Sunday, February 22, 2015

February 22, 2015

This week I took another off-lake excursion, this time up to Franconia notch.  The snow is so deep around the lake that we thought we might find easier going on a well traveled trail.  Plus, it was an absolutely beautiful day, so we thought a trip up to the higher mountains would be well rewarded - and we were right!
Artists Bluff Trail

We hiked the Artists Bluff and Bald Mountain loop trail right in Franconia notch.  It's an easy 1.5 mile loop with some beautiful views of Canon, Lafayette, and the Franconia range.
Mt. Lafayette
Canon Mountain

The trail was packed out and the snow soft but firm so we only needed yaktrax on our feet.  If you're interested in trying it, just be warned that the sign for the trail head is hidden by the huge snowbanks - we almost didn't find it.  Here is a link:  Bald Mtn - Artist Bluff

Of course, one need not drive to the White Mountains to see that gorgeous cobalt blue sky.  Anyone can see that right here at Lake Wicwas as well!
A ledge on the shore of Lake Wicwas

I did take a trip out around the lake to see if any wildlife was moving about in the deep snow, and there were very few sign of activity.  Lots of mice were active, as they don't sink into the snow.  

Mouse Activity on top of Four Feet of Snow

I wonder if they know the fox aren't as much of a threat with the deep snow cover.  I didn't see a single fresh fox track, though there were some left from before the most recent snow.

There were a few squirrel tracks also, but not many.  It appears they are using the snow to provide cover from their predators as well, traveling under the snow in tunnels, and popping up only here and there.

They are fun to watch:
video

I saw no deer tracks.  They are probably keeping very close quarters in their deer yards where they pack down the snow.  It will be a hard year for the deer;  they will quickly consume the available food in their yard, and then will have to venture out farther.  Between the deep snow, scarcity of food, and vulnerability - increased by weakness from lack of nutrition - there are likely to be a lot casualties.  This is where hunters, thinning out the herd in the fall, provide an important aspect of wildlife management.

The largest animal tracks I saw were from a mink, and even the mink was traveling on a plowed roadway, taking advantage of easier transit.  A thin layer of blown snow left nice tracks.

Mink Tracks


We were able to experience a rare astronomical event on Friday night, with three objects, venus, mars, and the crescent moon, all lined up together.  
I'm always amazed that the portion of the moon facing away from the sun is illuminated enough by light reflected back from earth to make it visible back on earth again.

At the other end of the day was a beautiful sunrise after new snow overnight. 
Sunrise
Day or night, it's a beautiful place.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

February 15, 2014

I have nothing to say - the only thing I saw happen around Lake Wicwas this week was winter!
Snow
More Snow
And yes, more snow
I did spend a couple hours on the roof (and then we got more snow)
I hope those birds take care of their roof!


And there's no sign of change anytime soon - not a day above freezing in the seven day forecast.  But it may drop down to -10 tonight....



Keep Warm!




Sunday, February 8, 2015

Tracking Porky - February 8, 2015

The snow is getting pretty deep in the Lakes Region at this point, and the animals are having to work harder to travel and find food - even when they are just picking up the handouts from the bird feeder.

The mice like the protection of the snow, and they are light enough to hop along on top of the snow no matter how dry and fluffy it is.
Mice are mostly Air and Fur

I took a snow shoe trip up to Porcupine Ridge to see if any porcupines or any other animals were out braving the deep snow.
Looking West from Porcupine Ridge

I found a few tracks of animals including fox, mice, squirrel, and fisher (no deer);  it took a while but eventually I spotted some signs of porky down at the bottom of the ridge.

I hiked around the ledge for a closer look.  With short legs and a stout defense system, porcupines kind of plow through deep snow rather than stepping into it.

Nature's First Snow Plow
And once they plow a path, they follow it day after day, plodding along to the same tree - usually hemlock - to feed.  They will do this until all the parts of that tree they want to eat are consumed, and then they'll plow a new road to a fresh tree.

This path had been recently traveled - since the last snow - as its footprints were clearly marked in the plowed road.

Porcupines are rather messy eaters, leaving lots of debris on the ground to show where they've been feeding.


If you want to locate a porcupine habitat, look for a steep, rocky ledge with lots of hemlock trees.  This particular porcupine has its den in a cave high up this ledge - the road it has plowed leading back up to its home is visible in the center of this picture.
Porky's Path Home

Here's a picture of a porcupine that I caught on this ridge a couple of winters ago.



