What's Your Nature?

Become a Nature Up North explorer to share your encounters with wild things and wild places in New York's North Country. Post your wildlife sightings, landscape shots, photos from your outings, and even you organization's events!


We a great turn out for our naturalist foraging walk with Nature Up North manager Emlyn Crocker! Pictured are some of our finds including; Sumac, strawberries, raspberries and plantain. Emlyn also shared with us some honorable foraging guidelines, including taking 10% or less of an edible plant of as a way to conserve resources. We tasted all plants pictured and had a lot of fun learning about edible plants! Thanks to everyone who joined.

Mushrooms grow throughout the year but are most prominent during the fall months. Over the past few weeks I've seen a bunch of different species on the Kip Trail behind St. Lawrence University. Here are a few of my favorite looking ones. I don't have any knowledge on what species these are so if you know please leave a comment below!

I spotted this snake while I was out on the Kip Trail during lab for my Mammalogy class. I believe it is a Northern Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis sauritus septentrionalis) a subspecies of the garter snake.

We took a class field trip to the park and explored the island 

I found this tiny snake with the help of some students during a visit to the Forest School at Stone Hill Farm. After some research, I believe he or she is either a juvenile Northern Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi) or a juvenile Northern Redbelly Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata). 

I came across this huge common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) attempting to cross County Route 25. Another concerned motorist pulled over too, and together we used long sticks to coax her/him across the highway in the direction she was facing. While we were successful, snappers are dangerous to move - sticks and/or shovels have worked for me, but I generally recommend staying on the side of caution. 

I enjoyed a visit to The Forest School at Stone Hill Farm for the new school's October Family Day / Home School Day. It was a beautiful, 70 degree fall day, and we spent the morning in the woods with families and the schools co-founders, Tasha Akins and Megan Holloway letting the kids discover what the forest had to offer. Highlights included playing in the stream, finding a huge snapping turtle, and collecting fall leaves for a color wheel activity. 

Climbed 5 pitches up the Chapel Pond Slabs in Keene to watch the sunrise. The sunrise was brief and mostly cloudy, but the foliage more than made up for it!

Found a few Puffball mushrooms in the woods behind the Canoe Shack at SLU! The common names of this species are the common puffball, warted puffball, gem-studded puffball, or the devil's snuff-box. The scientific name is Lycoperdon perlatum-- Lycoperdon translates to wolf farts, and perlatum means widespread.

A great afternoon with Girl Scouts from Canton - De Kalb on a fall walk at Stone Valley. We explored how and why trees drop their leaves, and the group created this stunning color wheel with leaves collected on the trail.

I worked with Nature up North to moniter water quality on the Grasse River in Canton, NY and we found a bunch of different macroinvertebrates! I learned that this means that the quality of water here is very good.

This is a short (3 mile round trip) hike on the old G&O railroad grade. It starting to look like fall, and the continuous flocks of geese made it sound that way too.

For Nature Up North, fall means maple monitoring season, and I'm enjoying getting outside to record observations for the maple trees we're monitoring on the St. Lawrence campus. If you drive along Park St, you'll probably see the purple ribbons! This tree, a silver maple (Acer saccharinum), was distinctive. Not only does it have some spectacular orange lichen clinging to it's trunk, but it has pretty significant damage/loss of leaves in the crown. Clearly, not a happy tree, but we'll need to study it longer to learn more about what's going on here.

We had a great turn out of mushroom enthusiasts for the first Nature Up North fall Naturalist Walk on Friday. Led along the St. Lawrence University Kip Trail by our guest, local mycologist Claire Burkum, the group was lucky to see a diversity of mushrooms - thanks to some recent rains. Sightings ranged from common puffballs and boletes to dainty bird's nest fungi (an exciting first for me). Thanks to everyone who joined the fun! 

Posting on behalf of Brianna, age 8, who took this photo using my iPhone. This was a very large snail that we found in the woods at Higley Flow State Park when camping in September.

Super cool to see several monarch caterpillars on milkweed near the artificial wetland on the SLU campus. I'd never seen one in the wild before!

