Monthly Archives: April 2011

Gary Lee’s Daybreak to Twilight

Hard not to be cuckoo over Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge

We are into our second week here on Sanibel Island and the weather has been great. The ocean-water temperature is resting at 80 degrees—warmer than the lake-water temperature ever gets up north.

We have been swimming every day, or should I say floating, on our noodles until a wave comes over us near the beach.

Then we retreat to the shade of our beach umbrella for an afternoon nap.

Every morning I have been looking for birds by the lighthouse, and so far I haven’t seen very many.

A Screech Owl has nested in a palm stub, and I found it hiding in a nearby bush after attacking a crow that came near its nest.

The pair of young Screech Owls in the nest are in their red-and-gray phase. One day one of them, hardly any feathers, was sticking its head out of the hole in the tree.

I wasn’t quick enough to get a camera shot of it. When they sit motionless in the bush you really have to look hard to see them. I’ve pointed out this bird to several people who have walked by without ever having seen it.

The first day out was very good for warblers and other birds, but since then the birds have been flying north nonstop except for a warbler or two.

Most every night we go into the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge to watch the Roseate Spoonbills fly in to feed.

On our first night we saw 35, but just tonight there were 116 birds feeding right in front of us.

Karen asked me how many more Spoonbill pictures did I need to take.

Tonight (April 24) I took about 70 pictures as a six-foot long Alligator was stalking them not thirty feet away. He caught a fish not five feet from them, which stirred them up.

They moved to within two feet of the Alligator and talked to each other about the critter that was not far away.

Some rain showers moved through this afternoon, so the sun was hiding behind a cloud. It made the water a golden color all around the beautiful pink birds.

There have been a few White Pelicans that haven’t headed north yet, and have been resting on the same shoal as the Spoonbills.

The White Pelicans are much larger than the Brown Pelicans. These birds normally leave the refuge by the 15th of April, but not this year. On this day there were still eleven here.

I participated in the Mangrove Cuckoo Count in Ding Darling the first Friday I was here.

We got a pair at the first stop in the Refuge and one just past the observation tower.

We also heard another one near the exit gate.

The day before the count, Karen and I rode our bikes through the Refuge. I heard a Mangrove Cuckoo calling in two places and saw one by the cross dike.

The Mangrove Cuckoo was one of the birds I went to see over in Sanibel fifteen years ago. It took me over ten years before I saw one.

Today their population seems to be growing, or the habitat following the hurricane has improved for them.

It’s still a great bird to see. Its call is very distinctive; once you hear it you won’t forget it.

We went down to Key West overnight, taking the fast boat from Fort Myers Beach there last week.

It was very hot with wall-to-wall people in an atmosphere I would describe as much like a big Craft Fair.

There were three cruise ships there and lots of people hurrying around trying to see everything.

I got up early that day and took a short bird walk.

The Wild Chickens were crowing everywhere and some of them were very pretty.

I saw Gray Kingbirds and White Crowned Pigeons. The Pigeons were a life bird for me.

I had seen White-winged Doves on Sanibel earlier in the week—also life birds for me.

I’ve heard the ice is out and the Loons have come back to some of the lakes, so I guess we will have to come home pretty soon.

Until then there is more to see here, but that’s another story. See ya.

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Growing up Adirondack by Mitch Lee

Wondering what lurks in the murk of those worm-filled puddles

When I was five years old, I believed spring to be the greatest season.

Large, black, fierce-looking clouds seemed to bring rain every day.

But then the sun would poke its head, bathing my mountains and helping bring hues of green back to the grasses and tips of every tree branch.

I enjoyed these brief moments of sun and would take the opportunity to explore the world around me.

I would poke around the dormant plants and rich muddy woods at the edge of our home on Limekiln Lake, marveling at their revival.

My favorite things to explore were mud puddles. They were plentiful due to the spring rains. Some of the best ones could be found in our own driveway.

I would squat and peer into the rich blackness of those miniature lakes, swishing the murky water with a stick. Sometimes I would stir up blackened leaves and worms.

The worms were a curiosity. How did they get there, and where did they come from?

