Sunday, April 13, 2014

April 13, 2014

It is curious how one seems to search for the elusive.  I went for a walk yesterday in a quest for signs of spring - on my snow shoes - as there are still copious amounts of snow in the forest, and even in some open fields.

Signs of cross country ski tracks are still evident in the snow.

Ski trail covered with spring debris
Something I always enjoy in the spring is watching tracks that were imprinted on the lake months ago, and long since hidden under layer up layer of snow, become revealed as winter recedes.  

Snow show and ski tracks emerge from under the snow as winter melts away
Saturday was a delightful, 60 degree day, and though I searched diligently, signs of spring were few and far between.  Sunny, south facing hills are mostly free of snow, and where the water runs off under the snow pack there is bare ground - or puddles - showing through.

All that melted snow has brought the lake to a high level, 15" above full, and it is flooding the low spots around the lake.  The stream to Winnisquam is a torrent.  Soft snow leaves evidence that deer have been moving around in the area;  Linda saw a pair of white-tails, though I missed them.
Deer print in soft snow
In searching for buds, I found that the Blueberries, and even the Red Maples, still have their buds tightly wrapped.  Only a few Witch Hazel and Beech trees are bold enough to confront old-man winter at this point.
The first leaf of 2014?

Bud emerging from a branch nipped off by a deer

Just when I thought these would would the be most commendable sightings of my journey, I perceived motion in an open spot where the sun had melted the snow and dried out the leaves.  Approaching slowly, I discovered a Common Garter Snake which had come out from hibernation and was also enjoying the warm spring sun.

Its natural evolution is so refined that had it not moved I never would have noticed it, how thoroughly it is camouflaged - it looks just like a dead stick lying on the leaves. 
This could well be the first reptile or amphibian to have emerged from hibernation, and is an encouraging signpost on the path to spring.  Can the Spring Peepers be far behind?

The lake creatures are getting impatient with the arrival of spring as well.  This evening I watched a  beaver navigating the meager channel between the shore and the ice, taking a deep breath when the passage became too constricted, diving under the ice and reemerging at the next breach of the frozen cover. 

This morning my attention was attracted by a mink bouncing along the shore line, hopping up and down the bank, poking around in the brush and into the tunnels fashioned under the snow by the red squirrels through the winter.  I suppose the mink are pleased that the chipmunks have emerged as well.

I have a challenge for people this week:  Can you identify this historic marker from the local region?

Here are few hints, showing its surroundings.

The marker is to the far right in front of the blue house

That steeple is a good clue, but if you need one more hint, we were walking the WOW trail (Winnipsaukee-Opechee-Winnisquam Rail Trail).  Leave your guesses as a comment (click on "comments" or "No comments" at the bottom of the page, and submit as anonymous if you wish);  I'll provide the answer with my next post.

As I was walking the woods in my pursuit of spring, I was thinking how in just a couple of weeks, I'll be out stalking the last remaining gasps of winter (I hope!).  I guess it's just more rewarding to discover that which eludes us.  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

April 5, 2014

Oh where art thou, Lake Wicwas?  Buried deep under that layer of ice and snow, I know you are there, waiting to be freed from the shackles of the polar vortex. 
April 5, 2014
It has been four weeks since we were last here, and I'm sad to say it doesn't look much different than when we left back on March 8th, with a heavy snow pack still in place.
North-facing slopes still have plenty of snow

The ice is still solid, but there is a foot of water and slush on top of it, so I don't know how much ice is actually present.  There are small openings around the edges of the lake where the runoff from the recent rains eroded the ice, and it indicates the ice isn't safe for travel.  Even the openings at the inlet and the outlet have only small slices of open water. 

But there are signs that provide hope.  I saw the first chipmunk yesterday, and I heard the call of the geese somewhere on the lake.

There are also a few green shoots of plants pushing their way up right through the snow;  they are not inclined to wait any longer.
Lilly Shoots

A flock of four turkeys took a stroll through the yard yesterday, enjoying the dropped seeds from the bird feeders.

When they became aware of our presence they fanned out their tail feathers - probably to make themselves look larger to any attacking predators.

These were pretty large birds anyways - I wouldn't be surprised if they were well over 20 pounds.  They aren't enjoying the deep snow at all, as heavy birds on tiny feet broke through the soft crust repeatedly, crashing down until their bodies hit the snow. 

By this evening, with another warm, sunny day to strengthen its resolve, Lake Wicwas had taken a little more ground from its nemesis, but it still has a long battle ahead.
April 6, 2014

2014 has been a long winter.

