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 January 21st, 2011 1 comment - Add a comment >>
If you are a birdwatcher then you have probably felt the angst when a fellow birder spots a bright red scarlet tanager tells you to look in the red oak tree….”And which tree is that?” you nervously ask.
Well now you can answer yourself, confidently, after you’ve looked over the pages of The Sibley Guide To Trees by David A. Sibley…yes the same author of The Sibley Guide To Birds
Here is a great interview from the Boston Globe where Sibley describes his latest field guide.
We, in the Adirondacks, have a slight “learn-your-trees-advantage” over someone in, let’s say Great Smokey Mountains National Park where 130 species of trees can be found. We can get by on learning our 35-45 species of trees which are found throughout the High Peaks and surrounding regions.
Take the guess-work out of tree identification and learn what to look for in our forests.