Monday, November 16, 2009

Leonid meteor showers this week.

If you're willing to get up around 4AM this coming Tuesday....have a look toward the western skies and you'll see a wonderful showing of meteors (weather permitting) known as the Leonids! This particular shower is called this because the meteors see to originate near the constellation Leo.

This is Leo:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Environmental Literacy Roundtable

Are you familiar with the No Child Left Inside legislation in New York?
Many environmental educators, teachers, and outdoor enthusiasts are discussing a legislation that should be implemented into schools to get students connected to nature.
On Saturday, 14 November, 9:30am-12noon, like-minded educators and general public will gather at the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center in Paul Smiths, NY to discuss the growing issue of environmental literacy.
So come and be an active participant in the development of a state-wide Environmental Literacy plan that will be innovative and bring new ideas to the current education system.
Contact Milt Adams
Environmental Educator-Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center
for more details

Paul Smiths College Lecture- Friday

Paul Smiths College is presenting their final lecture, Fertility of Neotropical Migrants looking specifically at Swainson's Warbler, of the Fisheries and Wildlife Seminar Series this Friday, 6 Nov, at 10:10AM:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Henry's Woods in Lake Placid

Walking along the "new" trail known as Henry's Woods Trail off Bear Cub Rd in Lake Placid, I felt somewhat a kin to another Henry...Henry D. Thoreau. Not 10 minutes away from the bustling village of Lake Placid is a wonderful 2.5 mile trail(looped) that cuts through the typical "beech, birch, maple forest" of this region. Careful observation will also find black cherry, hemlock, fir, red spruce, and plenty of white pine growing among this forest family.

After walking it in the rain one day earlier this spring I could not quite get the superficial inventory that I found myself taking today as I walked in the mid-autumn silence. What first struck me was the number of different mosses I could find growing along the trail and on the nearby tree trunks and logs. Then the fern species, though not too numerous, could prove fun to watch unfurling in the spring. As a dominant beech, birch, maple forest this area should provide some great spring wildflower watching come May/June. I believe found a healthy population of an endangered plant species along the trail.

I can also envision a few species of salamanders slowly working their way around the forest floor. With a frequently crossed stream(probably ephemeral) I will hope to find a few Northern two-lined salamanders on a springtime walk.

As is usually the case with me, it's the birds that draw most of my attention. Judging by the diversity of tree species and a full, healthy looking canopy, my guess is this will be a good place to bird for spring migrants. I found 2 pileated woodpeckers exploring a dead maple about midway through the 2.5 mile loop.

As fall flows into winter up here I look forward to many ski runs along this trail and I'll bet the animal tracking along Henry' trail will be exciting.

So to all the visionaries, designers, and laborers that brought this trail into being....I thank you. I can see many of our natural history buffs will enjoy this wander through a really nice Adirondack forest, near home.

For a bit more info on the trail and it's short history check out this link:

Friday, October 23, 2009

NY DEC adds "New York Nature Explorer" to web

Our New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation has put together a wonderful online tool that can help you as you research the natural world of NY. Based on the many completed "Atlas" projects(Birds, Herps, Flora), this tool can help you find flora and fauna in: your town, county, natural area, as well as find natural communities, and also look up specific species.
Go to this website:
and click on the "launch NY Nature Explorer" and it will give you clear instructions on how to use it. This is great for any biodiversity research being done out there.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Adirondack Field Naturalist trip reminder

AFN will be holding a field trip to Point au Roche State Park:
and other birding hotspots in northeast Clinton County, this coming Sunday, 25 Oct. Meeting spot/time is 9AM at Northway(Rt 87)- Exit 40 off ramp(in gas station parking lot, just east on Spellman Rd)
Bring food, bino's, dress appropriately. Plan for 5-6 hours. Carpool if you can!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Millions of Birds on the Move!

