As summer enters its final few weeks, most Adirondack birds have completed the nesting process and now are busy preparing for the cooler months that lie ahead and their upcoming migration.
Soon after the last brood of young vacates the nest, most birds begin to travel more frequently outside the territory which they claimed earlier in the season. The strong territorial instincts that existed in nearly all species prior to and throughout the breeding period quickly fade as the young fledge. This can be noted by the absence of the songs that are commonly used to proclaim ownership to a particular location. » Continue Reading.
Most likely, every backcountry enthusiast has uttered this popular nursery rhyme at one time or another when an unanticipated rainfall altered their hiking or backpacking plans. This is especially true for the Adirondacks, where pop-up showers are the norm during the summertime, even a dry one like this year. These storms can lead to flooded trails, difficult stream-crossings and possibly even assemblies of paired animals. Most importantly, they can result in a hiking rain-delay.
If the storms are heavy enough and last for hours, rain delays can pose quite the conundrum for those trapped in a tent, lean-to or other shelter. How does one spend their time when in a confined place for a considerable length of time, while waiting out a wet day? » Continue Reading.
It’s been a bit surreal to read about this summer’s record-breaking drought from the lush, thunderstorm-drenched environs of Long Lake. But while the central Adirondacks may have had plenty of rain this summer, other parts of the North Country have not.
I have been tracking drought conditions across the region with stream gage data from US Geological Survey that measures stream levels and transmits the information in real-time to the internet. The USGS began stream gage construction in the late 19th century, and now maintains 7,500 gages across the country including dozens in the Adirondack region. The data from these gages are used for many purposes including flood forecasting, water supply allocation, wastewater treatment, highway engineering and recreation (rafting anyone?). » Continue Reading.
A “Notice!” was placed in the June 22, 1949 issue of the North Creek News by the Water District Superintendent Kenneth Davis and Supervisor Charles Kenwell informing local residence about the drought situation facing them over 60 years ago. » Continue Reading.
Hit and miss rain showers and scattered thunderstorms have provided much of the precipitation over the Adirondacks during this past month. This has allowed some locations to maintain an adequate level of soil moisture while causing conditions in other places to become especially dry.
The lack of periodic soaking rains, along with the abundance of sunshine and long stretches of above average temperatures has impacted the lives of a multitude of soil organisms, particularly earthworms which are highly sensitive to dry conditions. » Continue Reading.
I’m sure there’s been plenty of people in my life who wanted to tell me to go jump in a lake. Well, for the last two days, I’ve had to do just that. The temperatures have been well into the nineties, hot, hazy and humid. It’s exactly the type of weather I left Florida to avoid.
Around ten last night, I took Pico down for a swim. As hot as I was, I can’t imagine how hot a dog could be in weather like this. After throwing a stick a few times, I let Pico chew on his temporary toy and I just sat in the water. The lake was calm, with no breeze to speak of. Even though it was hazy, some stars were out and lights from Vermont were reflecting on the almost-glass surface of the lake. The mosquitoes were bad, so I sat in water up my neck and was glad that the horseflies had at least taken the night off. » Continue Reading.
What follows is a guest essay by Layne Darfler, a junior at Paul Smith’s College majoring in Environmental Studies. She is from Hudson Falls, NY. This is part of our series of essays by young people from Paul Smith’s College.
What if there were a way to become more sustainable and recycle more than the everyday paper, plastic, or cans? What if we could recycle nature? It seems almost impossible since the guy on TV just told us the Earth is dying, but in reality there is a lot we can still do to help our planet. How about recycling the rain? » Continue Reading.
Although there has been some considerable snow in the High Peaks this week, and rain, sleet, and snow across the North-Central and Northern Adirondacks, the fire danger remains elevated. Continued abnormally dry conditions and drier weather this weekend could raise the fire danger from MODERATE to HIGH. More than 20 wildfires have been reported so far this year in the Adirondack region, including 17 in DEC Region 5, which have burned nearly 60 acres. » Continue Reading.
