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, February 4, 2013

Adirondack Wildlife: Hunting the Varying Hare

Snowshoe_Hare,_Shirleys_BayThe wild swings in weather over the past few weeks have wreaked havoc with backcountry skiing, reduced the number of usable snowmobile trails, and made the use of snowshoes optional at many lower elevations throughout the Park. (However, always check the current conditions before embarking on any excursion into higher terrain, or into an area impacted by lake effect snows.) The erratic weather has also caused some disappointment among those small game hunters that enjoy listening to the barking cry of a beagle as it tracks the scent of a varying hare.

The varying hare, also known as the snowshoe rabbit, is a small, yet meaty resident of softwood thickets and alder swamps that is rarely seen despite its relative abundance in such settings. Because of this animals protective coloration, its ability to sit perfectly still for hours at a time in a patch of brush, and its hunched-up, or rounded shape that creates an inconspicuous body outline, the varying hare is a challenge to see clearly, even for predators like the coyote and fox.
» Continue Reading.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Adirondack Climate Change: How About Oaks?

Johnny Appleseed, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, 1871Several weeks ago, it was reported in the Almanack that the Adirondacks might be a potential location for mountain lion reintroduction. Over the past few decades, various types of wildlife have been restored to their former numbers in the Park, and over the past several centuries, many non-native species of flora and fauna have become established, either accidentally or on purpose in our environment.

During this present century, there will undoubtedly be a massive influx of life forms occurring throughout the region in response to the changing climate. While the mountain lion elicits much interest and emotion, its return would not have the same ecological impact as the formation of scattered patches of red oaks, white oaks, basswood, shagbark hickory, sweet birch and other trees that typify woodlands to our south.
» Continue Reading.


Monday, January 14, 2013

High Peaks Wildlife: The Boreal Chickadee

Boreal ChickadeeDuring the final segment in the ascent of a high peak, before coming to the tree line, or on a trip through a lowland forest of spruce and fir, a very hoarse-sounding chickadee may be heard. While a novice birder or an inexperienced naturalist may assume that the individual responsible for this raspy chickadee song is the common black-capped variety with a bad head cold or a case of throat congestion, the more knowledgeable outdoorsman would recognize the voice as that of a cold-hardy resident of the far north–the boreal chickadee.

Aside from its similar call, the boreal chickadee is nearly the same size and has a color pattern that resembles its friendly, perky relative that is familiar to anyone with a feeder in his/her yard. When getting only a quick glimpse of one, seeing one in a dimly lit spot, or when its body is partially obscured by evergreen boughs, it is a challenge to distinguish between these two birds.
» Continue Reading.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Ice Fishing: Yellow Perch in Winter

In the middle and lower depths of our lakes in winter, a region of 39 degree water prevails, providing a haven for those fishes that remain active throughout this season. (A noteworthy physical property of water is that it becomes most dense at 39 degrees and sinks to the bottom. As water cools further, it becomes less dense or lighter in weight and rises to the surface. As a given mass solidifies, its density decreases even further, which is why ice floats on the surface rather than sinks.) While 39 degree water causes rapid hypothermia in humans, it is within the lower range of thermal acceptability for various species of cold-blooded organisms, including a favorite of winter anglers– the yellow perch.

The yellow perch, known to most as simply a perch, is a thick-scaled fish with noticeable vertical streaks on its sides and two separate dorsal fins. The first dorsal fin is supported by sharp-pointed spines that make the perch a challenge to handle without experiencing a painful poke to the hand. The perch also has a relatively small mouth. This limits its intake of food to aquatic invertebrates, the eggs from other fishes, and very small fish, like the fry of larger fish, dace, and smaller strains of minnows and shiners.
» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Whitetail Deer: Shedding Antlers

At the start of the New Year, the saying, “Out with the old…” may seem quite appropriate to male white-tailed deer residing in wilderness regions of the Adirondacks. As the calendar year comes to an end, bucks traditionally lose their antlers, making it nearly impossible to distinguish between the sexes when a small herd is noticed standing along the side of a road, or in a forest clearing. Some bucks may be observed supporting their characteristic boney headwear well into January or February, which reflects an abnormal ratio of bucks to does in that general area.

The primary purpose of a set of antlers is to serve as a weapon when confronting a rival buck prior to and during the rutting, or mating, season. Initially, a month or more before the first doe comes into heat, bucks half-heartedly spar with one another in an attempt to establish dominance. The testosterone level in the bucks increases with the shortening length of daylight and more frequent detection of female pheromones, which alerts the bucks to the does awakening reproductive state. This causes the level and intensity of the fighting between males to increase. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Present For Nature

During this season of giving, it is only right to include the environment on your list of those that need a gift. While a tie, sweater, or a pair of socks is not appropriate for Mother Nature, the item that many individuals should consider bringing to our fields and forests is the ashes that are produced by wood stoves, fireplaces and outdoor wood boilers, as this material is one of the most precious commodities that our environment can use.

