Monday, April 26, 2010

Phil Brown: Long Standstill Over Paddlers’ Rights

When four canoeists and a kayaker ventured down the South Branch of the Moose one spring day in 1991, passing through posted land, they sparked a legal battle that lasted eight years and ended in a victory for paddlers.

The Court of Appeals, the state’s highest tribunal, ruled that the common-law right of navigation embraces recreational canoeing. Two years later, the paddlers and the landowner, the Adirondack League Club, reached an agreement specifying when the public is allowed to paddle the South Branch.

But it wasn’t a total victory.

For one thing, the agreement says the river is open to the public only from May 1 to October 15 (or the opening of big-game season). But if a river is navigable in mid-April, why shouldn’t the public be allowed to paddle it? Can such an agreement between a landowner and private parties restrict the common law?

For another thing, little has happened to advance the cause of navigation rights since. Last spring, I paddled through posted land on Shingle Shanty Brook, a stream that connects two parcels of Forest Preserve in the Whitney Wilderness. I believe the public has a right to paddle this stream, but the landowners disagree. That there is still doubt about this, more than a decade later, shows that the Moose River decision was not as world-shaking as paddlers had hoped.

Finally—and this is less well known—the Moose River case put an end to legislative and regulatory efforts in Albany to clarify navigation rights.

Back in 1991, state legislators were pushing a bill that would have affirmed that paddlers have the right to travel on navigable rivers. At the same time, working on a parallel track, the state Department of Environmental Conservation was drafting departmental regulations with the identical purpose in mind.

The bill passed the Assembly, but apparently it was blocked in the upper chamber by Senator Ron Stafford, whose district included most of the Adirondacks. I’m told that Stafford was on the verge of coming around when the Moose River controversy erupted. Because of the lawsuit, the bill was shelved.

Similarly, DEC abruptly abandoned its effort to adopt regulations. The department had progressed so far in this initiative that it had drafted a news release.

What’s more interesting, DEC had prepared a draft list of 253 waterways throughout the state that it deemed navigable under the common law. Fifty-five of those rivers are in the Adirondacks.

You can read about this history in the May/June issue of the Adirondack Explorer. The story is available online here.

You also can see online the fifty-five Adirondack waterways on the department’s list. Keep in mind, however, that this was the draft of a preliminary list. If the list were subjected to public hearings, waterways may have been added or subtracted. That being said, it’s thought that most of the waterways on the list probably would have survived.

There is now a bill before the state legislature that would clarify the common law and authorize DEC to draft a new list of navigable waterways. Whether DEC would use that authority is questionable. The department may prefer to negotiate with landowners, as it is doing in the Shingle Shanty case. However it’s done, though, the public’s rights need to be clarified. The Moose River decision was not enough.

Photo of Shingle Shanty Brook by Phil Brown


Monday, April 26, 2010

53rd Hudson River Whitewater Derby at North Creek

The beginning of whitewater season in the Adirondacks will be celebrated again this year with the 53rd edition of the Hudson River Whitewater Derby in North Creek, Warren County.

Canoe and kayak enthusiasts have braved the rapids of the Upper Hudson River in the whitewater derby since 1958. Every year the Derby is hosted on the first full weekend in May. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Adirondack New Media-Social Media Event May 7th

Adirondack region new media / social media writers and producers are invited to gather at the Adirondack Museum on Friday, May 7, 2010 from 5 until 7 pm for a networking event and backstage tour of the Adirondack Museum’s exhibit “Let’s Eat: Adirondack Food Traditions”.

Local bloggers, Twitter users, social media writers and producers and new media journalists, will be getting together in the Adirondack Museum’s “Living With Wilderness Gallery” for food, drink, and networking, before taking an early behind the scenes look at the Museum’s featured 2010 exhibit.

This event is sponsored by the Adirondack Pub and Brewery and the Adirondack Winery and Tasting Room (both in Lake George), the Adirondack Museum, and Adirondack Almanack.

Please RSVP by May 1st to John Warren at adkalmanack@gmail.com


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lake George Association Annouces 2010 Events

The Lake George Association (LGA), now celebrating its 125th anniversary, has announced its 2010 summer schedule of ecology educational programs for the public. The LGA is the oldest lake association in the United States, and one of the oldest non-profit conservation organizations in New York.

Families, schools, businesses and individuals interested in preserving the Lake George region for future generations are invited to join the LGA for one or more of many educational offerings this summer; most are free of charge.