One day I decided to count the worms in one of the large puddles.

With my bare hands and a little help from a stick, I pulled each worm from the water.

When I finished I had counted more than thirty.

I picked up each of their limp-as-noodle bodies, examining them before laying them in a row to dry.

Some were tiny and some were quite long. For the most part they were maroon in color and seemed dead.

The puddle was still a little cloudy from my having disrupted it. I wanted to see if I could find more worms, but the center was too deep, even for my swish stick.

I ventured out toward the center of the puddle, careful not to get my sneakers wet. I dug into the dark water.

All of a sudden I had a scary thought. What if there was no bottom to the puddle and some monstrous creature lived there, sheltered by the leaves and feeding on worms?

The thought quickly passed as my stick hit bottom and I was able to pull layers of leaves and about 50 lifeless worms to shore.

I created some pretty big waves when I pulled up the debris. Cold water seeped through my sneakers.

The sky began to darken. I decided to go inside and give my wet feet a break.

“You should have seen them worms out there,” I said to my mother as I peeled off my blackened and soaked socks. Just an hour before they had been dry and white. just one hour previously.

Mitch Lee, Adirondack native & storyteller, lives at Big Moose

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Just Call me Mrs. Lucky by Jan from Woodgate

Sticks and stones can break bones, but stones are particularly nasty

SAVED BY THE STONE. That will be my new mantra. And you may be surprised to know exactly which stone I refer to.

A kidney stone, my friends.

That’s right, and it wasn’t even mine. Said kidney stone belonged to a friend who just happened to be passing it right before my eyes at our lovely cafe here in Woodgate.

He shall remain, out of courtesy, anonymous, except to say that he’s in the center of Adirondack sports and fun, and quite the mad boat hauler. Anyway, the stone(s) eventually sent him to the hospital.

This guy is my age and like me had not been to a doctor in some twenty years. He has a fantastic insurance plan (unlike me). Well once they get ahold of a fifty something year old with a good “Plan” the games begin in earnest.

Those of us without a “Plan” are likely to just die in the hallway.

He was immediately whisked off for every test known to mankind and lo and behold, the ol’ blood pressure issue came to be. He had to purchase his own personal cuff, which we treated like a new toy at Christmas.

Until it was my turn.

Just for kicks and giggles he placed that cuff on my arm. Rut ro. We were both thinking that the number 185 could not possibly be good, but geeze louise we’re not doctors and have no business whatsoever trying to diagnose medical stuff.

I was sure his new stupid toy was malfunctioning, so I decided to ignore it.

Truly, it takes a village sometimes. And this was one of those times. Local EMT’s and our oh-so-capable Fire Chief all just happen to be toting around blood pressure cuffs (who knew???)—the number remained the same.

What to do now? No doctor, no insurance, on the verge of a stroke or heart attack.

Not a pretty picture, to say the least. Time to place some phone calls.

Well hellooooooooo Boonville Faxton St. Luke’s office…

Loved them immediately. From the gal at the front desk who welcomed my uninsured self, to the fantastic nurses, and a special hellooooooo to my new trusted hero, Dr. Adam Seigers.

Young, conservative, concerned and considerate of my finances. Prescribed a little pill which worked within twenty minutes.


Holy cow, they even called me that evening to see how I was doing. Had me come in within two days, at my convenience, for a quick BP check. No waiting, no fuss, no muss. Love love love them.

I have already dubbed this My Condition. Everyone has to be waaay nicer to me now, and I shouldn’t be forced to race around at unreasonable speeds anymore. I have a Condition, afterall.

Now, not only am I figuratively cool, I am physically cool. Hot flashes at a minimum. Anger/anxiety totally controlled.

We all know that I’m not a fan of pill taking and have openly chastised the Pillers of Society.

The only pill I’ve ever had to swallow was good old Vitamin A (Advil), and until now it’s worked like a champ.

Welcome to the 50’s. Who knows where it can go from here, but I am so impressed by this medical office that I’m truly not afraid of the White Coats anymore.

I might just go for a yearly physical from now on, just for kicks.

