Monday, July 21, 2014

July 20, 2014

Our loon family continues to do well, and loon watchers around the lake are sending great pictures of the new chick and parents.  These beautiful pictures were taken by D.C. off Loon Point.

There are still many other loons on the lake, including the group of five I saw last week.
I'm guessing it's the same group because I saw the bird with a band on its leg, and this time I was able to get a good look at the colors on the band:  it has one green band and a second with red and white stripes.

I have passed this information onto the loon authorities and asked for any information they have on this particular bird - I will share what I learn from them.

Maybe all the visiting loons on the lake are grandparents, aunts and uncles who have come to meet the new member of the family!

I came across another new family on the lake this week:

The loons and the geese are rather visible on the water when they have new chicks, but ducks seem to be much more shy;  this is the first time I have a seen a duck family on the lake.  And when the mother duck noticed me on the shore, she swam well away to be a decoy, while the ducklings stayed in close formation, scooting off in a different direction. 

I checked the progress of the Black Cherry (see May 13, 26 and June 8 posts for earlier status).  The fruit is turning a vibrant red-orange color now and will be ripening soon.
Black Cherry

Closer to the ground, the Indian Pipe have joined the many other fungi emerging from the rich forest soil.

Indian Pipe
Blueberry season is also upon on - blueberry scones were on on the menu this morning for breakfast!

I identified a new bug this week as well (sorry RP!) and this one is a "true bug".
Assassin Bug (Zelus luridus)

It is an Assassin Bug (a member of the large genus Reduvius), aptly named, as it has a rather gruesome method of capturing its prey.  It injects a poisonous saliva into its prey through its long, thin rostrum (folded underneat its head in this picture).

This contains enzymes which liquify the insides of its prey, and the bugs sucks the contents out for its meal.  Yummy.  Fortunately, they appear to be harmless to humans.

Last week we took a hike up Rattlesnake Mountain, just north of Squam Lake.   If you've never done this hike you should try it - it's a short (1.8 miles round trip), easy hike up a well maintained bridle path, with one of the best best view-to-effort ratios you'll ever get!

Squam Lake from West Rattlesnake Mountain
It was a good hike with great friends!

(A delayed post this week due to technical difficulties at the internet provider.)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

July 13, 2014

Lake Wicwas' newest loon continues to grow under the attentive care of its parents.  There have been numerous sightings of the parents feeding it small minnows, and it has even started to dive on its own, though it surely isn't catching anything yet.  It will be several more weeks before it can secure its own food, though its days of free-rides on its parent's back are probably over.  Brian Matteson took a beautiful picture of the little one with a parent on July 9th (thank you for sharing!).
About 15 days old (Brian Matteson photo)

One of our loon watchers discovered that the Loon Preservation Committee has a live camera focused on a nest where a pair of loons are still incubating their eggs.  It seems a little voyeuristic, but check it out here:  These loons are well behind the Wicwas pair - perhaps they had a failed nesting and had to start again.

There continue to be several other loons on Lake Wicwas, at least three others this week.  I watched two loons acting up at one point.  They were floating very close together, frequently thrusting their heads quickly underwater and then back up again.  When one did this, the other immediately did the same.  They made occasional short, quick dives, making quite a commotion with loud splashes when they went down, returning to the surface close together again.  Maybe one was stalking the other to protect its claimed territory, or maybe it was a pair in some kind of courting behavior? 

On a morning paddle I saw three different single loons around the lake, each minding their own business, including this one stretching its wings as it woke up.
Good Morning!

It was a beautiful morning for a paddle.

The lake's summer colors are filling in nicely now.  Both the Yellow Water Lilies and the pretty white, Fragrant Water Lilies are in bloom everywhere.
Frangrant Water Lilies

The Steeplebush are also blooming along the shoreline.
Steeplebush (Spiraea tomentosa) on Sheep Island
 Did you notice the pile of beaver-debris on the rocks?

Their flowers are a favorite of butterflies, though I saw none this early in the morning.

