Natural History

The Saranac Chain of Lakes packs a lot of special Adirondack fun into six lakes and two ponds. Launch from the town boat dock on Lake Flower and watch the Victorian homes and small family camps fade into the mostly uninhabited Oseetah Lake. Paddlers here will find plenty of options for exploration. Follow the western shore of Oseetah to discover a river that leads to Kiwassa Lake, or... [Read More]
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Author:Pamela Merritt
Categories:Natural History, Outdoor Recreation
A beautiful morning It was a sunny and warming morning when Wren, my dog, and I set off along the Bloomingdale Bog Trail to do some birding. We had walked the north end of the trail off Route 55 in Bloomingdale the previous week to check out the Gray Jays, but on this day we were hiking from the south entrance off Route 86 north of Saranac Lake. Wren and I often walk there, but my plan on this... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Birding, Dog Friendly, Fall, Hiking, Natural History, Outdoor Recreation, Spring, Summer, Wildlife
Submitted by guest writer Carol L. Douglas It’s the wilderness that draws us, so we draw the wilderness. I’ve painted in tough locations, including on the deck of an ocean-going schooner, in the desert, and above the Arctic Circle. Yet there is no place more exciting or challenging for the plein air painter than New York’s Adirondacks. The landscape dares the painter to leave his car and... [Read More]
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Author:Anonymous
Categories:Arts, Natural History, Summer
Rainy day fun Rainy weather didn’t stop us from having fun in the woods when I helped out with a Lake Placid Middle School field trip at the Paul Smith’s College VIC. Thankfully the steady rain abated early in the day and we were left with mostly damp and misty conditions. Students alternated between stations to look at stream invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians, and... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Birding, Dog Friendly, Family fun, Hiking, Natural History, Outdoor Recreation, Spring, Summer, Wildlife
Adirondack hiking is rightly famous for its millions of acres of rugged wilderness. Isn't hiking about getting out into nature? Isn't "luxury hiking" a contradiction in terms? Not when we are hiking at the Paul Smith's Visitor Interpretive Center, a short drive from Saranac Lake. It's hiking in ways the whole family can appreciate. Known locally as "the VIC," this project was developed in... [Read More]
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Author:Pamela Merritt
Categories:Arts, Birding, Dog Friendly, Fall, Family fun, foliage, Hiking, Natural History, Outdoor Recreation
A Chilly Start to Spring While winter held off the arrival of spring this year with both hands, warm weather is finally coming on in full force – and birds are coming with it. After all, even with the chilly weather we’ve had this spring, birds have been on the move – with ducks like Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead, Lesser Scaup, and both Hooded and Common Mergansers on Lake Flower... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Birding, Events, Family fun, Natural History, Outdoor Recreation, Paddling, Spring, Summer, Wildlife
Chilly Spring Weather While it may not have been welcomed by many folks, my skis and I were happy about the chilly weather we had for much of March and April. I was out skiing and enjoying the snow as much as I could. But, when the weather turned warmer and finished off the cross-country skiing season, it ushered in spring birding and I happily set aside my skis for my... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Birding, Hiking, Natural History, Outdoor Recreation, Spring, Wildlife, winter
Turns out, maple syrup has a connection with Mark Twain. At least it does now. Mark Twain Mapleworks is a sugarhouse on the shores of Ampersand Bay on Lower Saranac, part of the same complex where Mark Twain stayed for the summer of 1901. It's utterly appropriate, as it turns out. A list of "Mark Twain's Favorite Foods" reads: maple syrup, cranberries, raccoon, garden produce, canvasback... [Read More]
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Author:Pamela Merritt
Categories:Family fun, Heritage, Natural History, Spring
Monitoring the snow depth The beginning of ski season is often a game of figuring out how much snow depth we have and how much snow coverage is needed to explore certain trails. So early season skis tend to be on open trails and fields which catch more snowfall – unless the wind is pushing it off. With the depth of our snow increasing of late and with the storm late last week, Wren (my four... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Cross Country Skiing, Dog Friendly, Family fun, Natural History, Outdoor Recreation, Skiing, Wildlife, winter
Winter is Finally Here! It took a long time to show up this year with our crazy warm fall, but winter weather has finally started to arrive in the northern Adirondacks. Our recent wet weather aside, little by little we’ve built up some snow as evidenced by my regular need to shovel. It all makes Wren, my four-legged companion, excited as she plays with her tennis ball in the snow... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Dog Friendly, Family fun, Natural History, Outdoor Recreation, Skiing, Wildlife, winter
Submitted by Guest Blogger: Kathy Barlow Ten Reasons to be grateful in and around Saranac Lake This year, after a rainy (and cool) spring and summer, autumn gave birth to warm days, cool nights, and a festival of colors in the mountains. The extended good weather gave us more opportunities to take advantage of all our area has to offer. Now, as the days are getting shorter and the stars... [Read More]
