Tuesday, April 13, 2010

WordSpring! A Performance Poetry Event

North Country Community College and the Adirondack Center for Writing are presenting WordSpring!, a night of performance by three spoken word poets: Liza Jessie Peterson, Jon Sands, and Jeanann Verlee. “These three are to poetry what hip hop is to music: cutting edge, full of rhythm and style and bound to smash stereotypes,” according to a press announcement issued last week.

The trio, will take the stage at 7:00 P.m. on Thursday, April 29th at the David W. Petty Lecture Hall on the North Country Community College Campus in Saranac Lake. The event is free and open to the public.

For five years, the Adirondack Center for Writing has been bringing performance poets to the Adirondacks and every time they pack the house. “We are so excited to bring these three new poets to North Country Community College.” says Adirondack Center for Writing director Nathalie Thill, “For years we have brought various spoken word poets to the area to lead writing workshops for high school students and they have developed quite a following locally. This will be the first time these particular poets have performed in the Adirondacks, and I am certain the audience will be blown away.”

Liza Jessie Peterson is a classically trained actress and alumnus of the renowned National Shakespeare Conservatory and has been a student of the legendary coach to the stars, Susan Batson, since 1994. Liza has performed her poetry on HBO’s Def Poetry. Known most for her exceptional poetic skills, Liza began her poetry career at the famed Nuyorican Poets Café in 1995 and was a vital member of the enclave of notable poets who were part of the “underground slam poetry” movement before it attracted television cameras and national obsession. It was this electric group of artists that inspired Russell Simmons to bring “slam poetry” to HBO.

Liza has also appeared in several feature films and has written several plays. Liza has taught creative writing and poetry to youth at Rikers Island and in high risk communities for over a decade.

Jon Sands has been a full-time independent teaching & performing artist since 2007. He’s a recipient of the 2009 New York City-LouderARTS fellowship grant, and has represented New York City multiple times at the National Poetry Slam, subsequently becoming an NPS finalist. Jon has performed and facilitated workshops with university and arts organizations throughout North America, and is currently the Director of Poetry and Arts Education Programming at the Positive Health Project, a syringe exchange center located in Midtown Manhattan, as well as a Youth Mentor with Urban Word-NYC. Jon’s poems have appeared in decomP magazinE, Suss, The Literary Bohemian, Spindle Magazine, The November 3rd Club, and others. He is also one-fourth of the nationally acclaimed electricity-fest, The SpillJoy Ensemble. Jon lives in New York City, where he makes better tuna salad than anyone you know.

Jeanann Verlee is an author, performance poet, editor, activist, and former punk rocker who collects tattoos and winks at boys. Her work has appeared and been accepted in numerous publications, including The New York Quarterly, PANK, FRiGG, decomP, Danse Macabre, and “Not A Muse,” among others. Her first book of poetry, “Racing Hummingbirds,” will be published by Write Bloody Press in March 2010. Verlee was the highest-scoring individual poet at the 2008 National Poetry Slam Finals, is the 2009 NYC-Urbana iWPS Champion, and has represented New York City multiple times at the National Poetry Slam as both competitor and team coach. She proudly serves as co-curator for the Urbana Poetry Slam reading series at the Bowery Poetry Club. Verlee has performed and facilitated workshops at schools, theatres, bookstores, dive bars and poetry venues across North America. She shares an apartment with her dog and a pair of origami lovebirds. She believes in you.

Photo: John Sands, Performance Poet (Photo Provided).


Monday, April 12, 2010

APA Staff Objections to Fire Towers’ Proposal

The staff of the Adirondack Park Agency has raised several objections to the Local Government Review Board’s proposal to reclassify the tops of Hurricane Mountain and St. Regis Mountain as Historic Areas so that fire towers on the summits could remain.

APA spokesman Keith McKeever said the staff is not making a recommendation. However, the staff comments submitted to the APA commissioners are more negative than positive. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Lake George Spring Cleaning with LGA Catch Vac

The Lake George Association (LGA), the membership organization that works to protect the beauty and cleanliness of Lake George, takes an unusual approach to spring cleaning… its called a Catch Vac, and it came out of storage and hit the streets of Lake George Village this week.

