Almanack Contributor Jackie Woodcock

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.


Friday, February 26, 2021

Woodpeckers: Nature’s Tree Drummers

woodpeckerIf 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.

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Friday, February 19, 2021

Dragonflies: Learning to swim before they fly

adult dragonflyDragonflies 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.

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Friday, February 5, 2021

Red Foxes: Truly Magnetic Creatures

FoxIt 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?

Enhanced senses

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.

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Saturday, January 30, 2021

Standing In The Storm

Storm artworkThis 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.

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Friday, January 15, 2021

Surviving The Freeze: Animals in Winter

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.

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Friday, January 8, 2021

Pine Cones: Nature’s (useful) seed bearers

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.


Saturday, November 21, 2020

Helping the snow birds that stick around

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.

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Friday, November 6, 2020

The Woolly Bear’s Winter Weather Prediction 

woolly bearMany 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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Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Rainbows: Beyond the Arch

rainbowRainbows require two things: sunlight, and water. Rainbows can be seen not just in the rain but also in the mist, spray, fog, and dew. 

The best place to consistently find both of these things and spot a complete rainbow, is a tall mountain or ridge where it is or has just rained, making the Adirondack high peaks an amazing place to view this natural wonder. A rainbow is a meteorological phenomenon that is caused by reflection, refraction and dispersion of light in water droplets resulting in a spectrum of light appearing in the sky.  Similar to a mirage, a rainbow is formed when light rays bend, creating an effect that is visible, but not able to be touched or approached. 

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Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Striped Maples: Changes happening below the surface

striped mapleDuring the fall, a change occurs with maple trees that is prominent and apparent.  As the daylight hours decrease green leaves turn to colors of vibrant yellow, burnt orange and an array of shades of red. 

There is a list of species of Maples that add to this colorful splendor, from Sugar, Norway, Amur and more but one in particular changes more than its leaf color — the Striped Maple. 

Many people have a hard time identifying the different species of maple by the bark in Summer but the Striped Maple possess a smooth, variegated green, reptilian-looking bark that can be noticed with ease. 

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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Adirondack Moose Sightings: Rare and Majestic

Most of New York’s moose are located in the Adirondack Mountains and the Taconic Highlands along the Massachusetts and Vermont borders although young males have been known to wander south of the Adirondacks to mate and establish territory.

It is estimated that approximately 400 moose reside here in the mountains. Currently there are six moose in New York that carry GPS collars, which allow biologists to track their movements and determine the number of calves that are born to adult females.

The moose is the largest and heaviest species in the deer family. Two of the most amazing attributes of a moose are its sheer size and its antlers.

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Friday, September 18, 2020

Adirondack Monarch Tagging:  Tracking Migration

Monarch butterflies are an iconic species, easily recognized by their vibrant orange and black wings speckled with white dots and can be seen feeding in fields and open areas here in the Adirondacks.

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Friday, September 11, 2020

Winged With Hope: Fixing broken monarch wings

Most people have seen the small, flying murals called butterflies.  Nature’s living pieces of art that remain an endless show of life and beauty drawn upon wings of flight.  The carrier of this splendor, a delicate butterfly. 

A butterfly has four wings – two on each side. They are broken into two forewings and two hindwings. The wings are attached to the second and third thoracic segments. When a butterfly is in flight, the wings move up and down in a figure-eight pattern.

Butterfly wings are made up of two chitinous layers. Each wing is covered by thousands of colorful scales and hairs.  These wing scales are tiny overlapping pieces of chitin on a butterfly wing only seen in detail under a microscope. They are attached at the body wall and are modified, plate-like setae or hairs.

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Thursday, August 27, 2020

Honeybee Festooning: Stretching for the Comb

One of the most amazing activities in a honeybee’s lifetime is rarely seen by humans and occurs by the workings of numerous architect-minded, honeycomb-building, wax-producing bees. 

Building comb is a multi-skill effort, involving bees strung from comb to comb like a tapestry of lacework, hanging together leg to leg in sheets between the frames to build new comb in a process called “festooning.”  While festooning, bees measure the open space, create blueprints for future comb, act as self-made scaffolding, promoting stretching of the abdomen which aids in wax production.

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Monday, August 3, 2020

Hidden Inside: The Miracle of Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis is a process in which animals undergo extreme, rapid physical changes that occur within a particular time after birth. The result of metamorphosis may be a change to the organism’s entire bodily makeup, such as a change in the animal’s number of legs, its means of eating, or its means of breathing. Metamorphosis is also required for sexual maturity, as pre-metamorphic members of specific species are typically unable to mate or reproduce.

This process is undergone by most insects. Animals that undergo metamorphosis include fish, mollusks, and many other types of sea creatures which are related to insects, mollusks, or fish.  

Metamorphosis is a miraculous process. The speed and extent of cell growth and differentiation is astonishing. The process of metamorphosis involves a re-activating of genes that allow animal cells to change from one cell type to another, and is triggered by hormones, which the animal’s body releases as conditions for metamorphosis approach. These hormones cause drastic changes to the functioning of cells, and even behavioral changes such as the caterpillar becoming a chrysalis.

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