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Author:Guest Blogger
Categories:Heritage, Natural History, Outdoor Recreation, Wellness
A Quick Hike If time to fit in a hike is short, then Mount Baker is always a good bet. After all, it is only about a mile to the summit, and it offers a rewarding view for the effort. And so, with a few friends in town in search of an easy hike, Baker was our choice. Colors and Birds Wren led us up the trail, through a golden beech forest on the backside of the mountain.... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Birding, Dog Friendly, Fall, foliage, Hiking, Natural History, Outdoor Recreation, Saranac Lake 6er, Spring, Summer, Wildlife
It’s that time of year It sometimes takes a bit to get going, but the fall migration in the Adirondacks has been underway for a while, and it has been a lot of fun as of late. Our drippy weather the past few weeks has helped as well — the birds often actively feed down low on such days and are not being flushed south by strong north winds. Walking along Lake Colby A little over... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Birding, Fall, Hiking, Natural History, Outdoor Recreation, Summer, Wildlife
A changing landscape Spring is an amazing time of transition in the Saranac Lake Region of the Adirondacks. For the past few weeks Wren and I have been exploring it on our daily – and often twice daily – walks, monitoring the changes as they’ve been happening. Even as the woods remained filled with snow, the indications of spring were everywhere. Here are a few highlights of our... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Birding, Dog Friendly, Family fun, Natural History, Outdoor Recreation, Spring, Wildlife, winter
Deep SnowIt's spring and the Adirondacks are, predictably, unpredictable. Recently we've had a few amazing snow falls alternating with warm spring days. There's no guarantee how long the snow will last, or if another storm will grace us before the warm weather firmly settles in the mountains. For now, I'll take advantage of the snow that's still here, and although not the popular vote - I wouldn'... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:winter, Wildlife, Skiing, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Dog Friendly, Cross Country Skiing
Deep SnowSnow had been falling here seemingly every day for a few weeks, punctuated by a few big storms which rapidly increased its measure in the woods. With each day, Wren and I had been taking full advantage of the bounty, going on snow-filled walks and practicing our animal tracking skills, while I attempted photos of snowy landscapes.Last week we tried to combine those activities when we set... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:winter, Wildlife, Skiing, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Dog Friendly, Cross Country Skiing
Birds on the MindWhile a certain bird was on the minds of most people last month with the Thanksgiving holiday, Wren and I were out each day trying our luck to see what other birds we could find. With the recent cold front bringing snow and north winds, I was hoping it would reverse our fortunes of the previous week when warm air from the south stopped many things – particularly waterfowl - from... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:winter, Wildlife, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Fall, Birding
A Shifting Mix of DucksAs always this time of year, the birds Wren and I see on our walks change daily, and it is always enjoyable to see what we will find. That means I have to get out as much as I can and Wren is good about not allowing me to forget to do so. Lake Colby is always a happening place this time of year, and once again it has not disappointed us this year. Ducks use the backside of... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:winter, Wildlife, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Fall, Birding
Warm Fall DaysSoaking everything we could out of our recent warm days, Wren and I paddled Lake Clear Outlet the other evening. The sun shined through the glowing trees as we wound our way along Forest Home Road to the small put-in on the side of the road. Forest Home is one of those windy, forest-lined roads everyone should drive in fall. Wren sat in the car while I unloaded the gear and we set... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Wildlife, Paddling, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, foliage, Fall, Dog Friendly, Birding
An Exciting Time of YearMy busy schedule doesn’t always allow me to get outside as often or for as long as I’d like. But I crave my daily walks in the woods and Wren makes certain I don’t leave them off my to-do list. That’s fine by me because it not only gets me outside, but outside with my binoculars at a time of year when many species of birds are on the move. The great thing about fall is... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Wildlife, Summer, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Fall, Birding
Saranac Lake has a unique attraction which is readily accessible for almost everyone. It's like a village. Made of boulders.The McKenzie Pond Boulder Trail is just a few minutes from town, but has so much to offer. Whether we are looking for a quick and scenic hike or we are brushing up on our rock climbing skills, this easy trail, which is also easily accessible, is a delightful destination.It... [Read More]
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Author:Pamela Merritt
Categories:Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Hiking, Family fun
Hunting for a Tough SpeciesA friend of mine contacted me about the potential of finding Philadelphia Vireo in the Spring Pond Bog area north of Tupper Lake (and west of Lake Clear and the Floodwood Road area). He had thought he heard one and wanted me to come along some time to help him find it. I was able to join him a couple weeks later and we wound through the large complex toward the location... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Wildlife, Summer, Spring, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Birding
