Almanack Contributor Gary Lee

Gary Lee

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."


Saturday, July 2, 2022

Traveling to Webster for Grandson Nathan’s graduation ceremony

The longest day of the year passed on Tuesday, June 21 in the pouring rain, so who could tell? I missed the strawberry moon last week in the clouds, and when I did catch it in the middle of the night it was so low in the sky that it hid behind the trees even when on the second story. In the early morning before daylight, five planets are still aligned in the eastern sky, which won’t happen again for several more years.

The best place to catch this is on a lakeshore with a good view of the SE sky. The moon is at its smallest, so that shouldn’t interfere with your view. However, you must get out before the sun lightens the sky. Since I’ve been doing Boreal bird surveys starting at about daylight, I should get a few looks at these planets while traveling to these sites.

Some Loon chicks hatched this week in many places across the Adirondacks. Many more should hatch just before the Fourth of July, so be aware of them while you are out and about on the area lakes where we do have chicks already. Many will still be nesting, as they lost their first nest and have re-nested.

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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Hiking Excursion Results in Rare Find: Loon Family with 3 Eggs

Thunderstorms rumbled all around us the other night and even shut off the TV dish for a while, but we only got a quarter inch of rain that night. One mostly-wet day was Thursday, June 16, but then it was only light rain that fell and didn’t even keep me out of weeding in the garden. The wind has been the big thing, with white caps on most of the big lakes most all week into the weekend. Even some of the smaller ponds were tough to travel on in a small craft like a Hornbeck boat.

My 17- foot canoe had all it wanted on the Cedar River Flow on Friday, June 17, with three-foot swells and white caps, which the wind blew the tops off. I stayed along the north shore, and it wasn’t too bad as the wind was strong out of the NW. I saw an older fella (actually he was younger than me) in his rehabbed canoe he found at the dump out on the flow. He kept close to shore on the north side and made it back to the landing just as I got there on my return trip.

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Saturday, June 18, 2022

Adirondack animal babies: Nesting bluebirds, fawns, and loons

Since the time of my last column, I had two and a quarter inches of rain, which pushed many of my flowers to bloom and others to grow taller. The sweet peas are climbing the trellis about two inches a day. I guess the pellet fertilizer I gave them is working. The roses are covered with buds, and it looks like the plants are all coming up from the original plant, which is over twenty years old now.

My three trumpet vine honeysuckle vines are covered with blooms, which the hummers like. I fenced in my queen of the forest today (June 12) as the doe which dropped her fawn in the driveway yesterday, was munching close to that plant at daylight this morning.

I also put a fence around my cup plant (not because the deer eat it,) but when it gets to be six feet tall, the stems of the plant will not hold it up, so the fencing keeps it upright as it blooms. The bees love this plant and when it goes to seed, the warblers and goldfinch feed on the bugs and seeds from the flowers. Two Fall seasons ago, I caught six different warbler species feeding in the plant in two days.

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Saturday, June 11, 2022

Late Spring: Fawns, wild azaleas, and nesting loons

With the shooting in the Buffalo Tops Market, killing 10 and three wounded, and the Uvalde, Texas Robb Elementary School shooting, in which 19 children and two teachers were killed, not much was heard of the fires still burning in New Mexico (largest ever) and the first Hurricane Agatha to hit Mexico. It first killed 11 and thirty missing, then traveled across the Gulf of Mexico and hit southern Florida with 12 to 15 inches of rain as Tropical Storm Alex. Many people seem to be living in a bubble, yet ducking COVID, which is still catching lots of people by surprise.

Back to the first two on the list. I was a Hunter Safety Training Trainer for the DEC for over twenty-five years, and it was only near the end of that time, that the AR-15 was just showing up on the public market. I never saw it as a hunting weapon, and still don’t. It’s a killing machine invented for war, which is now being waged on children in schools and public events and places where there are lots of people.

