Sunday, September 29, 2013

September 29, 2013

The leaves are just starting to turn around Lake Wicwas, but the weather has been so beautiful we had to take an early drive.  We ventured up to the Hemenway State Forest in Tamworth - an area we had never been to before.  It is a good size forest with very little human activity - we saw no one else while we were there.  We trekked up the short trail to the fire tower on Great Hill via the Betty Trail and found nice views of the White Mountains, Chocorua, Conway and Tamworth.
Mt. Chocorua from Great Hill in Hemenway State Park
Looking South from Great Hill
Yesterday we took a hike in our own backyard, and I think the leaves are farther along here than in Tamworth.  We went up to the White Mountain Ledge in the Hamlin/Eames/Smyth area, and had good views towards the Franconia Range, and Chocorua again!
Mt. Chocorua from the White Mountain Ledge
Mt. Lafayette and Mt. Lincoln
Along the way I found some ripe berries on an Indian Cucumber-root

and a new plant I haven't seen before, or perhaps more accurately, hadn't noticed before:

It is a Rattlesnake Plantain, and it isn't rare, perhaps just not very conspicuous.  It is an evergreen, and a member of the orchid family.  It has a distinctive appearance with many white veins throughout its leaves.

Looking in the other direction, this is all that's left of last week's Full Harvest Moon.

There has been a lot of talk this past week about the "under-cast" - lots of reports from the Mt. Washington Observatory showing clouds in the valley with the summit in the clear.  This same condition was present right at Lake Wicwas this morning, with fog over the lake, but the hill just a few hundred feet higher in the clear.
Under-Cast at Lake Wicwas

It was even more pronounced over Lake Winnisquam.

The radio tower and the tops of the trees on the hill along Parade Road were just poking up through the clouds as the sun was coming up.

I was at Crockett's Ledge before sunrise, and was able to witness the spectacle of the sun rising over and through the morning fog.
Sunrise from Crockett's Ledge

Fall in New Hampshire - this is why people come from around the world to visit see our special part of the planet.  Even without fall color, it's hard to beat.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

September 22, 2013

I hope you were able to see the full Harvest Moon a few days ago.  It occurred on a beautiful clear day and was spectacular - unfortunately I was not able to take any pictures.  The full moon came just a few days before the equinox, and although it seems like the days have already become awfully short, right now we have almost exactly 12 hours of sunlight.

Back on May 19th I wrote about a Nursery Spider, and this week I found a spider's nursery, although I believe this one is from a Dock Spider (Dolomedes) based on its location right beside the lake.

Nursery Web of a Dolomedes Spider

The spider had layed its eggs on a leaf, and then wrapped up several leaves to form a protective nursery around it.  It even selected a large, sturdy leaf to give it a roof.

A mother spider will stay and guard the nest until they hatch.  The spiderlings will have their first molt in the nursery, leaving their exoskeleton in the nest.  These spiders had all hatched and were gone when I found their nest, littered with their first skin.
Expended Exoskeletons from the Recently Hatched Spiders

I can only begin to guess how many spiders hatched from this one female Dolomedes.

Farther away from the lake I came upon what appears to be a lichen growing on the base of a tree.

I walk this trail frequently and hadn't noticed it before, but lichen grow very slowly, so if that's what it is, it must have been there for quite a while considering how large it is - lichen grow less than 1/2 inch per year.

In the early morning rain today a group of deer wandered by;  there were four of them in the road, with a fifth following along well up in the woods - perhaps a buck, I couldn't really see it.  As the fall rut approaches, the bucks will start to monitor does, marking territory, and perhaps fighting to secure their mates.  We should be seeing signs of the rut over the next few weeks throughout the woods.

With autumn upon us now, life around Lake Wicwas will start to change rapidly in many ways.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

September 15, 2013

The past week has been pretty typical for September in New England - hot temperatures, cool temperatures, thunderstorms, wind, flooding - everything but a hurricane!  We decided to take a walk through another of Meredith's conservation areas this week:  the Meredith Community Forest right next to downtown.  We went in the Philbrook Ave entrance, walked along the yellow and red trails and came out at the main entrance on Jenness Hill Road.  It is a nice area, with habitat similar to that around Lake Wicwas, though some of the trails are not as well maintained (or apparently traveled) as the Hamlin-Eames-Symth trails.

Early in the hike there was mostly mature forest, and farther along the trees were much younger, indicating more recent farming or logging.  Near the center of the area we found a newly-forming beaver pond.
Beaver Pond in Meredith Community Forest
The pond is infringing on the trail, and the healthy trees and shrubs growing in it shows it is a new pond.  There were also several newly felled trees at the fringes.

