Monday, April 1, 2013

Adirondack Fishing: The Opening of Trout Season

Trout StringerThe fact that the opening day of trout season in New York coincides with April Fool’s Day does not seem to be a coincidence to many people in the Adirondacks. To any rational human, the thought of standing for hours along a partially frozen stream, fending off hypothermia and frostbite only to wait for the slightest tug on a monofilament line epitomizes foolishness. However, for many avid sportsmen, April 1st is just as sacred as the opening of big game season and regardless of how miserable the weather can be, there is a need to get out and “wet-a-line” in a favored fishing spot on this day.

The cold start to spring this year has kept ice along the shores of many streams and brooks, and in some slower moving waterways, there still exists a solid covering of ice for long stretches. Fishing for trout under these harsh conditions is an extreme challenge, yet experienced anglers are often able to snag enough brookies or browns to make a meal. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Easter Bunny: Cottontail Rabbit or Varying Hare?

Chocolate Easter BunnyThe cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus) is slightly smaller in overall size and has smaller hind legs and feet then the varying hare, also known as the snowshoe rabbit (Lepus americanus).

Even though both of these lagomorphs can travel a fair distance with a single hop, the cottontail’s running style is slightly choppier and less graceful when compared to the smoother and more powerful bounding of the varying hare when it needs to move fast.

Also, the cottontail has a pronounced white, rounded tail which contrasts with its gray coat of fur, and which helped earn this creature its common name. Because the tail of the snowshoe is the same color as that of its body, and is held closer to its back, this small, rear appendage is difficult to notice. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cabin Life: A First Syrup Season

First DripI love my dog Pico.  But there are times when he can be extremely annoying.  Like right now, he’s licking my elbow and won’t stop.  I lifted my arm up off the table but he just jumped up on me to keep on licking.  I don’t know why he is doing this or what I could have possibly gotten on my elbow to make him want to lick it so bad.  He’s just a little weird sometimes.

I noticed another oddity out here this week.  I tapped a few maple trees so I could make a little sap this year.  Last year, I was all primed to do the work, but then maple season came and went in a week in February, and I was caught off guard and left with no syrup.

This year is a test run.  I bought some taps and used a few old milk jugs as buckets.  Trying to do it on the quick and cheap, I’m really only expecting a couple servings of syrup.  I don’t have the equipment or the time right now to handle a big production, but now that I know what I’m getting into, I can make a bunch of syrup next spring. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Outside Story: Pasture Pines

weevilThe eastern white pine is the tallest tree in this part of North America, with the biggest specimens getting up near 200 feet. They can live for 250 years or more. A truly big one is jaw-droppingly impressive.

Unfortunately, many never reach their full potential. Dubbed pasture pines, cabbage pines, or wolf trees, these squat multi-stemmed trees look like shrubs on steroids. Not for them the soaring magnificence of a robust, healthy pine. I’ve got plenty of them in the woods in back of my house. When I look at them, I just sigh.  You can blame it all on a native insect: the white pine weevil, Pissodes strobi. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bicknell’s Thrush and the Endangered Species Act

Photo by T.B. Ryder, USFWS.This month the Center for Biological Diversity notified the US Fish & Wildlife Service of its intent to sue for protection for the Bicknell’s thrush (Catharus bicknelli) under the federal Endangered Species Act. The Bicknell’s thrush uses the high elevation forests of the northeast as its breeding habitat.

I had a chance to talk with Mollie Matteson, long-time environmental advocate in the West and Vermont, about her work for Center for Biological Diversity on the future of the Bicknell’s thrush and the Endangered Species Act.

Bauer: What is the current state of Bicknell’s thrush in the northeast US? » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Adirondack Wildlife: The Mink

768px-Mink_-_Lower_Saranac_LakeThe persistent cold weather pattern that has prevented regular thaws from occurring this March has kept a covering of ice on most Adirondack waterways, including the edges of many streams and rivers. Returning waterfowl, like the black duck and mallard, are now forced to concentrate their activities to those scattered stretches of water where the current keeps ice from forming.

It is around these limited settings that a sleek and resourceful member of the weasel family lurks in an attempt to ambush one of these meaty game birds. While it is possible during the warmer months of the year to notice this shoreline demon prowling the boundary of any aquatic environment, the open waters that attract wild ducks are now a prime hunting haunt of the mink. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Maple Sugaring: Do New Tapping Strategies Hurt Trees?

sugaringOur sugarhouse is within walking distance of an elementary school, so we’ve given tapping demonstrations to hundreds of school kids over the years. At the part where someone drills a hole in the tree and it sort of bleeds, the next question is invariably: “Does tapping hurt the tree?”

The stock answer is no, as long as you don’t overdo it: use the smaller “health” spouts, follow conservative tapping guidelines, give the tree a year off if it looks stressed. As proof that sugaring is sustainable, we point to some of the trees in our sugarbush that have been tapped for close to a hundred years and are better off for it. Better off because we thin out the trees around them, giving the chosen trees extra light, water, and nutrients.

