Thursday, June 2, 2011

Astronomy: The June Night Sky With The Naked Eye

Here are some naked eye objects for the month of June. All of these objects, although small, should be visible without the help of binoculars or a telescope, so long as you have clear dark skies.

Light pollution is a killer for seeing these objects with your naked eye. To find out how dark your location is, use the Google Map Overlay of light pollution. If you are in a blue, gray or black area then you should have dark enough skies. You may still be able to see some of these objects in a green location. If you aren’t in a dark sky location you may still be able to see these objects with a pair of binoculars or telescope.

You can find help locating the night sky objects listed below by using one of the free sky charts at [pdf – if you get an error, hit reload]. The map shows what is in the sky in June at 11 pm (for early June; 10 pm for late June).

If you are not familiar with what you see in the night sky, this is a great opportunity to step outside, look up, and begin learning the constellations. The sky is beautiful and filled with many treasures just waiting for you to discover them. Once you have looked for these objects go through the list again if you have a pair of binoculars handy, the views get better!

Messier Object 7 (M7) is an open star cluster near the stinger of Scorpius is a small, hazy patch known since antiquity. Visible enough that the Greek astronomer Ptolemy cataloged it. M6 an open star cluster is nearby to the north of M7 and is a little smaller and fainter. M6 is also known as the Butterfly Cluster.

M8 is an open star cluster and nebula complex, also known as the Lagoon Nebula. Visible to the naked eye as a small hazy patch. Bright enough that it is visible even in suburbia. It may look small with the naked eye, but it is actually quite large nearly two moon diameters across.
Not sure if any of the other objects are visible to the naked eye, although Sagittarius is a beautiful sight as it lays in the Milky Way.

The Great Rift is a non-luminous dust cloud that can be seen splitting the Milky Way in two separate streams. It stretches from Aquila to the constellation Cygnus although it is more prominent in the constellation Aquila.

Messier Object 13 (known as M13) is a globular cluster. It will have a small hazy glow to it.

Saturn is in Virgo, it will be the orange “star” you see directly next to the star Porrima. They are very close at the moment and if you are looking in Virgo you can’t miss it’s orange glow. Don’t get Saturn confused with the star Arcturus in the constellation Boötes (pronounced boh-‘oh-tees).

North America Nebula (NGC7000) – The unaided eye sees only a wedge-shaped star-cloud which may be quite dim, or not visible at all. In dark skies it should pop out a bit. Located near the star Deneb. M39 an open cluster patch of stars northeast of the star Deneb. The Northern Coalsack spans across the sky between the stars Deneb, Sadir, and Gienah in the northeastern portion of Cygnus. If you don’t know which stars of Sadir and Gienah just find Deneb with the map and look to the east northeast.

Ursa Major
Mizar and Alcor is a double star in the handle of the Big Dipper. Was once used as a test of good eyesight before glasses. Mizar resolves into a beautiful blue-white and greenish white binary (double star system). They are labeled on the map I linked to above.

Photo: The North America Nebula in a Wikipedia photo that reveals how its appearance can change dramatically using different combinations of visible and infrared observations by telescope.

Michael Rector is an amateur astronomer with his own blog, Adirondack Astronomy.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Almanack’s New Astronomy Contributor

Please join me in welcoming our newest contributor to the Adirondack Almanack, amateur astronomer Michael Rector. Like many folks, I’m terrible at discerning the objects in the night sky so I asked Michael to help teach us what to look for, and how to identify what we see in the heavens above. He writes about astronomy on his own blog Adirondack Astronomy and will be contributing here occasionally about all things astronomy.

Michael told me “The field of astronomy is extremely interesting, and one great thing is you don’t need to understand physics or the highly detailed science behind astronomy to enjoy the night sky with your naked eye, binoculars or with a telescope.” Although he now lives in Clinton County, Micheal has fond memories of spending time at Great Sacandaga and West Canada Lake where the skies are dark and the Milky Way is bright.

