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, 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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Saturday, March 19, 2022

Flock of 100 snow geese fly over Ferd’s Bog, full house at feeders

Winter held on [as of March 14] with a little more snow and cold weather giving the snowmobilers and skiers another weekend to do their thing. The cross-country skiing was the best it has been all winter with enough powder on top of the crust you could just about ski anywhere and still have control. The couple of warmer days before the snowstorm encouraged a few birds to move north.

As I went out to move the new fallen snow on Saturday [March 12], I heard a Robin and had two Grackles at the feeder. A few others that I contacted had Redwing Blackbirds and then on Sunday [March 13] I had a Song Sparrow feeding among over one hundred mixed flock of Purple Finch, American Goldfinch, Pine Siskins and one lonely Common Redpoll.

That same day over at Ferd’s Bog I had a flock of 100 Snow Geese flying west into the wind go low overhead. I picked up another male Red Crossbill on Parkhurst Road [in Inlet] on Sunday [March 13] so I don’t think that pair will have any young with no one to feed the female on the nest. There may be only three cars that travel that road a day, and I’ve picked up five dead Crossbills there in two weeks. I also saw a Raven flying down the road with a Crossbill in its beak, so I don’t find them all.

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Saturday, March 12, 2022

Ferd’s Bog hike results in peaceful serenade from White-winged Crossbills

It’s Sunday evening (March 6) and we just came home from the movies in Old Forge in a howling wind with the temperature at 55 degrees which breaks the record of 43 degrees set in 2004. The power was off a couple times during the movie but came back on, so we didn’t lose much of the plot. As this weather (with changing temperatures) came across the country a few tornadoes touched down across Iowa and one near Des Moines killed 7 people including two children.

This string of unsettled weather is now going through the southern part of New York with quite a bit of red showing on the weather map. This warming trend and the rain overnight last night pretty well whipped many of the snowmobile trails and most of the paved roads they had been using which also bared up. There were some washouts in the Moose River area that the snows this week filled in nicely by the groomer. These were those frozen culverts that I mentioned last week which will have to be repaired before opening in May.

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Saturday, March 5, 2022

Inlet’s Frozen Fire and Lights: Outhouse races, a crowd-pleasing addition

You would have to be like an Ostrich that hides its head in the sand not to have heard or seen what is happening to the democratic country of Ukraine. The invasion of the Russian army was done under the orders of their leader, President Putin, to take over this country (which did nothing to provoke this attack.) So far, Ukraine has held their ground and kept the Russians from taking over any major cities or toppling their government. Over three million residents have fled the country to the west into Poland, Hungary, and other neighbors to the west with nothing but the clothes on their backs. If you just listen to Fox News and former President Trump (both who have given praise to what President Putin has done), you need to watch a different channel. My prayers go out to the army and the people of Ukraine who are defending their country and their homes.

On a brighter note, one of my amaryllis has its last bloom. This bloom is from one of the three bulbs that I planted in the garden for the summer. I dug up these bulbs when I put the garden to bed, cut off all the green leaves and put them in a cool place in the cellar for over a month. I repotted them just before Christmas and two of the three produced tall shoots with four blooms on each. You could try the same thing if you have an amaryllis that now just has big green leaves.

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Saturday, February 26, 2022

Counting birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count leads to a rescue on South Shore Road

Some people could be making maple syrup this week with the above normal temperatures we are going to get and some more rain. The rain we got last week is still running off in places even with the below zero temperatures we’ve had since then. Several folks to the east of Whiteface Mountain in Jay and Au Sable Forks on the West Branch of the Ausable River had a couple ice jams that flooded several residences and washed away some vehicles when they broke loose. Some of those vehicles could be in Ausable Chasm or even out in Lake Champlain as they rolled down the river in the ice flow.

Recently, I was reading about the log river drives and thought if they had logs in the South Branch of the Moose River Stillwater by Camp Nine this year, those logs would be gone and headed for Lyons Falls. They had a couple scares when they had the river full of logs a couple of years ago, but the ice held until the spring break up before going down river. I looked out last Friday morning and water was four inches deep going across my driveway, so I knew something was wrong with the culverts. Actually, the culverts were fine, but the snowpack was damming up the water before it got to them.

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Saturday, February 19, 2022

Observing resilient winter breeding crossbills raise their young

It was minus sixteen this morning (Monday, February 14). I was feeding the birds just after sunrise and the trees were popping and snapping as the water that collected in their cracks was expanding very loudly. Last night the deer didn’t come through to clean up the fallen seeds from the feeders, so the blue jays took advantage of the opportunity. They were working on those and carrying them off to a safe place for hiding. Yesterday I banded my 50th blue jay since the first of December. They keep coming in from some place and the others move south. The highest count I can get at any one time at the feeders is sixteen, but I know there are many more than that if they all came together.

