Posted on December 18th, 2010 4 comments Add a comment >>
It was a beautiful morning for a ski along the trails of what was formerly known as the “Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center”. As I started out on the picturesque trail with snow-laden branches of maple, pine, and spruce, I couldn’t help but notice a low droning sound off in the distance that seemed to boil-up now and then into a mechanical sound of engine and buzzing.
My interest was certainly peaked so on I skied through the downy flakes, enjoying the hushed, rhythmic crunch of snow, ski, and pole-planting through the narrow trails. The occasional chickadee and woodpecker would lisp or tap a dead tree as I cruised by.
Now the sound grew in volume and the first thing that came to mind was a large truck rumbling down the Jenkin’s Mountain Trail that I was skiing on. Could that be? Was my skiing about to come to an abrupt halt by a Mack logging truck obliterating the ski trail, ripping up mud, rocks, and causing general mayhem?
Well no, that was not the case…so I skied on. But still the sound grew louder.
There!…Off in the forest! A flash of red, the crashing of branches, and nasal-like drone of a chain saw! Peering deeply into the snow covered forest my eyes finally caught a glimpse of a machine that, as best as I can describe, was a hulking, mechanized tree-eater on tank-like treads…and it was coming my way!
Ok, the skiing came to a quick stop at this point. The whirring sound of the engine and the split second buzz of the saw held my rapt attention. But where were the many loggers w/saws in hand felling these trees? There were no shouts of “timber!”, or the steady crack of the ax on a stout maple.
About 50 yards away I encountered a machine (not unlike this one) that would wrap steel “fingers” around a tree trunk, then in the blink of an eye, a hidden saw blade would come out to slice into the 50-year old maple, relieving it of it root-bound feet. And with no more than a flick of it’s “wrist” the long boom would lift and gently lay the entire tree down to the ground as if it were an injured soldier being tended to by a caring nurse.
Other times the saw would buzz and a tree would give a forceful jolt of it’s top branches and then the sickening, crumbling sound of limbs violently falling to the ground with only a momentary “puff” of new fallen snow to indicate where the tree was laid to rest.
Paul Smiths College is in the midst of harvesting timber on its own land but to the skier and snowshoer along the Esker Ski Trail this tree-harvesting machine may cast a feeling of sadness, and gloom.
Yes “business is business and business must grow” to quote the often-used line of Dr Seuss’ “The Lorax”, and I have laid witness to the “Super-Ax-Hacker” of the same story.
I’ve always been a “on-the-fence” kinda guy when it comes to land use/management, and wildlife conservation because I want to see the big picture and how both sides deal w/things.
And I know the result of this harvest will go far in adding to the economy and furthering us along on our yellow-brick road to prosperity but I wonder if the College’s draft horses and “leave-little-trace” harvesting equipment, that faculty and student alike train on in their classes, wouldn’t have been a better choice.
The almighty “buck” is made much quicker these days by the diesel-fueled power of technology that giveth and then taketh away.
Posted on December 17th, 2010 Add a comment >>
Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in Ithaca, NY is producing some amazing resources for birdwatchers across the US. They’ve recently taken all the bird migration data that has been collected over these many years and have placed it all on a very cool, animated map showing movements of certain bird species across the US.
Click here for animation of maps. Be sure to look at the Olive-sided Flycatcher map and pay attention to the Adirondack region as the map is animated. This flycatcher is a summer resident of the Adks.
Also out from Cornell is a very clear video showing how White-winged Crossbills use their “crossed” bill to pry open cones and feed on the hidden seeds. Click here for the video.
Photo Credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology-Wikipedia
Posted on December 15th, 2010 Add a comment >>
In an earlier posting I had mentioned how birders anxiously await the coming of winter to see what “exotic” northern birds might come along with the cold and the snow. Well over the past few days we have been hearing about good sightings of Bohemian Waxwing, Common Redpoll, and the occasional Evening Grosbeak throughout northern NY.