Michael is interested in getting together with other star-gazers around the region. If you are interested in getting together for an occasional star party feel free to contact him at

Michael Rector joins the Almanack‘s other regular natural history contributors Tom Kalinowski and Corrina Parnapy, and occasional contributor Larry Master.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Commentary: ORDA Should Run Belleayre

Belleyare Mountain Ski Center, located in the Catskills and currently operated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), could instead be managed by the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA), according to officials at ORDA. The idea comes from Governor Cuomo’s Commission on Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE), and could be implemented as early as next winter. If implemented, the proposal stands to benefit skiers and the economies of the Catskills and Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

High Peaks Happy Hour: Shepard’s Cove Lake George

Look what we’ve been missing since our twenties! At some point during that decade we decided to avoid Lake George Village in the summer season. Too much traffic, too crowded, too expensive, what – pay for parking! When we sat at the lakeside bar at Shepard’s Cove on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, Pam took in the breeze from the open doors and windows, cast her glance out on the lake, listened to solo act Rich Ortiz playing his acoustic music and felt she had been cheating herself all those years.
Our bartender, Jonny, flattered us by insisting on seeing our ID’s. We knew immediately that he was going to be fun. We informed him of our purpose in visiting on that day, and after he and the other bartender finished ribbing us about having to “work” on Memorial Day weekend, we ordered our drinks and took in the interior scenery.

We settled in immediately, relaxed and feeling for the first time on this quest like tourists on vacation. Shepard’s Cove, light and airy, has a distinct Caribbean beach house feel. Whitewashed pine walls trimmed in blue add a cool feel as a steady breeze finds its way through a wide opening to the spacious upper deck overlooking the lake. Another equally large deck resides on the lower level as well, with marina for those arriving by boat. Little thought seems to have gone into the decor, a confusing combination of a series of framed black-and-white celebrity photos and beer advertising giveaways; the ladies’ room pepto pink. A scattering of both high and low tables provide seating in addition to the wraparound bar, which seats approximately 25 people. A modest stage is located inside to accommodate the mostly local bands who contribute to the Lake George nightlife; an area on the deck for acoustic performers on a lazy afternoon.

Jonny answered our technical questions when time permitted. Reminiscent of a young bartender named Brian, whom Pam groomed during her former days as a regular at the Garrison, Pam plied Jonny for some of his favorite drink recipes. Her relationship with Brian had eventually culminated in a “drink of the day” game between them, and Jonny took the bait. Here are a few delicious concoctions he shared with us:

Jonny’s Raspberry
Raspberry vodka
Sour apple liqueur
fresh lemon juice
fresh lime juice
cranberry juice
1 pkt sugar
shaken over ice

Purple Rain
Grape vodka
Blue curacao
cranberry juice

We indulged in Jonny’s Purple Rain with a friendly couple from downstate celebrating a birthday – always a good excuse for a shot (if you need an excuse). The drink prices were in the average range for Lake George – around $5.00 for a beer or simple mixed drink. Kim tried a beer (of course she did!) new to her – a Magic Hat Wacko Summer Seasonal. Malty, slightly sweet, with a mild hop flavor and a gorgeous soft watermelon color, it was light and quenching and complemented Jonny’s Raspberry perfectly. Pam instructed Jonny on the proper proportions to recreate the Grape Crush from the Barking Spider.

We did not have the opportunity to sample the food, but a glance at the menu divulged an assortment of soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers and appetizers in the $6 to $10 range. Entrees include a variety of steaks, seafood, ribs and pasta ranging from $13 to $22.

We are primarily “Happy Hour” patrons and found Shepard’s Cove a perfect place to have lunch or spend an afternoon with family or friends. Our guess is that the patrons of the night are of a more youthful and energetic demographic, attesting to the versatility of Shepard’s Cove. We look forward to our rediscovery of Lake George.

Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Nora Flaherty Debuts as Host of All Before 5

For listeners to NorthCountry Public Radio, today marks the return of the afternoon news broadcast, All Before Five, as well as the debut of its latest host, Nora Flaherty. All Before Five (which airs at 4:45 pm) has been off the air since the show’s last host Jonathan Brown moved on; previously the show was hosted by Gregory Warner.

According to her NCPR bio, Flaherty recently moved to the north country from downstate, where she has been a producer and host at Fordham University’s public radio station WFUV since 2005. She started her career in broadcasting while studying at the University of Michigan. For a radio personality, Flaherty has a very familiar face. You’d almost swear you’ve seen it somewhere before. . .

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Philosophy at SUNY ESF’s Northern Forest Institute

This week I happily begin work as a public environmental philosopher at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s Northern Forest Institute. Naturally I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how I can be of service to the Adirondack community in this position, so I thought this might be a good forum to explain a little bit about what it means to do philosophy followed by what we’re actually planning to do.

