What can cruise at an altitude of 29,000 feet, is a beloved icon of the great outdoors, and yet can be the bane of lawn lovers? It’s the honking harbinger of advancing autumn and coming cold (and sometimes, bad alliteration), the Canada goose.
The familiar autumn voices of Canada geese overhead can at once evoke the melancholy of a passing summer and the anticipation of a bracing new season of color and activity. Kids return to school, hunters take to the woods, and farmers work past dusk and into darkness, all to the cacophonous cries and the heartbeat of wings of migrating geese. » Continue Reading.
We slid our canoe over the beaver dam and paddled into the upper, smaller pond. A breeze rippled the water and rustled the reeds lining the shore. Suddenly I spied four long, sleek brown figures cavorting in the water ― otters! They submerged quickly near the shore, probably into an old beaver bank den with an underwater entrance. This was one of only a few times in my life I’d seen these secretive, often nocturnal, creatures.
We had likely seen an otter family ― mother and young, known as kits. Once the kits were able to swim well enough, at about three months of age, the family would leave this pond and assume a nomadic lifestyle. » Continue Reading.
Early autumn is the time fog frequently shrouds valleys in the morning, and a heavy dew regularly coats unprotected surfaces for several hours after sunrise. As the atmosphere begins to cool with the change in seasons, moist conditions often develop at night and can continue well after dawn. This is ideal for our various terrestrial amphibians, which require damp surroundings for their survival. Among the members of these moisture sensitive vertebrates is the red-spotted newt, a unique form of salamander that goes on the move as the foliage changes color. » Continue Reading.
Biodiversity Research Institute’s (BRI’s) Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation and the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS’s) Adirondack Program have announced that three new articles summarizing research on Adirondack loons have been published in a special issue of the journal Waterbirds that is dedicated to loon research and conservation in North America. Research was conducted on the Common Loon (Gavia immer), which breeds on Adirondack lakes, by BRI and WCS in collaboration with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, SUNY ESF’s Adirondack Ecological Center, Paul Smiths Watershed Stewardship Program, and other partners.
“We are pleased to have our loon research in the Adirondack Park included in this unique publication,” Dr. Nina Schoch, Coordinator of BRI’s Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, said in a statement to the press. “The special issue includes fifteen scientific papers highlighting loon behavior, life history and population ecology, movements and migration, habitat and landscape requirements, and the risk contaminants pose to loon populations. The publication will be a valuable resource to help guide the conservation of loon populations throughout North America.” » Continue Reading.
Salt contamination of our streams, watersheds and aquifers from aggressive use of salt in winter road maintenance has become a major threat to the ecology of the Adirondacks, local advocates warn.
Finding ways to minimize or avoid that threat while keeping roads safe is the goal of the third annual Adirondack Winter Road Maintenance Conference, which will explore alternatives to current road salting and clearing policies at Paul Smith’s College on September 16, from 9 am to 4:30 pm.» Continue Reading.
During summer, both residents and visitors of the Adirondacks should be required to spend time on the water, preferably in a canoe, kayak or guideboat in order to experience the serenity and magnificence of slowly and silently moving across our fresh water environments. However, traveling over the surface of most waterways in a small, open, human-powered craft from July through mid August does have its cost, as people in such boats are occasionally subject to the harassment of a small, fast-moving fly inclined to bite on the upper part of the foot, or the lower section of an uncovered leg, particularly around the ankle. This unwelcome pest is most likely a species of stable fly (Stomoxys), a genus of flies belonging to the same family as the common house fly.
Stable flies are slightly more robust, yet smaller than the house fly, and are a little lighter in color. Additionally, stable flies are far more wary, as they are quick to burst into flight when something approaches them. Hitting one with a fly swatter is a far greater challenge than smacking the more sluggish house fly with the same long-handled instrument. And lacking a fly swatter in a boat can lead to great frustration, as it is impossible to kill these pests with any other object, other than the spray from a can of highly potent pesticide. » Continue Reading.
Now you see it, now you don’t: something brown in or near the water, hopping, swimming, or doing something else that catches your eye. The suspect list includes mink, muskrat, beaver, and otter. Listen here as I discuss what to look for and how to tell the difference 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.
I’m always entranced watching the hunting behavior of long-legged wading birds like great blue herons and snowy egrets. They stand motionless for long minutes at the edge of a pond or swamp, waiting for prey to swim within striking distance. It’s a technique sometimes described as stalking, and it convinces me that those birds have far more patience than I do. I would go hungry if I were restricted to that strategy, since I get antsy after just a few seconds of standing motionless. I’m much more like the reddish egret of the Florida coastline, running around in knee-deep water with wings outstretched, chasing my meal rather than waiting for it to come to me.
