Almanack Contributor 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."


Friday, June 14, 2024

Spotting day-old fawn amongst ferns while tending to gardens

Day-old fawn in the grass

Summer came and went away this week, as it was up to near ninety degrees and now back into the fifties. One thing we don’t need is a frost, like the late ones we got last year, which came on May 25 and 26, then close on the 27. By my records, on June 4 and 5 it was 34 and 36 degrees. I’m sure many areas of the Adirondacks had a frost on those mornings. I know many fruit growers took it in the shorts on those mornings and so did many people who had all their flowers in. I washed off my fruit trees with the hose, which were all in blossom and they produced lots of crab apples…maybe my best crop. The turkeys enjoyed them all winter until they were gone.

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Friday, June 7, 2024

Reminder to give nesting loons space, take photos from afar

Loon on a nest

It has been a busy week, starting with the Loon monitoring for the summer and not too soon, as many of the pairs are already on a nest. Last year was the first time I had Loons on eggs before I started watching them in the last week of May. This year, more than half of the pairs are on eggs already. This means they will hatch a week before the big fourth of July weekend. This will give the parents and chicks a week to adjust to some boat, kayak, and canoe traffic. If you come upon a Loon on a nest in your water travels, give them some space and take pictures with a long lens camera, not your hand-held cellphone. Many of the new phones take great pictures and some even have a zoom feature.

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Saturday, June 1, 2024

Pondering ADK power issues, correlation between high-tension lines and cancer

new Loon Platform on the water

Another intense storm is predicted for tomorrow, May 27, with thunderstorms, high winds, hail…and who knows what else. The mid-west has been hammered for the last week as these storms rolled across the country, one after the other. Tornadoes have hit several towns and villages in their path with some loss of life, and many homes and businesses destroyed. To look at the pictures of the damage, it is amazing that more people hadn’t been killed.

We had some pretty high winds a couple times and with the trees all leafed out, they blow over much more than in the wintertime when they are bare of leaves. On the other hand, the evergreens take it in the shorts in all seasons. I’ve seen where lots of them have been blown down during the winter and now the cleanup has begun. I’ve been meaning to mention that if you have a row of evergreens in your yard and one dies, it should be removed so that whatever killed it doesn’t spread to the others. If left in place, it may spread to the whole row of trees as I have seen happen many times.

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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Fifty-one bird species banded at Crown Point, including two juvenile Red Crossbills

Girl releases banded bird

I spent the week at the Crown Point Banding Station where we had enough rain on a couple of days that we had to close the nets. One night a thunderstorm rolled through that put me to sleep, but it knocked down some birds that we caught the next morning. Most of the other days it was haphazard. A total of 114 birds were seen or heard in the trees and sky around the site, but many never got into our mist nets. We had a total of 51 different species banded.

We caught a juvenile Red Crossbill; a new bird for the site. There was a small flock of ten or twelve flying around the site, feeding on the big white pinecone crop. We caught a second juvenile the next day. This bird was never on our site list as they would normally be gone north by this time. When they are around and there is a good cone crop, they will nest and have young during the winter months, as do White-Winged Crossbills and Pine Siskins.

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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Harvesting fiddleheads & rare Northern Saw Whet Owl catch at Crown Point Banding Station

Man holding a saw whet owl

Writing this column a little early from home as I’ve been catching birds here in just one net and one Potter trap during this week and I had a couple other catches to do…a couple of brook trout which I put in the pond. The new birds for the yard this week were a Woodcock that was doing courtship flights down on the pond road one early evening, an Ovenbird who has been calling on territory all week, and the Hummingbird numbers which have been growing.

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Saturday, May 11, 2024

Return of hummingbirds, and banding at Crown Point Banding Station

Tom turkey

April showers bring May flowers and the leaves greening on the trees. Yesterday, May 5, you could almost watch them grow and get greener by the minute. Karen kept watch for our Hummingbirds to return and they did on Friday, May 3, four days earlier than ever before. Paul Bozard out in Salamanca, who is a friend and Ranger School classmate from ’63, reported that Hummingbirds came to his feeders an hour after he put them up on April 27.

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Saturday, May 4, 2024

Placing loon platforms & reminiscing about nabbing a tom turkey in ’92

Man with turkey

I saw my first blackfly in the air while working in the View Art Center gardens in Old Forge last week. It was only one, but I’m sure there are more to come. They were down by the pond when I fed the trout last night. We had three mornings in the twenties this week which put a skim of ice on the bird bath, but didn’t harm the growing flowers, so far that I can see. Many more wildflowers put out blooms as the sun came out on a couple of those days.

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Saturday, April 27, 2024

Sprouting wildflowers & little birds mobbing feeders

A male yellow-bellied sapsucker

Today is Earth Day 2024 and what I see outside isn’t a heavy frost that came overnight, but light snow and 22 degrees on the thermometer. The bird bath is a frozen skating rink for the birds as it was also yesterday morning, April 21. The high temperature yesterday was only 39 degrees, and the little birds were mobbing the feeders as they must have known what was coming. I had a new bird at the feeder for this year yesterday, a Chipping Sparrow, which went away with a band. The day before, I saw three Northern Flickers on a lawn along Limekiln Road feeding with two Robins.