Thanks to clear skies and calm or very slight WNW winds, there is a massive southerly movement of birds tonight in the Adirondacks, and indeed throughout much of the eastern half of the country. The image below shows the U.S. Radar Mosaic (from at 8:38 this evening. Here are close-ups the the radar loops out of Colchester, Vermont from and Ft. Drum, NY from
The "starburst" or "donut" of blue and green colors surrounding the radar sites are typical of birds, as opposed to weather. To confirm that these are birds, one can click on the radar image to obtain a velocity image as seen here:and here:

Things are moving from the N and NW (represented by the blues and greens - objects approaching the radar) to the S and SE (represented by yellows and oranges - objects moving away from the radar). This is the expected direction of migrants on a night with calm or northerly winds at this time of year. (Also, the colors on the radar images only appeared after dark, when most birds are migrating.) Therefore, we can conclude that the colors appearing on the radar are mostly, if not all, birds. Step outside in an otherwise quiet area on a night such as tonight and you will surely hear birds passing overhead. See Brian McAllister's August 21 post on the subject of identifying nocturnal migrants by their flight calls :

For more detailed primers on birds and radar see Derek Lovitch's blog at, David La Puma's Woodcreeper site at (and especially, and this Clemson University site:

Friday, October 9, 2009

Adirondack Field Naturalist Oct/Nov calendar

American kestral

Here is the Oct/Nov calendar of AFN events:


Sunday, 25 Oct. Chazy Riverlands and Northeastern Clinton County....for hawks, waterfowl, and whatever else flies by! Meet 9AM @ gas station parking lot on Spellman Rd(east) 50 yards on right after exiting at Exit 40. Plan 5-6 hours


Monday, 2 Nov Full Moon Owl Walk at Paul Smiths VIC- Meet in PS VIC parking lot @ 7:30PM. Dress warmly. Plan 1-2 hours.

Saturday, 14 Nov "Magic Triangle" and Champlain Valley....for hawks, winter finches??, waterfowl, gulls, and more. Meet at the Westport Boat Launch parking lot @ 9AM. Plan on 4-5 hours

Also....the snow geese have begun their southward migrations and can be found around the Lake Champlain Valley at several dependable spots: Point au Roche State Park, in northeast Clinton County, and Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area, over in West Addison, Addison County, Vermont. Check these areas out during Oct and into Nov!

We're also entering into the time when golden eagles begin their migration south from their breeding grounds in northeastern Canada. Look for a large, dark raptor that may have a black band on its tail and two large white spots on the undersides of their outstretched wings, and golden nape (these are immature goldens). Adults overall will look very dark with a lighter brown (or golden) coloring on the back of the head (nape). This bird flies with a slight "v" shape in their wings...similar to a turkey vulture.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Adirondack Field Naturalists- field trip

Adk Field Naturalist(AFN) will be going to Upper/Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area (WMA):
this coming Sunday, 4 Oct. We will meet at Indian Creek Nature Center in Canton @ 9AM. From there we will explore the WMA trails, and wetlands. Bring food, field guides, bino's, and sturdy walking shoes.

If you are interested in joining AFN(free and open to the public)...please drop an email to Brian (

"Adirondack Field Naturalists"

Purpose 1: To promote the investigation, education,
and appreciation of the natural world that lies within
the Adirondack Region of Upstate New York.

Purpose 2: Through planned field trips, workshops, and
lectures, supporting members can study all aspects of
the natural heritage of the Adirondack Region as well
as promote the conservation of these wild areas.

AFN workshops/field trips focus on many aspects of natural history field studies within the Adirondack region.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fisheries and Wildlife Seminar Series

If you're looking for something to do this coming Friday, 2 Oct at 10:10AM head out to Paul Smiths College to attend the second in a series of 3 lectures given to PSC students and local community:

This is a great lecture series but on by the Fisheries and Wildlife Dept. at Paul Smiths College.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Adirondack Nightime Sky

With the many cloudless evenings we've encountered this late summer season I find my eyes always being drawn to the "misty" Milky Way that seems to flow through the star-filled skies of the Adirondacks.
Here's a fact-filled website to start you off on your search of our little spot in the Universe:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fungus - what's in a name....

.....let's just admire the varied forms they come in!

Photos by Brian McAllister

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Visiting Roadside Ditches

There's something to be said about visiting roadside ditches. These microhabitats can surprise you with what they hold.

For instance, one day last year I discovered Smaller Purple Fringed Orchids (Habenaria psycodes) blooming in the ditch next to the rescue squad. This year they were back.

This summer a friend told me to keep watch for Spiranthes , another orchid, in the same location, for they both like similar conditions. And lo! and behold, there they were: Nodding Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes cernua).

I decided to see what else might be blooming there, and was shocked and surprised to find a lone White Turtlehead (Chelone glabra).

A small dragonfly (a White-faced Meadowhawk, Sympetrum obtrusum) flitted about as well, keeping me company and graciously posing for a picture.

