Almanack Contributor Tom Kalinowski

Tom Kalinowski

Tom Kalinowski is an avid outdoor enthusiast who taught field biology and ecology at Saranac Lake High School for 33 years. He has written numerous articles on natural history for Adirondack Life, The Conservationist, and Adirondack Explorer magazines and a weekly nature column for the Lake Placid News. In addition, Tom’s books, An Adirondack Almanac, and his most recent work entitled Adirondack Nature Notes, focuses on various events that occur among the region’s flora and fauna during very specific times of the calendar year. He also spends time photographing wildlife. Tom’s pictures have appeared in various publications across the New York State.


Monday, June 18, 2012

The Attack of the Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed GrouseIt is traditional backwoods wisdom to avoid getting between a mother and her babies, and while this advice usually pertains to the black bear, it could also apply to several other forms of wildlife that reside in the Adirondacks.

In late spring many infants are emerging from the safety of their den or nest and most mothers try to provide some form of protection from potential danger to their babies. Perhaps the most remarkable display of parental courage for a creature of its size is seen in the hen ruffed grouse. This bird will aggressively confront and challenge any human that happens to come too close to its recently hatched chicks. » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 11, 2012

The American Marten in the High Peaks

At the start of summer, the High Peak wilderness experiences a sharp expansion of its wildlife community.

Insects adapted for survival in an often cool, high-elevation environment have emerged from their long winter dormancy and are now engaged in eating and breeding. Various species of birds have traveled to our upper elevation slopes to mate and nest, and numerous mammals that reside in this harsh climatic zone are now busy rearing infants which can temporarily double their populations.

One predator that is occasionally seen by people who pass through this region and whose young are currently developing to the stage at which they are leaving their mother’s den for the first time is the American marten (Martes Americana), a creature that symbolizes the great North woods character of the Central Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The White Admiral Butterfly

Forest clearings in the Adirondacks are especially attractive settings for many forms of wildlife. The warmth of the ground when the sun is shining is particularly inviting to cold-blooded creatures, and the stands of trees that surround these openings in the canopy serve as a source of food and shelter.

Clearings created during logging operations, wide sections along secondary roads, and the open space that typically exists around lean-tos and campsites are places frequented by numerous animals. Among the creatures easily observed during the coming month in these sunny oases of our deciduous and mixed woodlands is a strikingly attractive, black butterfly with a distinct white strip across its wings. The white admiral butterfly (Limenitis arthemis) is a common component of our fauna and regularly lingers around small forest clearings during the early summer throughout the Park. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Late Spring and the Gray Tree Frog

Spring is a season when the greatest abundance of natural sounds echo across the landscape. During the day, birds are primarily responsible for the variety of musical calls; however as darkness approaches, especially when the weather is mild, the voices of amphibians produce our most captivating sounds.

Around the alder-laden shores of ponds, marshes and rivers, choruses of tiny spring peepers regularly drown out the songs sung by all other creatures. During the latter part of May, after dusk, toads can be seen heading to similar shallow wooded waterways to engage in their nocturnal serenade. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Adirondack Birding: The Barn Swallow

Barn SwallowCoinciding with the onset of bug season in the Adirondacks is the return of our insect eating birds. While nearly all of these perching birds have an attractive musical call that announces their presence, most maintain a secretive routine so they are rarely spotted.

The swallows are the most visible bug consumers as their preference for perching in exposed places and feeding over open settings allows these skilled aerialists to be regularly seen.

Additionally, their habit of placing their nest close to human dwellings and in plain view of any passerby makes them well known to residents and visitors of the Park.
» Continue Reading.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Adirondack Amphibians: The Spotted Salamander

The recent series of rain events that has occurred over the past several weeks has elevated the level of streams and rivers, reduced the threat of wildfires, and brought trail conditions back to a more typical spring muddy state.

This wet period has also helped greatly in rejuvenating vernal pools that are critical breeding areas and nurseries for many forest dwelling amphibians and has created the damp soil conditions essential to these wet-skinned animals. Among these moisture loving vertebrates that commonly occurs in stands of mature forests throughout the Adirondacks is a sizeable dark colored creature known as the spotted salamander. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Adirondack Birding: The Winter Wren

Spending time outdoors in the Adirondacks during spring is a rewarding experience, as the sounds that emanate from our forests, especially in the early morning, are sure to delight. While the musical calls produced by most birds are relatively short and composed of only a handful of notes, there are a few songs that are considerably longer and more complex.

The lengthiest and most intricate song that commonly graces our woodlands is one heard in patches of mixed forests where dense clusters of undergrowth or ground debris exist on the forest floor. This fast tempo melody is quite loud, yet comes from one of the smallest birds to nest in the Adirondacks – the winter wren. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 30, 2012

Spring Visitors: Ladybug Beetles

Among the many groups of insects that exist on our planet, the most abundant, diverse and ecologically successful are the beetles. And while many of these hard-shelled bugs are viewed as ugly and unwanted by humans, the ladybug beetle is considered to be one of the most attractive and environmentally friendly creatures in nature.

