Monday, May 30, 2011

May 30, 2011

The unofficial start of the Lake Wicwas summer vacation season began with a bang on Memorial Day weekend, with some fabulous summer weather.  The thermometer read 90.0 degrees on Saturday.  There were lots of boats out on the lake, and people were swimming in the cool, but not frigid water.  The resident Lake Wicwas windsurfer was out already, enjoying the warm breezy weather!

The white pines have started to dump their load of pollen into the lake.  It's not as bad as some years, but there's still a moderate layer of yellow-green on the surface of the lake, and a ring of yellow showing the high water mark of a few days ago.  The water has dropped at least six inches in the past four days, and it's still going down, as the dam is set perhaps five inches below full level. 

Yesterday in one of the marshes I came across the largest snapping turtle I've ever seen - it's head alone was as big as - well, maybe you'd rather not know....  It was swimming just below the surface and didn't seem bothered by me until I bonked it with my paddle.  I'm pretty good with the creatures in the lake, but this gal was a little creepy. 

I saw a pair of loons poking around looking for a nesting site on Friday, and since then I've only seen a single loon.  Maybe they've found a spot to nest.  Let's hope so - it's been several years since they've had a successful nesting.

The newest house on Lake Wicwas is taking shape quite nicely now - it's going to be a beautiful house that really is matched well with the lot.  It's great to see how well both of the new houses this year blend in with their surroundings.



The lady slippers are blooming now, another of the most spectacular flowers in New Hampshire.  The forest is also covered with bunch berry blossoms, a prelude to their red  berries later in the summer.

Lady Slipper

Sunday, May 22, 2011

May 22, 2011

The spring wildflower season is in full bloom around Lake Wicwas, and due to a week of cold, wet weather, they are having a long season. 
Fringed Polygala
Eastern Starflower

Some of the flowers you can see right now around the lake include Wild Strawberry, Goldthread, Violets, Trillium, Mayflower, Eastern Starflower, and one of the prettiest little flowers, Fringed Polygala.


This summer's blueberry crop has started, with the low-bush blueberries in blossom.  I discovered a new shrub along the shore of Lake Wicwas, something I haven't seen before, but believe it to be a Rhodora.  It's similar to an azaela, or a rhodoendrum.


One of my favorite woodland creatures, the Eastern Newt, has emerged from its hibernation; I caught this little guy just crawling out from the leaves last week, and by yesterday, there were dozens around the forest.
Eastern Newt

I haven't seen a lot of loon activity on the lake this spring (although, I haven't been out on the lake a lot either).  There were a couple of loons out yesterday, acting up a bit, but it wasn't clear whether it was mating behavior or aggressive behavior.  The less interesting birds are more evident.  The geese have taken up on the field as usual, making plenty of noise as they argue with each other.  And there's at least one cormorant back on the lake, taking up its usual perch in the dead pine trees.


 We haven't seen the sun here for more than an hour this whole past week.  All the rain has brought the lake back up to 10 inches above full level.  In addition to the bass boats, there were several pleasure boats on the lake this weekend, in spite of the less than desirable weather.  We all keep hoping nice weather will arrive some day.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

May 14, 2011

Lake Wicwas enjoyed one fantastic summer-like day this week before the weather turned back to cool and damp.  I expect I have enjoyed my last tranquil walk in the woods, being able to walk slowly without the constant buzz of mosquitoes all around.  The black flies are out, and the mosquitoes will follow shortly.  It is one aspect of summer I could do without!
Clouds Lift over the Hills behind Lake Wicwas

One warm day was enough to encourage the trees to push out their leaves – even the oaks now have tiny leaves on their branches, and the hills are painted a pale-green as photosynthesis begins.
Pale Green Leaves Emerging

Birch Tree Flower

The tree pollen is very high right now, and is reported to be at record levels this year.  All trees have some sort of flower which produces pollen; this is the flower of a birch tree, getting ready to release its crop to us allergy sufferers.

I think the Trillium is the most fabulous flower in New Hampshire, and there is a wonderful display of Painted Trillium right now on the Blue Trail in the Hamlin Conservation area.  My feelings for trillium are likely based on my first experience with this flower.  I came across it the first time on a group hiking trip in western NH.  I saw a single Purple Trillium; I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it was something special.  You can imagine my distress when the leader of the trip leaned over and plucked it off its stem, saying, “we’ll look it up later”.  Ever since then I think I’ve felt a need to protect them (and felt a lot less respect for one particular trip leader).  I have never seen a purple trillium again.
Painted Trillium
The Hobblebush Viburnum is also blooming, joining the brightness of the Shadbush.  This plant has an intriguing blossom, with a circle of large white flowers surrounding dozens of tiny blooms.  Hobblebush can be seen along the Blue Trail as well as many other places around Lake Wicwas.
Hobblebush Viburnum

Pin Cherry

Another white, blossoming tree is the Pin Cherry, which can be found along Chemung Rd at the edges of the swamps.  In a few months this will be an important source of food for many birds.

Speaking of birds, one can tell the insects are back by the Phoebes flitting out of the trees to catch an insect, and returning to its perch to wait for its next victim.  The Swallows are also back, dive-bombing the insects just above the surface of the lake.  Red-winged Blackbirds have been frequenting the bird feeders rather than spending time out in the marshes.
Red-winged Blackbird

(Note that I added some additional information from my sightings on the May 8th entry.)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

May 8, 2011

A lot has changed at Lake Wicwas over the past two weeks while we were in Ann Arbor for Dustin's graduation from the University of Michigan (congrats again Dustin!).  All the snow and ice is gone, and spring has come.  It's one of my favorite times of the year, when the first flowers start to bloom.  As usual, the Trailing Arbutus (Mayflower) is always the first, with its sweet fragrance. I wonder if this is how Arbutus Hill got its name.
Trailing Arbutus

 The other small flowers follow quickly, such as the violets.

The Canada Mayflowers (Wild Lily-of-the-valley, confusing, isn't it?) have also sprouted;  I'm always amazed at how they punch holes right through the leaves on the forest floor.
Canada Mayflower

The Downy Serviceberry (Shadbush) is flowering all around the lake, providing bright splashes of white along the otherwise still-drab shoreline.  This plant got its common name because it blooms when the Shad are running.  Since it grows along water edges, it was probably omnipresent for the fishermen.

We have a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers spending time nearby by; they frequent all the stumps and snags around the area, and I was able to get some good pictures even though they like to hide out in protected areas.

Here's and example of their handi-work:

Maple Leaf

The trees have also started to bud out, with tiny, delicate leaves emerging.

The buds of this year's blueberry crop are formingtoo.

Blueberry Leaf Buds

 I took my first kayak trip of the year around the lake.  There are lots of signs of a growing beaver population - new lodges are popping up all around the lake, there are lots of cut trees, and many de-barked branches on the bottom of the lake.

Painted Turtle

I saw a few turtles sunbathing, getting their first warmth from the sun, and a pair who swam right beside my kayak for a bit before realizing I was there and darting down into the mud.  The water is still extremely clear, and it is warming up.

Ferns are also sprouting, with their fiddleheads starting to unfurl from their webs.