Sunday, August 20, 2017

August 20, 2017 - A Blackgum Casualty

We'll start with the good news:  Tardy continues to thrive and grow.  I saw Tardy with dad one morning, and this time it was mom who was fishing in the rain.
Tardy with dad at 17 days
Tardy surrounded by diamonds of rain
Another day Amy Wilson caught Tardy hitching a ride on one of the parents.
Hitching a ride.  Photo by Amy Wilson
And also a great shot of Tardy stretching those small, but growing wings.
  Photo by Amy Wilson
Think those wings will be large enough to fly to the Atlantic Ocean in November?

It takes some brave parents to raise a loon chick.  I've had several reports of eagles soaring overhead, drooling over this tasty delicacy floating right out in the open; only diligent protection by the parents keep them from attacking.  Amy experienced one of these moments, and caught these great pictures:
An immature eagle declines to attack with two large loons standing guard.  Photo by Amy Wilson
Keeping an eye on the sky.  Photo by Amy Wilson
Of all the loon pictures I've seen, I don't ever recall seeing one where a loon is looking up - thanks Amy for sharing these beautiful photos!

I've seen a lot Great Blue Heron lately as well, fishing, flying, or just contemplating life.
Resting in a pine tree - doesn't this one look like one old guy?
Darn mosquito got my chin
This next one appears to be a juvenile heron - perhaps it was one of the chicks in the Arbutus Hill Rookery back in June.
One the year's newbies
In the rookery on June 30th
Now for the sad news:  one of the only, and perhaps the last, of the Black Tupelo (Blackgum) trees on the shores of Lake Wicwas has become a victim of the ever-growing beaver population.

The Lakes Region is at the northern edge of the range for blackgum so they are not common here, and being such beautiful trees - especially in the fall when they turn bright crimson - it's sad to see this go.
The same tree, October 2014.  The smaller tupelo to the right, behind the dead pine, was taken down last year
Even if the beavers don't come back to finish the job it has probably lost too much of its bark to survive.  It is already turning red as it declines in strength.
Already fading to red
But we'll end back on a happy note, with another beautiful tree that brightened our world back in May with its large white flowers.  The Hobblebush Viburnum is now displaying contrasting polka dots of intense red and black all along the edges of trails and roads throughout the Lakes Region.

Nature is a world of give and take.  I guess I'll take what it gives me.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

August 13, 2017 - Annual Paddle Regatta

It was another busy week on the lake with water testing, paddling, barbecuing, and loon raising.  On Monday our ever-reliable lake volunteers took two interns from the NH Department of Environmental Services (DES) out on the lake to collect water samples for the annual water quality assessment.
The crew with some of the collection equipment
The captain and first mate performing analysis
Samples were taken at four locations around the lake and at varying water depths, including the deepest spot of the lake at 38 feet.  Testing will include properties such as dissolved oxygen, phosphorous, acidity, e-coli, and turbidity (visibility).
Water samples collected for testing
It will take several weeks to analyze the samples, and the results will be posted on the Lake Wicwas website.  You can see last year's report here, and review ten year's worth of data on the website. There is a wealth of additional information available at the NH DES website.

Of course, even when doing the important business of collecting water samples, the highlight of the day was seeing the loons and their chick!
The water collection crew deeply engrossed in their duties

The subject of their attention
The combined Lake Wicwas Association Annual Paddle Regatta / Lakes Region Conservation Trust Guided Paddle was held on Saturday which provided near perfect weather for a paddle: calm, overcast skies, not too hot.  The group toured all four of the recently conserved properties, and we were even escorted by one of the generous property donors.
LRCT/Lake Wicwas Association Paddle
We were fortunate enough to see a Great Blue Heron on the Harris Conservation easement (near the Blue Heron Lodge no less), the loon family near Bryant Island, and a group of four loons congregating in the middle of the lake on the return trip.
Taking a nap on mom or dad's back
Three of the four loons having their own social event

 My thanks go to those who supported and participated with the tour!

Following the paddle was the annual Lake Wicwas Association barbecue, hosted again by the very generous Blake family.  It was another great event with many lake members enjoying the opportunity to catch up with friends old and new, along with devouring some great eats!  If you missed it, be sure to put it on your calendar for next year.  Many thanks go to Lavon and Wayne for hosting and being the star BBQ chef!

Now an update on Tardy:  At 12 days old all seems to be going well.  Both parents are spending a lot of time fishing for the little one.  On one occasion we saw father fishing while mother stayed close to Tardy, keeping her or him safe.
The family on a fishing trip
We could tell it was mom because she was preening and oiling her feathers while she supervised, occasionally showing us her bands.
Mon with Tardy
Once father brought up a fish that was just a bit too much for Tardy.
Dad!  Are you serious?
Fine then, I'll eat it myself!
The next offering was more to Tardy's liking.
Now that's more like it
Got it!
Tardy is still pretty little, but with all this attention, he/she is growing quickly.
Tardy and mom
It was just the second of what will be many busy weeks for this family.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