Rain, Rain, Rain…And More RainNot every day of the Great Adirondack Birding Celebration was as perfect as the Osgood River paddle on Saturday. But, looking back on that fun weekend, we'd do it all over again.Sunday’s weather was the complete opposite of the beautiful day before. In fact, I had noted the thin wispy cirrus clouds moving overhead during our paddle - marking a change in the weather.... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Wildlife, Summer, Spring, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Events, Birding
People often don't realize we have local farms near Saranac Lake. All kinds of crops flow from nearby fields into our restaurants, diners, and delis. This is one of the reasons our local dining is such a pleasure to experience. North of Saranac Lake, bordered by the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness to the east, and the Saint Regis Canoe Wilderness to the west, there is a broad plateau far more... [Read More]
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Author:Pamela Merritt
Categories:Heritage, Natural History
Spring Temperature FluctuationsSpring seemed to come in a hurry to the Tri-Lakes Region this year. It had already been a tough year for cross-country skiing, and I had to put my skis away for good in March. The last two years I skied into the middle of April. But open water on the lakes and warm temps meant I could find ducks moving through and stopping over on places like Lake Colby in Saranac... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Wildlife, Spring, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Dog Friendly, Birding
Signs of SpringWhile winter has not yet been sent packing from our forecasts here in the Adirondacks, its rather light grip on us this year has been getting pried free by warm temperatures and fingers of sunlight. They have melted almost all of our snow and are now pressing on our frozen lakes to thaw. And our earliest arriving birds are responding to the cues.Blackbirds and SongA couple of weeks... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:winter, Wildlife, Spring, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Birding
A Sluggish StartIt's a fact that our cross-country skiing season did not start quickly or with a lot of snow this year. While we have a had a few great days in mid-January, they've been followed by an icy, rainy affair with little white powder left to help hide the hard, silver ice beneath. Take a misstep and you soon find out that our snow in many places has only been a veneer which hides slick... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:winter, Wildlife, Skiing, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Family fun, Dog Friendly, Cross Country Skiing
The Thing Everyone Wants to DoWhenever anyone comes to visit me in Saranac Lake there is always one thing on their to-do list: feed the Gray Jays along the Bloomingdale Bog Trail. They are a sought-after boreal species which draw many birders to our area, but more than that they are simply fun to observe. So whether it is my birding brothers looking for species they can’t find at home or my niece... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:winter, Wildlife, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Hiking, Family fun, Fall, Dog Friendly, Birding
Birds on the MoveAt this time of year I pay special attention to the birds migrating through the various lakes of our region, and each day finds Wren and me out somewhere to see what’s on the move. My favorite place to check in the fall is the railroad tracks along Lake Colby in Saranac Lake where the waterfowl migration is just beginning to pick up. While the past several weeks have been good... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Wildlife, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Hiking, Fall, Birding
Hanging onto SummerWith our current change in weather on the way, Wren and I set out to enjoy one of the last warm days of the fall. I wanted to paddle, so we went to Little Green Pond where we parked and immediately set out for a hike. Wren does not particularly like being confined to the canoe so I wanted to let her run around and play for a while before we paddled. We hiked along Little Clear... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Wildlife, Summer, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, foliage, Fall, Dog Friendly, Birding
One of My Favorite Times of YearWhile our recent warm weather and the general southerly flow of air had seemed to slow the arrival of migrants through the region, the last few days have really picked up the pace. It has added a great deal of excitement to my daily walks with Wren, and these mixed flocks of migrants and dispersing birds make the late summer one of my favorite times of year to go... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Wildlife, Summer, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Fall, Birding
All Sorts of Sizes, Shapes, and ColorsWhile I spend a lot of my time in the late summer enjoying the shapes and colors of migrating birds as they pass through our region, I also love to botanize as I hike, checking out the kaleidoscope of wildflowers which grace our trails and fields this time of year. And so if I’m not searching for birds, I’m often hiking with Wren and snapping shots of flowers... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Summer, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, foliage, Family fun, Fall, Dog Friendly
