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."


Saturday, January 7, 2023

Legion of nutcrackers take a long winter’s nap, juvenile loon freed from Fourth Lake ice

Loon in the ice

Our New Year’s weekend was a washout for sure, with rain and warmer temperatures taking a toll on what snow we had. What I see out my front window is mostly bare ground where there was over 18 inches of snow a week ago. I had a fisher and a coyote visit the deer carcass on the dam during daylight hours, which meant they were hungry. There were four Ravens and a pair of Bald Eagles waiting their turn in the treetops on the other side of the pond. Now that the snow is nearly gone, I haven’t seen any of them. I still have over fifty Evening Grosbeaks coming daily to the feeders, and the two White-Throated Sparrows are still sneaking seeds and hiding in the brush pile. There are still some new Black-Capped Chickadees coming to the feeders as I’ve banded almost twenty hatch-year birds in the last two weeks.

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Saturday, December 31, 2022

Looking back at first days as a Ranger, keeping feeders stocked for over 50 Evening Grosbeaks

Male party evening grosbeaks

The first day of winter was very nice, but the next few days right through (and past) Christmas Day were wild in many parts of the country. The worst being right in our backyard in Buffalo where the snow is still falling and the wind [is] still blowing off Lake Erie. [It has been] reported that 55 people have died so far [as of December 26] as a result of the storm, many found dead in their snow-trapped cars and some [were found] out on the streets frozen to death.

 

The quick change in temperature from in the forties down to below zero in just a few hours and winds up to (and over) 70 MPH off the lake brought the snowfall of over five feet in some places again, and drifts of over 16 feet. Many people didn’t heed the warnings and they had to get out and do that last minute Christmas shopping, which could have been their last trip. We missed most of that here in the North Country, but just north of us in the Tug Hill area they had over four feet of snow, and it is still falling there as of this writing [December 26.]

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Sunday, December 25, 2022

Assisting with loon rescues on First Lake, Brantingham Lake

You skiers and snowmobilers can stop praying for snow, because we have it. [Or at least,] enough to ski and snowmobile on. Looking at the temperatures [ahead,] the bottom is going to go out on the thermometer (except for one day [with temps in the] forties before Christmas with some rain.) [People are] paying more for heating fuel oil or propane, and I hear you can hardly even get kerosene. Not many people heat with kerosene anymore, but tractor trailer drivers cut their fuel with it to keep it from jelling in cold temperatures.

 

Another thing that must be jelling is some local septic tanks, as I see the Egan sewer pumper on the road around here most every day. If you just put a couple packets of yeast down the toilet when you leave it inactive for a few months (or even when you are using it regularly,) you shouldn’t have to call the pumper. The yeast keeps the system working perfectly. Mine hasn’t been pumped in 20 years of use. I heard that at the Fulton Chain of Lakes meeting thirty years ago, stated by a couple local sewer pumpers, Chip Sauer and Rick Hunkins. They had all the work they needed, and they were just trying to save some camp [owners] and homeowners a few bucks. The old wise tale was to throw in a road-killed cat or woodchuck to start the system working when you first put in your septic tank, but you don’t have to do that… just a packet of yeast will do the trick.

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Saturday, December 17, 2022

Graduation of 38 NYS Forest Rangers brings back memories of becoming a Ranger in 1965

Graduating Forest Rangers

We had a trickle of winter white, but we could use more. I believe the ground froze, as we had a few nights around twenty [degrees] before this little snowfall. Some loons forgot to leave, and three were frozen in First Lake yesterday [Sunday, December 11]. Two flew out during the day, and I have not heard about the other one. There were [also] a couple Bald Eagles keeping watch and waiting for a snack. Please remind your children to stay off the ice until we have some really cold weather [for the sake of their safety]. This on-and-off warm then cold weather hasn’t made the ice safe yet, so stay off [it] as a fall through the ice can be life threatening.

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Saturday, December 10, 2022

Reminiscing about the search and rescue of young Inlet hunter Charlie Mitchell

This up-and-down fall weather is not good for the little critters that live just under the snow searching for food. The rain comes and takes most of the snow away, the ground freezes, and leaves them without a home until the snow comes again. Most winters in this area, there is hardly ever frost in the ground when it is covered with snow. The year of the 1980 Olympics, we had a big washout just after Christmas which bared up the ground, [and] then [we had] a deep freeze for a few days.

 

There were a few natives who had waterlines just under the ground a few inches and they froze for the first time ever, with no snow cover to protect them. We [got] some snow, but up in the Lake Placid area they got no snow and had to make and move snow for the whole cross-country track…which was quite an effort. I remember going up to get our ID passes as Forest Rangers, and the ground was bare two weeks before the Olympics.

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Saturday, December 3, 2022

Full Pine Marten traps, enduring Evening Grosbeak nip

The tracking snow is mostly gone after the all-night rain and the water is running in my little brook. I did get the blower out for the second storm and shortly after I jumped on to my skis and went around the loop out back just because I could. The Forest Rangers had a couple difficult rescues in Lewis County, working in more than four feet of snow. Working with the local snow groomer breaking trail, they completed both rescues. I saw a new rig that I hadn’t seen before, a truck on snow tracks which might come in handy in other situations in snow country. Some other hikers got off the trails in the High Peaks in the snowstorm and they were luckily found [in good health] not far from the trails. Hikers and hunters should check the weather before going out and maybe wait for a better day, rather than risking their lives and the lives of the rescuers.

