Posts Tagged ‘wildlife’

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Dry White(water) Season

Low snowpack and scarce April showers have led to burn bans around the Adirondack Park. The drought also has river paddlers wandering, searching for streams pushy enough to float their colorful little boats.

“Whitewater kayakers are being forced into summer habits of traveling downstream, unfortunately by car, to seek water levels suitable enough to sink their paddles in,” writes Jason Smith, on Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters blog. “The Hudson River along with the Moose River, in the central Adirondacks, offer reliable spring flow and are popular spring runs. But even these mighty rivers are running lower than usual. . . . [D]on’t be alarmed if you see a vehicle loaded with short, plastic kayaks driving aimlessly around your neighborhood.”

Other Adirondack critters known to crave a good spring rain are amphibians. In Paul Smiths, in the high-elevation north-central Adirondacks where ice was still on ponds as of Thursday, wood frogs and spotted salamanders began to move on a warm rainy night about two weeks ago, observes Curt Stager, professor of biology at Paul Smith’s College. The cold-blooded creatures live buried in the forest floor most of the year, braving exposure to predators and car tires on rainy April nights to travel to the ephemeral ponds where they breed. Peepers, American toads and other frogs and salamanders also congregate at waterholes this time of year.

Showers Saturday gave creeks and rivers a noticeable boost. The last two weeks had brought snow and then unrelenting sun. “They [herps] have been dribbling around. It was an early start and then it got cut off by the dry weather,” says Stager, who studies local phenology. “Every year is a little different in the Adirondacks. You’ve got to watch it for decades to notice a real pattern.”

High/dry kayaker sketch courtesy of Jason Smith


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Wildlife Conservation Society Adk Program Event

The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Adirondack Program will be hosting a public gathering in Saranac Lake highlighting recent work. The event will take place Sunday, April 19, 2009 from 4pm to 6pm at the Saranac Laboratory’s John Black Room in Saranac Lake. Program director Zoë Smith will give a brief presentation beginning at 4:30 pm about the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and how the Adirondack Program bridges scientific research and community outreach to achieve wildlife conservation. Afterward, guests will have the opportunity to ask the WCS’s staff experts about Adirondack wildlife and conservation. The event is free and open to the public; refreshments will be served.

The Saranac Laboratory is located at 89 Church Street, just around the corner from the Hotel Saranac in downtown Saranac Lake, New York. For more information call (518) 891-8872 or e-mail (accp@wcs.org).

Based in Saranac Lake, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Adirondack Program works to promote healthy human communities and wildlife conservation through a cooperative, information based approach to research, community involvement and outreach. The Wildlife Conservation Society works to save wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. WCS is currently running more than 500 wildlife conservation projects in 60 countries worldwide that work together to change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Extinction: A Short History of Adirondack Beaver

We got a great laugh around the house here a couple weeks ago when my neighbor Mike — a guy who’s full of Adirondack lore — began extolling the virtues of eating Adirondack beaver. A quick search turned up actual beaver recipes. It turns out, unlike deer which are hung in woodsheds, barns and garages all over the North Country during hunting season, beaver needs to be soaked overnight in salt water to remove the blood from the meat — trapped beaver don’t bleed out.

So much discussion of beaver got me thinking about the history of Castor canadensis — North America’s largest rodent and the second largest in the world — which was driven to near extinction in the Adirondacks around the turn of the last century, but whose reintroduction was astoundingly successful. » Continue Reading.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Adirondack Bracket: Round Three Recap


If it looked as though seasonal residents just didn’t show up for their match against the Wild Center otters, it’s because they didn’t. Excuses ranged from new restrictions on use of corporate jets, to a few who were laying low, waiting to cash their TARP-subsidized year-end bonuses. It was an early present for otters Squeaker, Louie and Squirt, who will celebrate their birthdays on Sunday.

Speaking of anniversaries, quadricentennial explorer Samuel de Champlain showed off his skillet skills, making a 30-minute meal out of Rachael Ray.

In the second quad, home to a couple of southeastern Adirondack powerhouses, file this one under “just say nose.” Hard-riding, hard-partying Americade succumbed to white nose syndrome. We are talking about the mysterious fungus that’s devastating bat populations, aren’t we? And E-bay watch out: Warrensburg’s World’s Largest Garage Sale discounted, tagged and liquidated another cherished Adirondack icon, the lean-to.

