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PPL on the Outside

This just in: Out & About

Out and About, by Kendall Taylor, is one of the newest books to PPL’s North Country Collection and is a guide book in step with our PPL on the Outside program, encouraging the exploration of our greater backyards.


The holidays are behind us and many of us are coming down off the high of that busy season: running to the stores for last minute gifts; trying to get to the post office in time; did you remember all the ingredients for the certain dish you were cooking before the stores close for a day and a half?!

Okay, stop. 🛑✋ 

Look around. You made it. We are into the first week of 2022 and the season of getting your bearings about you are afoot! The question is, what to do with the time you were spending running around. 

Well, we just added a book to our North Country Collection full of suggestions, which will do you good the whole year ‘round. 

Places to go and Things to do: Out and About in the North Country, by Kendall Taylor (second edition), is a wonderful book loaded with information about trails, parks, festivals, driving tours (What?! I LOVE a good driving tour!!), museums, Shipwrecks (Seriously?! Tell me you don’t want to know more!) . . . The list goes on. 

The book started out as a fundraiser 15 years ago for Kendall’s daughter’s school, but she said that edition was only used as a guide for “what not to do” in this “sophisticated” edition that she added was modeled on the Lonely Planet series (the Australian travel guide book publisher), with side bars, i.e., “don’t go on Tuesday, it’s too busy. If you go on the weekend, you get in free between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m,” Kendall said in a phone interview. 

And if the book is already checked out, you can buy a copy at the North Country Children’s Museum

In fact, this second edition was published as a fundraiser for the museum. Sharon Williams, the museum’s executive director, tells us that the book can be picked up at many of the local book stores, convenient marts, museums, or at the Children’s Museum website: https://northcountrychildrensmuseum.org/shop/ 

Have a look at the video below to see and hear more about the book from both Sharon and Kendall and, just like we at the Potsdam Public Library advocate through our PPL on the Outside Program, get out and explore your greater backyard!

The video review and sample of Out and About, created by Potsdam Public Library through PPL on the Outside.

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PPL on the Outside

Gearing up for Winter Walks

Well, it might not be winter yet, but winter weather is here, and in what is known as “Frozen River Country,” that means we can hide inside or learn to fall in love with winter by getting outside in ways that are new to us.

We chose getting outside, and did so, frequently, with our friend Blair Madore, who has taken us on a variety of nature hikes. (If you have been keeping up with out PPL on the Outside blogs and have subscribed to the Potsdam Public Library YouTube channel, you likely have seen our videos of Blair on the trail).

Along those adventures, Blair led a series of snowshoe trips. If you haven’t gone snowshoeing before, it is quite exhilarating and if you find the right places, as Blair does, you get to see nature in a whole new way.

So, in the spirit of getting ready for another winter outdoors with Blair and, sometimes me, as expedition leaders, below is a video which will give a taste of what you have to look forward to if you join us.

Enjoy, and we look forward to seeing you on the trail!

William Eckert

PPL Adult Program Coordinator

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PPL on the Outside

Madore Makes “Life in Potsdam . . .” Better

At its inception, PPL on the Outside was rooted in exploring the wilderness and curated trails of Potsdam and beyond. The more I talked about it, the more I had people telling me I needed to talk to and coordinate with Blair Madore. I didn’t know Blair at the time but was quick to learn that not only is he a math professor at SUNY Potsdam, the vice chair, education of the Adirondack Mountain Club Laurentian Chapter and the Red Sandstone Trail Coordinator, but he is a staunch advocate for getting into the wild. 

Perfect!

By the time we finished our first call together about free, outdoor programming, we had agreed to a partnership between PPL and the ADK Mountain Club and scheduled an autumnal, two-day walk along the Red Sandstone Trail that would highlight both its natural and historical setting.

Since then we have had several hiking and snowshoeing adventures in and out of the Adirondacks. We even coordinated a Pirate Hike for kids on Sugar Island, where Blair regaled families of the legend of the Pirates of the Raquette River and had them search for lost treasure.

