Almanack Contributor Guest Contributor

Guest Essayist

The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional guest essays from Adirondack residents, visitors, and those with a biding interest in the Adirondack Park.

Submissions should be directed to Almanack editor John Warren at adkalmanack@gmail.com.


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Amazing Chickadee

chicadees by adelaide tyrolBlack-capped chickadees are one of the most frequent visitors to our bird feeders in winter, but do we really know them? This common bird exhibits some remarkable behaviors and winter survival strategies.

Undoubtedly you’ve heard the familiar “chicka-dee-dee-dee” call in the winter woods. Soon after spotting the caller, with its black cap and bib, you’ll often notice more chickadees showing up on the scene, all calling. This is known as mobbing behavior. The chickadees are investigating to see if you are a potential threat. The birds don’t usually get too worked up when they see a human. (In fact, individual chickadees can become quite tame around people that provide food.) But they do get alarmed when they spot a perched hawk or owl. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 8, 2019

Invasives Viewpoint: Add ‘Frozen Boat Permits,’ Educate Visitors

Adirondack Watershed Institute steward watches over the Second Pond boat launch near Saranac LakeAquatic invasive species pose a serious threat to the economy and the environment, not only in the Adirondacks, but in all of New York State.

The current debate over a voluntary vs. mandatory boat inspection program is the classic “carrot or stick” scenario. Forcing a mandatory program on the boating public in the Adirondacks, without even considering other intermediary options, is a mistake. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 2, 2019

Evergreen Ferns Can Be Enjoyed Year Round

Christmas Fern by Adelaide TyrolWalking through the woods on a crisp December day, I spotted a flash of green among the rocks, snaking up through the snow. Greenery in a forest full of gray and white is a treat, and so I stooped to study the fern frond that was firmly attached to a rock.

In the Northeast, there are four common evergreen ferns: rock polypody (Polypodium virginianum), Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), marginal wood fern (Dryopteris marginalis), and intermediate or evergreen wood fern (Dryopteris intermedia).

Clearly this was a fern, and there are only four common ones to choose from, but how to tell which fern was peeking up at me through the rocks? Some clear differences help identify these evergreen neighbors. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 1, 2019

All About Antlers

antler by adelaide tyrolThe blast of a gunshot: a deep bass roar she feels in her chest, followed by a treble ringing in her ears.

The buck drops.

The hunter remains in her crouch, watching the animal’s last breaths through her scope. When he is still she rises, trembling from the cold and the moment, and approaches. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, November 21, 2019

Viewpoint: Make Saratoga & North Creek Line A Hudson River Bike Trail

section of the Tahawus Railroad north of Route 28N in Minerva provided by Protect the AdirondacksWhat follows is an announcement sent to the press by Adirondack Forest Preserve advocates Protect the Adirondacks:

Protect the Adirondacks supports transition of the 55-mile-long Saratoga and North Creek Railway to a new public multi-use recreation trail. Given its location, the dominant use would be as a bike and walking trail. This new public trail from Saratoga Springs to North Creek would connect dozens of small communities such as Lake Luzerne, Hadley, Stony Creek, Thurman, Riparius, The Glen, and Warrensburg, among other hamlets and businesses, along the rail line. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 17, 2019

British Soldier Lichens Provide Color

British soldier lichen provided by Environmental Protection AgencyBritish soldier lichens are among the first wild things I remember being able to identify as a child. I loved spotting this lichen during forays into the woods – on a giant boulder or atop a decaying stump – its tiny, bright red caps seemed whimsical and somehow happy. I still love to find British soldiers, and they offer a welcome pop of color, especially during these days when the landscape is muted.

Lichens are fascinating things, really, the result of an intricate relationship between a fungus and an alga (or a cyanobacterium). Lichens are named for their fungal partner, so British soldiers are scientifically called Cladonia cristatella. This fungus has a symbiotic relationship with the alga called Trebouxia erici. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Woolly Mammoths!

woolly mammoth by adelaide tyrolI fall in love easy. I’ve been mad about river otters and star-nosed moles, and of course the venomous short-tailed shrew. But my first love was a creature that is almost mythical, a shadow lingering on the edges of time. There wasn’t much of it, merely bones, teeth, scraps of hair, and an occasional breathtaking tusk. Yet Mammuthus primigenius, the woolly mammoth, was (literally) my biggest love.