As an added bonus, you can help the ditch by picking up the trash which is also a frequent find.

Selecting a roadside ditch to explore is fairly easy, the only requirements I would make would be ease of access and, of course, safety. I think I'd avoid ditches along the Northway, but any ditch on a side road, or even along your street, might prove to contain all sorts of hidden treasures. Dress appropriately (long pants and boots, the latter preferably water-proof), bring a couple field guides, a hand lens, and a camera. Then carefully stalk your way through the vegetation, looking for the small things that usually escape our notice. Who might just find some rare and endangered specimen!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"Bats in Free Fall"

The title to this post, borrowed from an article in the current (September-October) issue of the Adirondack Explorer, reflects the fact that some of the heretofore commonest species of bats are in catastrophic decline in the Northeast. As reported recently by NCPR's Brian Mann who spoke with DEC biologist and bat guru Al Hicks at the annual meeting of the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Adirondack Land Trust, the decline of bats is accelerating in the Northeast and is rapidly spreading south and west. At the largest counted hibernaculum of Little Brown Bats (Myotis lucifugus) in the world, an abandoned graphite mine protected by The Nature Conservancy near Lake George, only 3,000 or so Little Brown Bats remain out of an estimated wintering population of over 200,000 bats.

Our home in Lake Placid has hosted a summer colony of Little Brown Bats for many years and as recently as three summers ago we counted over 200 bats leaving their roosts (under the eaves and in two bat houses) in the late evening. This summer we have not seen more then 2 bats emerge, a 99% decline similar to that reported by Al for the graphite mine hibernaculum. (Anyone who has data on the numbers of bats roosting in their home or other buildings is urged to report their data to the US Fish & Wildlife Service's office in Concord, NH.)

The most likely culprit appears to be a white fungus, recently described and aptly named Geomyces destructans, which appears on the nose, ears, and wing and tail membranes of infected bats. The fungus causes swelling and scaring and may cause the bats to arouse prematurely (and fatally) from hibernation and attempt to forage for food long before food is available and in freezing temperatures to which bats are not adapted. There is speculation that the fungus was brought here from Europe where bats infected with the same or a similar fungus exist in much lower numbers and density compared to bats in North America.

After its initial detection in the Albany area just three years ago, white-nose syndrome has appeared in bats from Maine to southwestern Virginia. Bats routinely travel long distances and there appears to be no way to stop or even slow the spread of this bat-killing pathogen, although scientists are desperately trying to do so. Bats play critical ecological roles in insect control, plant pollination, and seed dissemination. The potential catastrophic decline of North American bat populations would have serious ecological consequences, and the possible loss of entire species would be irreparable.

For an exerpt of Brian Mann's interview with Al Hicks, part of NCPR's continuing coverage of this unfolding tragedy, see Also see The US Fish and Wildlife Service white-nose syndrome web site at

Caterpillar look-alike

I noticed recently that several of the dogwoods (Cornus sp.) in our Lake Placid yard had become almost completely defoliated in the past two weeks.
Close examination revealed many caterpillar-like larvae curled up on the undersides of some of the remaining leaves.
These are the larvae of the native Dogwood Sawfly (Macremphytus tarsatus). The Dogwood Sawfly is neither a moth nor a fly, but a member of the order Hymenoptera (wasps, bees, ants, and sawflies). The wasp-like adult sawfly lays eggs that hatch into larvae, the first instar of which is an almost translucent yellow.
The second instar appears to be covered with a chalky powder.
The last instar is creamy yellow with a shiny black head and black spots along the sides.When fully grown, the larvae cease to feed and overwinter in rotting wood in the ground. The larvae pupate in the spring and the adults emerge in the summer to mate and lay eggs on the undersides of dogwood leaves.

Despite the loss of leaves, defoliated dogwood bushes don't die as the defoliation occurs so late in the growing season. However, not wanting to lose the leaves on our remaining three ornamental dogwoods, I lightly sprayed the larvae on them with an insect killing soap (organic solution of seaweed extract containing potassium salts). ;(

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Field Naturalists go exploring

Today, under the parting of heavy clouds that revealed a few hints of blue sky, the Adirondack Field Naturalists group met for a perfectly sublime paddling trip along Hoel Pond and on to the connecting ponds known as Turtle and Slang. From a near placid Hoel Pond we observed a common loon with young. As we entered into Turtle Pond the echoing of another pair of common loon calling out a warning seemed to bounce off the towering white pines. We regrouped and began a "botany paddle" along the pond's shoreline. Species such as Pitcher pant, sundew, marsh skullcap, pipewort, a couple species of bur-reed(Sparganium), Northern bugleweed(Lycopus uniflorus), and several other aquatic plants grab our attention as we lazily paddled along.

