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!


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.

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.

The brown skeleton of an Aster is reborn through December frost...

A favorite native lily that gets it's name from the blue berry that follows the flower. Very common in the Adirondack park. The berries are not edible, just pretty.

A blackberry cane (Rubus spp.) in full fall color stands brightly against the first dusting of snow of the season.

A portrait of one of our native Adoxaceae family shrubs. The berries of viburnum trilobum are edible, yet sour, and mainly enjoyed by wildlife. Nearly identical to its European cousin Viburnum opulus, the sole distinction between the two species being the petiolar glands. On the native trilobum species the petiolar glands are convex (or bulging outwards) while the non-native european opulus species has concave (sunken) petiolar glands.

Exploring the fall woods, I stumbled upon a treasure... chaga (Inonotus obliquus) on yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) !

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.

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.

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.

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?

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

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.

Awesome view on an overcast day!

A beautiful view of Stowe Bay on the Raquette River

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!

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

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

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

Nice nature walk setting up cameras.

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

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

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.

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!

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/ .

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. 

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!

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!

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.  

Sunset in Massena

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!

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!

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.

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

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.

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.

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 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.

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

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.

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!

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!

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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!

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!

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!

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.

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!

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

Took a quick morning jaunt at Harper's falls to see what is blooming.  Nice hike, nice day.

White Trillium are quite spectacular this year! Usually by the time they start turning pink they are pretty beat.

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!

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!

I was preparing to go to work when I saw my cat Billie interacting with a porcupine. They looked at each other and went their seperate ways.

While passing through the area on Sunday, I went for a lovely afternoon hike to Harper Falls with a couple of friends, including Emlyn from Nature Up North. As we made our way toward the falls, we admired an abundance of spring ephemerals, including trout lilies, ramps, red trilliums, and some others that I couldn't identify. It's hard to believe that I never knew about this beautiful trail in the four years I went to school at SLU!

Flowers are blooming and underbrush have buds. Raquette river is dangerously high with a high flow rate, but a beautiful sight. Plenty of mist from the rougher parts of the river that cool you down. Some flooding over earlier parts of the trail.

Enjoyed celebrating Earth Day by getting out to Stone Valley with some friends and our dogs. Water is high, and spring seems to have arrived!

Got out on the Kip Trail this today to check conditions for the Earth Day 7K run and walk tomorrow. The afternoon was gorgeous - 62 F and probably the first day it's really felt like spring weather. The first half of the trail closer to the Little River has a few spots that like to attract mud, but the conditions were drier than I expected. No large pools of standing water in the trail, and only a few muddy spots. Still, I'd advice anyone coming out for the race tomorrow to plan for some mud! 

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.

Great place to explore. A few tough rocks to scramble up, but a fairly easy hike for all skills levels. 10/10 would visit again

My class was able to drive less than half an hour to an amazing trail with incredible views. Even at the trail head, we could see a massive waterfall. Although we didn't hike very far into the trail due to a time constraint, what we were able to see was beautiful even on an overcast day, especially when we walked out on the rocks next to the rushing river. Of course, images can't always capture the full beauty, so I strongly encourage people to visit the place for themselves!

An incredible day on the shores of lake Ontario. It was a bright and beautiful day, around 35 degrees, but the 25 MPH winds off of the lake were frigid.There are quite a few trails there, we hiked the Snakefoot and Dancing Gypsy trails.This was originally an Army training base, "Stony Point Rifle Range", and you can still find remnants of pillboxs, spotter station boxes and the firing wall. Later it was sold to the Wehle family (of the Genesee beer company fame). The place was used as a summer home, and they raised champion German pointers here.

As we marched along the Raquette River during our Geology Field Trip exploring one of the many hydro-electric systems along this 'powerful' river, I was distracted by the vibrant view of the turbulent waters of the River, Raquette and the bare forests rooted about it awaiting a signal of rebirth from mother nature as the winter snow slowly dissipates.   

This is always a great hike, and the warm temps & high water from the spring thaw made it pretty spectacular today. The trails are a little icy, so you will want to wear some traction for at least the next week or so. For more on this trail- visit: https://hikingthetrailtoyesterday.wordpress.com/2017/11/05/3275/

Though we have visited John Browns far several time is the past, this time we took the snowshoes and hit the trails. The views were amazing at certain places, with views of the great range that were to die for. An important piece of history, nice trails and the perfect weather made for the best outing this winter for us. We did the ski-jump trail that takes you right under the Olympic ski jumps, and then to the farm & graves site. From there we took the potato field loop. We cover about 3 miles. It's well worth it if you are in the area (or looking for a field trip).

Two ice climbing routes, possibly the best ice ever I've climbed, went up with friends Laura Duncan (first woman to add a route in the remote Panther Gorge) and Brent Elliot. Both are located in a deep fracture on Mt. Marcy in Panther Gorge. Read the full account with route details, photos and video here: https://www.summitpost.org/scylla-and-charybdis-in-panther-gorge/1016838

This snowflake (2018.01.05a) was collected on Jan. 05, 2018 at 5:45pm. Using Magano and Lee (1966), this snowflake is classified as a Stellar Crystal with Plates at Ends (P2n). The growth of this snowcrystal (and its resultant morphology) was controlled by weather conditions during its decent in the atmosphere.

This snowflake (2018.02.07g) was collected on Feb. 07, 2018 at 3:00pm. Using Magano and Lee (1966), this snowflake is classified as a Crystal with Broad Branches (P1c). The growth of this snowcrystal (and its resultant morphology) was controlled by weather conditions during its decent in the atmosphere.

These snowcrystals were collected on February 7, 2018 at 3 pm. The growth of these snowcrystals and their resultant morphology was controlled by the weather conditions during their decent in the atmosphere. Basically, a snowcrystal records the chaotic series of events from deposition of water vapor on the nucleus (e.g., dust particle) to collection. Though temperature on the ground at the time of collection was -8°C, the crystals formed in different conditions in the atmosphere.


The snow crystal (Snowcrystal 2018.2.07b) was collected on February 7, 2018 at 11 am. Using Magano and Lee (1996) this snowflake is classified as P1a, which is a hexagonal plate. The growth of the snow crystal (and its resultant morphology) was controlled by weather conditions during its decent in the atmosphere.

The snow crystal (Snowcrystal 2018.2.07a) was collected on February 7, 2018 at 11 am. Using Magano and Lee (1996) this snowflake is classified as P1c, which is a snow crystal with broad branches. The growth of the snow crystal (and its resultant morphology) was controlled by weather conditions during its decent in the atmosphere.

St. Lawrence University - February 7th, 2018
Mixture of hexagonal (P1a) and thick plate of skeletal form (C1h). Long solid column (N1e) needles with semi-formed hollow bullets (C1d). More than one nuclei present, formed around -15 degrees with 89% average humidity. Growth was continuous through snowfall.

St. Lawrence University: February 7th, 2018
Contains: Crystal with broad branches (P1c), elementary sheath (N1c), hollow bullet (C1d) and a bundle of elementary sheaths at one location (N1d).
Temperature formed was at -15 degrees, right at the water saturation line with 89 % average humidity. There were at least two different nuclei present with changes in temperature and increased humidity occurring between the branch growth.