Sunday, March 31, 2013

March 31, 2013

Those of us who are fortunate enough to spend at least some of our time in the New Hampshire Lakes Region, and Lake Wicwas in particular, know what a magical domain this is.  This has no doubt been recognized, consciously and unconsciously, for thousands of years.  Certainly the native Americans appreciated the beauty and bounty of the region, but even before them, other creatures found a welcoming home here.  Even those that couldn't survive the cold winter months traveled many miles each spring and fall to spend the summer here.  We still have a lot in common with that ancient time.

When the local weather gets out synch with the global weather and astronomical timing however, animals may arrive a bit before the lake is really ready for them, and this is one of those years.  There is a tiny bit of open water at the inlet from Dolloff Brook, and there we saw a Great Blue Heron poking in the mud looking for nourishment (not seen in this picture).
Inlet from Dolloff Brook

There is also a small - but slowly expanding - river of open water near the dam, and that has become the assembly point for the growing flock of Canada Geese. 
The Geese Have Arrived

They do sometimes march out across the ice like an army searching for a more hospitable homeland.

They are typically the first arriving water birds, often dropping in when there is still some ice left on the lake, but this year they must be wondering what's going on.  I measured 15 inches of ice in our cove, and a skier we met on the lake reported that a fisherman told him he found the ice to be between 15 and 30 inches thick.  Where I took my measurement, the top seven inches is soft ice, but there's still a good eight inches of hard, clear ice below.  Those geese are going to have cold feet for quite a while!
Cold Feet

We also saw a large light-colored owl, but that may be a winter resident.  A definite winter resident came and visited us this week:
Red Fox

A flash of red caught my attention as this fox took a run at one of the many squirrels in the yard.  It missed its target, so went and prowled in the snow looking for mice.  It circled back and investigated all the squirrel holes in the snow under and around the bird feeders.

It then rested a bit, scratched its chin, and then headed down the the lake, trotting along the shoreline looking for another unsuspecting squirrel to bring home to its family. 

It's striking when I think about the breadth of life - up and down the food chain - that one benefits by proving a few seeds intended for the birds:  from mice and voles to fox, coyotes, owls and hawks.

The weather is making for a productive maple sugar season this year, in contrast to last year's 80 degree March tempertures.  The sap is flowing, and both of Lake Wicwas' sugar shacks are boiling.

Sugar Shack Boiling on Chemung Road
Cooking on Route 104

It's great to see Meredith residents preserving the traditional methods of farming maple syrup.  Today, large manufacturers use reverse-osmosis equipment to separate the sugar from the sap.  Analysis has shown that some of the flavor compounds are affected by this process.  They are also using vacuum equipment to suck greater amounts of sap out of the trees, though they claim it doesn't harm the trees. 

One of the local houses said this will be the last week of collecting, and then they'll just be evaporating for a while, so it's nearing the end.  So be sure to stop in a get a quart of the authentic product, so you'll be ready to pour some Lake Wicwas Maple Syrup on those Lake Wicwas Blueberry Pancakes come July!  It will get here!
Happy Easter!

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