Sunday, June 23, 2013

June 23, 2013

With the summer solstice occurring this week, Lake Wicwas is now into the heat of summer, when the animal activity moves into the cooler times after dark.  One of the best parts of this time of year is getting to sleep with the windows open, letting the nighttime sounds of nature into the house.  Whether it's a coyote or an owl or a tree frog, it's fun to hear what's going on out there all night long.  And what's more satisfying than being awakened in the middle of the night by the call of a loon or the ga-lumping of a bull frog?  

Most of the birds are quiet during the heat of the day, singing only in the early morning or evening;  one exception being the Red Eyed Vireo which will sing all day long throughout the hottest weather.  
On a morning walk I heard a Downy Woodpecker chirping, but as I came nearer it turned its occasional chirping into a non-stop string of scoldings. 
Downy Woodpecker

It kept a close eye on me and never once stopped for even a second - for several minutes. 

Eventually I went on my way, leaving its racket behind me.

The beaver are also mostly nocturnal, not visible much this time of year, but signs of their presence and activity are found during the day.  These hemlock trees have had their bark removed all the way around which will eventually kill the tree. 

Hemlock Trees De-barked by Beaver Over Night

Their teeth marks are visible here

Beaver rarely cut down hemlock, but they remove the bark so it will die, leaving space and light for tree species more to their liking.  It does appear they consume the bark however, as there are no bark remnants around the base of the trees.

The spring flowers are mostly gone now, having relinquished their reign to summer plants that can handle the heat, such as Daisies and Hawkweek.  The Partridgeberry, which looks quite similar to Arbutus, is blooming, and the Strawberries are fruiting. 
Partridgeberry Blooming

Wild Strawberry

Sometimes you find visitors enjoying the flowers. 

Last week there were hundreds of tiny grasshoppers springing from the ground as you walked by - they have grown quite a bit in one week.

I did observe one intruiging animal activity this week - a Orb-weaver Spider.  Our dock, like probably every dock on Lake Wicwas, has a nice spider web or two on it.  Swimming one afternoon, I saw a medium-size dragon fly get caught in the web.  Instantly the spider came out from hiding to see what it had caught, and scurried quickly up to its prize. 
Orb-weaver Spider

It went straight to the dragonfly and sunk its jaws into its abdomen to inject a dose of venom. 

Within just a minute or two the dragonfly was dead, or at least paralyzed.  The spider then wasted no time in feasting on its catch, as it started to suck the life juices out of it.  (Which made me realize that a spider must be immune to its own poison.) 

Within a few minutes the dragonfly was noticeably collapsed and reduced in size. 

After its meal, the spider went out and made some quick repairs to its web, and I could see it spreading a new thread radially along its trap. 

It was a small scale version of prey and predator that takes place constantly in nature at every scale.

The heat and rising humidity of the week culminated in some rather strong thunderstorms today, but Wicwas avoiding the worst of the storms that other parts of New Hampshire experienced.  As the storm passed, the sky to the west cleared, leaving eerie colors to a pretty sunset, and announcing the start of summer.

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