Almanack Contributor 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.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Adirondack Wildlife: Southern Red-Backed Vole

800px-Red-backed_voleThe presence of some forms of wildlife is easy to note while others are nearly impossible to detect.  By restricting activities to places hidden from view, many creatures are able to maintain a secretive life.  Small size and protective coloration can further reduce the chances of some animals from ever being glimpsed even on those occasions when they temporarily venture into a more exposed location.  Not producing a call or any audible sound can also add to the stealth-like nature of many creatures, and failing to leave any visible sign of feeding or travel routes can make an animal unknown in those areas in which it is abundant.

While the wildlife community in the Adirondacks harbors many such elusive entities, it is the southern red-backed vole that tops the list of our region’s most abundant, yet rarely seen mammals.  » Continue Reading.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Adirondack Wildlife: The Porcupine Gives Birth

Porcupine Baby PorcupetteJune is the month when many forms of wildlife give birth in the Adirondacks. The last week in May and early June marks the start of a nearly four month long interval of weather favorable for birth and the period of development following birth that young birds, mammals, some reptiles, fish and bugs need before they are mature enough to successfully contend with the life threatening challenges posed by the change in seasons.

Among the creatures that bear their young shortly after Memorial Day is the porcupine, a large and cold-hardy rodent known for its unique system of defense. » Continue Reading.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Bug Season: Some Tips For Avoiding Black Flies

A-Buckskin-Man-s-Pocket-46Late May and early June is the peak of black fly season in the Adirondacks, and the intensity and aggressiveness of the swarms of these small, dark-colored biting bugs varies greatly from one location to another and from one year to the next. From all indications, this year seems to be one in which there is a definite abundance of black flies in our forests, much to the delight of numerous species of insect eating birds that migrate north to feast on the seasonal abundance of bugs, but much to the dismay of hikers, campers and canoeists that want a wilderness experience free of flying insect vermin.
» Continue Reading.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Adirondack Insects: Mayflies

DSCN1675As the water warms in streams, rivers and lakes, there is an explosion of invertebrate activity, when the hoards of aquatic bugs that pass much of the year on the bottom are stimulated by the favorable thermal conditions which allow them to continue with their life cycle. Among the insects preparing to leave the safety of some protective nook, or transition into a stage that no longer perfectly matches the surroundings, are the mayflies, an exceptionally prolific and ecologically significant group of aquatic organisms.

Mayflies form a category, or order, of insects known as Ephemeroptera, which literally translates into the short-lived insects. This label is somewhat a misnomer, as most mayflies have a life span of one full year. Nearly this entire period, however, is spent underwater, initially in the embryonic form of an egg and then as a naiad passing from one nymph stage into another as they consume and convert microscopic matter in the water into body tissue. » Continue Reading.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Adirondack Birds: Soulful Music of the Hermit Thrush

Hermit ThrushIn the weeks surrounding the emergence of leaves on the shrubs and trees in the Adirondacks a rich variety of sounds, unlike that which is heard during any other time of the year, occurs in our forests. Some participants in this natural symphony bellow out a perky series of melodious notes, like the winter wren and red-eyed vireo, while others such as the robin and white-throated sparrow have a more stately quality to their voice.

A few, like the ovenbird and chestnut-sided warbler, contribute an intense and serious refrain to the mix, and then there is the soulful music of the hermit thrush, which frequently opts to perform solo after most of the other voices have subsided for the evening. » Continue Reading.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Adirondack Wildlife: Living With Wasps

Bee Hive CollectiveAfter the ground thaws and the soil finally begins to warm, the multitude of invertebrates that passed the winter burrowed deep within the thermally protective bed of fallen leaves, rotting bark and decomposing wood emerges from their long period of dormancy. Among the many flying bugs that are currently working their way to the surface and returning to a life above ground are the wasps. After exiting their subterranean winter retreat, these often feared stinging insects explore the immediate surroundings in an effort to locate a suitable spot in which to establish a colony for the approaching growing season.

In early autumn, numerous females with a functional reproductive system are produced in each colony. Shortly after transitioning into adults, these females abandon their nest, along with the drones or males, never to return to the colony. The receptive females quickly breed and acquire enough sperm during a single mating encounter to last for the remainder of their life. Within a few days after mating, the males die, but the fertilized females often prowl the area for food before retiring for the winter. » Continue Reading.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Adirondack Birds: The Dark-Eyed Junco

600px-Dark-eyed_Junco-27527Strong southerly wind in spring not only brings periods of mild weather to our region, but also helps usher in numerous species of migratory birds from their wintering grounds. Among the early arrivals to the Adirondacks, often before the snow finally disappears from wooded areas and north-facing hillsides, is a cold-hardy member of the sparrow family. Although this handsome bird is just as abundant throughout the Park as the white-throated sparrow, even in the harsh climate of upper elevations, the dark-eyed junco does not enjoy the same level of notoriety as its white-throated cousin.

The dark-eyed junco, (Junco hyemalis) known to most as simply a junco, is a common bird that is easy to recognize. The slate-gray color of its head and back stands in sharp contrast to its white underside and its stubby, creamy-pink bill. Also, the junco has white outer tail feathers that become particularly noticeable when it flicks it tail. » Continue Reading.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Adirondack Amphibians: Spring Peepers

Silence still prevails along the shores of marshes clad in alders, willows, dogwoods and wild raisins, but this will change shortly. The warmth forecast for the coming week should be sufficient to finally melt any remaining patches of snow and ice still on the edge of open wetlands. Additionally, the appearance of the sun and a period of mild showers should help eliminate the remnants of frost in the upper parts of the soil.

