Posted on July 5th, 2011 Add a comment >>
After studying their genetic diversity, NYSDEC is looking into a spruce grouse recover plan for the Adirondack spruce grouse population(which stands at around 100-200 individuals).
Posted on March 24th, 2011 1 comment - Add a comment >>
What a pleasing sound the drips make as they drop their 98% water and 2% sugar-laden loads in the aluminum bucket. The sun feels good on your face, and the 40 degree Fahrenheit day envelopes the last of a wintry scene on the hillside.
It’s maple “sugaring” season in the North Country! Gather your taps and buckets, hammer and drill. Go find the sugar maples that cooled you in summer, painted your forests in fall, and allowed the birds to rest, sing, and even build a secure nest among its branches.
Acer saccharum, our most notable maple(and the official State tree of NY), plays a major role in our northern forests. Being one of the dominant “hardwoods” of the Adirondack forests (along with white and yellow birch, American beech, ash, aspens, and a couple other maples), sugar maples create a great habitat for birds at all stages of tree growth.
Many warblers will find refuge, and nest-building opportunities in a dense stand of young sugar maple saplings. Older maples will hollow-out as they age and this creates a new home for a raccoon, barred owl, pileated woodpecker, or if your lucky a great horned owl might build a nest in the stronger branches near the trunk. I’ll even bet you have at least one piece of furniture in your house right now made with sugar maple wood. It’s strong.
But back to the sugarin’. The sap is slowly “rising” up from the roots where it has laid dormant over the winter(although in a somewhat starchy form), waiting to flow freely up into the tender branches of it’s canopy. Here it will full-fill it’s role as the major nutrient source for the hundreds of swelling buds on branch tips.
Drill your hole, tap in your spout, hang your bucket and listen for the tap-tap of sap. As you listen around the woods this time of year you’ll hear the “onk-o-ree” of distant red-winged blackbirds, the hollow rattle of the downy and hairy woodpeckers as they drum on old branches, and the occasional light melody of the brown creepers as they sing in March.
High overhead, you’ll hear the passing of hundreds of Canada and snow geese as they wind north with the spring. While the sun warms the tree trunks and rocks around the forest floor, Eastern chipmunks shake the sleep out of their eyes and bounce along the ground in search of early food.
Now the real work begins. You’ll pour a full bucket of sap into a bigger bucket and have to carry that down to the sugar house. These new-fangled plastic tubes that connect sap hole to sap hole in a sugar bush take all the fun out of carrying 40 pounds of sweet sugar maple sap! Well, after a week of carry these buckets I might be whistling a different tune.
White-tailed deer find the melting snow easier to walk through, so at dawn you’ll find their tracks carefully tracing your own boot tracks from the day before. Late in the day as you begin to boil your sap the same deer will probably investigate the smells of your burning wood. Temperatures will drop tonight and the sap will stop it’s watery march.
As you go to bed all sore from carrying these heavy loads of sap, you’ll breath out a sigh and then listen for the deep “who, who-who, who, who” of the great horned owl off in your wood lot as he protects the nesting female and her tiny down-covered young in the hundred-year-old sugar maple.
Photo Credit-all photos Brian McAllister
Posted on February 13th, 2011 1 comment - Add a comment >>
Here’s part IV(click here) of Roland Kays’ ongoing research of Fisher movements in urban/suburban forest habitats.
Photo Credit: Fisher-Wikipedia
Posted on February 8th, 2011 Add a comment >>
“….we see fantastic forms stretching in frolic gambols across the landscape, as if Nature had strewn her fresh designs over the fields by night as models for man’s art.” – Henry David Thoreau from “A Winter Walk”.
We can only wonder if Thoreau knew about “plasticity” in snow. We often think that snow is simply piles and piles of snow flakes that sit on the ground, in the trees, on the roof, or on any other structure we see. To some degree that is true, snow on the ground is made up of gazillions of snow flakes, but what goes on in that snow pile over time can tell us a lot.
The picture above shows a once-vertical column of snow now slowly leaning to one side, but yet it is not breaking or collapsing! How can that be?
This is what’s known as the “plastic behavior” of snow. Even though snow pack is frozen it can still behave in a way that resembles water moving in slow motion. When this pile of snow was vertical it began to deform at the bottom due to the weight of the upper part and gravity working on it. Over time the snow column yields to these pressures in a fluid-like movement and reforms but does not break.
I’m sure many of you have seen snow that looks as if it’s wrapped completely around a branch, like a snake or a vine. That snow was once on top of the branch, where it fell, but over time it gave way to its own weight, deformed and then reformed into the odd shapes we see.
As I was skiing on the trails at the Paul Smiths College “VIC” I saw lots of small mice or vole tracks on top of the snow pack:
However, if you look closely at the picture you can see a couple “tail drags” where the tail hit the snow. This tells us that it was mouse, probably a white-footed or deer mouse (Peromyscus) that made the track while on some dawn or dusk run to a food source.
Even though we play on top of the snow in winter, there’s still lots of serious activity down under the snow, or in the “subnivian zone” (area from the ground up to the snow surface). Here we find mice and voles busy eating their stored food, or happily eating the bark off your favorite ornamental shrub. Mice and voles will often build a nest or bedding area on the ground where they can take a little day or week-long nap depending on the outside conditions.
Ruffed grouse and weasels can often be found burrowing through this zone. For the former, it’s a place to hide and stay warm while a blizzard rages on above them, and for the latter, it’s the source for many yummy dinners!
So often we snowshoe and ski with our minds only on that task, but when you can let your eyes wander over the snow pack and look for the finer details….”the models for man’s art.”
Photo Credits: Brian McAllister
Posted on February 2nd, 2011 Add a comment >>
Here’s part 3(click here) of Fisher study being conducted by Roland Kays(Curator of Mammals at the NY State Museum
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Posted on February 2nd, 2011 1 comment - Add a comment >>
Here are some updates(click here) on the Fisher study that Roland Kays(Curator of Mammals at the NY State Museum) and Paul Smiths & ESF grad Scott LaPoint are currently working on. Check out the great video of wildlife passing by the camera.
Photo Credit: Fisher caught on trail camera-Wikipedia
Posted on January 25th, 2011 Add a comment >>
Found this very interesting article in the NY Times authored by Roland Kays, who is the Curator of Mammals at the NYS Museum. He’s teaming up w/a Paul Smiths College grad for an ongoing study of fisher movements in upstate NY(Albany) forests.
Photo Credit: Fisher on tree – Wikipedia photo
Posted on January 15th, 2011 Add a comment >>
Most folks living in the Adirondacks have their own favorite hike that they do in every season….mine happens to be Black Pond in Paul Smiths.
This latest snowstorm filled up the woods nicely with over 10 inches. It makes for a perfect snowshoe day. Here are some views I had on that day:
Throughout the winter white-tailed deer will often “yard up” in the woods surrounding Black Pond. Here they eat, and eat, and eat!
Ferns often produce spores on their large lacy leaves but this wetland fern called Sensitive Fern-Onoclea sensibilis produces spores on a stalk that remains visible through winter but eventually dies back in spring.
American beech leaves
Ice crystals form along the shoreline of a small stream…
…and on many branches nearby…
Ermine tracks-Mustela erminea, can be found all around the edge of the pond…
…and also entrance holes can be seen as the ermine “dive” into the snow on the scent of some food.
So get out on those snowshoes and see what’s out there!
Photo Credit: all photos Brian McAllister
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 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.