The yellow-bellied sap sucker. My all time favorite name for an animal. I’ve seen two of them in the last week. This March was definitely a weird one as far as weather goes. Record breaking high temperatures led to several shirtless days outside and a sun burn on my back. It was about this time last year that I left Jacksonville and headed back up here. The year didn’t turn out any where near what I had planned, but that’s alright.
Now, I am completely absorbed with the amount of birds that have been popping up around here. I saw two grouse walk through the yard a little while ago, and there were a bunch of robins that passed through a few days ago. I’ve even seen a few geese flying by along with a bunch of others that I can’t identify. » Continue Reading.
Well, spring has been officially here for more than a week now – and the unusually warm temperatures sure have me ready to get out in the garden and get planting. And I don’t think I’m alone. Nurseries and garden centers in the area are scrambling to get their plants in earlier than usual to meet customer demands. But this recent cold front has helped snap me back to my senses, at least for a few days. We might be having an early spring, but we still have a good while until the threat of spring frosts are over. Not that a little frost bothers our hardy North Country native plants.
Labrador violet (Viola labradorica), a great native groundcover with beautiful purple flowers and foliage, was flowering through the snow at the nursery last fall on October 29 and it is already flowering this spring! Now that is what I call one tough little plant.
So instead of rushing out and buying a bunch of plants, now is a great time to do some planning if you haven’t already. Just like you should have a grocery list when you go to the store to keep yourself from buying too many unhealthy (but all too tempting) snacks, you should have a plan before you arrive at the nursery (And of course part of that plan should be to buy native plants – but more on that in future posts). Otherwise, those displays of pretty flowers will suck you right in!
Remember, when selecting plants for the garden, whether native or not, always keep in mind site conditions such as sun, soil, and water. You also want to be sure to think about your zone. If you keep these things in mind, they can help stop you from those impulse plant purchases for plants that may look pretty in the catalog or on the shelf, but just aren’t meant to grow in our area. If the right plant isn’t in the right place, you can have the greenest thumb in the world, but still not be able to make it grow.
Plant Hardiness Zone Maps help gardeners determine which plants are most likely to thrive in a location. Even when gardening with native plants, you have to keep zones in mind. For example New York State covers zones 3-7. So there might be plants native to southern New York zones 6 or 7, but they aren’t for us – since the park is mostly zone 4.
If you are an experienced gardener, you are probably very familiar with what zone you are gardening in – or at least you might think you are! In late January the USDA released a new version of hardiness zone maps for 2012.
Hardiness zones are based on the average low winter temperature. Zones are divided by 10 degree increments, with a and b subsections for 5 degree increments. In the new 2012 maps many locations across the country shifted and became a subsection warmer. So if you were a 4a you might now be a 4b, and if you were a 4b you might now be a 5a. This new map is based on 30 years of temperature data, from 1976-2005, and was created with new and improved algorithms that took elevation and other terrain features into account. The old maps were based on a shorter and older temperature record, and simpler modeling, so they had become outdated. The new maps are much more accurate for our current conditions.
Another great thing about the new map is that it is also now interactive – so it is much easier to see exactly what zone you are in. You can just enter your zip code and ta-da – the site will tell you what your new zone is! Click here to go to the USDA website and enter your zip code to try it out.
Take a look at the map and see if your zone shifted. If it did, there might be some new plants that you might want to go ahead and try out this year that you hadn’t tried before. I wouldn’t go out and plant a dozen of something new, but maybe get a few and see how they do. I know I might add some Sweetspire, Itea virginica, a great native alternative to the popular non-native butterfly bush, to some of my own gardens and see how it does. According to the new maps – it should do just fine! But I think I will do some testing on my own first for my own specific site conditions. After all, algorithms and equations are great, but they aren’t Mother Nature!
More info on local weather and gardening from Cornell Cooperative Extension can be found online.
