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Adirondack Explorer

April, 2018

Venom: The Secrets of Nature’s Deadliest Weapon
Author: Ronald Jenner and Eivind Undheim

Review by: Ed Kanze

A resident or seasonal explorer of the Adirondacks, you may believe that our cool, northern landscapes are devoid of venomous animals. Sure, rattlesnakes inhabit a smattering of sun-warmed spots along the shores of Lake George and Lake Champlain, but that’s all, isn’t it? You might fall off a cliff here, or die of hypothermia, or be eaten by a bear, the bear being chiefly theoretical because no one we know of has been eaten by one in the Park to date. But you can rest assured that no venomous creature will do you harm. That’s a pleasant fantasy, yet it’s >>More


January, 2018

A Field Guide to Tracking Mammals in the Northeast
Author: Linda J. Spielman

Review by: Ed Kanze

You don’t need a magnifying glass, a deerstalker cap, and a Dr. Watson to track the mammals you suspect to be traversing your favorite pieces of Adirondack real estate. What are required most of all are curiosity and a willingness to invest the considerable time and energy it takes to study footprints, partially eaten food items, and scat. I mean to really scrutinize them, not glance at them in passing. To grow as a tracker, it also helps to find a teacher. Since most of us don’t shell out money to go to tracking schools, our teachers tend to be >>More


October, 2017

The Snake and the Salamander: Reptiles and Amphibians from Maine to Virginia
Author: Alvin R. Breisch

Review by: Ed Kanze

Once I had the pleasure of meeting Al Breisch, then New York State DEC’s de facto Herpetologist-in-Chief, at a lecture he gave for the Wild Center before it had even been built. Breisch impressed me. He was precise and as armed with accurate information about “herps” (a catch-all nickname for reptiles and amphibians) as a porcupine is charged with quills. Yet Breisch, then director of DEC’s Amphibian and Reptile Atlas Project, did not strike me that day as someone inclined to write a warm, accessible, popular book about anything. It was plain he was a man of science, speaking the >>More


July, 2017

Bogs and Fens
Author: Ronald B. Davis

Review by: Ed Kanze

Bogs and fens are wetlands. At least they are if you can call a wet place with nothing but peat, or sphagnum moss, underfoot “land.” Such features, not quite land and not quite water, dot the Adirondack landscape. Whenever and wherever we hike, we march around and over them, sometimes on boardwalks, planks, or corduroy. Botanists, birdwatchers, and naturalists in general tend to go ape over patches of peat. If you’ve ever wondered what’s the big deal or wanted to distinguish a bog from a fen and comprehend the physical factors that make such places different from each other and >>More


September, 2016

Back from the brink
Author: Darryl McGrath

Review by: Edward Kanze

Book Review By EDWARD KANZE We all see things differently. My distinguished writer friend the late Maurice Kenny and I argued on more than one occasion over what sorts of books we like. I provoked the debate, asserting that given a choice between a brilliantly written book with not much at its core and a book of fabulous material presented in pedestrian prose, I’d choose the fabulous and the pedestrian every time. Maurice, a champion of fine writing and a gifted writer himself, disagreed, vehemently. I wish, when we last crossed swords, I had Darryl McGrath’s Flight Paths to thump >>More


November, 2014

Trees of Eastern North America
Author: Gil Nelson, Christopher J. Earle, and Richard Spellenberg

Review by: Ed Kanze

  The giants among us For all the vaunted magnitude of the largest animal that ever lived, and still lives, consider the largest living trees. A few giant coast redwoods skyscrape nearly four hundred feet above their California roots, while the tallest tree of our eastern forests, the white pine, may shoot nearly two hundred feet toward the energy source that fuels its prodigious growth. By comparison a blue whale is puny. From stem to stern, the largest individuals measure not quite a hundred feet. In the Adirondacks and across much of the North American landscape, trees loom larger than any other kind of organism. Every one of us >>More


September, 2013

The Crossley ID Guide & Hawks in Flight
Author: Crossley ID Guide: Richard Crossley, Jerry Liguori & Brian Sullivan & Hawks in Flight: Pete Dunne, David Allen Sibley & Clay Sutton

Review by: Edward Kanze

There can be no greater thrill on an Adirondack hike in autumn than to stand on a summit and have hawks and falcons stream over your head. Perhaps there’ll be an eagle or two shooting past for good measure, and an osprey or harrier, too. Fall colors and prime hiking weather coincide with migration season for day-flying raptors. What you see on particular hikes is a matter of hit or miss, but if you hit just right, you may get exciting close looks at birds otherwise difficult to admire close up in the wild. While migrating long distances, hawks, eagles, >>More


May, 2013

Kaufman Field Guide to Nature of New England & Eastern Alpine Guide
Author: Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman (Kaufman Guide) & M.T. Jones and L.L. Wiley, Editors (Eastern Alpine Guide)

Review by: Ed Kanze

Nature rare and common HOW IS THE INTREPID Adirondack explorer to make sense of all the flora, fauna, and fungi out there? In the past, the typical way was to carry field guides, which, in the grand tradition of nature books, tended to tackle one subject at a time. A generalist wanting greater knowledge of the life along the Van Hoevenberg Trail up Mount Marcy might stuff a pack with guides to birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, trees, shrubs, wildfl owers, ferns, and more. A single field guide might weigh two or three pounds. To carry half a dozen or more >>More


May, 2013

Common Mosses of the Northeast and Appalachians
Author: By Karl B. McKnight, Joseph R. Rohrer, Kirsten McKnight Ward, and Warren J. Perdrizet

Review by: Ed Kanze

A must for moss mavens Field guides don’t get much more specific than the beautiful new Common Mosses of the Northeast and Appalachians, the latest in the excellent series of field guides published by Princeton University Press. The identification of mosses, aside from distinguishing a few easily recognized common species, has long been the exclusive province of botanists specializing in mosses and of a few rabid amateurs. Collecting samples in the field and carting them back to a laboratory, where they are scrutinized under a microscope, has always been an inescapable part of the game. Even most botanists are unwilling >>More


July, 2012

Peterson Field Guide Mammals of North America
Author: Fiona A. Reid

Review by: Ed Kanze

Another fine new field guide useful to Adirondack naturalists is Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East by Dennis Paulson (Princeton University Press, 2011). This book contains such a wealth of detail and natural history that it may initially overwhelm the user. Still, it’s hard to argue with the author’s efforts to show and tell all we need to know. Dragonflies make themselves known in every corner of the Adirondacks in every season but winter. Paddlers may duck as big ones fly by, or they may pause to admire the dazzling colors of a northern bluet, a tiny and delicate damselfly, >>More


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