Sunday, April 14, 2013

April 14, 2013

Lake Wicwas certainly is unpredictable.  On Monday, the lake still had ten inches of ice, and by Thursday, it was essentially gone - just small sections along shaded shores.  By my reckoning, ice-out in 2013 occurred on April 11th.  But then, just to make sure we didn't get complacent, we received a couple of inches of wet snow the next day.
April Snow

It was barely enough to cover the ground.

But it provided one last (?) opportunity for easy animal tracking.  A bit farther along this trail I came across a fresh set of Otter tracks.

River Otter Tracks

It came out of the lake along a well-worn animal path, followed the trail for a short while, sliding on its belly when it could, then turned around and went back into the water.

We also saw the first beaver out in the evening cruising across the lake in search of fresh spring food.

With cold, wet conditions, it was the perfect weather for ducks, and there were plenty on the lake.  There were more Woodies;  this male waited patiently at the opening of an ice channel while its mate paddled all along the stretch and finally came back out again.

The first Mergansers arrived as well.
Common Mergansers

Sometimes in groups of six or more.

We also had a more rare visitor, one we haven't seen for a few years:  Bufflehead.

These don't usually travel this far inland, staying more along the New Hampshire and Maine coast lines.  Buffleheads - named by a combination of "buffalo" and "head" due to its unusual head shape - are one of the smallest American ducks.  Like the Wood Duck, the Bufflehead makes it nest in trees rather than on the ground, but it relies on a meta-biotic relationship (meaning its mode of living is dependent on another animal to prepare an environment in which it can live) with the Flicker.  The Bufflehead makes its home in a Flicker's nest!  It evolved its small size to take advantage of this ready-made residence.  Also, similar to the Wood Duck, it's chicks will leave the nest one day after the last one hatches.  We won't see them nesting at Lake Wicwas though, as they will continue northward to breeding grounds in Canada.

We also saw another very large bird wheel over the lake;  I'm guessing it was another Turkey Vulture, but with bad lighting it was hard to be sure.

Another early spring creature was pushing the spring season as well - the first of the year.

After many months of looking at a solid white cover on Lake Wicwas, it lifts the spirits to see the world again reflecting off a shiny, liquid surface.  It is a beautiful sight.

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