I was enjoying a morning cup of coffee in the sunroom when I saw the hawk.
It was perched across the road, maybe 30 yards away, its chest puffed up against the cold. It appeared to be eyeing the activity at our birdfeeder.
As I was trying to decide if it was a female sharp-shinned hawk or a male Cooper’s hawk, the bird launched from its perch, and in an instant had threaded its way through a dense tangle of road-side branches while in hot pursuit of a blue jay.
It all happened so quickly that I wasn’t even sure if the jay had been captured, although I was able to identify it as a Cooper’s hawk. » Continue Reading.
My children seem to attract wildlife like iron to a magnet. It is not because they are good trackers or particularly quiet, as neither attribute is consistently true. It seems that they are observant and often at the right place at the right time.
Quite consistently when they accompany me on a hike we seem to view more wildlife, though eagles and snowy owls have evaded me to date. Opportunities to come across such majestic creatures come down to timing, organization and just luck. » Continue Reading.
Imagine that you are walking on a path through a forest in the Adirondacks and suddenly, you see an opening in the trees ahead. Moving closer, you gaze out on a vast opening covered in a mosaic of leafy shrubs and dotted with spiky conifers. You take a step further and feel the “squish” as your boot sinks into a wet, dense mat of bright green moss. From the top of a nearby snag, you hear the distinctive “quick-three-beers” song of an Olive-sided Flycatcher followed by the complex, jumbled, slightly metallic sound of a Lincoln’s Sparrow. Looking down again, you notice the pale, delicate flowers of a white-fringed orchid. All the sights and sounds are conclusive: you have entered the Adirondack boreal.
The term “boreal” is used to describe cold, wet areas in northern latitudes. For the most part, people think of northern Canada and Eurasia, with vast spruce-fir forests, extensive wetland complexes, and frigid winter conditions. Though much of the Adirondack Park is within the temperate deciduous bioclimatic zone, we can also find low-elevation boreal pockets containing bog rosemary, pod-grass, tamarack and other boreal plants. » Continue Reading.
You wouldn’t think it possible: birds being able to survive cold northern winters in nothing more than their bare feet. And bare most of them are, covered by neither feathers nor boots nor Smart Wool socks. The trick? Listen here as I ponder the magic birds employ to hold onto their toes in wintertime in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze.
The podcast is produced by Mountain Lake PBS’s Josh Clement. Listen to past episodes by visiting Mountain Lake PBS’s Borderless North webpage at mountainlake.org/bn.
While winter can be stunningly beautiful, with its magical snowfalls and ethereal silences, I must admit that by late-February the long absence of so many songbirds has me feeling bereft. I miss the vireos; I miss the thrushes and most especially I miss the pair of phoebes who settle into the well-worn nest on the gable end of my house to raise their young.
It’s amazing how two tiny beings who weigh no more than a handful of twigs can evoke such strong emotions in me. I am joyful when the pair resurfaces in early spring; moved by their devotion to their shared progeny, and I take pleasure in the companionship they provide one another.
But on some level I know that these are sentimental notions that I am ascribing to behavior that is biologically, not emotionally, driven. The phoebes I see one year aren’t the same phoebes that I observed the previous year. Or are they? » Continue Reading.
From a lifetime of experiences, and reading nature books since childhood, it’s true that I should know a little more about wildlife than the average Joe, but I lay no claim to being an expert. Learning something new is a principal reason for reading books, and of late, I’ve had occasion to indulge in several excellent Adirondack-related titles written between 1840 and 1920.
In one of them, a particular passage caused me to stop, backtrack, read it again, and then one more time in disbelief. Since other animal behavior described in the book held true, I supposed this one should as well, but I had reservations. Above all, one thing was certain: confirmation would be hilarious, at least to my thinking. The claim was that bald eagles snore. And not only that: they snore LOUDLY.
On camping trips I’ve taken in the woods over the years, odd and unusual night sounds have proved puzzling, and even intimidating at times. A snorting, growling sound, persistent for hours during a trip 30 years ago, somewhere on the eastern slopes of Lyon Mountain, would have scared me half to death had I been alone. » Continue Reading.
The fields and forests of the Adirondacks support many forms of animal life, even during winter, yet many of our wildlife residents are next to impossible to glimpse. Some, like moles, shrews and voles prefer an existence below the surface of the snow, while others such as fisher, bobcat and ermine have adapted a shy and secretive lifestyle causing them to spend nearly all of their time in remote sections of dense woodlands where visibility is limited, making a chance sighting rare. Others, like flying squirrels and owls conduct their affairs under the cover of darkness and seldom are viewed.
One small bird, considered by ornithologists to be widespread throughout the Park year round, is likewise noticed only on rare occasions, despite its regular foraging activities during the light of day. The brown creeper is a slim, chickadee-size bird with mottled brown plumage on its head, back, sides, and tail, which closely resembles the color and pattern of the rough-textured bark that covers many types of mature trees. » Continue Reading.
The Biodiversity Research Institute’s Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation has announced a campaign on Adirondack Gives, the crowdfunding site for Adirondack region nonprofits, which seeks support to digitize historical slides and film footage produced by Adirondack nature photographer Kip Taylor.
