A walk through an Adirondack forest is a feast of sights, sounds, and smells. Whether you are going for a stroll, climbing a high peak, or birding, you are bound to come across some interesting wildlife on your way. Of course, some creatures can be hard to find, but many can be found by simply looking down. Still others, like the winter wren and white-throated sparrow, fill the forest with a melodious cacophony that is hard to miss. In this post I have included some wildlife that does not require much searching to find. Most of the pictures were taken right off the Jackrabbit trail between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. Enjoy!
Perhaps one of the most colorful animals that you might spot on the forest floor is the juvenile eastern newt. This stage of the newt life cycle is often referred to as a red eft. These newts hatch as larvae in an aquatic environment but eventually loose their gills, leave the water, and become terrestrial red efts. The bright orange color is a warning to predators that they are toxic, and not pleasant to eat. It is thought that this terrestrial stage allows the newts to disperse to new habitats, thus increasing genetic diversity and survival. After this stage in development, the red eft will change to greenish color, develop gills, and return to the water to breed as a mature adult.
Of all the tree species that can be found in the Adirondacks, the yellow birch is easily my favorite. While not uncommon, this species specializes on germinating in unusual places. The above picture perfectly demonstrates this, as a large glacial boulder appears to be being swallowed up the roots a yellow birch.
Perhaps the two most distinguishable bird songs that you can hear in the Adirondack forests are that of the winter wren and the white-throated sparrow. Both of these small birds are capable of producing a ridiculous amount of noise. The white-throated sparrow, with its high-pitched, long whistles “oh-sweet-canada-canada” is recognizable to many who live in this region. You can often spot white-throated sparrows perching high to sing their song or quickly moving through coniferous underbrush where they breed.
The winter wren is a much different bird and more easily heard than seen. It sings a very long and note-filled song, that carries a surprisingly long distance in the forest. These birds generally stay close to the ground, and they like to nest in downed logs or upturned root masses.
No hike in the Adirondacks would be complete without an assortment of biting flies to keep you company. This is especially true during spring and early summer, when the black flies are at their peak. As much as I loath black flies, I disdain mosquitoes even more, and there are places where they can be almost as numerous. I took the above picture on Mount Baker in Saranac Lake. It is rare to have a day where I wish I was inside instead of out, but this was one of them.
The Adirondacks host a great diversity of mushrooms, and there are many great places to hunt for them. Some mushrooms are edible and some are definitely not, so be careful! Below are some mushrooms that I was able to identify along the Jackrabbit trail near Saranac Lake. The painted bolete is the only one that is edible, and it is actually pretty pleasant. The others will most likely land you a trip to the hospital…