Friday, May 8, 2020

Bald Eagle: National symbol, bird of ‘bad moral character’?

Part one of two about the bald eagle

Ben Franklin, the statesman, philosopher, naturalist, inventor and all around Renaissance Man, was not all that thrilled with the choice of the Bald Eagle as our national symbol, and seemed to prefer the wild turkey as a utilitarian symbol, which is uniquely American, and often spelled the difference between our wilderness forefathers eating or starving. In a letter to his daughter, Franklin said, in part…..

“For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk (osprey); and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him. 

» Continue Reading.


Friday, May 1, 2020

Birding in Socially Distant Times

American OspreyFrom the Lake Placid Land Conservancy:
Have you ever stepped outside and wondered what bird just flew by or is chirping at you from a tree overhead? Perhaps you’re looking for a new way to spend more time outside or a fun activity to do while social distancing? Birding is a perfect activity to do while hiking locally and spring is an especially wonderful time to start!

Bird activity is on the rise in April and May, as many species migrate to their summer habitats either in the Adirondacks or to points north. In our neck of the woods, we excitedly anticipate seeing the silhouette of common loons on the chilly lakes. The loons are noisily welcomed by the distinctive calls of Red-winged Blackbirds and osprey along with the lovely, melodic songs of Lincoln’s Sparrows, Palm Warblers, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, to name a few.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, April 27, 2020

Ravens, Crows and Wolves: A harmonious group

raven

Part 2 of 2 (click here for Part 1)

Wherever wolves hunt, ravens are present, scavenging prey, and sometimes leading upwind wolves to potential prey, or to carcasses too frozen or tough for even the ravens’ heavy, pick-like beaks to penetrate. 

Ravens not only scavenge wolf kills, but steal up to one third of a carcass, by continually carrying away chunks of meat, caching and hiding them both from the wolves and their fellow ravens. A fascinating study suggested that, since an adult wolf can, by itself, kill any prey smaller than a small moose, the real reason wolves hunt in packs, is to minimize the portion of a carcass lost to ravens! And while it may seem that wolves have the short end of this symbiotic relationship with ravens, idle wolves and ravens have been observed playing together, with ravens pulling on wolf tails, and wolf pups chasing after teasing ravens.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, April 26, 2020

Ravens and Crows: Telling them apart

Part 1 of 2

 

Ravens, crows and jays make up the corvid family, arguably the most intelligent of birds. We may honor the bald eagle as our national symbol, but compared to any corvid, the eagle is definitely a bird brain. Ravens in particular, based on their omnivorous adaptability to almost any environment, their fascination with colorful toys and glittery objects, their use of natural tools, and their remarkably diverse repertoire of sounds and vocalizations, appear to be exceptionally intelligent. In fact, ravens remind me of us humans, with no formidable anatomical weapons, but large brains to help us figure out how to get whatever we need.  

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, April 19, 2020

American Woodcock: The Harbingers of Spring

The arrival of American Woodcock back to New York is a telltale sign that spring is here to stay. Despite their diminutive size, woodcock are one of the earliest ground-nesting birds in the state. Just this week, DEC Biologist Jeremy Hurst found this female nesting in the snow on his property near Albany. If you’re curious where NY’s woodcock come from – DEC is currently part of a large cooperative research project to track both Fall and Spring migration of woodcock throughout their eastern range using tiny GPS transmitters. For weekly updates on their migration, please visit the Eastern Woodcock Migration Research Cooperative’s website.

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 18, 2020

Signs of Spring: Emerging Life in Woodland Pools 

A gelatinous mass of frog eggs with black dots are nascent tadpoles. In the mid and lower Hudson estuary watershed, egg masses of wood frog, spotted salamander, and Jefferson-blue spotted salamander complex are developing under water, still weeks away from hatching into frog tadpoles or salamander larvae. Further north in the estuary watershed, where the breeding season gets a later start, male wood frogs may still be calling from woodland pools to lure females for breeding. Their distinct call resembles the sound of quacking ducks.

 


Friday, April 17, 2020

Today is International Bat Appreciation Day

bat hanging upside down in caveInternational Bat Day is a great time to appreciate New York’s nine bat species. When spring temperatures become warm enough, bats will leave their hibernation sites and may be seen flying in search of insects. Unfortunately, many species of bats, including little brown bats, have faced severe population declines due to white-nose syndrome.