On thinking for a purpose
I see philosophy as an integrated practice of right-thinking and right-doing that has led to my decision to work as a philosopher in the Adirondacks. Years ago I became enlivened by an ecstatic pursuit of Philo Sophia and in the process, I became urgently aware that the subtext of my studies drew me towards philosophy as a lived intention that requires its practitioners to push to the outer edge where thinking becomes action and ideas have impact. » Continue Reading.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Nesting Black-Capped Chickadee

June is the peak of the nesting season in the Adirondacks, and among the many birds currently involved in the process of producing offspring is the black-capped chickadee. Known to everyone that maintains a feeder in winter, this friendly and perky songster enters into its breeding season in mid spring as nesting territories gradually become established, and the winter flock dissolves. As a general rule, the dominant male and female in the flock pair up and lay claim to the most favorable area within the immediate surroundings.

These birds tend to be the oldest members of the flock and likely paired with each other during the previous year. The next ranking male and female in the flock’s well established hierarchy are also likely to form a mating bond and take control of much of the remaining area used by the flock for their winter territory. Any remaining pairs of birds that have survived the winter may either attempt to establish a breeding territory in whatever unoccupied parcels of forest remain in the immediate vicinity, or they may relocate to other areas that were avoided in winter because of limited food resources in these places.

With the approach of the nesting season, chickadees begin to incorporate much greater quantities of animal matter into their diet. Even though there may still be seeds available at feeders, these birds start to concentrate more of their time searching for small bugs which are rich in both protein and fats. Egg development within the female requires high amounts of these two nutrients, especially protein. And while the males do not need the same high levels of protein as the females, they still gather these nitrogen enriched morsels of invertebrate matter and offer them to their mate to help her with her intake of vital nutrients.

After each pair has settled on a particular parcel of forest, they then begin to search for a nest site. Like the woodpeckers, the chickadee constructs its nest in a wooden cavity. Typically, a dead, partially rotted poplar or white birch stub that is roughly 4 inches in diameter is favored. The soft, almost spongy interior of these standing columns allows the chickadee to chip away and pull out fragments of wood from the inside of the very upper section of the stub. The male and female both work intermittently during the day for nearly a week until they have completed a nearly 8 inch deep chamber that will serve to shelter their eggs, and then their nestlings. Because such trees are never very high, chickadee cavities tend to be within 15 feet of the ground, with some being built at eye level.

In places where a dead and partially rotted stub can not be found, or in spots where the potential nest sites are deemed unacceptable because of some threat, like the close presence of a red squirrel nest, the chickadee resorts to placing its nest in a cavity that already exists. Sometimes a pair of chickadees may settle into a chamber excavated by a woodpecker. The pair is also known to use a nest box when a rotted stub can not be found. Since chickadees strongly prefer to take up residence in a cavity that they excavate themselves, some people attempt to attract these birds to a nest box by packing it with small wood chips, like those produced by a sharp chain saw.

After the chamber is completed, the cavity is then lined with a layer of soft material, like hair, downy feathers or strands of moss. The female then begins the process of laying eggs, and like most other birds, she deposits a single egg in the nest each morning until the clutch is completed.

Then follows the process of incubation which lasts nearly two weeks. Next is the very challenging chore of trying to keep the nestlings well fed. Like a female that is developing eggs, the nestlings require a diet composed of spiders, insects, millipedes and other bugs.
During the summer, people are encouraged to take down their feeders, or stop placing seeds out in them. Maintaining a feed in summer serves to attract raccoons, bears and other unwanted wildlife visitors. While it may seem cruel to completely cut the birds off from their regular source of food, these creatures no longer rely on such items for their nourishment. This is the time when bugs become the food of choice for most birds during their nesting season here in the Adirondacks.

Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Adirondack Family Activities’ Diane Chase: Elvis is in Lake George

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities

With an opportunity to bypass a trip to Vegas and be married by the King of Rock n’ Roll at the Lake Elvis Festival, I feel it may be time to renew our wedding vows. My husband hates the idea but only slightly less than my Halloween wedding plan of dressing up as the bride and groom and being married by Beetlejuice.

In Lake George this weekend the Elvis Festival opens this Thursday, June 2 with a free tribute concert at Shepard’s Park starting at 7:30 p.m. According to Festival Director Jason Sherry the concert is family-friendly and gives a sampling of what the weekend festivities hold.

“Not only will people be able to see tributes to Elvis, James Brown, Roy Orbison, Ricky Nelson but also Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond. The musicians are all tributes,” says Sherry. “Friday night is about Rock and Roll History, which is where all the other tribute artists come in. Saturday is Elvis all day long. Elvis will be on a boat, playing in restaurants and seen all around Lake George.”

