Sunday, November 12, 2017

November 12, 2017 - A Visit from Jack

We finally had our first visit from Jack Frost this week.
Ice formations on a window facing the water
Fractal geometry on display

The first hard freeze of the season occurred November 9th, when the temperature dropped to 24 degrees, covering everything with hoarfrost.
Red or brown, nature is an equal-opportunity employer

Hoarfrost ("hoar" coming from the old English word for "old", presumably because it makes its host look old and gray) forms when humid air comes in contact with an object whose temperature is below the freezing point, thus changing from a vapor to a solid without passing through the liquid phase.  It most often occurs in calm air and is common in the Lakes Region this time of year as warm lakes provide the needed moisture before they freeze over.
Hoarfrost on goldenrod
Water vapor molecules first nucleate directly on an object and then grow, sometimes into long crystalline formations.
These ice crystals grew all night, fed by moisture from the lake
It was late for the first frost, so I looked up the average first-frost date - data for Plymouth was the closest I could find - and the average date there is October 1st.  (This means 50% of the time a frost occurs before that date.  Scientists track multiple frost definitions, the one I'm quoting is for a temperature of 28 degrees; the 32 degree definition occurs about two weeks earlier.)  Meredith is south of Plymouth and moderated by lakes, but even down in Concord the average date is October 3rd, so any way we look at it, we were well over a month later than average.

When Jack did finally arrive, he made his presence known, bringing with him strong squalls on Friday with a touch of snow.

He even caught the birds by surprise as they paddled around the lake trying to find a protected spot in which to hide.
There are ducks hidden in there somewhere

With temperatures well below freezing (it was 18 degrees on Saturday morning) and the strong wind churning up the lakes, I expect water temperatures in New Hampshire lakes have dropped dramatically.
Windswept water froze onto overhanging branches

Jack even painted the first skim of ice on the lake in protected coves and marshes.
More fractal patterns on the surface of the lake

After a long hiatus, I did see one deer this week - just a glimpse, no photo....  I also saw signs of a buck in the neighborhood: bark worn off an aspen tree where the deer rubbed its antlers on the trunk.
Deer rub in the Hamlin Conservation Area
Bucks do this to mark their territory, their antlers placing a scent on the tree, telling both male and female deer that he owns this area.  Its presence here shows the value of clearings like this to wildlife in an area where much of the terrain is mature forest.  You can easily find this rub if you want to see it:  it is right beside the yellow trail in the clearing where the trail splits in two to head up to Crockett's Ledge.  You can see the trail sign at the fork in this picture for reference.
This deer rub is easy to find

Maybe the hunters will have some snow for tracking this year;  it seems like Jack may have decided to stick around now for the season.

Answer to the location of the Meredith Rose from two weeks ago:  It is located on Main Street beside the Meredith Historical Society, across Highland Street from Town Hall.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

November 5, 2017 - Nor'easter

It was quiet around the lake this week, in more ways than one.  November arrived right on schedule by exchanging the warm weather of the past few weeks with a strong nor'easter that left much of the area without power - a 68 mph wind gust was recorded in Meredith.  It was eerily quiet for much of Monday until you went by a house with a generator running.  About 60% of Meredith lost power, many for 24 hours; Moultonborough and Gilford were especially hard hit with upwards of 90% in the dark, some for over five days.  And yes, it looked like November.

Tall Meadow Rue (?)
I wish I had paid more attention to this plant in the summer so I would know for sure what it is, but I think it's Tall Meadow Rue.  It looks like a good choice for fall and winter decorating.

Fog, mist and rain was the theme of the week, though there is always beauty to be seen at every juncture in life.

And there is still some color in the world, shining even brighter against the drab of early November.
A few brave maple leaves hang on

Winterberry along a Marsh by Sheep Island

It was also a quiet week for nature.  I saw only a few mallards and Canada geese on the lake, though I did have a pileated woodpecker fly in front of me one foggy day.  It wasn't as startling as last week's owl, but just as beautiful to see.
Pileated woodpecker in flight

Visiting Mallards, still evading the hunters

And I haven't seen a deer in weeks; maybe they know archery and muzzleloader hunting is underway, with rifle season starting on Tuesday (remember to wear your orange in the woods).

I see many old, shriveled up mushrooms on the forest floor now, which I often mistake for animal scat at first, so I was surprised to see one last fresh mushroom making a last stab at life.

I can appreciate the subtle beauty of the season now, in early November; we'll see how I feel about it in the middle December if we haven't gotten any snow to brighten things up by then.
A foggy farm along Meredith Center Road

Sunday, October 29, 2017

October 29, 2017 - Some Much Needed Rain

After a very dry stretch New Hampshire received some much needed rain this week - about five inches here in Meredith.  Lake Wicwas immediately rose six inches, and would have been higher if the town hadn't been managing the dam so well.  They had drawn the lake level down a couple of inches before the rain, and they had also pulled out another massive collection of debris stuffed in the dam by the beavers.
Debris stuffed in the dam by beavers and removed by our dedicated town employees

There were four town employees working to clear the mess out to make sure the lake could drain when the rain fell.

The streams filled right up and water in the canal from Lake Waukewan to Winnipesaukee was charging down the falls on Friday.
The Waukewan canal flows out from under the Mill Falls Inn in Meredith

When I was downtown I noticed this sign and rosebush for the first time.
Esther Wyatt is co-author of the book "Way Out There" by Esther and Harold Wyatt
Do any of you who spend time in Meredith know where this is?  I'll reveal the location in a future post if no one identifies it.