With a conspicuous dome-shaped, orange shell marked with black spots, the ladybug is difficult to mistake for any other invertebrate. Like all insects, there are numerous species of ladybugs that reside in our region, and the subtle differences in the color and pattern of its markings is the common means of distinguishing among the members of this insect group. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Adirondack Insects: Ants

Prior to the start of black fly season, and continuing for several weeks after the swarms of those tiny, biting demons have faded, there is another insect onslaught that impacts numerous people throughout the Adirondacks. Shortly after the soil has thawed in spring, ants begin to invade the living space of humans, especially kitchens and dining areas where bits of food are readily available.

Since there are so many types and species of ants in the North Country, it is impossible to say what kind of ant is appearing around countertops, near pantry closets, in garbage containers, and under tables where morsels of edibles lie undisturbed on the floor. However, it is easy to state that numerous ants readily welcome themselves indoors, as long as there is something worthwhile for them to collect and transport back to their colony. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Adirondack Wildlife: The Porcupine and Salt

Over the next several weeks, the buds on hardwood trees and shrubs will open and the forests will again be cloaked in green, providing our many herbivores with a welcome change in their diet. While many plant eaters are able to subsist on woody buds and cellulose laden layers of inner bark throughout winter, leafy matter provides far greater levels of nourishment. The porcupine, a common denizen of the deep Northwood’s forest, is among our region’s first order consumers to ingest greens when they emerge in spring.

In winter, the porcupine settles into a routine of eating only the bark and needles of a very few species of trees in the area around its den. The stomach and small intestine of this rodent contain strains of microorganisms that act on this ultra-high fiber material in order to derive the energy needed to remain alive in this climate. Yet the limited amount of nutrients, particularly nitrogen, in such plant tissues makes this type of food less than ideal for maintaining a healthy diet. Despite ingesting large volumes of woody matter each night in winter, the porcupine often loses weight continuously as this bleak season progresses. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Adirondack Wildlife: The Belted Kingfisher

The early break up of ice on ponds, lakes and marshes, along with a very healthy flow of water in streams and rivers, has made conditions far better for fishing this April than in recent years. Humans, however, are not the only creatures that prowl the banks of remote streams, or visit the shores of backcountry ponds, in an attempt to snag a small brook trout. Throughout the Adirondacks, there are numerous forms of life that are well adapted for catching fish, and among the most colorful and noisy is the belted kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon).

With its large head, long, thick bill, jagged crest, and white band around its neck, the kingfisher provides a silhouette that is easily recognized. However, it is not the unique appearance of this stout bird that initially draws attention to its presence. Most anglers and individuals that simply spend time outdoors commonly become aware that a kingfisher is in the immediate area by noting its distinct rattling call. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Your Easter Chocolate: Cottontail Rabbit or Varying Hare?

The mild weather that the Adirondacks has experienced over the past 10 to 12 months has benefited numerous forms of wildlife better suited for an existence in a temperate climate rather than a taiga biome. Yet, the inability of many creatures to travel long distances prevents them from quickly overspreading the Park when a lengthy warm period becomes firmly established.

Additionally, the wilderness forests of the Adirondacks limit the influx of those species that thrive in the lowlands composed primarily of agricultural fields and small suburban communities. Perhaps the status of the cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus) is one of the best examples of this type of natural exclusion, as this small game creature is abundant everywhere in the eastern U.S. except for settings well within the Blue Line. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Natural History: The Ecology of Adirondack Fires

There are several natural disasters that can alter the ecological make-up of an area. Wide spread tree disease, severe winds and intense ice storms can all seriously damage or destroy the dominant members of a forest community. However, the most catastrophic force of nature is fire, as a major blaze can significantly impact more than just the composition of trees that cover a given location.

Unlike other natural calamities, fire can wipe out most of the plants that root in an area. In an ice storm, or a major wind event, it is primarily the older and taller trees that are subject to the greatest devastation. Seedlings, saplings, the various shrubs that form the understory and the array of herbaceous plants that grow on the forest floor often benefit from the increase in sunlight that result when the canopy has been drastically thinned or eliminated. During an intense fire, however, the entire plant community can be obliterated. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Adirondack Wildlife: The Star-Nosed Mole

For many Adirondack residents, the onset of mud season brings about the annual problem of water in the basement. Run-off from melting snow and rain, unable to percolate into the still frozen soil, pools on the ground and eventually drains to the lowest spot available. The foundation of older homes may collect some of this water, as do surface tunnels created by small creatures like moles and voles.

While spring flooding can be a serious survival issue for some subterranean mammals, it is not believed to be of any major concern to the star-nosed mole, one of the least physically attractive forms of wildlife in the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Adirondack Wildlife: The Wood Duck

Strong and frequent southerly breezes, a disappearing snow pack at low elevations and the presence of large stretches of open water along streams, in the backwater of rivers and in marshes prompt the return of numerous forms of waterfowl to the Adirondacks.

Even though mid March is early for the arrival of some migrants from their wintering grounds, when the opportunity arises to reconnect with the area used for breeding, these flat-billed, webbed-footed birds take advantage of the favorable conditions and fly north. Included with these returning birds is one of the most colorful and handsome species of waterfowl in North America – the wood duck. » Continue Reading.


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