A late evening paddle on the Oswegatchie river in South Edwards. This is always a favorite short paddle of around 3 miles. The trip ended with a pretty great sunset.

Found this in our back yard, almost stepped on it. Grand daughter and I were both barefoot. Ouch, moved it to a location futher away from our house.

These two experienced anglers were pretty pleased with their evening catch. And those big guys are back in Lake O gettin' even bigger!

A great 8 mile paddle on the Raquette river above Tupper lake. I have wanted to do this one for a long time, finally found time to get there. A very nice paddle, but lots of others on the water.

Just relaxing in our nature friendly back yard.

My family and I are fully enjoying this beautiful summer and the great outdoors. We have been camping at Lisbon Beach on and off throughout late June into mid August. I am trying to identify plants with my young children and nephews and hopefully foster and inspire a love of nature in them all.

Amelia loves to catch frogs and this one was a prize! From nose to toes it was about 2 feet. We studied it and took lots of pictures of this big boy, the released it back into Boyd Pond.

My family tried to beat the heat on a hot August Sunday with a trip down the Tooley Pond Road to check out the waterfalls. We didn’t make it past Twin Falls because it was such a beautiful and interesting spot, and it was nice and cool in the waterfalls’ floor bottom. Evidence of the area’s past abounds, and the main falls are quite impressive.

At the start of our remarkably biting-insect-free August, this sunset in Stone Valley was particularly gentle.

Saw a fawn nursing when I pulled in. Grabbed my camera and fired off this shot. The fawns are pretty funny when they nurse because they wag their tails and stamp the ground with their front feet.

I'm glad that I let the milkweed grow this year!

Humid hike up Mount Baker, .9 up .9 back perfect for my elderly dog Cormack (11yrs) to the youngest member of the pack Vader (1.5 yrs). Beautiful views of Saranac Lake and the surrounding High Peaks.

We spotted this beautiful moth camouflaged on the bark of an ash tree -- he's maybe an inch and a half long. Does anyone know what kind he might be?

Nice nature walk setting up cameras.

Common chicory (Cichorium intybus) flower, located on trail off Miner Street and along the Grasse River.

Setting trail cams and checking out the local situation. Several caterpillars on box elder leaf.

Awesome view on an overcast day!

Learning how to post encounters during a NUN workshop while walking cross country trails around campus. Love me some Nature Up North!

One of my favorites times of year has arrived!  We are hosting the 5th annual teachers' workshop at Nature Up North today and tomorrow, and I always find it totally inspiring to collaborate with a group of dedicated North Country K-12 folks.  Let the fun begin!

Enjoying the greenery along the Grass River on the first day of August

Cloud covered day near the Grasse River, but the plants are reaching for any remnant sunlight none the less.

We headed out to Summer Adventure Camp at Taylor Park this morning to teach campers about river wildlife diversity! It was a great way to get our feet wet on a hot day. The group found a total of 8 animals, including tadpoles, snails, bugs, and 20 clams!

The weather cooperated beautifully for our exploration of Stone Valley's waterfalls -- sunny and not too hot. Very impressive whitewater and geologic formations!

The sky cleared up after a light sprinkle initiating the start of our edible plant walk. We tasted sorrel, sumac, and wild strawberry, and learned about several more. It was an engaging an interactive way to spend the morning getting to know nature a little bit more!

It was a perfect day to get out on the St. Lawrence River and explore aquatic life. We found a snapping turtle, beetles, and hundreds of catfish! It was an exciting way to learn what lives under our water!

We had a wonderful evening for our last paddle of the summer. We had a record 11 boats on the water! The river was noticeably higher than two weeks ago, after all the rain at the beginning of the week. 

Had a great hike on the stone valley Trail. Many beautiful water falls on the Raquette River. Great views of a fast moving river. Shady hike on a sunny day.
Nice day trip from our home base of camping in Higley Flow State Park.

Garden Spider- very beautiful and large--about the size of a half dollar with brilliant yellow and black markings- has made his home among my Siberian Iris foliage. Notice the central zig-zag on his web--I think this is to stabilize the web for this very large spider, but I'm not sure. Supposed to be "common", but first time for me to see in my many years of gardening.