And the timing could not be better, as this week begins the much-anticipated 111th Christmas Bird Count. Across New York State and countries all over the Western Hemisphere, birding enthusiast’s will cover many miles by car, on foot, on skis, in boats, all in search of avian critters to count.
New Yorkers will begin there counts this weekend and even through the holidays they will keep an eye on bird feeders, nearby parks, and wood lots and record their findings. Adirondackers can find about half-a-dozen CBC’s in their neck of the woods
Click here for more information on the NYS Christmas Bird Count.
And here’s an additional article from the New York Times
Also…at this time of year, how can we not think about the amazing winter survival strategies that are going on all around us in the animal world.
Winter World is a book written by Naturalist/Professor(UVM) Bernd Heinrich which delves into the frigid world of winter and survival techniques that animals use to make it through the many sub-zero nights. A must read!
Around my neighborhood gray squirrels raid birdfeeders and local conifer stands by day but what do they do as late afternoon temperatures drop and a clear night sky plunges the thermometer to zero or below? Heinrich takes great effort to explain the ways animals make it through another winter night.
Finally…snowflakes have been on my mind lately. We all know the wonderful 6-sided shapes they come in as they fall on our face, sleeves, or tongue. But do they all look that way throughout the winter? The answer is no.
Snowflakes can change shape even as they fall from hundreds of feet in the air and finally land on the ground. Flakes of early winter(like now) will usually hold their hexagonal shape with multiple edges. They may even collect other flakes as they fall and give us the big downy flakes right down to the ground.
But as we progress through winter the moisture and temperature levels in the air decrease and as the flakes fall they often collide with one another resulting in broken pieces of the crystal breaking and falling to the ground. We often see these smaller column-shaped or “spicules” landing on our gloves later in the really cold months of January or February.
Go buy some cheap black knit gloves and head outside while it’s snowing to enjoy the shapes of snowflakes all winter long.
Photo Credit: Brian McAllister
Posted on November 23rd, 2010 Add a comment >>
Photo Credit: Wild Raisin (Viburnum cassinoides) – Brian McAllister
Posted on November 17th, 2010 3 comments Add a comment >>
For those who collect, eat, study, name, write about, and in general just have a passion for the delicate mushroom (aka- “fungus”) you should take note that next year, 11-14 August will be the “king” of all mushroom events in the northeastern US….and it’s going to happen in our own backyard of Paul Smiths, NY.
For 4 days, mushroom experts with the NorthEast Mycological Federation will comb the forests of the northern Adirondacks in search of prized fungus among-us. Experts from around the country will be on hand to identify the tasty ’shrooms and tell us of the deadly poisonous ones also.
Click here for video for upcoming Foray! Details will be on the NEMF website after December.
So if fungus is your thing, put this event on your calendar and join us in the mountains.
Photo Credit-Brian McAllister
Posted on November 8th, 2010 Add a comment >>
Here’s a posting of interest from The Nature Conservancy :
For the full 25 page report click here
And click here for a Summary of the 201o report.
Photo Credit: Forest regrowth-Brian McAllister
Posted on November 6th, 2010 Add a comment >>
November means waterfowl-watching along the still-open waters of Lake Champlain, and right on cue the waterfowl are making their entrance.
On a recent birdwatching trip along the western shoreline of the lake we made several stops to our favorite haunts including AuSable Point Campground, Willsboro Bay, Noblewood Park, and quaint village of Westport.
Most of what we see on the Lake, over the winter months, would fall under the group called diving ducks (those that feed on fish, crustaceans, and mollusks). And currently these ducks are just beginning to arrive on the lake. Flying down from Canada’s many lakes and ponds, these ducks will often remain in the area until the increasing ice forces them farther south.
On our recent trip along the lake we found buffleheads in growing numbers as well as common goldeneyes, common merganser, and lesser scaup. As we approach early winter all these species can be found in large groups or “rafts”, of one species but may often be found in mixed rafts.
Driving along Route 22 south of Plattsburgh we find a few spots to pull over on the shoulder, look out onto the lake and scan for ducks. Near Valcour Island we begin to find common loons, and horned grebes in their winter plumages.