Photos: Labrador violet flowering in the snow last October, and already again this spring.
When bird watchers joined this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), they recorded the most unusual winter for birds in the count’s 15-year history. With 17.4 million bird observations on 104,000 checklists, this was the most detailed four-day snapshot ever recorded for birdlife in the U.S. and Canada. Participants reported 623 species, during February 17–20, including an influx of Snowy Owls from the arctic, early-migrating Sandhill Cranes, and Belted Kingfishers in northern areas that might normally be frozen over. “The maps on the GBBC website this year are absolutely stunning,” said John Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Every bird species has a captivating story to tell, and we’re certainly seeing many of them in larger numbers farther north than usual, no doubt because of this winter’s record-breaking mild conditions.” » Continue Reading.
Pico and I went snowshoeing for probably the last time today. I wanted to get out before all the snow is gone, and I think there’ll be enough left to ski on tomorrow. But the snow is going fast, almost as fast as it came. In the last two weeks, I’ve gotten about two feet of snow out at the cabin. The plow guy had to come three times in four days, after having been out here only three times in the last three months. But now it’s about fifty degrees, and the forecast calls for warm for the rest of the week. It’s starting to look like winter might really be over. I missed this part of the Adirondack spring last year, as I was still living in Florida. I missed opening the windows and letting that clean-smelling breeze roll through the house. I missed seeing people’s super white arms emerging from t-shirts for the first time in months. I just plain missed the change in the seasons.
Jacksonville, FL is far enough north that there is kind of a “winter,” where it does get cold for a couple of months. The palm trees stay green and you might need a hat and gloves in the morning, but that’s about all you get out of the change of seasons. There’s really only two seasons: Hot, and not as hot. The lady bugs have been proliferating around and on the big window. I keep catching glimpses of them out of the corner of my eye, and thinking that someone is coming up the driveway, but that’s not really all that likely. Now that it’s warm, the snow is melting, and there are brown patches of dead grass peeking out, I can’t help but feel some sort of satisfaction. Back in October, I thought that living off the grid for the winter would be a huge challenge.
It has been. But not one that has broken or defeated me.
If anything, I am stronger, both mentally and physically, than when I moved out here. This winter was an experiment in self-reliance. Not that I haven’t gotten help along the way, but being way out here is something that you have to experience to truly understand. And really, isn’t life all about the experience?
Justin Levine is living off the grid in a cabin in the Adirondacks with his dog Pico and blogging at Middle of the Trail.
The winter of 2011-2012 was the fourth warmest of the past 117 winters in the contiguous United States according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. The seasonal average temperature (December, January and February) was 36.8 degrees, almost four degrees above the 20th century average.
That probably doesn’t surprise Dr. Ed Landing, New York State paleontologist and curator of paleontology at the New York State Museum. His new research however, suggests that high sea levels leading to “global hyperwarming” will be a more important factor than carbon dioxide levels in future climate change. Landing has recently published his findings in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. Since the middle 1800s scientists have considered high carbon dioxide levels to be a greenhouse gas and a driver of higher global temperatures. However, Landing’s study of the rock succession in New York state shows that periodic extreme temperatures, with oceans reaching 100 F, occurred within “greenhouse” intervals. He terms these “global hyperwarming” times, and shows that they correspond to intervals of very high sea-levels.
As sea levels rise, Landing’s research suggests that with the predicted melting of polar ice caps, the continents will reflect less sun light back to space and less reflective shallow seas will store heat and warm as they overlap the land. Warming seas will rapidly work to increase global temperatures and heat the world ocean. This leads to a feedback that further expands ocean volume, with heating, and further accelerates both global warming and sea-level rise. In the course of this feedback, marine water circulation and oxygenation fall due in part to the fact that hot waters hold less oxygen.
