With this winter shaping up to be a cold one, spring may still seem far away. But with time and a little patience, we will soon start to notice the lilac leaves bursting from buds, the return of brightly colored warblers, and the ringing chorus of spring peepers in the evening. Any time you detect events unfolding in the natural world, you are making phenological observations.
Phenology refers to the study of the timing of biological activities. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of these changes in the life cycles of plants and animals coincide with the seasons. Besides day length, factors that influence the timing of biological events include temperature, precipitation, snowpack formation and melting, and wind. » Continue Reading.
The fields and forests of the Adirondacks support many forms of animal life, even during winter, yet many of our wildlife residents are next to impossible to glimpse. Some, like moles, shrews and voles prefer an existence below the surface of the snow, while others such as fisher, bobcat and ermine have adapted a shy and secretive lifestyle causing them to spend nearly all of their time in remote sections of dense woodlands where visibility is limited, making a chance sighting rare. Others, like flying squirrels and owls conduct their affairs under the cover of darkness and seldom are viewed.
One small bird, considered by ornithologists to be widespread throughout the Park year round, is likewise noticed only on rare occasions, despite its regular foraging activities during the light of day. The brown creeper is a slim, chickadee-size bird with mottled brown plumage on its head, back, sides, and tail, which closely resembles the color and pattern of the rough-textured bark that covers many types of mature trees. » Continue Reading.
The wild winter weather is continuing. Friday it was so warm that even several hours after the sun went down, there was still a steady drip-drip-drip coming off the roof. In the forties Saturday, the season just can’t seem to make up its mind.
That’s not to say that it has been an easy winter. And to me, there has been a recurring theme out here at that cabin that demonstrates this better than anything else. I have had a steady supply of small rodents around the house looking for food. » Continue Reading.
Like you, I note birch trees when I’m out walking, even when I’m not looking for them. What makes it easy? Listen and learn what those dash-like markings on birch trunks are, and how to tell one birch from the next in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze.
In October of last year friends Dan Russell and Charles Baldridge stood on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain and had what they later described as an awe-inspiring experience. For an hour and a half, the sky was lit up with columns of white light, some of them tinged with red and green. This was the Aurora Borealis making an unusual appearance.
Russell remembered having goose bumps for most of the event, while Baldridge remembered wanting to call everyone he knew. “It was really exciting.” » Continue Reading.
A series of natural history programs about Adirondack wildlife will be held at the Whallonsburg Grange in Essex, NY. The series begins with naturalist and photographer Susan Morse speaking on Friday, February 21. Morse’s lecture, entitled “Animals of the North: What Will Climate Change Mean for Them” will be held at 7:00 p.m. Suggested donation is $8.
Morse, Founder and Director of Keeping Track, Inc., describes says the program is not about climate change itself, or even how it will affect us; rather, it’s designed to educate audiences about ways in which northern wildlife species are already being affected, with more serious challenges ahead. » Continue Reading.
I’d never seen snowflakes so big. They seemed like albino flying squirrels falling Frisbee-style from the sky. The big snow got me to thinking: from the perspective of wild animals, is snow a good thing or bad?
It’s economical, sustainable and keeps you in shape, not to mention that nothing feels so good as a seat by the woodstove on a sub-zero night. What’s not to like about heating with wood? Certain things do bug people. The mess, for one. Stacking and splitting can get old. Adjusting the ‘thermostat’ may involve a trip to the woodpile. And occasionally, unexpected guests arrive.
Firewood, I’ve discovered, comes from “trees” which are covered in “bark,” under which insects can hide. As wood brought inside warms up, it feels like winter’s over to these critters, who gleefully sally forth. Inevitably, insects and homeowners are both disappointed. » Continue Reading.
Mid-February weather is often quite harsh in the Adirondacks. However the eventual arrival of spring in another month, or two, causes numerous forms of wildlife to begin preparations for the inevitable change in seasons.