In the third quad, two lopsided pairings in the round of sixteen has cleared the way for a classic showdown between endurance and speed. Moose were overrun by the Northville-Placid Trail, while TR’s Midnight Ride left hunting camp coffee cold. The 25th veep’s lightning-fast buckboard ride from Tahawus to the railhead at North Creek will now face the 133-mile-long recreation trail, which was laid out by the Adirondack Mountain Club in the 1920s. This match-up promises to be a rough ride, much more than a simple walk in the park.

In the final corner of the dance floor, the iconic Adirondack pack basket proved to be more decorative than utilitarian, getting stuffed by popular local hang-out Stewart’s Shops. And finally, nordic-combined golden boy Bill Demong could not find the right combination to defeat Canadian drivers. Work continues on what particular characteristics distinguish Canadian drivers from any other sort.

Coming Monday: The Final Four.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A New Blog and Book About Hulett’s Landing

Hulett’s Landing on the east side of Lake George is the subject of a new Adirondack blog, The Huletts Current, and a new book by George Kapusinski whose family operates Huletts-On-Lake-George. It turns out I’m connected by marriage to the Hulett family that established Hulett’s Landing. So I thought I’d offer a little history – one that ties eastern timber rattlesnakes with an early noted librarian and explorer (now that’s a combination!) and at the same time adds a new steamship to the history of Lake George. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Volunteer: This Weekend’s Great Backyard Bird Count

Bird and nature fans throughout North America are invited to join tens of thousands of bird watchers for the 12th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), February 13-16, 2009. A joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, this free event is an opportunity for families, students, and people of all ages to discover the wonders of nature in backyards, schoolyards, and local parks, and, at the same time, make an important contribution to conservation.

Volunteers take part by counting birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the event and reporting their sightings online at www.birdcount.org. The data help researchers understand bird population trends across the continent, information that is critical for effective conservation. In 2008, participants submitted more than 85,000 checklists, a new record.

Participants submit thousands of digital images for the GBBC photo contest each year. Last year’s winners have been chosen and are now posted on the web site. Participants are also invited to upload the bird videos to YouTube tagged “GBBC.” Some of them will also be featured on the GBBC web site. All participants will be entered in a drawing to win dozens of birding items, including stuffed birds, clocks, books, feeders, and more.

Businesses, schools, nature clubs, Scout troops, and other community organizations interested in the GBBC can contact the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at (800) 843-2473 (outside the U.S., call (607) 254-2473), or Audubon at citizenscience@audubon.org or (215) 355-9588, Ext 16.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Timber Rattlesnakes of the Adirondacks

The Adirondacks’ largest species of venomous snake will be featured at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake this Sunday (and three more Sundays to come). The Wild Center’s resident herpetologist Frank Panaro will present a program about the timber rattlesnakes found in Adirondacks which are listed as threatened in New York and are only found in limited areas in the region.

This event brings up a little historical note from Flavius J. Cook’s 1858 Home sketches of Essex County: Ticonderoga:

Elisha Belden was a near neighbor of Mr. [Gideon] SHATTUCK’s [at the south end of Trout Brook Valley – presumably in present day Hague near the Ticonderoga town line], . .closely following him in time of settlement [1793], tastes and occupations… Father Elisha was famous for hunting rattle-snakes, which he sent from the Rattle-snake’s den near Roger’s Rock, as curiosities to various parts. The stories of his captures of that reptile with a crotched stick, and of his particular power over them, are no less wonderful than well authenticated. In one of his trips to the den, on a Sabbath afternoon, he was badly bitten, but he said “it was because the varmints did not know him, as he was dressed up and had on white stockings – they thought he was Judge [Isaac] KELLOG.” At last going out one day alone, to fill a basket with this dangerous game, the old man did not return. When found he was sitting upon the rocks, leaning back, frightfully swollen and blackened with poison – dead. A snake, cut to pieces with his jack-knife, lay by his side, with fragments of flesh, thought to be a remedy for poison, which he had applied to the bite beneath his arm, to which, it is supposed, the chafing of his side against the cover of the basket, as he carried it had let out the heads of the reptiles. It was said, as before, that a change of clothes he had lately made put it beyond the wisdom of the rattlesnakes to recognize him, and hence his power over them was lost, but a better explanation was a half empty whiskey-bottle found near the spot whose contents had so fatally palsied the truly remarkable courage and skill of the old hunter.