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Saturday, June 4, 2022

Yellow Lady Slippers Sighting, Banding Hummingbirds at Stillwater

Maybe the black flies have taken it in the shorts with all the hot days we’ve had. I put in the garden over the weekend and not once did they take the hoe out of my hand. I did have a few deer flies that wanted to help me and some mosquitoes and no-see-ums that were trying to help.

This is the third year that deer flies have come out before the first of June. Normally, they never boomed me until the beginning of July. When they come out, it usually means the end of black flies. Hopefully all 36 varieties hatched out together on those hot days that warmed up the streams that they hatch out of. Some of the intermittent streams that had eggs may not have even been flowing, which did them in; one can only hope.

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Saturday, May 28, 2022

Final days at the Crown Point Banding Station: 424 birds of 54 species banded

Back in Inlet again where the leaves have popped out and I missed many of my daffodils as they bloomed during the warm spell while I was away. My little Yellow Lady’s Slippers are even starting to
bloom. Of course the blackflies are out, which is one thing I didn’t have to fight at the Crown Point Banding Station. There are no running water streams near the station so no blackflies, but we did have a few mosquitoes some evenings. We did see a few bats, which may have fed on these.

Another bug that gets into our nets while they are put up overnight is the June bug. They are not fun to pick out at daylight while putting up the nets, but we only had a few of these this year. The conclusion of our 47th year ended Saturday, May 21 with three new bird species that day. First was a Great Crested Flycatcher which had been singing since day one in the area. Number two was a Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher that was heading north to a bog of choice, and the third was a Black- and- White Warbler which had been seen the day before and nearly the last bird caught on Saturday before we closed the nets.

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Saturday, May 21, 2022

Crown Point Banding Station record: Banding a Yellow-Breasted Chat and Hairy Woodpecker for the first time

Another week gone by at the Crown Point Banding Station, and we survived the big storms that rolled through yesterday afternoon (May 16.) We pulled the nets, and took the canopies off their structures (as possible 60 MPH winds were predicted, and these sun shelters are only rated for no more than 15 MPH.) We sat in our vehicles as the storms passed mostly to the north and south, but there were a couple that went right overhead and dumped rain on us. To the north we heard that quarter-inch hail had accumulated to an inch on the ground.
We had several exciting events during the week up in the sky, including the blood moon on Sunday night (May 15)… that was neat. I had photographed this a couple times before over Limekiln Lake. We had rain showers during the afternoon that day, but I got to see the full moon rise only to have it go under a big black cloud for about an hour during which I napped in a chair outside. When I woke up, the moon was just popping out again about one third covered already. I took photos as it gradually covered turning a bright orange and completely covered about 11:30. I went to bed then as more clouds were moving in and covered it again. After the storms yesterday it was cloudy most of the night. This morning, May 17, just before we put the nets up I photographed the nearly full moon in some neat clouds.

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Saturday, May 14, 2022

Banding birds at the Crown Point Banding Station in Essex County

I’m writing this from the Ticonderoga Public Library as I’m at the Crown Point Banding Station for two weeks banding birds. We’ve had nets up for four days and banded several birds but very few warblers, including two species of Warbler Palm and Yellow Warbler. Some Yellow Rumped Warblers have been seen in the area, but we have caught none.
Normally we catch more of these than any other bird, but not in the last couple years. Typically, it is a competition between them and American Goldfinch. We have caught several Goldfinch, but Blue Jays are ahead on the leaderboard by far and it doesn’t look like they will be beaten. Still another week and a half to go. These next few hot, sunny days aren’t very good days for catching birds as they fly right over the banding station heading north without stopping.

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Saturday, May 7, 2022

Spring cleaning in the Adirondacks: Yard work and clearing blowdowns and debris from trails

Well, it froze every morning this week, and even spit some snow, but nothing stuck here. They had spring skiing at both Whiteface and Gore Mountains this weekend which must have been a late season for both. I worked around the yard, saw a few blackflies in the air, and they bombed me a few times. Better get out those hummer feeders soon, as last year they came here on May 4. That’s not an early date, but more than a week earlier than the year before. They almost always get here before Mother’s Day, and I’ve had to thaw out the feeders more than once to keep them going. Even with these cold temperatures some of the little wildflowers have popped out such as trout lily, coltsfoot, and spring beauty.