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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Readers share eclipse stories & photos; loons call for mates, woodcocks take flight

Eighth Lake during the eclipse

They always say, “April showers bring May flowers,” but they didn’t say if they were snow or rain showers, which we had both of this week. Some snow covered the ground for a brief time on Saturday morning, April 13, but was gone by noon that day. I’m still hearing from readers about what they experienced during the eclipse. Some of my family members, living out Rochester way, didn’t experience much as clouds covered up the whole eclipse. I feel sorry for them that they didn’t see it.

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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Birds go quiet, crocuses close during eclipse totality

Eclipse totality

I’m starting this column before the eclipse event this afternoon, April 8, as the skies are partly cloudy here and I hope it is clearer this afternoon. I’m going to try and take a few shots when it is total. My fifteen bird feeders are highly active, so I will see what happens when the darkness comes. I’ll also see how the birds react when the sun comes back out in a few minutes. We’ll see if they take a quick nap like it was nighttime or if they get back to feeding when the sun comes back out like they do at daylight in the morning.

Karen went into town to get the mail and she said it was almost like the Fourth of July. Tom Payne of Payne’s Air Service has been flying almost all day as many of our new visitors have never had a seaplane ride over the Adirondacks. I heard a helicopter flying over earlier this morning going somewhere to the north of us.

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Saturday, April 6, 2024

Urging eclipse travelers to respect the Park, refrain from littering

Jake turkeys strutting

Well, the eclipse is coming Monday, April 8, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket as it may be cloudy or even raining…hate to dampen your parade, but it could happen. Looking at the weather prediction for that day, it looks good on the computer, but you never know. The area that I pick up litter along the highway has been mostly clear of snow for a couple weeks now, but I’m going to wait until after all these eclipse travelers are gone and only hope they take their litter with them.

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Saturday, March 30, 2024

Songbirds compete with strutting turkeys at feeders

Falls at Bug Lake

Well, we finally had a week of winter (all at the same time) and even got the snowmobilers out and about until they wore it down to dirt on most of the trails. Many folks to the south of us in the Capital District got ice at the end of the snowstorm, which took down many powerlines, putting many out of power for a couple of days…and some longer. In most places, the temperature got into the single digits and didn’t get above freezing during daylight hours.

Ice was out of many lakes and with these cold temperatures along with the snow that cooled down the surface water temperatures, they all refroze. As of today, March 26, most are still covered with ice and the only open water is in the Moose River and the channel in Inlet where lots of waterfowl moved to find food. I had a Belted Kingfisher over my frozen pond just before the storm, and he wasn’t going to catch any fish there. I did find some Mallards in the beaver ponds on the outlet of Eighth Lake.

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Saturday, March 23, 2024

Winter arrives for end of March; appreciating local art for over 30 years

Crocus

Weather for the end of March is up and down the scale on the thermometer. [As it is predicted, there’s] not much above freezing with some kind of precipitation, [including] snow, freezing rain, rain to snow, and snow to rain for all but two days the rest of this month. The folks to the west of us got the brunt of the weather before the weekend with ice balls the size of baseballs and two feet of snow in places. [We are] getting all our winter in a week I guess, with temperatures near record lows for the whole winter. [Considering] the temperature difference between the north and south, there is a good chance of violent storms and tornadoes. I don’t think there was a month all winter that there weren’t some violent weather happenings or tornadoes some place in the country (and other places worldwide.)

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Saturday, March 16, 2024

Birds are heading north, indoor plants growing like gang busters

Blue birds at the feeder

Winter is making a late attempt to be winter white this week, but it is too late as my daffodils are about to bloom. This snow will insulate them from the cold for a few days, but with a few sunny days, they will be in bloom. The hiking on many trails has been very icy and now with that snow cover, it makes it even more dangerous and slippery.

A pair of spikes does help, and I have worn mine on a few hikes locally. They have not tripped me up too much, but I did take a dip on the lower side of a beaver dam I was crossing…which was quite chilling. That ended that day’s hike as I took on a little water in each boot, filled my left side pockets, and one mitten. No one was watching except for a couple of mallards who were laughing at me as they flew away.

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Saturday, March 9, 2024

Surveying the Adirondacks: An intriguing undertaking

Bald Eagle in a tree

After a couple short spurts of snow at the beginning of the week, it has been all downhill for the snow cover since then. With temperatures predicted above normal for the next few days, there will be very little snow left in the woods and [unstable] ice conditions on any lake. [Back] when I was trapping beavers with my partners in the Moose River Area, they would still be trapping into April with a snowmobile…but not anymore. This is surely giving the deer a break, and if it stays like this, the bears will be out checking bird feeders on their travels.

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