Sunday, February 18, 2018

February 18, 2018 - A Winter Tracking Mystery Solved

Snow conditions set up good tracking parameters this week;  tracks that were set in dense snow froze in place by the rain that followed, so a lot of animal activity was captured around New Hampshire's lakes and forests.  I finally found where the bobcat has been prowling for its meals (although it's missing out on plenty of food right under our bird feeders).  I found these tracks up on a north-facing slope of dense hemlock.
The round, toenail-absent print of a bobcat

Following them led me to a spot where it nestled in behind a tree to hide in hopes of ambushing a hapless squirrel - or perhaps just for a catnap.
A catnap in the sun?
And another spot where it lay down to watch over its world from the top of a knoll with a commanding field of view. 
A good location to scout for dinner

Farther up near the top of the hill, overlooking a ledge I call "porcupine ridge", the presence of its namesake resident was clearly evident.
Procupine tracks leading away from the ledge
Porcupine tracks are quite distinct especially in deep snow where they just sort of plow along though the snow making a miniature bob sled run;  I went down to the bottom to take a look.
Recent tracks follow a previously plowed road
Looking back up Porcupine Ridge shows their preferred habitat of rocky ledges
Porcupine will follow the same path over and over again, to the same tree which they feed upon until they finally kill it off.  The signs of them eating - and dropping their food - is evident under the hemlocks on which they feed.
Tracks and debris around the current food source
Here is what's left of a hemlock tree after they have feed on it for years.
A gnarled, nearly dead tree with one lone branch they left behind

The highlight of my trip though was a set of coyote tracks which led me to this scene.

It was not evident to me what had happened here.  The fur had the color of a gray a squirrel, but there was far too much fur for that explanation, and the hair was too long. 
Gray fur with some golden tips

Could it be from a gray fox?  The lack of any bones, skin, and almost no blood further added to the mystery. 
Just the slightest hint of blood at the scene

After consulting with a good friend with much wilderness knowledge (thanks JK) we considered and ruled as unlikely a kill by a large raptor (including an eagle) that might have eaten everything but the fur. 

So, the call went out to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Conservation Officers for some expert opinion (has anyone been watching North Woods Law: NH on Animal Planet?).  The answer from Fish and Game Wildlife Biologist Patrick Tate came quickly:  It is from a deer that was killed many days, probably weeks ago, and all that's left after being dined on by many animals is the fur.  He noted that the very cold weather did cause some deer mortality, and that coyotes and even bobcats can kill a deer.  Where the rest of the carcass is remains unknown.  Experience has shown that animals will drag away portions of a deer to eat in safety, and perhaps more of the animal is buried under the snow.  A deer killed on Lake Wicwas in 2012 disappeared slowly over the course of several weeks.
Sad as it may be, this deer fed the neighborhood - from coyotes to eagles - for weeks
In the spring the spine was found in the middle of a trail a quarter of a mile away.
Spine with most of the skull still attached

Who knows what we'll find this spring when the snow melts.

Elsewhere in the area, the sled dog races were postponed until March 2-4 due to poor trail conditions, but the ice racing was held on Meredith Bay for the first time in many years as part of Meredith's 250th Anniversary celebration.  Perhaps you were able to catch some of the action - it was great fun!

The days are noticeably longer now, and the sun is growing stronger.  It's a great time to get out and enjoy the beauty that is New Hampshire in winter.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Nostalgic Latchkey Cup Race

People asked me to post some photos from today's races on Meredith Bay, so here they are.  If you want any of the photos, feel free to copy them, or ask me for a higher quality photo and I will send it to you.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

February 11, 2018 - Fishing Derby

There was a big crowd out on Meredith Bay again this weekend, this time for the fishing derby. 

The weather was perfect on Saturday, though like last weekend Sunday left a little to be desired.  The showers didn't deter the fishermen who a) mostly have shelter, and b) are tough even if they don't, but most of the spectators were out on Saturday.  People arrive on all modes of transportation;  here's a sampling of what was to be found on the bay on Saturday afternoon.

OK, no people on this one.  Yet.

But the action wasn't limited to Meredith Bay, or even Lake Winnipesaukee, as fish caught on any New Hampshire lake can be entered in the derby.  And Lake Wicwas was well represented, as the largest pickerel on the board as of Saturday afternoon was caught at Wicwas!
The leader board with a Wicwas pickerel in the number one spot

I had been out on Wicwas Saturday morning for a ski and there were certainly a lot of anglers out in search of a prize lunker. 

I wonder which one of these folks caught the beauty on the leader board.

Earlier in the week we had a nice dump of snow which made for great conditions on the ice as well as for some awesome skiing.

At the peak the storm was depositing over one inch of snow per hour, making for some vertigo due to white-out conditions on the lake.

Did you notice the fox tracks beside my ski track in the earlier picture?  You can see that it took advantage of snow packed down by my previous ski trip;  it will undoubtedly follow my new track now.  I saw where it had sought out a squirrel, but once again it didn't appear that it caught anything.
A co-occurrence of squirrel and fox trails
On another excursion earlier in the week - on a nice sunny day - I followed some fox tracks along and saw a spot where it had clearly marked its territory.
This tuft of grass is his boundary

Even though we've had some rain this winter, we've been getting enough snow to keep things in good shape.  Let's hope conditions hold up enough to make the sled dog races next weekend as successful as the last two events.