Saturday, October 24, 2009

DEC Region 5 Forest Ranger Report (Fall 2009)

These DEC Forest Ranger reports are to good to pass up. They are a slice of the Adirondack experience that is almost never reported, and since the last one was so popular, we offer you the October 21st report in its entirety:

Essex County

Town of Keene, High Peaks Wilderness Area

On Wednesday, September 30, at approximately 7:28 PM, DEC Dispatch received a call reporting an overdue hiker from Mount Marcy, Table Top and Phelps Mtn. James Cipparrone, 29, of Berlin, NJ, was last seen at approximately 4:15 pm Monday, September 28, departing the lean-to at ADK Loj to camp in the interior. Last known contact with Mr. Cipparone was on Tuesday, September 29, in a phone conversation with his father he stated that he was on top of the mountain, but eight miles from his group. Based on the description of the gear the he was carrying, it was decided that he could spend one more night out. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cottonwood Galls: Aesthetic Eyesore or Fascinating Formation?

I was out exploring a nature trail with a group of young students recently. We gathered acorns and their caps (they make great whistles), milkweed pods, dried rabbit-foot clover flowers (they are so very soft), and collected bunches of flowers to take home. It seems like everything that could be picked or picked up was. Most of their findings I could identify with relative ease, but there was one item that left me wondering.

Freddy (not his real name) brought me a stick with this wrinkly dark brown thing attached to the end. Since there were some gardens nearby, I thought it was an old dried-out cockscomb flower, but the stick was all wrong: it wasn’t a flower stem, it was a twig. I looked closer and said, “Hm. It’s a gall of some kind.” I glanced around, saw a couple cottonwood trees, and, based on the twig, determined they were the source of the sample. Beyond that, I had no idea, for it was a new gall to me. By then several of the kids had found sticks with wrinkly galls on them. I told them I would look it up when I got back to work and let them know what I found out.

It took some searching, but it turns out it is indeed a cottonwood gall of a type made by cottonwood gall mites (Eriophyes parapopuli), aka: poplar bud gall mites. These mites, which are so tiny that it would take five, lined up end to end, to stretch across a 12-pt. period, can be found on other members of the poplar family, too, not just cottonwoods. One of the things that I discovered in my research that I thought was rather interesting is that these mites, unlike the overwhelming majority of mites and spiders, have only four legs. Not four pairs of legs (spiders and mites), but four legs…period. That’s just wrong. Despite their small size, and obvious lack of appendages, these miniscule pests travel very well, thank you. How do they get around? By wind, water, insects, birds and yes, even people. They are extremely fertile, producing up to eight generations in a single year (thank goodness they only live about a month as adults).

There are hundreds of species of these eriophyid mites, each causing its own form of damage on plants, from stem and bud galls, to rusts and blisters. These wee pests are very host specific, not only to the plant they feed upon, but also which part of the plant they choose. Some species prefer leaves, others buds, and others stems or flower petals. But in the end, they all do the same basic kind of damage: they enter the plant’s cells and suck the life out of them. Literally. They suck up the cell’s contents. It’s the plant’s reaction to this attack, however, that creates the gall, or blister, that you and I see.

When galls are formed, the plant is reacting to growth regulators that the mites injected into the plant’s leaf or stem tissues. These growth regulators stimulate the tissue into abnormal growth patterns and rates. The end result is a pocket formed around the mites, in which they happily feed and reproduce.

Cottonwood gall mites take up residence at the base of a bud, preventing the development of normal leaves and stems. Instead, these wrinkly, lumpy, irregular growths appear on one side of the twig, eventually covering the entire base of the bud or shoot. At first the galls are green, for they are fresh and new. As they age, they turn red, then brown, and overtime they end up a grey-black color. If you look closely, you can see the holes through which the adults emerge when they are ready to move on to a new host.

