a shortened growing season will trigger food riots around the world. His thesis is sure to trigger heated responses (sorry, couldn’t resist) from global climatologists around the world, many of which have been measuring the loss of ice at the poles and warming global temperatures.

All of this has reminded me of a time two hundred years ago when the Adirondacks were, at least for a while, unusually cold. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Spruce Grouse: Help For A Rare Bird

Adult GrouseOnce abundant in the Adirondacks, the spruce grouse has struggled for much of the past century, but now scientists are trying to bolster the dwindling population by importing birds from out of state.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation released three spruce grouse last year and thirty this year, according to Angelena Ross, a biologist with the department.

The three birds released last year were adult females from Ontario. Only one survived the winter, and it was killed by a hawk in the spring.

In August, DEC released twelve adults and eighteen juveniles captured in Maine at three sites in the Adirondacks— two on private land, one in the Forest Preserve— near Tupper Lake and Paul Smiths. » Continue Reading.



Monday, November 17, 2014

Adirondack Wildlife: Wayfaring Porcupines

Porcupine by Mary Harrsch (Wikicommons)Big game hunters and auto body repair shops know well that early to mid November is the time in the Adirondacks when deer are on the move; however the white-tail is not the only creature that breeds during late autumn.

The porcupine also develops its urge to reproduce in the period between Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving. As is the case with deer, older male porcupines are currently on the move in their attempt to locate as many females nearing their estrous period as possible over these next several weeks.

Unlike the beaver and red and gray fox which establish a pair bond with only one individual, the porcupine, like most mammals attempts to breed with as many members of the opposite sex as time and opportunity allow. As she becomes receptive, a female engages in a courtship ritual with any older and larger male that happens to encounter her. If the male were to depart shortly after breeding, she may elect to mate again if another suitor were to arrive while her hormones still influenced her behavior. This is why a male typically remains in the immediate area after breeding so as to attack and fend off any male attracted to the smell of her scent. This helps ensure that only his genetic material goes into the fertilization of her egg, perpetuating his blood line. After the female loses her desire to breed, the male quickly abandons her and continues his travels to search for additional females in need of a mating partner. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, November 13, 2014

DEC Seeks Killer of Newcomb Moose Calf

MooseThe state Department of Environmental Conservation is trying to figure out who shot and killed a young moose in Newcomb recently.

The DEC received the report of the dead moose on Tahawus Road in Newcomb on Saturday, November 1, from a caretaker at the Santanoni Club, a hunting, fishing and recreation club located nearby.

A necropsy later found that the animal was “killed by a shotgun slug or muzzle-loading bullet fired through its chest,” DEC spokesman Dave Winchell told Adirondack Almanack.

The necropsy didn’t find any evidence that it was hit by a car or had other serious wounds, Winchell said.

Winchell said the female moose was 244 pounds. Its size indicates it was born this past spring.

Hunting moose is not legal in New York State. Killing a moose is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a $2,000 fine and a year in jail. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Old Trees: Methuselah In Your Backyard

TOS_OldTreeThere’s something in us that can’t help but be impressed by an old tree. Perhaps we’re simply in awe of something that has outlived generations of humans and will outlive us.

We acknowledge this when we compare the giant sequoia groves to a cathedral. When we compile state lists of big old trees. When we give names like Methuselah to the longest-lived specimens.

Most trees are not destined to live long lives. Ninety percent of the trees in a forest will never become very big, or very old. Some will lose the race for sunlight and food. Others will succumb to insects, wind, fire, or logging. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What’s At Your Bird Feeder? Scientists Want to Know

btn-PFW-verticalThe number one reason to have a bird feeder near your home, of course, is to enjoy observing the birds that come and go and their behavior. And when northern winters are at their most severe, you may also be helping some birds survive.

But there is another potential and broader benefit, for both birds and perhaps your own satisfaction, that can arise from feeding birds: letting scientists know what you are seeing. Even common birds such as chickadees and juncos carry important messages about the health of bird populations and trends among them. The problem, of course, is that ornithologists can’t be in very many places at any given time. But bird enthusiasts can be, and they can function as “citizen scientists.” » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Adirondack Insects: The Fall Cankerworm

Alsophila pometaria US Forest Service PhotoFrom the onset of November, periods of mild weather become fewer and further between; however, there are always occasions when hats and coats can be left in the closet, and the fire in the woodstove can be allowed to die out for a day or two.

It is during such balmy spells when several species of hardy moths take to the air and can be seen after dusk fluttering around a porch light or a window next to a lamp. These small, drab gray insects are all closely related, belonging to the Geometridae family of animals, and are best typified in the Adirondacks by the fall cankerworm (Alsophila pometaria). » Continue Reading.