A big fat thank you to you, Dr. Seigers, and the entire oh-so-competent staff at your office.

You folks truly have no idea how much you have changed my life.

As for my coworkers and the customers at Seasons, My Condition needs to be respected.

Basically, shuttup and wait. I’ll get there in a minute or ten…

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Man About River by Ken Thibado

Meaty, beaty, big & bouncy: Locals raft adventure comes in waves

I’d never been whitewater rafting before and the invitation took me completely by surprise.

A.R.O. Adventures was offering a “Locals Day” package to Old Forge. Our last-minute crew consisted of ring-leaders Brita Down & Doug Markel, Brian Morgan, Kathy Rivet and myself.

As luck would have it our A.R.O. guide was John Eddy, also of Old Forge.

The picture of our party of five, snapped on Brita Down’s “Bad Ass Blackberry,” shows us strapped into our wet suits and life jackets.

We appear confident and ready, having just been lectured on the possible perils of rafting and what to do should we be ejected from the boat and sent on our own “mini-adventure.”

This term “mini-adventure” would be referenced regularly throughout the trip by our guide, John Eddy.

John would remind us each time we entered a new set of large rapids, where the possibility of winding up in the savage stew became a distinct reality.

Intrepid Architect Brian Morgan and myself shared the front of the raft, becoming the hood ornament of our craft as we slammed our way down a small stretch of The Indian River and into The Hudson.

The five of us laughed and screamed at the huge waves that would erupt in front of us.

Craters opened beneath the raft, and we would plunge down into them, all while our guide hollered instructions.

Spring is “big water” season, and the weather provided us with huge rapids.

Our raft rumbled through Class III rapids and was up-ended in a particularly frothy stretch of Class V whitewater about two thirds of the way through the 17 mile trip.

Happily, no one was seriously injured and we all washed up on the same side of the river.

Our guide and I had managed to haul in our upturned raft and anchor it, and ourselves, by the side of a large boulder in shallow water.

The search for our party was brief—three of us had washed up just beyond the raft.

A quick and nervous search for missing restaurateur Kathy Rivet found her wide-eyed and smiling safely behind us in a small pool.

With our innocence lost, we continued our excursion.

We joked our way through the lingering effects of having been whirled through a mini-adventure.

And then, for good measure, we dabbled with what our guide called a “meaty hole” in the last of the whitewater we would see that day.

Having been assured that we had experienced some of the meanest water in the Adiron-dacks, the rafting company rewarded us with a barbecued meal.

Safe and dry, we swapped rafting stories with other Old Forge area locals, relating our particular tale of visiting the bottom side of the Hudson.

Now bonded by white water, we drove back to Old Forge, making plans to return and challenge the rapids again as representatives of the area next Spring.

You can rapidly write to Ken Thibado at

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Talkin’ Code with Andrew Getty

Variances are not always difficult, but there are no guarantees


Q: Hello, is this the place to get a building permit?

A: Yes sir, the Code Enforcement Office. What kind of project do you want to do?

Q: We are starting to put an addition on our camp, and a neighbor stopped to ask if we had a permit. Do I need a permit to just add on?

A: Yes, a building permit is required.

Q: Can I send my wife down to pick up a permit, and how much is this going to cost me?

A: The cost is dependent on the size of the project. Have your wife come in and fill out the application which is only one page.

The important information will be on the construction drawings and the plot plan that she will bring in and attach to the application.

Q: I don’t have any plans, and I don’t have a plot plan either. I know I don’t need them because it’s attached to the existing camp. My wife will come in to your office and buy the permit. How much will it cost?

A: Depends on how big the project is and a set of plans is required to get the permit.

Q: It’s about the same size as the camp, around 24 feet by 30 feet, and will have a loft for the kids. The plans are in my head, I’ll give you the lumber list so you can figure it out from that. You can see what I’m doing, what do you need plans for?

A: A permit will not be issued until you can show compliance to the NYS Residential Code and the Local Zoning requirements for location, setbacks from property lines, waterfronts and roads.

