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 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 January 5th, 2011 Add a comment >>
Hard to pass up a sunny…well partly sunny, day in the Adirondacks. With the recent announcement of the Paul Smiths VIC now officially under the ownership of Paul Smiths College, I thought it worthwhile to get out for a ski.
Many of the trails are still in the good shape that they’ve have always been, however one should avoid and heed the “trail closed signs” when skiing up into the Esker Ski Trail from the Silviculture Trail.
Currently white-tailed deer are feeding on many of the downed/fallen branches that remain behind from the timber harvesting. Some beech and maple bud tips are a welcomed food source.
Skiing the Jenkins Mountain Road I found several good animal tracks to examine and follow for awhile. This Ruffed Grouse set of prints tells us that the warmer temperatures have allowed grouse to feed in comfort rather burrowing down into loose snow to wait out another snowstorm.
Likewise, the coyotes are traveling through the woods. These prints were observed crossing the ski trail. If you look carefully at a canine(dog) print you will see a “X” in the middle of the oval print which results when the toe and heel pads press into the snow leaving behind a raised “X” between all pads. The feline family(cats) have a more circular shape to the print and lack a central “X” mark. Feline toes tend to be more forward in the print.
I hope the public continues to visit the “VIC” and if you do take the time to look at your surroundings. Find some animal tracks to follow and see if you can reveal the story they leave behind. Sit patiently and watch the woodpeckers pecking for food along the tree trunks and branches, or watch the acrobatic chickadees hang upside down along a branch as they look for spider eggs or insects.
The property is under new ownership(and stewardship) but the wildlife that survive there day to day probably won’t take notice of the new “landlords”, and for the rest of us….let’s not forget that we are also just visitors into their realm.
Photo Credits: Jenkins Mt Road ski trail(and all other photos)-Brian McAllister.
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 August 2nd, 2010 Add a comment >>
Shorebirds(by that I mean the family of birds made up of sandpipers, plovers, and related species) are slowly winging their way south from that magical region in Canada known as the tundra. Having arrived there in mid to late May, shorebirds quickly take advantage of the sun-warmed tundra surface to breed.
It’s not always that welcoming in the tundra with the occasional late spring snowstorm that arrives or the lingering snow-pac and ice still clinging to the shorelines of many tundra lakes and ponds. But a breeding pair usually find a soft, protected spot of tundra ground to hollow-out and call home.
The shorebirds endure the often chilly days and nights and eventually produce eggs and successfully brood/hatch 2 to 3 young on average, during June and early July. Again, the dangers of tundra living await the young in the forms of predatory falcons, jaegers, fox, and the fearless gulls that come looking for an easy meal.
Once reaching fully-fledged status, the young are on their own(can fly after about 20 days). In the paradoxical world of idyllic settings of nature, we find many bird species (after a few quick lessons in feeding) leaving their young to fend for themselves.
Shorebird females are usually the first to leave the breeding grounds, then the males, followed by the “hatch-year” young a couple weeks later. All eventually “regroup” on the wintering grounds of coastal South America(Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil)
OK, but how do the Adirondacks enter into this amazing migration pattern? Well, we are not on a huge flyway for shorebird migration but we do get few winging their way over the Eastern Adirondacks, specifically along the Lake Champlain Valley.
On this map you can find Hudson Bay, and it’s smaller “tongue” of James Bay, directly north of the Great Lakes. Many shorebirds nest along the shorelines of these bays and nearby tundra. During the “fall” migration south(from late July to late September) many species of shorebird use a direct flight path from James Bay south through Ontario and Quebec, and are often funneled down through the Champlain Valley, eventually reaching the Hudson Valley and out to the Atlantic Ocean. Once on the ocean, most shorebirds make a bee-line for S. America!
Where should I look for shorebirds? In the agricultural fields of eastern Clinton and Essex Co’s., and over in Addison Co., VT, take a look at newly-plowed fields. It gets even better if there is standing water along the rows of the fields. This draws out the insects from the mud and reveals a good food source for the shorebirds.
One notable migration stop-over site is Noblewood Park, in Willsboro, NY. Slowly walk out onto the sand spit that builds-up at the mouth of the Boquet River. In mid August to late September, look carefully for some shorebirds and gulls sitting along the sand-spit.
Just watching one sandpiper feeding along the shore allows you a glimpse into the monumental journey that these bird make twice a year from Canadian tundra to the warm beaches of a South American winter.
Photo credit: Semipalmated sandpiper – Wikipedia photo