Another activity families can look forward to is the Elvis Classic Car Parade. The parade starts at 9:00 a.m. on June 4th. The parade route starts at the high school and continues to the Lake George Forum. All the performers will be showing their stuff.

“We have set up the Forum to seat 2,100 people for our event,” says Sherry. “Some of the events are only $15 so there is a lot of variety for families. We also hold the Elvis Gospel Music Contest on June 5th. The event is free but we are asking for donations for United Way. We have always held one event for charity in the eight years that we have held this event. The past four years we have raised funds for the United Way.”

Sherry recommends people to stop by the Lake George Forum and pick up the $3.00 program which includes a complete schedule and all the free events.

With the hum of gospel music in the background you can set your own stage to be married by Elvis. Perhaps you can have your own themed wedding but I will only be able to watch from the stage as Pricilla Presley beehive hairdos fill the Lake George Forum.

Call 518-681-7452 for Elvis Festival tickets and more information.

Photo: An Elvis tribute performer courtesy Elvis Festival.

content © Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™. Diane is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates) This is the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities. The next three editions will cover Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga, Long Lake to Old Forge and Newcomb to Lake George. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fort Ticonderoga’s King’s Garden Opens

The King’s Garden at Fort Ticonderoga opens for the season today, June 1 with the colors of the bearded iris and other early blooming perennials and annuals. The garden celebrates the history of agriculture on the Fort Ticonderoga peninsula with tours, programs and special events throughout the season. Opportunities include hands-on family programs, adult learning, daily guided tours and quiet strolls through the scenery, volunteer initiatives, and a garden party.

The first program in the King’s Garden Workshop Series on herbs takes place on Wednesday, June 8th at 1:00 PM – Nature’s Wild Herbs Discovery Walk with local herbalist Nancy Wotton Scarzello. » Continue Reading.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Civil War in the North Country: Macomb’s Regiment

With the arrival of Memorial Day in this, the year marking the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, there is a North Country native who served with particular distinction in the 96th Infantry. The 96th, often referred to as the Plattsburgh Regiment (and sometimes Macomb’s Regiment), was recruited from villages across the region, spanning from Malone to Plattsburgh in the north, and south to Ticonderoga, Fort Edward, and Warrensburg.

Among those to join at Fort Edward was 23-year-old Lester Archer, a native of nearby Fort Ann. Lester enlisted as a corporal in December, 1861, and for three years served with hundreds of North Country boys and men who saw plenty of combat, primarily in Virginia.

In June, 1864, Archer was promoted to sergeant amidst General U. S. Grant’s heated campaign to take Richmond, a critical Confederate site. Guarding Richmond several miles to the south on the James River was Fort Harrison, a strategic rebel stronghold.

To divide Lee’s troops, a surprise attack was launched on Fort Harrison on September 29. The men of the 96th were among those who charged up the hill against withering fire, successfully driving off the fort’s defenders and assuming control. As the fort was being overtaken, a Union flag was planted by Sergeant Lester Archer, emphatically declaring victory.

Until Harrison fell, it was considered the strongest Confederate fort between Richmond and Petersburg, 25 miles south. Lee’s forces regrouped to launch several bloody efforts at recapturing the vital site, but the North stood their ground, protecting the prize.

Union General Burnham was killed in the battle, and in his honor, the site was temporarily renamed Fort Burnham. More than 800 soldiers were buried nearby at what is now known as Fort Harrison National Cemetery.

The 96th remained in the vicinity of Fort Harrison for three weeks, and in late October, an assault was launched against Fort Richmond at Five Oaks. The result was a bloody, hard-fought battle, with both sides claiming victory, but both suffering heavy casualties. Many North Country soldiers were killed or captured. Just three weeks after heroically planting the Union flag atop Fort Harrison, Sergeant Lester Archer was among those who perished at Five Oaks.

On April 6, 1865, Archer’s exceptional efforts were officially acknowledged. The highest US military decoration for valor was conferred upon him with these words: “The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (posthumously) to Sergeant Lester Archer, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 29 September 1864, while serving with Company E, 96th New York Infantry, in action at Fort Harrison, Virginia, for gallantry in placing the colors of his regiment on the fort.”

President Lincoln himself would die just nine days later.

Photos: Above, scene at Fort Harrison, Virginia, 1864; below, Lester Archer.

Lawrence Gooley has authored nine books and many articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. He took over in 2010 and began expanding the company’s publishing services. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Spencer Boatworks Fire [UPDATE]

The building destroyed by fire Early Saturday morning at the Spencer Boatworks compound on Route 3 north of the Village of Saranac Lake was the large converted barn set back off the east side of the road (photos adapted from Google maps).