Q: Do you think I’m nuts? I’m not building this in the road or on the water. And I know exactly where our property lines are. My Father showed me the place where the tree was on the line and we put a rock there after the tree blew over in a storm. I know right where it is; do you want to see it?

A: No, that will not be necessary. There is a strong possibility, a very strong possibility, that a survey may be required to verify the location of the existing structure and the addition.

Q: I already told you, I know where the line is. Why do we need a survey?

A: If you know how far from the shoreline or any property line the addition is, and the addition is clearly, without any question, farther than 100 feet from the shoreline, farther than 25 feet to any side line and farther than 50 feet to any rear property line… and all this can be verified easily on-site, a survey may not be required.

Q: The existing camp is only 20 feet off the lake now, but it is all grandfathered so I can do what I want to. And the neighbors next door do not care if the addition is right next to their wood shed, so being 25 feet off the side property doesn’t matter either. How much is this permit going to cost me anyway?

A: Let me summarize what I think we just discussed.

The camp and the addition are all within the 100 foot shoreline setback area.

The addition is going to be 2 or 3 feet from the neighbor’s wood shed, which is assumed to be on the side property line, and you think everything is fine, and all you want is the permit.

Q: Yeah, that’s right, how much does it cost, 20, 30 bucks?

A: I can’t give you a permit.

Q: Why not? It’s grandfathered, my neighbor doesn’t care, and I have already started construction!!?

A: First of all, here is a STOP WORK ORDER. You must stop all construction activities immediately.

Secondly, we will need a complete survey showing all structures accurately located, signed by a NYS Licensed Land Surveyor, and showing where the addition will be located.

And lastly, even if you get me this stuff the permit will still not be issued.

Q: You’re joking right? You’re saying if we get all this information, survey, plans, etc… you will not grant the permit? Why not?

A: That is correct. In your location the Zoning Classification is RR, therefore a 100 foot shoreline setback is required for any construction, even additions.

And you also have a side line setback issue where a minimum of 25 feet is required.

Unless you apply for and receive an Area Variance from the Town Zoning Board of Appeals, no permit can be issued.

Q: Fine. I’ll just get a variance. How much is that going to cost me?

…some days are good days, and some days are a little more challenging…

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Gary Lee’s Daybreak to Twilight

Statewide deer harvest up slightly in 2010, bear harvest down

Karen and I just came back from dinner here on Sanibel Island, with a temperature reading of 82 degrees. It was well over 90 degrees today with no snow on the ground.

We had a good trip south to Florida from the north country last week—though it snowed while we were going through the mountains of Pennsylvania.

We visited Savannah on the way and took a trolley ride around the old part of the city. The azaleas were in bloom as well as flowers in the gardens around many of the old houses.

I saw a variety of birds along the way south. Barn Swallows were checking out some bridges in Virginia and I saw some Purple Martens fly over the highway in North Carolina.

I heard my first warbler, a Common Yellow Throat, singing in South Carolina.

On my first trip to the lighthouse here on Sanibel there were a few warblers: Prairie, Palm, Indigo Buntings, female Orchard Oriole, Red-eyed and Blue-headed Vireo.

On a trip off the island today (4/11) we saw Black and White, Pine, Parula, Yellow-rumped, Common Yellow Throat Warblers, Painted Buntings, Meadow Lark, Bluebirds, Screech Owl, Swallow-tailed Kite, and a Loggerhead Shrike feeding young in a nest. In all, we saw a total of 44 species.

Bear-take numbers from last fall’s harvest have been released with a total of 1,064 taken in the state.

The bear-take is broken down statewide. In the Southeastern region, 401 Bears were taken; in the Central-western region, 142; and in the Adirondacks, 521 were taken.

A further breakdown shows that in the Southeastern region, half of the Bears were taken during the bow hunting season and the other half were taken during the gun season.

In the Central-western region bowhunters were responsible for 65% of the harvest. Both of these harvests were down approximately 20% from 2009.

In the Adirondacks the take was down approximately 35% from 2009, but is consistent with the long term average for that area.

Bear harvest in the Adiron-dacks seems heavily influenced by variations in key food resources and this year’s harvest follows those trends.