Rattlesnakes were once a more common sight in the Adirondacks – Elisha BElden was a well-known entertainer with rattlers on the Lake George Steamships (he was on the John Jay when it sunk, for instance). Today we have few opportunities to see these amazing animals. Frank Panaro’s presentation will also include information concerning venomous snakes and venom in general in addition to a snake handling demonstration and a chance for you to ask questions. One of the Museum’s timber rattlesnakes will be in attendance for a close up view on the special live camera that lets you see the snake closer than you would ever see one in the wild.

The Timber Rattlesnakes of the Adirondacks program will also be held on Sunday, February 22nd, March 8th, and March 22nd at 1 pm.


Monday, February 2, 2009

Books: Why The Adks Looks The Way It Does

If you want to consider yourself knowledgeable about the Adirondacks you must own and have read Mike Storey’s Why The Adirondacks Look The Way They Do. That’s not hyperbole – that’s a simple fact.

Storey self-published this guide to Adirondack natural history in 2006 and sold out the first printing in the first year. The reason, no doubt, is that it’s readable and relevant. Storey was the former Chief Naturalist at the Adirondack Park Agency (24 years at the APA!) and he wrote the book we all need to keep in our car, backpack, and back pocket. In fact, my only complaint is the book’s format doesn’t make it easy to pack – it could have been a lot smaller, even with all the info and images packed in there!

This book is more than a guide to our local flora and fauna, more than a wildlife guide, it covers geology, geography, forestry, history, cultural anthropology, environmental politics, from the life cycle of the black fly to the problems of upland development. The diagrams, illustrations, photographs, are illustrative beyond comparison. From “Grenville Continent Rifting and the Lake George Rift Valley” to the illustration of a 50-years of a hemlock and yellow birch growing on a rotting log resting on a glacial erratic rock, this book shows you the basics and backs it up with detailed explanations. The tracks of common animals, identifying common birds, leaves, trees, fish, soils, insects, eskers, kettle holes – its all there and more.

This book will do what it says it will – explain, in vivid and easy-going detail, why the Adirondacks look the way they do. I’ve been thinking about doing a “Ten Books Every Adirondacker Should Own,” and when I do, this book will be on that list.


Friday, January 9, 2009

NY Birds Experiencing Dramatic Changes

A new atlas on the birds of New York reveals that during the past two decades over half of New York State’s bird populations have seen dramatic changes in their distributions, with 70 species experiencing significant increases, 58 species experiencing serious declines, and 125 species maintaining relative stability. Among the birds showing the largest increases in New York State are Canada Goose, Wild Turkey, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Carolina Wren, Peregrine Falcon, Osprey, Cooper’s Hawk, Bald Eagle, Common Raven, Turkey Vulture, and Merlin. Those showing the largest decreases are Henslow’s Sparrow, Red-headed Woodpecker, Brown Thrasher, Common Nighthawk, Purple Martin, and Canada Warbler. Resident woodland birds showed the greatest increases as a group, and grassland birds showed the greatest declines.

These new findings, published this month by Cornell University Press in The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State, are the result of over 140,000 hours in the field by nearly 1,200 volunteers across New York State. The atlas, edited by two prominent figures in the field, ornithologist Kevin J. McGowan of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and wildlife biologist Kimberley Corwin of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), was initiated by the New York State Ornithological Association and implemented by the NYSDEC, which provided the funding, management personnel, oversight, direction, and data capture and management. The majority of the funding came from the state tax check-off program, “Return a Gift to Wildlife.”

According to the new study New Yorkers have considerably helped bird populations by planting trees and shrubs that provide food and cover, supporting conservation organizations, and participating in cutting-edge programs such as the Landowner Incentive Program.

The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State will be an invaluable resource for the DEC and other state agencies involved in land management and conservation, as well as counties and towns who make management decisions on smaller scales. Data will also be used at the national level by federal agencies, non-governmental agencies such as the NY Natural Heritage Program and Audubon, as well as universities across the country.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Museum Program Gets You Close to Birds of Prey

The Adirondack Museum is offering an opportunity to encounter Adirondack raptors close-up as part of their Cabin Fever Sunday series. A Great Horned Owl, a Red-Tailed
Hawk, an American Kestrel, and more will be on hand along with Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Center Environmental Educator Rynda McCray on Sunday, January 11, 2009. This special bird-of-prey presentation featuring non-releasable education birds. Learn about special adaptations, habitats, and human impact on bird populations.