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Saturday, April 30, 2022

Capping Sanibel Island vacation, Crown Point Bird Banding Station open May 7-21

The trip home from Florida was an adventure in slowdowns, first on I-75 in Florida, on I -95 in Georgia, and on I -81 in Virginia and Pennsylvania. Karen was driving each time. One slowdown was for an accident nearly 30 miles ahead. This was the only accident we encountered during our trip down and back. With all that traffic, you would think we would have seen more, but it was not so.

Driving down our driveway at Eight Acre Wood with the daphne bushes blooming on both sides was a nice way to end our three-day trip. The trees were so green further south all the way through Virginia with lots of redbud trees in bloom. The trees were less green as we traveled into the “non-green world” to the north of that. We saw lots of snow damage to the trees all the way through Pennsylvania and New York from the wet snow.

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Saturday, April 23, 2022

Bird watching with old and new friends on Sanibel Island

It sounds like the Catskills and Adirondacks are going to again be blanketed with six to twelve inches of wet snow which might take down some trees that have started to bud out. This won’t be good for the birds that have already moved north. Many are being hit with the bird flu and those that have died (or are dying) will be eaten by predatory hawks and owls which will in turn catch the flu and also die…not a good deal in the bird world.

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Saturday, April 16, 2022

Sanibel Island pond frenzy: More than 100 birds amongst alligators one chaotic morning

I’ve been hearing from some of my northern neighbors that snow is still falling, but the ice is out in some lakes and Loons have returned to those open waters. Other big predator birds like Great Horned Owls and Barred Owls, Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons may already be on eggs or at least looking at nest sites. The Peregrines just lay their eggs on a rock ledge, building ledge or bridge beam with no nest material.

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Saturday, April 9, 2022

Sunshine, sand, and a sunglasses-clad Sheltie on Sanibel Island

I see that some snow is still falling on you folks up north, but it is in the eighties down here on Sanibel Island and the water is also very nice. Just before leaving there was a world of birds still using the feeders and several birds feeding on the carcasses on the dam. The last evening, I had a mature Bald Eagle and immature Bald Eagle feeding right up until dark. The bunch of Slate-colored Juncos that had come out of the woods or moved north were under the feeders right until dark as well.

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Saturday, April 2, 2022

A traditional Adirondack Spring with the return of old man winter, lots of bird watching

Old man winter returned today (Sunday, March 27) as it snowed most of the day. I hadn’t checked my little pond behind the house, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there would be some wood frog eggs in it after the warm week we’ve had. Last year I saw eggs in some little pond along Trail 5 when there was snow all the way around them. I don’t know if those made it, but the ones behind the house hatched.

The newts feed on those little polliwogs and so do baby painted turtles. I watched them catch some right by the dock at Francis Lake one day. It was a busy day in the bird world today (March 27) as the snow was on the ground when I got up and it snowed most of the day. Looking down on the dam at the carcass there was a Red-tailed Hawk, six Ravens and two Turkey Vultures working for a snack.

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Saturday, March 26, 2022

Youth hockey team, the Inlet Mighty Loons, capped memorable first season

Spring has sprung on this first day of spring (Sunday, March 20) and my daffodils would have bloomed yesterday if the sun stayed out, however it started snowing which shut them down. The crocus usually come out first, but they have only popped out of the ground and the daffodils have flower buds ready to pop. Coming home from Utica on Friday (March 18) with temperatures in the fifties (and even sixty) I kept mentioning there are more Robins along the shoulder of the road. My wife, Karen, said, “I hear you, yes, there are lots of Robins.”

My neighbor Eric Sutherland’s sugarhouse [Maple Moss Sugarworks] has been cooking 24/7 this last week with lots of guests visiting his operation. He is into it big time and I’m learning more every day about his operation. With each day freezing at night and thawing during the day this next week he should be making maple syrup every day. He loves to show people his operation and he will be glad to sell you some of his products.

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