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