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 your organization's events!



Blue cohosh in flower Wild leeks Early spring beauty Wet dog

On a nature walk this afternoon outside of St. Lawrence University. Today was a warmer day than usual resulting in the snow melting and being able to see the ground again! 

nice day outside Robin posing for a picture Beautiful blue sky with trees Cool photo of river

trees trees and sun tree view find the bird

A nighttime stroll on the St. Lawrence XC Trails with the SLU Powerhouse searching for cryptids like Bigfoot or Mothman ended with us spotting an owl!! Most likely a barred owl, we watched it for a while before it eventually took off. Although the picture is a little blurry, I was surprised to even be able to make out the owl since it was dark except for the moon behind the clouds. So exciting!

Hiked the beautiful Stone Valley with some families for SLU parent weekend! Perfect weather and some lovely views. Will definitely be going back!

A gorgeous afternoon for a kayak on the Grasse, thanks to SLU’s canoe shack! The first signs of fall are starting to show in the yellowing of leaves. Spotted a few turtles sunning themselves, lots of frogs hanging out on the algae, a few remaining flowers. Followed two belted kingfishers up the river for a while, but they just wouldn’t pose for a good photo. A beautiful day!

Took a lovely afternoon paddle on the little river. Light breeze, few bugs, starting to see some fall color.

Found this neat fungi by the Grasse River right off of Miner St. I identified with the help of iNaturalist and really enjoyed the name chicken-of-the-woods, named not for appearance but taste! Who knew!

As the sun went down, and I walked towards the golf course at SLU, the sound of spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) filled the air! Following their sound and the light of my flashlight, I eventually found one of the tiny frogs in a vernal pool. Herping season is here!

When going out on the back porch of my townhouse last night on St. Lawrence University campus, I saw this Jefferson salamander! I believe this is a Jefferson salamander, but it has been a while since I took herpetology here at SLU.

A fellow classmate and I had a joyous time skiing around the St. Lawrence University Golf Course, sticking to the track for a while until we came upon a wooded area we wanted to explore, where we broke trail, took a quick nap on a log, and appreciated the serenity of it all. I love mixing up some speedy track skiing with slowing down and appreciating the way the snow settles on the trees or how the giant, fluffy flakes puff up around me when I fall.

It was a beautiful day for an adventure! The 20°F weather felt unusually warm in the sun after all of the cold temps we have had. I snowshoed from Rt. 47 along the Grasse River to the hydro plant and back. The snow depth was quite variable and had drifted up to knee-height in places. Snowshoes were helpful but the snow was too dry to stay on top of it. Gaiters would be a nice addition next time.

I was walking on the Saddlemire Trail this evening and saw these little trails under the snow. I thought they were so fascinating, and am wondering what creature is responsible for them! My best guess would be some small rodent, like mice or voles.

A friend and I decided to go Nordic skiing. It was probably the fourth time in my life I’d gone, and it was an absolute blast. We explored the packed trails and through the untracked forest. It was an incredibly peaceful time in a wonderfully snowy afternoon.

With a fresh layer of snow, the woods and fields lay under a blanket of white. This blanket muffles and hides the subtleties of the woods leading the mind to wonder what critters scurry below the layers of snow. Above the snow the trees stand tall awaiting the spring to waken and continue their growth into the sky. But for today, a sun sets on another beautiful winters day.

I was in the zen garden of sykes and played in the snow with my roommate!

I was walking on the Kip Tract Trail in the evening and was lucky enough to see a beautiful owl! I don't know what species it was.

Sugar Maple on a school lawn with a lot of sunlight. The circumference is 26 inches and the bark has a lot of moss growing on its bark. Leaves are still early in changing color; very few leaves on the ground. No fruit.

Beautiful summer flowers in the garden.

Lots of new spring birds visiting our feeders. Love to listen to the orioles sing!,

Walking along the Kip Trail on St. Lawrence property, passing one of the little ponds, spotted a northern leopard frog in the leaves.

Sixty degrees and wet on a March afternoon. The spring peepers we in full chorus in the woods behind the SLU golf course

First crocuses open in my yard today!  A welcome sight. Snowdrops, too but I think they have been blossoming for a few days now. 

Incredible shot of the snow coming down with Richardson Hall.

SLU's Conservation Biology class visited a fox den and downloaded pictures from two trail cameras monitoring the some of the entrances. The den had been visited by fisher, possum, deer, squirrels, and the fox.