While we are working on more free, outdoor adventures together for our community to participate in, I sat down with Blair to talk about his love of nature and of all things Potsdam, and below is Blair, in his own words, kicking it off in his feelings about Potsdam in a nutshell. “Life in Potsdam is good!”

Be well and we’ll see each other soon!

Adult Program Coordinator William Eckert 

Dr. Blair Madore, during a history and nature hike on the Red Sandstone Trail, often stopped to talk about the many natural wonders we can find in our backyards.

“Life in Potsdam is good. For people who don’t know me, I lived in Toronto for a long time before I came to Potsdam, and of all the things I wanted in life, I wanted to live in a small college town with access to nature. I thought that was a place in Ontario but it turns out it was a place in New York. In fact, the place in Ontario I had set as a goal to live is actually nowhere near as good as Potsdam, when it comes to that small-town life with a great access to nature. 

“So that is a big part of what endears me to Potsdam.

“(O)ur club puts on a lot of regular activities. Sometimes it reaches a lot of people and sometimes it doesn’t and working with PPL on the Outside has been great because it has managed to tap into a different segment of people who might be interested in this kind of thing. (S)o we got to do some great activities, and a bunch of different people participated with us, and I am certain that those people have done more activities since and will probably continue to do more activities. 

“So in that regard it has been a huge success.

Blair led families on a July 2021 hike on Sugar Island where he told them the tale of the Pirates of the Raquette River. Kids went treasure hunting and had a surprise ending to the hike . . . Now you can go too, through the magic of our GoPro. Stay tuned for more videos on the trail with Blair!

“We are lucky . . . Before I lived here I lived in Toronto for a long time and I was still an avid outdoors person, but in Toronto I would drive two hours and hike five miles into the woods. In order to get to what I can get to in a 10-mile drive and 10-minute hike from Potsdam. And there is more to be discovered.”

Over the years of discovering the surrounding natural resources, Blair has also discovered that there are a bevy of hidden gems that are unmarked. And while he said one would need a personal guide to help find these trails and waterfalls and other such locations, he has certainly become that guide for many of us.

Until recently, the Tooley Pond waterfalls hikes were among those trails that were unmarked by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, unlike so many other trial heads. Hikers instead had to keep an eye out for an 8-by-10 board marking the trails, and really needed someone who knew the terrain. Blair was that person for the last 10-to-15 years. 

And even after all that time, Blair is still discovering new trails.

Blair led a beginner snowshoe trip at Lampson Falls during February 2021. He has given many a chance to fall in love with winter in the north country by exploring nature in the snow.

“I discovered that there is a whole new hike on Tooley Pond Road that’s not marked, that nobody knows about,” Blair said at the time of of our interview. He reported back that this trail he described is now marked for public access. The name of that trail was not immediately available.

“There’s a huge granite outcropping with beautiful cliffs on the side of it that apparently people have been using for climbing for some time, but it is otherwise not known about at all,” he said. “And very recently the Department of Environmental Conservation sent a team of trail workers up there and they built a beautiful new trail that goes up to the cliffs, circles around back so that it’s not too steep, and then climbs up to the top of the hill (where) you have this incredible view over the surrounding countryside.”

And it gets better!

When he reached the top of the cliff, Blair said he was welcomed by an “incredible roar.” After looking around, he found the sound originating from Twin Falls, nearly a mile away, although it sounded like it was right next to him.

“I never had any idea this place was there, whatsoever. I discovered it this year. How many other places are there that I don’t know about, that you don’t know about, that other people don’t know about?”

The wonderful thing about going outside with Blair is his contagious, child-like wonder with nature. Here, he marveled at a tree growing from a boulder during a December 2020 hike through Higley Flow State Park.

