Sunday, March 12, 2017

March 12, 2017

I returned to the lake this week to find bare ground on south-facing slopes, and open water where currents move through the lake.
Open water reaches far up the lake from the outlet

The melt and freeze cycles of the past weeks were evident in the rock-hard, treacherous surface of the snow that remains, as well as the frozen ruts left in the thawing and freezing surfaces of unimproved roads. 

Our initial greeting of warm weather was quickly revoked over the weekend as the temperature fell below zero and the northwest wind plunged the wind chills into the negative 20's.  Saturday was the second coldest day of the winter, the only colder day was way back in the middle of December.  Mud season will be pushed off for at least another week now, and I wonder how the maple sugaring season will respond.

All fall and winter I've been watching the stream that drains Lake Wicwas in to Lake Winnisquam rise in level due to beavers building up dams somewhere between the two water bodies.  At this point it is noticeably higher than a year ago, and I wonder if it will pose a flooding problem for Meredith Center Road when the spring freshets come. 
On the other side of the dam beavers are raising the mill stream

There is not a lot of snow left to melt but if we get significant rain, especially before the frost is out of the ground, it could get interesting.

I have seen very few tufted titmice over the winter, but this week they have arrived in good numbers, with many of them visiting the feeders now back in place, confident the bears will continue their slumber though this cold stretch.
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)

The Lakes Region is at the very northern edge of even the "uncommon range" of the titmouse's habitat (they do not migrate), but they are now spreading northward as the season warms.  (It also appears that their range is creeping north as the climate warms.) 
Range of the Tufted Titmouse;  light blue is "uncommon"  [Ref:  Audubon Society]

Titmice stay in family flocks during the winter, but as mating season approaches they pair up and will keep together as a pair throughout the spring and early summer.  The male will select and defend a breeding area of 15 to 20 acres.  Both parents will feed and tend to the young, which will stay with the parents and become a new family group through the following fall and winter.  [Ref:  "A Guide to Bird Behavior  Vol II,  Donald W. Stokes and Lillian Q. Stokes]  The well known peter-peter-peter call is starting to be heard now, given mostly by the male as it forms it territory and advertises for a mate.  Titmice make many different calls - you can listen to them here.  As the season progresses, look for males feeding their mate as part of the courtship process, and again as the female incubates the eggs.  [Ref: ibid]

Another nice behavior of titmice:  unlike many other birds, most notably the greedy nuthatch which shovels seeds onto the ground in search of the biggest, fattest seed in the feeder, titmice eat the tiniest seeds in the mix.

I'll close this week with a really neat picture that someone on the snowshoe tour two weeks ago sent me (thanks D&G!).  It's a photograph of an albino porcupine taken in Canterbury near Hackleboro Orchards.  All the farmers out there know how much porcupine love orchards!
A rare albino porcupine in central New Hampshire

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