Homeowners and concerned citizens joined us for a walk on the Remington Trail to learn how they can hep monitor and slow the spread of emerald ash borer (EAB).  EAB was confirmed in St. Lawrence County last August and is already on the way to becoming a public safety concern.  Infested trees can die in 1-3 years, and are at risk of falling on homes and powerlines. Together, we learned how to I.D. an ash tree and signs of infestation.  Using our Community Ash Tree Survey, citizens can contribute to our online visual database and monitor infestation throughout the county.

What a lovely time we had exploring the several waterfalls along Tooley Pond Road. If you haven't been yet, it's a must go! As a group, we visited Banford Falls, Twin Falls, and Rainbow Falls. Along the three trails we learned about the location's history as an iron mining site and scavenged for wild edible plants.  

Found a number of these little guys on the Black-eyed-susans.

Sunset is one of my favorite times of day -- especially the quiet sunsets when the air is utterly still, and it seems that time has paused at the edge of night. I went down to the Grasse River and the colors of the sky were doubled perfectly in the water. The twilight was ringing with birdsong -- I could hear two veeries, a hermit thrush, a catbird, what might have been a red-winged blackbird, and others I didn't recognize.

I was out taking pictures when I saw this bird that I have never seen before in this area. When I got home I looked it up and discovered it was a Black Crowned Night Heron. Such an interesting find!

This week's evening paddle was full of surprises.... We saw no less than five beavers, one of whom was snacking on some tasty pickerelweed (second picture). We also spotted a river otter den dug into the bank (third picture). A gleaming orange sunset made for a fitting end to our adventure.

We spotted this baby broadwing hawk in a nest in a sugar maple tree right by the side of the Lowland Trail at the Indian Creek Nature Center. Without a telephoto lens, I wasn't able to get the best picture, but you can see the baby's pale head sticking up out of the nest. They just stared at us the entire time, perfectly still. One of the parents was somewhere nearby, whistling loudly at us. If you notice a sudden concentration of white bird droppings on the ground, look up -- that's how we found this nest!

We found this sweet little nest in the woods near Postwood Park... does anyone know what kind of bird might have made it? It's a tiny cup (2 or 3 inches in diameter) built directly on the ground in open deciduous forest, near a swampy area.

Saw very little swamp milkweed this year:( One of my favorite flowers. Great scent!

The Nature Up North team had a blast leading a papermaking workshop on Saturday. We started out by exploring the plants around the Wachtmeister Field Station, and learning which had the best papermaking potential. Then we headed inside to make paper out of pulp made from the invasive common reed, decorating it with flower petals and leaves.

An early July trip to Wanakena for a walk on the Dead Creek Flow trail yielded some great encounters! This very mellow trail, with mostly imperceptible elevation change, cuts through deciduous woods and grasses past swamps and beaver ponds. Conifers mix in to some stretches of trail. Accordingly, there was a nice diversity of flora and fauna, including deer, birds, and more dragonflies than I have ever seen in one place.

Found a cool plant on the other side of the Little River from the Saddlemire Trail: this Canada Moonseed, a climbing vine that strongly resembles wild grape. Its fruits look exactly like grapes, but they are toxic! The best way to tell the two apart is by looking at the seeds: moonseed fruits have a single large, crescent-shaped seed, while grapes have multiple teardrop-shaped seeds.


The sweltering heat subsided just in time for a comfortable stroll down the Kip Trail while learning about nocturnal animal adaptations. After recognizing the heightened senses used in nocturnal navigation, the group turned back for a relaxing evening around the fire, enjoying s'mores and an impressive array of summer fireflies.

Sunset in Massena

Found some beautiful white water lilies on Tooley Pond, bobbing on the wind-rippled water.

This trek was on some of the old Grasse River Rail Road bed, south of Massawepie Lake. This crosses the Massawepie mire, an amazing tamarack wetland. At over 3000 acres, this is said to be the largest non coastal wetlands in NY. There is an organization that is trying to open up this entire stretch from Cranberry Lake to Conifer, you can check out what they are doing at http://grasseriverrrtrail.org/ .

