On a picture-perfect winter morning last year, 20 Saint Michael’s College students and I visited Vermont Fish and Wildlife scientists for ice fishing at Knight’s Point on Lake Champlain. We drilled holes, baited hooks, learned about ice safety, identified fish – and even caught a few. » Continue Reading.
Every once in a while, as I’m tramping through the winter woods on my snowshoes, it occurs to me that I am walking on top of frogs.
In winter, our thoughts naturally turn to the species who remain within our sight – the chickadees at our feeders or the foxes who leave records of their travels in the snow – but any creature whose life spans more than one season, and who cannot fly away to warmer climes, must find a way to endure the cold. In February, our amphibians are all still here. They’ve just tucked themselves away for safekeeping. » Continue Reading.
During winter break managing screen time can be difficult for many families, especially those with younger children.
One way to reduce screen time is to create a “tech free” zone in your home. Load this area with books, interactive games, musical instruments, and puzzles.
On a walk one winter afternoon, I spotted two white objects darting across a snow-covered field. White on white, they were difficult to identify at first. It was a short-tailed weasel chasing a snowshoe hare!
Apart from the snowshoe hare, short- and long-tailed weasels are the only animals in the Northeast whose coats turn white in preparation for winter. The smaller short-tailed weasel, also known as an ermine, is more common than the long-tailed weasel. It lives in a variety of habitats, is an adept hunter, and has a reputation for being curious and bold. » Continue Reading.
I have always admired nature’s mutineers: animals and plants that thwart the recognized system and do their own thing. As a child I was the sole member of my own duck-billed platypus club, endeared to this creature with the bird-like bill, beaver-style tail, and shocking ability to lay eggs.
Other charming eccentrics: the tamarack, a conifer that loses its needles every winter; male seahorses that give birth to thousands of live babies; and the short-tailed shrew, a tiny mammal that uses a lizard-like venom to paralyze its prey. » Continue Reading.
Whenever I spy a pileated woodpecker traversing the sky, I pause to watch its weird undulating flight. The jerky rise-and-drop movement of this large woodpecker is endearingly gawky – like a mini pterodactyl visiting from the Cretaceous period. This time of year, the bird’s bold crimson crest flashes in stark contrast to the mostly-muted colors of winter.
Pileated woodpeckers – Dryocopus pileatus – take their common and scientific names from the Latin word for “capped.” Both male and female sport the namesake red crest, as well as black streaks across the eyes. Measuring about 18 inches long, they have wingspans that can stretch past two feet. » Continue Reading.
As we leaned over a bog boardwalk, a student asked, “What’s that black stuff on the water?” I suggested gently poking it with a twig. This elicited the expected response: as though ejected from James Bond’s Aston Martin, tiny black flecks scattered, landing inches away and on my student’s hand.
Springtails, the Tiggers of the invertebrate world, are often seen bouncing out of footprints and depressions in snow; hence another moniker: “snowfleas.” Although they have six legs and hop, they’re not actually fleas. They’re not even insects. Taxonomic revisions have alternately kicked them out of and accepted them back into the insect club for decades. Springtails, who, as far as we know, don’t much care how they are classified, are now in a class of their own: Collembola. » Continue Reading.
Late one January afternoon, my husband and I stood on the shore of a frozen pond below the summit of Camel’s Hump, admiring the view. Suddenly we heard familiar calls, and a flock of robins flew over. Robins? In winter? In the mountains? I was perplexed.
Later, I talked with a birder friend, who informed me that robins from Labrador and other northern regions migrate south to the Green and White Mountains in winter, where they feed on mountain ash berries. Indeed, during our snowshoe trek to the pond, we had noticed clumps of bright red fruit in the small mountain ash trees, topped with powdery snow. » Continue Reading.
Snow day! The announcement draws squeals of joy from students throughout the school district and groans from parents who must scramble to provide care for their kids and face a treacherous commute. But fourth-graders with overdue homework and harried parents aren’t the only ones whose fortunes hang in the balance when new snow blankets the region.
A snowfall can bring salvation or suffering to wild critters as well. » Continue Reading.
I’ve ridden on the rail corridor between Saratoga Springs and North Creek several times over the years, including the last run to North Creek with a dome car. The scenery is beautiful, especially from the high bridge at Hadley. The views along the river are splendid. Those who have never done it by train will never know what they’re missing. I wish I could have ridden it to Tahawus.
Some argue the railroad must go because it can’t pay for itself. The reason for that is that we spent the 20th century building highways at taxpayer expense; we subsidize everything that competes with rail while still expecting it to make money. » Continue Reading.
The following essay was authored by Assemblyman Steven Englebright and State Senator Todd Kaminsky.
The 2019 legislative session was a great one for New York’s environment. As the chairs of the Environmental Conservation Committees in both houses, we were pleased to talk with Adirondack residents and visitors about the session in late September when we came to the park to discuss next year’s agenda.
The Adirondacks aren’t just New York’s largest park, they are a national treasure and a shining example of long-term conservation that serves as a model for the world. » Continue Reading.
Two chipmunks vie for seeds on our front lawn. One lives directly underneath the bird feeder. Another hails from the far side of the house, address unknown.
The chipmunks appear identical to me: same size, same stripes. Same interests, namely seed hoarding, aggressive chittering, jumping into the bushes and back out again, and brazen stiff-tailed standoffs with the dog. » Continue Reading.
I’ve always found slender, sharp, yellow-ochre beech leaves alluring, and it’s endearing how they cling onto saplings late into the fall. However, Fagus grandifolia, the American beech, tends to get a lot of flak from foresters.
The trees are plagued with beech bark disease, which ruins any timber value, and they can dominate the understory, shutting out sugar maple and prized yellow birch. Quick to arrive after most logging jobs, they sprout and sucker their way into dominance. » Continue Reading.
“What a horrifyingly garish sight,” I said to my friend as we surveyed my Christmas tree last year. We had just finished decorating it and my eyes were sending messages to my brain, like, “Hey, this is really tacky.”
Truth is, the décor I had accumulated after years of city dwelling in my sassy twenties looked awfully out of place in my humble Vermont cabin. What I once thought dazzling – glitter-coated icicles, a miniature disco ball, a purple-feathered bird with jeweled eyes, flocks of shiny gold and green balls – now looked as out of place as a pink flamingo at my bird feeder. Even the duck decoy my great uncle carved seemed to give the gaudy fiasco an alarmed stare. Such a tree no longer belonged in my world. » Continue Reading.
A couple of decades ago, I spent several winters living in Crested Butte, Colorado, where I learned to peer into the cottonwood trees between Route 135 and the East River on the rare occasion when I needed to travel south to the closest “big” town. There, just downstream from the local fish hatchery, I would often find a group of bald eagles perched and waiting for their dinner to swim by.
Growing up in the Northeast, I’d never seen a bald eagle close to home – and certainly not a dozen of them in one cluster of trees. But the birds that serve as our country’s emblem have made a remarkable comeback in recent decades and are now dispersed across the United States, north into much of Canada, and south into parts of Mexico. In northern New York and New England, adult bald eagles tend to stick around their territories throughout the winter, with younger interlopers from other areas passing through. » Continue Reading.
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