Sunday, July 24, 2016

July 24, 2016

The loons seem to be settling down and tolerating each other better these days.  The night time altercations have become less frequent and shorter in duration;  it's still common to hear a ruckus between 9:00 and 11:00 at night, but it's usually over in just a minute.  There are still two pairs and a bachelor(?) on Wicwas, though the lone bird was AWOL during the loon census last weekend, so Lake Wicwas contributed only four birds to the statewide count.  Hopefully another lake counted our fifth.

Without young to care for, the adults are enjoying this beautiful summer on the lake:  sunning, preening, fishing.  Lots of grooming to make themselves attractive to the other birds, rolling over to show their bellies, oiling their feathers and generally splashing about.


One evening we saw one loon come up with a tremendous fish and spend the next five minutes playing with it. 

It whipped the fish back and forth in its beak and would then drop in the water only to catch it again;  sometimes the fish would almost get away and the bird would make a quick dive to grab it and bring it back up.

Eventually it decided it was ready for dinner and it raised its head in the air and swallowed the tired fish down head first.

Only to have it get stuck in its neck on the way down.

My guess:  It wanted to weaken it first because it didn't want a fish that large flapping around inside its gullet! 

The gorgeous hot weather the past two weeks (it hit 95 on Friday) has inspired the wildlife to perform their summer musical concert, making hot afternoons a chorus of buzzing, chirping, and singing, from the clear flute of the wood thrush, to the song of the never-tiring red-eyed vireo, to the classic summer buzz of the cicada.  One interesting animal that doesn't join the band, but could be the conductor with those two long batons, is the Pine Sawyer.
Pine Sawyer

This member of the longhorn beetle family bores large, long tunnels in pine wood and can cause tremendous damage to felled trees as seen by these holes in a fallen white pine beside the lake. 
Holes bored into the wood ruin its value as timber

Remember the logs that were intentionaly sunk in Lake Wicwas after the hurricane of '38? (See  6 March 2016 post.)  These are the primary insect from which they were protecting that wood, as pine Sawyers can greatly reduce the value of timber in just a few weeks.

Here's another summer insect which I always enjoy seeing, the mayfly.
Mayfly

Perhaps scary looking, but completely harmless, and a great source of sustenance to fish and other animals.  But look quickly, as their adult life lasts, at most, two days.

And one last harmless creature you may see out on a hot summer afternoon:  a garter snake. 
Garter Snake

If you're walking in the woods and hear a gentle rustle in the leaves rising up to join the summer opera, take a look down, and you may find one.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

July 17, 2016

Back on May first we had a late frost which coated the black cherry buds with a layer of ice.
May 1, 2016


At the time I wondered if it would have a detrimental affect on the Lake Wicwas cherry crop as it did on the New England peach crop.  But no, these hardy cherries came through it just fine.
Black Cherry survived the late frost

They are starting to change color from green to red to black, and soon the fox and bear will be here taking advantage of the bountiful crop.  Birds will eat their share too, but even before the fruit is ripe the insects start to dig in. 
Green Stink Bug (Acrosternum hilare)

This green stink bug has some amazing camouflage to help it hide from predators while it sucks juices out of the still-green fruit.

I did my mid-summer weed watch tour on a segment of Lake Wicwas this week, and I was happy to find nothing out of the ordinary.  Our Lake Host program continues to be successful in keeping milfoil and other invasive weeds out of the lake through education and boat inspections.  Far from being a chore, the process of weed watching is always an interesting event, as poking along the shores of a lake with a careful eye always reveals interesting sights.   Some of the more visible sights are signs of the beaver.  At one point I saw where a beaver had cut off some saplings to bring the tender wood back to their lodge.

I also saw their attempts to increase the size of their kingdom by stuffing all kinds of debris in the top of the dam to raise the lake level.
Beavers are genetically programmed to stop any flowing water

An unexpected sight was to see a beaver swimming along through the weeds in the middle of the day.
A beaver swims among the weeds

I also caught a glimpse of a muskrat along the shore, but it eluded the camera.