The off-white, powdery ash that is produced from the combustion of wood contains a variety of compounds that are beneficial to the soil, especially in the Adirondacks. Wood ash has been known for centuries to act as a fertilizing agent, and its importance in agriculture during the colonial era is well documented. The preparation of wood ash for commercial use was routinely conducted by treating the ash in large pots and creating a compound that was obviously labeled “potash”. (In 1790, Samuel Hopkins developed a more effective process for producing potash from wood ash and was granted the first patent. The U.S. Patent Office, a small government agency at the time, required final approval from both President George Washington and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson for a patent.) » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Winter and the Golden-Crowned Kinglet

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.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Adirondack Reptiles: The Wood Turtle

Before winter sets in, all reptiles and amphibians must retreat to a location that provides shelter against the temperatures that would be lethal to their cold-blooded system. While some find refuge underground, others rely on the protection afforded by water and seek out a place on the bottom of an aquatic setting in which ice is unlikely to develop, even during periods of intense cold.

All turtles that live in the Adirondacks belong to this second group, including the wood turtle, a seldom encountered species that exists in limited numbers in scattered locations, especially in the eastern half of the Park.
» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Adirondack Wildlife: The Ermine and Snow

The near total lack of snow this year has been a disappointment to skiers that enjoy early season outings and big game hunters that like several inches of powder for tracking the movement of deer. For several members of our wildlife community, a forest floor that remains free of snow into the latter part of November becomes problematic, as a dark background contrasts with their newly developed coat of pure white fur.

Among the creatures that change color in autumn as part of a survival strategy is a small, yet especially fierce predator – the short-tailed weasel, better known to trappers and backwoods sportsmen as the ermine.
» Continue Reading.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Adirondack Birds: A Tough Season for the Robin

The time of migration for some birds, and their eventual destination, are very predictable. For others, however, it is impossible to say when they exit the general region and where they are going, other than somewhere south. One bird in this last group, illustrating the individualistic behavior patterns of the members of a single species, is the robin.

Along with being a harbinger of spring and ranking as our nation’s number one backyard bird, this orange-breasted songster has no set response to the lessening daylight and the onset of cold, other than to fatten up for the coming winter and eventually travel to a more hospitable climate.
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Monday, November 5, 2012

Prime Time For Hunting Whitetail Deer

Traditionally, it is between November 4th and 18th when the peak of the rutting or breeding season for the white-tailed deer occurs in the Adirondacks. Bucks are continuously on the move during these two weeks as they attempt to locate any doe that is nearing her initial heat period.

Also, as bucks expand their search for females outside their regular area of travel, males must continue to regularly return to their home range in order to ensure that rivals do not intrude into their domain.
» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

That Fuzzy White Stuff: Woolly Alder Aphids

When raking leaves, putting away patio furniture and dealing with other outdoor chores that should be done before winter sets in, an observant individual may notice small, fuzzy, bluish-white insects slowly drifting through the air.

Upon close examination, these gnat-like bugs have an abdomen covered with a mass of tiny, curly, white fibers and a thorax that is a light iridescent blue-green, especially near the base of their transparent wings. These tomato seed-sized invertebrates are known as woolly aphids, and although they are active from mid-spring through October, it is only after the leaves have fallen and they take to the air that they become marginally visible to anyone that spends time outside.
» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tom Kalinowski’s Winter Weather Forecast

Last Thursday, the Climate Prediction Center, the long range weather forecasting division of the National Weather Service, made its prediction for this coming winter with a rather unusual statement.

The El Niño event that had started to slowly develop and was expected to strengthen and influence weather patterns across our continent, suddenly vanished. (El Niño is a cyclical warming of the surface water in the western tropical Pacific Ocean and helps to establish a broad area of high pressure over this equatorial region which can greatly impact weather patterns over the U.S., especially in the northeast.) » Continue Reading.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Adirondack Wildlife: Skunk on the Prowl

The rainy weather that has persisted over the past month has returned the water in our rivers, lakes, and ponds to levels typical for this time of year, rejuvenated the trees and shrubs in our forests and the grass and weeds in our lawns.

It has also restored the moist soil environment necessary for the continued activity of numerous invertebrates, terrestrial amphibians, and other creatures that reside on the ground and in the dirt. Despite several frosts and the record cold this past Friday night that temporarily froze the surface of the soil, many of the organisms that exist in the ground remain active well into the autumn.
» Continue Reading.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Adirondack Amphibians: Spring Peepers in Autumn

On calm, mild evenings in autumn, such as those that occurred last Wednesday and Thursday, a familiar sound may be heard coming from a stand of trees close to an alder thicket or a woodland swamp. A crisp, one-note “peep” infrequently breaks the silence in these wooded settings at night and during the day when the air is unseasonably warm and moist.

This distinct call can perplex anyone who has visited a wetland in spring. Can it possibly be a spring peeper, known for producing the seasonal chorus of natural music after the soil thaws in April? Following a summer of silence, the male spring peeper redevelops an urge to announce its presence, this time in the area in which it may have spent the past several months.
» Continue Reading.


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