Noting what visitors appear at a bird feeder in winter can provide some revealing information on the status of the local populations of the feathered creatures hardy enough to remain in the Adirondacks after cold weather becomes established. Aside from the regular flocks of black-capped chickadees, a pair or two of red-breasted nuthatches and blue jays, there may be juncos, redpolls, evening grosbeaks, pine siskins, purple finches and other closely related seed eaters.
This year, at least around my house in Saranac Lake, there has been a healthy number of American goldfinches, which is not surprising considering this past summer’s weather. From mid May through the first week in July, record setting rains soaked the region, and cool temperatures made conditions difficult for birds attempting to incubate eggs and care for a nest full of recently hatched offspring. However, after the 4th of July, the weather improved substantially. Bright skies, warm temperatures and moist soil created ideal growing conditions for plants, which was noted by people who attempted to keep their lawn properly mowed, individuals who maintained flower and vegetable gardens, and those souls that enjoyed harvesting our crops of wild berries. » Continue Reading.
Winter is associated with migration, hibernation, changes in animal behavior, plants becoming dormant, and humans experiencing special health concerns ranging from hypothermia to seasonal depression. Winter even invokes its own special vocabularies to describe the conditions (e.g. black ice, whiteouts, and corn snow).
Descriptions of winter camping depend on geographic location, opportunities to go camping and desire to impress your friends and relatives. There are groups from northern Canada to the Ozarks that claim winter camping experience, although I am sure their conditions and experiences are greatly different.
The chickens have become escape artists. I don’t know how they figured out the elaborate trap of chicken wire and plastic that comprises the door to the run, but they’ve managed to get out for two days straight.
I don’t mind letting them roam around when I’m around. But as the weather gets colder and the predators get more desperate for calories, I’m thinking that the door to the run may have to be reconfigured. It’s sad to admit, but my half-assed door can’t even contain a bunch of literal bird brains.
It is nice to see them out and about in the yard though. They have thoroughly picked over the spots where the run had been, and have even seem to have found some food left over in those spots. I like seeing them come running up to the front door when I walk out, or see them flying for twenty or thirty feet. They appear to be happy and content, and their tail feathers are sticking up higher than ever. I’m not sure how much I should read into the angle of their feathers, but I heard somewhere that if their tail feathers are up, then they’re happy. » Continue Reading.
We had such a long spell of nice weather this fall that I should have no excuse for not having gotten all my fall outdoor chores finished by now. But I suspect I’m not the only one with a few more to-do items on my list. Here are some tips and suggestions:
We are at the very end of the limit for getting spring flowering bulbs planted. Check your sheds and closets for any lingering bulbs that you bought earlier but still haven’t gotten in the ground. I have a little more garlic to plant as well. It’s late, but I’m optimistic the bulbs will have time to root in before winter. Dig up any tender bulbs that can’t survive the winter. This includes gladioulus, canna lilies and dahlias. » Continue Reading.
I currently have twelve independent fires going inside of my cabin. The one scented candle is making the mixture of burning candles, lamp oil, and spiced apple almost pleasant. Almost.
This time of year is the roughest, psychologically, out here. When the sun starts to dip before most people eat dinner, it’s tough for me to stay positive. Especially on a day like today, when it was overcast all day and never really that bright out, the night seems just about unbearably long. » Continue Reading.
The snow is falling quickly and quietly outside. I have a nice fire and a glass of bourbon to keep me warm and dry though, so all is right with my little world.
I love the first real snow fall of the year. Everything looks so clean and neat, and the world is quiet. The birds aren’t making any noise, the few deer that took off running when I let Pico out hardly made a sound, and tree limbs are hanging low, heavy with fresh wet snow.
This is isn’t the first snow of the year, but it’s the first one that might stick and be around for a little while. Every night before now that I’ve had a fire, I didn’t worry about keeping it going all night. The new stove cranks out heat, especially when it’s loaded with the dead elm that my friend dropped off for me. In fact, tonight will the first night that I’ve had a fire where I won’t be going to sleep with a few windows open. » Continue Reading.
Fall is in full swing: foggy mornings, cold rains, and falling leaves. Time to talk about…tadpoles!? That’s right, while we may be accustomed to discussing tadpoles in spring and summer, they’re still around and they’re gearing up for winter.
Imagine your local pond. Under a slate gray autumn sky, the pond is mostly quiet. Only an occasional peep (called the “fall echo”) escapes from the reeds, where previously an amphibian chorus declared its presence. Yet despite the chill and silence, frog life continues. Most of the summer’s broods hopped onto land at least a month ago. Others will hibernate in the coming months as polliwogs.
So how do tadpoles “decide” when to change into frogs? And why do some of them stay in tadpole form all winter? » Continue Reading.
Migration is the seasonal movement of an animal population in response to changing environmental conditions. While birds are best known for employing this survival strategy to cope with winter, many other forms of wildlife also engage in some form of relocation during autumn to deal with prolonged bouts of cold and an absence of food. Among the migratory reptiles in the Adirondacks is an abundant and widespread snake familiar to anyone that spends time outdoors – the garter snake.
As daylight wanes and the temperatures cool, garter snakes begin to travel to various sites that afford protection from the intense cold that settles over our mountainous region in winter. Typically, garter snakes rely on specific crevices that extend deep into a rocky outcropping situated on a south-facing slope. Also, garter snakes are known to utilize selected abandoned woodchuck, fox or skunk dens that exist deep enough into a hillside to get near or below the frost line. » Continue Reading.
As we sit and wait for the snow to start (and stay), I find myself chomping at the bit, anticipating another season of animal tracking. For some people winter means skiing, while other folks get excited about winter birding. For me, though, winter means we finally have obvious signs that we are not alone, that we share the Park with various animals that mostly escape our notice the rest of the year: martens and fishers, otters and mink, foxes and hares, porcupines and grouse. Sure, there are people who see these animals during the rest of the year. We all hear the coyotes yipping and howling at dusk. Deer, well, deer and turkeys are about as common as fleas on a dog these days: anyone who’s driven through the Park has likely seen either, or both, along the side of the road. Paddlers routinely report having watched otters at play. Squirrels abound in every yard and on every tree in the forest. The woods and wetlands are full of bird songs and the calls of frogs and insects. By late summer beaver activity is painfully obvious. » Continue Reading.
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