Alan Belford

Recent Blog Posts

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
Replacing My Old Skis After taking a spill earlier this ski season using skinny, in-track skis on soft trail snow, I decided I needed to upgrade my trail skis for something different. My old Karhus were woefully shot, which was why I was using the skinny skis in the first place. And so, a few weeks ago, I started looking around at area ski retailers and online to determine what I wanted to purchase. I already knew I liked the concept behind the design of the Fischer off-track series of skis, but I wanted to check out everything to help make a more informed choice. After a few phone calls... 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
            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
            I’ve seen three North American (also called Northern) River Otters a few times recently when I’ve walked Wren at Lake Colby in Saranac Lake.  The otters have been quite curious and yet wary of us and Wren has been intrigued watching them (partly because the one was making snorting noises) as they came to the surface, popping their heads out to look at us and then dived beneath the water again.             Generally when a few otters are found together it is a mother with her pups, in this case fully grow pups.  The pups stay with the mother until the following spring when she’ll... continue reading
            The discovery of a rare bird has a way of mobilizing and motivating birders to travel.  How far they will travel generally depends on the bird’s rarity in the region and the likelihood of finding it.  Some good birds are found briefly for one day and never seen in the area again making them less worth the effort.  But the draw of potentially finding a rare bird is strong for many birders – even if the odds of rediscovering it are low.  After all, it is always exciting and fun to find a species which is uncommon in a given area – or more thrilling yet, a species that a birder has... continue reading
            At this time of year as temperatures drop and winter is coming, wild animals are preparing for the cold.  Most of our bird species migrate out of the region.  Bird species that stay as well as mammals that remain eat a tremendous amount of food to build fat reserves.  Many of our mammals drop their metabolism as a means of saving energy and sleep through much of the winter.  Others are active all winter, and a few of them go through a transformation in color to help afford them better camouflage.             Both snowshoe hares and short-tailed weasels change their pelage (the... continue reading
            For a long time, the weather in our region lingered in September even beyond the calendar, with warm, sunny days dominating the forecast.  For that matter I swam in Lake Colby in Saranac Lake through the first week of October.  But the warm trend changed swiftly as cold fronts finally began to deliver their stored up Canadian chill and it didn’t take long for the region to feel like November.  Winds stripped the remaining leaves from the trees and scattered them across the ground.  And morning after morning has been marked by frost and touches of snow, and even though a brief... continue reading


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