Posts Tagged ‘Wetlands’

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Wild Foods: Cattails

TOS_CattailsLast winter I spent three months exploring East Africa, traveling through ten different countries and covering over 8,077 miles. I was continuously impressed with how much local guides knew about their surroundings, in particular the human uses of various plants. In some instances we could not walk more than ten feet without stopping to learn about another plant and all the ways it could save your life.

This experience made me curious about plants in my own backyard. A quick skim of foraging articles on the Internet revealed that cattails, with their various edible parts, are often referred to as “nature’s supermarket.” I was thrilled to learn that I had a 40-acre produce section right outside the back door. » Continue Reading.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Flatwater Paddling: Raquette Lake’s South Inlet

Lunch spot a turnaround point for South InletMy canoe was starting to look lonely. That was my excuse to go paddling.

Skimming through my collection of paddling guidebooks, I decided on South Inlet, a tributary of Raquette Lake. With deep water and no discernible current, the inlet is one of the more reliable places for a mid-summer paddling trip, when many of the North Country’s waterways have dried up. And unlike other streams in the area, there are no beaver dams to carry over, making this a great trip for children and those with a limited sense of adventure. » Continue Reading.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Cattails: A Culinary Tale of Nine Lives

cattailsThe two cats at my place have survived many life-threatening traumas such as falls, fights and even the compulsory “devotions” of small children. It’s amazing the hazards they can evade. I think if pets could drive, only dogs would get speeding tickets – cats would always find ways to wriggle out of a citation. Sadly, my contacts in the veterinary field continue to assert that cats have but a single life, and that the whole “nine lives” thing is just a cat tale.

However, the story about cattails having (at least) nine lives is no yarn. An obligate wetland plant, the common cattail (Typha latifolia) is native to the Americas as well as to Europe, Africa and most of Asia – basically the planet minus Australia, all Pacific Islands and most Polar regions. It can be found growing along wetland margins and into water up to 30 inches deep, from hot climates to Canada’s Yukon Territory. » Continue Reading.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Windshield Survey of Back-Country Bugs

Dragonfly SplatterNext time you arrive at your cottage, camp or favorite fishing spot and the car’s grille is bristling with wings and other insect body parts, its windshield greased with bug guts, you should be happy. Those insects develop underwater, and they are an indication that the water quality thereabouts is very good. And that you should bring paper towels and glass cleaner next time.

Flying fish excepted, it seems odd to call an airborne creature aquatic. But these insects spend the vast majority of their lives in an aquatic life stage called a naiad, or nymph. They breathe through gills that, while well-developed, are readily damaged by sediment and other kinds of water pollution. » Continue Reading.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A Short Primer On Adirondack Turtles

Turtles - Photo by John WarrenOn the surface, we all know that turtles are animals with shells. They plod along on land, or swim gracefully in the water. Some live in the oceans, some in the deserts – what wonderful extremes they have come to inhabit. They have been around for over 200 million years – since the late Triassic. Some species can live well over a hundred years. If we dig deeper though, they are even more fascinating.

Four species of turtles live within the Blue Line of the Adirondack Park: snapping turtles, wood turtles, painted turtles (eastern and midland species), and Blanding’s turtles. Let me share with you a little bit about each of these species before detouring into some generalized nifty turtle traits. » Continue Reading.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Vernal Pools: Hatch, Grow and Get Out

Vernal_poolsThree things happened this week: bluebirds and tree swallows returned, my road was graded, and the red maple buds popped. It’s time to search for vernal pools.

Vernal pools are small areas of wetland that form in the spring and dry up during the summer. Water collects in saucer-shaped depressions that have an impermeable layer of soil, leaves, or debris. Snowmelt and spring rains fill these puddles. Without an inlet to replenish the supply, summer’s sun and heat eventually evaporate the water, though a dense forest canopy helps delay the inevitable drying up. Some vernal pools may refill after a heavy rain, but the main characteristic is their temporary nature. » Continue Reading.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Adirondack Painted Turtles In Spring

April24 089After a long slumber buried deep in the protective mud beneath Adirondack lakes, the painted turtle is awake. Chrysemys picta, the eastern painted turtle, is common to many of our ponds, lakes and wetlands, preferring areas with abundant aquatic plants, ample spots for sunbathing, and sunny places with sand for nests.

Painted turtles are named for their intricate shell pattern and very distinct yellow stripes on their heads. Reaching an average length of 5 to 6 inches, they can live for more than 40 years. Being omnivorous, they feed on insects, crustaceans, fish, plants and any other food (plant or animal) they can find. Like snapping turtles, painted turtles can live in a wide range of habitats. » 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.

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 6, 2014

The Odor Side of Otters

TOS_RiverOtterWe slid our canoe over the beaver dam and paddled into the upper, smaller pond. A breeze rippled the water and rustled the reeds lining the shore. Suddenly I spied four long, sleek brown figures cavorting in the water ― otters! They submerged quickly near the shore, probably into an old beaver bank den with an underwater entrance. This was one of only a few times in my life I’d seen these secretive, often nocturnal, creatures.

We had likely seen an otter family ― mother and young, known as kits. Once the kits were able to swim well enough, at about three months of age, the family would leave this pond and assume a nomadic lifestyle. » Continue Reading.

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