Late June is a great time to explore water plants - a variety of species are flowering this time of year, making finding them easier and even more interesting. During a paddling program today led by Nature Up North intern Maggie, we found a variety of species, including pickerel weed (flowering!), hornwort, ditchmoss, soft-stemmed bullrush, and sensitive fern. We also talked about some water-loving trees that like to grow along the river, such as silver maple, box elder and willow. 



I smelled woodsmoke while swimming at the sand banks on the Grass River. At first I assumed there was a bonfire at one of the houses, but the scent was odd, and very bitter. I saw movement out of the corner of my eye: beside the remains of a fire, there was smoke coming out of the ground. The fire must not have been put out fully, because it had burrowed under the ground, burning through fallen pine needles and fine rootlets. When I found it, it had spread in branching patterns over about a square foot of ground, and it was expanding towards the rest of the forest.

Last Friday afternoon allowed me a few minutes to walk the Kip Trail at St. Lawrence University out to the marsh deck and snap a few photos. I was fortunate to run into interns of Nature Up North who reminded me to get an encounter posted (thank you, interns!). The initial stretch of the Kip Trail features a number of different microhabitats (field, marsh, river, scrub, pine, and deciduous forest), so there is a nice diversity of flora and fauna to observe. Birdlife was vocal with many signs of breeding activity - singing, agitation, carrying food, etc.

The rain ceased just in time to enjoy a calm canoe along the Grasse River. As the start of our summer paddling series, we had a mix of beginner and experienced paddlers, and a lot of fun!

I found this painted turtle on a roadway the edge of the St. Lawrence University campus. I'm not sure where they had come from -- they were surrounded by parking lots and athletic fields. I carried them to the wetland they seemed to be headed towards. It was just after sunset, and the marsh was full of splashes and frog-sounds. I pushed through some reeds to deposit the turtle within sight of water. There was a loud rustle and a flash of yellow eyes and then a black cat came shooting out of the cattails like a shadow come alive.

I teamed up with Chamber of Commerce intern, Cara, this Wednesday to acquire GPS data for a larger trail mapping project. As we we were leaving the Abbe Picquet trail in Ogdensburg, we were greeted by a low-flying osprey returning to its nest in the center of the park just before rainfall!

This was a nice day without too many bugs or people. Azure's fire tower just turned 100 years old, there was a nice celebration in nearby St. Regis falls.

Today was such a good day. My kids WANTED to go hiking, and my son's 5th-grade class had recently taken a field trip to the Stone Valley trail. So, we packed a lunch and drove to check it out. The weather was perfect for hiking, not humid at all and a beautiful breeze to keep the bugs (mostly) away. My daughter had fun keeping track of the different maples (striped, sugar & red), and my son was happy with the occasional hill or steep section to challenge him. I got to see a lot of neat things, including some fungi and cool plants.

The Nature Up North team had a great time leading an Introduction to Fishing workshop at Ives Park in Potsdam. After much untangling of fishing poles, guests made two catches: both rock bass.

The rain held up just enough for a successful event this afternoon! After delving into some history of dyeing and foraging the landscape for potential plants for dye, the group learned the process of creating homemade dye. We wrapped the program up by dyeing bandanas to take home! Among the plants used to dye were daisies, yellow dock root, buckthorn, spearmint, and false indigo.

Pretty Flower, scary spider.

Nature Up North's campfire in honor of the summer solstice was a great success! We shared stories and animal sightings, and s'mores flavored with locally gathered wood sorrel and pineapple weed.

Walking back to my office after a meeting, I noticed a stunned cedar waxwing lying on the ground.  I could see its tail moving, so I gently set it up on its feet.  Got this photo after righting the bird.  I suspect it had flown into a window.  The area is planted with juneberry trees (shadbush, Amelanchior) which are in fruit right now and attract lots of cedar waxwings.  The second photo is one of the waxwings in one of the trees.

Though I hate to see the birds hit windows, their presence and the lovely churrs they make really improve my day!