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Saturday, November 26, 2022

Witnessing more than 50 birds battling for seeds in freshly fallen snow

The birds were battling for the seeds this morning [November 21] as the snow fell so intensely. There were over fifty Evening Grosbeaks fighting for space on the platform, and in the mix were two Red Wing Blackbirds who missed the flight south. They have been here for about a week now and they can hold their own with the Grosbeaks. The five or six Blue Jays are a little weary of all the Grosbeaks, and they wait their turn to get a mouth full of seeds. They must have a big stockpile of seeds somewhere, as they have been hauling them away all fall. There might be a forest full of sunflowers come spring, if any of them start to grow. They probably wouldn’t last very long, as the deer like those little plants.

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Saturday, November 19, 2022

Photographing Election Day eclipse, banding over 100 American Goldfinches

Clocks are all set back an hour, so that sunset comes earlier now. If you are out and about it is always good to have a headlamp or flashlight in your pack, and not rely on using your cell phone light to get out of the woods. So many this summer have been stuck on a trail somewhere because they ran out of light. Plan your hike or hunt, so that you can get out of the woods before dark. The eclipse of the moon on Election Day morning was very nice. I saw it start to cover the moon a little after 3 a.m., and by 4 a.m. the moon had a pretty orange glow. I went down to Fourth Lake to take photos, as it was too low in the sky to get them at Eight Acre Wood. The wind was a little nasty coming off the lake, so I stood behind the car door to take the photos through the big pines at the Inlet beach (as the state boat launch is still closed off.)

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Saturday, November 12, 2022

Banding a Sharp Shinned Hawk unscathed, growing chestnut trees to help fight off blight

The weather remains more like September than November as temperatures have gotten up in the sixties several days now. We’ve had some hard frosts which has done in most of the greenery in the woods except some of the ferns that remain green all winter even under the snow. The deer have been working on the fern curls already since there is a lack of a mass crop of nuts of any kind. I saw where they were working on the black cherries that dropped from the trees just like eating nuts, but I don’t think the nutrient- or fat making-value is the same in the cherries as in the beech or acorn nuts.

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Saturday, November 5, 2022

Taking a snack break as they fly south: Observing over 100 birds at feeders

Here it is the end of the month and there is still no snow on the ground, just a few flurries a couple times. I’ve seen two feet [of snow] on the opening day of Big Game Season 10/25 years ago. There was quite a backup of vehicles without chains trying to move in the Moose River Area. Ted Payne plowed all the roads with his pickup truck and his truck box full of sand. He took some extra gas that day, but got the job done. Another time, earlier in October, they were replacing the bridge over the Moose River.

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Saturday, October 29, 2022

An Adirondack fall: Saw Whet Owls, ladybugs, and deer hunting

The coldest morning so far (at 24 degrees) did in my dahlias, which had several blooms still trying to come out. I covered my toad lilies and saved them for a few more blooms, then cut them off and brought them inside where they are blooming in water on the windowsill. The warm spell over the weekend sure hatched out the ladybugs. There were hundreds trying to get in somewhere to spend the winter on the sunny side of the house and garage. They get under the edges of my windows, and I find them when I release one of my banded birds out the window.

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Saturday, October 22, 2022

Reuniting with friends at Adirondack Wild meeting, Old Ranger Tales Lecture Series

I put some miles on the truck (and some on the ground) this week as I [traveled to] Paul Smith’s VIC three times, went brook trout fishing a couple times, and watched Loons on Lake Clear. [I also] photographed fall leaves, did some leaf blowing for several days, caught songbirds when the wind didn’t blow, and caught saw whet owls for four nights. Everyone asks [me] when I get the time to sleep and do all these things. I say, “I nap a lot.” I don’t know if I will get into all these [items in my column] as I must add a few politics this week, which I know you all like to hear just before Election Day.

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Saturday, October 15, 2022

Congratulations to son, Jason, two-time World Grand Champion in Kuk Sool

The beautiful Hunter’s full moon is bright outside my window tonight [October 9] after a day of wind and rain showers that took lots of leaves off the trees. There was still lots of color in the sunny patches as I drove home from The Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation annual celebration at the Paul Smith’s VIC. Events were held indoors, as it was pouring outside most of the day. Coming home, I hit showers and then sunny patches along the way. I saw lots of shutter bugs out taking advantage of the sunny spots.

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Saturday, October 8, 2022

Hurricane Ian hits Sanibel Island, another successful French Louie Fishing Derby in the books

 

Hurricane Ian has been the big news this week as it hit the west coast of Florida as a category four hurricane, just a couple miles an hour short of being a [category] five right at Fort Myers after passing over Sanibel Island. This island has been our winter getaway for over twenty years now during mud season, the month of April. That is when many of the birds that go south to South America (and some of the islands south of there) return north, and make Sanibel their stopover place after crossing the Gulf of Mexico.

 

It will not be our getaway this spring as it was hit extremely hard during the storm and the bridge going there from Fort Meyers was washed through in several places, making it impossible to drive there. Much of the power and water systems were also damaged. The condominium that we stay in at Sandalfoot on East Gulf Drive had the roof taken off, as did part of the back unit there. I’m sure the front units had water go right through them with a twelve-to-fifteen-foot tidal surge that went over the entire island.

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Saturday, October 1, 2022

Leaf-peeping, fringed gentians, and lobster dinners

The leaves are changing, and may peak this week if they aren’t all put on the ground with the wind and rain. I watched from my window as many leaves fell on the pond most of the day today, September 25. That was better than the snow that fell on Friday morning [September 23]. Some say that Blue Mountain wasn’t blue, but white on top, that morning as were several of the High Peaks. About this time of  year, Karen and I go on a leaf-peeping trip through Vermont and New Hampshire into Maine to get a lobster dinner.

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