“The LGA’s Catch Vac removes large quantities of sand and grit, applied to the roads during the winter, that accumulates in the region’s catch basins,” said Randy Rath, LGA’s project manager.

The Catch Vac reaches and pulls out leaves, debris, bottles and cans from as far down as 100 feet into storm water drains, manholes and catch basins. The lGA provides the Catch Vac for lease to area municipalities, contractors, homeowners and private citizens.

“This month the village of Lake George is using the LGA’s Catch Vac. It requires only a couple people to operate, and efficiently removes large quantities of litter and polluting debris, allowing the catch basins to function properly so they can capture additional material before it enters the Lake,” Rath said. “Many storm drains and basins in the Watershed go for years without cleaning, because of perceived difficulty or expense. The LGA’s Catch Vac makes it relatively simple and inexpensive to take care of these cleaning tasks, which are so vital to keeping the Lake clean and healthy, and we are encouraging other area municipalities and contractors to contact us.”

To make a reservation to use the Catch Vac, the public may contact Mona Seeger at the LGA, 668-3558. In cooperation with the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District and other partner organizations, the LGA has applied for federal funding to acquire a larger, truck-sized system that will be shared by organizations across the Lake George Watershed and will more easily capture heavy material.

Photo: Catch Vac with crew in Village of Lake George (Lake George Association).


Monday, April 12, 2010

Timbersports Competition Coming to Paul Smith’s

Some of the nation’s best collegiate woodsmen’s teams (lumberjacks and –jills) will gather at Paul Smith’s College this month for the 64th annual Spring Meet competition, the biggest collegiate event in timbersports. About 45 teams from 15 colleges and universities are expected for the two-day competition, which will take place on Friday, April 23, and Saturday, April 24. More than 1,000 spectators are expected.

Paul Smith’s has fielded a woodsmen’s team since 1948, the year of the first Spring Meet. Men’s, women’s, and mixed (jack-and-jill) teams will compete in events including sawing, chopping, axe throwing, log rolling, speed climbing and canoeing.

Paul Smith’s is a perennial contender among the nation’s best teams. It holds the record for most consecutive Spring Meet victories (10), and its men’s team is the defending champion. The defending women’s team is from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

In addition to the Spring Meet competition, the STIHL Timbersports Northeast Collegiate Challenge will be held at Paul Smith’s on Saturday, April 24, and taped for future broadcast on ESPNU.

The action begins at 7:45 a.m. both days and continues into the afternoon. Events are free and open to the public. Competitions will be held on the lawn in front of the college’s Joan Weill Adirondack Library, as well as Lower St. Regis Lake.

The winner of the STIHL Timbersports events will move on to the collegiate finals, from which a competitor will earn the chance to compete on the STIHL Timbersports professional tour.

Photo: Matt Barkalow, a member of the Paul Smith’s College woodsmen’s team, competes in a sawing event. Photo by Pat Hendrick.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Northern New York Eating Local Conference

If you are not sure to find fresh-picked asparagus, bright red strawberries, sweet peppers, a crisp mix of salad greens, crunchy carrots, white and brown eggs, chicken, lamb and beef – all grown locally in the Northern New York region, but plan to attend one of three “Eating Local Yet?” conferences to be held May 6-8, 2010.

Conference organizer Bernadette Logozar is the NNY Local Foods Specialist and a rural and agricultural development specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension Franklin County says the types of information to be shared at the conference include: What is the difference between local, organic, grass-fed and naturally produced foods? What are the different types of meat cuts offered by local livestock producers? Where do you find local foods? How do you cook grass-fed beef? Are there ways to eat local foods year-round?

“More and more people are looking to make a personal connection with their food suppliers, but they do not know how to talk with farmers or how to ask for the types of products they want. The “Eating Local Yet?” conference will provide consumers with the knowledge, information and confidence they need to buy and enjoy local food,” Logozar says.

Jennifer Wilkins, a Nutritional Science Senior Extension Associate with the Community Food Systems Project at Cornell University, will provide the keynote presentation at the “Eating Local Yet?” Conferences. Small workshop learning sessions at the conference will include:

“Getting the Most Nutritional Bang for Your Buck with Nutritionist” Martha Pickard of the Adirondack North Country Association

“Buying Meat from Farmers: What Cuts to Ask For and How to Cook Them” with local chefs and farmers

“Seasonal Menu Planning” with chefs from the NNY region

“Is it Local, Organic, Natural – Understanding the Language of Local Foods” with NNY Local Foods Specialist Bernadette Logozar.