Free family hands-on water ecology programs will take place on Thursday mornings from 10-11 am; topics include Lake Invaders, Creek Critters and Fish Food.

Lake lovers of all ages are invited to participate in on-lake learning adventures aboard the LGA’s Floating Classroom. Trips for the public will take place on Thursday mornings in July and August at 11 am, leaving the dock at Shepard Park in Lake George.
Additional times are available for groups.

Four free workshops, entitled Landscaping with Native Plants, Aquatic Invasive Plants – Do’s and Don’ts, Water Conservation, and Lawn Care and Pest Management will be offered on four Saturday mornings this summer.

The public is also invited to participate in two clean-ups – one at West Brook and the other on Log Bay, and in LGA’s annual loon census count on July 17.

The organization’s 125th annual meeting, open and free to all, will take place on Friday, August 20 at 11 am at the Lake George Club. Reservations are required for the annual meeting and for the floating classroom trips.

A complete schedule of events can be found here.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Great Adirondack Young People’s Poetry Contest Winners

The Lake Placid Institute has announced the 2010 Great Adirondack Young People’s Poetry Contest winners for poets in grades 1-12 throughout the Adirondack region. The winning poems were selected by Theo Hummer, a visiting professor of English at St. Lawrence University who has taught creative writing, composition, and cultural studies in a Czech cigarette factory, at two northeastern liberal arts colleges and one Ivy League university, and at the maximum-security men’s prison in Auburn, NY. Her poetry has been featured in Vox, Sentence, Equilibrium, The Indiana Review, Best New Poets 2006, and on Verse.com. She is the daughter of the poet and musician T.R. Hummer.

All of the winning poems will be included in this year’s poetry booklet “Words From the Woods” and will also be published on the Institute’s website. The awards ceremony honoring the winners will take place in Lake Placid at the Lake Placid Center of the Arts on Sunday, May 2nd at 3:00 p.m.

This year the Lake Placid Institute offered four scholarships to high school students for the Young Writer’s Conference, a spring writing workshop specifically for high school students that takes place this May on the beautiful campus of Champlain College in Burlington, VT. For dedicated young writers, it is a chance to meet others who share their passion and to study the craft with some of the area’s most celebrated authors and teachers. The scholarship winners are:

Margaret Smith, “Lamas”
Age 14, Grade 9
Long Lake Central School
Teacher — M. Farrell

Alex Steele, “I owe my success”
Age 16, Grade 10
Westport Central School
Teacher – Mr. Gibbs

Una Creedon-Carey, “Beige & Blue”
Age 17, Grade 11
Plattsburgh High School
Teacher — Dr. Demarse

Larissa O’Neil, “Somber Blaze”
Age 17, Grade 12
Galway High School
Teacher — Mrs. McDonald

This year’s Great Adirondack Poetry Contest winners are:

Grade 1

Theadora Welch – “Worm Hands”
Bailey Avenue Elementary School
Teacher – Mrs. Bullis

Grace Wilson – “Snowflakes”
Keene Central School
Teacher – Mrs. LaVallee

Harvey Runyon – “I Wish I Had a Dog”
Keene Central School
Teacher – Mrs. Jacques

Grade 2

Emrys Ellis – “Cascade #2”
Keene Central School
Teacher – Mrs. Jacques

Cedar Jones – “Cedar”
Keene Central School
Teacher – Mrs. LaVallee

Maygan Robinson – “Winter”
Wells Central School
Teacher – Mrs. Persch

Grade 3

Ben Molloy – “This is all wrong”
Queensbury Elementary
Teacher – Miss. Shapiro

Sophia Loiacono – “The Bad Things About Sledding”
Queensbury Elementary
Teacher – Ms. Shapiro

Noah El-Remawi-Fine – “Changes”
Keene Central School
Teacher – Mrs. Hooper

Grade 4

John Custodio – “Shadow”
Lake George Elementary
Teacher – Ms. Loonan

Isabel Bullis – “Forest Dream”
Constableville Elementary
Teacher – Mrs. Flansburg