It all started at the Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro, Vermont, where a 44-inch tusk was on display when I was a kid. Found in 1865 in a nearby bog, this tusk was my first introduction to this elephant-relative that roamed the hills and valleys of New England more than 12,000 years ago. In my adult rambles along the soft yielding edges of wetlands and paddles down remote rivers, I’m always searching for a tooth, a bone shard, or the treasure of a tusk. That is what mammoth love gives me — a wild hope. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Woolly Bear Caterpillar Hibernation

Wooly Bear by Adelaide TyrolWoolly bear caterpillars seem to be everywhere these days – creeping across the lawn, along the road when I’m walking the dog, hidden in the wilted cut-back of the perennial garden. Last week I found a woolly bear curled up in a shoe I’d left on the front porch.

These fuzzy, black-and- brown-banded caterpillars seem intent these days to get somewhere. Where that is – and how they know – is a mystery. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, November 2, 2019

A Macabre Menagerie

halloween by adelaide tyrolLast year, I showed up to work on October 31 in one of my old park ranger’s uniforms, torn to fake-bloody shreds in an imaginary bear attack. One year earlier, I drank smoothies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner because, ironically, my prosthetic vampire fangs were too fragile to sink into solid food. As a twentysomething undertaking a year of national service, I once asked my supervisor if I couldn’t make a few small modifications to my uniform and come to work on the last day of October as an “AmeriCorpse.” (He said no.)

In other words, I am a lifelong Halloween enthusiast. Costumes. Ghost stories. Jack o’lanterns. I love it all. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, October 19, 2019

Parsing the Name Partridge

Ruffed Grouse by Adelaide TyrolOn spring evenings, just before dark, I used to hear a faint drumroll coming from somewhere off in the wooded hills. It sounded to me like an old tractor starting up, although it seemed like an odd time for a farmer to start work.

I later learned that it was the drumming of a ruffed grouse. Not a partridge; this was Connecticut. Years later I lived in Maine, where my husband took up bird hunting: not for grouse, but for “partridge.”

They are the same bird, Bonasa umbellus. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, October 12, 2019

A Close Look at Science of Fall Colors

Fall Foliage by Adelaide TyrolWhere I live, autumn typically starts in late August, when pockets of red maples start to turn scarlet around the marshes and lakes. Uh oh. As they say in Westeros, “winter is coming.”

But not before we get to enjoy fall. Yes, a Northeastern autumn is a postcard cliché. Yes, the tour buses and land yachts full of leaf peepers clog the roads. But, really, who can blame them? No matter how many you’ve seen, fall in the Northeast is still one of nature’s most awesome spectacles.

And, so, so ephemeral. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, October 5, 2019

Firewood Physiology and the Woodstove

This week feels like fall proper. It’s gray, drizzly, 50s; the kind of weather that makes you realize you’d better batten down the house for winter.

We’re going to get to the first fire of the year in a moment, that pathetic, smoldering pile of hissing wood in your woodstove that you made such a big deal about. “Come here kids!” for the ceremonial lighting of the hearth, which turned into the ceremonial opening of the doors and windows to let the smoke out of the living room. (Write what you know, the English professors advise.)

But first let’s talk about the physiology of a tree. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Botflies

botfly by adelaide tyrolGrowing up in a rural town, I was exposed to a lot of the wonders in nature through hunting. Specifically squirrel hunting, which is how many kids get their start.

I don’t do much anymore, but I try to get out a few times each autumn on those first cool days. With luck, I can put up enough squirrels for a deer camp stew in November, over which the people in camp can reminisce about being young. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, September 28, 2019

Outdoors: Helicopsyche Caddisflies

Helicopsyche borealis by Adelaide TyrolWhile sampling in the LaPlatte River, students noticed what looked like rough black pebbles about the size and shape of well-worn pencil erasers.

I suppressed my mild distress as they started to discard the ‘pebbles;’ when sampling aquatic insects, I discard little. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, September 15, 2019

Pitcher Plants Turn Food Chain Upside Down

pitcher plant As a kid, I was fascinated and terrified by the idea of carnivorous plants. Growing up in suburban New Jersey, my only exposure to this particular subset of the plant kingdom was the ravenous, larger-than-life Venus fly trap in Little Shop of Horrors.

If I stumbled upon a carnivorous plant in real life, I wondered, would it have teeth? If I ventured too close, would it grab on to my finger and never let go? » Continue Reading.