Logozar plans to survey conference attendees about the types of future local foods programming they would like to see Cornell Cooperative Extension offer. Survey items are expected to include cooking classes, whole chicken preparation, basic food preservation and other interest areas.

The conference agenda also includes networking time with locally-grown and processed finger foods for tasting. The Saturday program includes a “Healthy Local Foods Lunch.”

Thursday, May 6, 5:30-8:30pm, Plattsburgh High School, 49 Broad St., Plattsburgh.

Friday, May 7, 5:30-8:30pm, Eben Holden Hall, St. Lawrence Univ., Canton.

Saturday, May 8, 10am-3:30pm, Case Junior High School, 1237 Washington St., Watertown.

Pre-registration for the conference is required by May 1, 2010. The $10 registration fee covers the evening and Saturday conference refreshments and materials. For more details and to register for the conference, contact Logozar at 518-483-7403 or bel7@cornell.edu.

For more tips on selling food locally, go online to the Regional/Local Foods section of the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website at www.nnyagdev.org.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

APA to Meet Thursday:
Fire Towers, Champlain Bridge, Independence River UMP,North Creek Development

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting this Thursday, April 15, 2010 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY. The April meeting is one day only and will be webcast live.

Among the topics on this month’s agenda are proposed amendments to the Independence River Wild Forest Unit Management Plan, fire towers in the St. Regis Canoe Area and the Hurricane Primitive Area, the proposed Crown Point Bridge, a proposed parking lot and trail relocation for the Stillwater Mountain area, the large-scale Tall Timbers development in at North Creek, a Twitchell Lake waterfront development project, a Raquette River Boat Club rezoning, the 2009 State Land Classification and Reclassification package (tentatively scheduled), and a commemoration of Earth Day. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Adirondack Wild Center Launches Next Generation ‘Wings’

When a group of young Adirondack enthusiasts first met in 2009 they never imagined the energy and passion they brought would grow so quickly, drawing in other like-minded people to form Wings. Wings recently launched, bringing together the next generation of Adirondackers who want to share their passion for the natural world of the Adirondacks, while supporting the important educational and environmental work of The Wild Center.

According to the Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project Report, if current population trends continue in the next 20 years, the Adirondacks will rival Florida’s west coast as the region with the oldest population in America. It is time for the younger generation to actively participate in the future of the Adirondacks. Wings will encourage and engage this exciting group of 21-45 year olds who live in and outside of the Adirondacks in social, educational and philanthropic ways. They will come together for regular gatherings where they can network, develop a greater understanding for the natural world of the Adirondacks and support the programs and initiatives of The Wild Center.

Wings will play an active role in the future of The Wild Center. “It is so important to incorporate various perspectives into the future of The Wild Center,” said Stephanie Ratcliffe, Executive Director of The Wild Center. “Wings is a way of actively engaging the younger population both inside and outside of the Adirondacks in the future of the region. Creating future stewards of the Adirondacks is integral to the survival of the area.”

Ed Forbes and David Bickford, Co-Chairs of the Steering Committee, will serve as Wings representatives to the Advisory Board of The Wild Center. A former resident of Lake Placid, Ed graduated from St. Lawrence University in 2002 and joined the staff of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise as a reporter covering Saranac Lake and the Adirondack Park Agency. In 2003, he became the editor of the Lake Placid News. He left the News in 2007 to pursue a Master’s degree at the Columbia University Graduate School. In 2008, he became an editor at The Journal News in White Plains. He and his wife, Emily Hunt Forbes, live in Bronxville and visit the North Country as often as they can. “Emily and I think about and miss the North Country every day,” said Ed. “While I grew up in northern New Jersey and she was raised in Buffalo, we consider the Adirondacks our home. Wings, to us, offers a range of opportunities: We can connect inside the Blue Line and out with other expatriates who share our love for the region, we can learn more about the Adirondacks’ natural wonders and we can support the critical mission of The Wild Center.”

Dave currently lives in New York City with his wife and six-month old daughter. A 2000 graduate from St. Lawrence University, over five generations of his family have been going to Upper Saranac Lake since the 1940s. He currently works in ad sales at CNBC.