I set my camera up to take 30 second exposures with a 3 second break between each. It shot 345 time exposures which I combined as layers in Photoshop to get this image. The center of the circle is Polaris, the North Star.

Ruffed Grouse mom trying to lure me away. One of young not following her directions!

One of our tasks this week as interns for Nature Up North was to set up two funnel traps for the invasive emerald ash borer (EAB) beetle over the course of yesterday and today. The purpose of these traps is to determine the presence of EAB within the area. Each trap has pheromones that attract nearby insects and a fluid that preserves each specimen. These will be checked every two weeks and taken down in the fall!

Nature Up North and the Canton Garden Club teamed up this week to pull garlic mustard from where it's growing in Canton and make homemade pesto! Garlic mustard, while invasive today, was a common addition to gardens in the 1800's for the delicious garlic-y flavor of it's leaves. After a successful hour pulling (we collected 7 bags!) we headed back to the TAUNY kitchen to make garlic mustard pesto and share a meal together. Thanks to the Garden Club for their help, and to TAUNY for the use of their beautiful kitchen.

I woke up around 4:00 a.m. and was out of my cabin by 4:15.
I was staying at Canaras, the Adirondack camp owned and operated by St. Lawrence University.
The conditions were great (as you can see) and, after taking a bunch of pictures along the shore, I got in a kayak around 5:15.
You can see Whiteface (to the right of center frame) in 'Upper Saranac sunrise'
Thanks for considering these pictures-

Greeted by sunning frogs and a gushing waterfall, the day was a perfect one to carry out water monitoring procedures along the Grasse River. The team waded into clear water about a foot deep to determine water quality using a number of chemical and physical testing methods. After an hour of sorting through dozens of macroinvertebrates including caddisflies, riffle beetles, and mayflies to analyze species ratios of varying tolerances, the water quality of Hart's Falls is looking good!

Sketching plants again -- this time on the Saddlemire Trail. There were so many more that didn't fit on the page!

Just some of the flora & fauna we came across on a recent trek to Cat mountain, near Cranberry lake. A great long hike, but well worth it.

We just had to pull over to get pictures of the stunning sunset, and then on our way back to the road we startled this raccoon. They climbed about halfway up the nearest tree, then paused to peer out at us.

The clouds dissipated just in time for a clear evening, initiating the start of our summer campfire series. Our guest, Len Mackey, taught the group how to use natural materials to build a fire by friction. As the sun set, we enjoyed our man-made campfire with a drumming circle and toasty marshmallows!

The Nature Up North team had a great time today at Colton-Pierrepont Central School's Earth Week. The theme was 'Loons,' so we came prepared with some fun loon games, such as Loon Mythbusters. The kids really impressed us with their loon knowledge!

Drawing is a great way to appreciate all the different shapes that leaves and plants come in -- here are a few of the ones I noticed at the edge of the wetland near the St. Lawrence senior townhouses.

Lots of new life on beaver pond.

I often walk my dog on the Kip Trail, and when we went out onto the lookout platform today I was impressed by the vibrant color of the sky and stillness of the water below. There is a great blue heron that likes to hang out in the reeds on the far left side of the pond, and, sure enough - one lifted off and as we approached the bird blind. It's hard to be quiet when you bring the dog along!

The Indian Creek Nature Center trails were swarmed with hundreds of dragonflies this week, a lovely compromise for nasty mosquitoes! Adult dragonflies eat other flying insects, particularly midges and mosquitoes. I admired this beauty for a couple minutes before it took back to the sky!

So, in spite of how much I love the natural world, I'm really sick and tired of watching these forest tent caterpillars defoliate trees.  On the SLU campus this summer they are abundant, and appear to be feeding on oak, ash, and maple species in particular.  Yuck, yuck, yuck.  Let the socially-transmitted virus that knocks them back arrive and thrive!

Starting my walk on the Avenue of the Elms, I stumbled upon a groundhog pup. Born in mid-April, groundhog pups stay close to the mother’s burrow for two to three months before finding a new home. Some pups, though, will stay around for up to a year, leaving only when the mother prepares for a new litter.