In urban and suburban areas, Christmas tree disposal has come a long way since the bad old days when trees were just compacted with the rest of the household trash and landfilled.
Today, progressive trash hauling companies run special organics routes where they collect and recycle trees, and many solid waste districts have drop-off centers where the trees are chipped. The recycled trees become compost or mulch or bioheat. » Continue Reading.
A New York State Museum study shows that most of the bird species breeding on the slopes of Whiteface Mountain have shifted their ranges uphill in the last 40 years. The research, conducted by Dr. Jeremy Kirchman, Curator of Birds at the New York State Museum, and Alison Van Keuren, an avid birder who volunteers in the ornithology collection at the State Museum, sheds new light on the response of wildlife to observed climate change in upstate New York.
Kirchman and Van Keuren replicated bird surveys conducted in 1974 by Kenneth Able and Barry Noon, two former researchers at the University at Albany. For the re-survey, the pair of researchers made stops along the road up Whiteface Mountain to tally all birds seen and heard in the early morning and evening hours at altitudes from 550 to 1450 meters above sea level. These new data were gathered in June and July of 2013-2015. » Continue Reading.
Near the house where I lived during my Colorado years, there was a trail that wove through a sprawling grove of perfect quaking aspen trees. In spring, the soft green of emerging leaves was one of the first signs of warming weather. Come fall, their gilded leaves, fluttering in the breeze, reflected in the river, turning everything to gold. Even in winter’s rest, their stark trunks and bare, branching limbs were lovely against a backdrop of deep snow and craggy mountains.
Except the trees weren’t really resting. Little did I know that, even shorn of their leaves, they were still harvesting sunlight. » Continue Reading.
You know you’re starting to acclimate to the North Country when you see the thermometer reading 24 degrees and you wonder if it’s even worth building a fire.
At this particular moment, anything above 20 would seem like a steam bath. As I did my morning chores, the mercury hovered (which feels like the wrong word) at 12 below; the horse droppings clacked against each other in the muck bucket like billiard balls, and a couple of eggs had frozen and burst before I came to collect them.
We do not take the cold lightly. We have read all the literature, bought all the appropriate gear and taken all the appropriate advice. But while maintaining the proper respect, there is also something attractive about the cold. It’s a fine line, I know. But we have come here from a region where, as Mark Twain said of India, “hot” is a relative term and used to distinguish temperatures that would melt a doorknob from those that would just make it mushy. » Continue Reading.
If you’ve ever seen chevrons on the bark of an American beech, you know you’re looking at a tree that’s been hugged by a black bear. And you’ve likely been impressed with the bear’s climbing ability. And perhaps looked over your shoulder while you were busy being impressed.
But bear-clawed beeches aren’t as common as they once were. The American beech, Fagus grandiflora, has become another member of the North American “trees-devastated-by-imported-pests-and-diseases” club.
Beech trees are still out there in the forest. But many of the big ones are gone, victims of the notorious beech bark disease. It’s a one-two punch — a tiny scale insect bores holes in the bark and a fungus marches in and infects the tree. » Continue Reading.
I recall years ago; two young boys having a conversation. “There’s no such thing as Santa Clause,” the older boy insisted. But the younger boy wasn’t buying it. Come Christmas Eve, he was going to stay up all night, just to catch a glimpse of old Santa and his legendary sleigh full of presents. What excited the little guy the most though, was the thought of seeing those remarkable flying “reindeer on the roof!”
“Santa’s reindeer really can fly, can’t they?” he asked me, catching me completely off guard. I hesitated; then told him that reindeer were deer; very much like the whitetails we see around here, but with thicker bodies, shorter legs, and broader hooves. I added that whitetails and reindeer are cousins. And that moose and elk are reindeer cousins, too. Fortunately, he let it go at that. » Continue Reading.
The Chapman Historical Museum in Glens Falls has just published Water & Light: S.R. Stoddard’s Lake George, a new work on the photography of Seneca Ray Stoddard.
The 160-page book features 150 of Stoddard’s photos, as well as some samples of his painting, sketches and cartography.
As a 19th century American photographer, S. R. Stoddard is often ranked with William Henry Jackson and Carlton Watkins, and the quality of his photographic compositions is compared with many of the Hudson River School painters. It is estimated Stoddard took some ten thousand images in the Adirondack Mountains alone. » Continue Reading.
So here’s my movie concept: during a laboratory accident, a scientist exchanges his DNA with a fly. Over the next few weeks, our hero slowly shrinks in size and transforms into an insect with black spiky body hair, maroon eyes, and translucent, buzzing wings.
What distinguishes this movie from previous versions of “The Fly” is that this time, the scientist swaps his genes with a cluster fly. Instead of developing super-fast reflexes, he becomes clumsy and lethargic. Instead of rampaging through a city terrorizing people, he alternates his time between crashing against the window and lying upside-down on the floor, twitching. The crisis comes when his irritated girlfriend picks him up with a tissue and tosses him outside. He soars into the clear blue winter sky… but then his wings freeze. The final image: a tiny crater in the snow. » Continue Reading.
As a kid I was enthralled by TV nonfiction shows. Nova and Frontline had great stuff, but my favorites were Christmas documentaries like Frosty the Snowman. Over the years I’ve been disappointed that no further work seems to have been done on the many questions left hanging by the original researchers.
Take the whole glowing-nose thing. First documented back in 1939 by Robert L. May in his book Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the story surrounding the phenomenon is well-known. Since no one has come up with a scientific explanation, I have decided to tackle the issue. Bioluminescence is a natural process wherein fungi, microbes, insects or marine animals emit light as a result of chemical reactions which they control, and there are a number of ways a reindeer may have naturally developed a lighted nose. » Continue Reading.
For the past twenty years, the Lake George Land Conservancy (LGLC) has contributed data to the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, a national bird census tracking the status of bird populations across North America now in its 118th year.
From December 14 through January 5, volunteers across the country brave the elements to count local birds for one day within a designated 15-mile circle. All data is then reported back to the Audubon Society. » Continue Reading.
The snow around the region this week is a blessing. For several members of our wildlife community, a forest floor that remains free of snow into December 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.
My three children have participated in a Four Winds Nature Institute program that recruits adult family members to lead grade-school nature learning. I have worked with several moms and dads over the years to pull together materials for hands-on lessons about communities, habitats, and the natural world. The activities usually ended with crowd-pleasing puppet shows.
During my first year in the program, in a rare moment of advance planning, I read the entire year’s program, and was glad I did: “Snags and Rotting Logs” was scheduled for November, when I anticipated most logs would be frozen or buried in snow. Regardless of frost or snow, I expected that some interesting invertebrates would have tunneled deep into the soil to wait out Vermont’s winter, leaving little more than wood for the students to dissect. » Continue Reading.
Like many people who watch birds, I have my favorites. The nuthatches, for instance.
Quirky little birds. Shaped like stubby cigars, with their short tails and thick necks. And that disconcerting habit of spending time upside down. I wish I could do that. Of course, I wish I could walk up walls and hang from the ceiling like a gecko, too.
The Adirondack Almanack's contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The Almanack is the online news journal of Adirondack Explorer. Both are nonprofits supported by contributors, readers, and advertisers, and devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.
General inquiries about the Adirondack Almanack should be directed to Almanack founder and editor John Warren.
To advertise on the Adirondack Almanack, or to receive information on rates and design, please click here.