Landing first recognized the imprint of “global hyperwarming” in 520 to 440 million-year-old, shallow to deep-water rocks in eastern New York and from other information received on localities worldwide. This time interval shows nine intervals of extreme sea-levels that covered much of North America and other ancient continents. In all cases, strong sea-level rises, which sometimes drove marine shorelines into the upper Midwest, are accompanied by the spread of hot, low oxygen marine water largely devoid of animal life down into the deep sea and across the continents.
Landing’s study may help predict the future. A 300-foot sea-level rise, which would result from melting the Greenland and Antarctica ice caps, is as great as the ancient sea-level rises documented by Landing and other scientists 520 to 460 million years ago. This sea-level rise would also lead to a warming and expansion of the ocean waters resulting in a rise of shorelines to 500 feet above present, basically covering the non-mountainous U.S. to northern Wisconsin. Even worse, in the case of New York, the Earth’s rotation would force a rise of the west Atlantic to 650 feet above present sea levels.
The full article on Landing’s research is online. While working at the State Museum since 1981, Landing has authored six books, 13 New York State Museum bulletins, 200 articles and field trip guides and has received more than a dozen competitive grants. In 2009 he was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS).
A rusty screen door in the wind. That was the sound I heard earlier outside. But the sound was coming from the woods, far from any door, or even any human-built structure. I wondered what it was, but the big MagLite didn’t provide any insight, and the most likely culprit was some tree creaking in the breeze.
The snow has started again, and it looks like the next couple of days will be spent shoveling and digging out. I really don’t mind. It’s good exercise, outside, with tangible benefits. I’ve always loved running the snow-blower and driving a plow truck, and shoveling is something that I’ve gained a renewed appreciation for. Two storms ago, I shoveled an area big enough to park a few cars in. The plow guy was impressed, and that’s a pretty big compliment. One thing that I’ve always loved about living in the Adirondacks is that people come together when they really need to. When there’s no emergency or major event going on, I’m sure that neighbors have their regular squabbles, but when the fit hits the shan, people here look out for each other.
A few weeks ago, my plow guy got stuck in the driveway and it took us a while to dig out his truck. The next plow was on him as thanks. The time after that, we had a big storm, and he hadn’t heard from me, so he came up to plow the driveway and make sure I wasn’t stuck in here. He said he was glad when he didn’t see my truck. It was the same thing last spring. There were massive floods all over the North Country and my first three days of work were spent filling sand bags. We dropped them off all over town, to the city hall, motels along the lake, and at people’s houses. Most of the day, it was just a bunch of us state workers who had gotten corralled into the job. But soon after school got out each day, a stream of parents and kids would come into the town garage and ask what needed to be done. They brought us food and coffee, as well as fresh hands and arms. Filling, tying and loading a couple hundred thousand sand bags gets tiring.
But you know what, it’s not just in times of hardship that the people come together up here. Winter Carnival is one of the greatest parties you could imagine. An entire town celebrating the successful fight against cabin fever with a parade, concerts, and yes, even a Women’s Frying Pan Toss. Carnival is great.
The feeling this type of camaraderie creates is one of belonging to a community. Whatever their petty differences, people do what they can to help each other out, and in the process forget about the nonsense that most of us consume our lives with. If I had a neighbor and heard a creaky door sound day after day, I’d probably get upset after a while, and would eventually sneak over there and hit the hinges with WD-40. But since the sound was coming from a tree, I’ll just let it go. Having such a simple existence in this cabin has made letting the stupid things go a lot easier. Justin Levine is living off the grid in a cabin in the Adirondacks with his dog Pico and blogging at Middle of the Trail.
Adirondack search and rescue operations have been in the news lately. More than 20 people were rescued from melting lake ice in the two weeks, and four major backcountry rescues over the same period are a stern reminder of how easily outdoor recreationists can get into trouble. The big snow that’s finally arrived will mean a lot more folks heading to the woods and waters this weekend.
What follows is a list of Adirondack Almanack stories about outdoor winter safety: » Continue Reading.
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