As a member and officer of the Adirondack Mountain Club, Blair celebrated what he said was a fantastic “bonanza” of people using and discovering these trails since the pandemic. He cited his club cohort, Mark Simon, who coordinates the Stone Valley Trail and has been a trail coordinator for more than 20 years, as having said he has never seen this much human traffic on local trails.

Moreover, aside from the ADK Mountain Club and PPL on the Outside, Blair pointed to the STLC Trails, a website administered by the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the St. Lawrence County Trails and Nature Up North, as being a champion of trail information including maps, hiking tips, how to find equipment, outdoor challenges and more, making it easier for individuals and families to romp around the woods. 

“It’s been really exciting doing this partnership with the library,” Blair said. “Definitely the folks on our executive committee at the (Adirondack Mountain) Club have encouraged me to continue doing it and do more. 

“You know, our club wants to encourage people to take care of the wilderness. A lot of people really think that you join the Adirondack Mountain Club because you want to go hike the (Adirondack) High Peaks and, for some, that is true, but the big, long-term goal is we want people who enjoy the outdoors and who enjoy the wilderness because if we don’t have those people we don’t have the stewards for the future, and as much as we would like to think that the wilderness takes care of itself, it really doesn’t. It needs stewards. It needs people to help make sure that those trails are in good shape, to help make sure that those properties don’t get bought up and turned into something else, to really help manage this sort of public trust, this resource that we get to share all together. The club does a lot of things but that is certainly at the very heart of what the club is all about. Anything that helps to promote that is a great thing.”

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PPL on the Outside

PPL Partners with Remington Art Museum

Well now, library friends, I come with exciting news!

After months of planning and conversations with our friends over at the Frederic Remington Art Museum, we are proud to formally announce our stepping into a partnership where, once we reopen, we will begin selecting locations throughout the library for a rotating Remington art exhibit.

In announcing PPL’s partnership with the Frederic Remington Art Museum, Laura Desmond, the museum curator and educator, helps us kick it off by guiding us on a tour of the museum, highlighting some of the noteworthy pieces of art on display.

The partnership will also include activities we are developing, including potential talks and learning opportunities surrounding Remington’s art and other local art inspired by Remington, as well as a display of books in our collection related to Remington’s work and life.

The library is a lot of things for a lot of people; a place to come read and borrow books, a place to use the in-house computers, printers, or wifi, a place to take your little ones for storytime. The library has been a hub of literacy, a resource center, and a place capable of a wider cultural impact.

Through this partnership with the Frederic Remington Art Museum, we hope to allow members of our community who have not had the opportunity to travel to the beautiful Remington Museum in Ogdensburg to get a taste of it in their newly renovated library.

Additionally, we hope this virtual tour and any potential exhibit will encourage you to visit and support the museum and those that have made it the wonderful and world-renowned institution it has become.

The museum is safely open to visitors and the season hours of operation can be found by clicking here.

To learn more about the Frederic Remington Art Museum visit https://fredericremington.org/ or call (315) 393-2425.

More information about the partnership, exhibits and activities at PPL will be blogged about as they evolve and as we get closer to reopening, so stay tuned.

Enjoy, be well, and make good art,

Your Adult Program Coordinator,

William “W.T.” Eckert

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PPL on the Outside

Kids help us see

Greetings again, library friends!

As we look back at the wonderful success we have been having with PPL on the Outside and have been grateful for the many folks who have been spending time with us to help educate, foster literacy, and lead adventures, we have been looking back at some of our early projects through the program that we led on social media platforms but didn’t have a space for here.

One of those projects was my first Zoom recorded PPL on the Outside author interview with Rose Rivezzi and David Trithart, authors of Kids on the Trail! Hiking with Children in the Adirondacks.

Twenty-two years ago David and Rose put out the first edition of their guide book. Now, their second edition has a variety of additional new kid-friendly trails and abounds with resources and tips on how to nurture your little ones in the wilderness while also teaching us adults how to benefit from seeing the wild through their eyes.

