Saturday, November 4, 2023

Tamaracks, barred owls, and late fall frosts

Little buck

The landscape of the mountains has changed in the last two weeks from brilliant colors of reds and yellows to a copper tone of the beech leaves (both on the trees and on the ground.) I know most of the leaves are down when I can see the streetlights shining out on the road from the house. There don’t seem to be as many leaves on the ground as normal. I thought there would be more with all the rain [we’ve] had, but I guess with the lack of sunshine there are fewer.

The tamaracks are still holding most of their yellow needles, making the shorelines of some lakes and swamps very colorful. A good rain or windstorm will have most of them on the ground. The ones around my pond are still holding their needles this morning. They will be naked soon and they don’t seem to have many cones for the winter birds to eat. The pine, hemlock, and tamarack cones ripen earlier than the spruce and balsam cones. This year, there seems to be a lack of cones on all these trees…which might mean a lack of winter finches in this area. They don’t just eat at your feeders, and they work for seeds in the evergreens and birch seeds when not at your feeders.


These birds are very nomadic, and they travel until they find a natural food supply which keeps them happy. Some of these northern visitors also work on some of the berry-producing shrubs and trees. I saw Robins in my crab apple trees just this morning [Oct. 30.] Last year, the Crows and Blue Jays worked in those trees until all the fruit was gone (or on the ground) and the turkeys found what fell. Some of the [smaller] birds must pick the bigger berries apart, but the bigger birds (like Robins and both species of Waxwings) put the fruit down whole.

crab apple tree

Crab apple tree. Photo by Gary Lee.

Last night I went out under the full moon and hardly needed my head lamp to put up the owl nets as the moon was so bright. A flock of Brant flew [overhead,] talking to each other to keep in contact. They mostly fly at treetop level in smaller groups than Canada Geese. I was putting up the owl nets the night before, [and] a pair of Barred Owls were hunting not far away. That means [there was] no owl catching [to be had] that night as Northern Saw Whet Owls are prey for the bigger owls…especially when they talk to each other. I have never heard the smaller owls calling their toot-toot calls as they travel, but they do whine at the tape player…and sometimes get caught. That didn’t happen in the last three nights, but last year I caught them until the fifth of November.


A couple new birds showed up yesterday [10/29, including] a White-Crowed Sparrow and a Fox Sparrow. You really had to look for the Fox Sparrow, as it blends right in with the beech leaves. Its movements as it scratches in the leaves are about the only thing you can see. This is a big sparrow, and they normally stop by on their way going both north and south. I believe I banded five or six this spring, as we were around when they came through and not down south soaking up some sunshine. During the warm weather, I had a Cloudless Sulphur butterfly down by the pond. Later in the week, the Half-Banded Toper dragonflies were still chasing after bugs around the edge of the pond and laying eggs along the shoreline.


Just after I sent in my column last week, Hurricane Otis hit Acapulco on the west coast of Mexico. It went from a tropical storm in the Pacific Ocean to a category 5 hurricane in a matter of hours, giving this resort town wind [speeds] of more than 165 MPH, which took down nearly every power pole in the town. Looking at pictures, it looked much like Sanibel Island after the hurricane hit there more than a year ago. So far, 48 people have been found dead and about that many [are] still missing. With still a month left in hurricane season, we aren’t out of the woods yet.


The mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine [left] 18 dead from two locations (a bowling alley and a local bar,) and 13 others [were] injured. The shooter, 40-year-old Robert Card II, was searched for for three days before being found dead from suicide about eleven miles from the shooting scene. An AR-15 was used in the shooting and [was] found in the shooter’s car not far from where he was found dead with two other guns. [There have been] over 560 mass shootings so far this year in the US, with a couple more this [past] weekend (some at Halloween celebrations.) The ban on these assault weapons will come up again [due to] this tragedy. This [an AR-15] is not a hunting weapon, it is a person-killing weapon.