On an exposed point were the left over shells from some aquatic carnivore - probably muskrat, racoon, or mink - that enjoyed a meal of fresh water mussels at a table with a view.
Someone enjoyed a fresh seafood dinner

A weed watch tour is almost certain to reveal a red-winged blackbird chirping from the top of a reed or a branch hanging over the lake. 
Red-winged blackbird on an alder tree

Of course there are always pretty flowers growing along the shore as well as in the lake.
Yellow Pond Lilly

Unidentified wetland flower
Swamp Milkweed

I didn't see any osprey on this tour but I did see a large turkey vulture circling above me.
Turkey Vulture

If you're wondering why the weed watcher program is important to the health of our lakes and our economy, take a look at this news story that WMUR aired on Chronicle which shows the sad story of what happens when milfoil gets into a lake:  The Milfoil Battle

If you want to get in on the action and do some weed watching of your own, just let me know and we'll get you started.  Who knows, maybe you'll find your own secret blueberry bush loaded with berries along some hidden shoreline.  And even if you don't, you're sure to see something interesting and beautiful along the shores of a New Hampshire lake.
Goldfinch in its summer colors

Sunday, July 10, 2016

July 10, 2016

The holiday is over and Lake Wicwas is back to its quiet self, especially the past few days when after a lovely hot spell (it hit 94 degrees) the weather turned cold and wet.  Linda noted that yesterday's high temperature was lower than this past Christmas day!  But we sure did need the rain.  The moisture gave a great boost to the withering flora, as greenery from blueberries to weeds surged with a dose of moisture.  The blueberries turned plump and blue and consummated the first scrumptious treats of the year.
Warm Scones with Wicwas Blueberries

A little bit of moisture always brings out my favorite, colorful ground dwellers, the red-efts.
The red eft is the juvenile stage of the eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens)


One must be careful walking in damp conditions to avoid stepping on these little guys.

On a hike up to Crockett's ledge before the rain hit, one of the nephews spotted this snake sunning itself in a protected crack at the very top of the cliff.
A Garter Snake enjoying the warmth of the sun-heated rocks


It looks pretty safe there from just about every threat!

The deer flies continue to be about as bad as I remember them.  (Do I say that every year?)  But the deer fly strips prove there is good batch of them out there.
Proof that deer fly strips really do work

You can get these - of course - at Amazon.

It's no wonder there are so many flycatchers around here.  Mrs. Phoebee may make a lot of racket, but she does her part in cleaning up the flying insect brigade.
Perched, radar on, and cleared for take-off for its next sortie




A friend and good land steward spent many hours last week picking up the trash that collected along the sides of Chemung Road over the past year;  it looks great!  (Thank you JG!)  But it was sad to see that within hours of his work, the next installment of road litter had already begun.

One would have hoped that someone buying a can with the word "America" on it would have a little more respect for the nation that bears the name.

Before the rain hit late in the week I found this tiny maple tree sprouting in the moss on a tree that fell into the lake many years ago.  It always amazes me how creative seeds can be in finding a place to roost.  This youngster won't make it to old age, but like many lake lovers, it sure will enjoy its childhood growing up on the shore of a beautiful lake.

Monday, July 4, 2016

July 4th, 2016

Happy Independence Day!  This was a weekend for people on Lake Wicwas.  Everyone enjoyed a bright, breezy, beautiful holiday weekend which featured people enjoying all manner of activity on the water.

The stiff winds had the sailboats with their colorful sails zipping across the water. 



Sailing on a small lake is one of the more challenging adventures as the wind whipping around the mountains and islands provides a never-ending change of wind speed and direction.  If you can sail on a lake in New Hampshire, you have learned how to sail!

The fishermen prefer the early morning when the winds are calmer, but all day long they will poke along the protected edges of the lake in search of their prize.

Paddlers of all types were out in force.