As the ground loses its winter characteristics, the spring peeper is quick to awaken from its winter dormancy, crawl from its shallow, subterranean shelter along with countless numbers of fellow peepers, and travel to a nearby marshy setting. Once it arrives at the water’s edge, this amphibian loudly announces its presence and willingness to breed. » Continue Reading.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Adirondack Birds in Spring: Nesting Crows

Nesting CrowsRegardless of how cold and inclement the weather may be at the onset of April, several species of birds begin to nest in the weeks following the equinox, occasionally amid periodic bouts of snow, unrelenting north winds and freezing temperatures. In the Adirondacks, one early nester is a common denizen of fields, highway corridors, heavily used campsites, and villages throughout the Park and is among our most familiar birds.

The large size and jet black plumage of the crow makes this bird difficult to overlook, and its characteristic “cawing” call is among the most recognizable sounds in nature. » Continue Reading.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Adirondack Fishing: The Opening of Trout Season

Trout StringerThe fact that the opening day of trout season in New York coincides with April Fool’s Day does not seem to be a coincidence to many people in the Adirondacks. To any rational human, the thought of standing for hours along a partially frozen stream, fending off hypothermia and frostbite only to wait for the slightest tug on a monofilament line epitomizes foolishness. However, for many avid sportsmen, April 1st is just as sacred as the opening of big game season and regardless of how miserable the weather can be, there is a need to get out and “wet-a-line” in a favored fishing spot on this day.

The cold start to spring this year has kept ice along the shores of many streams and brooks, and in some slower moving waterways, there still exists a solid covering of ice for long stretches. Fishing for trout under these harsh conditions is an extreme challenge, yet experienced anglers are often able to snag enough brookies or browns to make a meal. » Continue Reading.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Easter Bunny: Cottontail Rabbit or Varying Hare?

Chocolate Easter BunnyThe cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus) is slightly smaller in overall size and has smaller hind legs and feet then the varying hare, also known as the snowshoe rabbit (Lepus americanus).

Even though both of these lagomorphs can travel a fair distance with a single hop, the cottontail’s running style is slightly choppier and less graceful when compared to the smoother and more powerful bounding of the varying hare when it needs to move fast.

Also, the cottontail has a pronounced white, rounded tail which contrasts with its gray coat of fur, and which helped earn this creature its common name. Because the tail of the snowshoe is the same color as that of its body, and is held closer to its back, this small, rear appendage is difficult to notice. » Continue Reading.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Adirondack Wildlife: The Mink

768px-Mink_-_Lower_Saranac_LakeThe persistent cold weather pattern that has prevented regular thaws from occurring this March has kept a covering of ice on most Adirondack waterways, including the edges of many streams and rivers. Returning waterfowl, like the black duck and mallard, are now forced to concentrate their activities to those scattered stretches of water where the current keeps ice from forming.

It is around these limited settings that a sleek and resourceful member of the weasel family lurks in an attempt to ambush one of these meaty game birds. While it is possible during the warmer months of the year to notice this shoreline demon prowling the boundary of any aquatic environment, the open waters that attract wild ducks are now a prime hunting haunt of the mink. » Continue Reading.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Waiting For Spring: No Robins Yet!

American Robin by Wikimedia user MdfThe date of the first day of spring varies greatly, as the starting point of this anticipated time of the year depends upon how this season is defined. For those that rely on the calendar, spring begins on Wednesday, as this is when our tilted planet is at a particular position in its orbit around the sun.

For individuals more attuned to meteorology and climatology, spring officially starts on March 1st, as this is when a change in weather patterns traditionally commences. For many back-yard naturalists and people interested in something more noticeable, the sighting of a robin marks the onset of spring. » Continue Reading.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Adirondack Bugs: Cluster Flies

cluster-flies-1Bright sunny weather with little wind in March, such as the type that our region experienced this past weekend, not only triggers the flow of sap in maple trees and causes a case of spring fever in every normal human, but it also prematurely awakens several creatures that pass the winter in a deep state of dormancy.

Among those forms of animal life impacted by bouts of intense sun and temperatures above freezing during the latter part of winter is the cluster fly. After the sun starts to bake the south side of homes, barns and sheds, this insect rouses from its prolonged period of torpor and exits its winter retreat in the company of dozens to hundreds of its kin. As the late afternoon temperatures cool, this bug is forced to return to some hidden nook or cranny and wait until the next spell of spring weather awakens it again. » Continue Reading.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Red Squirrels and the Sounds of Spring

Red SquirellThere is a pronounced silence in our forests throughout the winter, except for the occasional sound of a flock of chickadees and the wind blowing through the canopy. Those forms of wildlife that remain active during this season of cold and snow are forced to concentrate all of their energy on finding the limited amount of food present and maintaining a suitable internal temperature, rather than on expending effort generating a noise. As winter’s grip gradually relents in early March and the problems of survival ease, one of the first voices to be heard again in both wilderness settings and residential sections of the Park is the angry chatter of the red squirrel. » Continue Reading.

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