In the 1970s and 1980s, when loons were rarely observed on Adirondack waterways, and prior to the age of digital photography, Kip Taylor extensively documented the natural history and behavior of Common Loons on Adirondack lakes, including some very unique underwater footage and photographs of feeding and swimming loons. Prior to his passing in 1997 Taylor published Loon, which chronicled his excursions to photograph these distinctive birds. His widow has donated his film and slides for use in BRI’s Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation’s outreach programs. » Continue Reading.
Nocturne: a work of art dealing with evening or night especially; a dreamy pensive composition for the piano that has a soft and somewhat sad melody. – 2014 Merriam Webster Dictionary
It was Valentine’s Day, about 8 pm, and I walked out the back door, stepped into my x-country ski bindings, put on my gloves and slipped my hands through the straps on my ski poles, flipped on my headlight and silently glided into the stillness of the night. As I looked up the trail, snowflakes filtered down glittering into the beam of my light.
It was the Full Moon Friends of the VIC Ski Party and this was the evening after the big Nor’easter dropped about 10 inches of fresh snow on what was already a good solid base. There was a nice crowd at the Paul Smith’s College VIC, live music by Split Rock lighting up the great room, but I might as well have been a solitary skier. I met two other skiers coming back to the building right as I started out, and then just two more as I skied across the floating bridge on Heron Marsh. The rest of the evening was mine alone, and it was magical. » Continue Reading.
A series of natural history programs about Adirondack wildlife will be held at the Whallonsburg Grange in Essex, NY. The series begins with naturalist and photographer Susan Morse speaking on Friday, February 21. Morse’s lecture, entitled “Animals of the North: What Will Climate Change Mean for Them” will be held at 7:00 p.m. Suggested donation is $8.
Morse, Founder and Director of Keeping Track, Inc., describes says the program is not about climate change itself, or even how it will affect us; rather, it’s designed to educate audiences about ways in which northern wildlife species are already being affected, with more serious challenges ahead. » Continue Reading.
In each of the last two years, the Almanack has carried articles encouraging local residents to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), an annual, continent-wide, mid-winter bird census designed to combine the fun of birdwatching with gathering data that will help scientists better understand trends in bird populations and locations. In the past, although thousands of New Yorkers take part in the count, the Adirondack region has been underrepresented, largely because there are comparatively few winter residents.
With the 17th GBBC approaching (Feb. 14-17), I thought it would be interesting to explore whether those previous articles have increased participation by Adirondackers while once again urging you to join in. It turns out, though, that it is difficult to get comparative data for a specific location for different years. In communicating with the folks behind the GBBC, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, I learned that data are not available by county or ZIP code, for example. Indeed, count results are not even in the same format between years. I could find a list of the number of each species reported in NYS for 2011 (before the first article), for instance, but not for 2013 (after the second article). » Continue Reading.
You’ve heard the question a million times: What bird is that? Now Cornell Lab of Ornithology have a new way to get an answer. Merlin is a free iPhone app developed by the Cornell Lab to help beginners and intermediate bird watchers identify 285 species in North America.
Merlin draws upon 70 million eBird sightings to calculate which species you’re most likely to encounter within about a 30-mile radius of your location at the time when you saw the bird. The app asks five questions about size, location, and so on. Then it displays a range of photos showing birds that match your description. The app also comes with more than 1,400 photos, plus ID tips, sounds, and range maps for each species. » Continue Reading.
The lack of a substantial accumulation of snow this winter has created hardship for those forms of wildlife that seek shelter from below zero temperatures and gusty winds by embedding themselves in the powdery covering that typically covers the ground at this time of year.
The insulating value of a fairly deep snow pack affords excellent protection against the elements for many creatures small enough to utilize this seasonal layer of material. Among the more sizeable members of the wildlife community that use snow for shelter is the ruffed grouse, well known for plunging head first into a pile of powder in its attempt to completely cover itself with this unlikely natural blanket for an entire day or two. » Continue Reading.
The vast expanses of wilderness forests that cover the Adirondacks serve as home to many forms of wildlife adapted for survival in areas where visibility is limited by trees and grasses, and grains are nearly non-existent.
Large open areas scattered throughout the Park serve to support the collection of creatures that require much greater visibility and food sources that exist on the soil’s surface. Among those animals drawn toward these open spaces is the snowy owl, which regularly migrates southward from its arctic breeding grounds in autumn to establish a winter hunting territory in more hospitable surroundings. » Continue Reading.
Over the past 10 years wild turkey populations have declined in many parts of New York State. In an effort to better understand the factors influencing population changes and how these changes affect turkey management, DEC is beginning the second year of a four-year study. This project is expected to provide wildlife managers with current estimates of harvest and survival rates for female wild turkeys, or hens, in New York and guide future management efforts.
Beginning in January, DEC will embark on a statewide effort to capture wild turkey hens and fit them with leg bands to obtain accurate data on survival and harvest. A small number of these birds will also be tagged with satellite radio-transmitters. All of the work will be done by DEC personnel on both public and private lands from January through March. The research will be concentrated in DEC Regions 3 through 9 where turkey populations are largest. » Continue Reading.
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