The interview was wonderful as is their book which supports my own experiences hiking with children, showing that they certainly slow you down and allow you to play in ways we forget to as adults and make us look around more at the present instead of always looking ahead or behind.

If you’ve seen the interview, you know it was worth a second, third, or fourth viewing. If you missed it, now you can watch it anytime.

Enjoy and be well,

Your Adult Program Coordinator,

William “W.T.” Eckert

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PPL on the Outside

For the Sake of Words

An interview with Tim Strong, author of Whippoorwill Chronicles

PPL Garden Entrance

Hello, once again, our beloved People of PPL,

Continuing on a theme of PPL on the Outside, here we give you my interview with Tim Strong, owner of Birch Bark Books in Parishville, about his debut novel Whippoorwill Chronicles. I’ve done a few interviews with authors on Zoom, but this time we found ourselves in a situation where that wasn’t an option. If you have been to Birch Bark Books, you know it is a place that is a seeming place of no technology and it is marvelous! So, thankfully we have the GoPros we were granted and wrote about in my previous blog about our PPL on the Outside Program. My PPL on the Outside video cohort, Erin Carberry, and I mounted a GoPro in my car and took the show on the road and interviewed Tim from the comfort of his store’s from desk where we were heated by his wood stove on a day the store was closed.

Tim gives a great interview. His novel and its background are both great stories. So, sit back and enjoy the conversation.

Be well!

Your Adult Program Coordinator,

William “W.T.” Eckert

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PPL on the Outside

Beyond the Walls of PPL

Greetings, dear library friends!

Adult Program Coordinator William Eckert here with you, again.

It’s been a little while since I’ve sat down to write to you all to share some inside-the-library perspective and what’s going on here. Feel good in knowing that we have been working on finalizing a few projects through our new PPL on the Outside Program, a program I started when I was hired in June and have been working on with my colleague and cohort, Erin Carberry, who has helped me in evolving the program. We haven’t talked too much about the program and Erin’s role in it, so here we go!

PPL on the Outside is funded by the Northern NY Library Network through the Network’s Action Grant. As with any successful community project, we rely heavily on community partners like Dr. Blair Madore of the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Laurentian Chapter, who has led hikes and snowshoeing trips, Potsdam Rec Department Director Trey Smutz, who has provided equipment free of charge to our patrons for programming, Mark Manske of Adirondack Raptors, the core of our Birds of Prey Program, and Maggie McKenna, Executive Director of SLAC Arts. 

That community continues to grow!

PPL on the Outside was born out of a commitment to programming while our library doors were closed during the renovations and subsequent pandemic. It also remained in step with our desire to create as much online content as possible. Our now-former children’s librarian, Rebecca Donnelly, did wonderful video interviews with children authors and created other assorted fun video content. I did a few interviews with local authors as well, but I wanted to bring something different to the table, applying my previous skills as a reporter. 

“What if we get outside the library walls and explore our community in ways that could be both exploratory and educational?” I asked PPL Director Annie Davey and Public Services Manager Sarah Sachs.

A green light was given, and so we began.

I brought my phone with me and started to video a variety of landscapes, hikes, tours of the library as the renovations were underway, and then I got together with Mark Manske for our first Birds of Prey Program video where we met his owls, hawk, and falcon (which you can see in my first PPL on the Outside blog post). During that first visit, however, my phone got jostled in the process and was knocked to the ground.

Don’t worry, it didn’t break <whew!>

Tessie is Mark Manske’s 11-year-old barn owl who was introduced to us during our first Birds of Prey Program video.

But it got us thinking, let’s apply for grant funding for some GoPros and have cameras that are not only more durable and meant for such outdoor activities, but would also have superior video quality.