Individually these galls are merely an aesthetic problem, but if enough of them form on your tree, the tree could become rather stressed, making it susceptible to other problems. But in general, they are not considered to be a serious problem. If you keep a close eye on your plants/trees, you can detect deformities before they get out of control. Look for discoloration or swellings at the base of leaves and buds. Just prune off the infected twigs and leaves. These can then be burned or bagged and taken to the dump. Pruning, by the way, is best done in the spring before the tree breaks dormancy. If you have a heavy infestation, you can try applying horticultural oils right after the buds break in the spring. This won’t get rid of existing galls, but it may prevent the spread of the mites and development of future galls. Alternatively, you can consider the galls to be interesting modern art, courtesy of Mother Nature.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Weekly Adirondack Web Highlights


Friday, October 23, 2009

Scope of Lake George Mercury Study Expanded

The discovery of elevated levels of mercury in the spiders and songbirds of Dome Island has led the Nature Conservancy of Eastern New York and the Dome Island Committee, the organizations responsible for the island’s preservation, to test for mercury contamination on Crown Island and protected shorelines.

That will help the groups determine how pervasive mercury and its toxic form, methylmercury, is in Lake George, said Henry Caldwell, the chairman of the Dome Island Committee.

Researchers from the BioDiversity Institute of Gorham, Maine, which conducted the original studies of Dome Island’s birds and spiders, returned to Bolton Landing earlier this week to begin the broadened study.

“No one expected to find mercury pollution at these levels on Lake George,” said Caldwell. “Working with the Nature Conservancy of Eastern New York, which is the island’s owner, we decided to take the next step and look beyond Dome Island.”’

In July, the Dome Island Committee received a draft of a study by the BioDiversity Institute of Gorham, Maine, that found that “mercury concentrations in spiders from Dome Island represent some of the highest recorded in the Northeast.”

That study followed one conducted in 2006, which concluded that “mercury levels in songbirds sampled on Dome Island rank among the highest in New York and across the region.”

The island’s spiders, which the birds feed upon, may be the source of the elevated mercury levels found in birds, the scientists surmised.

From Crown Island and a site on the mainland, researchers will collect spiders of the type sampled on Dome Island and subject them to mercury tests, said David Buck, an aquatic biologist with the BioDiversity Institute.

The researchers will also test crayfish, Buck said.

“Crayfish reflect mercury in their immediate surroundings and provide a useful yardstick for comparing mercury levels throughout a specific watershed,” said Buck.

Results of the studies should be available by next spring, Buck said.

“I’d be surprised if we found that mercury contamination was limited to Dome Island,” said Buck.

Additional studies will permit scientists to assess the environmental impacts of mercury pollution on Lake George, said Buck.

The Dome Island and Lake George studies will become part of more comprehensive studies of air pollution and its impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity in the northeast, said Mark King of the Eastern New York Nature Conservancy.

“Our focus should be making people aware of how widespread mercury contamination is,” said King. “We have an opportunity here to show how mercury moves through the ecosystem; Dome Island and Lake George are pieces in the big picture.”

For more news from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror


Friday, October 23, 2009

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Adirondack Music Scene:Open Minded Mic, Songwriters, Jam Bands and "Aida"

Sarnac Lake wins for musical events this weekend. I’ll be attend every one of them. I’d also love to get to Potsdam to see Aida on the big screen.

Tonight, October 22nd:

In Saranac Lake at BluSeed Studios, open minded mic night is back. Sign up is at 7 pm and The Dust Bunnies host, starting at 7:30. This is the best open mic I’ve ever regularly attended. Musicians and attendees alike are truly supportive amidst originals, cover songs and poetry.

Friday, October 23rd:

In Saranac Lake at the Waterhole Upstairs Music Lounge, Rachel Van Slyke returns. She charmed us all this past spring with her lovely voice, solid guitar playing and haunting lyrics. Another musician I admire was riding by and actually whipped his bike around upon hearing her voice—he never got to where he was going. The song “Where I Want To Be” is a real pretty one, and I like the video that accompanies this version. She filmed most of it herself while biking around the country. According to her myspace page she starts at 6 pm.

