The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is encouraging New Yorkers to participate in the Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey, which kicks off in August.
Since 1996, DEC has conducted the Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey to estimate the average number of wild turkey poults (young of the year) per hen statewide and among major geographic regions of the state. This index allows DEC to gauge turkey populations and enables wildlife managers to predict fall harvest potential. Weather, predation and habitat conditions during the breeding and brood-rearing seasons can all significantly impact nest success, hen survival, and poult survival. During the month of August, survey participants record the sex and age composition of all flocks of wild turkeys observed during normal travel. Those who want to participate can download a Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey form from the DEC website to record your observations. Detailed instructions can be found with the data sheet. Survey cards can also be obtained by contacting your regional DEC office, by calling (518) 402-8886, or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org (type “Turkey Survey” in the subject line).
This weekend marks the 8th Annual Great Adirondack Birding Celebration, hosted by the Adirondack Park Agency’s Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) at Paul Smiths. This annual event draws as many as 400 visitors to the region. This year participants have come from throughout the Northeast down to Maryland and Virginia and as far away as Texas. Highlights of the Celebration include field trips both Saturday and Sunday mornings led by local experts to to birding hotspots such as Bloomingdale Bog, Madawaska, Spring Pond Bog, Whiteface Mountain, as well as the Paul Smiths VIC. Birders hope to see boreal bird specialities such as the Black-backed Woodpecker, shown at the left, as well as Spruce Grouse, Boreal Chickadee, Olive-sided Flycatcher, and many northern warblers. More than 160 species have been seen over the eight years of this birding festival. » Continue Reading.
One of the signature plants of the North Country is just starting to bloom: bunchberry, or dwarf dogwood (Cornus canadensis). This low-growing plant, which reaches towering heights of 2-8”, is actually considered a shrublet, and in many aspects it is identical to its more southerly relative the flowering dogwood.
Take a walk through almost any patch of Adirondack woods now and you are bound to see this striking plant. It’s four green leaves, with their gently curving veins, are smartly offset behind the four white bracts that are often mistaken as the plant’s petals. It’s only the diligent nature nut, who gets down on his hands and knees to look closely at the plant, who will see the actual flowers, for they are the tiny bits that form what the rest of the world thinks is the center of a white-petaled flower. And it is these tiny flowers that have amazed and stunned the world of natural science. With the assistance of a good handlens, you can see the flowers up close. When closed, they look pretty unassuming, with four small greenish-white petals that come together at their tips. One of these petals has a awn, or a hair-lik projection, at its tip. So far, none of this is particularly impressive. What happens when that awn is touched, however, rocked the science world.
Bees, such as bumblebees and solitary bees, are some of this plant’s primary pollinators. As they fly from plant to plant, they brush against these hair triggers. With a speed that is unmatched by any other living thing, the petals burst open. At the same time, the stamen (part of the male reproductive structure) is driven forward by water pressure built up in its cells. Along the stamen are hinged structures containing the pollen. With a force that would pulverize any space ship at the launch pad, the pollen is flung upwards away from the plant and driven deep into the fuzzy hairs covering the unsuspecting bees. Completely unaware of what has happened, the bees fly off to the next plant and get peppered with more pollen while at the same time shedding some pollen from previous explosions.
The end result of all this pollen flinging is, hopefully, the production of small, bright red berries, which are terribly popular with a wide variety of wildlife. Spruce grouse, moose and veeries are among the many animals that frequently dine upon the lightly apple-flavored fruits. Even people can eat them, and apparently bunchberry jelly is a treat for those who go through the efforts to make it. In the 19th century bunchberries were popularly used to thicken plum puddings.
A denizen of cool, acidic soils, bunchberry cannot tolerate having its roots in dirt that exceeds 65 degrees Fahrenheit. On the other hand, it can survive all but the most severe of forest fires. In other words, this is an ideal plant for our boreal forests.
If you miss seeing it bloom this week, fret not, for bunchberry continually reblooms throughout the growing season. Any time from now until the snow flies, if you find yourself walking past a cluster of dwarf dogwoods, hunker on down and give one of the plants a gentle poke. If you are lucky, you might witness a puff of pollen as the plant tries to enlist your finger in its quest to pass its genes into the future.
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.
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.