No full assessment of the damage has yet been released, though the Plattsburgh Press Republican cites a loss figure in the $2 million range. Spencer Boatworks hosts the annual Runabout Rendezvous, a classic boat show on Lake Flower in Saranac Lake. This summer’s gathering is still scheduled on the Spencer web site for July 9th.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Spencer Boatworks Fire Recalls 1919 Blaze

The fire that claimed Spencer Boatworks’ storage building on the Bloomingdale Road north of Saranac Lake early Saturday morning destroyed an untold number of antique boats from around the Tri-Lakes region.

The monetary loss at a storage facility renowned for its restoration of and care for rare wooden motor boats—Fay & Bowen, GarWood, Hacker Craft, Chris-Craft, as well as their own designs—could be incalculable. » Continue Reading.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

ADK to Host Leave No Trace Traveling Team

The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) will host the Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers for awareness workshops and trailhead greetings on May 26-30.

Leave No Trace is a conservation movement that promotes sustainable outdoor recreational practices for the benefit of people and the natural environment. The Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers provide hands-on educational workshops and trainings across the country. Each presentation is unique, from an hour-long workshop to a two-day Leave No Trace Trainer Course. They work with a wide range of audiences, such as youth-serving organizations, college students, outdoor guides, park rangers and more.

Highlights of the Leave No Trace programs planned for the Adirondak Loj/Heart Lake Program Center include:

* Campfire Presentation (for campground and Loj guests) Friday, May 27, at 8 p.m.

* Trailhead Greetings (for hikers at the Loj trailhead) Saturday and Sunday, May 28 and 29, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The teams greet outdoor enthusiasts at popular trailheads and talk with them about Leave No Trace and the special concerns about the area they’re enjoying. The teams hand out free information and encourage visitors to practice Leave No Trace while they’re on the trail.

* Awareness Workshop (free and open to the public) Sunday, May 29, at 7 p.m. at the High Peaks Information Center. The teams conduct programs that may include a brief history of the Center for Outdoor Ethics organization, slideshows, games and information on how to become a Leave No Trace steward. The teams have conducted these types of trainings for retail store employees, visitors to national parks, youth organizations, university groups and others.

About the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
The award-winning Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is the international leader in sustainable recreation practices. The nonprofit organization teaches children and adults vital skills to minimize their impacts when they are outdoors. The center’s goal is to connect people to the natural world by providing tools and training to help them enjoy the natural world in an environmentally sustainable way. Leave No Trace is the most widely accepted outdoor ethics message used today on public lands across the nation by all types of outdoor recreationists. For more information about the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics or the Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program visit

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Old Forge Arts Center Seeks Volunteers

The Arts Center/Old Forge (recently renamed View) will be holding a reception to welcome the return of their many volunteers and recruit new ones. The reception will be June 8th, from 11:30 to­ 1 pm and then again from 4:30 ­6 pm.

Visitors are welcome to celebrate the center’s volunteers in the new building with light refreshments and hors d’oeurves, and receive a guided tour of the new facility.

Those interested in volunteering show let event organizers know their availability, even if that is restricted to certain months, days, or times. Volunteers are sought in all areas, including the front desk and store, data entry, mailings, and cleaning, special events set up/take down, culinary preparation, and taking photos. Volunteers can also help performances and exhibits with set up/take down as well as openings, music, and lighting. There are also options to volunteer from home. Poster distribution, picking up supplies in Utica, and/or picking up visiting artists from the airport are also areas where volunteers are needed.

The Arts Center’s grand opening gala weekend will be July 7 ­ 10.

Those interested in volunteering should attend the reception or contact the Arts Center at (315) 369-6411 or email For a printable volunteer form visit their website at

Photo: Curator Linda Weal, Jim Tracy, Stephen Wick, Deb Burrington Mills hanging the Northeast National Pastel Exhibition.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

This Summer at Olympic Venues

The New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) will soon be re-opening the Olympic venues for the summer and fall seasons.

The Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway in Wilmington, N.Y. kicked-off the openings on May 20th. The highway allows visitors to drive to the top of the fifth-highest peak in the Adirondacks, one of only two whose summit is accessible by car. The highway is an eight-mile drive from Wilmington to the summit, where a castle made of native stone and an in-mountain elevator await. The highway is open daily from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. thru Oct. 10. » Continue Reading.

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