In applying for the grant we wrote that, through PPL on the Outside, we wanted to go beyond our mission to “‘occupy a central and traditional role in our community to provide the tools, resources and techniques for literacy development, language skills acquisition, lifelong learning, recreation, and research,’ by creating video tours of the outdoors and interviews with wildlife experts and enthusiasts in the wild of the north country and Adirondacks, as well as recreational tours of the waterways and trail systems for activities like kayaking and snowshoeing.”

Dr. Blair Madore led library patrons of all ages on a snowshoeing adventure at Lost Pond in Cranberry Lake as part of PPL on the Outside. The hikes are free and allow us to explore the natural world that is our backyard.

We love our patrons. We love our community. We want to continue reaching you. So we asked for the funding to help create the video blogs and short films about the area for PPL on the Outside, which we also hope to turn into activities inside the library. That funding application was met with great enthusiasm and we were awarded everything we asked for, affording us two GoPros, some equipment to go with it, and funding for a new MacBook Pro for Erin to use in the editing and piecing together of our videos.

Have I told you about Erin? Let me introduce PPL Library Aide Erin Carberry in more depth. She is so much more than her title states and has been playing a pivotal role in PPL on the Outside. 

PPL Library Aide Erin Carberry has been a pivotal part of creating PPL on the Outside online content.

While I have been finding the people and stories, the programs and activities, and filming all the things that we have been wanting to share with you, it is Erin who has been putting them together in a cohesive form that makes my filming and interviews bearable to watch. I promise you don’t want to see how these videos would have looked if I had to try putting them together. 

Erin came to PPL on July 5, 2019, having just relocated to the north country after graduating from Mount Holyoke. She told me that during her interview with Annie and Sarah she talked about her experience in film as well as her coursework in digital news and podcasts. Both Annie and Sarah told me that they kept that in mind and had hoped to use those skills at some point in the future.

That time is now.

A graduate of Tompkins Cortland Community College with an Associate of Arts in Screenwriting and the Graduate of Note from her program in 2015, and earning a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Media Studies from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where she graduated magna cum laude in 2019, it was her time in Mount Holyoke where Erin said she found her love of libraries while having worked as a student circulation assistant in both the main and music libraries on campus during her senior year.

As well as holding a BA in film, Erin made several short films for college courses, completing all steps of production and post-production herself. She also has written many papers, one of which she was chosen to present at the Five College Film and Media Studies Undergraduate Conference in March 2018. During her junior and senior years at Mount Holyoke, she also wrote semi-weekly film and television reviews for the student-run newspaper, the Mount Holyoke News.

So I think I have found my videos and programs in more than capable hands with Erin. But I don’t just rely on Erin to take the footage I capture and turn it into a digestible video. Often I ask her to accompany me on filming trips so that she can give me her perspective on what would be the best ways to capture an angle or what additional footage would work.

Erin Carberry and I walked Downtown Potsdam together during a sleet storm following my recording downtown during the day. Following our two ventures, she put her skills to use, stitching together this beautiful holiday lighting video.

Erin and I were working on putting together the video clips from the Edgar Allen Poe reading series we did in October when I started to learn more about her film background. I asked her where her interest in film came from and why she pursued it as a degree.

I then learned storytelling was in her blood. 

“It’s hard to say where my interest in film began. Both of my parents are writers, so storytelling was always something I was interested in as well,” she told me. “As a child, I was more drawn to movies and television than books. I fantasized about writing and producing my own shows when I grew up. Once I got to community college, my program required classes in analysis and production as well as writing.”

But during her time at Mount Holyoke, where she was initially most interested in production, she had her love of film rekindled due to a seminar on Film Melodrama and Horror and she switched her focus to American film history and genre. 

“That doesn’t appear anywhere on my diploma or transcript, so it’s kind of just a fun fact. My favorite genres to study are screwball comedy, film noir, and melodrama,” she said. “I am especially interested in how societal and social movements affect films of their time, such as how screwball comedies parodied the widening class divide during the Great Depression.”

Writing is still something she loves to do, and although it is more of a hobby than something she would want to do professionally, there is still something of a writer’s eye that appears when she puts together our PPL on the Outside videos. 