Joining Wings provides numerous opportunities for attending Wings events in various locations and visiting The Wild Center. Wings participants will see their contribution make an impact at the Museum in the form of a collective annual gift toward a specific program or exhibit.

Using an email mailing to announce the launch of Wings demonstrates how the group will continue to communicate and spread the word. “The way of the world has shifted dramatically towards internet-based communication and social networking,” said Dave Bickford. “If we can use it to harness the energy of our supporters, while using fewer resources and funds, it won’t matter where someone is in the world. If they love the Adirondacks and want to be involved, they can. We plan to use our Facebook fan page to keep in frequent communication with everyone. Our social events will be both inside and outside of the Adirondacks, enabling everyone to meet in person too.”

The Wings Steering Committee is actively seeking like-minded supporters, people who want to get together with others who share a love for the Adirondacks, be future stewards of the Adirondacks, and get involved in Wings. For more information, visit www.wildcenter.org/wings.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ellen Rathbone: Turkey Vulture Tales

The mere mention of the word “vulture” often conjures up images of Halloween, death, or the African plains. I, however, find vultures to be endlessly fascinating creatures. Mostly I’ve seen them from afar, as they glide overhead in a wobbly “V” while soaring on a thermal, but I’ve also been lucky enough to see them roosting in trees along rivers where I’ve paddled, and once I even came upon a family unit on a rocky prominence overlooking Bridgewater, New Jersey – we were only about six feet way from each other.

Turkey vultures are probably the most common of the New World vultures, living in open and semi-open areas from southern Canada all the way to the southernmost tip of South America. Here in North American they tend to be commonly called “buzzards,” but I’m a purist and prefer to stick to the word “vulture.” In the world of science, they are called Cathartes aura. Cathartes is Latin for “purifier,” and probably refers to the bird’s habit of eating dead things – they are the sanitary engineers of the natural world. In fact, while most people no doubt find the vulture’s habit of eating carrion revolting, we should all be grateful that they do, for they help keep the incidence of disease at a minimum.

A close look at the turkey vulture shows us just how well it is adapted to its role as nature’s clean-up crew. First, it has a phenomenal sense of smell. This is rare among birds in general, and even among vultures it is a trait that stands out. Turkey vultures fly low over open areas scanning the ground with their keen eyes and sense of smell. The early stages of decay are marked with the emission of particular gasses, and the vulture’s highly developed olfactory system can detect even the smallest trace. Black vultures, which do not have the ability to smell, keep their eyes on their red-headed cousins to learn where the nearest food is located.

Next we should take note of that red head, which on the juveniles is grey. Some native stories say that the vulture’s head is featherless and red because it flew up to the sun to bring light back to earth, and its head was burned in the process. In reality, a naked head is a trait of most carrion birds. When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Y’see, these birds stick their heads into rotting, decaying flesh, ripping off bits to feed themselves or their off-spring. Rotting animals are full of “unsavory” things, like maggots and bacteria. By having featherless heads, vultures are able to keep themselves cleaner and avoid contamination. This could also be why their feet and legs are featherless, too.

Sometimes turkey vultures are seen standing with their wings spread out in the sunlight, much like anhingas. This is something they tend to do in the morning, especially after a damp night. I read that at night turkey vultures drop their body temperatures by about 11 degrees Fahrenheit, making themselves slightly hypothermic. I don’t know why they do this, but perhaps this is one reason why they “sun” themselves in the morning – to warm up. But they also do it to dry off and to bake off any bacteria that might be lingering in their feathers. When you think about it, these are really very tidy birds.

Okay, maybe not all their habits are tidy, like when they defecate on their feet and legs, a trait they share with their stork relatives. But, in all fairness, they do this to cool down. It’s an evaporation thing. The liquid evaporates from the skin, which cools off the blood that runs close to the surface of their legs and feet. Not everything can sweat like you and I.

