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, March 22, 2017

Adirondack Foxes Are Active in Late Winter

foxesThe first time I saw the fox last February, I did a double take. It was late morning when I glanced out the window on my way from one task to the next. The unexpected flash of red made me stop and forget about the morning’s to-do list.

I watched for several minutes as the fox trotted around boulders and past old apple trees. Every now and then it paused and cocked its head before continuing on a meandering path through the stubbly field. This would be the first of many sightings over the next several weeks. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Some Early Research on Climate Change and Soil

climate changeFor many of us, winter in the Northeast means cold temperatures and piles of snow, drifting through forests and across fields. It’s hard to imagine that winter here could be different, but the prospect of climate change has scientists asking just what our winters might look like in the future – and how those changes might influence forest ecology.

At the U.S. Forest Service’s Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, scientists are thinking about the year 2100. How much warming will occur isn’t certain, but some projections suggest that average air temperatures in our region may increase 5.5 to 9 degrees over the course of this century. The effects are likely to be complex and are difficult to predict, with benefits and costs for different organisms. Some tree species, for example, may benefit from longer and warmer growing seasons, but they may also sustain root damage from more frequent soil freezing. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Outside Story: Winter Bird Rehabilitation

barred owlAn injured barred owl sat in the back seat of a four-door sedan, staring balefully out the window at its rescuer. “I saw him on the side of the road, just sitting there, trying to fly,” the young woman explained to Maria Colby, director of Wings of the Dawn Wildlife Rehabilitation and Rescue. “Other cars were stopping and then circling back around to see if I needed help. His eye looks messed up.”

Colby nodded, her spectacles perched on her nose and her hands protected by large leather gloves with gauntlets. She opened the car door, wrapping the owl up into a towel and whisking it inside her house, to her warm kitchen. The owl panicked, making clicking noises and trying to fly, but Colby kept a firm hold as she administered a few droplets of pain medication into its beak. Then she carried the owl into her triage room and placed it in a small pet carrier. She explained that she would let it rest for twenty minutes until the pain medication kicked in, then do an evaluation and consult with her local veterinarian. She would also report the owl to both federal and state fish and wildlife departments. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Tipulidae: The Cute Faced Crane Fly

crane flyAn email chirped in my inbox; “Check out the cute face on this insect we found.” I opened the attachment (yes, from a reliable source). My colleague Professor Peter Hope had taken a spectacular photograph through his microscope. The larva in question had fallen into a pit trap set by our first-year Saint Michael’s College students in Camp Johnson in Colchester.

The ‘face’ seemed to have two very circular black eyes, a downturned smile, and a wild cartoonish hairstyle sprouting from lobes radiating in five directions. My esteemed colleague, a gifted botanist, had photographed the rear end of a crane fly larva. In fairness, any reasonable person might have made this mistake, especially because the front of the insect doesn’t look like a front, its head pulled so far back into the body as to be invisible. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Unitarian Universalists: Boreas Ponds Classification Commentary

What follows is a letter sent to the APA.

The Board of Directors, Congregational Delegates, and Members of Camp Unirondack, by vote of our 2016 Annual Meeting, hereby ask you to reject all of the four alternatives that you have set forth for the Boreas Ponds land classification. None of these alternatives truly protect the area around the Boreas Ponds as Wilderness.

Only an action that prohibits motorized vehicles and/or equipment on or within one mile of these ponds, and protects these lands as Wilderness to the south, is acceptable to the long-standing visionary legacy of the writers of Article XIV of the New York State Constitution. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Adirondack Wildlife: American Mink

minkIf the river otter is the most aquatic member of the mustelid family, and weasels represent the terrestrial branch of the clan, the American mink is the adept middle child, taking advantage of its adaptations both in the water and on land to make a living.

Like both otters and weasels, mink have long, sleek bodies, the sharp teeth of a predator, and small – but keen – ears and eyes. Their fur – long a fashion staple – is a combination of oily guard hairs, which afford some water-repellency, and an undercoat that grows thick in winter to provide warmth. It’s a common makeup in winter-active mammals – and a bit like us humans wearing a waterproof Gore-Tex shell over layers of insulating polypro or wool. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Adirondack Tree Bark in Winter

It’s winter. Hardwood trees are bare. But that doesn’t mean the woods are bereft of interest. Winter, when sunlight slants in, is the time when bark comes into its own. Pause to take in the aged-brass bark of a yellow birch, or the hand-sized bark plates on a big white pine.

Bark is beautiful. And practical. A protective tissue, a defense against insects, fungi, fire, and deer, it has a lot in common with human skin. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Nature Conservancy: Boreas Ponds Classification Commentary

What follows is a letter sent to the APA.

