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, October 1, 2012

Adirondack Wildlife: Osprey Exit the Park

As the temperatures in the many lakes and ponds that dot the Adirondacks begin to cool, the fish inhabitants of these waterways start to spend more of their time at greater depths. While this change in the routine of these gilled vertebrates impacts the way late season anglers pursue them, it also affects the life of our region’s most effective surface fish predator – the osprey.

With its 4 to 5 foot wing span and 2 foot long body, the osprey is a bird that is difficult to overlook as it soars over a picturesque mountain lake, or perches on the limb close to the shore of a pristine pond. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Adirondack Natural History: Bugs and Frost

For many locations in the Adirondacks, the growing season ended last week when the temperature dropped into the mid-20’s. The hard frost that formed on unprotected garden vegetables and cultivated flowers that were not covered was enough to destroy these sensitive forms of vegetation, along with many herbaceous plants that thrive in fields and meadows.

However, not all places in the region experienced freezing temperatures, as the calm air that permitted heat to be radiated from the atmosphere into space also allowed many spots to retain just enough warmth to stay several degrees above 32. In heavily wooded areas, the dense canopy of leaves that still exists is able to act like a sheet of plastic placed over a garden and trap the warmth of the ground beneath it. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Adirondack Moose On The Move

Mid to late September in the Adirondacks is marked by hints of bright autumn colors, a lack of biting bugs, the reappearance of the grayish-brown coat of dense winter fur on the white-tail deer, and the greatly increased chance of seeing a moose. Although moose are massive in size and might appear to be easy to spot, these giants of the Great Northwoods mostly confine their activities to densely wooded areas in which visibility is low and human travel is severely limited. Additionally, moose prefer to forage during periods of twilight, when their chocolate-brown coat causes them to blend into a dark background.

Around the time of the autumn equinox, moose experience an awakening reproductive urge. This powerful drive often causes individuals to abandon the setting in which they routinely forage and begin to seek out members of the opposite sex. While these long-legged beasts are known to travel a dozen miles or more during a single morning or evening when on the search for food, moose periodically wander much further in the weeks between Labor Day and Columbus Day as they try to locate breeding partners. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Birding: The Great Warbler Migration

For most birds, autumn is a time of migration. As is the case in spring, not all species engage in their bouts of long distance travel at the same time; some are known for heading out early while others linger in the region for several additional months before starting their journey.

Among the birds that are quick to depart the North Country are the warblers, a large group of small, delicate creatures that abound in the vast expanses of forests when daylight is at a maximum and bugs are at their peak. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 3, 2012

When Whitetail Deer Antlers Lose Their Velvet

The rapid loss of daylight at this time of year triggers many events in nature, including several changes in the white-tailed deer. It is in early September that a deer’s chestnut-tan summer coat begins to be replaced with much thicker and darker colored fur that is better adapted to retain body heat and conceal this big game creature in the dimmer light of winter.

Deer also experience an increase in their appetite as summer wanes in an attempt to build deposits of fat that also act as insulation and can serve as fuel when food becomes scarce during the dead of winter. Additionally, the first week of September is when bucks in the Adirondacks rub the velvety covering of skin off their set of antlers, their initial preparation for the rutting or mating season that will arrive in approximately two months. » Continue Reading.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Adirondack Ecology: Wildlife, Wilderness and Dead Wood

Discussions regarding the ecological value of wilderness compared to an actively managed forest often centers around the health and well being of specific members of the wildlife community. While the flora and fauna that a tract of wilderness supports may be strikingly similar to that which occurs in periodically logged woodlands, the relative abundance of the various plants and animals contained in each is often quite different.In wilderness regions, there eventually develops a much higher concentration of those organisms whose lives are connected either directly or indirectly to the presence of dead wood.

Forests that are protected from timber harvesting operations contain substantially more dead wood on the ground and on the stump. While some trees that succumb to a disease or insect infestation may remain upright for only a few years after they die, many remain standing for decades before they eventually fall. Standing dead trees, especially ones that are larger than a foot in diameter, harbor numerous living entities and provide many animals with shelter. » Continue Reading.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Tom Kalinowski: Avian Appetites

As summer enters its final few weeks, most Adirondack birds have completed the nesting process and now are busy preparing for the cooler months that lie ahead and their upcoming migration.

Soon after the last brood of young vacates the nest, most birds begin to travel more frequently outside the territory which they claimed earlier in the season. The strong territorial instincts that existed in nearly all species prior to and throughout the breeding period quickly fade as the young fledge. This can be noted by the absence of the songs that are commonly used to proclaim ownership to a particular location. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Adirondack Ragweed and Hay Fever Season

August is a month known for ripening raspberries and blackberries, the appearance of locally grown sweet corn and other fresh produce at farm stands, the return of back to school ads on TV, and the unwelcome arrival of hay fever season.

