Two chipmunks vie for seeds on our front lawn. One lives directly underneath the bird feeder. Another hails from the far side of the house, address unknown.
The chipmunks appear identical to me: same size, same stripes. Same interests, namely seed hoarding, aggressive chittering, jumping into the bushes and back out again, and brazen stiff-tailed standoffs with the dog. » Continue Reading.
In my humble opinion, one of the most adorable animals in our Adirondack woods is the weasel in winter. To be more precise, it’s two animals: the short-tailed weasel, or ermine (Mustela erminea), and the long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata). Both animals, with their pristine white fur, black-tipped tails, black button noses and alert black eyes, embody the essence of cute and curious, while at the same time filling the role of efficient predator.
Most of us, upon encountering a weasel, would be hard pressed to say if it was the long- or short-tailed variety, mainly because the encounter is likely to be fleeting. » Continue Reading.
Several years ago, a friend of mine from England came visiting with his wife. I was living in rural central New York at the time, and it was summer. Because I was gone most of the day at one job or another, David and Karen had lots of time on their hands to explore.
One of the things they enjoyed greatly was watching the many birds and squirrels that lived around the property, especially the chipmunks. I was surprised when David told me that in England chipmunks were sold as pets in the pet stores. Jokingly I told him we could make our fortune: I’d send him chipmunks, he could sell them and we’d split the proceeds. » Continue Reading.
Tucked behind a stonewall on the edge of a hardwood forest, my six-year-old students and I spy on an Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) as it climbs out of a tree cavity and scurries down to the ground.
There is a dusting of snow. My students, bundled in vibrant snowsuits, are the only flash of color on this cold winter day. They are astoundingly quiet as they watch the scampering squirrel.
We see it slide to a halt, stand on its hind legs, flick its tail, and then it’s off again until it stops to dig into the cold winter ground. As it pulls out a nut-brown acorn, I hear a buzz of excitement travel through my fellow squirrel professionals. » Continue Reading.
Furbearer trapping and hunting seasons have begun in New York State. Trappers should note special permit requirements for fisher and marten trapping seasons. DEC encourages all trappers to report trapped fishers and martens, and to provide required samples.
Fishers and martens are medium-sized members of the weasel family, which also includes weasels, ermine, mink, and river otters. While fishers have been expanding their range throughout New York in recent decades, the state’s martens are restricted to the Adirondacks.
Human disturbance is especially harmful to the state’s bat populations since the arrival of the disease known as white-nose syndrome, a fungus that has killed more than 90 percent of bats at hibernation sites in New York due to how closely bats congregate in caves during winter months.
Even a single, seemingly quiet visit to a cave can cause bats to temporarily increase their metabolism and expend significantly more energy than normal. » Continue Reading.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that several small game hunting seasons will open on October 1st across New York State.
Several special youth-only hunting seasons for pheasants and waterfowl occur prior to the start of the regular season, and youth hunting programs are scheduled in DEC’s Region 6, which includes portions of the Adirondack Park.
Just as we began to doubt the existence of soil, snow began to give way in early April to reveal, well in many cases, a brown mess. As backyard glaciers recede, some homeowners may find an outbreak of mole-volcanoes in the lawn as if an army of subterranean rodents spent the winter detonating explosives.
The star-nosed mole and the hairy-tail mole are the two species that live in our area, and as their soil mounds indicate, they’re active all winter. If they’ve turned your once-flat lawn into a relief map of the Badlands, don’t panic – it’s not as bad as it seems. » Continue Reading.
It was a cold, snowy Sunday morning in the middle of January. I planned to heed the warnings encouraging motorists to stay off the road and turned the radio on to catch the end of an interview with poet Mary Oliver, recorded in 2015.
The poet had died earlier that week, at the age of 83. “Listening to the World” was the title of the conversation, ironic on a snowy morning when the earth seemed so quiet. » Continue Reading.
Adirondack Experience, The Museum on Blue Mountain Lake (ADKX) next 2019 Cabin Fever Sunday Series lecture, Night Moves: Natural History of Adirondack Flying Squirrels with Charlotte Demers, is set for February 24th, at 1:30 pm. » Continue Reading.
On winter mornings when I look out my window, I often see a gray squirrel clinging upside down to the post supporting my bird feeder, with his front paws in the tray, munching sunflower seeds. Sometimes, a much smaller red squirrel is perched on the opposite side of the feeder.
This brings to mind my studies of squirrels years ago and the differences between the two species. For my thesis in biology at Williams College, I conducted a field study of social behavior and organization in the eastern gray squirrel in a suburban area in Williamstown, Massachusetts. My first step was to live-trap and mark squirrels so I could identify individuals. » Continue Reading.
Some people keep lifelong birding lists. I’ve tried, but birds and I have never really hit it off. Too many colors, too many species, and I’m tone deaf, so birding by ear is completely beyond me.
I do keep a lifelong weasel list. I can tell you exactly where I was when I saw my first white-coated ermine and how many times I’ve seen a mink. My best fisher sighting was particularly memorable: I watched in awe as it jumped from tree to tree in pursuit of a gray squirrel. » Continue Reading.
I once lived in a cottage perched atop a sloping field in Western Massachusetts. It was the lone structure at the edge of undeveloped forest and sat far from the road. The cottage had a large front deck with an expansive view and a smaller one in back that faced the forest. It was under the small deck that a porcupine took up residence one fall, for a stay that turned out to be briefer than I would have liked.
Since he wasn’t damaging the house, and didn’t seem aggressive, I didn’t mind his presence. Until my dog, Beckett, met him. Beckett, a 55-pound mixed breed, could not learn the porcupine lesson. He was always certain that this time – this time – he would be victorious. Fed up with yanking quills out of him or taking him to the vet after especially bad encounters, I was desperate to figure out how to share the space peaceably with our resident rodent. » Continue Reading.
One summer we had an ongoing battle with a woodchuck. Unbeknownst to us, it had dug a burrow in an ideal location — in the center of our dense raspberry patch, about 10 feet from our vegetable garden. The woodchuck then dug a hole under the garden fence and feasted on beans, peas, and other tender vegetables. We filled the hole and placed a large rock over it. The next day the rock had been moved and the hole re-dug. We tried more rocks, then sheets of metal roofing, but every day these barriers were removed. Finally we put a Havahart trap near our garden — and caught a young skunk (which was released, very carefully)!
In addition to eating vegetables, woodchucks dine on clovers, grasses, dandelions, goldenrod, asters, apples and berries. They occasionally eat insects such as grasshoppers. In the spring, before much green vegetation is available, they will also feed on the buds and bark of deciduous trees and shrubs. » Continue Reading.
It’s spring. Days are getting longer. The weather’s getting warmer. The sun is sitting higher in the sky. And, as I write this, the persistent snow in my yard is finally giving way to bare ground.
This is the time of year when the consumer horticulture season really begins in earnest at Cooperative Extension. It often starts with questions from anxious callers about recently discovered lawn, landscape, and garden damage; often from wildlife pests. Questions about mice, squirrels, and chipmunks are frequent. But, perhaps because of their tenacious tunneling activities, the most noteworthy culprits of concern to frazzled callers are meadow voles and hairy, or more often, star-nosed moles, the 2 mole species that live in northern New York. » Continue Reading.
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