At the other end of the day, there was a spectacular full-moonrise over Lake Wicwas.  People were calling it a "super moon" because it is larger and brighter than usual.  The proper name is a "perigee moon".  The moon doesn't have a circular orbit around the earth;  it has an elliptical orbit, and this month the closest approach (perigee) occurred on the same day as the full moon.  This will occur for the next two months as well, and in August the moon becomes full in the same hour as it reaches perigee, making it the most super!
Moonrise over Bryant Island

Full Buck Moon

The Native American name for the full July moon is the Buck Moon, because July is the month when the antlers of the male White Tail deer start to emerge.  If you're looking for the next two super moons In August and September, remember that moon rise occurs around sunset.
The end of another perfect summer day on Lake Wicwas

(No bugs this week, RP!)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

July 6, 2014

Happy Independence Day! 

There was a lot going on around Lake Wicwas this holiday weekend, both human and wild.  Of course, there were lots of boats on the water and fourth of July parties everywhere, but most exciting was that the loon chick has survived its first, critical week.  I have not seen it, but others have;  the parents have been giving it rides on their back (which also keeps it safe from ever-hungary predators, like large mouth bass and snapping turtles) and catching small fish to feed it.  I have no pictures, but here's one from a previous successful nesting on Wicwas.

The weather was pretty wild as hurricane Arthur passed to our east, bringing strong winds and whitecaps, but the family found safe harbor in one of the many protected coves around the lake. 

On Sunday morning there was a loon parade, celebrating the fourth of July a little late, maybe postponed by the weather like the Meredith fireworks.  There was one leader - the drum major - way out in front, with five others following along.
Independence Day Parade on Lake Wicwas

I don't know what caused the parade behavior, but I again wonder if it has to do with distracting loons away from the new chick.  We are expecting to have a speaker from the Squam Lakes Science Center at the Lake Wicwas Association annual meeting on August 2nd - maybe we'll get some answers about all this interesting bird activity.

When one of the loons did a "foot-wag" it revealed a identification band put there to help track and understand loons.  I was not able to discern the colors well enough to identify the band - I could only see some green and perhaps some yellow - maybe we'll get another chance in the coming days.
A Fuzzy Leg Band
 And speaking of bands, our proud new father received its own band just this week.  Late one night a group of biologists and local loon watchers carefully capture the male loon and placed a band on its leg.  This will let us see if the same pair has been returning to Lake Wicwas year after year.  They also made note of the bird's health and other key parameters.  He was set loose unharmed and was back with the family the next day.

Another diving bird has been living on Lake Wicwas:  a Cormorant.  You may see it perching high in a pine tree near the middle of the lake.  I found it resting on the end of a fallen tree one morning.

The warm weather has encouraged the mushrooms to grow.  These tiny Orange Mycenas had just emerged on a old rotting log. 
Orange Mycena (Mycena leaiana)

These fungi start out their lives with this bright orange color, and then fade as they mature.  These were only half an inch in diameter, but can grow up to one and a half inches across. 

They have some useful properties, including an orange pigment and a slight anti-bactierial property.  It is not considred edible, though I didn't find any evidence saying that it is poisonous.

Another mushroom growing now must not be poisonous, at least to chipmunks and squirrels!  This new sample didn't even to push its way clear of the forest debris before someone decided to feast on it.

A healthy meal for Chipmunk

And there was at least one other non-poisonous treat that got consumed immediately upon emerging:

There was nothing left of this by July 5th!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

June 29, 2014

The big news on Lake Wicwas this week is that we have a new loon chick!  I haven't seen it, but our faithful loon watchers have.  There were two eggs in the nest, so it is possible there will be a second chick;  we should know in just a day or two.  There is still a long road ahead for a little chick and its parents - if you see them, please give them a wide berth - but this is great news.

There have been multiple loons on the lake this year, and the past few days their activity has shown signs that nesting is in progress.  Has one of the nesting pair, maybe the male, been keeping a close eye on the other loons, letting them know who's lake this is, and keeping them away from the nest?  There have been reports of loons destroying the eggs or killing the chicks from another loon pair.

Doesn't it look like two males facing off to see who is dominant?
Who's in Charge Here?

