Saturday, December 4, 2010

December 4, 2010

All the leaves are brown
and the sky is gray
I've been for a walk
on a winter's day.
(Mamas & Papas)

Although the official start of winter occurs on December 22nd this year, the meteorological winter started on December 1st at Lake Wicwas (as well as the rest of New England), so I thought it was ok to borrow those lines from the Mamas and the Papas.  NOAA defines the start of meteorological winter as the date when winter weather starts in an area, so it changes from area to area.  And winter did start in early December, with snow in the mountains, but no snow or bitter cold at Wicwas yet.  In fact there are still only skims of ice in the most protected coves.

Deer Scrape
I did go for a walk on this winter day in the Barbara R. Smyth Conservation Easement and discovered a new new loop has been established.  It is a long loop that goes up over Arbutus hill; it's still a little rough, but easily passable and well marked (also with magenta blazes).  Near a wet spot on the trail I found these signs of deer, though they are not particularly recent.  The first shows where a deer was scraping off the bark of a hemlock tree with its lower incisors to eat the bark.  The second shows where a buck was rubbing its antlers on a tree as part of marking its territory.  It is identified by its braod and smooth abrasion, rather than the narrow scrape of teeth.  I almost always find this on hemlock trees as well, as the aromatic properties aids in the scenting of its mark.  Although I have yet to see a buck with antlers, this is a sign they are around (as well as all the baby deers that were spawned this spring....)

Deer Rub

We haven't seen any migrating birds this fall - until now.  There was a large flock of Common Mergansers on Lake Wicwas this week;  we counted at least 23.  They spent quite some time diving in the cove, and there was a lot of excitement in the flock when when one came up with a fish and the others all went after it.  The owner of the fish would swim away from the others, frequently dropping the fish and then grabbing it again.
Common Mergansers

There was also one pair of Hooded Mergansers, of which the male is particularly distinguished.  This pair did not mingle with the flock of Commons, although they didn't seem to mind each other when they came in close proximity.
Hooded Merganser

He was clearly successful in his fishing endeavors.

Oh, and by the way, the geese are still here.

The coldest night of this early winter season is predicted for tonight:
I'd be safe and warm
if I was in L.A
California Dreamin'
on such a winter's day.
(That's for you, Kendra)

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