Sunday, March 27, 2011

March 27, 2011

More snow, and more cold weather! It’s hard to believe that a week ago I was thinking I was done going out on the ice. Now the openings around the shore have frozen solid again, and the ice has firmed up completely. Admittedly, 2010 was a record-early spring and ice-out, but at this point last year the ice was completely gone from Lake Wicwas, and this year it’s still two feet thick. The only openings right now are where the streams empty into the lake.
The wildlife must be struggling to find food, and wondering where spring is. Look at this poor little guy, out searching for something to eat and thinking, what is all this white stuff doing in my backyard? 
Chipmunk in Spring

Maybe the cold weather will keep the bears in hibernation a bit longer, because if they come out now, their usual food supplies won’t be available, which could result in even more human interaction than usual. But it will be sad to bring in the bird feeders.

River Otter Tracks

The snow pack is still deep, but the surface just under the latest few inches of snow is frozen, so one can walk through the woods easily without snow shoes. Today we took a walk around Sheep Island, and found lots of otter tracks all around the lake. We saw their signs from sliding down the shoreline out onto to the lake, as well as gallivanting around on the ice in circles, bounding along, and then sliding along on their bellies leaving long, smooth trails.There were clearly at least two of them playing together, as their trails merge and split, and follow each other all around the lake. 

Hop-hop-slide, Hop-hop-slide

And one of them was obviously curious as to when spring will arrive.

We also found the remnants of an old lightning strike.  This huge white pine was split right down the middle, with the upper portion of the tree jammed into the lower portion.  There is still evidence of charred wood in the split.

Then we found another interesting artifact in a stand of white pines.  One just never knows what will grow on the shores of Lake Wicwas.


While we're on the topic of white pines, here's one that has fed a lot of pileated woodpeckers over the years.
Pileated Woodpecker Holes


The living plant progress was slowed considerably this week due to the cold weather, but the maple sugar season must be doing very well. I found a large icicle hanging from a branch of a maple tree where it had been damaged by another tree; it was sap from the tree that had oozed from the wound. Even though it wasn’t a sugar maple, it still had the sweet taste of maple sugar. Seeing this reminds me of how fascinating it is that liquid can run freely inside a tree – that is clearly below freezing temperature – only to freeze as soon as it leaves the confines of the cells in the plant. The Taggetts were boiling sap in their sugar house this weekend - be on the look for their syrup in a few weeks.

 The one sign of spring progressing is the increasing size of the open water at the dam.  The strong current from the runoff continues to erode the ice;  the water level is four inches below full-lake, and there is still a strong rush of water over the lowered dam.  This is also reason to be careful on the ice at any time of year.
Open water at the dam

Oh, and for the record, it was 16 degrees this morning, with a wind chill of 2 degrees below zero. On March 27. At least the sun was shining!

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