This Purple bladderwort (Utricularia purpurea) caught my eye just before we entered into the the shallow channel that connects us into Slang Pond:

After a quick nibble of food one of the crew spots a Double-crested cormorant(immature) hanging out on the shore...watching the canoe traffic go by.
With a cooling breeze blowing down from the north and darkening skies we reverse our course and head back to the cars. But right, you guessed it...the rain caught us in mid-paddle. Fortunately we could rest and find shelter inside the concrete "tunnel" spillway that connects Hoel Pond to Turtle Pond. After a few minutes wait we venture back out and the gods shine down on us and temporarily clear the skies.
8 participants...still drying out...all are now recounting the few great hours we spent together birding, botanizing, dodging the rain, and learning more about what's out in these Adirondack wilds.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A new way to birdwatch(or listen)

So, with the advent of field guides we turned our attention to the finer points of bird identification. Focusing on wingbars, eyelines, eye rings, belly bands,...etc. Many decades later we turn to the computer for assistance. Now with technology at an all-time high we look and listen night!

Across North America (and our glorious Adirondacks) birders this fall are training(and straining!) their ears to pick out the softest and highest of bird call notes that are given while birds are in full migration flying overhead...somewhere around 11PM to the early morning hours (4-6AM) the next day. Yes..correct...many birds migrate south at night(less bad weather, no predators to eat them, and hopefully good north winds to push them southward). We listen for "zips", "tsips", and "seets"!
I recently found a chat group:
that discusses the finer details of Nocturnal Flight Calls. They've taken birding to another whole different level of bird identification. Many will listen and call out bird names based on these flight calls(warblers, sparrows, finches,...etc), because they all give out a different sound. Some "nocturnalists" even have recording equipment that is pointed directly skyward to pick up the flight calls and then they analyze the calls on computers to identify the species...amazing!
Here in our Adirondack backyards we can hear the same calls. Just before bedtime head outside some clear, cool night or for the early risers...crack-o-dawn, and listen for those gentle buzzes, seeps, and tsips. No doubt you'll be hearing thrushes, warblers, sparrows, sandpipers...and the occasional snore from the neighbors, all winging their way south through the clear star-filled autumnal sky....except your neighbor.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Name that bug!

What has six legs, a blue body with a yellow band, and likes to climb Adirondack slides?

I don't know either.

Susan Bibeau took the photo of the insect on the right while climbing the slide on Kilburn Mountain in the Sentinel Range a few weeks ago. Ever since, we've been wondering what it is.

Anybody have any ideas?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The first stage of bird migration

The human calendar recently turned over to one last month of summer but the "calendar" that most birds follow is telling them something different. Although our Adirondack summer has been soggy at best we're now enjoying a warmer and drier August. The birds filtering through the Adirondack woodlands these days are sensing another need. Last night I heard a distant series of call notes from a shorebird(sandpiper-like birds) and many warblers passing overhead on a southward journey.
It's migration time for birds.
There are stirrings, feelings of necessity in the bird world. After a recent gentle rain I found the feeding activity had cranked up a notch in the surrounding trees where I live. Young birds are practicing their feeding skills on whatever caterpillar, moth, or spider they can find on the leaves. The adult birds are fending for themselves. This morning the bustling birds are still in a feeding frenzy.
All this to fatten-up!
The summer birds of the Adirondacks are just that...summer residents breeding in our forests, wetlands, and fields. Our plans to escape a winter involve the dependence on technology and money. Birds require the physical abilities that they've mastered for million of years....flight. But to fuel this flight fat is important. So over the next two months keep an eye out for the feverishly feeding warblers, sparrows, finches, and all the other migratory birds that are passing through the Adirondacks on the first stage of their "migratory tour de force".
-Brian McAllister

Monday, August 17, 2009

New Blog

Our intent in starting this blog is to communicate, through words and photographs, current and upcoming natural history and astronomical events and sightings that come to our attention and interest. We intend to complement and not duplicate other natural history outlets such as Northern NY Birds ( and Adirondack Almanac ( This blog will mostly feature events and sightings applicable to the northern Adirondacks.