Erin said she always starts by watching all of the footage, even though in many cases only a small portion of it will appear in the final product. During the editing process, she said she tries to create a video that would interest her, hoping that will translate into interest from our patrons and viewers as well. 

“This can mean adding background music, cutting more frequently, or putting in written text,” she said. “One skill I lean on a lot is covering awkward cuts or long, stagnant shots using B-roll, footage shot to act as filler.”

See? There’s the writer in her coming out.

“The storyteller in me tends to take over when organizing footage; I try to always communicate the story of the video as clearly as possible, even in something short like the renovation updates,” she said. “Film, and storytelling in general, is all about communication.”

We here at PPL hope that these stories speak to you and that you have been enjoying our PPL on the Outside Program and find greater pleasure knowing a bit more about Erin’s storytelling and film skills and how they apply to the creation of our videos. We look forward to seeking how it continues to evolve with new participants, with the reopening of the library, and with the ability of our all being able to spend time together again. We miss you all and if you have any ideas for what you would like to see more of or learn about through PPL on the Outside . . . or if you have any other program ideas, reach out to us. You can always email me at weckert@potsdamlibrary.org.

Your Adult Program Coordinator,

William “W.T.” Eckert

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PPL on the Outside

PPL Introduces Birds of Prey Program

Greetings, my dear library friends,

Mark A. Manske, the founder, and owner of Adirondack Raptors Inc. is going to be sharing his years of work with, and knowledge of, hawks, falcons, owls, and other birds of prey with the Potsdam Public Library. He will also be talking about, and reading from, his series of books, Adventures with Stoney, in our new Birds of Prey Program.

While the library is closed this program will be a series of blogs and videos about the different birds Mark works with at his home and in the wild, as well as his book readings. Once we can reopen to the public, we will hold in-person discussions and Mark will be available in person, accompanied by his Eurasian Eagle Owl, Morley, and sign copies of his books. 

As you will read below, Mark is a wonderfully enthusiastic storyteller. When he and I got together over the summer to talk about the program, he talked about how Adirondack Raptors got started. Mark revealed how he first came to love birds, carving the path to his future as a birder and educator, discussed some of his adventures trying to rescue and band birds for study, and took us for a virtual tour of his “Raptor Palace.” 

Happy reading. We look forward to seeing you, Mark, AND Morley, here in the library when we reopen for in-person birds of prey programming,

PPL Adult Program Coordinator William Eckert

Wednesday, the Eastern Screech Owl, is one of two of her kind living as a rescue bird in Mark Manske’s “Raptor Palace.”

A BIT ABOUT MARK AND ADIRONDACK RAPTORS

Mark Manske started Adirondack Raptors Inc. in Dickinson Center, NY, in 2008, while he was still teaching at St. Lawrence Central High School, but had been working with birds of prey since 1984 when he was working with Francis and Frederick Hamerstrom — who he called his mentors — during his time in graduate school.

“I got very involved with them then, so when I came back to teaching I said, ‘Well, I am going to continue,’ and I got working with banding migrating birds of prey in the north country,” Mark said.

Mark said his earliest memory of loving birds came from a tale his mother told him about when he was in first grade. 

“My mother thinks it is because when I was in first grade I couldn’t see the chalkboard in front of me in the classroom,” Mark recalled. “Then they figured out, by the end of the first grade, I needed glasses and so when I got glasses she said I was all of the sudden like, ‘oh, look at the birds! This is what you were talking about.’ She said, ‘you were so enthralled with them that I think that really stuck’ . . . Maybe she’s right? Maybe she’s right.” 

But it was the birds of prey, specifically, that were “near and dear to my heart,” Mark said. He pointed to their size, power, and beauty, saying the birds are keystone creatures for the ecosystem.

In 1987 Mark started working with Mike Peterson, of Elizabethtown, under his banding permit for 20 years until about 10 years ago when Mark started working with him to get his own banding permit. 

