Sunday, September 25, 2016

September 25, 2016

Thursday it was 82 degrees and we were swimming in the lake.  Today the high temperature was 58;  it was 39 degrees in the morning with mist rising off the water as a few ducks swam by at sunrise.
The ducks are happy to have their feet in water that's warmer than the air

We humans have air conditioners and heaters to help us deal with the rapid changes; wild creatures aren't so fortunate.  Amphibians and reptiles manage fine as they have water to retreat to, or perhaps they will venture down into the first few inches of the earth - the ground is still warm, as is the water (the lake surface was still 72 degrees on Friday). 
This American Toad will find a warm spot under the leaf litter to spend the night

I saw this huge snapping turtle crossing Chemung Road early one morning, traveling from Lake Wicwas to the wetlands in the Chemung State Forest.  She's quite a specimen.
Momma Snapper

Can you see her sharp jaw, her claws, and the spikes on her tail?  She looks like something right out of the Jurassic period.  The large snappers are females;  here she is with the road in the background to provide some size perspective.

I hope you'll understand why I didn't put my foot down next to her to provide a scale!

Fox, chipmunks, and many other mammals can retreat to their dens to keep warm on these first cool nights, but they still have to get out in the cold morning to look for food, as this is critical time for building up winter stores.  Bears have no problem keeping warm overnight in a den, and they are now building up both a layer of fat and a thick fur coat to keep them warm all winter.  They need to store up a lot of fat during the summer and fall, as they lose 20 to 30 percent of their body weight over the winter.  I saw evidence of one of these large animals working on its winter store of fat.
Signs of a Black Bear digging in a tree stump

This black bear had ripped into a rotting tree trunk so it could feast on the insects or eggs or larvae that were inside.  A backpack provides some perspective on the size of this activity.

Chipmunks also will be warm in their underground dens.  They won't put on a lot of winter fat but rather will collect stores of food to consume throughout the winter.
An Eastern Chipmunk on the prowl

But what about squirrels and deer and other animals that spend the night above ground?  It has been so warm this fall - I wonder if their coats have started to thicken up yet. This young White Tail Deer is still wearing its spring coat, and is just now getting its first taste of cool weather.

The still lightly-spotted coat shows this is a 2016 fawn
It's going to be in for a quite a shock when it experiences its first New Hampshire winter - assuming it's a real winter that is, unlike last year. 

The dry, warm summer has perhaps slowed the foliage just a bit, but color is beginning to appear around the lakes, starting first in cool, low-lying wet areas.

Ferns are turning orange and red in the wetlands around the lakes

Perhaps the shock of cool weather will move things along quickly now. 

Summer to fall in three short days - just another typical week in New England.

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