Julia Dickison-Frevola – “Autumn”
Lake George Elementary
Teacher – Ms. Loonan

Grade 5

Zach Coolidge – “Animals are Free”
AuSable Elementary
Teacher – Mrs. Forrence

Anthony Cardenas – “White”
Lake George Elementary
Teacher – Ms. Loonan

Stephan Peryea, “Fall”
Northern Adirondack Central School
Teacher -Mrs. Peryea

Grade 6

Sophie Morelli- “The Vacuum”
Lake Placid Middle School
Teacher – Ms. Crawford

Johanna Mohrs –“Flower of Beauty”
Petrova Middle School
Teacher – Mrs. Orelan

Chris Williams – “My Perfect Sunset”
Lake Placid Middle High
Teacher – Ms. Crawford

Grade 7

Elyssa Valeutin – “Christmas Day”
Saranac Lake Middle School
Teacher – Ms. Reyell

Jacinda Riggs – “Winter”
Saranac Lake Middle School
Teacher — Ms. Reyell

Cassandra Hough – “The Nobody”
Saranac Lake Middle School
Teacher – Ms. Reyell

Grade 8

Megan Maloy – “Electric Fence”
Moriah Central School
Teacher —- Mr. Klingenberg

Derek Petro – “The Forest”
Moriah Central School
Teacher — Mr. Klingenberg

Courtney Baker – “Ode to my Sweatshirt”
Saranac Lake Middle School
Teacher — Ms. Reyell

Grade 9

Margaret Smith – “Llamas”
Long Lake Central
Teacher — M. Farrell

Maggie Rose-McCandlish – “July Dusk”
Lake Placid Middle High School
Teacher — Mr. Ellis

Michaela Courson – “Where I’m From”
AuSable Valley Central School
Teacher — Mr. Gottlob

Grade 10

Alex Steele, “I owe my success”
Westport Central School
Teacher – Mr. Gibbs

Mimi Miller – “The Rope”
Lake Placid High School
Teacher — Mrs. Spicer

Lucy Mitchell – “Icicles Hanging from Broken Branches”
Lake Placid High School
Teacher — Mrs. Spicer

Grade 11

Una Creedon-Carey – “Beige & Blue”
Plattsburgh High School
Teacher — Dr. Demarse

Kagan Rice – “Ode to My Jacket”
Keene Central School
Teacher — Ms. McCabe

Greta L.A. Zarro – “The Girl on the Silk”
Lake Placid High School
Teacher — Mr. Gotham

Grade 12

Larissa O’Neil – “Somber Blaze”
Galway High School
Teacher — Mrs. McDonald

Kimberly Hughes – “What He Wanted”
Westport Central School
Teacher — Mr. Gibbs

Sarah Matrazzo – “God’s Dead Skin”
Schulverville Central School
Teacher – Ms. Sorrentino

Shelby Dolback – “Same place, two different worlds”
Crowne Point Central
Teacher—Mrs. Charron


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Turkey Season Opens May 1; Youth Weekend Begins

The 2010 spring turkey season opens on May 1 and the annual Youth Turkey Hunting Weekend is this weekend (April 24-25). For more information about turkey hunting in New York, visit the “Turkey Hunting” pages of the DEC website.

An analysis of the 2009 spring turkey take, including a county-by-county breakdown, can be found on the DEC website; the numbers for the 2009 fall turkey season are also online.

Do you have photos from a spring turkey hunt you would like to share? DEC has created a Hunting and Trapping Photo Gallery for junior hunters (ages 12-15), young trappers (under age 16), and hunters who have harvested their first big or small game animal. If you are the parent or legal guardian of a junior hunter, or if you are an adult who would like to share your first successful hunt, visit the photo gallery.

To participate in our Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey, Winter Wild Turkey Flock Survey, or other game bird surveys visit the “Citizen Science” page of the DEC website.

To be eligible for this year’s Youth Turkey Hunt, hunters must be 12-15 years of age, and holding a junior hunting license and a turkey permit. Youth ages 12-13 must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or a relative over 21 and with written permission from their parent or legal guardian. Youth ages 14-15 must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or an adult over 18 and with written permission from their parent or legal guardian. The accompanying adult must have a current hunting license and turkey permit. The adult may assist the youth hunter (including calling), but may not carry a firearm or bow, or kill or attempt to kill a wild turkey during the youth hunt.

Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to noon each day. The bag limit for the youth weekend is one bearded bird. This bird becomes part of the youth’s regular season bag limit of 2 bearded birds. A second bird may be taken beginning May 1. All other wild turkey hunting regulations are in effect.

Other Important Details for the Spring Turkey Season, May 1-31, 2010:

• Hunting is permitted in most areas of the state, except for New York City and Long Island.