Cold but worth it.

Had a lovely evening paddle on the Grasse and Little Rivers. With all the rain recently, the Grasse was running so high it was difficult to paddle upriver. We saw a muskrat along the banks of the Little River.

A beautiful dragonfly decided to join us in apple picking at Fobare's Fruits!

Even puddles in autumn look pretty! The reflection of clear blue sky and autumnal foliage in a puddle can be heavenly!

Driving up CR 27 toward Canton, I saw two bald eagles sitting in a mowed field along with several crows and ravens. Perhaps they were at a gut pile?  The smaller birds began to harass the eagles who took flight. One landed on a nearby power pole where it was dive-bombed a few times. The other was harassed in flight, eventually landing back on the ground. The bad pictures from my phone don’t do the observation justice. 

While walking my dog on the Remington Recreation Trail I saw this pink leafhopper, one I had not seen before. A few flower flies were also out on this nice October afternoon.

This picture of an opossum was captured late at night using a game camera set up in a field on the edge of SLU's campus. I have not seen opossum's on campus during the day, so I was surprised to see this picture. Some people think opossum's are ugly, but I think they're very cute!

Lots of flower flies were out this morning at Indian Creek Nature Center. Many species of flower fly are bee or wasp mimics, and they certainly looked very bee-like as they buzzed around the New England aster.

I saw this Spring Peeper on a window in Bewkes Hall at St. Lawrence University this rainy morning. Maybe he was trying to get some warmth and escape the rain!

While St. Lawrence University brought in fall 2019 with a power outage, I enjoyed taking this opportunity to step away from electronic technology and went on a walk to appreciate the beauty of nature. Such an amazing breath of fresh air! 

Saw this nice little garter snake while walking in the woods 

Encountered a young chipmunk in my yard, apparently hoping to be eaten by a cat. It scrambled up my screen porch twice, falling to the ground once it reached the top of the screen. Wrapped it in a towel and released it in the crotch of a willow. Cute, but needs to pay better attention. Ran right between my toothless cat’s feet!

I spent some time this afternoon poking around a field at Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management area that had lots of Joe Pye Weed in bloom. Many Monarchs were flying around--it's nice to see so many Monarchs after a few years without many around. A few other butterflies were flitting about the field, including a Bronze Copper.

I was looking for good photos for the Calendar Contest when I thought to take some pictures of a pond nearby. I think this was the best out of the ones I took.

My grandmother invited me to her house to get pictures of what she calls the "perfect Elm."

I was taking a break from photography to get a drink and I looked up, realizing that the perfect picture is something we look at every day.

I was looking for some great Calendar Contest photos when I found this dragonfly and quickly pulled out my camera to get some photos.

I wanted to play with depth perception while I had the chance with some hay bales!

I love taking pictures of our garden because you really get to take in the beauty of it all when you truly look into it.

I found a tree that was partly hollowed out and stuck my camera in there.

My dad was once very ambitious and decided to carve an owl out of a stump. Surprisingly, it went very well and we also have a carved mushroom in our lawn!

I love eating fresh blueberries straight off the bush and it tastes so much better than storebought ones.

We've got zinnias and cosmos still blooming in the garden.  Nice color in August.

The duathlon was hosted by the St. Lawrence Valley Paddling group and consisted of a 1.25-mile run, a 1.25-mile paddle, and another 1.25-mile run.

Two twins still in spots traversing the neighborhood 

This week we were gifted with the finding of caterpillars of the (admittedly common) Milkweed Tiger Moth (or Milkweed Tussock Moth, Euchaetes egle) on a milkweed plant in our yard.

These fascinating caterpillars chow all day long on milkweed plants and store ingested toxic cardiac glycosides in their bodies to make them…unpleasant…to predators such as birds. Just like Monarch butterflies do. And notice that they have similar color patterns. It’s no coincidence – the color patterns warn birds and other predators that they carry the toxin, so the predators pass them by.

We had a wonderful Garlic Festival this year at Birdsfoot farm, with many friends and community members stopping by to help peel and bunch our garlic harvest. The garlic crop was late this year by nearly two weeks due to the spring/summer rains, and there was some concern over getting all the garlic in and harvested. All worked out in the end though, and we're looking forward to garlic all winter, as are many happy CSA members!

Red Dragonfly at Hart's Falls. 

I came across these goldenrod galls in Heritage Park while participating in the 2019 Nature Up North summer teacher workshop.

