As the landscape here in the Adirondacks changes from a sea of green to a frozen wonderland, coniferous trees now become the highlight of the forest flora. The cones that are produced come in a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on the species of pine, and are prolific throughout the mountains as decorative items we see on wreaths, baskets arrangements and swags both inside and outside the homes of residents. Aside from their decorating uses, pine cones play an important role in nature. Like all plant parts, they have a very specific function in the plant world. There are approximately 6 species of pine tree in the Adirondacks that are identified by their needle like leaves, seed bearing cones and the bark. Each cone produced has its unique size and shape and seed capacity. » Continue Reading.
In folklore and literature, Jack Frost is often portrayed as a mischievous guy, sort of Old Man Winter’s younger self. He’s a personification of everything cold. In our region he’s a busy guy, at least for half of the year.
And an artistic one.
He gets credit for painting the trees orange and yellow and red in the fall. And we’re all familiar with ground frost, that harbinger of winter that looks like a dusting of snow. This phenomenon occurs when the temperature of objects near the ground falls below freezing. Water in the air freezes onto objects, sometimes as what looks like frozen dewdrops, sometimes as branched crystals.
Other times, Jack Frost picks up another brush to load everything with the lacy, feathery designs of hoarfrost.
Hoarfrost derives from the old English word “hoary,” meaning, getting on in age. It has the power to excite the poet in us. When you wake on a cold morning and look out to see the entire world — trees, bushes, your car — draped with lacy, feathery crystals glinting in the sunlight, it’s magical. The word “fairyland” comes to mind.
According to John Goff, the lead meteorologist at the National Weather Service Office in Burlington, hoarfrost is a “common occurrence” across the northern tier of the US, but almost nonexistent in areas with dryer, warmer climates. To form, hoarfrost requires a supersaturated column of cold air extending well above the surface of the ground.
According to northern New York homeowners, there are three bug species that refuse to follow the social distancing guidelines. Six-legged interlopers are occupying residences and gardens en masse this holiday season. The purpose of this article is to describe the bugs, and discuss control strategies for each insect.
What is Mistletoe?
A mistletoe is a flowering plant (angiosperm) which, although capable of growing independently, is almost always parasitic or, more specifically, partially or hemi-parasitic. Mistletoes grow on the branches of host trees and shrubs, sending out roots that tap into their hosts’ vascular systems, which they then rely on for uptake of water, mineral nutrients and, to some extent, carbohydrates. It’s interesting to note that the word mistletoe translates from its Anglo-Saxon origin as dung on a twig; derived from the ancient belief that the plants grew from bird droppings. Actually, they grow from seeds found in the bird droppings.
Happy Thanksgiving. In honor of the holiday, I’ve plucked out some stories about wild turkeys from the Almanack archive.
Found in all 50 states and hunted in every state but Hawaii, American sportsmen and women harvest roughly 700,000 turkeys annually. That makes turkeys the most sought after gamebird on the continent, according to Richard Gast in this 2018 article.
In our sister site the Adirondack Explorer, a recent column from the Nov/Dec 2020 issue of the magazine is posted here.
For cranberry farmers, autumn brings falling leaves and rising hopes. Family-owned operations, such as Deer River Cranberry Farm in Brasher Falls, cultivate their vines in meticulously manicured marshes. Droplets descended from irrigation spigots glisten atop entangled mats of waxy, evergreen vines, forming a coruscant carpet. Harvest season begins in mid-September, and is well underway by early November.
Most cranberry varieties produce fruit every other year. To harvest the crop, some farmers flood their typically well-drained bogs. The hollow, red berries rise above their short canopy. Collecting tools include buoyed nets, or water reels, which corral fruit for a mechanical harvester. Berries are then sent careening down a series of steps, with the roundest, plumpest, highest quality fruit tumbling the farthest.
The fierce, firetruck red aesthetic of a Demoranville berry contrasts sharply with the mottled, red-and-white complexion of a Mullica Queen, but both must pass the test. Wizened, infested, or misshapen products that aren’t firm enough to sufficiently bounce will be discarded, along with the farmer’s hope for an unblemished crop.
When we hear the term “Snow Birds,” we naturally think of a person who migrates from the colder northern parts of North America to warmer southern locales but birds here in the Adirondacks also claim this title and fittingly so.
As winter approaches the mountains, an entire orchestra of song birds migrates to a warmer, southern winter territory. The morning music of feathered chirpers throughout the spring and summer months have flown away not to return until April-May next year.
These flying migrators range from 29 species of warblers to various populations for thrushes, sparrows, flickers, bluebirds, buntings, sapsuckers, wrens and hummingbirds. This does not leave winter void of the sound of winged music, there are songbirds that remain and brave the cold.
An update from Champlain Area Trails (CATS):
Please save the date for a volunteer workday at CATS Essex Quarry Nature Preserve. We will be meeting at Essex Quarry on Friday, November 20th at 1p.m. This will be a fantastic way to see and improve the new preserve and trail as we gear up for our formal opening next summer! Please note that we need to limit the number of volunteers to 10 people given the most recent NYS regulations related to COVID-19 safety. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible! Bring loppers and gloves. We hope to see you there!