Monday, November 3, 2014

DEC Seeks Public’s Help In Finding Moose

Young_bull_moose(1)The state Department of Environmental Conservation is asking for the public’s help in locating moose in the Adirondacks, so they can put GPS collars on the animals for research purposes.

The DEC is currently in the early stages of a moose population study that is being undertaken with SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Cornell University, and Wildlife Conservation Society in Saranac Lake. As part of the study, state wildlife biologists plan to put GPS collars on four female moose. » Continue Reading.



Monday, October 27, 2014

Louse Flies: Avian Blood-Suckers

TOS_flatfliesWhen you find a bird feather in the woods and stoop to pick it up, does your mom’s voice echo in your brain? Can you hear her say, birds have lice, don’t pick that up? Mom was mostly right. Birds can have lice (though you won’t catch lice from a bird). But what Mom probably didn’t know is that birds have something far creepier lurking in their feathers. It’s six legged, leathery, and flat. And it sucks blood.

The good news? It does not want to suck your blood.

Avian hippoboscid flies – also called flat flies and louse flies – survive on bird blood. Estimates vary for the number of different species in our region, but there are likely more than ten, fewer than twenty. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, October 23, 2014

Woolly Bears: Winter Forecast Flops?

woolybearAutumn is coming to a close. The brilliant fall foliage is past peak, if not already layered in the compost bin. The last geese are honking their way toward winter homes. Predictions are proffered (sometimes cheerfully, mostly not) for how cold and snowy this year’s winter will be.

Sources for seasonal predictions vary. The Farmers’ Almanac and traditional old-wives-tales are often cited. How soon those geese head south, for example, is supposed to indicate how difficult winter will be. We trust these bits of folklore because they often have a scientific basis and seem to work. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Learning About Bones In Newcomb

skeleton_anatomy__deer_by_omgshira-d3gfz9jHalloween is ripe for haunting, ghosts and ghouls. My son is weighing his options between being a zombie groom or part of a ghostly orchestra for his art club’s Haunted High School in Saranac Lake this Friday. He knows that I am not the person to ask whether a fake severed arm looks real or if he should go with a gaping head wound.

I am not the family thrill seeker when it comes Halloween. If I were to look at bones I’d rather it be part of Mark Lawler’s program “Bones I Have Known” at Newcomb’s Adirondack Interpretive Center (AIC). An instructor in anthropology, geology and environmental science, Lawler is leading an interactive program on Oct 25 from 1-2 pm to show how bones, scat and tracks of animals can be used for identification as well as to demonstrate survival. » Continue Reading.



Monday, October 20, 2014

Rabies: A Deadly Adirondack Virus

9__ImageFile__nsRajrIkLRjtGkMqkbgskThe recent barrage of publicity regarding ebola has focused everyone’s attention on this particularly deadly virus, however, the relatively isolated nature of the Adirondacks makes our region a most unlikely location for an appearance of such a troublesome disease. In our area there are other viruses that are a much greater threat to the health of the general public than ebola.

At this time of year rabies must be given a top priority, as autumn is the time many infected animals are on the move, and for anyone exposed to this virus who fails to get medical attention the outcome is almost always fatal. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Canada Geese: Autumn Immigrants

CanadaGoose3542468111TonyHisgettWhat can cruise at an altitude of 29,000 feet, is a beloved icon of the great outdoors, and yet can be the bane of lawn lovers? It’s the honking harbinger of advancing autumn and coming cold (and sometimes, bad alliteration), the Canada goose.

The familiar autumn voices of Canada geese overhead can at once evoke the melancholy of a passing summer and the anticipation of a bracing new season of color and activity. Kids return to school, hunters take to the woods, and farmers work past dusk and into darkness, all to the cacophonous cries and the heartbeat of wings of migrating geese. » Continue Reading.



Monday, October 13, 2014

Backyard Compost: A Hot Mess

TOS_compostAt the New Hampshire University Organic Dairy Research Farm in Lee, even the heat for the wash water is organic and locally-sourced.

The heat comes from the farm’s composting facility, a building that looks like an eight-bay garage but actually contains cutting-edge composting technology, as well as a whole lot of rotting stuff.

Of course, compost heat doesn’t require sophisticated technology or the attention to detail that doctoral students provide to farm chores. However, managing heat generation is tricky. Even academics and professional composters can’t always get everything in the right balance for perfect decomposition. » Continue Reading.



Page 1 of 5112345...102030...Last »