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, 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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Saturday, September 24, 2022

Time has come for the protection of Monarch Butterflies

Another year has passed for me, and only one more for the “Big 80,” but things are looking good on this end. For others on this side of the globe, things aren’t looking so good this morning [Sept. 20]. Hurricane Fiona has clobbered Puerto Rico with over thirty inches of rain and strong winds that have again devastated their power grid five years to the day when they were hit by Hurricane Maria. They had just about recovered from that one and everything got laid flat again. The hurricane heading north hit the Dominican Republic and will end up in the Canada Maritimes. This will also push high tides all along the east coast while going north.

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Saturday, September 17, 2022

Witnessing 90-Miler start, crossing paths with a toad after Woodhull Fire Tower lighting

No hummer seen today [Monday, September 12] but there may be some stragglers coming through, so we leave the feeders up for several days and if we don’t see them for about five days, we call them gone. They sure have been a treat this summer, as they have buzzed around the front porch doing touch and go practice out on our five feeders. Going back to last weekend, my grandson Jake and I went up to the Woodhull Fire Tower on Saturday night to light up the tower. I was glad to have the company, and the sunset was beautiful. As the night sky crept in, we could see that looking east was going to be a problem as haze moved in with the darkness.

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Saturday, September 10, 2022

Reminiscing about Loon stories, serving on the NY firefighting team in ’89

We got plenty of rain in the last week and it is still falling. One storm brought us over an inch and a half overnight, and the next one gave us nearly two inches in a couple hours. This wet down the woods in good shape, as not much of it ran off. My pond drain is flowing again, and that made the trout happy enough to start feeding again. For a few days they didn’t want to surface into the warmer water for food. Some folks as close as Forestport never got a drop out of the bigger storm. There was very little wind (just rain) so the power didn’t go out, but some folks lost their telephone service. The big storm shut off our dish signal for over half an hour one time, and then on-and-off for the next hour.

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Saturday, September 3, 2022

Enjoying the Adirondack air with Baby Milly, and watching loons fight like penguins

The rain last week sure helped with the forest fire situation. However, the lightning storms could have hit a dry stub or two which could burn for a long time before being detected, and may even go undetected. Many times, I’ve gone through the woods hunting and found where a fire had burned for some time and had either died out by itself or was put out by rain. It may happen this time, as we will be getting more rain this week when a cold front comes through bringing thunderstorms. There’s no one up in fire towers watching anymore, but they may be seen by an airplane flying around the area.

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Saturday, August 27, 2022

Old Forge Garden Club Picnic: Good food, great company, loon family sighting

We got several hit or miss showers last week, some with lightning and thunder. I went down to Sand Lake at the Adirondack League Club last week with Don Andrews to check on the Loon family there. The forecast called for a clear day and no rain. It was beautiful all morning (even at 50 degrees with a little fog) as we went across Woodhull Lake. We got down to Sand Lake and rowed around the many islands there looking for a used Loon nest, but we didn’t find one with egg chips in it.

 

The male Loon from the pair came up to the north end to see who was on his lake. We went out into the main lake and found the female with two chicks more than half grown with mostly gray feathers. They stuck to mom like glue. The male came by, said almost nothing and went on his way, leaving the female to defend her chicks. We took a few pictures using a long lens, as the sky to the north turned rather black with a few thunder rumbles.

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Saturday, August 20, 2022

Cardinal flowers, a penguin-walking Loon, and a fish-snatching Bald Eagle

I visited all my Loon lakes this last week, including some that I hadn’t been to all summer. I was happy to find some of those pairs had chicks. One was Woodhull Lake where there are five pairs of Loons, and a few of them are banded. A Loon called right off the dock while I was putting the boat into the water, but it didn’t have any chicks. Going up the lake, I got all the way to Brooktrout Point before I heard another Loon. I looked ahead, and I could see two Loons with a single chick. I didn’t even get close, and the male was penguin-walking to distract me from the chick and then both were up and penguin walking. I kept going toward the landing at the end of the lake and I bumped right into another pair with two bigger chicks, and they did nothing but swim away from me.

