My friend Gordon Russell sent me a letter recently describing a wildlife encounter. He had been following deer tracks along a stone wall when a movement caught his attention. “Almost before its image could travel to my brain,” he wrote, “the white head of a weasel vanished in between the stones.” The animal popped up again, disappeared, and then revealed itself a third time, next to where Gordon was standing.
Gordon looked at the weasel. The weasel looked at Gordon. Gordon squeaked. And then: “my day exploded.” » Continue Reading.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) wildlife biologists are seeking the public’s help to learn about new black bear dens throughout New York. As part of DEC’s ongoing monitoring of black bears in New York, wildlife biologists routinely check on black bears during the winter den season. The bears may be fitted with a radio collar to help biologists track the bears’ activities throughout the rest of the year and to relocate dens in subsequent years for monitoring cub production, condition, and survival.
Bears may den in a rock crevice, tree cavity, or under heavy brush or fallen tree. Since female bears generally give birth sometime in January or early February, a high-pitched squeal from the cubs may be audible if you are near a den. If anyone finds a bear den, DEC strongly urges the public to not approach or disturb the den, but simply to note the location and move away from the den site.
Senescence is the decline in vigor that happens to all creatures great and diminutive as they close in on the life expectancy of their species. People my age suddenly find they require reading glasses to see the phone book. Though I suppose by definition anyone still using a phone book is old enough to need glasses, right?
The onset of this process varies — you probably know of families whose members frequently retain good health into their 90s, and other families where that is not the case. Of course environment is important. Eating and sleeping well, cultivating gratitude, and laughing a lot will help keep us healthier longer. But there comes a point at which even the best-preserved specimen can’t avoid the end of life.
Trees also go through senescence at different rates. Each species has an approximate lifespan after which no amount of TLC can keep them alive. One of the more popular white-barked birches for landscape planting is the native gray birch. You may love your birch clump, but those trees are old at thirty years, ancient at forty—by the time they double over and kiss the ground in heavy snow or an ice storm, they may be on their way out anyway. » Continue Reading.
The Lake Champlain Basin Program is hosting “Lake Sturgeon Return!” on Thursday, March 3, 2016 at the LCBP office in Grand Isle.
The LCBP will host guest speaker Chet MacKenzie, Vermont Fish and Wildlife Fisheries Program Manager. MacKenzie will share the life cycle of the sturgeon, photos and images of lake sturgeon, and preliminary results of Vermont’s sturgeon tagging program.
The lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens), is one of about 25 species of sturgeon, an ancient bottom feeder with a partly cartilaginous skeleton. Lake sturgeons can grow to more than seven feet long and weigh over 240 pounds. Lake sturgeon are found in areas that were linked by the large lakes that formed as the glaciers retreated from North America at the end of the last ice age, including the Mississippi River drainage, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River and Detroit Rivers, The Hudson River and Lake Champlain. » Continue Reading.
Context is critical, right? Years ago I took a second job loading trucks at night, and a few guys on the dock had what you might call “white-nose syndrome.” All I had was coffee, so they could work faster than I, though they spent a lot more time in the rest room. I hope they eventually recovered.
Addiction is a serious and potentially life-threatening matter, but from a bat’s perspective, white-nose syndrome is something even more devastating. This disease, which is nearly always fatal, has killed 80% of the bats in the Northeastern U.S. in less than a decade. Initially found in central New York in 2007, white-nose syndrome now affects bats in 25 states and 5 Canadian provinces. Since it was first identified, it has felled more than 7 million bats, leaving once-packed hibernation sites, or hibernacula, empty, and pushing some species to the edge of extinction. » Continue Reading.
The bare ground of the trail wound through dead leaves and patchy snow. At a short overhang in the trail, I noticed spiky threads of ice growing up from the soil in crunchy clusters. A careless boot revealed how fragile these formations are; the fine ice threads crumbled readily. This was needle ice, a common sight in the woods this winter.
Curious about the phenomenon, I got in touch with Dr. James R. Carter, a professor emeritus from Illinois State University. Dr. Carter has spent the last ten year observing these ice formations. His photographs and descriptions of different examples of needle ice are available here.
Carter explained that while needle ice somewhat resembles frost, it is a completely different phenomenon. Frost forms when water vapor is deposited onto a growing ice crystal; the water molecules move directly from the gas phase to the solid phase without ever becoming a liquid. Needle ice, on the other hand, forms from liquid water when a process called ice segregation occurs in the soil. » Continue Reading.
The next two Farm Talk presentations – on organic vegetable farming and woodlot management – will be taking place on March 11, 2016.
Rand Fosdick, Farm Manager for Landon Hill Estate Farm, will present “Starting A Small Certified Organic Farm.” Fosdick will be followed by John O’Donnell, Certified Forester for Benchmark Forest & Land Management, who will present “Woodlot Management: It’s In Your Roots”. » Continue Reading.