In years when the soft mast (apple, cherry, raspberry) is abundant, bear harvest during the early season tends to decrease.

This year these crops were available in September and October and bear-take during the 2010 early season dropped approximately 40% from 2009.

That was a year with a poor soft mass crop and a high early season bear harvest.

Conversely, in years when beech nuts are abundant, bear-take tends to increase during the regular season.

This past fall was lacking for beechnut production, and bear-take during the regular season dropped about 25% from 2009.

Hunters play a pivotal role in bear management by reporting their harvests. Hunters are also asked to submit a tooth sample from their bears for DEC to determine the age of bears.

DEC uses these ages to determine age profiles and population numbers in all these areas.

A complete summary of the 2010 Bear harvest with a breakdown by county, town, and Wildlife Management Unit is available from the DEC website.

The 2010 statewide Deer harvest is up slightly from last year’s totals. DEC Commissioner Joe Martens announced on March 28 that hunters harvested just over 230,000 deer in the 2010 hunting season.

That is up about 3% from 2009.

The Junior Big-Game License was popular again this year, with over 16,000 junior hunters taking advantage of this opportunity to hunt big game.

That group harvested approximately 4,900 deer.

The 2010 deer-take included approximately 123,100 antlerless deer (adult females and fawns) and just under 107,000 adult bucks. Deer harvest in the Northern Zone were very comparable to 2009, with adult buck-take (approx. 16,100) essentially unchanged and antlerless take (approx. 12,500) increasing about 3%.

In the Southern Zone, excluding Long Island, adult buck-take (approx. 89,900) increased nearly 6% while antlerless-take (approx. 108,600) increased only about 2%.

Deer populations and harvest vary widely across the state. The 2010 and previous year’s Deer harvest by county, town and Wildlife Management Unit are also available from the DEC website.

Some new things have been seen here in Florida, but that’s another story. See ya.

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Growing up Adirondack by Mitch Lee

Dreams of dashing around the yard get the boot

It was mid-April of 1970 and the thermometer at our Limekiln Lake home had hit a warm 50 degrees. The spring birds could be heard chattering with excitement. I could not wait to join them outdoors.

I dug around for the sneakers I had stashed under my bed late last fall. Up until now I had no use for them as boots were the only thing that had covered my feet for months.

I located the sneakers and dragged them into the living room along with my blue windbreaker.

It wasn’t until I started to get dressed that I realized that I had grown considerably since last fall.

I sat on the entryway carpet for some time, struggling to pull a shoe over my heel. But it was definitely a no go.

All I wanted to do was get outside and run around as fast as I could, but those sneakers were standing in my way.

My mother was at the kitchen sink washing out the coffee pot. I dangled the too-small footwear in front of her and said, “Look, they don’t fit!”

“Well, you’re just going to have to wear your boots then,” she replied.

My heart sank. There was nothing like the feeling you got when you were able to wear sneakers outside again. It just wasn’t going to be the same.

I tossed the sneakers against the back wall of the closet. With much disgust I pulled on my all-too-familiar heavy black boots.

When I went out to play I felt like I was weighed-down by two giant black stones. Out of utter disdain I didn’t even bother to zip or tie them. I just let them flop around my ankles.

All I wanted to do is sprint around the bare lawn as fast as my legs could carry me, but that just wasn’t going to happen. I finally gave up.

I sat on the warm flagstone porch with my chin cupped in my palms and my elbows on my knees.

The sun and warmth seemed so inviting yet I felt so disconnected from this perfect day.

Just then my mother came out and shook a rug over the edge of the porch.

“What’s the matter?” she asked.

“These darn boots just don’t go fast,” I answered.

I sat there a little bit longer. Then my mother came out again.

“Let’s go for a ride,” she said.

We hopped into the car and drove downtown to Kalil’s Department Store. I browsed the display of Pro Keds sneakers and chose a pair from the three-color assortment. They fit me well, with a little extra room to spare.

Once we returned home I spent the rest of the afternoon breaking them in by running crazy wind sprints all over the yard.

Mitch Lee, Adirondack native & storyteller, lives at Big Moose

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