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Saturday, August 13, 2022

That’s a wrap for loon banding season 2022

It was getting very dry as the pond was down three inches from the overflow. Because of the heat, the trout decided to stay in the deep water and not jump the last two nights. I got just about an inch in my rain gauge, which will help. The flowers keep growing, and my cup plant is over seven feet tall now and it just started flowering. I put a six-foot wire fence around it this year to hold it up and it is way over that. The bees and hummers like it, and then the fall warblers like the bugs it attracts, and the seed eaters like the flower seeds.

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Saturday, August 6, 2022

Loon banding is a lot like fishing…you don’t get them all

Fairly typical weather for the Adirondacks with warm days and cool nights with fog over the lakes brought about by the cool air over the warmer lake surface. We again had a couple rainy periods, so I didn’t have to water the garden or the flower beds. The flowers have been going like gang busters, lots of greenery and many blooms. The bee balm is in full flower, and I was just looking out the window before dark and there were six hummers searching out each red bloom and fighting over the next one.

 

Great Grand Daughter Milly Jade Peterson has been the hit of every party for our family out in the Rochester area. As the photo [below] will show, she is already a real show off. Speaking of hummers, Ted Hicks and I plan on being at Stillwater banding hummers on Saturday, August 6, but that hasn’t been set in stone yet. We usually get there about 7:30 a.m. and band until about 11 a.m., depending on how many birds are around. Right now, they are about at their peak number-wise with the little ones out of the nest, and males still hanging on territory.

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Saturday, July 30, 2022

Banding and testing loons for pollutants with the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation

It took a whole week with temperatures in the high eighties before the thunderstorms made it here. The storms dumped almost two inches of rain at Eight Acre Wood overnight, so again I don’t have to water the garden. I did have to water my tomato trees that are in pots almost everyday during that hot time. I’ve picked a few cherry tomatoes which are a tasty bite. The larger tomatoes are growing daily after I pruned off the leaves that had no flowers on them, and now I can even see tomatoes growing.

 

Most of my loons have hatched their young, but I still have one sitting on eggs. The male was glued to the nest yesterday while the female was at a neighboring lake fishing. If the eggs are going to hatch it should happen this week. Sometimes the eggs get chilled in high water and the eggs are not going to hatch. However, the adults sit on them sometimes for over forty days before giving up. Locally, most of the nests have been successful this year, and there are chicks on many of the local lakes. If you come upon them in your travels, give them some space. Don’t force them out into open water when they are hugging the shoreline fishing and keeping out of boat traffic.

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Saturday, July 23, 2022

Loon Census 2022, observing hummingbirds, bears and deer from front porch

A little rain kept my garden growing and flowers blooming. My bee balm has come out, giving the hummers a new place to eat in both the front and back yards. Karen and I sat on the front porch
yesterday (July 17) and the hummer feeders were a beehive of activity all afternoon. In the morning we had a mother bear come through with two of last year’s cubs checking out the bird feeders. The mother and one cub walked around the electric fence. The other cub got confused as to where the others went. It tried to go through the fence, but took a shot and backed off. Then it circled around looking for mom and hit the fence again. It left in a hurry that time, and probably will not try that again.

A few minutes later, there was a doe with twin fawns who were nursing together out in front of the house. It would have made a great picture as they were right in a sunshine spot, but the camera was in the truck. Many birds have been bringing their young ones to the feeders for a snack. Several Blue Jays with young have been coming every day. I set the Potter traps yesterday and caught five of the young ones. I also caught an older Jay that I had banded as a juvenile in July of 2014 which made that bird 8 years and two months old. That is one of the oldest returns I’ve had of a Jay. They usually eat and run never to be seen again, but not this one. I also caught some juvenile Slate-Colored Juncos who were still sporting some pin feathers.

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