Sunday, August 29, 2010

August 29, 2010

A couple of fabulous late summer days on Lake Wicwas, with lots of activity on the lake - people and animals.  This morning while fishing we saw three loons fly in together.  A few minutes later we saw a fourth had joined them and they swimming together in the morning light. 

Passing by the small island in the middle of the lake we saw this sight of three Cormorants sitting in the top of tree in front of a waning Gibbous moon (the last few nights have been beautiful under the bright moonlight).  This is their favorite tree on the lake, as I often see them here.  I've heard they kill the trees the roost in; I don't know if that's true, but this tree certainly supports the argument. 
A day or two ago our resident fisherman had some competition from an Osprey fishing by the two red markers;  he clearly saw an Osprey, as he was startled by it crashing into the lake.  Osprey are regular visitors to Lake Wicwas, but they don't seem to stay very long; every couple of years I see one for a day or two, and then it's gone.  They are the only bird-of-prey that actually dives into the water to catch fish, making a loud and visible splash, where hawks and eagles pluck their prey out of the water with their talons as they fly over the surface. 

Last evening we watched two bats for a long time flying around the cove collecting insects.  Although fewer than prior years, a few of them are hanging on.

It's sad to think summer is coming to an end.  School has started and the kids are going back to college.  Some of us took our last ski for the year, and as Dustin took his final boat ride around the lake we saw two very large hawks soaring low over us, as if they were saying goodbye.  They started just at tree-top level, and without a single wing flap rose well up into the sky.  They were clearly enjoying the thermals from the west winds going over the cooler lake then hitting the warm shore line.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

August 21, 2010

Lake Wicwas was pretty busy today, with lots of boats out enjoying the good weather.  There were quite a few bass boats fishing this morning, and a large fleet of kayaks poking around the islands.  Plus several boats were out at various times, water skiing, tubing, and wake boarding, including a sharp new SeaDoo that has been visiting the lake quite a bit this summer.

In the evening there was a group of five loons swimming and diving together.  The single bird seemed again to be keeping a little extra distance from the others, and when it approached, one of the others appeared to confront it, and it veered off again.

After a long time of quietly swimming around while fishing, the whole group started swimming in formation, rapidly down the cove, calling wildly, with the single loon bringing up the rear.  It went on for two or three minutes before they calmed back down.  I took some video just to capture their calls;  I'll up-load it if I can find a way to load a 10MB file.

It has been so hot and dry that the streams have almost completely dried up.  There is a little water trickling from the beaver dam on the Blue Trail in the Hamlin area, but even the main stream under the bridge at the trail head has no water flowing, just some standing water in some of the deeper pools.  This smaller stream has been dry so long that pine needles are collecting in it.

The oak trees have started to drop their acorns, with green acorns all around now, much to the delight of the squirrels and chipmunks.  You can find lots of cut open shells lying around under the oaks, with the nut meat cleanly removed and eaten.  Strips like this are left by squirrels, where chipmunks and mice tend to chew a large hole into the shell, leaving it more intact.  Soon the turkeys will be back to eat the acorns too.

It's clear the fox are also enjoying the plentiful bounty of the harvest season.  Their scat consists entirely of seeds and other plant material now, with none of the hair and fur that it contains in the winter seasons.

Monday, August 16, 2010

August 16, 2010

The wildlife around Lake Wicwas certainly knows we're in the midst of summer.  This afternoon, after the showers, all I saw on long trip was several dozen red efts.  Well, I also met a couple of friendly humans.  And at one point I  heard a red tail hawk calling, but that was about it.

However, they are still plenty active at night when it's cooler.  In addition to the deer going by our house most nights, we discovered this summer that a gray fox travels by our house just about every night.
Gray Fox

Red fox are fairly visible, often seen in the early morning or late afternoon, but I have never seen a gray fox during the day, as they are much more reclusive.  But using an automatic camera I've found that the gray fox has a pretty well-planned routine.  Here is what I recorded passing by our house last week:

Aug 8:     9:39 pm
Aug 10: 10:23 pm
Aug 11    4:10 am (really Aug 12)
Aug 12    9:52 pm
Aug 12  11:02 pm (in the opposite direction)
Aug 13:   9:52 pm

I also found the red fox on August 7, 8, & 9, though it tends to travel later in the night, most often between 2 to 4 am.
Red Fox

Saturday, August 14, 2010

August 14, 2010

Today was the First Annual Lake Wicwas Paddle Regatta, hosted by Tom and Sharon.  There was a great turn out - perhaps 20 vessels - ranging from one to three-person power, and participants ranging in age from under 10 to over 70.  Sadly, the start was delayed by the Powell crew - who showed up late - but the weather was perfect, nearly calm at the start, with a light southerly wind later on to keep everyone cool.  The event had great support from the committee boat throughout the course.
Afterward there was a BBQ with fabulous food, drink, and company, as well as prizes and certificates for everyone.  And of course, the terrific desserts!  Many thanks to Tom, Sharon, and Paula, and all the others who helped organize the event.