The American shad is a native fish of East Coast waters like the St. Lawrence and Hudson Rivers, and yet the largest shad population in the world is in the Columbia River on the West Coast, an east-to-west migration of three thousand miles. Humpback whales migrate the same distance in water each year, and caribou do so on land, but the shad of the late 1800s made the trip in style: they took the train. Accompanying them was a man who spent a decade as the leading fish culturist in the North Country.
Livingston Stone was born in 1836 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard with honors in 1857. He attended theological school and became a church pastor, but ongoing health issues resulted in an unusual prescription: spend as much time as possible in the outdoors.
A career change was in order, and in the late 1860s, Stone pursued his interest in all things fish. With the intelligence of a Harvard grad and a chess expert, he proved far more capable than most men in his field. In 1871, he helped found the American Fish Culturists Association (which later became the American Fisheries Society), commissioned by the government to restore America’s depleted rivers. » Continue Reading.
One of the ways Mother Nature keeps the forests healthy and strong is by “letting” trees with poor structure split during high wind or ice load events. Such trees become decayed and die young. Those with better genetics (or better luck) are the trees that reach maturity. This selection process is great for woodlands, but it doesn’t work quite the same way for trees growing in yards, streets and parks.
Trees often develop imperfections. The vast majority of these are benign, but some can be dangerous. To avoid breakage of large limbs and associated flying lawsuits and debris, trees with obvious defects are often removed. But since many problems are a result of human activities, it hardly seems fair to cut down a mature shade tree if there’s an alternative. » Continue Reading.
On cold winter days, feeding sticks of firewood into my woodstove, I sometimes pause, my eye caught by lichens. Splotchy circles, lacy tendrils. Soft gray, muted gray-green, black. They mottle the bark. When I look out the window next to my desk, I see splashes of lichen on the roof of my workshop, and on the stone walls across the road.
Lichens are virtually everywhere. They live in some of the harshest environments on our planet, from Antarctica to the high Arctic, deserts and high peaks, in forests tropical and temperate. They can grow not only on rock, but in it, between grains and crystals. According to Steve Selva, a lichenologist and professor emeritus at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, there’s even a type that grows on barnacles. Selva has spent four decades studying lichens. He created and still contributes to and maintains the school’s extensive lichen collection. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has issued their annual report on peregrine falcon nest monitoring in the Eastern Adirondacks and Lake Champlain region.
DEC wildlife staff and volunteers monitored 26 peregrine falcon nesting during the 2015 breeding season, according to the report.
They confirmed 16 of the 26 sites were occupied by territorial pairs of falcons and all but one of those pairs actively undertook nesting. Of the 15 confirmed active nesting pairs, nine successfully produced a total of 18 chicks. This equates to 1.2 young/breeding pair and 2 young/successful pair – an average level of production for this region. 2015 was slightly more productive then the last few breeding seasons. » Continue Reading.
The third installment of Cabin Fever Sundays lecture series on February 28th examines beaver populations in the Adirondacks, in history and today.
In “Living with Beavers” John Warren and Charlotte Demers will discuss the historic and contemporary implications of beaver trapping, their importance to the fur trade, contemporary issues with the damming of rivers, and more. » Continue Reading.
The Boke of St. Albans, a 15th century sportsman’s handbook, decreed that only a nobleman could hunt with a falcon, but a mere yeoman might settle for a goshawk. These days it is the very wildness and willfulness of the goshawk that bestows a badge of courage on those who would train one.
“In the talons there was death,” wrote T. H. White, who chronicled his naive attempt to “man” one of these “murderous” raptors in The Goshawk. “He would slay a rabbit in his grip by merely crushing its skull.” » Continue Reading.
Researchers are still puzzling over the age-old question, “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood,” but I may have an answer. Re-brand the woodchuck.
Like the words skunk and moose, woodchuck (wojak) is a Native American term, Algonquin in this case. I don’t know its literal translation, but I suspect it means “fat fur-ball that can inhale your garden faster than you can say Punxsutawney Phil,” or something pretty close to that. » Continue Reading.
In the photo, the mountain lion lies on its side on the shoulder of a Connecticut parkway. Tail lights shine in the distance. A Connecticut state trooper snapped the photo after a motorist had struck and killed the animal on a June night in 2011.
Wildlife biologists quickly confirmed this mountain lion was the one photographed days before in front of an elementary school in Greenwich, Connecticut, about 40 miles west. (School was cancelled.) Within months, DNA evidence revealed that this animal was the same one seen in the backyard of a retired game warden in Lake George the previous December, and tracked in Wisconsin and Minnesota in 2009 and 2010.
DNA testing also showed that the mountain lion came from the Black Hills of South Dakota, the nation’s eastern-most confirmed breeding population. This young male had walked an astonishing 1,500 miles. » Continue Reading.
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