Jackie Woodcock was born and lives in the Adirondack Mountains. She is an apiarist, lepidopterist, conservationist, teacher, writer, artist, and a co-owner of SkyLyfeADK. You can find her SkyLyfeADK on Instagram and Facebook.
Like the bees, once the temperature gets to 50 degrees and above my husband and I are outside on the move. Its not hard to notice the changes in the view from morning to evening when you spend nearly 80 percent of your time in nature like we do. In the morning the wild flowers are on display, bringing life and a multitude color to a mountain landscape but in the evening the once vibrant petals close and shades of green take over.
Have these flowers become sleepy and fallen into a slumber and if they’re not sleeping, why have they closed for the night?
For over a month now, pollinators here in the mountains have been working their life keeping magic. Each of these winged creatures participating in the cycle of life of the flora that covers the forest floors and meadows. The first pollinators to appear as Spring rolls in, are the mason and carpenter bees who are able to withstand the cooler temperatures followed by bumble bees and then the smaller breeds of solitary, ground dwelling bees which includes polyester bees among many.
In Lepidoptera land, moths that have overwintered in the Adirondacks emerge from their cocoons as well as butterflies that are able to withstand the slowly warming temperatures have made their winged displays known. The eastern tiger swallowtail (pictured here) is one of the first butterflies to soar the fields and roadsides. They are not alone, the checkered and mustard whites, orange and clouded sulfurs and some skippers join them. Some of the migrating butterflies have began to arrive back to the mountains beginning the first week of May, so you may have observed white and red admirals, northern crescents and common blues and whites with monarchs to arrive here by the end of this month.
It’s Turtle Time and these shelled reptiles are making a public appearance here in the mountains. There are 356 species of turtle in the World with only four of them calling the Adirondack Park home; the snapping turtle, the painted turtle, the spotted turtle, and the wood turtle.
Have you ever heard the saying, “A dog is a man’s best friend”? For many of us who have had a dog for a pet, this saying rings true. Our dog, Mickey, has proven to be a loving, forgiving and tolerant friend and own’s a place in our hearts eternally. But have dogs cornered the market on building friendships with humans? There are thousands of accounts and videos from people around the world who testify, dogs are only one of our potential non-human friends.
My husband and I spend a great deal of time on the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge. It’s there that we witnessed for ourselves, friends come in many shapes, sizes and species. Some have scales, some have fur and some have feathers among other sordid wild attributes. Friendships aren’t limited to humans or domesticated animals, they exist where ever we choose to express our love and appreciation. Little did we know one day we would have friends with feathers who would fly into our hearts. Each of these winged pals are responsible for countless hours of joy in our lives and a true blessing from the natural world.
“A foundation is only as sturdy as its mitochondria.” — Wendy B Hall, Adirondack Wildlife Refuge co-founder
Birds of a Feather Flock together and that’s definitely the case on The Adirondack Wildlife Refuge.
This year started with a time of strategy, dedication and labors of love, beginning with the renovation of the Wolf Dome in honor of Debbie MacKenzie.
Debbie was a devoted and dedicated friend of the Refuge whose love for wildlife exuded from the inside out. She had a special spiritual bond with every wild animal she came into contact with and a particular fondness for song birds. Debbie and her husband, Kevin, assisted in the recovery of wild creatures in need of rescuing and rehabilitation. This duo touched the hearts of like-minded people and developed a close friendship with Steve and Wendy Hall, owners of the Wildlife Refuge in Wilmington. You can imagine the pain and sorrow when Debbie passed away. In a time of reflection and remembrance, the plan to renovate the Wolf Dome came about.
March 21st marked the first day of spring and here in the mountains the warm early spring temperatures have begun to prompt the native bees to wake from their hibernation. Like many creatures, most native bees store up food during the warm months in preparation for a cold long winter.
The first thing waking bees do is perform a cleansing flight, they expel any excrement that has accumulated during their winter’s rest.
The next thing they do is search for food. Its not hard to see that there are no trees and flowers in bloom as the snow begins to melt and once again bare ground is exposed.
So what do these amazing little creatures do to survive until blossoms appear? Unlike colony-building honeybees, solitary bees don’t stockpile honey for times when blossoms are scarce.
Meet the Cicada Beetle. They are big, noisy and make an appearance by the billions every 13-17 years.
May 2021 marks the month and year that we here in New York will experience a natural phenomenon of the insect world. This phenomenon about to happen is named Brood X or The Great Eastern Brood. Starting in May of this year, for five to six weeks, it will be virtually impossible to miss Brood X, which will be the most widespread and prolific of the known generations of cicada in the U.S.
Cicadas are members of the superfamily Cicadidae and are physically distinguished by their stout bodies, broad heads, clear-membraned wings, and large compound eyes.
There are more than 3,000 species of cicadas, which fall into roughly two categories: annual cicadas, which are spotted every year, and periodical cicadas, which spend most of their lives underground and only emerge once every decade or two. While annual cicadas can be found throughout the world, periodicals are unique to North America. Periodical broods are concentrated in the central and eastern regions of the United States, and some areas are home to multiple broods.