After all the snow and cold weather I was somewhat surprised to find open water in a few locations in the swamp at the bottom of the ledge.
No, It's not a sign of spring

It shows how much heat the earth retains well into winter.

I'm never surprised to find open water at the outlet of Lake Wicwas, and it always provides a beautiful  scene on a bright winter day.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Pond Hockey - February 1, 2015

This weekend Meredith Village hosted the New England Pond Hockey Classic

They had everything one could want for a weekend of outdoor hockey - unless one wanted to be warm.  It was brutal, with temperatures just above single digits and strong northwest winds bringing wind chills down below zero - for the daily highs!

Northwest Winds Blow Across Meredith Bay
Nonetheless, there were hundreds of skaters, spectators, food vendors, snowmobilers, and more.

They always create a nice public ring right at the edge of Hesky Park so anyone can participate.

Of course, there was plenty of good hockey action, right there for everyone to see up close and personal.



Back around Lake Wicwas, the animals are feeling the cold as well.  The birds have been feeding very actively during this cold spell, with flocks of gold finches on the feeders like I don't usually see.


They are bold enough to fight off even the White Breasted Nuthatches who usually defend the feeders for themselves.  Even though it is the deep of winter, some of the finches are letting hints of the their true colors shine though.


I personally haven't seen much activity around the deer that was killed last week, but another nature watcher (thanks MT) who has a view of the site has seen lots of animals taking advantage of the food source, including this bald eagle.

I did take a ski out to look for action, and as I came out of the woods onto the lake, an eagle took off from a tree right over me.  There were a couple of crows on the carcass, so the eagle must have been waiting for its turn to feed. 

Regular snow and cold weather has allowed some great skiing on the lake as well as the trails around Wicwas. 
 It's worth getting out for a few minutes to enjoy the beauty, as we are definitely now into winter in New England.

(Congratulations Patriots!)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

January 25, 2015

Perhaps mother nature has settled into her winter pattern now.  We've had snow - no rain - with more snow on the way, and it sure was cold today with a brutal northwest wind blasting across the lake, whipping up yesterday's fresh snow.

Here's a short clip of what it was like on Lake Wicwas today:
video

At least it was beautiful out there today.  Yesterday, after the snow, it was completely gray with no color in the world at all.

But the fresh snow allowed getting back on the skis, so I went out to see what was going on around the lake, and I did get a few sights.  Fresh snow, even on a gray day, always fashions an enchanting setting.  These are from the north-west corner of the lake, near the entrance of Dolloff Brook.


There was plenty of activity from the fishermen, perhaps devising their strategy for next week's big fishing derby.

One group was just setting up as we chatted, and before they even set down their tip-up, they had caught a yellow perch.  They took it off the hook and tried to reset it, but again a fish struck before they could lower it down!  I guess the fish are hungry this year.  Unfortunately, some fishermen are not as good stewards of the lake as others.

The gray day made for an interesting scene looking up at Crockett's Ledge above the west shore of the lake. 

I had been up there a few days earlier - on a much prettier day.  One gets a great view of the area from this vantage point this time of year, including a neat perspective on the motorcycle track.
Belknap and Gunstock Mountains in the Distance



It is a tough time of year to be a vegetarian, as the carnivorous predators need to keep up their strength in the harsh weather.  Whether you're a mouse being sought out by a Snowy Owl, or a deer trying to avoid coyotes, life is tough.  On my trip I came across a White Tail Deer that had been driven out onto the lake where it had no chance against one or more coyotes.  

With skinny legs and cloven hooves, they have no hope for survival if they get forced onto the ice.

Just like the owl, the coyotes go after the best parts first, but they will return to take more of it over time. 


The last time I saw this on Lake Wicwas (see 29 January 2014) everything from coyotes to eagles to crows took advantage of the kill.  This will be an important part of the food chain this winter.

The strong wind today partially covered it up with snow, but that won't stop the many animals in the area from feasting on it for the next several weeks. 

They had already ripped one leg off and dragged it away;  perhaps a less aggressive coyote that was being kept away from the main carcass by more dominant animals. 


Don't worry about finding it in the lake next summer - every last bit will be gone long before the ice melts.  Even if we get a foot of snow next week, the animals know where it is, and they will be back.  (It's just off Loon Point if you want to investigate as well.)

At least it is a beautiful final resting place for a beautiful animal.