The Newcomb VIC has five birds of prey. They include a great horned owl, a red-tailed hawk, an eastern screech owl, a northern saw-whet owl, and an American kestrel. All of the birds were rescued and received care from wildlife rehabilitators. However, none are able to survive in the wild. The birds work in tandem with Environmental Educators to provide “bird-on-hand” programs for the public. Rynda McCray is Center Director of the Newcomb VIC. She developed the
Bird-of-Prey Program and has worked with live Adirondack raptors for the
past 10 years.

The presentation will begin in the Auditorium at 1:30 p.m. Cabin Fever Sunday programs are offered at no charge to museum members. The fee for non-members is $5.00. There is no charge for children of elementary school age or younger. Refreshments will be served. For additional information, please call the Education Department at (518) 352-7311, ext. 128 or visit the museum’s web site at www.adirondackmuseum.org.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Nature Conservancy, State Finalize Domtar Lands

The Domtar land purchase – now known as Sable Highlands and located in Franklin and Clinton Counties near Lyon Mountain – has been finalized with the protection of 104,000 acres, an area seven times the size of Manhattan. New York State purchased a conservation easement from the Lyme Timber Company on December 24, 2008 and that transaction ended four years of efforts to preserve the acreage once owned by Domtar Industries in the northeastern corner of the Adirondacks.

In addition to the continuation of sustainable forestry, the conservation easement also includes access to nearly 30,000 acres that have been off-limits to the public for decades, including Sugarloaf Mountain, the Norton and Plumadore Ranges, and Barnes, Grass, Figure Eight, and Fish Hole Ponds. Combined with the 20,000 acres of new state lands, the public now has access to about 50,000 acres in a part of the park that has had limited opportunities for public recreation in the past. The Sable Highlands includes 220 miles of permanent and seasonal streams, 2,600 acres of wetlands, and 20 lakes and ponds in the St. Lawrence and Lake Champlain drainages. Among the lands protected in the Domtar deal are Lyon Mountain (14,400-acre habitat for Bicknell’s thrush), Ellenburg Mountain (1,700-acre tract of roadless forest that adjoining 7,100 acres of Forest Preserve lands), Whistle Pond / Keniston Meadows (920-acre tract adjoining existing state Forest Preserve), and East Chazy Lake.

In December of 2004, Domtar sold all of its Adirondack holdings in Clinton and Franklin Counties to the Lyme Timber Company and The Nature Conservancy. Working in partnership with Lyme, the Conservancy, and local community leaders, New York State has now fulfilled an agreement to secure the permanent protection of those properties.

A few months ago, the state made an outright purchase of 20,000 acres as new public lands from The Nature Conservancy. The purchases help foster the Adirondack Park’s role as a conservation model for the world and is another important investment in the local forest products industry. Last week, the state purchased a conservation easement to protect 84,000 acres owned by Lyme Timber. This “working forest” easement promotes sustainable forest management and timber harvesting, restricts residential development and subdivision, and creates a balance of public recreational access and continued private recreational leasing on the property.

The recent state expenditures were previously budgeted to the Environmental Protection Fund from money provided primarily from a real estate transfer tax. Private contribution to The Nature Conservancy’s Sable Highlands Campaign since 2004 totaled some $4 million and also helped to offset the overall costs of conservation.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Adirondack Climate Conference Final Thoughts

Well it’s over for today, but it’s clear that it’s not over forever. I think it’s fair to say that there was a collective sense that the Adirondack region is a unique place to lay out a framework to achieve local, national, and international changes in attitudes, policies, and our cultural and natural economies. One of the conference leaders (Howard Fish) put it succinctly when he said that residents of natural places like the Adirondacks play a critical role in ensuring both the survival of the world’s natural places and sustainable urban and suburban environments – the world looks to us to lead the way to, as the Adirondack region has for more then a century, coexistence between the natural and the human made world.

Here a few of the more important priorities that will likely be included in the draft Adirondack Climate Action Plan:

Education / Outreach / Clearinghouse of Technical Information
Improving Building Codes to Reflect Carbon Concerns
Incentivising / Creative Financing of Efficiency Retrofits
Advancing (Appropriate Scale) Local Energy Production for Local Consumption
Adopting Smart Growth Standards Across the Park
Promoting Alternative Energy Usage
Facilitating Local Green Business and Local Green Branding
Implementing Climate Change Research, Assessment, and Monitoring
Promoting Management of Our Adirondack Carbon Sink
Building Resiliency to Climate Change Through Local Planning / Action

Those were the ideas that seem to rise to the top. There were a lot more that will be incorporated into the draft action plan.