Saturday, October 24th:

In Potsdam, the Met Live in HD is being played at the Roxy Theater and begins at 1 pm. The Verdi opera Aida is about an Ethiopian Princess who is captured and brought to Egypt as a slave. The Pharaoh’s military commander falls in love with her and must choose between his love for her and for his leader. As if this wasn’t heavy enough, the Pharaoh’s daughter is in love with him. This is one of the most popular operas in history—only La Boheme has been performed more by the Met. If you check out this link you’ll find details about fantastic meals you can get in conjunction with these performances.

In Glens Falls the band Live Without Annette is playing at the Full Moon Bar and Grill. They are a cover band that’s been voted best party band by the Post-Star for a few years in a row. You can check out some of their covers on youtube. I like their sense of humor. They start at 9:30 pm.

In Saranac Lake , celebrate Devito’s Birthday with two jam bands at the Waterhole in Saranac Lake. Jatoba and Raisinhead! The first is acoustic and the second reminiscent of the Grateful Dead, both are a lot of fun. As usual there will be a special cocktail hour at 9 pm to get everyone in the dancin’ mood, and some of the best bartenders are coming out of retirement for this special occasion.

Sunday, October 25th:

In Potsdam, The Met’s Encore presentation of “Aida” in HD is at the Roxy Theater. It will begin at 1 pm and end at 5 pm, just in time for dinner.

Photo: Rachel Van Slyke


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Backyard Bird Feeding Aids Science

The summer green has faded to brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows, soon to be followed by the dull browns and cold grays of our late Adirondack autumn. Alas, the missing cheery sounds of the robin will leave us wanting, but soon new bird sounds will fill the woods, fields, and our own backyards. So dust off the feeder and set it up outside the kitchen window. The winter birds will be looking for your daily fillings of sunflower seed, Nyjer (thistle) seed, and fattening suet!

For millions of us, bird feeding has become an annual event that brings to mind the joys of winter when we see bright red cardinals, sky-blue blue jays and a whole host of other colorful winter finches. Birds and bird feeders adorn Christmas cards, note cards, and many holiday wrappings. This might give us all a sense of warmth and good cheer throughout the winter season but take a second to think about the birds and their daily lives in the sub-zero temperatures of the Adirondacks.

Bird feeding stations can be a good supplement to the various wild seeds, fruits, berries, insects, and nuts that birds will feed on in winter. Many of our year-round resident birds need to maintain a good layer of fat to keep them alive on those bitterly cold winter nights. And how soothing is it when you see playful chickadees, cardinals, and woodpeckers out your window on a snowy morning?

For many years now the Adirondack Park Visitor Interpretive Centers at Paul Smiths and Newcomb have put together wonderful bird feeding stations just outside their very spacious windows. This allows many visitors to come in, relax and watch the almost therapeutic coming and goings of the birds.

Well, now that you’re convinced on setting up your own bird feeding station you can aid in the world of bird study science . . . even while sitting there at your kitchen table drinking that second cup of (fair trade, shade grown!) coffee.

The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology(CLO) has been actively rounding up birdwatching citizens to participate in Project FeederWatch: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/ This citizen-science project allows CLO to gather some much-needed data on where birds go in the winter and how many birds visit bird feeders, among many other questions.

CLO says, “Project FeederWatch begins on November 14 and runs through early April. Taking part is easy. Anyone can count the numbers and kinds of birds at their feeders and enter their information on the FeederWatch website. Participants submitted nearly 117,000 checklists last season. Since 1987, more than 40,000 people from the United States and Canada have taken part in the project.”

We all know that many bird species fly south for the winter but there are dozens of species that will stay and endure the harsh winters of the Northeastern U.S. Current data shows a gradual increasing trend in some species and decreases in others. Why? Well that’s what CLO wants to figure out, and with your input of weekly sightings, it may help reveal the answers they seek.

There is a small cost involved but the resource information you get back when you sign up is well worth the small fee. If you would like to see the Project FeederWatch in action, then visit the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center sometime this winter and see how the staff and volunteers conduct their counts.

It should be noted here that bird feeding in winter is a great resource for both birds and humans and should be encouraged. However, as we proceed into spring and summer it would be a good idea to take down those feeders during the warmer months (April to October). Black bears, raccoons, and rodents can destroy many feeders left out in summer. Besides, birds can find plenty of high-protein insects (which they prefer) during the Adirondack summer season.

