Saturday, January 14, 2017

January 14, 2017 - Coyote

The New England roller-coaster continues:  Zero degrees one day, 45 degrees and raining the next, then back to single digits again.  It hasn't done much for the skiing, but the lake did freeze up well enough to provide some decent skating conditions.  It's pretty good for mid-winter:  some really smooth areas interconnected with rougher patches that are easily navigated.  

There have been good hiking conditions when the roller coaster climbs up into the 40s and the snow softens up.  We had a gorgeous spring-like hike up to the White Mountain Ledge on one of those warm sunny days, and were treated to nice views of the whites.
Hiking up to the White Mountain Ledge

A snow-capped Lafayette on the left, Tecumseh and Osceola on the right

When the 'coaster hit a low point on one of the coldest mornings after a light dusting of snow fell, I went for a walk on the lake to see who's been out on the ice.  I've heard lots of night time coyote howling this year, and have seen tracks all over the lake.
A great example of a coyote side-trot in the light snow

I sometimes question whether I'm looking at fox or coyote tracks, but when the two animals cross paths it gives a definite reminder of how small fox prints are compared to those of a coyote.
Coyote from left to right, fox top to bottom

There was something out on the lake that attracted a lot of attention;  maybe that was the cause of all the howling one night.

Looking around, all I found were a few left over bones.

I can't tell what they came from - maybe a turkey?

Coyotes are true survivors, having won the war that humans have waged on them for over a hundred years, adapting along the way some unique survival techniques.  New Hampshire Public Radio's "Exchange" show produced a great program on their story ("The Wolf in Our Backyards") from Native American time to today;  you can listen to it here.
Coyote with a warm fur coat on Wicwas in January 2012
This week their tracks led me to one of the many beaver lodges on the lake.

This coyote had climbed right up on top and sniffed around, following the scent coming from the chimney in the top.
Paw prints at the top of the lodge

I always like thinking about the beavers down there in winter, safe from predators and enjoying a nice temperature-controlled environment - if you call 32 to 39 degrees "nice".

The warm, moist air molecules coming up through the chimney in the top of the lodge crystallize into brilliant miniature ice sculptures in near-zero temperatures.

Curious about other lodges, I took a look at a few more (there are at least nine active or recently-active lodges in Lake Wicwas) as I wandered my way around the lake, including checking on the largest lodge on the lake which is down toward the dam.

It's clearly still active, as indicated by all the fresh branches sticking up out of the ice.

This is their winter food source, having been carefully stored under the water during the fall for later consumption.

I also found a set of bobcat tracks that, like the coyote, went right up on top of the lodge.  The thin snow on the ice left perfect impressions.
A bobcat print no larger than a thumb in a warm mitten

Just like the twists and turns in an animal track, one never knows what surprises the roller coaster will bring us next.  Maybe a frozen tundra, maybe a foot of snow, maybe a sea of mush.  Whatever it brings, I know it will be worth the ride.
Lake Wicwas before the latest freeze

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