Sunday, April 27, 2014

April 27, 2014

I was not here for ice out, but the reports I received indicate it occurred on April 21, at least by my definition.  This was late, but not the latest I have recorded - that occurred in 2008, on April 24.  There are a few man-made piles of snow around, but the only natural ice I found was hidden under a cave of granite.
The Last Bit of Winter

Tracking season may be over, but this is the best season for seeing wildlife.  This week I saw loons, mergansers, osprey, bufflehead, pileated woodpeckers, wood ducks, fly catchers, beaver, and fox.  Plus the evidence of bear, deer, and moose.  I'll provide a few notes.

First, the Wood Ducks have returned to nest.  One evening the pair flew in together and swam in the cove a bit before flying up to perch on a tree that fell over the lake on the shore where they nest.  They sat there - side by side - for 10 or 15 minutes, preening and scouting the area for signs of danger.  They took off together and flew in close formation, making two full reconnoitering circles of the cove, the second wider than the first and just above the tree tops.  Now confident that they wouldn't disclose their nesting site, the duck (female) dipped down into the trees and went to the nest, while the drake (male) took another big circle and made a dramatic landing in the lake to attract the attention of anyone in the area.  He then floated conspicuously in the middle of the cove, a good decoy to protect the nest.
A Living Decoy

As John Audubon said "Few birds are more interesting to observe during the love season than Wood Ducks".  Even with all that effort, their eggs, once laid, will still be vulnerable to a wide range of predators. 

The beaver we watched swim across the cove was dragging a branch along in its teeth, which forced it to swim more slowly than usual, and also seemed to bring more of its body above the water than is common.  Most often, all one can see is the nose, eyes and ears protruding above the lake surface.
Beaver Bring Home the Bacon

The Pileated Woodpecker visited in the rain, stopping to pick something - insects? - out of an old white pine stump.
Pileated Woodpecker

Later that day I found a fresh hole in a pine where it had been hacking out large wood chips to get to a nest of carpenter ants.  There are several prior holes in this same tree.

Signs of deer included droppings, nibbled branches, and fur.  This patch of fur was beside some cherry branches that had been bitten off.

Fur from a White Tail Deer
Perhaps the deer scratched itself with its hoof, helping to shed its winter coat in preparation for warmer weather.  The fine threads of the inner augment the insulating properties, allowing this deer to survive the minus 17 degree temperature we saw this past winter.

The trees are also now starting to put on their spring emblems, with vibrant buds swelling and bursting out.
Blueberry Bud

Red Maple Blossoms

The arrival of the fly-catchers means there are only a couple of more weeks of walking peacefully in the woods before the onslaught of black flies and mosquitoes arrives - enjoy it while you can!

No comments:

Post a Comment