In response to the Adirondack Park Agency 2016 – 2017 Amendments to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan involving the Classification and Reclassification of 54,418 acres of State Lands in the Adirondack Park which include the Boreas Ponds Tract, 32 Additional Classification Proposals, 13 Reclassification Proposals, and 56 Classifications involving map corrections, The Nature Conservancy respectfully submits our comments related exclusively to Boreas Ponds. Our perspective is informed by nearly ten years of ownership and stewardship of this parcel, as well as focused stakeholder engagement. For over 50 years The Nature Conservancy has managed lands globally for both conservation and public use purposes, including our 160 preserves in New York State, and we are accordingly very mindful of the challenges and opportunities presented by this classification proceeding. We are grateful for the opportunity to provide input with respect to the classification of the Boreas Ponds parcel we conveyed to New York State in April 2016. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Local Government Review Board: Boreas Ponds Classification Commentary

What follows is a letter sent to the APA.

The Review Board thanks the Adirondack Park Agency for the public hearing process on the 2016 classification package and makes the following comments regarding the process, and the classification of the Boreas Ponds Tract, the Benson Road Tract and the MacIntyre East and West Tracts.

The members of the Review Board have carefully considered the physical characteristics of those tracts and their capacity to withstand use, as the fundamental determinants of state land classification specified by the State Land Master Plan, and support the following:

o The compromise of Alternative 1 for the Boreas Ponds Tract.
o Wild Forest classification for the Benson Road Tract.
o Evaluation of additional alternatives for the MacIntyre East and West Tracts.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

12 Counties: Boreas Ponds Classification Commentary

We are writing as the Chief Elected Officials of the 12 Counties comprising the entire Adirondack Park. We are the Elected Representatives of the 130,000 residents of the Park, as well as the million people who comprise the broader Adirondack region. It is our privilege to comment on the current Classification package which the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has presented for input.

We would like to thank you and the entire APA for this huge undertaking, and the admirable effort you have made to inform people about the Classification package and travel the State to listen to the public’s views. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Blue Jays in Winter

“Jay, jay, jay!” Every morning last winter I awoke to the loud cries of a flock of 17 blue jays dancing around my feeder. They gorged on sunflower seeds and suet, scaring away smaller birds, then left, only to return in the afternoon. I ended up buying a second feeder for the smaller birds, which was more difficult (though not impossible) for the jays to feed from.

This boisterous group was a foraging flock. Like many species of birds, blue jays change their behavior from summer, when breeding birds live in pairs, to winter, when they often gather in groups. In summer, blue jays feed and raise their young mostly on insects, while in winter, they shift to fruits, nuts, and seeds. As biologist Bernd Heinrich explained in his book Winter World, these food sources are widely dispersed, but occur in large clumps that groups of birds can detect more easily by combining their scouting efforts. Another advantage of winter flocks is that many eyes are better for detecting predators. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Arthropods Among Us

Not to alarm you, but you’re surrounded.

There, buzzing stupidly into the slats of your venetian blinds, is a house fly. Nearby, nestled in a crevice of the window-frame, a ladybug waits out the winter. In a corner overhead, a spindly house spider sits motionless in its haphazard web. Underfoot, bristly little carpet beetle larvae nibble at the fibers of an old rug. And that’s to say nothing of the dust mites, which are too small to see and too numerous to count. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Questions About Winter Bird Feeding

Back in September, I put out the bird feeder. I try not to do it too early because, well . . . bears. My feathered friends emptied it in hours. A couple of refills later and I decided I couldn’t afford to put out the buffet that early. The weather was warm; natural feed had to be available.

The birds, ever optimistic, still dropped by. I started writing dialogue for them: » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Trees of Christmas

christmas treeYou picked it out, maybe cut it down, brought it home, watered it, and decorated it. But do you know what species of tree that is surrounded by presents in your living room?

If you purchased your Christmas tree rather than cutting it out of the woods, chances are it’s either a balsam fir (Abies balsamea) or a fraser fir (Abies fraseri) – these are the two species most commonly grown on Christmas tree farms in northern New England. Balsam fir is found naturally everywhere, from Alberta to Pennsylvania, and has the largest range of any North American fir species. It’s perhaps best known for its aroma – when people say they want a tree that smells like Christmas, they’re talking about a balsam. Fraser fir, native to the Appalachian Mountains, doesn’t have the same trademark scent, but it does have a little more visual flourish in the form of elegant blue-green needles with silvery-white undersides. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Outside Story: Carpenter Ants

carpenter-antMention carpenter ants, and Declan McCabe, chair of the biology department at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont, thinks about the time he got a lungful of formic acid. He had taken a class into the field to survey insects. He saw a huge ant and sucked it up into his aspirator. Yes, a straw-like aspirator is an important tool for entomologists, who clearly aren’t worried about getting too close to their work. He successfully captured the ant and then took a breath. His lungs burned. That big ant had used the classic ant defense of spraying formic acid.

Mention carpenter ants, and Rachel Maccini, of the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Cooperative Extension, thinks of the calls that pour into the extension’s hotline each spring, each caller wondering if those ants suddenly crawling across the rug, the couch, and the kitchen counter are going to take the house down. » Continue Reading.


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