This winter has been a good one for grouse. At least in the tracking sense it has been a good one for grouse. Almost every day I have found fresh grouse tracks in the woods, along the roads, down driveways. I’ve even flushed a couple of the birds, their thunderous take-offs turning a few more hairs white, but mostly it’s their tracks I’ve seen.
The ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) is one of two grouse species that call the Adirondacks home. The second is the spruce grouse (Falcipennis canadensis), which is an uncommon boreal species found in only a very few pockets within the Park. Therefore, I will stick to the ruffed grouse in this piece since that is the one most readers are likely to encounter. » Continue Reading.
Anyone who doesn’t believe that birds are the descendants of dinosaurs needs only one look at a running turkey to have a change of heart. This winter a female turkey has made my back yard a daily stop in her travels, and let me tell you: there are few things in life so prehistoric-looking than a turkey going full tilt trying to escape your camera lens. The wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is one of two species of turkeys in the world. The other is a denizen of Central America and as such is of little importance to us here in the Adirondacks. No, we are concerned with our own native bird, the one of such character and pride that Ben Franklin thought it should be the symbol of our country.
When Europeans first descended upon the eastern shores of North America, turkeys ruled the roost, so to speak. Millions of them populated the woodlands, providing food for man and beast alike. But, as is the habit of mankind, forests were cut and turkeys were eaten. As early as 1672 keen observers of nature were already remarking that turkey populations were not what they once had been. In 1844, the last wild turkey in New York was reported in the extreme southwestern part of the state; after that, they were gone.
For years nothing was done to rectify the state of things, turkey-wise. By the turn of the century (c. 1900), approximately 75% of New York had been cleared, agriculture and development dominating where once forests grew. Without healthy forests, turkeys could not survive (hard mast, such as acorns and beechnuts, is a major part of their diet). As the century plodded along, however, many farmers left home, moving to the cities where jobs were more likely to be had. Old farmland began to revert to forests, and slowly turkeys started to come back, making their way northward from Pennsylvania. By the 1940s, the southwestern part of the state was once more populated with these large bronze birds.
To help things along, New York State converted a central New York pheasant hatchery into a turkey hatchery in 1952. Over the next several years, thousands of turkeys were released into the wild. Sadly, this operation was doomed to failure. Speculation was that the released birds were too tame and therefore lacked the brains to escape (or fight) predators. It was also thought that their natural reproduction was too low to sustain a viable population. So the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) went to Plan B: capture wild turkeys and relocate them.
This new plan began in 1959 and saw New York’s wild turkey population successfully soar from about 2000 birds to over 65,000 by 1990. The relocation program was so successful that the DEC started shipping birds to neighboring states to help them reestablish their own dwindling populations.
I saw my first wild turkey in the early ‘80s out at Letchworth State Park. There were two or three of them, and they flew up into a tree along the edge of a small ravine. Prior to this I never would’ve guessed that turkeys could fly. Three years later, a friend of mine shot a turkey and decided we should give it to my mother for Mother’s Day; so he and I and all my roommates drove to my parents’ house with the turkey in tow. It barely fit in the oven, but it was a mighty tasty bird. Ten years later, turkeys were all over the farm fields back home: whole herds of them marching along the rows of cut corn. (And yes, I use the word “herd” intentionally, for when they are walking along the ground en masse, they are definitely a herd.)
Back in the ‘80s it was believed by biologists that turkeys wouldn’t be able to survive the harsh winters the Adirondacks can dish out. Imagine their surprise when turkeys not only moved into the mountains, but thrived! Hardly a week goes by all year that I don’t see a turkey or two, or ten. Sometimes they lurk along the roadsides, picking up grit or maybe hunting insects; other times they are strutting across a neighbor’s yard.
A couple years ago, I came across a hen and her poults hiding in the shrubbery between the second and fourth holes on the local golf course. I was walking the dog, and of course he started barking, so the hen took off, dashing away into the trees with most of her progeny in hot pursuit. Two, however, were left behind. I sat the dog down and we waited. And waited. One of the poults peeped and trotted off after the long-gone parent, but the other remained behind, peeping its distress. Even though I knew better, the pitiful cries got to me and I finally decided to go “rescue” the thing. My plan was to carry it to the patch of woods in which its mother had disappeared and set it down where she could get to it without having to come near me and the dog. Big mistake. No sooner had I picked up the ungrateful bird then it let out a squawking and wailing that brought the mother running and flapping from the woods. A velociraptor had nothing on her. Fearing for my safety (I’ve heard tales of the damage a turkey can do with its spurs), I dropped the poult, snagged the dog’s leash, and we high-tailed it out of there. That was the last time I tried to help a “stranded” wildlife baby.
