The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is a fun event for bird watchers of all ages and abilities, from beginners to experts. The GBBC will be held Friday, February 17, through Monday, February 20, 2023. To help, you will need to count the birds you see or hear for at least 15 minutes (or longer if you wish) for one or more days of the four-day event. You can participate from your backyard, or anywhere in the world. For more information visit the GBBC website.
Photo at top: Northern cardinal. Photo by John Mack. Photo courtesy of the NYS DEC.
So many big nature-related events happened this week, it will be hard to fit them all in. Most of you suffered through the two-day, one-night super freeze and way below zero windchill factor that would freeze any exposed skin in a matter of minutes. We had -27 here at Eight Acre Wood that morning and the birds at the feeder were sitting on their feet to keep them warm. [We had] 75 Evening Grosbeaks that morning, and the single White-Throated Sparrow was the first at the feeders, he even ate with the grosbeaks all around him.
My daughter, Erin, called me on Saturday, [Feb. 4] at quarter to three from the front porch [of her condo] in Myrtle Beach to say they just shot down the weather balloon. Photos coming via the internet. Well, I couldn’t have gotten that any sooner on the national news. They had been watching it for quite a while behind the building and then over the ocean where four jets had been all around it. Then one shot it down with a rocket. Now when she walks the beach, she will be looking for balloon parts, not shark’s teeth.
Moose have been present in the northern portion of New York since the Pleistocene (period of time spanning about 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago). However, by as early as the 1860s overhunting and habitat degradation had eliminated moose from New York. In response, a handful of small-scale moose restoration efforts were undertaken between 1870 and 1902 by private landowners and the NYS Fish, Forest and Game Commission, but were not successful. Over the next eighty years there were periodic moose sightings, but it wasn’t until 1986 that DEC staff documented a small population of resident moose in the Adirondacks that may have immigrated from Vermont, Massachusetts, or Quebec. Around 2010, it was thought that the population that started with only 6-11 individuals had grown to many as 400.
The Herkimer County Soil and Water Conservation District is taking orders for trees and shrubs now through March 24. Available for planting this spring are low-cost bare root evergreen seedlings and transplants, deciduous trees, a variety of bushes and shrubs, semi-dwarf apple trees, and wildflower seeds. Also available are bluebird nest boxes and barley straw. Among the many planting accessories being offered are tree mats and tree shelters, hardwood stakes, fertilizer tablets and animal repellent.
If bears had birthday parties, they’d all be in January and February. That’s when winter dens across the country turn into nurseries as most pregnant bears give birth to cubs weighing in at less than a pound that would easily fit into your hands. Human moms would probably envy a mother bear’s ability to give birth to one, two, or three or more tiny cubs while half-asleep.
Even though cubs are born with their eyes closed, unable to hear or smell and weak and uncoordinated, they instinctively find their mom’s nipples and start nursing. Soon the den will be filled with mom’s snores and the happy sounds of cubs humming and purring while they snuggle up to mom and their siblings and fill their tummies with a steady diet of rich, warm milk. Bear’s milk has a fat content around 33%, so nursing cubs have no problem gaining weight.
Over the next several weeks, cubs will keep eating, sleeping and growing and eventually start cautiously exploring their winter quarters. As winter slowly gives way to spring, their eyes will open, their teeth will come in and the fine hair they’re born with will be replaced by fur coats.
Winter just doesn’t want to happen this year. We get a little good snow for skiing and then it rains on top. This makes a hard crust and [doesn’t allow for] much control on cross-country skis unless you have steel edges, as some do. I never had any, mine are just no wax, but I still rub a candle on mine. I once went up for in-service training at Whiteface Mountain for telemark training. I only had one pair of skis, the same pair I still have with no edges and toe bindings.
North Americans share an amazing diversity of birds. More than 1,000 species can be found in the United States alone. They come in an astonishing variety of colors, shapes, sizes, and behaviors. You could live a lifetime and never see every variety of bird that it’s possible to see in our state, or even in your neighborhood.
For a serious birder, spotting a rare bird is tremendously exciting, but for everyone else, seeing a quick flash of red, yellow, or orange on the trail can be just as exhilarating. And watching birds at home has been proven to reduce stress.
Now that white-tailed deer hunting seasons have ended throughout most of New York State, it may be tempting to begin feeding deer to “help” them through the winter. However, feeding deer during the winter or other times of the year is unnecessary, prohibited in New York, and can have very negative consequences for deer, your neighbors, and surrounding wildlife habitat.
During the winter, deer mainly rely on woody vegetation (known as woody browse) for their nutritional needs. The digestive enzymes in a deer’s stomach change in the winter to better digest this browse. If deer are provided with unnatural food sources such as corn or hay after this change in diet has occurred, it can result in deer becoming ill or even dying. Deer will eat the unnatural food source, but can develop acidosis (grain overload disease) or enterotoxemia (Clostridium overgrowth) disease because they can’t digest the food properly. Both diseases can result in the rapid illness and death of deer even though their stomachs are full.
