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.
In the Adirondacks, all forms of wildlife have a natural fear of humans. This is the primary reason why hikers, campers, and individuals sitting on their back porch don’t generally see many creatures, despite being outside for long periods of time.
Should a healthy animal detect the presence of a person, it inevitably hides or immediately flees in order to avoid being seen. » Continue Reading.
Despite the numerous frosts that our region experienced in September, there continue to be many types of bugs that remain active into the autumn in the Adirondacks. Among these hardy invertebrates, and the ones that are quite conspicuous to anyone that spends time working in the yard, garden or on the wood pile, are the harvestmen, known to most as the daddy-longlegs.
Like spiders, the harvestmen are classified as arachnids because of their body structure, having 4 sets of legs and a set of arm-like appendages near their mouth. (In the harvestmen, these arms, known as pedipalps, are barely visible, yet are still of great use to this creature in grabbing and holding items it wants to eat.) It is easy to understand how these arachnids acquired their popular name, as the lengthy thread-like legs that surround their small body are proportionately longer than those of nearly any other bug. » Continue Reading.
Starting in early autumn, a profound silence pervades the forests of the Adirondacks, especially on frosty mornings when the air is calm. In the hours following dawn, only a few avian voices disturb the stillness, such as the soulful song of the nuthatch and the perky call of the chickadee. Yet it is the loud, raucous, squawking voice of the blue jay that prominently violates the solitude of our deep woods and forest edges. During the weeks immediately following the equinox, a new phase begins in the life of this familiar backyard bird, signaled by the intensity of its boisterous calls. » Continue Reading.
All mammals that employ the use of a shelter in winter instinctively attempt to find a place completely hidden from the view of humans for their home, except for one. When the time comes in late summer or early autumn for establishing a protective enclosure for the coming season of cold, ice and snow, only the beaver places its residence in a spot that can be readily noticed by a person passing through the area.
When hiking, canoeing, biking or driving past a stretch of quiet water, you can often see a sizeable, cone-shaped mound of sticks packed with mud jutting well above the water’s surface. This is the temporary, winter residence of a family of beaver which provides these flat-tailed creatures with shelter from the cold, and protection against their few natural enemies. » Continue Reading.
As many birds prepare to abandon their summer ranges during the coming weeks and months, others are altering their routine to allow them to better survive winter in the Adirondacks. The regular appearance of numerous, year-round avian residents around homes and camps suggests that the behaviors of these hardy species do not change from one season to another.
However, following the end of the nesting season, many of these permanent members of our wildlife community subtly change their routine to improve their chances of finding food and avoiding danger. Among the birds that experiences a shift in behavior from their nesting season to this non-breeding period is the black-capped chickadee, a friendly and perky bird that almost everyone recognizes in appearance and song. » Continue Reading.
As the days become shorter and the nights cooler, there is a change in the population status and activity level of the numerous bugs that reside in the Adirondacks. While many invertebrates begin to die en masse in the final weeks of summer, the numbers of others increase at this time of year. Colonies of yellow jackets, bees and some wasps reach their peak during the harvest season as these nectar consuming creatures concentrate their foraging efforts on the crop of late blooming wildflowers.
At the top of the list of plants that support various species of flies, moths, bees, hornets and butterflies from Labor Day well past the equinox are the asters, a large and diverse collection of wildflowers as much a part of late summer and early autumn as ripening apples, the sound of crickets and developing flocks of birds. » Continue Reading.
The end of August through mid-September is the time in the Adirondacks when the urge to be independent becomes strong enough in fox pups to cause them to vacate their parents’ territory and seek out a place they can claim as their own. As the near adult-size animal travels for many dozens, to a hundred miles or more searching for a suitable setting without a current resident, it may occasionally be glimpsed, especially around dusk and dawn, walking across a road, meandering through a backyard, trotting along the edge of a field or quietly weaving its way into a brushy thicket.
The red fox is traditionally associated with northern regions, and it is the fox most commonly seen within the Blue Line over the last two centuries. However, the geographic range of the gray fox has been steadily expanding into higher latitudes during the course of the past several decades and is now just as likely to be seen as the red fox in many locations in the Park, especially in lowland valleys where the climate is less severe. » Continue Reading.