The first of the large, diving migratory ducks arrived just yesterday, a Hooded Merganser, emerging out of the fog on the second-coldest morning this season.
A Hooded Merganser - one of my favorites
There should be many more visiting the lakes right through November.

Prior to this week's rain re-filling the rivers there had been lots of action in the birdbath due to all the puddles and small streams running dry.
A chick-a-dee awaits it turn

Tufted titmice taking advantage of clean water before the recent rain fall

Head dunk!

Please!  May I have some privacy?

I also found one deposit of fisher scat on a trail, identifiable by the size, the hair in it, and its twisted shape.
Fisher scat

There is still a nice display of foliage to be seen in the Lakes Region, a few late maples, but mostly oaks now.  I took a run on the Magenta Trail up to Arbutus Hill in the Hamlin-Eames-Symth Conservation Area and was pleased to find nice views of the White Mountains with plenty of color in the foreground.
View from Arbutus Hill in the Smyth Conservation Easement

If you haven't been up there it is definitely worth the four mile round-trip hike, especially this time of year.  On the way home I took this picture of Lake Wicwas right off of Chemung Rd.
An important conserved wetland 

It's great to know that most of the shoreline seen from here will remain in this pristine state due to the great generosity of local land owners, which is especially important in times of high water when wetlands like this provide important water storage.  A few weeks ago there were people out picking wild cranberries in this marsh.
Picking cranberries this fall

These ancient plants will be here for a long time thanks to people's conservation of the land and water.

Can you believe it's almost November and we still haven't had a hard frost?
Linda's flowers are still blooming

Even the tomato plant is still growing, though it's not going to ripen any more fruit

Finally, be warned that the southern-most bridge on the Blue Loop in the Hamlin Conservation Area is out of service, as one of the main support beams has broken.
Damaged bridge on the Four Ponds Loop Trail

The Conservation Commission will repair or replace it as soon as possible, but after five inches of rain, and a nor'easter on the way, be prepared for a rock-hop to cross the stream if you use that trail.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

October 22, 2017 - Wood Ducks

The gorgeous, warm weather just keeps coming our way, and people are taking every advantage of it while it lasts.
Fishermen in the mornings

Boaters enjoying their last few outings before the boats come out for the winter

Here it is in late October and we haven't even had a hard frost yet around lake, though on the coldest morning (Tuesday) there was a touch of frost in areas most exposed to radiational cooling, evident on the smallest leaves suspended above the warm earth.
First hint of frost for the year

Even with warm nights, they have been cool enough for mist to form over the still-warm water on most mornings.

And nothing can stop what must happen;  even though the foliage is still beautiful, leaves are starting to pile up on the forest floor, still bedecked in  their autumn finery.

As someone said this week, "we're going to pay for this!"

I noted last week the increased animal activity as they prepare for winter, and this week I had a couple of fun and exciting moments.  The first was seeing a mink running along the shoreline in the morning, poking in every nook and cranny in the bank looking for breakfast.  It was too quick to catch a picture, but here's one from last fall.

The second was a little more alarming.  I was running in the woods on a trail with soft pine needles under foot, making little noise as soon became apparent.  Suddenly, right over me was a huge object, flapping silently as it flew from behind me, right over my head, and down the trail in front of me.  I've never ducked so fast.  It was a huge barred owl that must have been sitting on a branch over the trail looking away from me as I approached.  As I ran underneath, it was startled and took flight right over my head.  It only flew a short way down the trail and perched in a tree just off the path so I had a great look at this magnificent bird.  But it didn't stay long and took off again on its silent flight into the forest.  Quite a heart stopping moment.  Here's a picture of a barred owl taken in the same area last year.
It's likely the same bird, as barred owls are very much home-bodies.  Barred owls have been banded, and one has never been found more than six miles from where it was banded.

We continue to have lots of Wood Ducks coming by Lake Wicwas this fall; every day there are flocks ranging from two or three up to well over a dozen.

Someone asked where they are coming from and where they are going, so I looked up wood ducks and here's what I found, most of it from Stokes' "A Guide to Bird Behavior" (Volume III, by Donald and Lillian Stokes, Little, Brown and Company, 1989).

Wood ducks are the only perching duck in the northeast, having well-developed claws for perching on branches and nesting in tree cavities.
This picture is from 2016
Much like the beaver, they were nearly exterminated in the early 1800s as the European settlers cleared away their nesting habitat and hunted them extensively.  Conservation efforts started to bring them back, but then the hurricane of 1938 brought another blow (no pun intended) by destroying many of the large trees needed for nesting.  The Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Concord Massachusetts started a program of constructing nesting boxes for them, which was successful and soon copied in other areas, and there is now a healthy population of these pretty birds.

Hunting of them is once again permitted, which accounts for the shotgun blasts heard around the lake at exactly 30 minutes before sunrise this time of year.  Early morning and late evening is when they are most visible, which unfortunately means poor lighting for pictures, but every now and then one stops by in the sunshine.
Mr. and Mrs. Wood Duck

Stokes reports that New England wood ducks (and I presume birds from Canada as well) migrate down to the Maryland area and then spread out along the mid-Atlantic coast, so I expect New Hampshire's lakes are a good stopping point to rest and stretch their wings along their way.

Finally, perhaps traveling through Meredith Center this week you saw that the church is having its steeple renovated, the tall white spire contrasting sharply against the autumn sky.

Not a job for acrophobiacs

It is one of the most beautiful times of year in New England, and I'll take this weather for as long as mother nature can fend off old man winter.
Crockett's ledge, shortly after sunrise