There are also several nice stands of beech trees.  On one tree there are clear claw marks from a bear that climbed the tree to get the beech nuts.
Bear Claws on a Beech Tree

Back on Lake Wicwas, the maintenance crew has been busy keeping the trails in good shape.  There is a new bridge on the Blue Trail, and the logs placed a few weeks ago (see post on August 25) have now become the base for a foot bridge over the wet area.

Foot Bridge on the Blue Trail in the Hamlin-Eames-Smyth Conservation Area
Many thanks again to the volunteers who keep this conservation area in such great condition for all of us.

As the fall progresses, the mushrooms continue to flourish; this collection of bright orange fungi is growing on a recently cut tree stump.

I was surprised to find a rib bone on the trail this week as well.
Rib Bone from a White Tail Deer

Based on its location, it is undoubtedly from a deer that was killed two winters ago (see 21 January 2012 post).

One of the benefits of the later-rising sun, it that it is easier to witness the sunrise.  On a cool morning this week a large mass of ground fog formed over the middle of the lake, and as the rising sun heated the atmosphere, it was quickly dissipating.

The start of another beautiful fall day at Lake Wicwas.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

September 8, 2013

Lake Wicwas suddenly finds itself feeling like fall, even though it's still summer by the calendar.  The color of the sky and the cool, dry wind on surface of the lake reflecting the lower angle of the sun prove that summer is just about behind us. 
 Even thought the calendar says it's summer, meterologists consider September the start of fall - and one can understand why.

At least the water is still warm - unusually so for this time of year.  But with a few more cold nights, it won't be swimming-temperature for long.
Mist on Lake Wicwas on a Cool September Morning

There was a large bass tournament on the lake this weekend, with lots of serious fisherman.  But sometimes all the fancy equipment can't outdo a row boat and a fly rod!

On the nature front, I found quite a few of these bright green katydids over the past few weeks. 

This guy had decided to take up a perch on a sponge right on our door step.  Katydids are are also known as Bush-Crickets.  If you want an easy way to differentiate a cricket from a grasshopper, just remember that crickets have long, thin antennae, while grasshoppers have short, thick ones. 

If you've been outside at all, you've surely noticed all the mushrooms and fungi everywhere - here's a quite large one. 
September 3rd

Just one week earlier this very same mushroom was a bright yellow.
August 14th
It's time to really enjoy these waning days of summer - scenes like this will become increasingly rare now!
Peaceful, Late Summer Evening

Sunday, September 1, 2013

September 1, 2013

September is here, but it sure has felt like summer this past week.  It has been hot and humid with calm days interspersed with summer showers and thunderstorms.

Mist Rising from an Afternoon Thunderstorm
But signs of the shortening days are evident nonetheless, with a few early trees telling us that summer is getting long in the tooth.
Signs of Summer Ending
Docks, rafts, and boats are already starting to dissapear from the lake, though we were able to get the sailboat in for few sails before the end of the season.
Sailing on Lake Wicwas

After a lengthy hiatus this summer, a couple of osprey have returned to fish at Lake Wicwas.  I saw this pair circling over the lake one morning, and have heard their calls a couple of times since then.

A few hundred feet below the osprey, I found this little Wood Frog peeking out from under a rock.  It must have felt pretty safe there as it was happy to just sit there, and didn't leap away as I took some pictures.  Usually these little guys are very skittish and nearly impossible to catch.
Wood Frog

Wood Frogs are one the rare amphibians that can partially freeze during the winter months when hibernating.  Most amphibians find a spot well below the frost line, but the Wood Frog forms chemicals in its cells that allow it to partially freeze.  As winter approaches, it accumulates urea and glucose in its tissues which reduces the amount of ice that forms in its cells, protecting them from damage.

They may have evolved this property to allow them to hibernate just under the leaf litter in the forest rather than deep down, so they can emerge early in the spring and be the first to vernal pools to start breeding.  This ability may give them an advantage in avoiding predators during their mating period.

Someone sent me some amazing pictures a photographer had taken of rain drops on plants that were acting as lenses, refracting scenes behind them to form the most beautiful and unusual images.  It inspired me to try it, so after one of those morning showers while the raindrops were still on the plants I gave it a shot.  It will take quite a while to learn the technique, and probably a different camera to achieve the results they had achieved, but I got a couple of shots that captured the idea.  The curved surface of the water focuses the distant scene so it is reduced in size - as well as inverted - and imaged onto the camera's recording surface.

It was a real summer labor day weekend - here's hoping this isn't the last summer sunset!