Some bat facts:

  • They are insect-eating machines, eating thousands of mosquitoes and other flying insects in a single night!
  • Bats use echolocation (rapid pulses of sound that bounce off an object) to detect and catch insects.
  • They are the only mammal that can fly.
  • Bats are more closely related to primates than to mice.

To view bats, check out your local park or forested area, especially near water and along trails. Even your own backyard can be a great place to view bats if you have trees near your home!
Learn more about bats in Bats of New York State (PDF). Bats generally do not come close to people. However, if you do encounter a bat on the ground, do not touch or pick it up as they can carry rabies.

Photo by Al Hicks/provided


Friday, April 10, 2020

Rising from the freeze, embracing signs of spring

Spring is a time when flowers bloom and trees begin to grow. The days grow longer and the temperatures rise above 40 degrees. For the people who have weathered the winter, the melting of ice and thawing of the ground is greatly anticipated.  During this period, creatures who have adapted to the freezing temperatures through miraculous transformations in bodily functions, now rise to an altered green landscape. 

Many people have not witnessed these seasonal transformations, but as mountain dwellers in close proximity to these creatures, a glimpse becomes possible. Making it to spring is no small feat for animals that hibernate.  To humans, hibernation may appear restful but for the animals who hibernate, this state can be arduous. Some of these animals expend huge bursts of energy so their body temperatures don’t dip too low and do it with little to no food and water. 

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Wild Center Goes Digital with Educational Online Offerings

wild center otterAs The Wild Center has temporarily suspended public operations in order to help curb the spread of COVID-19, the natural history museum for the Adirondacks is focusing on a digital experience over the coming weeks.

The digital offerings include virtual visits, which you can go on by clicking  here, including seeing exhibits that are generally not open to the public. In-depth video content from the Wild Center Naturalists and the Animal Care Team will also be available for viewing.

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, March 28, 2020

More About Opposums

North American Opossum with winter coat by Wikimedia user Cody PopeAlthough my Irish-American mother taught me that the prefix O’ (descendent of) was originally part of common Irish surnames such as Kelly, Murphy, Hogan and Kennedy, it would sound odd to my ears were these families to suddenly revert to the Old-World form.

I have the same issue with the distinctly New-World marsupial, the opossum. In the Genesee Valley of New York State where I grew up, these omnipresent critters were known to all as possums, and it still sounds foreign to hear their name pronounced with three syllables. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

White Pine Perils

The tallest trees this side of the Rockies, our eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) is one of the most – if not the most – economically and culturally important species in the Northeast.

Though the current US champion is a North Carolina giant measuring 189 feet tall, early loggers recorded white pines of up to 230 feet. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Jay O’Hern’s New Book Tackles Lumber Cruising

Adirondack Timber Cruising by William J O'HernProlific Adirondack researcher and writer William J. O’Hern’s new book Adirondack Timber Cruising takes the reader on a journey through the development of timber cruising, logging, and forestry and our relationship to forests.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, March 23, 2020

Rethinking the Norway Maple

Norway Maple by Wikimedia user Martin BobkaWhen Norway broke from Sweden in 1905, the newly independent country promised to stay neutral in all international conflicts. However, it has let loose highly successful and prolonged assaults of both the US and Canada on several fronts. To its credit, Norway has managed all this without using the Internet or spending a single krone. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, March 22, 2020

Preparing for Black Bears in Spring

black bearIt’s not too early for New York homeowners to think about bear-proofing their properties. While most of our bears are still in their dens, the mild winter weather has allowed some of them to stay on foot searching for food. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 19, 2020

Where Do Snakes Go In Winter?

snakes in winter by adelaide tyrolDuring the summer, I often spy common garter snakes sunning themselves in my garden. As the snow piles up through winter, covering the landscape in cold white, I wonder where these warmth-seeking creatures have gone.

Without fur or fluffed-up feathers for insulation, how do these ectotherms survive the long months between autumn’s fading warmth and spring’s arrival? » Continue Reading.



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Support the Adirondack Almanack and the Adirondack Explorer all year long with a monthly gift that fits your budget.