• Hunters must have a turkey hunting permit in addition to their small game hunting or sportsman license.

• Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to noon each day.

• Hunters may take 2 bearded turkeys during the spring season, but only 1 bird per day.

• Hunters may not use rifles, or handguns firing a bullet. Hunters may hunt with a shotgun or handgun loaded with shot sizes no larger than No. 2 or smaller than No. 8, or with a bow and arrow.

• Successful hunters must fill out the tag which comes with their turkey permit and immediately attach it to any turkey harvested.

• Successful hunters must report their harvest within 48 hours of taking a bird. Call (1-866 GAMERPT) or report harvest online.

• Hunters who take a bird with a leg band are encouraged to call the “800” number listed on the band, in addition to reporting their harvest via phone or Internet. Hunters will find out when and where the bird was banded and the information will help DEC staff better manage wild turkeys.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Adirondack Geology: Mysteries of Rocks and Minerals

Geology – it’s the backbone of this planet, and one area in which I find myself deficient in knowledge. It’s not that I don’t like rocks – I had quite a large collection as a kid, and even today I am drawn to rock shops. It just seems that geology is something my mind refuses to hang onto. Oh, the broad strokes are easy enough to remember (like how the Adirondacks are built of some of the oldest rocks on Earth, but the mountains are fairly young), but the little details, well, those I always have to relearn. So, I thought I’d put myself through a small crash course in rocks and minerals, and on the off-chance that others out there are similarly confounded, I decided to write about my findings.
First, what is the difference between a rock and a mineral? A mineral, according to Discover Nature in the Rocks by Rebecca and Diana Lawton and Susan Panttaja, is “the solid phase of a non-living, naturally occurring substance.” Minerals are composed of atoms arranged in a crystalline structure. Now, these atoms could be all of one kind, like they are in native metals. For example, in silver all the atoms are silver atoms. Other native metals include copper and gold. Some minerals, however, are composed of molecules of more than one kind of atom. Many multiple atom minerals are familiar, like table salt, which consists of sodium and chloride atoms. Chemically we call table salt sodium chloride, while its mineral name is halite. Minerals found, and some even mined, in the Adirondacks include mica, quartz, garnet, and pyrite.

Rocks, on the other hand, are all part of the Earth’s crust. From the small pebbles that get into our shoes to the glacial erratics and mountains that make the Adirondacks what they are, all these rocks originated in the thin layer that covers the molten and semimolten mass that forms the basis of this planet. Rocks come in three flavors: igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic.

Anyone who went through Earth Science in high school should be familiar with these terms. Igneous rocks are formed from once-molten material. The majority of igneous rocks were made by minerals that crystallized out of molten materials (magma) from deep below the Earth’s surface. Here in the Adirondacks, every time we see a piece of granite, we are looking at an igneous rock. Granites are rich in several minerals: silica, potassium, sodium, quartz, and alkali feldspars.

Sedimentary rocks are created when particles (or sediments) come to rest after being moved by wind and/ or water. Their final resting place is usually underwater, but some end up in deserts or on sand dunes. Sandstone and shale are two examples of common sedimentary rocks.

Metamorphic rocks were formed under either great heat or great pressure. They started life as either sedimentary or igneous rocks, or maybe even as a another metamorphic rock, but then they underwent a change. A simple example would be a slab of shale that gets squashed by a heavy weight (say, a thick layer of additional sediment) and ends up compressed into slate. Marble is an example of a metamorphic rock that was created when a chunk of limestone underwent extreme heat. Grenville marble forms the bedrock under Rich Lake here in Newcomb. Because of its limestone origin, it has provided a natural buffering agent to the lake, protecting it from the effects of acid deposition. A third type of metamorphic rock is formed when mineral-rich water is heated to extreme temperatures. This superheated liquid moves through the rock around it and either changes the rock’s structure or its mineral composition.

Contrary to popular belief, rocks are not static. They are constantly changing, but few of us witness this change because it happens in geologic time; in other words, very slowly. Still, the observant naturalist can see this change if he or she looks for it. A great place to start, and one easily found here in the Adirondacks, is at a glacial erratic. These boulders are found lying about the woods, far from their native homes. The term “glacial” tells us that they were deposited by the glaciers that passed over this area over 10,000 years ago. The word “erratic” means they came from somewhere else. Here at the VIC in Newcomb we have a wonderful glacial erratic sitting next to the Rich Lake Trail. In almost ten years of passing this rock, I’ve noticed that the crack that runs down its face has widened. Water gets into this crack and alternately freezes and thaws, each year making the crack a little bit wider. Eventually, I suspect the slab will fall away from its parent rock, but probably not within my lifetime.

