Saturday, November 13, 2010

November 13, 2010

Lake Wicwas experienced both extremes of November this week:  cold, wet, windy weather early in the week, offset by fabulously warm, sunny, calm days with crystal blue skies on Friday and Saturday.  With very low humidity - dew points were in the teens - the temperature dropped into the twenties over night, and I saw the first skim of ice on Lake Wicwas in the protected marshes, with some wonderful shapes and patterns.
 As late as noontime the frost was still holding on in shaded areas even though the temperature was well into the fifties in the sun.  The combination of temperature and low humidity was just right to form ice crystals on the edges and the veins of dry leaves lying on the ground in a field that was exposed to radiational cooling.  Leaves just a few yards, leaves away under the cover of trees had no such crystals.

By early afternoon it was warm enough to go for a paddle.  It was so calm, and with not a single other boat on the lake, the entire lake was a mirror from shore to shore.   
I saw only a lone duck, and just one loon, though it took us some time to identify it, as it already had its winter colors.  All the boats are off the lake now, some shrink wrapped for their own form of winter hibernation.  All the docks have been pulled as well, excepting the three docks on the Henmor Properties….  The water is perfectly clear, and the lake level is back to within one or normal level;  the town has removed a board from the dam, and with water flowing rapidly the lake will soon be down to its winter level.
With not a lot of human activity around the lake this time of year, it is one of the best times to see uncommon animals, and on Friday we were treated to a visit by an ermine.  It spent several minutes searching all the holes around our yard where the mice, chipmunks, and squirrels might hide.  I was amazed at how quickly it could move; I thought a chipmunk or squirrel is fast, but this animal is in another league.  I’d be looking right at it, and it would just disappear, and reappear several yards away.  The ermine also had its winter coat on already – snow-white, with just a black tip on its tail, and a pink nose.  The long-tailed weasel has almost identical markings, but is quite a bit larger.  Based on its size, this was almost certainly an ermine.  It was far too quick and shy to get a good picture, but here are a couple of shots as evidence.
Ermine in Winter Coat
 I also saw a fair amount of new beaver cuts, mostly young saplings used for food more than construction.  They must be stepping up their activity to build their stores for the winter.

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