Today begins the 6th annual teacher workshop at Nature Up North, one of my favorite events of the year.  We took a stroll through Heritage Park in Canton this morning to grab pictures for the "encounters" feature of the website (if you're reading this, you found an encounter!).

Can you identify poison ivy?  Here are four pictures to compare of which the first and last are poison ivy and the two in the middle are not. Remember: leaves of three, leave it be!

I took some pictures of the barks of different trees at Heritage Park in Canton.  I like seeing how distinctive they are once you look closely.

A quick swing around the trail at Heritage Island in late July showed several species of bird breeding, including Yellow Warbler, American Redstart, and Gray Catbird. The most amusing thing to see however was the Cedar Waxwings bathing in the Grasse River.

Purple coneflowers outside of the Johnson Hall of Science at St. Lawrence University 

Paddling down the Little River and the Grasse River. Beautiful afternoon. 

Today we went birding at 8am at Indian Creek Nature Center’s Lowland Trail. Even though it is pretty late in the season we saw a lot of birds. At lower lake we saw many green herons, gulls, waxwings, flycatchers, and even a bald eagle and male marsh hawk. In the forest there was mainly thrushes and chickadees. 

Some of the summer flowers blooming today 

Our Nature Up North summer naturalist interns Emily and Lydia lead a frog walk this afternoon on the St. Lawrence University Kip Trail in Canton. The group was successful, spotting both bull frogs and green frogs in a wetland off the Little River. 

This photograph of a Northern Flicker was captured using a game camera on the Saddemire Trail. Flickers are one of my favorite birds, so this was really exciting!

Spotted a green frog out on the Kip Trail! 

Spotted a painted turtle on the Little River last week! While paddling, I saw him sitting on a log in the water.

This beautiful painted turtle was digging in the sand near one of the boardwalks on the Saddlemire Trail. Perhaps she was getting ready to lay eggs?

Spotted a Pickerel frog this afternoon while on the Kip Trail. Took a while to ID between a Northern Leopard Frog or a Pickerel frog but it seems more like a Pickerel frog..any thoughts?

Margo gently caught and released this tadpole while kayaking on the Grass River near Taylor Park.

Found this turtle in our yard for 3-4 days in a row, one day she was digging in our driveway and I believe she laid eggs. We have blocked off the area in hopes that they will hatch!! My girls are so excited!!

These flowers caught my attention with their diminutive blue petals and bright yellow centers. What wasn't seen in this picture was that there also seemed to have been pink buds on the same plant that had the blue flowers. They seem to do well in both shady and bright environments.

While walking by Appleton Arena, I noticed this sugar maple covered in tent caterpillars. Upon a closer look, I noticed what seems to be hundreds of caterpillars at the bottom of the tree trunk as well...a little creepy!

While taking a walk around St. Lawrence University's campus on a cloudy afternoon, I came across these beautiful Lilacs. The flowers on the different bushes ranged from deep to light purple. These vibrant flowers made the day a little brighter. 

This fearless little guy couldn’t care less how close I got so I managed some amazing pictures

I joined Bird Walk on Mothers' Day last day and saw many beautiful birds, including this male grosbeak.

A cute looking bird made my Birdwalk perfect!

phragmites was very tall. It towered over native reeds.

I found Invasive Phragmites by the artificial pond on St. Lawrence University's campus. Invasive Phragmites is a tall terrestrial plant that usually grows in clusters near marshes. It can be identified from native phragmites by its height, and the color of its stem base. This invasive phragmites was found during the spring and is a tan color with a seed/flowering head. Being that it is spring, most of the phragmites plants were knocked over and dead with the exception of these few phragmites stems.

Found common reed along the power lines by SUNY Canton- wonderful day! Partially Cloudy and 62 degrees.

Found many patches of dried and regrowing phragmites along the roadside toward the SUNY Canton Hockey Rink Parking Lot.

Recent days have seen the return of many species of migrant birds that either breed here in the North Country or move through on migration to farther reaches north. The Phoebe and Swamp Sparrow seen here are among the breeders. And what says spring more than a porcupine completely covered with fresh pollen?!

Alliaria petiolata or commonly known as Garlic Mustard, found on the Cross Country trail at SUNY Canton. Located under a large tree, the plant was small but easy to identify when looking out for it.

There was a cluster of phragmites located behind the E.J. Noble medical building bordering the St. Lawrence University golf course.