I mentioned before how the jays fill their beaks with seeds and fly off with them to store somewhere, just in case I don’t feed them anymore. Their beaks are full of sunflower seeds or corn when I catch them in the potter traps. They are so full, in fact, that you can see it while I have them in hand and they can’t chirp (or bite) while their beaks are full. Most times, I can see the seeds and they let me band them, and measure a wing. They also usually let me check for age by looking for bars on the outside feathers of the wing before they go out the window to freedom. And they are still holding those seeds when they are released by the way. Blue jays are one of the most placid birds in hand while banding them. Very often they just lay still and watch what you are doing with their big black eyes. However, their feet are active and grab on to anything that touches them, like your fingers, a pencil, or the banding pliers…and they have a fairly good grip.

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Saturday, February 12, 2022

Finding fun after winter storm by snowshoeing, skiing, and analyzing animal tracks

The cold temperatures are back after a short day when they got above freezing just before the massive storm that crossed the country and hit us. Freezing rain and rain were predicted, but all I had here was twelve inches of snow which the snowblower ate for about three hours in order to clear the 950 feet of driveway. I cleared the bird feeders with the scoop first to get them something to eat and they flocked right in as the temperatures were dropping.

My feeding flock of birds hasn’t changed much in the last couple of weeks. I put some bands on a few of them, mostly blue jays caught in the potter trap. The most I’ve counted has been 14 to 16 jays at one time. However, I’ve banded over twenty of them in the last couple of weeks so some new ones may have moved into the feeders. I had a high count of 32 purple finches and 22 slate-colored juncos. I believe all the juncos are wearing bands, but only about ten of the purple finches have bands.

I know the birds went through forty pounds of sunflower seeds in less than two weeks. While much of that has been stored by the jays and the chickadees, the finches and juncos eat every seed they are able to get a hold of. The pair of tufted titmice have been regulars but only one of them is banded. Only a couple of American goldfinches have been hanging around and one common redpoll has been battling for places on the platform with the finches and jays. The sharp-shinned hawk came through early this morning and nailed another junco for a snack. In answer to someone who commented on my last column asking if I caught the hawk and banded it. I didn’t catch it, as I would have had to have the net up in order to catch this bird as it flies through.

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Saturday, February 5, 2022

NYS Bird Region 7 waterfowl count results, visit from a sharp-shinned hawk, and a fish tale

Well, winter stayed with us for another week. We got a few inches of snow nearly each day and it sure remained cold with temperatures some days not reaching above zero…with a wind to boot. They sure got hammered to the east of us with some places getting two feet of snow and wind speeds up to 99 mph. That will certainly pile up snow in places and bring in waves off the ocean just like a boom hurricane.

Then way down in Florida they had freezing temperatures, and it dipped to below 46 degrees for the first time in more than 10 years. Kathryn Ruscitto, View’s Board of Directors Chair, said the iguanas were cold and falling out of the trees. She said the public was being asked to collect these invasive species and take them to a veterinarian or wildlife rescue/rehabilitation center where they could be humanely euthanized. The low temperature at the Florida Keys International airport reached 46 degrees, breaking a record set more than 65 years ago.

My daughter, Erin, sent pictures of snow on the beach sand on Myrtle Beach, but she said there was not enough to make a snowman. It looks like we might finally get a good bit of snow during the week as a low front is creeping across the country and should reach us about mid-week. No predictions yet, but I may have to get out the snowblower for this one.

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Saturday, January 29, 2022

Frigid temps, Northern Shrike encounters and fishing derbies

We finally had a whole week of winter weather with very little snow, but temperatures were in the single digits during
the day and way below zero at night. Our low here at Eight Acre Wood was -28 degrees one morning and -25 degrees
another morning. It was pretty zippy cold when I went out to feed the birds at sunup. The birds were all sitting on their feet trying to eat in that position. The blue jays had a tough time doing this and they tried to open sunflower seeds between their toes. Their numbers have increased as they haven’t been able to find a beechnut in a few weeks. The little birds stay out of their way as they know a blue jay is capable of having them for breakfast just like a sunflower seed if given the chance.

I did have a predatory bird, a northern shrike, come in this week. It tried to catch one of my slate-colored Juncos that was in my potter trap. The other three doors were down so I went out and opened them. Not wanting to let a meal go by, the shrike came right back and went in another compartment to get at the Junco who was just hunkered down to keep from being caught. The door went down behind it, and I had the shrike. I let the banded Junco go unharmed. This is the fifth shrike I’ve caught here at Eight Acre Wood in the potter trap trying to get at another trapped bird.

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Sunday, January 23, 2022

On getting outside in negative temps and how the birds are coping

ice on treesEditor’s note: We are pleased to start offering this new weekly column from retired forest ranger Gary Lee.

This week was a little more like winter should be, with snow a few days and very cold a few others. Tuesday was a bear about dark a light rain was falling with the temperature on twenty-eight which instantly froze on anything it hit and some of that was on my windshield. I didn’t get five hundred feet down the road and my windshield was a blank screen.

I pulled over and let it warm up some, but it was covered instantly when I started to move again. I had to use windshield washer fluid to keep it so I could see. I called my wife Karen at the library to tell her that things were being coated extremely fast and be careful on her way home. I told her about the windshield washer trick which she used all the way home. That ice coated the trees making them all shiny when the sun came out, but it also put an eighth-inch of ice on top of the snow which was just like glass.

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