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.
Winter is the time when wildlife activity ebbs in the Adirondacks. Many residents of our fields and forests have retreated to shelters beneath the surface of the soil in an attempt to escape this season of low temperatures, snow and ice, and little if any food.
The woodland jumping mouse (Napaeozapus insignis) is one member of our wildlife community that retires to the seclusion of a cushiony nest underground and lapses into a profound state of dormancy, known as true hibernation, for roughly 6 months beginning sometime in mid-October. » Continue Reading.
There are several types of migration that occur in nature. While this term generally brings to mind the long distance flight of birds and a few species of bats, it can also refer to the seasonal movements of numerous creatures that abandon their summer domains on the surface for an environment below the frost line.
As cold air becomes more intense, and nightly temperatures more regularly drop into the teens causing water in the uppermost layer of soil to freeze, most cold-blooded organisms that reside there, particularly the red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus) must start to migrate down in order to prevent freezing to death. » Continue Reading.
It’s simple physics. In a cold environment, small objects lose heat at a faster rate than large objects. This is why most warm-blooded animals that reside in a northern climate tend to be large in size. Yet, for every rule, there is always an exception and when considering birds, the golden-crowned kinglet is a perplexing anomaly.
The golden-crowned kinglet is the smallest perching bird to inhabit the Adirondacks, as this delicate, olive colored creature is not much larger than a hummingbird, (which is classified in a group that is related to the swifts rather than the perching birds.) However, unlike our other small birds, like the warblers, vireos and wrens, the kinglet often remains in the Adirondacks throughout the dead of winter, traveling in small, loosely knit flocks in dense evergreen forests. » Continue Reading.
Despite remarkable similarities in appearance, flying styles and behaviors, not all bats are created equal. In the Adirondacks, there are approximately nine species of these dark, winged mammals during the summer months, yet all possess their own unique physical characteristics and habits.
The manner in which bats deal with the total lack of flying insects that occurs with the onset of winter is one feature that illustrates how bats are different. Even though more than half the species that populate our region migrate to and then enter caves or mines that extend deep underground, all have definite preferences for below the surface. While some species proceed far from the entrance in order to reach warmer and damper locations, others favor cooler and drier spots closer to the world above. » Continue Reading.
It can be heard at almost anytime, but especially after sunset. On calm evenings from the late summer throughout autumn, the high-pitched yelping cry of the eastern coyote occasionally echoes across the landscape under the cover of darkness.
While the Adirondack coyote is known to make its tormented-sounding bark during any season, at this time of year they tend to be more vocal. » Continue Reading.
There are several creatures that serve as symbols of the rugged and majestic character of the Great North Woods, yet none is as fitting as the moose. At first sight, a moose may seem quite ugly and an unusual choice to represent the beauty of the northern wilderness.
Its disproportionately long legs, awkward gait, protruding hump on its back above its shoulders, rather rough coat and odd looking facial features may not be very appealing. Yet, together these characteristics create a unique and overwhelming image to those lucky enough to see one of these giants in the wilds, and they help this massive mammal flourish in a sub-arctic region. » Continue Reading.
Intense cold is hard on all forms of wildlife, however, some of nature’s creatures are better adapted to deal with this type of adversity than others. Those animals whose geographic range extends well northward into Canada and Alaska have evolved various strategies to cope with prolonged bouts of sub-arctic weather and are quite capable of surviving the unrelenting cold that the Adirondacks has experienced this winter.
Conversely, some components of the Park’s fauna are on the northern fringe of their range and are better suited for functioning in a temperate region, such as southern New York and the mid-Atlantic States. These creatures are probably not faring well this season. » Continue Reading.
Wilderness forests serve as havens to many species of wildlife, especially those attracted to stands of old, dying and dead trees. While some people view areas of rotting timber as a breeding ground for tree disease and destructive, wood-boring insects, as well as a source of fuel for fire during periods of exceptionally dry weather, other individuals note that such sites create favorable conditions for many unique forms of life.
