Sunday, February 14, 2016

February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day!  We needed that little extra warmth in our lives as the coldest temperatures of the season hit early this morning: -15 degrees in Meredith with the windchill at -30.  This arctic air mass was large enough to reach all the way down south to touch our friends who ventured to warmer climes for the winter.  Even the animals were avoiding the cold this morning as there were only two red squirrels out and relatively few birds making an appearance for the annual Audubon Backyard Winter Bird Survey.  Every inch of Lake Wicwas froze over, even the flow right up to the dam, but Winnipesaukee, as of yesterday (according to Emerson Aviation) was not - too much wind.  But when the wind dies it will probably happen.

I've seen a lot of rodent activity this winter and have commented that many predators rely on them for their sustenance through the winter.  I have not mentioned the largest rodent however.  The beaver has few predators, and essentially none in the winter, with one exception:  On Lake Wicwas I occasionally see trappers out in pursuit of their pelts, which are most valuable in winter, thick and soft with their warm coat in place. 
Three beaver traps surround an active beaver lodge

These traps were set up beside an active beaver lodge where the lake runs along Chemung Road.  The beaver population is very healthy in New England after recovering from near extinction years ago;  there seems to be little concern over trapping, which helps prevent over-population.

In a different part of the lake I also noticed a hole in the ice which appears to be a muskrat escape-hatch from the lake. 
Muskrat hatch in the ice

Muskrat footprint

I'm not aware of any activity to trap these somewhat smaller members of the rodent family.

I saw a beautiful red-tail hawk soaring over the lake a few times but haven't seen it or any other raptors at our feeder this year.  Nonetheless, I'm sure our birdseed is finding its way up the food chain one way or another.  I followed some weasel tracks through the woods, seeing it poke into every squirrel den and mouse hole it came across.
The tell-tale double print hop of a weasel
Scoping out below a branch where a red squirrel enjoyed a meal
Anyone home?  Mouse prints show he's on the right track
Mouse tracks running back and forth from one hiding spot to another

I didn't see the pileated woodpecker this week, but the new snow provided proof it is in the area, splintering the trees in search of insects and eggs. 
New snow provides a time-stamp for visitors

A 40 degree warm up is forecast two days out, but for now, another cold night lies ahead for the Lakes Region.

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