And the projectile vomiting thing is rather revolting, too, I guess. But again, they do this only when necessary. Even though turkey vultures are fairly large animals, and therefore have few “enemies,” there are some animals that may try to take on a vulture or attack its nest of young. Because they don’t have strong feet with sharp talons, or fearsome beaks for killing prey, turkey vultures don’t have a lot of options for fending off attackers – beating them about the head and shoulders with their vast wings will only go so far. Vomiting up partially digested, rotting flesh, however, serves as a pretty good deterrent. The foul mess is even reported to sting when it lands on the offender. I know that if a large bird barfed all over me I’d be likely to leave it alone; apparently it works on raccoons and eagles, too.

It’s always good to take a second look at animals that we usually look at with a jaundiced eye. Just because something isn’t cute and cuddly, warm and fuzzy, doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. Beauty can be found in many forms, and while on the surface the turkey vulture may not win any beauty contests, it is, in my humble opinion, one of our more beautiful birds. I’d rather see a flock of vultures roosting in a tree over a flock of robins pulling worms out of my yard any day. This morning I heard my first report of vultures in the area for 2010. I’ll be looking skyward on my way home tonight to catch a glimpse of their silver-lined wings rocking gently overhead.

Photo: Turkey Vulture in flight over Florida (Wiki Commons).


Friday, April 9, 2010

This Week’s Adirondack Web Highlights


Friday, April 9, 2010

Anthony Hall: Timberdoodle Madness!

Lake George is the summer home of many people we never see.

The most reclusive summer resident, however, may not be any particular family but a migratory bird, the woodcock. As one sportsman put it, “The for-centuries extinct dodo bird is sighted about as often and by as many watchers.”

The woodcock (otherwise known as the timberdoodle, bog sucker, mud bat, big eyes, and, in the south, as becasse de nuit, or nightswipe) is a game bird that comes to Lake George in early spring; it stays no longer than six or seven months and departs before the first frost.

Typical of the summer resident, the woodcock returns to the same place every year.

Its preferred habitat is abandoned farmland. The woodcock lives on a diet of worms, which he consumes in amounts equal to his weight every day, and as boys who fish will tell you, moist, poorly drained fields are the best places to find them.

(One obvious harbinger of the woodcock’s arrival is the flock of robins that descends upon the field as soon as the sun’s heat is warm enough to draw worms to the surface.)

The nesting hen also likes the shrubby areas and young groves of oaks and maples that grow up on the edges of old fields.

I would not have known of the woodcock’s existence here had not a friend who is knowledgeable about these things told me that the woodcock’s preferences in food and shelter matched the conditions of the fields between our house and barn, alerting us to its presence.

The “peent, peent” that we hear every spring evening, it turns out, is part of the male woodcock’s mating ritual. It is the sound that he makes just before he ascends in a widening parabola through the dusk. When he achieves a maximum altitude, or perhaps just as he is about to descend, he lets loose a song that is as beautiful as any birdsong I’m familiar with. It is the only time he sings, according to John Burroughs. The naturalist adds: “Surprising it is to see this stupid-looking mud-prober transformed into an ecstatic song-bird under the influence of the mating instinct. Whoever has witnessed its hurried spiral flight in the March and April twilights, and heard its curious smacking, gurgling notes rain down out of the obscurity of a couple of hundred feet of air, has been present at one of the surprising incidents in the life of this bird.”

Actually, the woodcock does not descend so much as he falls, like a leaf at first, then like a rock dropped to illustrate the principals of gravity. He then returns to the spot from whence he came, and repeats the entire ritual. Now that the hours of daylight have increased, we have had better luck catching sight of him as he flies out of the juniper and circles the field.

There is another curious habit of the woodcock, which I have yet to see and have only read about: “If, in shooting, you meet with a brood of woodcocks, and the young ones cannot fly, the old bird takes them separately between her feet, and flies from the dogs with a moaning cry.” (This from an old sportsman’s guide; the writer is identified only as the author of “Scandinavian Adventures.”)

“All nature is so full that that district produces the most variety that is most examined,” wrote Gilbert White, the 18th century English parson who spent most of his life observing nature in one parish. White would have appreciated the fact that one of nature’s most elusive creatures can be found in our own backyards.

Woodcock illustration from New York State Fish and Game Reports

For more news and commentary from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Friday, April 9, 2010

Armchair Paddlers’ Guide to the Schroon River, April 11th

The Schroon River today is not well known. Parts such as Schroon Lake, “a wide spot in the river,” have been tourist destinations for years. Yet how many campers on the shore realize that Adirondack river driving began on the little river in 1813? Thousands of logs once floated down the Schroon to the Hudson River and mills beyond.

