Natural History

  It's a special time of year in the Adirondacks. Maple time. It's only in a small slice of North America, in early spring, that you can experience the sights, scents, and tastes of real maple syrup as it goes from tree to pancake. The specific climate of chilly nights and sunny warm days gets the sap running: both for the sugar maples, and the people. That is one of the appeals of our annual Maple Weekends, which are the second and third weekends of March.  Sugarhouse steam Come smell the intoxicating sugary steam from the boiler vat in the sugarhouse. It scents the air nearby, but the... continue reading
 
A year of Great Gray Owls The irruptive movement of Great Gray Owls has been an enormous cause for excitement this winter in the Adirondacks and North Country. It is the year in the multi-year cycle in which they might move south, and I began monitoring the owls weeks ago as I watched reports in Canada of them coming closer and closer to our border. The birds have been in northern Franklin County and at Robert Moses State Park in Massena for over a month, attracting many, many people to go see them. Over that time I’ve been in several conversations about other possible locations to find the... continue reading
 
The best way to face your fears is to confront them, and that’s what my friend Jess did during our visit to Experience ADK Outdoors, a new zip line course at Cascade Ski Center. The ropes Bill “Big Wheels” Walton and Emory “Swamp Donkey” Clark, were our guides during the adventure. Before heading into the treetops, they helped us get our harnesses on and explained the braking system to us. It’s basically just a pair of work gloves, one of which fits into a leather sleeve to serve as your brake hand. To control your speed, simply press the palm of your brake hand down onto the line and you’... continue reading
 
A hike to the summit of an Adirondack High Peak is like walking back in time. Algonquin, the Adirondacks' second-highest mountain, is an ideal place to see this living museum first-hand. Starting at the Adirondak Loj, the trail begins with an easy stroll through a beautiful forest of mixed evergreens and hardwoods. Things are pleasant and calm down here, but as the path gains elevation the grade steepens and everything changes. Shortly after bearing right at a trail junction — left goes to Marcy Dam — you'll cross a stream and enter a forest that mostly consists of white birch. A sure... continue reading
 
Birding in Placid! Summer in the Lake Placid Region is a wonderful time of year. And birding at the Intervale Lowlands Preserve in Lake Placid is one of the best ways to enjoy it. With long days and lots of singing birds, it is easy to tally up a great list of warblers and other species. Even better for me is that doing so is part of my job. As one of the many hats I wear, I conduct a variety of field research and I am fortunate enough to conduct some of it at Intervale. As a result I’ve been there looking for birds a few times of late. Each time I go to Intervale is a bit different than... continue reading
 
When you think of the Adirondacks, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Hiking? Mosquitos? Lake Placid? 6.1 Million Acres of Fun? For me, it’s none of these - not the first thing anyway. I think of Newcomb when my mind wanders off to the good ol’ Adirondacks. This town is very close to my heart. My family has owned a camp there for over ten years and before that we parked our pop-up camper at Lake Harris Campground, always hoping to snag “The Point,” the best campsite around, but we never seemed to get it. There’s always something to do in the Town of Newcomb and the people... continue reading
 
Embedded thumbnail for Lake Tear of the Clouds - Source of the Hudson River
“Far above the chilly waters of Lake Avalanche at an elevation of 4,293 feet lies summit water, a minute, unpretending, tear of the clouds — as it were — a lovely pool shivering in the breezes of the mountains and sending its limpid surplus through Feldspar Brook to the Opalescent River, the well-spring of the Hudson.” - written by Verplanck Colvin, 1872, while surveying the Adirondack Mountains.  Highest Source of the Hudson The highest water source that feeds the mighty Hudson River is Lake Tear of the Clouds, located 1,000 feet below the summit of Mount Marcy, the highest point in New... continue reading
 
            This past weekend was not a favorite for skiers and snowshoers in our region.  In fact, as I sat in my living room, I swear I could hear my cross country skis whimpering softly as they stood by the door.  Unfortunately our forecasted wintry mix proved to initially be mostly rain and it made a mess of our snow.  And then the ice arrived, making Ice, Ice, Baby a more appropriate Christmas Carol than White Christmas.             For folks like me the rain and ice make for poor skiing conditions, although Wren and I enjoyed a nice ski on Friday – our first rainy day – before too much... continue reading
 
            What started as a few scattered early reports of Snowy Owls turned into a flood of owls seemingly overnight.  While Snowys are not uncommonly found in places in the northeast during the winter, this year they are staging an invasion.                         A friend and I went birding north of Plattsburgh a few weeks ago looking for Snowy Owls at the beginning of the movement.  We found none, but that day a Snowy was found on the Vermont side of Lake Champlain.  Two days later someone found a Snowy near Chazy, but the owl was gone the following day.  Two more owls were found in... continue reading
 
Winter Bird Watching  I had a few guests in town this Thanksgiving holiday and I took them to see the Gray Jays along the north end of the Bloomingdale Bog Trail.  It is the best place to find Gray Jays in the Adirondacks and the region.  It was a cold day and the trail was quiet as we walked south toward the power lines where the jays are usually found. As we approached the makeshift feeder which folks have constructed there, we saw a lot of bird activity.  Black-capped Chickadees and Blue Jays buzzed to and from the feeder into which someone had poured some sunflower seeds.  As we walked... continue reading
 

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