Sunday, August 25, 2013

August 25, 2013

The harvest season has begun at Lake Wicwas.  The squirrels, both red and gray, are the most obvious early reapers of summer's bounty.  I noticed the start a couple of weeks ago when green acorns started appearing on the ground.

And then last week the beechnuts started dropping from the trees.

Beech Nuts
They get lots of assistance from the squirrels, especially the gray squirrels it seems.  When you see branches swaying at the top of tree on a perfectly calm day, there's a good chance a squirrel is up there gathering some food it covets.  In the case of the beech trees, they seem to jump on the branches, shaking the nuts onto the ground.  On a quiet afternoon it can sound like rain coming down as all the small nuts fall on the ground around you at the base of large tree.

If you have a large Beech tree nearby, keep an eye out for signs of bear activity - beechnuts are one of their favorite foods. You may see scat in the area, or possibly claw marks where they climbed the tree.  There have been more bear sightings lately, so they are in the area.

The most interesting activity for me is the collection of pine cones from the white pines.  The squirrels chew the new cones - which still contain their seeds - off the branches and let them fall to the ground so they can store them for winter.  On a quiet morning in a pine forest one can hear the heavy cones sounding like a pinball machine as they bounce off multiple braches on their way down from of the top of the tree, landing with final crash on the forest floor.

Various mushroom and fungi are becoming numerous all around the lake.  This yellow fungus is one that stands our brightly against the mostly drab surroundings of dry leaves and pine needles.

If you've hiked the Blue Trail around the beaver ponds in the Hamlin area you've probably noticed a large muddy area that has developed in the trail as the water patterns changed in the past few years.  Well, recently the trail maintenance crew has added some large logs to form steps over the area - a welcome addition, especially in the spring.  But be careful - they'll be slippery!
If you hike past this brook, notice also the color of it, which indicates a lot of iron dissolved in the water.

Next week:  Labor Day weekend.  Where has the summer gone?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

August 18, 2013

This weekend featured the annual Lake Wicwas Paddle Regatta.
The 2013 Lake Wicwas Paddle Regatta
For 2013, participants paddled the shores of the lake searching for hidden clues - letters that when all were found spelled out "Lake Wicwas".  It was a fabulous day for the event - even a loon and a heron joined in the festivities.

After the hunt everyone congregated at the Maul's house for great food and fun on the bongo.
The Finish Line!

Bev and Blade were the master's of Ceremony, handing out the awards for the regatta.

The Winner!
The Mosquito Swatter Award
The Youngest and Oldest Paddlers
The Gracious Hosts

Early in the morning, before all the excitement began, I noticed a partial spider web catching the low sunlight just right, and looking closer, I saw it was a project under construction.

The tiny orb-weaver spider was meticulously weaving its web and didn't seem to mind my presence.  I watched as it worked its way around the web in a counter-clockwise direction, extruding a thin filament from its spinneret on the tip of its abdomen.  It used one of its legs to steer and place the fresh thread just where it wanted it. 

I was surprised by how quickly it moved;  I didn't think to time it, but it moved at least as fast as a second hand on a clock.  

When first formed, the protein-thread appeared almost transparent, and become more visible soon after it dried.  My guess is that it would take about half an hour to build the entire web, at which point it could sit back and wait for its "guests" to arrive.

For the allergy sufferers, the season is in full swing now, and the recent dry weather has allowed the pollen counts to spike.  Golden rod may not be a big allergen, but it is a visible indicator that pollen season is here.  I watch honey bees and bumble bees collecting pollen from the Goldenrod, as well as this Yellow and Black Wasp.
Yellow and Black Wasp

Recently, people have been noticing a group of seven loons swimming together on the lake.  I haven't heard any information about larger groups of loons form, but they have been here for a nice long visit.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

August 11, 2013

We are already half way from the summer solstice to the equinox, and the changes are noticeable.  The sun is rising later, setting earlier, and the shadows are getting longer.  A couple of cool, dry, breezy days this weekend added to the feeling.

There was a lot of activity on the lake, with a bass tournament on Saturday, lots of kayakers, skiers and tubers, and a few windsurfers - everyone enjoying the perfect weather.  But once again, I didn't see much wildlife.  The loon pair did come by for a fishing trip early one evening.
Where shall we dine tonight?
Let's try the Emerald Isle

They seemed to be enjoying each others company, swimming and fishing together.
A Romantic Dinner out on the Lake

I noticed an infestation of another invasive species this week, the Japanese Beetle.
Japanese Beetles

These are common and well known in New England, having been introduced from Japan sometime before 1912.  It is thought they came in a shipment of Iris bulbs into New Jersey.  Although controlled in Japan by natural predators, they have few predators here and have become prolific and damaging.  One often finds many beetles on a given plant;  the presence of beetles on a plant attracts more beetles.  But I have never seen them all lined up in formation like I did on this Bracken Fern.

Even though they are very colorful, it's not a pretty sight.  The sight of Lake Wicwas on a beautiful summer day is much more enjoyable.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

August 4, 2013

My favorite identifier of unknown (to me that is) plants and animals helped me out with two plant species this week.  The first, the tall pink flower growing on the shoreline, and posted on July 17th, is the Swamp Milkweed.  This flower is a favorite of butterflies, especially the Monarch.
Swamp Milkweed

The other plant she identified is the tiny yellow waterflower I found last week;  this is the flower of the Bladderwort.  There are several species (Common, Floating, Swollen, Horned), and with a little more work I may figure out which one it is.  (Thank you NV!)

The Bladderwort is a really neat plant, in that it is a carnivore.  The bladders which are under the water are the traps.  They have small appendages located at the opening of the trap which detect tiny aquatic animals that touch the appendages.  The trap then opens and a vacuum sucks its prey into the bladder where it is digested.  Sounds to me like a great storyline for a sci-fi movie!

I did not see any interesting animal activity this week, so I guess this is the time for flowers - I saw the first Nodding Ladies' Tresses blooming today, one of tiniest pretty flowers with a great name.
Nodding Ladies' Tresses

But I did watch a Hummingbird drinking nectar from Linda's Flowers.  I clearly need a camera with a faster shutter to take a picture of a hummingbird.

Today we took a walk down to the dam to investigate a purple flower we noticed, and wanted to make sure it wasn't purple loosestrife - an invasive species, that although beautiful, can completely take over a wetland.  Fortunately it is not Loostrife, but rather Steeplebush.

While at the dam (which by the way, shows the lake is still 3-4 inches above full level) I saw a bright red flower blooming along the edge of the stream flow flowing to Lake Winnisquam.  It is a Cardinal Flower - stop sometime on your way by and you'll see it easily, as the bright red color stands out against the green backdrop.
Cardinal Flower

I had the honor to present some of my observations around Lake Wicwas this weekend at the Lake Wicwas Association Annual meeting at the Wicwas Grange.  It was a lot of fun, and I learned a quite a lot from all the dynamic and enthusiastic people who enjoy the lake, including learning about Norm Harris' Flying Squirrel Circus.  That's a story for another day....
Flying Squirrel  (Taken 28 December 2011)