On Sunday, April 11, 2010, Mike Prescott, a New York State Licensed Guide, will offer a program entitled “Armchair Paddlers’ Guide to the Schroon River” at the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, N.Y. The presentation is the last of Cabin Fever Sunday series for the season.

The Schroon River is more than 60 miles in length, part of the Hudson River Watershed that flows south to the Atlantic Ocean passing within five miles of Lake George, part of the Lake Champlain Watershed flowing north towards the St. Lawrence River.

There are sections of the river for all recreational enthusiasts. Fisherman can enjoy the deep water fishing of Schroon Lake, while the faster waters of Tumblehead Falls challenge fly fisherman. Paddlers can drift along the lazy current of the upper Schroon and whitewater kayakers can play in the class III and IV rapids. Boaters can enjoy the 14-mile length of Schroon Lake. Hikers and wilderness adventurers are able to explore the mountains, lakes, and ponds of the Hoffman Notch, Dix Mountain, and the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness areas as well as the Hammond Pond Wild Forest area.

The history of human interaction with the Schroon River is rich with stories of logging, industry, tourism, and community development.

“The Armchair Paddlers’ Guide to the Schroon River” will be illustrated with vintage photos and postcards, as well as contemporary photography that shows what a paddler today would experience along the river.

Mike Prescott is a retired secondary school principal and NYS Licensed Guide. He spent three summers working with the Adirondack Cooperative Loon Program and has logged many hours observing and photographing loons. He spent thirty-four years working with young people, first as a history teacher and then as a secondary school principal. He has always found nature to be healing and rejuvenating. Mike’s specializes in learning the
history of the lakes, rivers, and streams of the Adirondacks.

The program will be held in the Auditorium, and will begin promptly at 1:30 p.m. Cabin Fever Sunday programs are offered at no charge to museum members. The fee for non-members is $5.00. There is no charge for children of elementary school age or younger. Refreshments will be served. For additional information, please call the Education Department at (518) 352-7311, ext. 128 or visit the museum’s web site at
www.adirondackmuseum.org.

Photo: Schroon River at Thurman, ca. 1900. Collection of the Adirondack Museum.


Friday, April 9, 2010

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Adirondack Music Scene:Josephine Foster and a Rock & Roll Benefit for ARC

So, I’ve been checking out Josephine Foster and Rachel Mason because this Saturday night concert seems the place to be this weekend. Both women have haunting voices and extremely different styles. I’m very curious and The Recovery Lounge is a great place to see a show. I’d also like to acknowledge Victor Herrero who was going to open for Ms. Foster. He had to cancel but he is quite the accomplished spanish guitar player and hopefully, he’ll be able to join the tour soon.

Thursday, April 8th:

In Canton, Open Mic Night at The Blackbird Cafe runs from 7 – 9 pm. Sign up earlier for a 3 song set.

Friday, April 9th:

In Canton, Friday Night Music Jam at the Tauny Gallery. This jam runs from 7 -8:30 pm.

Saturday, April 10th:

In Upper Jay, Josephine Foster will perform and Rachel Mason will open for her at The Recovery Lounge. The music starts at 8 pm and they will be passing a hat. Call 946-8315 for reservations.

In Plattsburgh, I Love Rock and Roll Benefit for ARC starts at 5:30 pm. The band is called Legend. $40 includes dinner at the West Side Ballroom.
Call (518) 563 – 0930 or (518) 834 – 5439 for reservation which are required.

Wednesday, April 14th:

In North Creek, Diz is performing at barVino starting at 7 pm.

Photo: Josephine Foster


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hawk Migration Into The Adirondacks

On a warm spring day we may look out over some open field with a mountainous backdrop, and while admiring the simple beauty of it all we might perchance see a hawk flying over the field in great spiraling flights as it rides a column of warm air from the valley below.

We learn, as we watch its flight pattern, that this hawk is hunting the fields in search of mice or other small mammals. We wonder how this bird has spent the winters because we never see it during the cold months in the Adirondacks.

Many species of hawk are migratory. Some spend several of our winter months in the warmer climes of Mexico, Central America, and even South America. But it was not until recent times that we discovered this phenomena of hawk, and falcon migration in Eastern North America.

