Sunday, January 30, 2011

January 30, 2011

What a winter so far - lots of snow, cold temperatures, and no rain!  Sunday night we had the coldest weather Lake Wicwas has seen in a couple of years:  13.4 degrees below zero.  It hasn't been that cold since 2009, when it got down to -21.6 degrees on January 17th.  That, by the way, is the coldest temperature I've recorded since I started keeping records in 2002.
Snow Shoeing on Lake Wicwas

The storms have been coming mid-week this winter, which isn't great for the school schedules or commuters, but it's great for weekend sports, with fresh snow and good weather for the weekend.  This weekend was beautiful - partly sunny and warm (near freezing) temperatures.  Today there was a group out ice fishing, complete with gas grill for their lunch.  They had only caught a couple of perch when I went by in the late morning.  They used an interesting technique to pick their fishing spot - they drove out on the lake until their ATV got stuck in the slush, and that's where they fished!
Ice fishing off Loon Point
Stuck in the Slush

I still don't understand exactly why there is so much slush under the snow even when it's been so cold.  Between the top 6" of snow and the firm ice, there's a good 6" of slush.  I know snow is good insulator, but where does the heat come from when there's cold ice below, and cold air above?  My best guess is that IR radiation from the sun penetrates the snow until it hits the dark ice where it gets absorbed, melting the bottom layer of the snow.  Any better ideas?

I skied around the marshes and swamps on the west side of the lake looking for signs of otter, but I didn't see any.  I did see tracks of smaller weasels on and around Sheep Island.  It was likely a mink, as the tracks frequently went down into the lake at holes along the shore line.
Mink Hole under the Ice

Weasel Tracks

Weasel's leave a tell-tale two by two track, and this one followed my ski trail for a while, enjoying the easier going in the deep snow.  It then took a pretty straight path up into the woods away from the lake.

There are also lots of fox trails all around the lake with the weekend's warmer temperatures.  I found what seems to be a fox super-highway, with lots of tracks all leading into and out of this stream.  All these tracks were made since the last snow on Thursday.
Fox Tracks Leading onto a Stream

The house construction on the north side of the lake is coming along nicely - people who come back in the spring may never know it's been rebuilt.

And I was quite surprised to see that the docks on Byrant Island have been removed!

There are two more storms projected for this week - there may be new snow yet again next weekend!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

January 23, 2011

More snow and more cold weather is keeping Lake Wicwas in the deep freeze.  Several inches of snow fell on Tuesday, but unfortunately we also had some freezing rain mixed in which put a frozen crust on top of the new snow.  But it was followed up with a bit more snow, and then several more inches on Thursday night into Friday, and this last storm was all cold, dry powder, leaving a great surface for weekend snow sports, at least for humans.  This was the view northeast from the White Mountain Ledge on Saturday; Mount Chocorua is just visible on the far left.
Looking Northeast from the White Mountain Ledge
Deer Signs on Arbutus Hill
The wildlife isn't as thrilled, as indicated by the lack of tracks around the lake.  The deer in particular have a hard time moving around in deep snow, hindered even more with a sharp crust in the middle of the snow pack.  I took a ski in the Hamlin area to both the White Mountain Ledge and along the Arbutus Hill View trail, and saw only a few fox tracks up near the Red Trail along the ridge, and some deer tracks on Arbutus Hill.  The deer had been by just a few hours before, as the tracks and scat were on top of the previous day's snow.

There were also signs of browse, including scrapes on these birch trees, with scrapings well above my head indicating a fairly good size deer.  (Linda likes the colors of new snow under the tree cover on a bright, cold day!)
Deer Browse
Barbara R. Smyth Trail

The bright blue sky and brilliant sun made for another fabulous day; I captured this scene along the Barbara R. Smyth trail where deciduous tress and the recent  logging let in abundant sunshine.

Today I took a ski on the lake; it's been cold enough that the air vents on the beaver lodges haven't even thawed out.  Again, not many tracks, but the cold didn't stop this mouse from making his rounds up and over this lodge.
Mouse Tracks on a Beaver Lodge
After investigating a hole in the lodge it traveled all the way across the ice to far shore, carving a drunken path on its way.  But it made it to the trees before an owl saw it.

Blue Jay Landing Site

Here's an interesting pattern left by a Blue Jay landing in the light snow, with its individual feathers leaving their own imprint.

If you haven't seen the article in the Weirs Times about the Wicwas Lake Grange, you can find it here:  Weirs Times 20 January 2011 Edition.  It has some nice history about the Grange as well as the local area.  We are fortunate to still have this Grange which is named after the lake, as many have closed.  Both the Winnepesaukee Grange in Meredith Village and the Garnet Hill Grange in Center Harbor have closed, merging with the Wicwas Grange.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

January 16, 2011

It's fair to say that Lake Wicwas is now fully enveloped in winter.  The first good storm hit on Wednesday, dropping about a foot of dry powder, which was followed by cold weather that has kept the snow fresh and light right through the weekend.  The coldest night of the year so far occurred on Friday night, with the temperature dropping below zero (-5.4F) for the first time.