Out off the Kip Tract with my herpetology class, it was 39 degrees and raining. My classmates were finding amphibians such a redbacks salamanders, newts, and even a few blue spotted salamanders but I was fortunate to find the lone reptile, this lethargic garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis). I got to pick him up and I think he was very appreciatative of my bodyheat.

I was walking with my friends in the afternoon. It was fairly cloudy and cold. We originally went out looking for salamanders, but as we were looking we came across this snake! I was with some beginner Herpers and they were pretty alarmed to come across something other than a salamander, but I assured them it was a herp nonetheless.

A baby dusky salamander, three red-backed salamanders (2 shown), one frog (possibly wood), and wood frog eggs were spotted in St. Lawrence County between the hours of 1-4 on a sunny day in April!  All herps were found along/near vernal pools!  Red-backed salamanders seemed to be bountiful.  This is in addition to the four photos I posted last week as encounters!

Happy Earth Day!  The red maples are in full bloom - it is easy to forget that some of our trees are flowering plants - they flower before they leaf out, which presumably give the wind-dispersed pollen a chance to move more easily.  Very lovely.

Another Herpetology lab find in Glenmeal State Forest -- spotted salamander eggs in a vernal pool. All of these eggs were laid by a single salamander -- they were just the size of the black dots you can see in the picture. Their jelly-like coating then absorbed water and expanded to nearly the size of my hand, in order to protect the eggs and keep them hydrated.

As my herpetology class was on our way back from a day of herping, we saw a painted turtle that was about to cross the road into on-coming traffic. Luckily, we pulled over and were able to rescue it in time!

Happy Earth Day!  Sometimes, actions speak louder than words.  Students in the St. Lawrence University conservation biology class spent 1.5 hours this morning picking up trash at the SLU Sandbanks and also along park street.  Disappointing to see how much trash people leave behind.  Pollution, including littering, is one of the "4 horsemen of the environmental apocalypse" (climate change results from polluation; the other three are habitat loss/destruction, invasive species, and overharvesting).

This was not my personal encounter, but I am grateful to have permission to share. Students from the Sustainability Program located this lovely wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) near the small river at the farm, they were unsure of the identifiation but didn’t want to disturb it as they thought it may be nesting. They did get this awesome photo and you can clearly see the highly sculpted shell that is characteristic of Wood Turtles.

The Herpetology class went exploring in Glenmeal State Forest for lab today, and we found a wide variety of salamanders, frogs, and egg masses. Here's an eastern red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus) who was under a mossy log near an intermittent stream. There were actually two red-backs under the same log, within an inch of each other, which is surprising given that this species is usually territorial.

Another red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus, adult) found at Glenmeal, also under a log! Tried to avoid handing directly with my skin because I wasn't wearing gloves - soaps/lotions from our hands can really hurt their delicate skin - they perform cutaneous respiration.

I went out "herping" with my herpetology class, looking for salamander and frog eggs. I was moving around leaves by a vernal pool and caught a red-backed salamander. Unfortunately, it jumped out of my hand and swam away, but I got to hold it for a few seconds!

I found this red-backed Salamander under a rotted log off of the Kip Tract. It was a warm, sunny day after a weekend of rain.

I went home for Easter Sunday since I am a local student and spent some time on my back porch since it was so nice out. There's a little marshy area in my side yard and I could hear the spring peepers peeping!

Encountered this (alive) giant water bug as I was leaving campus at about 10 pm.  These insects hibernate in the leaf litter during the winter and then emerge and migrate back to the water where they are fierce aquatic predators (but not to be feared by humans).  Nice to see that this one hadn't been squished.  I hope it makes it!

I was flipping logs and looking for salamanders in the woods off of the Kip Tract when this common garter snake slithered right in front of me.

First day our daffodils opened!  I've been watching them all week and thought they might open yesterday, but today was the day.  Along with the peepers, this proves to me that spring is really here*.


*even if it snows later

Here are a few photos that were recently posted on NUN's instagram and facebook to highlight Big Night for New York's Herps!

Click through to learn more!

I was out looking for frogs and almost stepped on top of this garter snake! It was basking in a sunny spot next to the water but didn't seem to mind that I had interrupted

I was exploring the vernal pool at the end of the Kip Trail by flashlight last week, and the spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) were deafening. After much searching, I finally spotted one tucked into some fallen cattail stalks. He has a somewhat dubious survival instinct, as he didn't stop calling even when my camera lens was inches from his face. On my way out of the pool, I nearly stepped on two more peepers (second picture). The male (on top) is amplexing the female -- holding on so that he'll have the best chance at fertilizing her eggs when she lays them.