“And as I was going through the teaching I remember, with the Hamerstroms, it was so hands-on and you were working with raptors and I thought, it was such a magical experience,” Mark said. “I would love to do something like that, and that’s what got me started.”

Since that time, Mark has retired from teaching in high school and has been an adjunct instructor at Paul Smith’s College where he recruits and trains his student apprentices, or “Gabboons,” as he calls them. He has also constructed a “Raptor Palace” in his front yard where Morley the Eurasian Eagle Owl lives with his younger sister, Millie, a Barn Owl named Tessie, two Eastern Screech Owls named Pugsley and Wednesday, a Gyr-Saker hybrid falcon named Phineas, and a Harris’s Hawk named Mortimer, all of which you will be able to meet and learn more about in the video at the end of this blog.

At 11 years old, Tessie, the barn owl, is the oldest bird of prey living in Mark Manske’s “Raptor Palace.”

BANDING PROGRAMS

Through Mark’s various banding programs, he and his Gabboons help to allow the birds to be recognized as individuals, similarly in the way a license plate differentiates one person’s car from another identical make and model. It also helps to determine the health and well being of the bird as well as finding out where it has migrated from. 

“And we get a wealth of knowledge,” Mark said. “Birders watch birds and they learn a lot. Birders can be very good biologists but unless they are individually marked, you don’t know which bird is which. They are coming and going at the bird feeder, and maybe one has a natural marking that helps you distinguish it from another one, maybe one has a behavioral thing, but maybe there are two that have that behavioral thing, so you don’t know for sure.”

That’s where banding comes in handy.

Mark has tracked his banded red-tailed hawks and kestrels as having traveled from here to places like the tarmac of the Miami-Dade Airport, Miami, Fl., and near New Orleans, La.

“We caught a saw whet owl one time that was banded by someone else the year before,” Mark recalled. “It was banded in Duluth, Minnesota, and then, three days later, a bird that I had banded four years before, a saw whet, ended up in Duluth, Minnesota, so we traded birds. People think everything is going north-south, this one went east-west, so unless you band them, you don’t know what is going on.”

But Mark does more than just banding birds, he and his Gabboons have responded to rescue work, going to spaces in buildings where birds have gotten in but have been unable to get out. The team will catch them, make sure they are healthy, and, if they are malnourished or have other health issues, will bring them to a rehabilitator and nurse them back to health. 

GABBOONS TO THE RESCUE

Mark recalled a recent rescue of a great horned owl that flew into a big barn in Malone and got completely coated with manure. 

“The people caught it and stuck it in a trash bin, they called me, I went over, and we pulled it out,” Mark said. “One of us was holding it while the other was hosing it down and scrubbing it down and cleaning it and you know that owl did not like that and it was several pounds worth of dirt and manure and sand, and it took forever to clean it off.”

At the time of the rescue it was nesting season and the owl, being a male, was likely providing food to its mate and their downy owlets, Mark said, so, after several days of observation to make sure the bird was okay, the team banded it and released it back into the wild within the vicinity in which it was caught. Normally the team would relocate the bird to avoid another entrapment, Mark said. 

Mark and his Gabboons also participate in Project SNOWstorm where they track and tag snowy owls. Many of those misadventures are the vehicle behind Mark’s first book, Adventures With Stoney: The Great Snowy Owl Caper.

A few years ago he received a call from the state Department of Environmental Conservation asking him to come out and capture a snowy owl at the Ogdensburg International Airport.

Airports with enough air traffic and larger planes are mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration to chase off owls or other big birds, which could also result in shooting the birds if they refuse to leave, Mark said.

“Snowy owls are like couch potatoes, they’re not going anywhere, they will shuffle around and kind of grumble about it like you and I would, but they’re not going anywhere,” Mark said. “Well, they tried scaring them off, they didn’t want to shoot them, so, to their credit, they contacted the local DEC, who then turned around and contacted me, and I said we would definitely help. We’re not going to see snowy owls come all the way from the Tundra just to be shot here.”

