Sunday, August 26, 2012

August 26, 2012 - Osprey!

A quintessential New Hampshire summer weekend:  warm, sunny, calm and humid, but not oppressive.  So it was no surprise when we heard the crash of an osprey into a placid Lake Wicwas in the late afternoon.  We had been watching hundreds of fingerling fish rising quietly at the surface for quite some time, and evidently, the fish-hawk was doing the same.  It certainly is a startling sound - an osprey crashing into the lake - and it gets one's attention quickly enough that it is easy enough to find it flying up out of the water after its dive.

The next day was a repeat of the perfect weather, so we went out on the kayaks to see if it was still in the neighborhood.  It didn't take long to get the answer.  Just  few minutes down the cove we heard an osprey calling out.  In fact we heard two of them calling to each other, one on each side of the cove, and saw one of them sitting in their favorite position - a branch about 30 feet high overhanging the lake. 

It soon circled out over the lake and assumed a new perch on a dead tree right at the point of an island.  We heard it calling to the other osprey on the opposite side of the cove.

But we couldn't locate the second.  I have no idea if they are a mating pair;  I have not seen nor heard of an osprey nest in the area, but they will fish up to twelve miles away from their nest.

The bird seemed unconcerned with us down on the lake in kayaks, and we spend a long time watching it - and vice versa.

When it first landed it was hanging its wings down, like the cormorants do - perhaps drying its feathers?

It spend a long time preening itself, working deep in its feathers.

It seemed to be able to turn its head around completely backwards, just like and owl.

Also like an owl, an osprey can turn two of its talons around backwards, which is helpful in grasping fish and carrying them away.  Here, its left foot has two talons back, while the right foot has one rear facing.

Here's a view from the front, when it had reversed its grasp.

Ospreys and Owls are the only raptors that can do this.  How'd you like to have these weapons piercing into you?  You can see why they rarely drop their lunch.

Their feet even have barbs on them to help hold their prey;  they are pretty well adapted to their situation.

At one point after its preening, it fluffed up its feathers, looking like something from a Disney cartoon. 

I don't know the purpose of this, and didn't find anything about this behavior in my research.  It's possible it decided it didn't like us watching, and was trying to look bigger to scare us off, but there was no other behavior that indicated this.

Eventually it prepared for take-off, and flew down the lake a bit for better a fishing site - or one not shared by humans.  We let it alone. 

From my observations, osprey perch on a lee shore where the flat water gives them optimum conditions for seeing fish below the surface.  They can dive into the water as much as three feet, but not much more, so they only hunt in deeper water when fish are schooling on the surface - such as this time of year in Lake Wicwas.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a good source of information on birds, and provided much of this information;  their web page on osprey is

They are a pretty imrpressive creature.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

August 19, 2012

So where were the spiders? 

Remember David Bowie and Ziggy Stardust?  Late summer is prime time for spiders, so I went to see where they were hiding.  They are everywhere, but when you look for them, they're surprisingly hard to find.  Here are a few I was able to capture.  Of course, Daddy Long Legs are common on trees and the sides of houses.
What's missing on this one?

Also on living on structures is the American House Spider - these however are web-weavers.

Here's another web-weaver, living way up high so I couldn't get a good look.

One of my favorite spiders is the Goldenrod Spider, which can be found on flowers, especially purple and pink ones, where it snatches small insects attracted by the nectar.

This one isn't a spider, but it looks cool and I found it on the same flowers. 

This Stink Bug was also on a pink flower - pink must be big attraction to prey insects.

Usually this time of year there are some giant water spiders on the docks, but the high water this week chased them all away.  Here's one from a couple of years ago.  I love these guys - think how many mosquitoes and other pests they must eat to get this big (it's a good three inches across).

Though not a spider, this caterpillar uses a similar thread to drop itself down from its tree.  This one was just hanging in the middle of a trail as I walked by.

Of course, there are also the predators that pry on the spiders after they fatten up on smaller insects.  This well camouflaged Pickerel Frog was hiding and waiting close by.

I also saw my first Red Eft all summer.  It's been very dry, but all the rain last week finally brought some out in the open.
Notice the little red "British Solider" lichen in the picture.

Moving up the food chain a bit, our newest loon chick continues to grow.  Though still staying close to its parents, it is diving longer and learning how to fish. 

It's still a pretty fuzzy cute little bird though.

And then at the very top of the food chain, look who visited the lake this weekend:

This young bear was at an undisclosed site on the west side of Lake Wicwas; another reminder that even when food is plentiful, bears are opportunistic and will take the easy food whenever it's available!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Lake Wicwas Paddle Regatta

This has now become a favorite tradition at Lake Wicwas:  the Great Paddle Regatta.  And it appears it is also a tradition for it to be a fantastic day - just look at this blue sky and blue water!

This year's regatta was hosted by Chuck and Bev, and it had a great new twist - a scavenger hunt.  Participants were given a sheet with photographs of interesting landmarks around the lake, and people scouted the shoreline to locate each of them.  The photos were accompanies by clever clues and witty comments.  After locating the sites, people re-grouped at Marion Cove (yes, about the farthest away point on the lake, but that was to help work off all the food we were about to consume).  Here the flotilla is rounding the final mark heading down the homestretch.

There was lots of help landing canoes and kayaks at the landing site.

While the master chef was cooking the BBQ and preparing her world-renowned baked beans,

the kids had a blast on the newly renovated bongo, launching each other into the lake.

This one gets the gold medal for highest launch!

Then the master of ceremony presented the awards, after getting the baton passed from last year's hosts.

Of course, first the school teacher had to make sure everyone understood the directions.

Now the awards:

It was a fabulous day;  our utmost thanks go the wonderful hosts for all their preparation and great organization of the event!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

August 12, 2012

It was a busy weekend, with Wicwas Day (a great time as always!) and then a triathlon in Boston (I was a spectator, not a particiant - that was Dustin and his friend Matt, who by the way, came in 19th overall out of a field of over 900!).  But I still managed to get in a walk and found a pair of hawks. 

The Broad Winged-Hawks we saw back on May 20th are nesting down the road from our house.  I hear them frequently, and have seen both of them several times in the same area - a clearing at the power lines where they probably have good hunting.  They are constantly calling to one another:  loud, shrill shrieks.  Last weekend, walking back from the Lake Wicwas Association meeting we followed them a long ways down our road as they flew along the road from tree to tree. 

Saturday morning, I found them again, with one of the sitting in the open on a wire. 
Broad-Winged Hawk

By following the sound of the calls I was able to locate its make, perched on a tree branch at the edge of clearing. 

I watched until they flew off, one after the other;  it's surprizing how quicking they alight, and how difficult it is get a picture.

Down closer to the ground, a lot of rain recently has started the mushrooms growing rapidly.  There should be many to see over the month or two.