A Morning Start on a Hot DayWith another hot day coming, Wren and I headed out for a morning paddle on Jones Pond before the sun began to bake the landscape. The day was cool, but rapidly warming as I prepared for our outing, listening to a singing Blue-headed Vireo and White-throated Sparrow. As I fiddled with my gear, I chatted with a couple from Georgia who were camping in one of the campsites... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Wildlife, Summer, Paddling, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Dog Friendly, Birding
Great Weather for Paddling! With so much warm, sunny weather of late, I have been itching to get out paddling with Wren. As a result, I’ve been driving around with my canoe on my car to make such adventures quicker to organize since the loading process can sometimes delay things. So with my boat pre-loaded, Wren and I were out fairly early the other day to check out the paddling and birding... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Birding, Dog Friendly, Natural History, Outdoor Recreation, Paddling, Spring, Summer, Wildlife
A Great Place for an Evening PaddleI made sure to take my nieces and nephew paddling the other week when they came to visit – it's an integral part of an Adirondack adventure, after all. Lake Colby is a great spot for an easy outing, so we all loaded into my large boat and set off. My niece Emily paddled in the bow, I was in the stern, and Rebecca and Tyler sat on Crazy Creek chairs in the middle... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Wildlife, Summer, Spring, Paddling, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Family fun, Dog Friendly
A High Diversity Time of YearOne of the best things about spring and early summer in the Adirondacks is the diversity of birds that can be found in our area during a simple walk. My walks are almost always taken with Wren who wants nothing more than to run, play, and swim all the time. More than that, her high energy level requires that I take her out regularly and I am compelled to go out even... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Wildlife, Summer, Spring, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Hiking, Family fun, Dog Friendly, Birding
First Hike of the SpringWith our snow melted and ski season over, it was time for Wren and I to take our inaugural hike of the season. We’ve been walking at places like the Bloomingdale Bog Trail and the railroad tracks behind Lake Colby, but we hadn’t done a proper hike yet this spring. And Baker Mountain is a great place to break in the hiking season.The sun and clouds had staged a skirmish... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Wildlife, Summer, Spring, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Family fun, Dog Friendly
Ringing Telephones in My YardI’ve been waking each morning of late to the jingling song of Dark-eyed Juncos which have been filling my yard and gorging on bird seed. I kept a few juncos around through much of the winter, but as spring has pushed in from the south they have followed in numbers. Then a new song was added to their ringing telephone chorus early last week. A Fox Sparrow – a migrant... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Wildlife, Spring, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Birding
Lots of Snow So We Can PlayAs usual, Wren and I have been cross-country skiing on a regular basis this winter as our snow, once a bit thin, has been piling up. One of our favorite places to go is the network of trails off of the Fish Pond Trail in Lake Clear. The trails there are designated cross-country skiing trails and they wind through beautiful deciduous and mixed forest and around the... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:winter, Wildlife, Skiing, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Family fun, Dog Friendly, Cross Country Skiing
Looking for Exciting Winter BirdsWinter birding in this region is often a game of looking for very specific species, rather than it being about seeing lots of species in a single day. This year has been predicted to be a good year for Common Redpolls arriving from the north, but it has been difficult to find redpolls during the beginning of the winter. In the past week or so that has begun to... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:winter, Wildlife, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Hiking, Dog Friendly, Birding
The unique geography of the Adirondacks has created some distinctive cultural traditions. The remote location, rugged beauty, and abundant wilderness led the small village of Saranac Lake into ways of life we still observe today.Celebrate with us!WINTER CARNIVALOne thing we must have in our Winter Carnival is the Ice Palace -- our term for the amazing structure we create as a focus for the... [Read More]
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Author:Pamela Merritt
Categories:winter, Summer, Natural History, Family fun, Events, Dog Friendly, Arts
Snow has been FallingThe almost daily snowfalls of the past week have quickly transformed our landscape to look a bit like February, and as I walked Wren the other day I realized it might be worth swapping my boots for skis. And so, we headed out in the evening to the North end of the Bloomingdale Bog Trail. The sky was mostly clear and the air was cold as we set out; me on my old, beater, rock... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:winter, Wildlife, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Family fun, Fall, Dog Friendly, Cross Country Skiing, Birding
A Daily Walk On an almost daily basis this time of year, Wren and I can be found walking along the railroad tracks on the backside of Lake Colby in Saranac Lake. Despite the beat-up nature of some of the tracks, it is a picturesque location and with fewer fishermen there this time of year than there are during the warmer months, we generally have the walk to ourselves. Colby is an easy spot... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Wildlife, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Hiking, Family fun, Fall, Dog Friendly, Birding
