Our 52nd podcast! Off come the snow and ice that clothe the Adirondack Mountains all winter, and out comes the bare, naked landscape. It’s spring’s annual burlesque: an off-again, on-again process that eventually leads toward summer.
Listen here as I take in the show in this week’s edition of All Things Natural! Thanks to all who have supported our little nature podcast over the last year. It’s been a pleasure reading and responding to your comments. Happy Spring!
Today is Arbor Day, a 140-year-old tradition wherein Americans plant trees to improve home and country, and it has local roots, so to speak. Begun in 1872 by Adams, NY (Jefferson County) native J. Sterling Morton, Arbor Day was intended to conserve topsoil and increase timber availability in his adopted state of Nebraska. It has since become a worldwide observance.
Morton believed planting trees went beyond improving our nation. He said “The cultivation of trees is the cultivation of the good, the beautiful and the ennobling in mankind.” Rather lofty words, but I agree with him. To invest in trees is to invest in the future; it’s an act of generosity and responsibility. When we plant a tree in our community, it’s possible—depending on the species and the site—that our great-grandchildren and beyond could one day enjoy it. » Continue Reading.
The series will continue on Friday April 25 at 7:00 p.m. with a presentation entitled Timber Rattlesnakes in Folklore and Fact by Joe Racette. Racette will speak specifically about the Split Rock Wild Forest population of timber rattlesnakes, including recent scientific studies and historical information about the decades when several New York counties offered a bounty for the snakes. In addition Racette will explain the legal protection now covering timber rattlesnakes. There is a suggested donation of $8. » Continue Reading.
Two weekend fly fishing workshops will be offered by the Northern Forest Institute (NFI) in Newcomb this year.
Geared toward beginning fly fishers, the spring and fall workshops will not only focus on the art of fly casting and fly fishing but, in keeping with the mission of NFI, will also emphasize the natural science of fly fishing.
Participants will receive instruction about proper gear and casting; the ecology of Adirondack streams, rivers and ponds; and the insect and fish life that the region’s brook, brown and rainbow trout feed on. The technique known as “catch and release” will be emphasized to promote conservation of the Adirondack’s freshwater fish resources. Participants will also be introduced to the art of fly tying. » Continue Reading.
New York bear hunters took 1,358 black bears during the 2013 hunting seasons, making last year the second highest bear harvest on record in New York. The bear take in the Adirondacks however, continues to decline.
According to Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) wildlife managers, the high take elsewhere in the state is a result of increased bear populations and the abundance of hard mast that kept bears actively feeding later into the fall when deer season was open. » Continue Reading.
The very rapid loss of the snow pack that covered our region has created flooding concerns, curtailed, or completely ended, back country skiing for another year and has greatly improved foraging conditions for our ground feeding birds. Among the avian summer residents that benefit from periods of unseasonably warm weather, and the accompanying loss of snow, is a bird renowned for its scavenging talents.
Over eons of time, the turkey vulture has evolved various features to locate and capitalize on recently thawed carcasses of animals that were unable to survive the winter, and has become one of the most effective and visible scavengers in the Park. » Continue Reading.
We’ve had several hiking dogs, but two of my favorites were Chino, a wolf-husky mix we brought back from Alaska in 1990, and Roscoe, a nondescript gene pool who looked like a million other mutts you’ve seen, and whose ancestry is anyone’s guess. Our oldest son, Dan, another animal lover, became a veterinarian and later a veterinary cardiologist, partly because of his experiences with Chino. He also does some pro-bono care, which led to our adopting Roscoe as a pup around 2005.
Both of these canids did a fair amount of High Peaks hiking with us. Chino hiked his last peak, Dix, in 2002, and died in 2004, a year before Roscoe came on the scene, and continued the hiking tradition. The other common thread between them? Porcupines! » Continue Reading.
It’s spring. Red-winged blackbirds are calling, chipmunks are foraging and flocks of robins abound. Bending down to smell the first subtle scents of crocuses and daffodils, we give thanks that winter is over. Sometimes, we also take a whiff of skunk cabbage flowers, just for the olfactory shock value.
Skunk cabbage grows throughout the Northeast and Midwest, ranging from North Carolina well up into the northernmost reaches of Quebec. The flower emerges through the snow and ice of March in the understory of wooded swamps, along riverbanks, lakeshores, and in other habitats with rich wet soils. First growth is an exotic, crimson-hued, three to six inch tall cowl –called a spathe – that surrounds and protects a spherical cluster of flowers. Each flower measures ¾-inch across and consists of 50 to 100 tightly packed florets. » Continue Reading.
The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation plans to expand bear hunting across New York to prevent conflicts with humans as the animal’s population spreads to new areas.
At one time, the state’s bears were largely confined to the Adirondacks, Catskills, and Allegheny Plateau. During the past two decades, however, they have spread to every county outside New York City and Long Island.
As a result, the number of bear complaints has risen dramatically in recent years. In most cases, bears in search of food—such as crops, bird seed, and garbage—cause property damage. Occasionally, they might break into a residence, attack pets, or act aggressively toward people. » Continue Reading.
Spring seems to be painfully slow in returning to the Adirondacks this year. Substantial amounts of snow still linger in most places, and ice continues to cover the surface of nearly all stationary bodies of water throughout the Park. Despite the reluctance of winter to yield to spring, scattered patches of land devoid of ice and snow always develop in late March and early April, signaling the coming change in seasons.
These places of bare ground and open water inevitably attract birds that have returned northward in the weeks around the vernal equinox in their attempt to reach their breeding grounds early and lay claim to a prime mating territory. » Continue Reading.
Beware! Pictured here are your adversaries—the official enemies of the state. Don’t be distracted by the pretty colors, lovely feathers, or furry critters. These are vermin, and citizens are urged to kill them at every opportunity. The poster, by the way, represents only the top nine targets from a group of notorious killers, presented here alphabetically: bobcat, Cooper’s hawk, crow, English sparrow, goshawk, gray fox, great gray owl, great horned owl, house rat, “hunting” house cat, lynx, porcupine, red fox, red squirrel, sharp-shinned hawk, snowy owl, starling, weasel, and woodchuck. Kingfishers and a number of snakes were later added, and osprey were fair game as well.
While some of the phrases used above—“official enemies … kill them at every opportunity … new job requirement”—might sound like exaggerations, they were, in fact, official conservation policies of New York State a century ago.
It was all part of a Conservation Commission campaign in the early 1900s to eradicate undesirables (their word, not mine) from the food chain. The above-named animals were deemed undesirable in the realms of farming and hunting. They were just doing what comes natural—killing to eat, or gathering food—but those foods included barnyard animals, garden and field crops, and the vaguely defined “sporting” game that hunters treasured, particularly grouse, pheasant, and rabbits. Lest you think eradicate is too strong a word, the actual order in one state pamphlet was, “Destroy the Vermin.” » Continue Reading.
There’s a steady stream of water pouring off the roof in front of the big window. There are no more icicles, and the shingles are showing for the first time in months. It finally feels like spring.
I sat outside most of the afternoon, relaxing in a lawn chair enjoying a good book. As I sat there soaking up the sun, the snow melted around me. The chicken coop roof is clear after being baked in the sun all day, and the snow fossils of old footprints are melting away.
The chickens have been enjoying the warmer weather and are basking in the sunlight. For a couple of months, I hadn’t gotten more than an egg per day from the three girls, and sometimes not even that. But in the last week, I’ve gotten more than a dozen. » Continue Reading.
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