Mark has rescued snowy owls from Ogdensburg and Malone and has reached out to airports in Potsdam, Massena, Plattsburgh, Lake Placid, Lake Clear, and Watertown.

“I’m willing to travel if we can shuttle birds out to a better place because they’re not at the airports because they like to watch the planes fly, they’re just coming there because there is a wide-open habitat which kind of resembles the Tundra and they can sit on the buildings or the towers and look out for hunting purposes,” Mark said. “So we are trying to figure out where they are going to, where they are coming from, how long they live, that type of thing.”

Plus, Mark and his Gabboons have been working with banding, monitoring, and managing the American kestrel population in the area. Next year will be the twentieth year of the program.

An American kestrel previously banded as part of Mark’s near-20 year program.

THE BEST WAY TO LEARN IS “HANDS ON”

It is this kind of hands-on experience that he picked up during his grad school years when he was working with the Hamerstroms that Mark said he wanted to bring to the north country and to his teaching as an adjunct at Paul Smith’s, but, more importantly, outside the classrooms.

“Hands-on is the best way to learn and also we have a banding station for saw whets here where kids actually get credit to come work on that,” Mark said. “So I always open it up to my students. It makes you that much more rounded, it gives you that much more experience, and let’s face it, you can talk about a snowy owl and look at pictures, but if you are holding one, it’s a whole, totally different experience. You feel that connection with another creature.

“There is nothing better than knowing that you are doing something that is affecting another species for the positive,” Mark added. “We all try and affect things positively but at a much smaller scale, generally, and, whenever we can, we always feel very good about that. So we just took that, maybe magnified that quite a bit more, and we are trying to affect that at a little bit of a larger scale, because we also affect things negatively, whether we like to or not, we always do, it’s just part of being human and living on this planet, so we are trying to, maybe instead of doing some negative things, maybe do some positive to balance out.”

Keeping in step with his passion for recounting his adventures, Mark said for years he had been thinking about writing a book, maybe a compilation of short stories on experiences he had with the birds and other creatures.

SPINNING TALES FOR THE PAGE

He connected with Gary VanRiper, who authors the Adirondack Kids series with his wife and son. Gary advised Mark to consider his target audience and consider what his stories would be focused on and, in following a year-or-so of thought, Mark settled on an audience of middle school-aged kids. 

“You know when people turn off from reading, there are two age groups and one of those age groups is that middle-school age,” Mark said. “And I thought that would be good because they would be good stories for them to read, but educational and at the same time it would give me the chance to tell stories that have happened to me and get those stories out there.”

Mark has two books in the series published, a third in the process of getting published, and a fourth in the creation stage, each of them a blend of fiction and nonfiction, and either about adventures Mark has had throughout the years or adventures his friends had, which is why he calls his stories Adventures With Stoney, not Adventures With Mark, he said, “because they are not all my adventures.”

Mark’s first book, Adventures With Stoney: The Great Snowy Owl Caper, from which he will be reading when we meet with him next, comes from a combination of unusual experiences that happened to Mark and a friend of his, during each of their separate attempts at trying to catch a snowy owl for the first time . . . And that’s where the adventure takes off!

Join us, won’t you?

To learn more about Project SNOWstorm and track tagged snowy owls in your area, visit https://www.projectsnowstorm.org/

To learn more about Mark, Adirondack Raptors, his books, and his mission visit http://www.adirondackraptors.org/

Questions for Mark can be sent to weckert@potsdamlibrary.org and will be presented to Mark during his reading of The Great Snowy Owl Caper. 

In the meantime, let’s visit the Raptor Palace and meet Morley and his friends!

Mark Manske of Adirondack Raptors gives a virtual tour of his “Raptor Palace,” introducing his seven birds of prey.