Winter Finch Alert
This winter is shaping up to be an exciting year for viewing “winter finches” in the Adirondacks and Champlain Valley.
Winter finches refer to the groups of finch species that prefer northern boreal or arctic habitat and occasionally irrupt south in search of food.
This year, essentially all of the known winter finch species are already showing up and have been spotted in the Champlain Valley! Among them are Common Redpolls (featured in this photo), Pine Siskins, Evening Grosbeaks, Pine Grosbeaks, Bohemian Waxwings and Red Crossbills.
You can learn more about these species by reading the 2020/2021 Winter Finch Forecast.
Redpoll photo courtesy of Derek Rogers/CATS
What’s in a name? In the case of the Fisher Cat, Pekania pennanti, a low-slung, cat-sized fur-bearing omnivore found throughout the dense pine forests of Northern New York, apparently not much.
The Fisher Cat is not a cat, but rather a member of the weasel family, and they do not fish, although there are records of them eating dead fish found on the side of ponds or lakes.
How did they come by the name, then?
‘Fisher’ is thought to be derived from early European settlers likening the animal to the European polecat, called a ‘fitche’. As for ‘cat’, the fisher is about the size of a large domestic cat, with a dark brown to black, close-cropped glossy fur coat and a long bushy tail. It will hold its tail upright when it runs, perhaps making it resemble a cat to some. Although they don’t climb trees often, they can climb quite well, using their sharp, retractable claws, which are also similar to a cat’s.
The spotted lanternfly (SLF) is a pesky invasive pest that feeds on lots of important New York plants, such as apple trees and hop vines. With the recent finding of spotted lanternfly (SLF) on Staten Island, it’s never been more important for people to be on the lookout for this invasive. Since SLF spreads primarily through human activity, we really can make a difference.
When you’re keeping a watchful eye, know that SLF can be confused with other common insects you might spot flying around this fall. This time of year, the eastern boxelder bug or even gypsy moth eggs may catch your eye. Our new SLF poster is here to help, with photos of SLF as well as some common look-alikes.
The eastern boxelder bug has black and red markings similar to those of an invasive spotted lanternfly nymph, but the elongated body and red eyes of the eastern boxelder bug help set it apart from SLF. You might find eastern boxelder bugs lounging in sunny spots or even in your home but not to worry – unlike spotted lanternfly they’re harmless.
On Oct. 9, Region 5 Wildlife staff requested help from ECOs with the removal of a young bull moose trapped in a 200-acre cow pen in Clinton County.
Lieutenant Maloney and ECO Brassard, Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) drone pilots, located the moose in the pasture using an aerial drone equipped with thermal imaging cameras.
Once located, DEC’s tranquilization team, led by Big Game Biologist Jim Stickles, chemically immobilized the moose. Lieutenant Phelps, along with ECOs LaCroix, Buffa, Fadden, and members of the property owner’s family assisted the wildlife crew with removing the moose from the pasture and safely relocating it a short distance away. They fitted the moose with a radio location collar before the animal walked away, appearing to be healthy. Visit DEC’s Facebook post for video and more details.
ECOs use drone technology to find moose trapped in cow pasture (shown at top). DEC photo
Editor’s note: The following content was provided by AdkAction
When crisp fall weather arrives, and the last flowers of the late-blooming perennials have gone, it’s easy to forget that being a pollinator steward is a year-round job. However, there is much that can be accomplished in the fall to ensure that your local pollinators will thrive in the spring and summer.
While migratory pollinators such as Monarch butterflies and the Rufous hummingbird travel great distances to escape northern winters, many insect pollinators such as moths, butterflies, and bees stay right here all winter long, in a variety of developmental stages that allow them to endure the cold.
Set the mood for a natural Halloween while learning about bats! Each year, Bat Week provides a focus on bats, their life history, and conservation efforts. This year, Bat Week will be held October 24th-31st.
New York State is home to nine species of bats. They are found all over the state, including New York City. Three species migrate to warmer locations for the winter and the others hibernate during the coldest months. You can learn more about NY’s bats by downloading the DEC bat brochure. Detailed information on three of our bats, Little Brown Bat, Indiana Bat, and Northern Long-eared Bat can be found on DEC’s Watchable Wildlife page. Click here for an Almanack post earlier this week on a red bat sighting.
Did you know that many of our favorite foods are pollinated by bats? Visit Bat Week’s education page for a downloadable cookbook featuring foods we enjoy thanks to bats! You can also find videos, posters, crafts, and activities to share with your classroom. For older students, Bat Week’s Take Action page provides links to webinars, plans to build a bat house, and a bat tracker.
Halloween came early this year at the CATS Ancient Oak Trail when CATS Development Director, Derek Rogers, noticed a bat flying around the meadow area adjacent to the forest. It was actively feeding on insects and made a few close passes, allowing for some fun flight photographs.
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