If you have a love for the great outdoors, chances are you have heard and or seen “Tree Drummers,” the creatures we call woodpeckers. There are nine species of woodpeckers here in New York; Pileated Woodpeckers, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Yellow-bellied Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, American Three-toed Woodpeckers, and Black-backed Woodpeckers.
Dragonflies are nature’s little aerial acrobats. Likened in bodily shape to a helicopter with numerous maneuvers, they can fly straight up and down, forward and backward, hover and even mate mid-air
There are 7,000 species of dragonflies and mayflies, the dragon flies smaller cousin, in the world.
The Adirondacks are home to approximately 30 species of dragonflies. They typically stay close to water; most species of dragonfly spend the majority of their life underwater or close to the surface of the water. Depending on the species, dragonflies prefer ponds, marshes, or streams.
A dragonfly has a life span of more than a year, but very little of that life is actually as an adult dragonfly. There are three stages of the dragonfly life cycle, the egg, the nymph, and the adult dragonfly. Most of the life cycle of a dragonfly is lived out in the nymph stage where they aren’t seen at all, unless you are swimming underwater in a lake.
It takes a matter of seconds for residents here in the mountains to identify a fox. These small, doglike creatures stick out like a sore thumb as they roam above the now cold, white landscape in their pursuit of their next meal. Foxes are amazing creatures built for the hunt with numerous abilities that aid in survival. What are these abilities?
It’s not evident from a distance but if you’re privileged to come into close proximity, you would see foxes have vertical pupils. This allows them to see well in the dark as well as giving them a wider field of view, 200 degrees compared to humans at 180 degrees. Their eyes also have six to eight times more rod cells, allowing the fox to sense motion in the dark.
Foxes have quite the proboscis! They have a very keen sense of smell and have been known to find carcasses of livestock buried under deep snow and several inches below the surface. Their snouts are long and their noses are wet, allowing them to smell by dissolving the chemicals in the air and indicating the wind direction.
This past year, many people here in the Adirondacks and around the country have experienced what has been termed as a “Life Storm.”
This storm is culminated by circumstances that test our strength, devour our peace and steal our joy. The truth is there may have been many storms in your life, not just in the past year but sporadically throughout your life. Like weather storms, life storms can come in slowly and leave quickly or roll in quickly and linger for some time. No matter the substance, life storms can feel personally aimed and centered on us. It can be lonely when the darkness creeps in and there seems to be no shelter.
Winter in the mountains is marked by abundant snowfall. As mountain residents we are hard wired for winter preparation. When the trees have shed most of their leaves and become an array of barren branches, we like the squirrels are diligently preparing for a long, cold winter. Barbeque grills and lawn furniture get tucked away, wood piles are stacked wide and tall, fuel tanks filled, snow blowers fueled up and snow shovels are conveniently propped near the entrance of homes.
We are prepared and equipped for nature’s cold, white glitter we call snow. With the average daily winter temperature being approximately sixteen degrees, double stuffed jackets, insulated boots and hat & mittens become the general attire. We have our own form of hibernation as we load our cupboards with yummy snacks and settle in for a Netflix marathon.
As the landscape here in the Adirondacks changes from a sea of green to a frozen wonderland, coniferous trees now become the highlight of the forest flora. The cones that are produced come in a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on the species of pine, and are prolific throughout the mountains as decorative items we see on wreaths, baskets arrangements and swags both inside and outside the homes of residents. Aside from their decorating uses, pine cones play an important role in nature. Like all plant parts, they have a very specific function in the plant world. There are approximately 6 species of pine tree in the Adirondacks that are identified by their needle like leaves, seed bearing cones and the bark. Each cone produced has its unique size and shape and seed capacity. » Continue Reading.
When we hear the term “Snow Birds,” we naturally think of a person who migrates from the colder northern parts of North America to warmer southern locales but birds here in the Adirondacks also claim this title and fittingly so.
As winter approaches the mountains, an entire orchestra of song birds migrates to a warmer, southern winter territory. The morning music of feathered chirpers throughout the spring and summer months have flown away not to return until April-May next year.
These flying migrators range from 29 species of warblers to various populations for thrushes, sparrows, flickers, bluebirds, buntings, sapsuckers, wrens and hummingbirds. This does not leave winter void of the sound of winged music, there are songbirds that remain and brave the cold.
Many of us have heard of the story that a small, fuzzy caterpillar Called the Woolly Bear (aka woolly worm or hedgehog caterpillar) carried the prediction of the coming winter on its back. Whatever name you choose to call them, these cuddly looking caterpillars are often found in the autumn after they have left their food plants, a variety of grasses and weeds, in search of a sheltered spot where they can hibernate as larvae for the winter.
According to folklore, the amount of black on the woolly bear in autumn varies proportionately with the severity of the coming winter in the geographical area where the caterpillar is found. The longer the woolly bear’s black bands, the longer, colder, snowier, and more severe the winter will be. Similarly, the wider the middle brown band is associated with a milder upcoming winter. The position of the longest dark bands supposedly indicates which part of winter will be coldest or hardest. If the head end of the caterpillar is dark, the beginning of winter will be severe. If the tail end is dark, the end of winter will be cold. In addition, the woolly bear caterpillar has 13 segments to its body, which traditional forecasters say correspond to the 13 weeks of winter.
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