A couple of frosts killed most of my flowering plants so seeds from many of these were collected and stored in the garage in envelopes after being dried. These will be used to start my many plants for next year. Other plants that come up from tubers and bulbs were also cut back. Many of the plants have roots that will [grow] over winter in the ground and come up next year. I [gave] them some fertilizer, which gives them a head start next spring. Some seeds were scattered just like they fell from the plants. They will come up next spring, but not bloom until the following year…just like they do in the wild.


Deer and moose are on the move, so be aware while traveling both night and day, but that’s another story. See ya.


Photo at top: Little buck. Photo by Gary Lee.

We publish commentary and opinion pieces from voluntary contributors, as well as news updates and event notices from area organizations. Contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The information, views and opinions expressed by these various authors are not necessarily those of the Adirondack Almanack or its publisher, the Adirondack Explorer.

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Gary lives with his wife, Karen, at Eight Acre Wood in Inlet where he was the Forest Ranger for 35 years, working in the Moose River Wild Forest Recreation Area and West Canada Lakes Wilderness Area. Now retired, Gary works summers for the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, observing, catching and banding loons. The author of a column Daybreak to Twilight in local papers from 1986 to 2019, he now writes his Outdoor Adventures a weekly blog. In 2008, Gary coauthored a book with John M.C. “Mike” Peterson, "Adirondack Birding- 60 Great Places to Find Birds."

9 Responses

  1. Boreas says:

    Love my tamaracks (planted) this time of year. I just wish they were more mature. I still have to protect them from deer – especially bucks who can skin them dead in a few minutes.

  2. kim pope says:

    Gary, we had to leave early this year at the end of October, and it is so nice that we can live vicariously through you. It is certainly nice for you to keep everyone up-to-date of what is happening in the beautiful Adirondacks .

    Please keep it up!!!

  3. Jim Fox says:

    As a proud hunter for 66 years, I appreciate Gary’s acknowledgment that assault weapons are designed to kill people. Whether used by terrorists or deranged victims of mental illness, their manufacture and sale should be banned. What has been happening to innocent human beings cannot be argued to be justified by the intention of our founding fathers. These mass shooting deaths can be prevented and will have no impact on hunting or hunters if AR15s or AK47s are banned.

    • JohnL says:

      Just for the record, the 2nd Amendment has almost nothing to do with hunting. Also, just for the record, all guns are capable of killing things, even that ‘one old hunting rifle’ mentioned below. As are cars…knives…hammers….drugs, etc.

  4. Mike says:

    Jim Fox, Well said. Agree completely. Also a hunter for many years.

  5. geogymn says:

    I own only one old hunting rifle and no pistols. That being said is there any argument to be made for, concerning assault rifles, the guard against tyranny. Also a hunter for over 50 years.

  6. David Bower says:

    Love your AR-15 comments! So very tired of hearing of lives and bodies torn apart by a slightly-downgraded war weapon. We should follow Australia and New Zealand and get rid of these man-killers. Also enjoyed the waxwing comments. We’ve been blessed to see Cedar Waxwings work over our ornamental pear’s small fruit, and they’re a sight to see. We may live in Texas, but our heart lives in the Adirondacks. So nice to visit every summer.

    • Mike Frame says:

      Australia and New Zealand banned semi automatic rifles and shotguns handguns and pump shotguns. Single shot rifles and double shotguns etc. were allowed. So, if we adopted that same ridiculous policy here the beloved Remington 760 pump, the 7600, the Remington 742, Remington 7400, Browning BAR and many more traditional Adirondack hunting rifles used in those wonderful ADK mountains every year would no longer exist. The 2nd amendment isn’t about hunting at all. The RIGHT to keep and bear arms doesn’t specify what type of firearm we should be allowed to own. Mass shootings are heinous crimes against humanity. They are committed by people who have serious mental issues. And although may be cliche the way bad men with guns are stopped is by good men with guns. New Zealand enacted a national gun registry. How convenient when the gun grabbing government wants to come knocking on your door to confiscate any weapon you own. No one will protect you better than you……

  7. David Bower says:

    You can really dish out the baloney! Nowhere in your protest do I see anything about your being in a well-regulated militia. Until you are, your ammosexual declaration has no rational standing. Amazing how many intentionally misunderstand plain English.

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