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 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 August 12th, 2010 2 comments Add a comment >>
I always look forward to the gentle slide from late summer to early fall; the cooling nights that require one more layer on the bed; the sounds of crickets calling through the windless nights; and….having to re-learn all the goldenrods that I forgot last fall. This can be a pain in the aster!…sorry.
Anyways, I truly devote a few days each August to carefully look over the latest batch of goldenrods along the trail. But everytime I open the field guide I’m overwhelmed w/the possibilities.
The Peterson Field Guide to Wildflowers devotes 7 pages to the voluminous goldenrod family. Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide crams 30 species of goldenrod into 4 pages – not to mention the 37 species of aster that follow on the next five pages.
Well, have no fear, the New York Flora Association is here. On their blog they offer a few websites that look specifically at goldenrods and asters. However, I missed the memo on changing the family “Aster” to “Symphiotrichum”. I need a degree in plant taxonomy to understand that change!
Having said all this I think it best for you to go out to your favorite sunny trail and just admire, and learn if you’d like, all the wonderful goldenrods and “asters” that joyously demand our attention.
Locally I’ve enjoyed “botanizing” along the very level trail of Bloomingdale Bog (access off Rout 86 in Saranac Lake or Rout 55 near the hamlet of Bloomingdale) where I just found New York “Aster” growing. Another good site for both species is the north end of Adirondac Loj Road outside Lake Placid. Just by walking(carefully) along the road you might find 5-8 species of goldenrod.
On a walk up Cascade Mt last year, we found a few species of goldenrod that will only grow at higher elevations. And while walking over the boardwalk on the Forest Ecology Trail of the Paul Smiths Visitor Center, you will find Bog Goldenrod peaking its yellow head above her fellow bog plants.
Gosh, I’ve run out of time! Looks like next blog I’ll have to talk about the three species of Joe-Pye Weed and 8 species of Sunflower….you gotta love the composites!
Photo Credit: goldenrods among the blueberries-Brian McAllister
Posted on July 20th, 2010 Add a comment >>
In these final days of a very hot and humid July I finally grabbed a day to go photograph some of the amazing orchids at the Paul Smiths VIC.
I was a bit surprised, while walking on the Boreal Life Trail, to only find Northern White Fringed Orchis in bloom. There were a few “past their prime” Rose Pogonias but nothing like what has been observed in summers past.
Sadly, the “Grass Pinks”, or Calapogon, was not to be found like in the profusions of the past. I found one solid flowering specimen(with binoculars).
Having said all this, it should be noted that orchids do not always produce plants year after year. There are some “restful” summers that the plants take to re-energize underground, only to return the following summer to all their splendor.
So here’s some photos of the current white-fringed orchis in bloom, and I’ve added a few other orchids to give you a taste of what Barnum Bog is capable of producing.
click on the plant name to see photo:
Northern White-fringed Orchis -is it me or do the individual flowers look like fat, white ducks flying away?
Northern Club-spur Orchis(Platanthera clavellata) This is an interesting little orchid that only grows about 8″ tall so you have to get down on hands/knees to see this one up close. That is if you can find it. It has a greenish color to the flower so it’s hard to find among the grasses.
Photo Credits: Top photo(Lesser rattlesnake orchis), and all other photos-Brian McAllister
Posted on May 1st, 2010 Add a comment >>
Birders across the Adirondacks await the arrival of warblers, tanagers, buntings, sparrows, thrushes…just to name a few families of birds. But recent weather patterns have allowed for some really good movements of birds over the past 2 nights. Look here. You will see blossoming “blue blobs” all over the eastern states-those are migrating birds flying over radar sights at night.
So, birds are on their way. In fact this morning I saw four species warbler while walking the trails at the Paul Smiths Visitor Center. One that seemed a bit overdue is the Nashville warbler. But there it was singing it’s little heart out along the marsh-just a day or two late.
The going theory is that it seems a bit late for these arrivals but looking over the past weather patterns shows that there was plenty of good south wind blowing birds up into the Gulf of Mexico, from Mexico, but then bad winds and weather in the mid US shut them down, only temporarily.
Birding is a game of patience and patience is what it will take to allow these migratory birds to filter into our Adirondack woods.
Also….a comment here on the horrible oil spill in the Gulf. Most of the bird families mentioned here and many other small migratory birds are fortunate in that they are not affected by the spill, as they migrate at night and are mostly flying over the shorelines along the Gulf. However, the shorebirds(sandpipers, plovers) and wading birds(herons, egrets) along with pelicans, gulls, gannets, ducks, and other seabirds will, without doubt, be harmed by this spill. We can only hope for the best and then put the oiled birds into the hands of caring and helpful rehabilitators.
Photo credit: Savannah Sparrow-Brian McAllister
Posted on February 15th, 2010 4 comments Add a comment >>
Henry David Thoreau put it best in his essay titled A Winter Walk where he says,
“The recent tracks of the fox or otter, in the yard, remind us that each hour of the night is crowded with events, and the primeval nature is still working and making tracks in the snow.”
That certainly was the case this morning as I skied the well-designed trails of The Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center. Not 50 yards from the start of the trail I came across this very clear, and continuous set of prints left behind by a pine marten. It was bounding along the Barnum Brook Trail…
The tracks may look like a snowshoe hare hopping but it’s lacking the smaller front feet of a hare. A marten or fisher has a bounding gate(track pattern) where the hind feet come up and land in the same tracks left by the front feet. This is called a “direct-register” track pattern.
Farther along the trail I see white-tailed deer tracks all over the place. A scattering of red squirrel tracks lead from tree trunk to tree trunk. Then this unusual track scene crosses the ski trail…
Here I find a deep trough(3″-4″ depth) with an alternating, or wattling, foot pattern. So, what made this track was something large bodied but small enough to fit under the branch in the upper part of picture. This was made by a porcupine.
We may still be in winters grip but a few warmer days most likely brought out the porcupine to feed and stretch its legs. They’re not true hibernators and so they’ll come out to feed after laying low during a cold spell or severe winter weather.
I found this next set of tracks interesting because the body of this animal was so light that it did not break through the snow. It recently hopped along the top of the snow and shows the characteristic gallop of hind feet landing just ahead of the front feet.
Although I’m not certain, I would guess that these are the tracks of a mouse(deer or white-footed).
The larger image to the left show the drag marks of a tail. This helps narrow down the options because voles, moles, and shrews tend not leave a tail mark, and they will borrow through snow more often than mice.
The Visitor Center is a great spot to go animal tracking and it’s a whole new slate of tracks each morning. So take the time to look at all those tracks that you might quickly ski or snowshoe over and see if you can figure out what animal made it!
All photos by Brian McAllister