Mid-August is the time in the Adirondacks when the foliage of some red maples turns a bright reddish-orange, the sound of crickets replaces the music of our many songbirds, and blackberries start to ripen on their thorny canes. It is also when birds are more regularly seen in flocks rather than individually as they perch on a wire, forage in a field or fly across a road.
The territorial nature and belligerent behavior exhibited by adults toward neighbors from early spring through the end of the breeding season now fades like the chlorophyll in leaves during the latter weeks of September. Thus, a more gregarious lifestyle develops among the members of the same species and results in the formation of flocks for resting, foraging, traveling, and roosting at night. » Continue Reading.
The damp weather pattern over the Adirondacks since mid-May, while being a challenge to some creatures, has been most favorable to many others. Among those forms of wildlife that benefit from a moist atmosphere and frequent bouts of rain are the numerous terrestrial amphibians that occur in shady locations across the region.
While the Adirondacks is home to over a dozen species of these moisture-loving entities, the largest and most frequently encountered is the American Toad, a chubby and slow moving animal that is among the most recognizable members of our wildlife community. » Continue Reading.
Adirondack waterways serve as home to a wealth of invertebrates that range in size from microscopic to those that are several inches in length. Among the giants of this complex and diverse group of organisms are the crayfish, which are larger, more robust and meaty than many vertebrate forms of life in our region.
Because of their size and abundance, crayfish are an important component of all fresh water environments; however these fierce-looking entities have not been as thoroughly researched and studied as have other creatures that reside in the same general surroundings. While the basics of their biology and natural history are known, much still remains to be learned regarding the individual species that populate the many bodies of water throughout the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.
The prolonged period of hot and humid weather that the Adirondacks have recently experienced has warmed the waters in our many lakes and ponds to their highest temperatures of the season. This is a welcome occurrence to those that enjoy swimming and simply wading in our waterways, however it can create a challenge to those aquatic creatures that are better suited to the cool waters of our mountain wilderness.
Among the fish impacted by high water temperatures is a popular game species sought by anglers for its feisty temperament after being hooked and its mild and flavorful taste after being cooked- the smallmouth bass. » Continue Reading.
The growing season two years ago was considered to have been excellent. There were numerous periods of mild weather in the spring along with a lack of a late hard frost which allowed for an abundance of flowers to successfully begin their initial stage of developing our crops of seeds and berries. Summer that year provided ample sunshine and an adequate supply of rain to bring to maturity the numerous wild fruits and mast that can grow in this region.
Whenever an abundance of nutritious edibles develops in nature, there is an explosion in the population of mice, voles, chipmunks and other small creatures that utilize such items as their principle source of food. By the end of autumn, it became evident that the number of small herbivores, especially mice, was near or at an all time high for many areas throughout the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.
The daily round of intense rain that has plagued the region for the past several weeks has elevated most area waterways to abnormally high levels for this time of year, impacting many forms of animals. For one group of insects, the early summer flooding is particularly devastating, yet anyone that enjoys being outside at the start of this season can only view this widespread mortality as the silver lining to the persistent rains.
From late June through mid July, deer flies can be most annoying to hikers, campers, canoeists, and individuals that work in the garden, yet this year there seems to be a definite reduction, or complete absence of this annoying pest. » Continue Reading.
The ability of a flying animal to move through the air varies greatly, with some creatures possessing an exceptional mastery of this skill. While many forms of life simply use their aerial capabilities to quickly and efficiently travel from one place to another, others have evolved extraordinary airborne talents. Bats, swallows and swifts are all well known for their highly maneuverable style of flight, allowing these hunters to pursue and capture bugs in the air. Yet, from an aerodynamic perspective, the most unique and complex flying creature in the Adirondacks is the dragonfly, which must be considered the true master of flight.
The dragonfly actually represents a group, or order, of insects known as Odonata, which encompasses many species of both dragonflies and damselflies. All of the individuals in this category have evolved a highly complex flight style produced by their two sets of long, slender and transparent wings. » Continue Reading.
The bouts of overcast and rainy weather that the Adirondacks have experienced over the past few weeks have led to the proliferation of various forms of invertebrates that thrive in damp settings.
Among the arthropods that strongly favor moist conditions is a group of small, dark to nearly black, worm-like organisms that occasionally occur in fair numbers on the foundation of houses, on the side of stone walls, or in a masonry fire pit in front of a lean-to. These are the millipedes, a group of small, yet important, arthropods that play a vital role in our soil ecology. » Continue Reading.
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