In the town of Westport we can find geese, ducks and gulls all coexisting on a few sand bars near the Westport Boat Launch, and in front of the Waste Water Treatment Plant.
The “broad lake” has quickly become a birdwatchers delight as the north winds howl and the ducks replace the sailboats on the choppy winter waters.
Posted on November 5th, 2010 Add a comment >>
On a previous posting, I wrote of the chances of a few “northern” winter finches coming down to visit the Adirondacks in search of better food sources. We’re slowly getting word that pine siskins, evening grosbeaks, and purple finch are being found at local bird feeders. In addition to these species we also get word that a small flock of bohemian waxwings is being seen around the Lake Placid area.
These largely nomadic groups of waxwings can suddenly appear in a region, visit all the cherry, mountain ash, and ornamental crab-apple trees in that area for several weeks and then secretively vanish as they search the countryside for new sources of berries, and seeds.
Its close cousin is the cedar waxwing which resembles the bohemian with the main difference being a smaller size and lacking the rusty-red coloring of the under-tail coverts which help us identify the bohemian.
So despite the inclement weather of rain and wet snow, you should keep an eye out for these avian visitors on your travels and at your feeders. If you do see some of these species, feel free to write in your sightings on the “comments” section of this blog….we’ll appreciate it!
Posted on October 31st, 2010 Add a comment >>
As November blows in from the North and often coats the woods in white, we can take comfort in knowing that green and other shades of color still lie under the snow waiting for the big melt next year.
Click on the moss names for pictures:
Top Photo: Red-stemmed moss (Pleurozium schreberi)-Brian McAllister
All photos-Brian McAllister
Posted on September 23rd, 2010 2 comments Add a comment >>
Fall means migration in the bird world and we are in the thick of it!
While we sleep thousands and thousands of small migratory birds are winging their way south over cities, villages, farmlands, and forests. Some are making incredible flights thousands of miles in length.
One bird, the Bobolink, that was nesting in hay fields around the Adirondacks this summer, has gathered into flocks and are now flying to the very southern reaches of South America. As we proceed into autumn and winter, our South American neighbors are feeling the tantalizingly warm beginnings of spring. As a result the Bobolinks will spend their summer (our winter) in Argentina eating rice!
Hawks, eagles, and falcons, also called raptors, are all on the move south these days. Many birders in our area will be heading over to the Lake Champlain Valley to watch the migration of thousands of Broad-winged hawks as they form roiling “kettles” of circling birds that are riding warm air thermals rising off the Valley floor and gently moving the birds south. Some Broad-winged hawks have the very sweet winter destination of Costa Rica.
Warblers and vireos are also commonly found these days grouping up into feeding flocks that filter through our Adirondack woodlands in search of late caterpillars, moths, and spiders. I find it amazing that these tiny birds are migrating hundreds of miles each night while we slumber. Read more here.
Before long the autumnal blue skies will be filled with south-bound Snow Geese and Canada Geese. Filling our ears with that homecoming-sound, the geese passing overhead aren’t going too far for winter. They’ll end up in the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays.
But the big news in the birding world was just released today in the form of a long-awaited email. It’s the traditional analysis of Canada’s cone crop review.
Each autumn, a Mr Ron Pittaway of the Ontario Field Ornithologists, gathers information from many birders around Canada and northeastern US about how the current pine, spruce, and other cone-bearing trees are doing this year. Are they producing lots of cones for the winter finches, waxwings, and other seed-eating birds?
2009 was not a very good year for winter-visiting finches here in the Adirondacks. So what does Mr. Pittaway have to say about this year? Read here!
Cutting to the chase, it looks like a couple winter finches might filter down our way from Canada. Possible visitors of Pine Siskin, Common Redpoll and Purple Finch might grace our seed-filled winter feeders. But if you enjoy skiing or snowshoeing, then it’s worth a perambulation through your nearest woodlands this winter to check out the avian visitors.
Photo Credit: Pine siskin(Wikipedia)