I saw this snake about 5 feet away from another garter snake. they were both basking in sunny spots next to the water.

A very warm day, I went for a walk on the trails behind St. Lawrence athletic fields. There were a large number of green frogs swimming and calling in the center of this wetland, they were hard to photograph because they kept swimming away whenever I got close enough.

The SLU Herpetology class spent a rainy lab period flipping over logs in search of salamanders. I finallly found this eastern red-back (Plethodon cinereus) under one of the last logs I flipped -- a small moss-covered one beside a small, half-frozen vernal pool, in a stand of white cedar and eastern hemlock.

My herpetology class went outside for lab to look for amphibians and reptiles, such as salamanders, frogs, and turtles, on the Kip Trail. I flipped over a log and found this little Red-Backed Salamander!

On the search for signs of spring, I stopped in the rain to get a closer look at this lovely pussy willow (Salix discolor) flowering outside Johnson Hall of Science at St. Lawrence University. The fussy flowers are called catkins, and appear on many species in the trees in the birch (Betulaceae) and willow (Salicaceae) families. 

Very exciting finding this Eastern Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens), also called the Red Spotted Newt. This newt is in its terrestrial juvenile life stage, called an eft. Found near the Kip Trail hiding under a log.

I found this salamander under a soft, rotting log, on a cloudy afternoon following a morning rain. The air temperature was around 50 degrees Fahrenheit but parts of the ground were still slightly frozen.

My herpetology class went out to the Kip Trail to look for herps. After flipping many logs, I finally found a red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus).

On a rainy day my herpetology class went out and searched for amphibians in the woods near St. Lawrence University. We walked around looking at vernal pools for signs of salamanders spermatopores, eggs, and frog eggs. We didn't find any eggs or spermatopores that day so we looked underneath forest debris for herps.

I flipped over a log and found this little lead-backed salamander shortly after I found a red-backed salamander. The lead-backed and red-backed salamanders are the same species (Plethodon cinereus) with different color morphologies.

During the Herpetology class's lab period, I spotted two-redbacked salamanders under the same log, one red-backed salamander 5 m from those two, one leadback salamander under a different log, and one red spotted newt under a log.  The class collectively heard spring peepers and caught this wood frog in a minnow trap! This all occurred between 1-4 on a rainy and relatively cold, spring day and all herps were found along the Kip Trail near St. Lawrence University.  Here are some photos to help!

Found this red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus, adult) under a small log along the Kip Trail near Wachtmeister Field Station.

The day was rainy, cloudy and overcast, and around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The time of day was around 2:00, and I was herping with my Herpetology class for lab on the Kip Tract trail by St. Lawrence University. This Lead-Back was under a soft, rotting log that I had overturned.

During Herpetology we went looking for various herps. After a long lab period in the rain, I finally found a leadback salamander (Eastern Redback without the red stripe) under a log off the Kip Trail.

My herpetology class went out to the Kip Trail to look for herps. While I was walking through the woods I found a blue-spotted salamander (Ambystoma laterale) sitting on top of some leaf litter next to a log.

On a rainy day my herpetology class went out and searched for amphibians in the woods near St. Lawrence University. We walked around looking at vernal pools for signs of salamanders spermatopores, eggs, and frog eggs. We didn't find any eggs or spermatopores that day so we looked underneath forest debris for herps. I flipped over a log and found this little red-backed salamander while out looking! I placed my student ID card next to it for a scale.

Enjoyed a calm walk in the woods after a light spring rain. Pleasantly surprised to see ramps (wild leeks) starting to come up! 

I went on a walk down by the Little River and heard lots of wood frogs and spring peepers. I saw many of the wood frogs (Rana sylvatica) in a marshy area, and I tried to follow the sound of a few peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) but sadly never set eyes on any.

My friend and I went on a walk on the Cross-Country Woods Trail since it was one of the first nice days this Spring. I immediately heard the loud choruses of spring peepers in a vernal pool at the base of the trail entrance. I am used to hearing spring peepers in a small marsh near my house, but I was amazed at how much louder the choruses were on the trail. 

