Posts Tagged ‘spring’

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Outside (And Inside) Story: Ants

antsSpring is on our doorstep, and so are the ants. Seeking the open sugar bowl or the drops of maple syrup left on the kitchen counter, they’re a sure sign that winter has finally drifted away. Myrmecologists, scientists that study ants, know these small kitchen ants as Tapinoma sessile, but to most of us they’re odorous house ants, or sugar ants. Whatever you call them, these little ants are likely to be visiting your nest soon.

Named for the faint smell (described as over-ripe bananas) that they emit when squeezed, the odorous house ants in your kitchen are workers. They may have traveled as far as 50 feet, following scent trails left by other workers from the nest to the bounty. Each ant species has a specific chemical it uses to mark trails. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Adirondack Amphibians: Spring Peepers

Silence still prevails along the shores of marshes clad in alders, willows, dogwoods and wild raisins, but this will change shortly. The warmth forecast for the coming week should be sufficient to finally melt any remaining patches of snow and ice still on the edge of open wetlands. Additionally, the appearance of the sun and a period of mild showers should help eliminate the remnants of frost in the upper parts of the soil.

As the ground loses its winter characteristics, the spring peeper is quick to awaken from its winter dormancy, crawl from its shallow, subterranean shelter along with countless numbers of fellow peepers, and travel to a nearby marshy setting. Once it arrives at the water’s edge, this amphibian loudly announces its presence and willingness to breed. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Cabin Life: The Tardy Spring

Ice on a cherry logSo far, spring has been a big let down.  There were two robins in the yard this morning, hopefully representing a soon-to-be change in the weather.  Between the upper field and lower field, I’d say about two-thirds of the area is still covered in snow.  In the woods, I can post-hole my legs up to the calf when not wearing snowshoes.  Luckily, the freeze and thaw effect has left a fairly heavy crust on top of the snow, making it a little easier to walk around.

The little path that Pico and I have made to the sugar maples is a safe walk, and I have no problem doing it in sneakers.  I might break through three or four times, but the falls through the crust into the four or five inches of snow don’t seem to matter now.  The end is in sight. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Adirondack Birds in Spring: Nesting Crows

Nesting CrowsRegardless of how cold and inclement the weather may be at the onset of April, several species of birds begin to nest in the weeks following the equinox, occasionally amid periodic bouts of snow, unrelenting north winds and freezing temperatures. In the Adirondacks, one early nester is a common denizen of fields, highway corridors, heavily used campsites, and villages throughout the Park and is among our most familiar birds.

The large size and jet black plumage of the crow makes this bird difficult to overlook, and its characteristic “cawing” call is among the most recognizable sounds in nature. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Cabin Life: Mud Season

Stream in the SpringWe’re here in April, and there’s still quite a bit of snow on the ground.  The days have been warm enough to start melting the snow, but the cold nights and occasional snow showers have hampered the quick onset of spring.  Pico and I went for a last ski down the railroad tracks near a friend’s house the other day, but now the snowshoes and skis are stashed, and unless something crazy happens with the weather, I think it’s time to call it a season.

A couple of weeks ago, it was so warm that we got our first taste of mud season.  Now, for those of you who don’t know, mud season in a semi-official time of year between winter and spring.  Mud season is not something that is well celebrated, but in some ways, it can be the best time of the year. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Outside Story: Pussy Willow’s Time to Shine

pussy_willowLast fall, I went to a nearby wetland with a pair of clippers and cut twigs from one willow shrub after another. It wasn’t hard to tell the willows from the non-willows because willows are the only woody plants in this area whose buds are covered by a single bud scale.

These cute, pointy caps are very different from the overlapping scales that protect most buds through the winter. And the few woody plants with no protective scales are easily recognizable: their naked, embryonic leaves rely on a coating of woolliness to keep them from desiccating or freezing. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Anxiety Of An Empty Backpack

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASpring is the season of rebirth, but as any mother can tell you, birthing comes at a painful and messy cost. Although slightly warmer temperatures, longer days and the return of some feathered friends occur early on, the potential of the season unfolds slowly. Yet, the spring remains the harbinger of summer and for most a more active backcountry exploring season.

Spring is a chaotic month with many extreme conditions, as waning winter and waxing summer fight for dominance, a battle that summer has historically never lost (except on the backend, where it has never won). The uncertain weather conditions make it a challenging season to pack for any backcountry adventure, as one day requires shorts and the next a parka and hat. Too bad no outdoor manufacturer has created a line of clothing with modular amounts of insulation for such occasions.
» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Commentary: We Should Protect Vulnerable Vernal Pools

This Spotted Salamander just crossed Ski Tow Road, Tupper Lake, en route to a vernal poolWander into a wood with your ears open in early spring  and you are likely to quizzically turn your head to try and locate an indistinct sound, far off but not too far off, remarkable but subtle, an undertone of  – castanets? That’s how we described the sound 29 years ago when as new homeowners we explored our forest and discovered the breeding quacks of the wood frog.