The Gracious Host

We may have set a record for the most boats on Lake Wicwas at one time, as there was a bass tournament taking place at the same time.  I was at the ramp this morning for Lake Host duty when they launched and started their day.  They were a great group of people, and most were well versed in exotic plants and the Lake Host program.

One of the best parts of hosting the early morning shift is watching the sun rise, highlighting Crockett's Ledge with orange light shining through the mist.

Crockett's Ledge at Sunrise
 There was also a beautiful sight looking east across the marsh and the Chemung forest.  

Anyone who wants to enjoy this experience can call Paul Trombi and sign up to be a Lake Host!

The only down part of the whole day was paddling over to the start of the regatta, in the calm water, where we went through a couple of large blooms of cyanobacteria (probably oscillatoria, as identified by NH DES).  The patches were approximately 45 feet across, with individual clumps 4 to 10 inches in size.  Not uncommon on Lake Wicwas and all lakes in NH, but something to be attentive to, both to the toxic properties of cyanobacteria, and the steps everyone can take to reduce its presence in our lakes. (Click here for information on cyanobacteria from the NH DES).

Friday, August 6, 2010

August 6, 2010

There are signs that we are getting into the latter part of summer around Lake Wicwas, starting with the sun rising noticeably farther to the south.

This morning on an early walk, I found myself annoying lots of creatures.  First was the red squirrel, who was angrily chattering at me, and running from branch to branch, trying to drive me from his feeding grounds.  A few minutes later I surprised a deer that went bounding through the woods to escape.  And that was followed directly by a beaver in the marsh that heard the commotion, and started slapping his tail in the water with a loud ker-splash.  I couldn't see the beaver, but I could see the splashes it made!

Splash from a Beaver Alert
Blueberry season is also nearing the end.  There are still both low-bush and high-bush berries around, but they are getting sparse and over-ripe.  Even the huckleberries, which have a later season, are getting past their peak.  Do be careful to make sure you don't take home any stow-aways!
Daring Jumping Spider

Another sign of late summer are fall webworm caterpillars. Supposedly they don't hurt the trees they defoliate because they do their damage late in the season.

And talking about spiders, here's a guy who was taking advantage of the web made by the caterpillars to find his breakfast.

The mushrooms are also popping up everywhere.  This fresh one has been nibbled by the chipmunks or squirrels.

And this old, moldy fungus is a feeding station for a herd of newts - I counted six dining on either the fungus itself or the tiny insects that were attracted to it.

It was rather windy today, especially in the afternoon, with gusts up to 30 knots.  A couple of hapless paddlers became stranded on one of the islands where they had stopped to explore.  They didn't pull their boats up far enough on shore, and a gust of wind swept them both out to sea.  When they returned to their landing site they were gone, with no idea where they went.  Fortunately the good samaritans on Lake Wicwas were helping them out, and I'm sure they found their kayaks and made it safely on their way.

At sunset, the wind had died down considerably, and the light was casting long shadows, and illuminating the trunks of the tress on a west-facing hill overlooking the lake.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

August 1, 2010

July of 2010 will have to go in the record books as one the best summer months ever, and it looks like August is going to keep up the trend.  Today was another fabulous day on the lake, with clear, dry weather, bright sunshine, and light winds.  There were lots of pontoon boats and kayaks on the lake, and a couple of sail boats as well.

We do love the wildlife on Lake Wicwas, but sometimes it can drive you crazy.  We seem to have stopped (or at least curtailed) the deer from eating Linda's flowers, and now this weekend Linda caught the goldfinches eater her black eyed Susans!  We took in the bird feeders in the spring to keep the bears away, so now the birds are finding their own food - they were just sitting on the Susans and daises, ripping out the petals and eating them.
 This morning I found this hole dug, with what appears to be turtle egg shells around it.  It was about 25 feet from the lake in soft soil.  If it is turtle eggs, it's not clear whether they hatched out, or whether a predator got them.  Seeing how the shell fragments are spread around, rather than left in the hole, I expect it was the latter.

A bit farther down the trail I found these tiny yellow fungus growing out of a patch of moss, casting long shadows in the early morning sun.