Sunday, July 27, 2014

July 27, 2014

Blueberry season is in full swing now, with ripe berries dripping off the high-bush blueberry bushes all around the edges of Lake Wicwas. 

If you want to enjoy this delectable fruit of New Hampshire you should hurry, as they will only last a couple of weeks.  Just beware you may have to fight over them with the bears - someone saw a black bear on Sheep Island gorging himself on blueberries!  I have been watching the Black Cherries for signs of bear activity, but haven't seen any there yet.  Only the birds and squirrels have been consuming them, as seen by the bare stems. 

Black Cherry

Bears are much less deft in their dining, leaving torn and broken branches in their wake.

While I was a-berrying near the water's edge I discovered some old scat that revealed the recent diet of this otter:  Crayfish.
River Otter Scat

There is always a lot of fish scales in otter scat, but this clearly shows crustacean shells as well;  they look like tiny lobster shells, even having turned red after baking in the sun.

My morning paddle around the lake revealed several interesting sights, including a Great Blue Heron enjoying the sunrise.
Great Blue Heron

Here's another picture of a heron, taken by Brian Matteson (thank you!) as it stood right on his dock at 8:30 in the morning of July 9th.

Farther along I came across two groups of loons out for a morning sail - probably the same five I saw last week, but split up into two teams.  First, a group of three,

and later a group of two that were far more interested in each other than they were in me.

They swam right past my kayak as I floated in the middle of the lake, even posing for a portrait.

These two played their usual head dunking game, with one dunking the instant the other put its head in the water.  I didn't see any foot wagging, so I don't know if any of these are the banded loon, but I'm guessing that one of this pair is just that, keeping an eye on the other loon to keep it away from the chick.  This guess is based on the information I received from Janelle Ostroski at the Loon Preservation Committeeon on what I observed last week.  She says the loon with the green and red-and-white striped bands - put on in early July - is the female of the nesting pair that had the chick this year.  Janelle says it's possible that she is hanging out with the other loons to make sure they stay away from her chick.  (With only one chick, a single parent will have no problem providing for it.)  I just read the article in the LPC Summer, 2014 Newsletter about how territorial loons can be when they are establishing a new presence on a lake, even killing other bird's chicks, so she is being a good mother. 

There is a single loon that appears to have taken up residence in a cove at the far end of the lake.  It just floats in the middle of the cove all day long, sometimes cruising the shore line for food and reconnaissance purposes.  When another loon comes into the cove, it meets it, confronts it, and I assume sends it away again (I can't tell them apart, so I can't be positive which one actually leaves).  Every now and then it puts on quite a dramatic show:  it almost takes off, flapping its wings harshly on the water as it skims along the surface at near flight-speed.  It will curve all along the cove, travelling well over 500 feet in this mode.  My theory is that this bird has staked its claim on the cove, and is protecting its territory, waiting for a mate to come along.  Maybe next year?

Back home, as I approached the deck, I startled a chipmunk that ran off the step and hid under a plant right beside my foot.  I also noticed a large black scarab beetle upside down on the step with its legs flailing uselessly.  So I flipped it over, but something didn't look right.  Closer inspection revealed its head was missing!  Mr. Chipmunk must have been munching on the beetle, starting with the head.  Much to Rosie's relief, by the time I grabbed my camera, the chipmunk had returned, and when I approached he ran away again, this time taking his breakfast with him!  There is one good side of chipmunks in your garden!

Those of you with insect issues weren't so fortunate with this next subject, so you may want to fast forward a bit.  With the abundant insect life around the lake, the spiders are growing by leaps and bounds.  This cute little guy (over 3 inches long, leg to leg) has taken up residence on our dock - thus the common name of "dock spider."
Dock Spider (Dolomedes )

Like most spiders, these Dolomedes have eight eyes, but unlike most spiders, they have quite an interesting feeding method that uses the hairs on their legs more than their eyes.  But that story will have to wait for another day or this post will get way too long.

At sunset we observed one enjoyable aspect of the wild fires taking place in Canada.  After the fine soot drifted the 2400 miles to New England, making its way into the upper levels of the atmosphere, it attenuates much of the shorter wavelengths of sunlight, providing stunning red colors, deepening in hue as the sun sets lower and lower.
Sunset colored by smoke from fires in Canada

The blueberries might only last a couple of weeks around the lake, but that's a lot longer than they last once they get in the house and Linda does her magic - then their life span is measured in seconds!

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