Outdoor Adventures with Gary Lee - Vol. 16
If you are out and about where you can see the Rondaxe, Stillwater, Blue, Snowy or Woodhull Mountain Fire Towers on Saturday night, the 31st, you may see them lit up from nine to ten as part of the “Light Up the Fire Towers” night. Other towers across the state will be lit up also, but I don’t have a complete list.
I went up to the Woodhull tower the other day, as I had never been up there before. The tower is a repeater station for the rangers and the windows are boarded up with plywood, so our light up will be from the upper landing. I could see several fire towers from there, to the north, east and south. I could also see the windmill farms in the Lowville area, but just a little piece of Woodhull Lake and some of Fourth Lake in front of Rondaxe.
The trees around the tower have grown up since it was closed thirty years ago. The red spruce around the tower were covered with cones, just waiting for the winter birds to come and feed on them. Right in front of the old cabin site were some wildflowers that were still growing. Foxgloves had bloomed this year, but the iris right in front of the doorstep didn’t. They probably need to be split up after all these years.
Way up on the top landing of the tower, I found a yellow caterpillar which must have fallen off my pack or hat while I was taking photos, as it didn’t have any reason to climb the tower. Down near the bottom of the tower trail, I found another neat looking rainbow-colored caterpillar on some aster plants. I took photos of both of these and sent them around, as I couldn’t find them in my little Golden Book of butterflies and moths. My Master Bander, Gordon Howard, who had a book, Princeton Field Guide-Caterpillars of Eastern North America by David Wagner, came up with the answers. The yellow one was a Definite Tussock Moth and the fancy larger one was a Brown-headed Owlet Moth. I had never seen the larger one before, which looks like a lite up train car on a flower stem. Many times, the caterpillars of these moths are much prettier than the drab brown adults they hatch into. Of course, most moths just fly around at night, so what do colors matter.
Another night this week, I went up to Bear Lake off the Sabbatis Road to try and catch an adult male loon who had lost his metal band, but still had all his color bands. There were two pairs of loons on this lake, but only the pair with the male missing a band had a chick. The chick was probably nine weeks old and didn’t have much connection with its parents. It was probably feeding mostly on its own. We had several adult loons up the bow of the canoe, but never did catch one or see the male with the bands. The moon came up about midnight and the loons could see us almost like it was daylight, so we didn’t stand much of a chance after that. We did see the chick a couple times, which would have been big enough to band, but we didn’t catch it. A barred owl was calling to us part of the night and we saw a few little and big brown bats catching bugs in our light during the night, which was nice to see.
I don’t know if you have looked at any milkweed patches, but if you have, you must have seen a few monarch caterpillars, as they seem to be on just about every other plant that I’ve look at. I have nearly 100 in my cloth cages, which I need to feed everyday as the eat up the milkweeds I put in there every day. I picked many when they were just about to go into chrysalis, so they are only in the cage a day eating, and then go to the top and turn their pretty green with a gold band. They are in chrysalis about six to ten days before coming out as beautiful orange and black butterfly. I’ve tagged about 15 so far and released them to fly west to Mexico. You can see them develop inside the chrysalis, as their pretty colors show through to the outside the day before they hatch. The adults will be feeding on the fall asters, goldenrods, joe-pye weed and Queen Ann’s Lace as they travel westward.
We will be banding hummers at the Stillwater Restaurant on Saturday the 31st, from eight to ten that morning but that’s another story. See ya.