Canoeing in a stiff wind and light chop is not for the timid

As were swimmers.

And people preparing for the Olympic synchronized diving qualifiers.

Some were swimming in the middle of the lake using pontoon boats as staging areas.



And there were skiers and boarders, with their sport made more challenging by the wind.

A bit of a chop adds to the excitement
All were sharing the lake, and no matter what they were doing, everyone seemed to enjoy the weekend.  Now the loons just need to learn how to share.  Even if they haven't figured that out yet, they can at least enjoy the occasional quiet moment in this beautiful spot we call Lake Wicwas.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

June 26, 2016

I saw something this morning I have never seen before on Lake Wicwas.  I was on a morning paddle to investigate a possible loon nesting on the protected Rawson Woods Islands.  Sorry to say, I didn't find a nest, though there was a site that looked like the loons had been up there to assess it for a possible home.  (Thanks for the tip MC, and keep watching!)  But on the way I saw two Great Blue Herons fly out of tree on a small island.  Wondering if there was a rookery there, I looked up in the tree tops, only to find a pure white heron up there!
A White Heron?

Could it be a Great Egret?  It must be:  farther along my trip I saw another one, or the same one now fishing along the shoreline, and it sure looks like an egret to me!
A Great Egret on Lake Wicwas

The closest reported breeding range is the southern coast of Maine, but with the warming temperatures it's not unexpected that animals will be moving their ranges farther north and inland.  I'd be interested to know if anyone has ever seen a Great Egret in the Lakes Region.  Do you think our local herons were up there investigating this strange new visitor to their lake?
Coming in for a landing
Those large wings provide a lot of lift

On the return trip home I heard the loons farther down the lake hollering at each other, and could see the splashing of their chasing each other reflecting in the morning sun.  One loon took flight and landed perhaps 100 yards to the west of me, so I put down my paddle to sit quietly and watch.  It swam slowly right toward me, similarly to last week's event. 

Simply another magical moment on Lake Wicwas.

Another bird that spends its life over water is the Eastern Kingbird, and this week some special caretakers of our lake alerted me to a kingbird nest hanging over the water, and invited me over to see it from their deck. (Thanks S&DL!) 

A family of Eastern Kingbirds living safely over the water
We watched as the parents came and went, bringing dragonflies to feed to the hungry youngsters, who appear to be getting itchy, stretching their necks to get a look over the edge of the nest into the world to which they will soon take flight. 

A dragon fly makes a good size meal for these little fellas

Down the hatch!
I was told these birds nested in the same spot last year, so the decision was made to leave that dead tree right where it is.  Another example of how trees that fall into the lake provide homes for many animals, both above and below the waterline.

This week we took a trip up to Baxter State Park;  I had never climbed Mt. Katahdin and the knife edge, and it had been on my list for a long time.  It is beautiful country up there, different than the white mountains and lakes region in many ways.  And the mountain is truly spectacular.
Pamola summit and the knife edge on Mt. Katahdin

Of course, we were drawn to the many lakes n Baxter State Park, and during a canoe trip on Kidney Pond we saw the two most sought after animals in the park:  moose and loons.

Moose in Baxter State Park
Feasting on Kidney Pond aquatic plants


Kidney Pond is experiencing the same loon issue as Lake Wicwas.  While we were there we witnessed territorial fighting as a pair of loons drove away a single loon. 
A lone loon wing-rowing to escape the resident pair in Kidney Pond

Hearing visitors who travel from around the country (or the world), and even the Baxter State Park rangers talking about these beautiful animals made me realize once again just how fortunate those of us who get to experience Lake Wicwas are.  We see and hear the beauty of the loons almost every day, and on occasion get to experience a moose right here on our lake. 

A Wicwas Moose strolling on Chemung Rd
I never forget the wonderful people who have generously given their time and property to protect and steward the special habitat that surrounds Lake Wicwas and much of the town of Meredith and greater New Hampshire.  Maybe we will add Egrets to its list of inhabitants.