When the visiting pair dove, the third went down as well to follow;  some of the dives were rather loud - that's what caught my attention in the first place - it sounded like someone jumping into the lake.
You'd better run!

Eventually it appeared that dominance had been established, and one loon swam off, leaving other two in this cove, far away from the nest.
And keep away from my little one!

This morning I did a session as a Lake Host at the boat ramp.  Lake Wicwas is one of a very few lakes in the region that does not have the invasive weed Eurasian Milfoil, and our active Lake Host program is a key factor in keeping it this way.  If you have never volunteered to be a Lake Host, consider doing so - it is an easy, and pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.  I like to be there early in the morning when I might see a pretty sunrise scene.

Here's what things looked like today - first, the sun rose over the mist hanging in the Chemung swamp.

Chemung Forest
The soft light revealed a web which a spider had built, taking advantage of a man-made structure.  This web is constructed on a single wire supporting a telephone pole.

It's not the most symmetrical web I have ever seen, but it's amazing how well a tiny spider can build a circular structure on a linear frame.  And this without blueprints, an instructor, or even a computer!

Then the low sun shone across the calm lake, illuminating the western shore. 
Lake Hosting - it's a sweet job!

While I was there I noticed this insect carcass on a pole;  I believe it is the discarded shell of a cicada.

Cicada Carcass
Sometime I'd love to find one of these types of insects in the process of splitting and emerging from it's shell.  It's fascinating how it can squeeze itself out of that little split in the back, extracting its folded wings and each fragile leg. 

In the Lake Wicwas plant world, the first blueberries are already ripe!

Low Bush Blueberries
These are low bush blueberries in an exposed, sunny area.  Blueberry pancakes aren't far off now!

Also the summer flowers are progressing - I'll close this week with some flowers from the Whorled Loosestrife.

Maybe soon I'll have some pictures of our newest resident on the lake!

Whorled Loosestrife  (Lysimachia quadrifolia)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

June 22, 2014

Welcome summer!  After a couple of windy, dry days, the summer solstice brought in a beautiful summer day today - perfect for a quiet paddle around Lake Wicwas.  What better summer sight is there than this?

The flowers have moved into their summer phase, with the Irises and Sheep Laurel blooming around the shoreline.
Sheep Laurel

The aquatic plants are fully established now as well.  I could clearly see beaver highways through the marshes, their routes divulged by the absence of lily pads where they travel.  The center route here leads to their lodge, and at the junction, paths lead both north and south to open water in the lake.

I came upon a few more interesting insects this week, including a Crane Fly which had landed right on our door.  These are really neat flies, scary looking, but completely harmless - unless you are a mosquito larva upon which they sometimes feed.
Crane Fly

They certainly give credence to the moniker of bug-eyed.

This fuzzy moth was resting and munching on a blueberry plant - I don't know what kind it is, but it looks fairly unique.

There are probably dozens of nondescript, whitish-brown moths that I couldn't hope to identify, but this cool caterpillar is so unique it was easy - it is a pyreferra citrombra.  

pyreferra citrombra Caterpillar
The moth itself is nothing special to look at, but the caterpillar is striking.

And, we heard a report that the loons have selected a nesting site.  Pending good weather, steady water levels, no predators, and a lack of human harassment, and Lake Wicwas may add to the loon population in 2014!

We took a drive up to Sugar Hill to see how the Lupine's are doing this year - and maybe to stop in at Polly's Pancake Parlor....  The primary fields are not as impressive as other years, but we found some nice blooms around Pearl Lake.

Pearl Lake

We also saw a scene that reminded me of Steamboat Springs - this one is for you VP!
Canon Mountain

On the return trip we drove by the Franconia Airport and found the gliders were enjoying the brisk winds.  We stayed to watch a full cycle of one of the larger gliders. 
Franconia Airport

A local pilot we spoke with had just landed and said the strong winds were making for very bumpy flying.

The weekend concluded with a lovely, summer solstice sunset - as far north as it ever sets.  Today gave us 15 hours and 32 minutes of sun!