For an ecology class, my group is looking at the role of seed-predation in relation to distance to water.  We are doing our project on St. Lawrence University's artificial wetland and Saturday was a really perfect end to day.  We didn't find a difference between the seeds that were closer to the water being eaten or the ones further away for this particular day!  Added some photos to show how nice a day this really was, especially with the river no longer being flooded from all of the recent rain.

First night that I heard spring peepers, so I headed over to one of the wetlands on the SLU campus adjacent to the little river.  I can't post the audio, but I could hear spring peepers and the occasional woodfrog (of which there may have been quite a few, but they were harder to hear over the roar of the peepers).  You can clearly see that there is still a good deal of ice in the water.  Spring is HERE!

A still and quiet vernal pool. Tonights rain may bring out the frogs and salamanders to breed in this nursery

Thank you for everyone who was able to make it to our Snow Stravaganza at the Wachtmeister field station! We had a fun-filled time building cardboard sleds, skiing, drinking hot cocoa and enjoying the beautiful day outside! Pictured is one of our digital media interns teaching kids how to Nordic ski, kids enjoying a sleigh ride during a nature walk and everyone enjoying the beautiful fire outside the field station. 

Snowflake, heaven, and summer storm.

One of the largest irruptions of Pine Grosbeaks in many years is happening this season due to a poor cone yield in Canada. Keep an eye on ornamental fruit trees for these birds, as hungry flocks of grosbeaks will gorge themselves upon the fruits (and will probably be unconcerned by your presence).

Though further south in the Adirondacks there has been some "snow that sticks", these are first real flurries this morning, and the snow really shows up on the thin layer of ice forming on this beaver pond.

We enjoyed clear skies, sun, and the company of an enthusiastic crowd of first timers at our Fall Open House on the SLU Orienteering Course today. Temps were right around freezing, but the sun and activity kept the chill out while the group navigated to the first 10 (of 28) control points on the course. This time of year is great for trying the sport out for the first time, with trees bare and visibility high in the woods. 

The rain didn't hold us back from having a great time identifying trees with Emlyn Crocker this weekend! We identified trees based on bark, leaf scars, and branch patterning patterns at Indian Creek Nature Center.  

As the temperature dropped last Friday this red maple coincidingly dropped all its leaves creating this beautiful display! 

Nature Up North's Erika Barthelmess doubles as a Mammalogy teacher at St.Lawrence University. Here she leads students in the fundamentals of small mammal trapping. This weekend several students, myself included, set up small mammal traps on the Kip Trail behind St. Lawrence where we caught this female red backed vole and this adult male porcupine!

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.

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. 

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. 

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.

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.


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! 

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!

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.

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.

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?

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

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.

Nice nature walk setting up cameras.

Awesome view on an overcast day!


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

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!

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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!

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!

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.

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.

This little one was so engrossed in dinner that I was able to get within six feet of the dining spot. 

Another gorgeous day in the NoCo and I'm trying, somewhat irregularly, to keep track of the onset of wildflowers. Didn't have much time today, but saw foam flower and I *think* wild strawberry.  Hazards of photography with a lab: ki might stick a nose in the photo - gotta be quick!

While riding bareback near the Little River, my friend and I came upon a sleeping fawn. We were concerned for the fawn’s safety and so checked in on her several times in the next 8 hours. We spoke with a DEC Wildlife Rehabilitator, who assured us that it is not usual for a baby fawn to be alone for several hours.

After being out of town for a week, I see that spring sprung while I was gone!  This assortment of flowers was up to greet me this morning - as well as some purple violets.  Leaves are out, and spring is here with a vengence!  My maples have fully unfurled leaves, Amelanchior is flowering, and the redbud tree I planted in my yard did not die over the winter (not so sure I can say the same for the flowering dogwood).  After a very long winter, these signs of spring are welcome!

Finally, it feels like spring.  Had to empty the trash, and decided to go shoe-less, in spite of it being only 40 degrees out.  Sat on the porch in the dark and listened to the coyotes howling.  Welcome back, Spring!

Strange strange "spring" we're having but beautiful nonetheless.  Woke this morning to more fresh snow to sit on top of the ice storm results from the past weekend.  While I'm really ready for flowers, the snow is lovely.

Trumpeter Swans are frequently seen at Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area most years. As the largest waterfowl in North America, they are always a magnificent sight!

I saw geese returning for the first time this season early this morning, in a group of 20-30. Seems early, but with recent weather they should find plenty of open water.