“My girdle is killing me” was an obnoxious slogan from a TV ad that ran in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the US. The widely-mocked catchphrase was meant to inspire women to rush out and buy a certain brand of non-murderous undergarment. I doubt the ad’s plaintive tone helped boost sales, but hey – I’m no marketing expert. And yet, underclothes can be dangerous. In 2009, the so-called “underwear bomber” stuffed his shorts with explosives and boarded a plane. Luckily, he couldn’t ignite his stuff, and his plot fell flat. In 2020, Alexey Navalny, a fierce critic of the Kremlin, nearly died when a Russian agent smeared nerve toxin on his boxers (because nothing says “strong, confident world leader” like poisoning one’s critics, right?).
Some of the most important trees in your woodlot are the ones that are no longer alive. Large, standing dead or dying trees—called snags—are an important component of healthy forests and a critical habitat feature for wildlife. They provide places for many birds and mammals to forage, den, nest, perch, and roost. Snags are particularly important for cavity nesting birds like woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees; for bats that roost within cavities, crevices, and flaky bark; and for countless species that rely on the abundant insects, fungi, and lichens as a food source.
As long as they aren’t in a hazardous location such as near a road or building, consider leaving snags for wildlife. In woodlands where snags are sparse or absent, it’s possible to create a few by topping, girdling, or simply leaving several mature trees as legacy trees that may become snags in the future. Biologists recommend having at least three large snags (>12” diameter) per acre to benefit wildlife. These stately spires also add structural complexity, provide an element of visual interest, store carbon, reflect a forest stand’s past, and will enrich soils in the future.
Photo at top: A dead tree or “snag.” Photo by Katherine Yard. Photo courtesy of the NYS DEC.
The inch of snow we got here was just about enough to cover the ground. With all the rain we had before the snow, it sure made for an icy mix out in the woods to walk on. I found out the hard way, as I was out back on the ski trail cutting beech stubs that I left last winter…cutting them in deep snow. While walking back in, I took a slip down a little hill and rolled over my right ankle, which hurt pretty bad. I [was] a mile from the house and I said to myself, “This is going to be a long mile walk.” I got to the house just before Karen came home. We put ice on it until I went to bed, and it only swelled a little…but still not good.
While the chilliest months of the year may seem like the hardest time to venture outdoors, it can be a great time to go birding. Layer up and head out to your backyard, local park, or other public space and observe some of the bird species that you may not normally see during warmer months. Winter raptors (PDF)—including snowy owls (PDF), short-eared owls, barn owls, and hawks—migrate south from the Canadian tundra and can be observed near open bodies of water and large grasslands. Some species of woodpeckers may be easier to hear or see in their winter homes. Black-capped chickadees remain in northern climates due to their ability to survive the ultra-cold weather. Winter is also the best time to observe bald eagles!
Use a website like eBird to see what species have been detected near you. The free Merlin Bird ID app can help you identify unfamiliar birds and add even more new species to your lists. If you do brave the cold and snow, properly preparing for winter conditions is essential for a more enjoyable and safe experience. Check out our YouTube video on layering for winter, and read up on some of our winter hiking safety tips that can be used for any outdoor trip.
A snowflake is one of God’s most fragile creations. Psalm 147:16 begins, “He sends the snow like white wool” (NLT). And there really is something awesome about freshly fallen, white snow covering everything. It really is like a blanket of white wool spread over the earth. In fact, because snow is comprised of 90 to 95 percent trapped air, when it covers the ground, it keeps everything beneath it warm. That’s why so many animals tunnel into the snow to hibernate or burrow into the ground to get comfortable beneath the snow during winter. It’s also the reason that igloos can be so much warmer inside than outside.
The governing boards of the AdirondackLakeSurvey Corporation (ALSC) and the Ausable River Association (AsRA) announced that on January 1, 2023, the proposed merger between the two organizations had been finalized. Former ALSC Program Manager Phil Snyder has joined AsRA full-time, bringing extensive field science and laboratory experience to AsRA’s efforts in the Ausable watershed and to watershed throughout the Adirondack Park. Snyder serves as field research manager for the pilot of SCALE – the collaborative Survey of Climate Change in AdirondackLake Ecosystems.
More Than 50 Species Available from Colonel William F. Fox Memorial Saratoga Tree Nursery
On January 5, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced the start of the Colonel William F. Fox Memorial Saratoga Tree Nursery annual spring seedling sale, which is open to the public and runs until May 12. Each year, the nursery offers low-cost, New York-grown tree and shrub species for sale to encourage plantings that help conserve the state’s natural resources and foster the next generation of forests.
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