Some rocks and minerals are fairly easy to identify, like mica and pyrite and granite. Others may require more in-depth investigations. I recall from a soils class I took in college that we had to test various rocks with chemicals to get positive IDs. I find, however, that the easiest route to take is a visit to the local rock shop, where the proprietor is often quite happy to help me out with any geologic conundrum I pick up. I have discovered that rock-hounds are a lot like birders – they are intensely “into” their subject and know a great deal. The Adirondack Park is fortunate to have more than one rock shop. I know of two within about a half-hour’s drive from where I live: one in Long Lake, and the other at Natural Stone Bridge and Caves in Pottersville. Kids love rocks and these shops can be a lot of fun for serious rock-hounds and novices alike.

The problem with being a JOAT (jack-of-all-trades) is that I find too many things to be interesting. Here I was happily buzzing along thnking that insects were my latest “thing,” but now I find myself wanting to know more about rocks and minerals – geology. I’ll take some time to finish reading my Discover Nature in the Rocks book and see if I can’t commit some of it to memory. But before that happens, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if something else came up and my curiosity swept me away down another tangent. Ah – the joys of being a naturalist!


Friday, April 23, 2010

This Week’s Adirondack Web Highlights


Friday, April 23, 2010

Inez Milholland Portrait Restoration Planned

A portrait of Inez Milholland hanging over a mantelpiece in the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum in Washington DC will be restored if a committee established in March is able to raise $4,000.

Milholland’s name is known today primarily by historians of the crusade to win for women the right to vote.

That crusade acquired crucial public attention on March 4, 1913, the day Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated for his first term. Women from every state gathered in the capital and staged a great parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. Leading the parade on a white charger was Inez Milholland, then 25 years old.

She was, literally and figuratively, a figurehead of the nascent women’s rights movement. » Continue Reading.


Friday, April 23, 2010

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Adirondack Music Scene:Zuckerman and Friedman, Orchestras and Open Mics

Tonight: 3 Open Mics to choose from!

Then on Saturday, I think the Natalia Zuckerman and Andy Friedman concert looks like a very good bet. They both have strong guitar and vocal styles. I’m also intrigued by Gordon Stone‘s banjo playing – having checked some of it out on line – his music is complex and can get really exciting. If one is feeling ambitious it should be possible to catch both of those shows, missing only an hour of one.

Another thing I’ve noticed while looking around the Park schedules this week, are the number of orchestras giving performances, surely an indication of the warmer weather to come.

Thursday, April 22nd:

In Saranac Lake, Open Minded Mic Night at BluSeed Studios. Sign up at 7 and starts at 7:30pm. There is a $3 cover. Fantastic audience and fantastic talent.

In Ellenburg Depot, the Burlington Taiko Drum Group will give a free concert at The Northern Adirondack Central School.
Concert starts at 7 pm.

In Canton, Open Mic at The Blackbird Cafe runs from 7 – 9 pm.

Friday, April 23rd:

In Canton, an Chapel Organ Recital will be held from 12:15 – 1:15 pm at the Gunnison Chapel at St. Lawrence University. Free admission.

In Potsdam, Ten Speed Taxi will rock La Casbah from 9 – 11:45 pm. For more information, call (315) 379 – 9713.

Saturday, April 24th:

In Long Lake, the 19th Annual Spring Blossom Fiddle Jam at the Town Hall. Workshops are at 2 and 3:15 pm, to register call (518) 624-3077 ext. 13. The open jam starts at 6 pm.

In Saranac Lake, Natalia Zuckerman with Andy Friedman at BluSeed Studios. The concert starts at 7:30 pm and the charge is $14/ $12 for members. For reservations call (518) 891 – 3799.

In Saranac Lake, “An Evening of Operetta and Broadway” will be presented by the High Peaks Opera Studio. This concert will be held at Saranac Village at Will Rogers at 7:30 pm. A donation of $5 is suggested. Call Debbie Kanze at (518) 901 – 7117 for more information.

In Saranac Lake, a new Chamber Musical “At Saranac” will be performed for the first time by Phil Greenland and Tyler Nye.
The show starts at 8 pm in the John Black Room of the Saranac Laboratory and a $5 donation is suggested. For more information, call (518) 891 – 4585.