And just in case you needed further convincing that turkeys are dinosaurs in disguise, watch a herd of them come trotting across a lawn or field when the early morning fog is lying close to the ground. All you need is to cue up the music and you are staring at a living tableau from Jurassic Park. Add a rock wall for them to jump on, and the scene is complete.
It was -7 degrees Fahrenheit this morning, but I don’t think the local turkeys were much fazed by this. Indeed, I think they are here to stay, and that’s a nice thing, for every patch of wilderness should have its resident dinosaurs, and for us the wild turkey fills the bill nicely.
The smell of balsam fir (Abies balsamea) brings a rush of Adirondack memories to anyone who has spent even a smidgeon of time in the Park. Whether it’s from sun-warmed needles scenting summer days at camp, or the woodsy scent of a balsam pillow on a cold winter day, for many people balsam fir means Adirondacks. Now, I could use this post to regurgitate the statistical facts of the tree (it has blunt needles up to an inch and a half long, dark purplish cones two to four inches long, smooth to thinly scaly bark studded with resin blisters, grows forty to eighty feet tall and can live up to two-hundred years), but that would be boring. Instead, I’d like to take a look at how the balsam fir has ingratiated itself into the lives of so many people. » Continue Reading.
This is George, a turkey who lives down the hill. She’s so cute and sociable she’s been granted a Thanksgiving reprieve. She was hatched this summer in Standish and brought to Saranac Lake by a family who intended to fatten her up for a November feast. George endeared herself so much that she’s the one who’ll be feasting. She lives with eight peacocks and probably thinks she is one. Have a happy Thanksgiving, George.
It’s 4 a.m. on a chilled morning in early June. Still three hours away from sunrise so my weak headlamp casts an eerie and unnatural glow to the trail as I pick my way through rock, stream, and unseen balsam fir branches. I’m heading to the summit of Wright Peak in the Adirondack High Peaks Region. Nearing the summit I must first stop every 250 meters from a predetermined point on my map. Here I listen for any bird song that might be heard and then record it in my notes. I chuckle as I think that it’s more like the first “yawn” I hear from these birds. Over a 30-day period myself and dozens of other crazy but doggedly determined volunteer birders are assisting an organization to acquire desperately needed information on some bird species that live on the mountains. Fast-forward to the end of June, still early morning, and I’m slogging my way through a blackfly-infested bog in the wild regions of the Santa Clara Tract. I’m nearing an area known as the Madawaska Flow. Here I’m still listening for, identifying, and counting bird species but now I’m in a completely different habitat. This lowland environment reveals new species that need to be counted for another study. » Continue Reading.
In time for the opening of Pheasant Season October 1, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will be stocking easily accessible areas where upland game bird hunting opportunities are generally limited. 2,500 pheasants will be distributed at locations in six counties. A second stocking will occur later this season.
Since some of the locations are on private land where the public is allowed to hunt, DEC asks hunters to maintain cooperative relationships with landowners by keeping hunting groups small, seeking permission, avoiding driving through fields or blocking roads or driveways, and staying in areas where public hunting is allowed. For the third consecutive year DEC is providing a Youth Pheasant Hunting Weekend on September 26-27 to provide junior hunters (12-15 years old) an opportunity to hunt pheasant the weekend before to the regular season begins.
Listed below are pheasant stocking locations by county in DEC’s Region 5. “YH” indicates a site stocked prior to the youth hunt weekend and “RS” indicates a site stock prior to and during the regular season.
* North of Brand Hollow Road, west of Rt. 22B in the Town of Schuyler Falls (RS only) * Lake Alice Wildlife Management Area in the Town of Chazy (YH & RS) * NOTE: Monty Bay Wildlife Management Area will not be stocked due to better pheasant habitat at Lake Alice.
