Sunday, August 5, 2012

August 5, 2012

No posting last week, as we were in Colorado for a week of visiting family and touring the Rocky Mountains.  We had a rejuvenating vacation that included tubing the Yampa River, inspiring music at Strings, and magnificent scenery while hiking and biking in the mountains. It's great to have local hosts and tour guides!

Although much of the environment is similar, everything is bigger in the Rockies.  We saw larger versions of woodchuck (yellow-bellied marmots) and deer (prong-horn), and of course, mountains and valleys which dwarf New England.  Unfortunately, the forest fires are bigger also, and we drove through miles of scorched landscape between Fort Collins and Steamboat Springs.  Here's a sample of a lake in Colorado - at about 11,000 feet!  No fires here.  And yes, that's snow still up in the mountains.

Little Causeway Lake, Routt National Forest
Back at Lake Wicwas we were happy to find the find the forest green and lush, as some rain had fallen while we were away.  (Drought is something else the west is having in a big way right now.)  On the kayak, looking to see what new plants are blooming around the lake I found buttonbush, ripe huckleberries, and a couple of white flowers I hadn't identified before.  In this spot on the edge of an island, all four of there were growing together.

With a little research I was able to identify the plant with the rather unusual flower - it is a Turtlehead.  I'd never heard of this plant, but once you know what it's called, it's obvious, and not a name I'll likely forget.

White Turtlehead (Chelone glabra)
Here's an interesting claim about turtlehead:  according to wikipedia, the Abenaki used it as method of birth control (no guarantee made by the author).

The buttonbush name is also pretty descriptive:
Buttonbush (Cephalanthus)
The exciting news is that the newest loon on the lake has survived its most precarious period, having it's two-week birthday just today. 
Two weeks old

Its parents are taking good care of it, keeping a close eye on it, although they do both dive at the same time, leaving it alone and vulnerable on the surface.

The little guy is starting to dive already, and the parents are teaching it to fish.  Here, all three are looking for lunch.

We watched one adult catch a fish and then play with it for a long time until it was tired out, and then let the chick catch it for itself.

The chick is also starting to spread its little wings.

It's hard to believe they will be strong enough for it to fly away in three or four months.  Let's hope for a late ice-in this year since it got such a late start.

There was also a second pair of loons on the lake this weekend, travelling around together, though keeping well away from the breeding pair.
 Their wings are just a bit larger.

There was a large bass tournament on the lake this weekend, with lot of big, high-tech bass boats out competing with the loons for fish.  But I liked this different approach to fishing!
Did you happen notice the sign of fall in the background....?

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