Photo of Gray Jay by Milt Adams


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Two Adirondack Almanack Debates You May Be Missing

We often have some outstanding discussions here at Adirondack Almanack, debates that carry on long after the story has left the main page. I thought I’d take a moment to point readers to two active and interesting debates that have recently slipped off the main page.

The first involves Mary Thill’ s October 8 post “Posted Signs Do’s And Don’ts” which has 21 insightful comments on navigation law, trespass, private property and paddlers.

A second post also generating a lot of discussion is the recent announcement I made about a planned North Creek to Tahawus Rail Trail on October 14. There you’ll find nearly a dozen comments on the subject of abandoned railway easements and the Forest Preserve. Both discussion are enlightening—take a moment to check them out.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Natural History Along the Hudson River

For several years I have been a contributor to the Hudson River Almanac, a publication put out by the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program that follows the changes of the seasons all along the 315 miles of the Hudson River, from its headwaters here in Essex County to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s an impressive collection of natural history observations made by scientists and laypeople alike. For a naturalist, this is a fascinating journal. If these waters could talk, what a tale they could tell! » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Abenaki Candidates to Address Voters Saturday

Denise Watso, a descendant of the legendary Abenaki Chief Louis Watso who lived in Lake George Village for a time and figures prominently in 19th century Native American life there, sent the Almanack a press release (below) about an upcoming candidate forum in Albany on Saturday, October 24.

This is a significant event in the history of the Abenaki Nation. It was only within this decade that the substantial membership of the Odanak Abenaki First Nation living in the Albany area have been able to vote for their chief and council members. This is the first election in which off-reserve Abenaki are able to run for office as well as vote.

Here is the press release:

The Capital District will host one of three forums for Abenaki voters to hear directly from candidates for Chief and Council of the Odanak Abenaki First Nation. The forum will be held from 12-4 PM, Saturday, October 24 at the German-American Club, 32 Cherry Street, Albany, NY 12205. This is an exciting time in the history of the Abenaki people – all Abenaki enrolled at Odanak are invited and encouraged to attend with their families.

Two additional forums will be held during the election season at Sudbury, Ontario, and on-reserve at Odanak. Elections will be held Saturday, November 28, 2009, although voters may also cast their ballots by mail.

The Abenaki are the aboriginal people associated with homelands in much of northern New England and adjacent parts of New York, Massachusetts and Quebec, as well as with the Odanak (Saint Francis) and Wôlinak (Becancour) reserves in central Quebec (and historically with the Penobscot Nation in Maine, too). Abenaki derives from Wabanaki (“people from where the sun rises,” “people of the east,” or “people of the dawn”), and this latter term is often used in a general sense to refer collectively to the Mi’kmaq, Malecite, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot and Abenaki peoples.

While many Abenaki have been thought of as “Saint Francis Indians,” living at Odanak, in truth many Abenaki families have maintained part-time or full-time residence within their homelands south of the border continuously since the American Revolution. In fact, the first election held by the Odanak First Nation under the Indian Act, the legislation regulating aboriginal affairs in Canada, occurred January 18, 1876, after many Abenaki (and their Indian Agent) complained that the three chiefs serving the community at the time – Louis Watso, Solomon Benedict and Jean Hannis – were away from the reserve so often that two additional chiefs were required to ensure adequate representation. (The aged chief Louis Watso was actually living at Lake George, where a good deal of his family resided.) Samuel Watso and Lazare Wawanolett were chosen from a field of six candidates, and elections for office have been held at regular intervals ever since.

Abenaki history on the upper Hudson dates to at least the late 17th century when many ancestors of the modern Abenaki people lived at Schaghticoke, near the mouth of the Hoosic River. Continuing Abenaki presence in New York State is attested to by such notable 19th century Adirondack Abenaki as Sabael Benedict, Mitchell Sabattis, and the late 19th/early 20th century Indian Encampments at Saratoga Springs, Lake George and Lake Luzerne were primarily occupied by Abenaki. Despite a lack of recognition by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, these Abenaki families have persisted within and beyond their homelands: today, the Albany metro region is a major Abenaki population center. Other significant concentrations of Abenaki people are located in Waterbury, CT; Newport, VT; and Sudbury, Ontario.