August 6, 2017 - Introducing Tardy

Many to thanks to all our loon followers who kept me updated on the nest while we were visiting family in Colorado last week.  The good news is that our nesting pair had a successful hatching on August first!
The first known photo of our new loon, one day old.   Photo by Annie Crane
After nesting almost a month later than usual, it was a typical incubation period of 27 days (28 days is the average).  Due to the late appearance this year, one of our loon watchers has named our newest lake member "Tardy".
Introducing Tardy, the newest resident of Lake Wicwas
As expected at this late date there was only one egg.  A biologist from the Loon Preservation Committee went to inspect the nest and collect egg fragments for analysis, and no sign of a second egg was evident.  And from the current situation on the lake it appears that the parents are going to have a hard enough time raising just a single chick.  I had reports of six loons having recently arrived on the lake, and that is in addition to the single rogue loon that has been on the lake for three years now.  (It's only an assumption that it's the same loon, but it occupies the same area and has had the same behaviors each year.  This is also the loon that I think killed both of the loon chicks in 2015.)

This morning on the lake I spotted the six loons swimming together in the vicinity of Bryant Island.
Six visiting loons
As they approached the island from the center of the lake, a seventh loon appeared from behind the island.
Here comes another
This seventh loon shepherded them back towards the east, away from the island, occasionally vocalizing, and displaying a little wing rowing.  It's a pretty good assumption that this was one of the nesting pair, probably the more aggressive male, keeping them away from the chick.
"Move along folks"
Shayne and Keith Duggan, loon watchers from the north end of the lake, saw a more dramatic chasing of rogue loons away from the chick earlier in the week. They took a great video showing the encounter. They said the chick was left completely alone, bobbing defenselessly in the water as both adults went to fend off the intruders. After a successful defense, one parent swam quickly back to the chick, while the other remained on sentry duty. It's a two minute video and you can watch it by clicking here.  (Thank you for sharing Shayne and Keith!)

Like any parents with a new born, I expect they are going to have their hands full raising just one chick, and will be exhausted every day. They will need a lot of energy just for themselves, let alone needing to catch enough fish for the hungry little one to grow sufficiently strong to fly away in a few short months.

Shortly after the encounter with the six visiting loons I saw (I'm guessing) the female fishing with Tardy as I rounded Bryant Island.
Mom with Tardy
I watched from a long distance away as she made many dives, only rarely coming up with something for Tardy.
"Eat your salad with your protein"
As I watched, the other parent popped up beside me and swam in to join the family, apparently satisfied he had rejected the intruders, and the family fished together off a beach.
Dad returns from battle
As one adult stretched its wings, the size perspective of the tiny chick was evident.

And it didn't take long for Tardy to play copy-cat.
"Look, me too!"
They fished together quietly off the beach;  hopefully they will have some peace for a while.  It is going to be a difficult summer for this new family.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

July 30, 2017 - Berries: Red, Black, and Blue

One of the great things about New Englanders is that no matter what the weather - hot and humid, breezy and brisk, cold and rainy - people find a way to enjoy whatever mother nature doles out.
Sailing in the sunshine,

or fishing in the drizzle, people enjoy New Hampshire lakes

It's berry season in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire.  Blueberries are everyone's favorite and they have been prolific this year, resulting in some great sweet treats.

It's not too late to find some;  two of my favorite spots are along the shores of Lake Wicwas and up on the ridges of the Belknap Mountain Range. Belknap, Whiteface, Piper, even Lockes Hill all have blueberries that aren't hard to find.  Of course you can buy wild blueberries at some of the farm stands, but they always seem to taste better if they have grown in the cool waters of a lake or the crisp air high on a mountain top.
Summit of Piper Mountain in the Belknap Range

Following behind the blueberries by a couple of weeks, and also good to eat though they have seeds in them, are the huckleberries.  The Black Cherry I've been watching are just about ripe, and although edible, I've never found them palatable - they are bitter and have large pits - which is too bad because they are plentiful this year.
Not quite "black" cherries yet

This year's rain and hot weather has been good for the berry crop

Inedible but very pretty are the bright red fruit of the bunchberry.

These had white flowers back in early June around the lake.
Blossom on June 6th

I was hiking up at 4800' in the White Mountains last week and found that bunchberry are just now blooming at that elevation, six or seven weeks behind the lower elevations, indicating that the season lags by almost two weeks for every thousand feet of elevation gained.
Bunchberry blooming on July 21 at the 4833 foot summit of Carter Dome

And here are some black berries I found in a deeply shaded part of the forest; I don't know what they are.
An unidentified black berry
They remind me of something we called "deadly nightshade" when I was a kid, but looking that up, deadly nightshade, or belladonna, is clearly something different.  Does anyone have any help for me on this one?

Lastly, an update on the loon nest:  at three and a half weeks after nesting, everything appears to be going smoothly.  At last check, mom was on the nest - her bands were visible when she stood up to turn over the egg, so we know it was the female.

The male was out and about doing some fishing.

We also saw an osprey fly right over them, doing some fishing of its own.

Osprey eat almost exclusively fish, so our loons should be safe from the osprey.  But not from eagles - a bald eagle will certainly go after a loon chick. The chick should hatch within the next week, so lets hope for the best.
An osprey in search mode