In Saranac Lake, the Gordon Stone Band plays the Waterhole, starting at 9 pm.

In Lake Placid, a Open Mic will be held from 8 – 10 pm at the Cabin of The Northwoods Inn. Special guests are poets; Paul Pines and Theo Hummer. For more information call (518) 523 – 1312.

In Lake Placid, David Knopfler at LPCA. Concert starts at 8 pm and tickets are $16. Call (518) 891 – 2512 for reservations.

In Queensbury, Coffee House & Open Mic will be held at the UU’s Church on 21 Weeks Road. a $4 donation includes fruit, desserts, tea and coffee.

In Lowville, The Black River Valley Concert Series presents “Zen Is For Primates”. Doors open at 7:45 and the concert starts at 8 pm and will be held at the Lewis County Historical Society. For more information email; lewiscountyhistoricalsociety@hotmail.com .

Sunday, April 25th:

In Long Lake, the 19th Annual Spring Blossom Fiddle Jam starts back up at noon. The event is held at the Long Lake Town Hall.

In Lake George, a benefit “Spring Fling” will be held at the Adirondack Pub & Brewery. Tickets are $20, for more information call (518) 668 -2616.

In Canton, The Best of The Classics: String Orchestra will be held at the Gunnison Chapel from 2 – 3:30 pm. Free admission.

Tuesday, April 27th:

In Potsdam, The Crane Symphonic Band will perform at 7:30 pm at the Helen Hosmer Hall, SUNY Potsdam. It’s a free concert.

Wednesday, April 28th:

In Lake Placid, The Syracuse Symphony Orchestra will perform at 8 pm at LPCA. Tickets are $15 and less. For reservations call (518) 523-2512.

In North Creek, Vinnie Leddick plays barVino at 7 pm.

In Potsdam, the Potsdam High School Band & Orchesrta Concert will start at 7:30 pm. It will be held at the high school and admission is free.

Photo: Natalia Zuckerman


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thinking Adirondack Birds On Earth Day

On this Earth Day of 2010 I find myself thinking. First, thinking of the abuses this planet has taken and is still taking. Then I think of some of the more positive things that we have witnessed, as we slowly bring about the changes this planet needs…”Be the change that you want to see in the world”-Gandhi

I recently “rediscovered ” a book I have entitled Important Bird Areas of New York
and as I paged though it I came to a map depicting all the Important Bird Areas(IBA) of northern New York. Looking closely at the map it shows all the IBA’s in small gray circles. Some bigger, some smaller. Each one designating a large IBA or a smaller IBA.

Then I got out my calculator and started adding up the number of acres each IBA contained. To my surprise, in an area that runs north of the NYS Thruway and bound by Lake Champlain on the east, Lake Ontario on the West, and the St Lawrence River to the north, I count over 902,000 acres designated as IBA.

Now this is just an estimate-it could be greater. But smack dab in the middle of all these gray circles of IBA’s sits our Adirondack Park. Some areas within the Blueline are IBA’s but looking at the big picture we can take a calming breath knowing that over 2 million acres are protected for birdlife (and other forms of wildlife of course) in our “park”.

This was truly an eye-opener when I recently looked at a map showing all the IBA’s in the United States. If you look at the upper right corner of the map you see a large green blob. That’s the protected Adirondack Park with all it’s avian inhabitants. Pretty cool when you consider the size of the blob in relation to all the other blobs on the map.

But what does this afford us? Well for one thing it gives recognition that we have something unique here in our own backyards. We have a Park that encompasses over 12 different critical habitats that wildlife need, ranging from endangered alpine summits to precious peatland bogs and wetlands that provide habitat to millions of organisms.

Birds have depended on these habitats of the Adirondacks for thousands of years. Bicknell’s thrush can safely raise young in the thickets of spruce-fir forest on our mountains; spruce grouse may get a second chance at survival in our carefully managed forests; olive-sided flycatchers can seek out protected wetlands as they return from a 2,000 mile spring journey from a tropical rainforest; and rusty blackbirds, though numbers severely depleted, can still find habitat in our acreage.

We may never see the day when all the “green blobs” on the IBA map will meld into one big blob, but it’s nice to know that we are trying.