A Time of Transformation We all look forward to the change of leaf color which so defines this time of year in the Adirondacks. It is, after all, an amazing phenomenon and one of the most incredible events to witness in the entire world! Our cool nights and recent cold fronts have already started the process of changing our leaves and the past week has found that transition happening quickly... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Wildflowers, Paddling, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Hiking, foliage, Family fun, Fall, Dog Friendly
Enjoying summer to the endThe final summery days of the season are gold for us all and so Wren and I took advantage of a splendid afternoon earlier this week and set out for Little Green Pond. We started with a swim and as we approached the sandy beach area, I noticed two distant Hooded Mergansers flying along the far shore of the lake. I threw the ball a few times for Wren who plunged in after... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Wildlife, Summer, Paddling, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Family fun, Fall, Dog Friendly
Shorebirds in the ParkWhile the Champlain Valley rightfully gets the most attention in our region as the place to search for sandpipers and other shorebirds, some shorebirds do invariably make their way south through the central part of the Park. It’s just a matter of finding them since they don’t stay around for long. For instance, over the weekend while I was out looking for warblers along Lake... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Wildlife, Summer, Paddling, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Family fun, Fall, Birding
Bring your binoculars and cameraDuring the late summer and early fall I make a point to be out with my binoculars everyday – in the morning if I can manage it. After all, it is during this time of year that migrant songbirds are flocking up and passing through our region. And so each day usually begins with me grabbing my binoculars and camera – not to mention Wren – and heading to a local trail... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Wildlife, Summer, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Family fun, Fall, Dog Friendly, Birding
The LoonsCommon Loons were already calling from the water as I unloaded the car at Little Clear Pond. As usual Wren was exploring the water and beach area and she kept bringing sticks for me to throw into the lake. After a few throws and after I had toted everything down to the water, we headed out.A pair of Common Loons sat a few hundred meters out with their large, charcoal gray chick. All... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Wildlife, Summer, Spring, Paddling, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Family fun, Fall, Dog Friendly
The most exciting thing – at least from Wren’s perspective - about the paddle we took on Moose Pond in Bloomingdale this week was the tennis ball she found at the boat launch. I unloaded gear while she played with the ball in the sandy gravel, shoveling it between her legs and then chasing it. Once I was unloaded and ready to push off, I gave her a few throws into the water and she happily... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Wildlife, Summer, Paddling, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, foliage, Fishing, Family fun, Fall, Dog Friendly
2nd Largest Peat Land in the ADKSSince Spring Pond Bog is the second largest peat land in the Adirondacks, it offers birders an array of habitats for finding species. I’ve led an annual birding trip there with The Wild Center the past few years and we once again took a trip to Spring Pond this year as well.The birds were initially quiet, but we were soon adding species in the coniferous forests... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Wildlife, Wildflowers, Summer, Spring, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Hiking, Family fun, Birding
Birds of All Kinds Flock HereThis past weekend I helped lead trips for the Great Adirondack Birding Celebration (the GABC) held at the Paul Smith’s College VIC (Visitor Interpretive Center). In its 12th year, the event brought together birders from across the northeast and even other parts of the country as they explored the region on a variety of field trips. I led the trips into Madawaska, a... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Wildlife, Summer, Spring, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Hiking, Family fun, Birding
This week I was in search of an activity during which I could take advantage of our recent late morning and afternoon breeze. This is the time of year when the black flies come out and the wind may be the best repellent I have found so far. The weather was great and I headed to Lake Colby in Saranac Lake, which is my go-to paddle when my time is limited.I unloaded my boat from the car and grabbed... [Read More]
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Author:Alan Belford
Categories:Wildlife, Spring, Paddling, Outdoor Recreation, Natural History, Family fun, Dog Friendly, Birding

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Saturday, December 15th, 2018
The month of December: "Remember When" Exhibit Models by John Wheeler of the lost buildings of Saranac Lake will be on display for the holiday season in the windows of the...
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The VIC Paul Smith’s College owns and operates the Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC), and in turn opens it to the public. Just 13 miles north of downtown Saranac Lake, the VIC offers a...
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