For many people, exposure to certain types of pollen triggers a most unpleasant nasal reaction that can linger for days. While the pollen of numerous plants contributes to this often severe irritation of the nose, sinus cavities and upper respiratory tract of many, ordinarily healthy people, ragweed is, by far, the leading culprit responsible for making life miserable for those unfortunate enough to be afflicted with this common medical condition. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Adirondack Wildlife: Crickets and Grasshoppers

The advent of late summer in the Adirondacks is when most species of crickets and many types of grasshoppers enter into the reproductive phase of their life cycle. This results in an annual production of commonly heard sounds, starting with the appearance of developing flocks of birds. It is as much a part of the background in the Park at this time of year as the blossoming of goldenrod in open fields and meadows and the presence of clusters of queen-Anne’s-lace lining sections of highways.

Crickets and grasshoppers, along with the katydids and locust, form an order of insects known as orthoptera, which means the straight-winged insects. While most crickets and some grasshoppers seem to lack any type of flying appendage, all members of this group of bugs have two sets of wings during their adult stage, which may, or may not, allow these stout-bodies creatures to fly. Rather than function as a structure for travel, their wings serve primarily to produce the sound used for attracting a breeding partner. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Adirondack Wildlife: The Flying Squirrels

In the days prior to and immediately following a full moon, there is often enough light in the hours after sunset for a person to meander along a well established woodland trail without the aid of a flashlight. By walking slowly and quietly, one can occasionally detect a small gray squirrel rustling about the dead leaves on the forest floor, climbing up a large trunk, or moving along the limb of a tree. While most squirrels strongly prefer to be active during the light of day, the flying squirrel favors the darkness of night and is the most common nocturnal tree dwelling mammal within the Park.

The flying squirrel is characterized by a loose fold of skin, called a patagium that extends from it front and hind legs and connects to its sides. This thin, furry membrane acts as a wing or airfoil when the animal stretches its appendages outward and enables it to glide forward as it slowly descends after leaping from a tree. The wide and flat tail of this rodent provides additional lift and greatly helps an airborne individual alter its flight path so it can accurately land at a selected spot. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 23, 2012

The Northeastern Pine Sawyer Beetle

From the afternoon into the early evening in mid to late summer, a silence often develops as the heat of the day peaks and then starts to cool; as birds cease to sing and amphibians lose their urge to call. In the stillness between periods when leaves rustle from light summer breezes, the sound of a grinding or twisting-scraping can be heard coming from a fallen softwood log or a dead standing evergreen.

This low volume creaking noise is particularly evident in downed white pine trunks that lie in open and semi-open settings. It is caused by the wood boring activity of the larvae of the Northeastern pine sawyer beetle (Monochamus notatus), a large, grotesque looking bug that is widespread across the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Adirondack Fishing: Trout and Low Water

Trout fishing is a challenging endeavor, yet it can be the most rewarding backcountry activity, as success ordinarily means a meal or two with a great tasting main course. Because trout require cool, clean waters in which to live, anglers who want to engage in this popular Adirondack summer pastime traditionally head to those places where conditions remain favorable for these hardy game fish.

Larger tributaries that flow at higher elevations, streams that run down the north slope of a mountain, shady, gravel-bottom stretches of water that frequently undercut their banks and deep holes that lie on the edge of an eddy are all places in which trout can still be caught during July and August. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 9, 2012

In The Adirondack Dirt: Earthworms and Drought

Hit and miss rain showers and scattered thunderstorms have provided much of the precipitation over the Adirondacks during this past month. This has allowed some locations to maintain an adequate level of soil moisture while causing conditions in other places to become especially dry.

The lack of periodic soaking rains, along with the abundance of sunshine and long stretches of above average temperatures has impacted the lives of a multitude of soil organisms, particularly earthworms which are highly sensitive to dry conditions. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Adirondack Fish: The Redbelly Dace

Summer is the season for being on the water in the Adirondacks, and a canoe or kayak is the perfect way to explore the many ponds, slow-moving rivers and marshes that exist throughout the Park. While these shallow, muddy-bottomed settings may not be great for swimming, the rusty-tan water occasionally covered with patches of floating leaves and strands of submerged vegetation does teem with life. Among the residents of these quiet, weedy waterways is the redbelly dace (Phoxinus eos), a common and widespread member of the minnow family of fish. » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Adirondack Bug Season: Biting Midges

A screened-in porch is an ideal place to relax on a summer evening in the Adirondacks. The tight, wire mesh that covers the walls allows the enjoyment of nature’s unique fragrances and wildlife sounds without the harassment of mosquitoes and other flying nocturnal pests. However, during the early parts of summer, there is one bug that can detract from the backwoods ambiance of that peaceful Adirondack evening. Biting midges are small enough to pass through traditional screens, allowing them access to any individual wanting to enjoy the evening.

The biting midges form a large group of exceedingly small true flies that are roughly the size of a sand grain, and are known to many as punkies or no-see-ums. The latter common name comes from this bug’s ability to remain unseen in low light conditions, such as on a porch after sunset, even when one of these pests has started to chew into your skin. Despite their dark color, no-see-ums are still a challenge to see clearly, even when standing against a patch of light colored skin. On a person with a dark complexion, punkies can be impossible to spot, regardless of how good the light may happen to be. » Continue Reading.


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