The three top priorities and three ways we’re moving forward:

Retrofitting Residences
Energy $mart Initiative will Approach 26 Communities Over the next year.

Clearing House / Education

There will be a new web site that hopes to be comprehensive on this issue in this region: WWW.ADKCAP.ORG

Leadership
Thirteen volunteers will form a steering committee to keep us on track and moving forward with the writing of the draft Adirondack Climate Action Plan.

Two final points:

The Seattle Climate Action Plan took two years to put together, so our task is going to be long but promises to be ecologically and economically rewarding for all Adirondack residents. We are looking at having a good draft document within a year.

An important point I think we’ve come away with is the notion that the Adirondack Forest, regardless of the value we ascribed to it before, now seems even more valuable as a carbon sink and nationally important precedent. Thankfully, it looks like local residents will lead the way to our climate future, whatever that may be, and that in itself is the most significant outcome of our little meeting here in Tupper Lake.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Live Blogging the Wild Center Climate Conference

A first for the Almanack. Today and tomorrow I’ll be attending the Wild Center’s climate change conference here in Tupper Lake and blogging what I hear, see, and learn.

Just pulling into the Wild Center from my drive over I was heartened to see a line of hybrids – mostly Toyotas, but a few Hondas as well – it’s clear that the crowd that has gathered here is already in the choir.

The sense so far from the speakers has been that the challenge of checking human-made global warming is daunting, depressing, lacking inertia, distracted by economics and politics, but doable. » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 17, 2008

OPINION: This Thanksgiving Eat A Local Turkey

Years ago, you simply didn’t see wild turkeys unless you were lucky. The birds were abundant in New York forest in colonial times but by the early 1800s had been all but hunted out. According to SUNY-ESF:

Reports indicate that wild turkeys were abundant in New York State during the 1600’s. However, the combination of uncontrolled hunting and the intensive clearing of forests resulted in the demise of native populations. In 1844, the last recorded observation of native wild turkeys came from extreme southwestern New York State.


For over a century, the wild turkey continued to be absent from the New York landscape. However, in the late 1940’s, wild turkeys had moved northward from Pennsylvania and were reported again in southwestern New York. Wild turkeys were re-established in New York by 1957, but occupied only the extreme southwest portion of the state. During the same year, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation began relocating birds to areas of the state that were capable of sustaining wild turkey populations.

The return of the wild turkey to New York State is truly a success story in the field of wildlife conservation. Wild turkey populations in New York have increased dramatically from an estimated 2,000 in 1959 to over 65,000 in 1990.

Today, it seems turkeys are everywhere. A recent National Wildlife Federation report pointed to the influx of turkeys into suburban areas from Boston to Schenectady County (along with fishers and bears). The population boom means that now is the time to shift toward eating local birds rather then having artificially raised commercial turkeys shipped across the country to your Thanksgiving table. Not enough meat you say? Nonsense. A mature gobbler can stand weigh in at 24 pounds (and stand 4 feet with a 5-foot wing span). The National Wild Turkey federation has a variety of recipe ideas on their website.

If you are not into hunting and don’t know a turkey hunter, try out a local farm-raised bird. At Harvest Hill Farm in Willsboro – (518) 963-1127 – Michael and Laurie Davis sell all-natural pasture raised turkeys (reserve early). At Windswept Meadows Farm in Watertown – (315) 788-1933 – Thomas & Delta Keeney are 3rd generation farmers who plants food crops specifically for turkeys.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Some News Items for Adirondack Hunters

A hat tip to ADKhunter.com for these news items for Adirondack hunters:

Peter Schoonmaker, author of Seasonal Drift: Adirondack Hunts & Wilderness Tales, has an article in North American Whitetail Magazine about legendary New York deer biologist and researcher C.W. “Bill” Severinghaus.

Old Hunting Camp Photos, Film, & Video Wanted: Local film company On Track Production will be producing a documentary on Adirondack Deer Camps for Mountain Lakes PBS. If you have old home movies or photos of Adirondack hunting camps, contact them or adkhunter.com.

Donate Your Deer Hide: A Saratoga-area synagogue is looking for deer hide donations to make into a parchment Torah scroll. Any size hides in good shape can be used. Contact Rabbi Linda at 518-587-0160.


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