Monday, March 31, 2014

March 30, 2014

We are back from Colorado, but I'm afraid I didn't make it up to Lake Wicwas, so I can't report on the current state of winter.  By all accounts, old man winter is not ready to give up his hold yet.  Since we left there has been more snow, and the radar this morning indicates sleet, freezing rain, and other wintery weather is in our future. 

One of our local nature observers did send me this picture of a bone that was uncovered during a recent show shoe venture on the hills west of Lake Wicwas.  Their trusty canine found it buried in the snow and was kind enough to retrieve it and offer it as a gift.  Their research indicates it may be from a deer, but if anyone has any insight, we'd love to hear it.

Can you identify this bone?
Think spring!  It's time for at least some nice spring skiing!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

March 16, 2014

I wasn't at Lake Wicwas this weekend, but was certainly enjoying some fabulous natural surroundings elsewhere.  It might be a while before I get back to the lake, but I'll post an update as soon as I can.  In the meantime, here are some other beautiful winter scenes.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

March 8, 2014

More signs that spring is coming, albeit slowly:  Wide temperature variations.  On Friday the morning low was a cool 6.5 degrees below zero.  And the afternoon high was 41.7 - a 48 degree difference.  That's what happens when March sunshine on cloudless day collides with another arctic air mass.  It was a spectacular day;  I wasn't at Lake Wicwas, but was in the White Mountains, where we were treated to stunning views all day long. 
Presidential Range

The Rock Pile

Saturday was almost as nice, though the clouds were filling in as the day went on.  It was warm enough to soften the snow on the lake for some nice skiing, so I took a trek around the lake.  Once again I saw few signs of wildlife, but plenty of people enjoying the day.  The Lake Wicwas Turnpike continues to be heavily traveled with a well-worn path down the lake.
The Wicwas Turnpike
Entrance Ramp from Chemung Rd.

I didn't check the ice depth, but with another cold week it has surely only gotten thicker, so the route may be in service for quite some time.

No wildlife spotted this week, but here are some late-winter scenes from around the lake.

Crockett's Ledge and the Western Shore
Smith's Landing and the Northern Shore

Sunday, March 2, 2014

March 2, 2014

Yesterday was the first day of meteorological spring and it was anything but spring-like:  the morning low was 5 degrees below zero!  At least the winds let up a bit, and it did warm up during the day so it wasn't too frigid as the day went on.  The news reported that Concord had three feet of snow in the month of February alone, and it isn't going away soon, as the forecast is for another cold snap to assault us this week with lows in the negative numbers and highs not getting above freezing. 

At least the polar vortex can't alter the planet in its orbit.  Weather can't change the fact that the sun is higher in the sky and setting farther to the west.  There was a whisper of spring in the sunset on the first day of March.
Sunset over Wicwas on March 1

The second day of March was much better than the first, and a Red Fox was enjoying the warmer temperatures and brighter morning.  At 7:30am a fox came off one shore of the cove, but then stoped and stared at the house, as it quickly detected our presence.  It immediately bolted across the cove at a high-speed gallop, stopping about 3/4 of the way to glance back at us.  It then took a somewhat more leisurely trot to the far shore, stopping to look again upon reaching the shoreline.  It hopped up the bank and sat down under a hemlock branch to rest and watch some more.  After a short respite it wound its way up the hill, checking out all the holes around the trees, looking for a warm breakfast of squirrel or mouse. 
Photo from a Previous Fox Sighting on Lake Wicwas

The weekend's adventures included an excursion on Arbutus Hill, complete with good friends and knowledgeable tour guides! 
Photo courtesy of Mary K.

From the high point-of-land we enjoyed good views to the north and east thanks to the hard work of the foresters.
Red Hill, the Squam Range, and the white tip of Chocorua (if you look hard) from the Arbutus Hill Trail

The crusty snow precluded much tracking, but we did see the signs of a Pileated Woodpecker working on ridding a white pine of carpenter ants in its wood.

It had been working on the tree for a while, including a little excavating since the most recent snow.

I checked the ice thickness on Lake Wicwas today - 22 inches thick in our part of the lake.  Boating looks to be a long ways off....

Sunday, February 23, 2014

February 23, 2014

All I can say this week is, wow - there is a lot of snow.  Two more storms this week, and even after a day of rain and two days in mid 40's, the snow pack is still incredibly deep.  There was too much time spent clearing it away to do much trekking around in the woods, but here's one picture that gives the idea.

This marsh has bushes that are probably two to three feet high in the summer, and they are completely covered.  Only the tallest saplings show now.  Here's the same marsh, from almost the same location in the late summer.

And that was when the water was high - at this point the water level is a good 12 inches lower.

Another couple of weeks like this and we'll have to shovel just to look out the windows!