This will be the second time that a formal forum for candidates for Chief and Council has been held in Albany. Approximately 60 people attended a similar event two years ago, and an even higher turn-out is expected this weekend. Off-reserve Abenaki were not allowed to vote in Odanak’s election until after the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1999 Corbiere ruling struck down the voter residency requirement of Canada’s Indian Act.

The importance of the off-reserve vote has been increasing with each passing election. This election, however, may bring about even greater change as it will be the first time since the Indian Act was enacted that off-reserve Abenaki will be eligible to accept a nomination for office (per the 2007 Federal Court of Appeals’ Esquega decision). The potential impact of this development places an even greater spotlight on the role of off-reserve voters in the civic affairs of the Abenaki Nation.

It is also a point of pride for many Abenaki who think of both Odanak and the Albany area as home. Susan Marshall, a lifelong resident of Albany and Rensselaer, is looking forward to attending the candidate’s forum and voting for her first time. “I just wish my mom (Mary Jane Nagazoa) was here to see this, knowing how proud she would be.”


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What Paterson’s Deficit Proposals Mean For The Adirondacks

Late last week Governor David Paterson announced a two-year, $5.0 billion deficit reduction plan that he claims would “eliminate the State’s current-year budget gap without raising taxes, as well as institute major structural reforms.” The plan includes a second raid on the state’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), which the Governor swept clean of $50 million at the end of 2008, and a raid on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s (RGGI) carbon allowance auction proceeds. Those funds, amounting to about $90 million, had been slated for energy conservation and clean energy development.

“Energy conservation and clean energy development,” says Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan, “are two areas where the investment would have provided both real savings for the taxpayer and clear benefits to the environment and public health.” None of the money collected from the carbon auctions since the New York began participating in January has been spent on energy programs according to Sheehan, who added that “this may be the first time in history that a dedicated fund was actually raided for another purpose before one cent of it was spent on its intended purpose.”

The proposed $10 million dollar raid on the EPF is the second within a year. About $500 million has been diverted from the fund for non-environmental purposes since 2003. The EPF is supposed to fund major environmental projects and provide local tax relief for landfill closures, municipal recycling facilities, conservation agreements, and expansion of the state Forest Preserve.

“A month or so ago, we wondered aloud why the Governor wasn’t spending the Environmental Protection Fund money that had already been collected since April 1,” Sheehan wrote in a recent e-mail to the media, “Now we know why.”

The governor’s announcement comes just a week after he said he would cut ten percent from the budgets of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA). The Governor’s plan announced late last year to cut state property tax payments to Adirondack municipalities that host state lands was rejected by the State Legislature this spring.

EXCERPT FROM GOVERNOR’S PRESS RELEASE:

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)/EPF Transfers
(2009-10 Savings: $100 million; 2010-11 Savings: $0 million)

This proposal would transfer $90 million in RGGI proceeds and $10 million from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) to the General Fund. It is currently expected that RGGI proceeds through the end of 2009-10 will total $220 million, allowing the state to meet its $112 million commitment to the recently passed Green Jobs legislation, as well as this $90 million General Fund transfer. Additionally, it is fully expected that after implementation of the DRP, the State would still be able to meet its original 2009-10 EPF cash spending plan of $180 million, which is equal to record 2008-09 levels.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Adirondack Family Activities: The Pines

To us, Big Game Season means something other than hunting. I’ve never been hunting and make an active choice not to be part of the hunted. With that decision comes the autumn neon wardrobe introduction and fashion faux pas but I am doing what I can to keep my family safe. Our lovely orange vests are kept conveniently in the car so I can cloak child or dog in festive array. In the Northern Adirondacks, Big Game Season starts this Saturday (October 24) and runs through December 6th.