Their increased vigor, when compared to the maples in unmanaged sections of the forest, is plain to see.  But the sugarmaking being practiced today in many commercial bushes – including our own – is not the same sugarmaking that was practiced even 10 years ago. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Going Solo: Ferris Lake Wild Forest’s Goldmine Creek

18March2013GoldmineIndigoJust up the road from Powley Place is a tree which is occasionally blazed with a ribbon. This is the start of the Goldmine Trail in the 147,000-acre Ferris Lake Wild Forest. The unmarked trail starts wide and broad and then narrows. The trail squeezes among the spruce, which scratch at my thighs and try to tear the backpack from my back. (Is this the price of admission?) Finally, after a thrash up the trail, I reach the vicinity of the Goldmine Falls, and set up my tent.

I’m camped near Goldmine Creek. I checked the high water mark on the rocks and shore. What if something bursts upstream? This stream is draining such a wide area. It drains Morehouse Lake, and the Coon Vly, and half a dozen little wetlands spread out like little beads on a silken necklace of streams in the aerial photo I’ve brought along. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Peter Bauer: A Quick Update on Climate Change

WhatsAtStake-Climate-ActionWith a late spring snowfall, at least by the standards of the past few years, and with the nation focused on the showdown over President Obama’s looming decision on whether to greenlight the Keystone XL pipeline, this seems like a good time for a climate change update.

For starters here’s a cool graphic that shows the amount of carbon dioxide that has been released into the atmosphere to date, shows annual releases, and amounts that could be released that are currently stored in existing fossil fuel reserves. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Adirondack Family Activities: NYS Maple Weekends

Sap-DripThere are a variety of places that a person can visit to see maple sap collected, especially this weekend (March 23-24) as maple producers join together for the second of two New York State Maple Producers Association Maple Weekends.

According to New York State Maple Producers Association President Dwayne Hill, the organization has grown to 575 members and helps to educate the public about the production of maple products. Hill stresses the importance of increasing the number of maple producers in New York State. He sees the world dependence on maple products rising, which he believes is partially due to maple being a natural sweetener. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Waiting For Spring: No Robins Yet!

American Robin by Wikimedia user MdfThe date of the first day of spring varies greatly, as the starting point of this anticipated time of the year depends upon how this season is defined. For those that rely on the calendar, spring begins on Wednesday, as this is when our tilted planet is at a particular position in its orbit around the sun.

For individuals more attuned to meteorology and climatology, spring officially starts on March 1st, as this is when a change in weather patterns traditionally commences. For many back-yard naturalists and people interested in something more noticeable, the sighting of a robin marks the onset of spring. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Outside Story: Golden-Crowned Kinglets

KingletThe only regal thing about the golden-crowned kinglet is the crest of yellow-orange feathers atop its head. Everything else about this speck of a songbird’s appearance and behavior would make any proper monarch frown. It’s half the size of a black-capped chickadee yet twice as energetic: a gregarious and kinetic bird wrapped in unassuming olive-gray plumage. Yet this tiny creature faces head-on winters that animals fifteen thousand times its size (we’re looking at you, black bears) hide from.

Winter survival for animals in the Northeast often involves setting their metabolisms to “simmer” and waiting out the coldest months in a state of hibernation (in the case of many mammals) or some equivalent torpor (most reptiles, insects, amphibians). In the most dramatic cases (wood frogs, woolly-bear caterpillars), the animals simply freeze solid and thaw in spring. Songbirds, given the luxury of flight, often simply flee.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What Ailed Moose Shot by DEC Still A Mystery

Ausable-River-Moose-300x213An examination of a bull moose shot by state officials in the Ausable River last September found no diseases or ailments to explain its strange behavior, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

“We’re not sure what was wrong with it, but something was,” DEC spokesman David Winchell told the Adirondack Almanack. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Adirondack Bugs: Cluster Flies

cluster-flies-1Bright sunny weather with little wind in March, such as the type that our region experienced this past weekend, not only triggers the flow of sap in maple trees and causes a case of spring fever in every normal human, but it also prematurely awakens several creatures that pass the winter in a deep state of dormancy.

Among those forms of animal life impacted by bouts of intense sun and temperatures above freezing during the latter part of winter is the cluster fly. After the sun starts to bake the south side of homes, barns and sheds, this insect rouses from its prolonged period of torpor and exits its winter retreat in the company of dozens to hundreds of its kin. As the late afternoon temperatures cool, this bug is forced to return to some hidden nook or cranny and wait until the next spell of spring weather awakens it again. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Outside Story: Sapstreak Disease in the Sugarbush

diseaseOn a walk through a still, snowy sugarbush, the peacefulness can be overwhelming; everything looks to be in good order. But all may not be as perfect as it seems.

In any sugarbush, there is a good chance that a fungal intruder has gained entry and is wintering unseen beneath the rich, dark bark of an unlucky sugar maple. If this invader is sapstreak disease, then death is likely to soon claim a valuable sap producer. » Continue Reading.


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