Despite frigid temperatures, blustery winds, deep snow, and limited sources of food, numerous creatures begin to focus a portion of their time and energy towards activities associated with breeding, rather then concentrating solely on the challenges of survival. » Continue Reading.
I’m driving to work too fast, late as usual, trying to make up for those last five minutes I spent puttering around my house when I should have gotten out the door. I lean on the accelerator a little and grab my trusty travel mug, lifting it to my lips just as my wheels hit a bumpy, rippled section of the pavement. I hit the brakes. The tires make painful washboard sounds, and coffee splashes out of my cup and all over the steering wheel.
Living in the Northeast, you get used to the spilled coffee and car repair bills. It’s a fact of life here — come winter, the roads are going to get rough, and your struts and brakes (and wallet) are going to pay.
“I’d guess forty percent of my time is spent dealing with suspension issues due to frost heaves and pot holes,” says one owner and operator of a local car repair shop. “Bent wheels, ball joints, tire rods…the roads around here are not the greatest.” Snow, ice and freezing rain all contribute to poor road conditions, but frost heaves make winter driving like a video game. Dodge and weave a heave? Twenty points! Hit a heave? Lose ten points and call a mechanic. » Continue Reading.
In each of the last two years, the Almanack has carried articles encouraging local residents to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), an annual, continent-wide, mid-winter bird census designed to combine the fun of birdwatching with gathering data that will help scientists better understand trends in bird populations and locations. In the past, although thousands of New Yorkers take part in the count, the Adirondack region has been underrepresented, largely because there are comparatively few winter residents.
With the 17th GBBC approaching (Feb. 14-17), I thought it would be interesting to explore whether those previous articles have increased participation by Adirondackers while once again urging you to join in. It turns out, though, that it is difficult to get comparative data for a specific location for different years. In communicating with the folks behind the GBBC, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, I learned that data are not available by county or ZIP code, for example. Indeed, count results are not even in the same format between years. I could find a list of the number of each species reported in NYS for 2011 (before the first article), for instance, but not for 2013 (after the second article). » Continue Reading.
On a clear midwinter evening, look high above the southern horizon and you will see a V-shaped group of moderately bright stars. These stars form the center of the large constellation Taurus. Imagine, as did the Sumerians four thousand years ago, that this pattern outlines the horns of a charging bull. The bright red star Aldebaran prominently shines on his lower (southern) horn.
The stars of the horns are called the Hyades. In Greek mythology, they were the daughters of Atlas and Aethra. Their appearance was associated with the rainy season. At a mere 150 light years away, The Hyades are actually an open cluster of related stars. Look above and a little to the right (west) of the V and you’ll see a compact cluster of blue stars called the Pleiades. Although this beautiful little asterism is known as the Seven Sisters, some people see six stars with the naked eye, where others claim they can see eleven. With the magnification of 7×50 binoculars, a hundred or more of these gem-like blue stars are revealed in the cluster. The view is spectacular. » Continue Reading.
It’s been a couple of weeks packed with transition for all of us out here at the cabin. The chickens are out of the tent, Ed is buried and Herbie is acting like he never has before. We’re all making adjustments and getting on with life, even though the bone-chilling temperatures haven’t always made it that easy. The chickens are getting better about laying eggs again after their days in the tent. It took a few days but Whitey finally started laying again and Blondie has dropped a couple of eggs too. Brownie never really stopped.
Two days after Ed died, I decided that I needed to bury him. It had been a long weekend, with Ed passing, then me being occupied in a weekend long task. But that Sunday night I made the effort to bury Ed. » Continue Reading.
Beware the cat that’s imbibed a shot of catnip! Humans aren’t the world’s only substance abusers. Cats—little cats, big cats, house cats, wild cats—all fall for catnip. Listen here for a glimpse of cats on drugs in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze.
The podcast is produced by Mountain Lake PBS’s Josh Clement. “All Things Natural” has been published continuously since 1987 . It currently appears in the Bedford, NY Record-Review. Listen to past episodes by visiting Mountain Lake PBS’s Borderless North webpage at mountainlake.org/bn.