Before the storm, I was exploring the ledges where I've seen porcupine, and found a couple of dens in the caves.
Porcupine Den

Porcupines aren't very santiary, as they leave their droppings right at the front door of their dens.  But with a diet consisting almost exclusively of bark and hemlock branches, their scat is very dry and almost like sawdust.  
Porcupine Scat

I set my trail camera, but with the snow and cold weather I didn't get any pictures.  When I went to retrieve it on Saturday, there was only one fresh trail in the snow, leading right to a den nearby.
Porcupine Trail in Fresh Snow

Porcupines leave a very distinctive trail, mostly plowing their way through the snow, leaving a trough with foot prints in it.

While I was watching, a porcupine actually walked right out this cave about three feet in front of me.  I was a lot more startled than it was, as I jumped back, and it just stared at me.  After all my commotion it decided to head back into the safety of its den, much to my approval.

Not much seems to phase porcupines - I have seen them walk up and across ski trails at Gunstock, while skiers are zipping right past them.  The seem to know that no one is going to bother them (except maybe a desperately hungry fisher).  As my good friend Joe Krasucki says, they just seem to have a "don't mess with me" attitude, as seen in this picture taken last winter in about the same location.
"Don't Mess With Me"
There are lots of people out enjoying the lake now with the good ice, deep snow cover, and perfect winter weather.  I saw several cross country skiers, multiple groups of people ice fishing, and there is at least one bob house on the lake.
Ice Fishing on lake Wicwas
Last night another inch of snow fell, and when the sun came out, the light snow blew out of the trees, sparkling like diamond dust in the air.

Lots of people have been out snowshoeing on the Hamlin Trails, and in late afternoon another snow shower came over the lake.  The summit of Gunstock was in a squall, while nearby Lake Winnesquam had sun shining on it.  This is certainly one of the most beautiful and peaceful times around Lake Wicwas.
Squall over Gunstock Mt. with sun shining on Lake Winnesquam (from Crockett's Ledge)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

January 8, 2011

The winter is certainly off to a gentle start at Lake Wicwas, as we're already into the second week of January and the temperature has yet to fall below zero, and there's been only one measurable snow fall.  There was a very light dusting earlier this week, and today we had beautiful, delicate snow flakes floating down, just like in the movies, but it barely amounted to half an inch.

It was enough to cover the trees though, making another beautiful winter scene, as in this view of Crocket's Ledge.
Crocket's Ledge

Before the clouds came in there was a spectacular crescent moon that set over the lake both Thursday and Friday nights.

When there's just a sliver of moon visible, one can sometimes actually see the "dark side of the moon", especially in winter.  The dark side is illuminated by sunlight reflecting off the earth back towards the moon, and is most visible when the earth has a good cover of snow to maximize the reflected light.

Someone is taking advantage of the good weather, as the building on the north end of the lake is making great progress.  No visible construction has started at the south end; they are still doing site work.

Fox Pair

Before today's snow there were quite a few tracks around the lake.  Here a pair of foxes were traveling together.  A pair will often follow exactly in each others footprints, appearing to be one fox, but occasionally separating to show there are actually two, and then combining again.

There were also tracks of the fisher-cat up on one of the rocky ridges near the lake.
Fisher-cat Prints

At 10:15 pm, the red fox came by again, this time wearing his full winter coat (see summer and fall pictures on November 7, 2010), out for a night hunting session, with light snow still in the air.
Red Fox

Sunday, January 2, 2011

January 2, 2010

Mouse Tracks in Fresh Snow
New England weather - where else can you have a whole season's worth of weather in just one week?  After the snow on Sunday night, there were a couple of days of cold, windy weather that were very much like the depth of winter.  Most of the animals around Lake Wicwas were hiding safely in their home; the only signs of life for a couple of days after the snow were a few mouse tracks, one set of porcupine tracks, and a couple of fox tracks.

Fox Tracks near Bryant Island

But then the weather warmed up, and the activity increased greatly.  On an early morning ski I found some some perfect fox tracks going right across the middle of the lake. Each toe pad was imprinted, as well as even the toenails.  This pattern clearly shows the different size of the front (larger, on the left) and rear (smaller) paw.

The low, early morning sun provided good contrast for animal tracks, as well as the patterns made in the snow by the wind, and reflections off the ice where the snow was blown away.
December 30, 2010 Sunrise
The warm weather also brought out lots of deer activity, with many sets of tracks along the usual deer paths.  By Friday and Saturday it felt like spring with temperatures up into the 40s, warm sunshine, and the chickadees singing like it was late March.  The squirrels were very active, running up and down the trees and all over the ground collecting food in the warmer weather.  I sometimes think they they're in cahoots with the birds when I watch the nuthatches shoveling seeds from the feeder to the ground!

Temperatures today were bit cooler, but with a warm front bringing more humidity, and with the lake still cold, fog formed right on the surface so thick we couldn't see across the cove.