Photo credit: Savannah Sparrow-Brian McAllister


Thursday, April 22, 2010

‘Hidden Room’ Highlight of Underground RR Site

Last week student volunteers from SUNY Plattsburgh and SUNY Potsdam took part in exploratory archaeological excavations at the former Stephen Keese Smith farm on Union Road, midway between Keeseville. The Smith farm (also known as “the old Stafford place”) is a historic Underground Railroad site where refugees from slavery were hidden in the 1850s and 1860s. Although several of the buildings on the farm are believed to have housed runaway slaves, one barn in particular that includes a “hidden room” was the target of the weekend’s excavations.

Archeologists and volunteers organized by the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association (NCUGRHA) worked last weekend to conduct an archeological survey in advance of restoration work on the barn. The dig was organized by Andrew Black of Black Drake Consulting and SUNY Plattsburgh, assisted by members of the NCUGRHA, and with the permission and assistance of the of the property owners, Frank and Jackie Perusse.

Stephen Keese Smith was a Quaker, who shared his story of the smuggling former slaves through Clinton County to Canada in 1887:

I first became acquainted with the “Under Ground Rail Road” twenty years or more before the [Civil] War … Samuel Keese was the head of the [Underground RR] depot in Peru. His son, John Keese – myself, and Wendell Lansing at Keeseville [publisher of the Essex County Republican] were actors. I had large buildings and concealed the Negroes in them. I kept them, fed them, often gave them shoes and clothing. I presume I have spent a thousand dollars for them in one-way and another. There were stations at Albany, Troy, Glens Falls and then here in Peru. The Negroes would come through the woods and be nearly famished. We kept them and fed them for one or two days and then ran them along to Noadiah Moore’s in Champlain… He went with the Negroes to Canada and looked out places for them to work.

The archeological teams excavated three places along the exterior foundation walls of the barn in search for artifacts. Aside from some scattered 20th century trash and earlier barn construction debris (nails, hardware, window glass), they found nothing of significance, meaning that some restoration work can begin without harming historically significant remains.

The stone-walled room built into the barn’s lower level, believed to be one of the places Smith hid runaways, was too flooded to excavate. The team had hoped to establish the original floor level in the “hidden room” and see if there are deposits directly related to the room’s occupation by refugees. Unfortunately those investigations will have to wait until the groundwater level subsides, when archeologists will return to the barn to explore this hidden gem of North Country Underground Railroad History.

Photos: Above – Archaeologists and volunteers gather for a photo during the Smith barn excavation in Peru, Clinton County, NY (Courtesy Helen Allen Nerska). Below – The hidden room in the lower level of the Smith barn (Courtesy Don Papson).


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Adirondacks Forest Ranger Report (April 2010)

What follows is the Forest Ranger Activity Report for April 6 through April 18 for DEC Region 5, which includes most of the Adirondack region. These reports are issued periodically by the DEC and printed here at the Almanack in their entirety. They are organized by county, and date.

Clinton County

Town of Beekmantown, Private Lands

On Monday, April 5, 2010, at 6:40 AM, DEC Dispatch received a call from New York State Police Plattsburgh requesting assistance locating Kim McDonald, 56, of West Chazy, NY. The State Police had information that led them to believe that Mr. McDonald may have intended to harm himself. DEC Forest Rangers responded and along with NY State Troopers began a search of the area. At approximately 9:00 AM, the Mr. McDonald was located in a swamp behind his house. He was missing his shoes, suffering from exposure, and had superficial wounds to his face, feet and hands. He was carried out of the woods and transported to CVPH Medical Center. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ellen Rathbone: Bee Watching

Anyone who has read my nature blog lately has probably noticed my current preoccupation with bees. This is likely due to several things, such as the fact that the most visible and approachable wildlife around my yard right now is the bees busily visiting my giant pussy willow shrub, which is blooming with great profusion thanks to the recent heatwave. A variety of insects are obsessed with this shrub, for it is one of the earliest flowering plants up here, and these newly awakened insects are in need of sustenance. QED. But my interest is in the bees, mostly, because native bees are generally given short shrift by people. If it isn’t a honey bee, then it’s not worth knowing. In some circles, this is considered “job security” for people the likes of me because it provides grease for the educational wheel. So, with this in mind, let’s take a look today at some of our native bees.

We will start with basics. Honey bees are not native. Honey bees were brought to this country over three hundred years ago as indentured servants: they made honey and we wanted it. Additionally, colonies of honey bees were established in (and later moved among) orchards and other crops, where their penchant for pollinating was exploited by the agriculture industry. This is all very well and good, but we also need to recognize that North America is home to several hundred species of native bees, most of which are solitary rather than colonial, and most of which are important pollinators in their own right, even if they are overlooked by the bulk of humanity.