The first of many safe walks I’ll be posting is the 12-acre lot in the heart of Saranac Lake called The Pines. The Pines is an area dedicated to the memory of Dr. Lawrason Brown, a pioneer in tuberculosis in the late 19th Century. The 12-acre plot is owned by the Saranac Lake Voluntary Health Association (SLVHA) and was deeded in 1937 to the organization while it was still called the Saranac Lake Tuberculosis Society, Inc., hence the connection to TB and Dr. Brown. SLVHA is a not-for-profit organization established in 1897 that continues to provide healthcare initiatives and scholarships for Saranac Lake residents.

Their property, known as The Pines, consists of a network of trails and old roadways easily accessible from any of three points. The first entrance is on Pine Street diagonally across from the railroad track crossing. Entrance two and three are on Forest Hill Road and Labrador Lane, off Moody Pond.

The trails are a mild walk with the most challenging hill being the entrance on Pine Street. The Pine Street entrance is a moderate incline to a then flat open path that runs along as esker. There is no view along these wooded paths, just a beautiful trail under a canopy of trees.

Somewhere hidden in the forest is the stone foundation of an old social club. There is no trail map or marked path available, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference. Each path seems quite short, less than a ¼-mile, intersecting and weaving together. The wide, flat path is easy enough to maneuver a jogging stroller or even the toddler venturing out on his/her own.

Volunteers maintain the trails so please carry out what you carry in, even the half-full coffee cup set carefully to the side of the trail.

The Pines is open to the public, though some restrictions do apply like no camping or motorized vehicles. Please be respectful of other people’s land as private property surrounds The Pines. Please heed the No Trespassing signs. For more information contact SLVHA at 518-891-0910.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hunting: Deer Season Opens in The Adirondacks

On Friday my friend Todd was seen stocking up at Blue Line Sports Shop in Saranac Lake. That could only mean muzzleloading season was opening Saturday.

Muzzleloaders, or black-powder hunters, are older school than their “regular” shotgun and rifle counterparts. Maybe they’re more interested in the pursuit than the kill; they’re definitely more process-oriented and Daniel Boone-like. It’s no surprise that muzzleloading interests Todd, a guy so deeply into fly-fishing that he learned to scuba dive so he could see for himself how fish behave. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Saranac Lake Community Store Closer to Funding Goal

Last week we received word from the people behind the Saranac Lake Community Store project that a recent fundraising surge has brought investment capital to $395,000. They need to sell $500,000 worth of shares to launch the store.

If organizers don’t reach half a million by the initial offering deadline of December 17, board vice-president Gail Brill said they will apply for an extension on the offering. “We are so close,” she said in an e-mail, “and light years ahead of Greenfield, MA, which started well before we did.”

Shares cost $100 each and may be purchased by residents of New York State only. Individuals may buy up to $10,000 worth of shares. Organizers had hoped to have the store open by this summer but the economy appears to have rescheduled those expectations. When $500,000 is reached, backers will choose a location, hire staff and purchase inventory.

The business is expected to be about 5,000-square-feet, located downtown and carry department-store-type retail items not currently available in Saranac Lake. Organizers say they will ask local people what they want the store to sell. The village has been without a department store since Ames closed in 2002 but citizen groups have thwarted efforts by Wal-Mart to open a big box. Hardware and drug stores have been filling some of the retail gap.


Monday, October 19, 2009

More Moose in the Adirondacks

Moose are becoming increasingly common in the Adirondacks. An Adirondack Almanack post dated September 2006 stated an estimated population of 200-400. The latest statistics show the population at roughly 500 for the state park. The number of resident moose is growing and, according to some, reaching a stage at which they may increase more prolifically. Whitetail deer and turkey enjoyed the same numeric spike in recent decades.

Some accounts have placed sightings near Copper Kiln Pond and along the Hardy Road in Wilmington. The northern section of the Northville Placid Trail to Duck Hole and beyond harbors moose as well, based on moose droppings spotted along the trail. Reports also placed a moose and calf along Route 73 between Lake Placid and the Cascade Lake area. » Continue Reading.