Readers might be familiar with the broad-winged hawk. They are common throughout the lower elevations of the Adirondacks and can often be seen in hardwood forests or around open spaces.

But let’s take a look at the arduous journey this species and other hawk species have to make in order to reach the nesting grounds of our Adirondack woodlands.

Broad-wings can be found deep in Central America during our winter but by May they have completed a huge migratory pathway along the Appalachian Mts and end up nesting in our woodlands.

For the most part, broad-wings will follow the mountains along the east coast because they provide a “highway” of warm air thermals(air rising up from the valley floors) and these thermals are what the hawks soar on as they fly north. Soaring expends less energy than constantly flapping wings.

After safely negotiating the mountains and strong winds, the hawks then face another obstacle in their way. Water! Most hawks do not like to fly over large bodies of water. In our case those bodies of water are the Great Lakes.

The two eastern-most lakes, being Erie and Ontario, have become home to some of the best known spring hawkwatching areas in the United States. Hawks, while migrating, will encounter the open lakes and suddenly slam on the brakes and re-configure their flight direction….around the water.

As they adjust, they find the shoreline of these lakes more to their liking. So any wide open viewing areas along the shoreline can yield views of these hawks streaming along the shoreline on their northward march.

Places like Derby Hill, and Braddock Bay along southern Lake Ontario offer phenomenal viewing opportunities. A bit closer to home one can find some good viewing along Lake Champlain on top of Coon Mountain, just north of Westport in Essex County.

What a pleasure it is to watch these majestic raptors as they cruise their way over valleys and mountains to finally settle into quite forests, and raise a family all in the shelter of these Adirondacks.

Photo: Red-tailed hawk-Brian McAllister


Thursday, April 8, 2010

State Politics and New York’s Beavers

Like the Adirondack forest itself, New York’s beaver population had been harvested almost to the point of extinction before Albany took steps to revive it. It’s especially apt, then, that the coalition of groups lobbying to rescue the state’s Environmental Protection Fund from the Governor’s budget cuts has chosen the beaver to be its “spokesman” for the cause.

The beaver, of course, is the official animal of New York State.

A few years ago, I wrote an editorial for the Lake George Mirror about the political history of the state’s official animal. (The level of malfeasance among local governments must have been at an all-time low that week.)

I reproduce it here:

When government throws money at a problem, on occasion results ensue. Just not the results government intended.

For the second spring in a row, the state Department of Environmental Conservation extended the trapping season for beavers. As farmers and homeowners know, New York has too many beavers. Less than a century ago, however, the beaver was virtually extinct in New York State, and the legislature voted to finance a program to repatriate them to the Adirondacks. Unlike programs to restock the elk and the moose, this one worked.

In the August 1904 issue of ‘Field & Stream,’ Harry V. Radford reported, “Another measure which the writer caused to be introduced in the last Legislature, and which has just become a law through the Governor’s approval, is what has been known as the Beaver Restoration Bill. It carries an appropriation of $500, with which the Forest Fish and Game Commission is authorized to purchase wild beaver and liberate them in the Adirondacks.”

Radford was the individual most responsible for a program begun three years earlier to restock the Adirondacks with moose. Shortly after his victory on behalf of the beaver, he disappeared, reportedly in the Arctic, killed by his eskimo guides.

The Beaver, however, thrived. In 1905, three pairs were liberated, two in Big Moose Lake, which they quickly abandoned for a river twenty miles to the northeast. That same year, the Fish and Game Commission reported that the remnants of an original colony had been discovered in the marshy waters northwest of Upper Saranac Lake. The combined population of natives and transplants was roughly Forty. By 1914, that population had grown to 1,500 or even 2,000. The 1914 Conservation Commission report trumpeted: “The Adirondacks today are again entitled to their old Iroquois name, for they are rapidly becoming the country of the Beaver.”

The beaver was so successful in re-establishing himself in New York State that in 1975 he became the official state animal. Oregon objected, asserting that it had already claimed the beaver for itself. The editor of The Conservationist Magazine tried to soothe bad tempers on both sides by saying “Thanks to conservation there are enough beavers to provide state mammals for both states.” More than enough, apparently.

For more news and commentary from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror

Photo of beaver from Lake George Mirror files.