The majority of native bees in New York State are solitary ground-nesters. In fact, these fuzzy little bundles of energy make up about 60% of all NY bees. That’s an impressive amount. I first became aware of these little bees just about a year ago when I stumbled upon a group nesting site in the dusty, sandy margin of the road while I was picking up trash. It was fascinating to watch as the bees flew in and out of their pencil-sized holes in the ground. Curious, I had to know more.

My investigations into the identity of those ground bees suggest two possibilities: mining bees (Adrena) or digger bees (Anthophora). The individual in the photo above (a visitor to my willow) has been identified as Adrena frigida. Nationally, there are something like 1200 species of Adrena; New York is home to 112 of these, which account for about 23% of all NY bee species.

Adrena are non-aggressive little bees, measuring a little over a centimeter in length, and are one of the first bees to emerge in the spring, foraging for pollen among early flowering plants like willows. As soon as there is pollen to be had, these bees head for the blooming larders, the females collecting pollen on the fuzzy hairs that cover their bodies. Later, they’ll remove the pollen and store this protein-rich food in the brood cells they build, one at a time, underground. Here they lay their eggs, one per cell, each cell stocked with enough food to see the larva through to adulthood. Unless…

Another early springtime bee I’ve seen around my shrub is a cleptoparasite from the genus Nomada. These little bees are hairless, making them look more like wasps than bees. While they may be gathering some pollen and nectar for food, they are not collecting it for their offspring. Nope, these little bees seek out the burrows of our friend Adrena and lay their eggs in Adrena’s nests, kind of like a cowbird laying her eggs in a robin’s nest. When the Nomada larvae hatch, they eat all the stored food, either starving the Adrena larvae or outright killing them. What emerges later in the season are not happy little Adrena bees, but new Nomada bees, and the cycle begins again.

It’s a bee eat bee world out there.

Although Adrena are solitary bees, they often nests in communal aggregations, like the one I saw last spring along the roadside. This is because good nesting ground is at a premium. Go outside and take a look around. How much bare ground do you see? Odds are that unless you live on a construction site it isn’t much. Most ground is covered with pavement, grassy lawns, fields or forest, depending on where you live. Therefore, when bare patches are found, these bees move in. Sandy slopes are likely to be peppered with many bee nests (upwards of 100 nests per square meter), each with a pencil-sized opening. If you sit and watch for a while, you’ll see the busy little females zipping in and out of the holes, bringing in pollen to fill the larder, laying eggs, or putting the final touches on a brood cell.

Why should the average New Yorker care about Adrena? Based on this article, you might think that all they do is pollinate willows. Well, willows only bloom in the spring; therefore, these bees visit other flowers as spring turns into summer and summer progresses towards fall. If you like apples, which are a major crop in New York State, then you must tip your hat to Adrena and our other native bees. Cherries are also popular with little Adrena and her solitary cousins.

Colony collapse had been in the news for a few years now – a mysterious disorder that had resulted in massive die-offs in honey bee populations. Scientists studying colony collapse are also interested on the effects it might have on populations of native bees. Native bees are also being looked at as possible replacements for honey bees in the agriculture pollination game. One of the big problems with using native bees is that they simply do not live in colonies composed of thousands of workers, like honey bees do. Bumble bees, our native social bee, may have a few hundred workers at most in a colony – not as conducive to industrial agriculture as the honey bee.

But native bees should not be discounted just because they are more individually oriented. In fact, many a home gardener should do everything possible to make his or her yard appealing to our native bees, many of whom are also facing a population decline. Native bees evolved with native vegetation. As people spread across the country, they brought non-native plants with them – from flowers to food crops. While native bees have adapted to many of these foreign foods, they still only thrive on the plants with which their species developed. So how can we help? By planting native plants and cutting down on non-native varieties.

So, head outside and take a seat in a nice sunny spot. Start watching for bees. See if you can make out more than one species. Are they patrolling the grass, maybe looking for a good nesting spot? Can you determine which plants are frequented by which bees? Are they visiting your flowers beds or your veg gardens? Perhaps they are enjoying a wee dram at your hummingbird feeder. Bee watching can be a lot of fun. Mark my word: bee watching will soon be the latest thing, right up there with butterfly and dragonfly watching.