* Near the junction of Lake Shore Road & Clark Road on state land in the Town of Westport (YH & RS)
* North of Rt. 11 between Brockway Road & Garvin Road in the Town of Bangor (RS only) * Howard Road (also known as the Griffin Road) in the Town of Fort Covington (RS only)
* Rt. 140 west of the Village of Ephratah in the Town of Ephratah (RS only) * Rt. 67 Ephratah Rod and Gun Club in the Town of Ephratah (RS only)
* Daketown State Forest in the Town of Greenfield (YH & RS)
* Carter’s Pond Wildlife Management Area in the Town of Greenwich (YH & RS) * Eldridge Lane in the Town of Hartford (RS only) * South of the Village of Whitehall between County Rt. 12 and the barge canal and along Greenmount Road in the Town of Whitehall (RS only) * Eldridge Swamp State Forest in the Town of Jackson (YH & RS) – note that Eldridge Swamp is often wet, knee boots are recommended.
For further information on pheasant hunting and release sites contact the DEC Region Wildlife offices at 518-897-1291 (Ray Brook) or 518-623-1240 (Warrensburg) or visit the DEC web site at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/9349.html for more information on pheasant hunting.
An ornithologist visiting Oseetah Lake this summer thought he heard the call of a fish crow. Being a scientist he is a careful person, and when I contacted him he said he really couldn’t confirm his observation—there may be hybrids of fish crows and American crows out there.
The common American crow has been in the Adirondacks at least since colonization, in the mid 19th century. Fish crows, which are smaller and voice more of an awh than a caw, reside primarily in the coastal southeastern United States and were once restricted in New York State to Long Island and the tidal Hudson River, according to The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State (2008) and John Bull’s Birds of New York State (1974). I was curious about the possibility of a fish crow near my home, but in a different way than I would’ve been a decade ago. If one were here as an “accidental,” a bird blown off territory by a storm, it would be a novelty, occasion for birders to go out with binoculars and add it to their lists. If, however, fish crows were establishing themselves near Saranac Lake and even breeding here, it would mark a milestone in a northward and inland expansion that began in the last third of the 20th century. » Continue Reading.
It’s not every day that we get a book here at the Almanack that reaches my list of Adirondack must-haves. John Peterson and Gary Lee’s Adirondack Birding:60 Great Places to Find Birds (Lost Pond Press, softcover, 240 pages, $20.95) is the kind of book that you will want to have on your shelf – even if you’re not that into birds. Peterson (of Elizabethtown) and Lee (who hails from Inlet), are two of the Adirondack region’s most skilled birders. They drew on decades of experience in selecting the sites for this, the first comprehensive guidebook to birding hot spots in the Adirondacks. Experienced birders can use the book to search for the Park’s most-coveted species, including boreal birds not found in the state outside the Adirondacks as well as uncommon winter visitors and rare migrants. What I find amazing about this book however, is that it offers the non-birder like me an opportunity to find natural places were I can see a lot of great birds – even if I don’t yet know what they are. If an afternoon exploration to a spot likely to be teeming with birds is what you’re after more than working to complete your birding checklist – this is a great book for you. That’s not to say the experienced birder won’t have something to learn here as well. » Continue Reading.
One story has been lost in the drama coming out of the New York State Legislature lately: the Constitutional amendment. In May, before it became completely dysfunctional, the NYS Senate passed a bill that would give after-the-fact permission for a new power line from Stark Falls Reservoir to the Village of Tupper Lake. The Constitutional Amendment is necessary to provide an exception to the Forever Wild clause of the Constitution (Article 14, Section 1). The Forever Wild clause forbids logging or development on the Adirondack Forest Preserve, and that includes power lines. The Amendment requires passage by two separately elected legislatures, which is now complete, and then approval by voters on a statewide ballot this fall. » Continue Reading.
We’ve moved one step closer to having a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot in November that affects a corner of the Adirondack Park in Colton in St. Lawrence County. Monday the NYS Senate passed (62-0) a bill that would allow the construction of a power line from Stark Falls Reservoir to the Village of Tupper Lake. The supplemental line would pass through a section of Route 56 roadside within the Adirondack Forest Preserve between Seveys Corners (near the Carry and Starks Falls reservoirs) and the hamlet of South Colton. The line is part of a project to improve power reliability for the Tri-Lakes communities of Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. » Continue Reading.
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