Green herons have a hunting technique that involves neither pure stalking, nor the kinetic approach of the reddish egret. They are one of only a handful of North American bird species that are known to use tools to capture food. » Continue Reading.
The overwhelming abundance of pesky insects in and around aquatic areas in the Adirondacks from late spring through mid summer can discourage travel to these picturesque settings, however, the hordes of bothersome bugs that thrive in wetlands help support the rich diversity of life that occurs around these places.
Among the birds that seek out mosquito, black fly, and deer fly infested streams, swamps and shrubby lake shores is a common and vocal warbler whose voice regularly echoes across these watery habitats. Despite its small size and effective protective coloration, the common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) can be seen by anyone passing through its domain as it bellows out its characteristic song from a perch that temporarily makes this Adirondack resident fairly conspicuous. » Continue Reading.
Around a beaver pond, we sometimes catch a whiff of beaver odor. People have described it to me as smoky, woody, or like tobacco. It may waft over from the lodge, or it might emanate from scent mounds – little piles of mud by the water’s edge. Beavers make scent mounds by dredging up mud from the bottom of a pond, then carrying it up on land in their front paws while walking upright. The beaver drops the mud, then squats over the mound and applies castoreum from glands near the base of the tail.
The smell means: keep away! In some neighborhoods, this territorial advertisement works remarkably well. I’ve been involved in studies where human-made scent mounds effectively deterred free-ranging beavers from settling in unoccupied beaver habitat. » Continue Reading.
Spring is the time of year when most male birds support their brightest colored plumage. This makes them more attractive to a potential mate for the breeding season, however it also makes them more visible to any human traveling through their domain.
Among the birds far more likely to be seen during spring than at any other time of year is the hooded merganser, a handsome species of waterfowl that commonly resides in the many wooded wetlands scattered across the Park. » Continue Reading.
Clambakes, fried clams, clam diggers, clam shacks ― we usually associate clams with the ocean. You may have also seen freshwater clams in rivers and lakes. But did you know there are clams that live in the woods?
In our region, there are several species of fingernail clam that inhabit vernal pools, the temporary woodland pools where frogs and salamanders lay their eggs in the spring. As temperatures warm and melting snow and rain fill depressions in the forest floor, these small clams, only the size and shape of a child’s fingernail, become active. » Continue Reading.
The unseasonably cool and overcast weather pattern that has prevailed over the Adirondacks for the past several months has impacted many forms of wildlife, especially the cold-blooded creatures that are early to awaken from their winter dormancy. Among the organisms that return to an active state as soon as the surroundings thaw are two common and highly vocal amphibians that spend winter embedded in the upper layer of soil, or beneath a pile of rotting, organic debris on the forest floor.
Within a few days of the frost melting from the ground around them, both the wood frog and spring peeper experience biochemical changes throughout their body that reactivate the tissues and organs that became dormant for winter. As soon as their muscles are functioning again, these small vertebrates pull themselves from the covering that engulfed them since last autumn and begin their journey to the vernal pools and shallow woody wetlands that serve as their breeding grounds. » Continue Reading.
I attended a recent forum in Albany, Facing the Storm: Preparing for Increased Extreme Weather in Upstate New York, and wanted to pass along some of what I heard, or thought I heard. The event was sponsored by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government.
For a forum concerning the impacts of a changing climate the audience was unusually diverse in terms of backgrounds and professions. As a staff member for Adirondack Wild, I was sitting next to a firefighter from a village in Montgomery County. At the next table were other firefighters and emergency personnel in uniform. Across from me were several members of the League of Women Voters. Initially we all wondered if we were in the right meeting. I think by the end we realized what we all have in common. » Continue Reading.
It’s spring. Red-winged blackbirds are calling, chipmunks are foraging and flocks of robins abound. Bending down to smell the first subtle scents of crocuses and daffodils, we give thanks that winter is over. Sometimes, we also take a whiff of skunk cabbage flowers, just for the olfactory shock value.
Skunk cabbage grows throughout the Northeast and Midwest, ranging from North Carolina well up into the northernmost reaches of Quebec. The flower emerges through the snow and ice of March in the understory of wooded swamps, along riverbanks, lakeshores, and in other habitats with rich wet soils. First growth is an exotic, crimson-hued, three to six inch tall cowl –called a spathe – that surrounds and protects a spherical cluster of flowers. Each flower measures ¾-inch across and consists of 50 to 100 tightly packed florets. » Continue Reading.
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