I learned by wandering that wood frogs bred in the hundreds, not just in that one forest pond (a vernal pool), but in several others hundreds of yards apart – but not in every pool, just in some. Twenty-nine years later, they continue to breed just in those same pools between March 15 (the earliest date I’ve recorded their sounds) and April 15 (the latest), depending on temperature. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Adirondack Fishing: The Opening of Trout Season

Trout StringerThe fact that the opening day of trout season in New York coincides with April Fool’s Day does not seem to be a coincidence to many people in the Adirondacks. To any rational human, the thought of standing for hours along a partially frozen stream, fending off hypothermia and frostbite only to wait for the slightest tug on a monofilament line epitomizes foolishness. However, for many avid sportsmen, April 1st is just as sacred as the opening of big game season and regardless of how miserable the weather can be, there is a need to get out and “wet-a-line” in a favored fishing spot on this day.

The cold start to spring this year has kept ice along the shores of many streams and brooks, and in some slower moving waterways, there still exists a solid covering of ice for long stretches. Fishing for trout under these harsh conditions is an extreme challenge, yet experienced anglers are often able to snag enough brookies or browns to make a meal. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Easter Bunny: Cottontail Rabbit or Varying Hare?

Chocolate Easter BunnyThe cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus) is slightly smaller in overall size and has smaller hind legs and feet then the varying hare, also known as the snowshoe rabbit (Lepus americanus).

Even though both of these lagomorphs can travel a fair distance with a single hop, the cottontail’s running style is slightly choppier and less graceful when compared to the smoother and more powerful bounding of the varying hare when it needs to move fast.

Also, the cottontail has a pronounced white, rounded tail which contrasts with its gray coat of fur, and which helped earn this creature its common name. Because the tail of the snowshoe is the same color as that of its body, and is held closer to its back, this small, rear appendage is difficult to notice. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cabin Life: A First Syrup Season

First DripI love my dog Pico.  But there are times when he can be extremely annoying.  Like right now, he’s licking my elbow and won’t stop.  I lifted my arm up off the table but he just jumped up on me to keep on licking.  I don’t know why he is doing this or what I could have possibly gotten on my elbow to make him want to lick it so bad.  He’s just a little weird sometimes.

I noticed another oddity out here this week.  I tapped a few maple trees so I could make a little sap this year.  Last year, I was all primed to do the work, but then maple season came and went in a week in February, and I was caught off guard and left with no syrup.

This year is a test run.  I bought some taps and used a few old milk jugs as buckets.  Trying to do it on the quick and cheap, I’m really only expecting a couple servings of syrup.  I don’t have the equipment or the time right now to handle a big production, but now that I know what I’m getting into, I can make a bunch of syrup next spring. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wildlife: Red Foxes Are Denning

As leaves erupt from their buds on hardwood trees, which cloak the Adirondack terrain again in green, red fox pups venture from their dens and begin to experience our vast, lush spring landscape.

In this northern climate, the red fox breeds during the very end of January through the first few weeks of February. As a result, the females give birth to their annual litter toward the very end of March, or during early April.

In the weeks prior to giving birth, each pair of red fox establishes a den that serves to shelter their pups from the bouts of inclement weather that often occurs in spring. A den also protects these helpless infants from being attacked and killed by other predatory creatures, such as coyotes, bears and various birds of prey. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Adirondack Ice: Local Ice-Out Contests

For many, springtime (mud-season) looms as the longest and most trying of seasons. Skating, skiing, ice fishing and other winter sports are no longer possible; hiking trips await drier footing, paddling is on hold until the ice goes out. Adirondackers, often in some desperation, look for diversions to help them survive this interminable time of year.

With the arrival of March, temperatures start to swing wildly from 5º to 65º. Water drips, brooks babble and lake ice slowly dwindles away; not sinking as some would believe, but rather becoming porous and water filled until finally it melts completely and disappears. This happens bit by bit in different parts of lakes and over a period of many days. Ever resourceful, residents take advantage of this phenomenon to provide entertainment in the form of ice-out contests. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Snowshoe Rabbit in Early March

Early March is the time of the year when the snow pack in the Adirondacks typically reaches its greatest depth, and winter gales are the most frequent and powerful. Yet, this period of wind and deep snow produces some of the most favorable conditions for the varying hare, also known as the snowshoe rabbit, a common denizen of our dense conifer forests.

For a creature that can easily remain on the surface of the snow, a thick blanket of powder provides the varying hare with the opportunity to access vegetation that is ordinarily out of its reach. Standing upright on its powerful hind legs, this herbivore is only able to gnaw on the buds and bark of twigs that occur up to a foot above the surface on which the animal is located. Should a snow pack that is three plus feet deep develop over an area, the hare will then be able to reach the edible parts of saplings and shrubs that exist nearly four feet above the forest floor. » Continue Reading.