Among those creatures attracted to places cluttered with recently fallen logs, where frequent stands of damaged, dying and partially rotted timber jut through a broken canopy, is the black-backed woodpecker. This hardy bird is a year-round resident of the Park, inhabiting areas where old, sick, weakened and dead trees, especially conifers, abound. » Continue Reading.
New Years is a time when many people contemplate shedding those extra pounds gained between Thanksgiving and Christmas. For numerous forms of wildlife, late autumn through winter can be a protracted season of weight loss, however, this is the result of shortages of food during these bleak months, rather than any conscious effort to become trim.
For the meadow vole, a weight loss phase of its life begins in mid autumn, causing this common rodent to lose more than a quarter of its body mass. This natural reduction in the intake of food is triggered by a specific decrease in the amount of daylight, known as photoperiodism, and typically occurs regardless of the availability of items to eat. » Continue Reading.
Animosity is an emotion not solely restricted to humans, as several forms of wildlife occasionally display an outward aversion to specific creatures, even through such an antagonistic attitude seems to have little to no value to their current survival.
Perhaps the best example of such an overt repulsion of one animal for another is the crow’s reaction to seeing an owl at this time of year. Upon detecting one of these round-faced predators, a crow quickly starts producing a squawking caw designed to summon any other crows in the immediate area. It is believed by some naturalists that a crow, upon hearing this alarm sound, will relay the information to others unable to hear the initial call that an owl has been spotted. This is an attempt to assemble as sizeable a mob of birds as possible. » Continue Reading.
Big game hunters and auto body repair shops know well that early to mid November is the time in the Adirondacks when deer are on the move; however the white-tail is not the only creature that breeds during late autumn.
The porcupine also develops its urge to reproduce in the period between Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving. As is the case with deer, older male porcupines are currently on the move in their attempt to locate as many females nearing their estrous period as possible over these next several weeks. » Continue Reading.
From the onset of November, periods of mild weather become fewer and further between; however, there are always occasions when hats and coats can be left in the closet, and the fire in the woodstove can be allowed to die out for a day or two.
It is during such balmy spells when several species of hardy moths take to the air and can be seen after dusk fluttering around a porch light or a window next to a lamp. These small, drab gray insects are all closely related, belonging to the Geometridae family of animals, and are best typified in the Adirondacks by the fall cankerworm (Alsophila pometaria). » Continue Reading.
The recent barrage of publicity regarding ebola has focused everyone’s attention on this particularly deadly virus, however, the relatively isolated nature of the Adirondacks makes our region a most unlikely location for an appearance of such a troublesome disease. In our area there are other viruses that are a much greater threat to the health of the general public than ebola.
At this time of year rabies must be given a top priority, as autumn is the time many infected animals are on the move, and for anyone exposed to this virus who fails to get medical attention the outcome is almost always fatal. » Continue Reading.
Numerous amphibians and avian calls are enjoyed by Adirondack residents and visitors alike throughout spring and early summer, yet as the seasons progress, this music gradually subsides until by early autumn only a few bird voices can be heard amongst the fading background chorus of crickets.
Since singing requires an expenditure of energy, and advertising one’s presence increases the chance of attack by a nearby natural enemy, birds refrain from much vocalization after the breeding season ends. However, it is possible to hear the soulful call of the white-throated sparrow during the autumn, as there always seems to be an individual or two in one of the transient flocks spending time in the area that bellows out its characteristic “Old-Sam-Peabody-Peabody-Peabody” song. » Continue Reading.
Early autumn is the time fog frequently shrouds valleys in the morning, and a heavy dew regularly coats unprotected surfaces for several hours after sunrise. As the atmosphere begins to cool with the change in seasons, moist conditions often develop at night and can continue well after dawn. This is ideal for our various terrestrial amphibians, which require damp surroundings for their survival. Among the members of these moisture sensitive vertebrates is the red-spotted newt, a unique form of salamander that goes on the move as the foliage changes color. » Continue Reading.
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