Sunday, October 27, 2013

October 27, 2013

Lake Wicwas saw its coldest night yet this season when the temperature dropped to 28 degrees on Friday night.  On these early, humid, cold fall mornings I'll try to seek out ice formations have developed over night.  There are usually still some colorful leaves that get nicely frosted around the edges.

And the hardy, low growing plants also often get decorated with the frost.

This year, I found a flower still blooming - a clover blossom.
Ice Crystals on a Clover Blossom

The tiny structures on the flower allowed some extraordinary cystals to grow, probably seeded by those structures, and then additional molecules fell into place in the crystal lattice.

Chemistry in action!

Hopefully the cold weather will finally kill off the undesirables - biting insects that it.  I thought tic season was well behind us, but I had this nasty visitor come home with me.
Deer Tic

The most disturbing part is that this is a Deer Tic, which I have not see before at Lake Wicwas.  I know they are in the area, but this is the first one I have seen myself.  Maybe it's fate - it was on the same trip where I saw a couple of deer grazing out on one of the islands.

I haven't seen many beaver trees cut down around the lake yet this fall, but there is some very recent action at the beaver dam on the Blue Trail that connects to the Yellow Trail in the Hamlin/Eames/Smyth area.  This cut is right next to the trail, and the beaver didn't calculate his angles well, as the tree got caught up in the branches of a neighboring White Pine.

It had tried to free it by dragging the trunk away from the stump, and when that didn't work, it tried cutting off another section.  That didn't solve its problem either, and it has been working on cutting off a few more feet (cut section floating in the water).

I felt badly for it, and it was going to fall across the trail eventually anyways, so I gave it a hand and cleared it off the snag so it fell on the ground.  I plan to go back to see if the beaver returns and drags the tree away.

In another beaver clearing that was cut two years ago, (October 23, 2013 post) all the stumps now have fungi growing on them.  It's interesting how effective fungi are at distributing their spores so well that almost every stump has become a host.  These will help breakdown and decompose the stumps more quickly.
Fungus on a two-year old Beaver Stump

One more shot of the ice crystals.  Soon enough we won't have to go looking for these!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

October 20, 2013

As fall deepens its grasp on Lake Wicwas there are fewer and fewer boats on the lake, though several are still in the water eking out the last days of Indian Summer.

Every week there are a few fishermen and paddlers enjoying the above average temperatures. 

We have yet to have a hard frost, at least at our part of the lake, and we are well past the average first frost date of September 21 (according to the Farmer's Almanac).  Areas close to the lake will tend to be warmer in the fall due to the moderating affects of the warm water, but almost a month beyond average is pretty nice.

The foliage in the Lakes Region has moved from the bright reds and oranges of the maples, to the yellow and burnt oranges of the beech and oaks.  Their colors are not as vivid, but they still warm the soul with reminders of summer's warmth, especially when the late afternoon and early morning sun shines on them.
On a trip up Old Stanton Road I found a stand of beech trees forming a glowing tunnel with the October sun illuminating them from above.
Old Stanton Road
The beech, like the oaks, turn later and keep their leaves longer than most trees, some of them right through the winter.  These trees also both produce nuts which mature later in the season that the seeds of the maples;  perhaps that's why they need a somewhat longer growing season.

In the wind today the leaves were falling off the trees in droves, so the end is coming - in some areas they are already mostly on the ground.

As the leaves drop, we have have the benefit of greater visibility through the woods, exposing things not seen all summer.  Here a beaver lodge that has grown this summer has been revealed. 
Beaver Lodge
You can see the fresh cuts on the branches on top.  And some fungi growing on a fallen birch tree can now be seen.
Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulinu)

There was also a bright Hunter's Moon visible on Thursday, here setting on Saturday morning.

 By the time we seen the next full moon, things will have changed a lot around Lake Wicwas.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

October 13, 2013

Today's post starts with a different lake, or rather, what used to be a lake.  We took a drive over to the Lake Sunapee area for a hike up Sunset Hill in the John Hay Forest in Newbury.  (The Saint Gaudens National Park would have been on the agenda, but our fearless leaders in Washington have shut it down with the rest of government.)  We also took a walk through the Philbrick-Cricenti Bog in New London.
Philbrick-Cricenti Bog
The Philbrick-Cricenti Bog is a floating "kettle hole bog" that was created when a giant piece of glacial ice formed a depression, and eventually a lake.  As recently as 150 years, there was open water where people fished.  Today, the lake is completely covered with a mat of moss and sedge grass, which is thick enough that you actually walk - on a board walk - on top of the floating bog.  There are warnings that if you step off the boardwalk you may fall through the mat and into the lake - there are claims of remains of cows and horses under the surface.

Trees such as Black Spruce and Tamarack are even growing on it now.
Black Spruce Growing on the Bog


I really couldn't appreciate that there really was a lake below us until we came to the "peek hole".  Here is a long pole that you pull up out of the lake - it is over 20 feet deep!  In many places the boardwark rocks and splashes as you travel over the floating walkway.
Proof there's a Lake Underneath

The bog supports many plants unique to this type of environment, including Pitcher Plant and Cranberry.

Pitcher Plant

It was a very interesting area, but also a little disconcerting to think what can happen to a lake over just a few generations.

Thankfully, back on Lake Wicwas, you can't walk on the lake yet!   (Although, as the temperature continues to drop, soon enough we'll be walking on Lake Wicwas on a different surface....)  And the foliage is fabulous.  The maples are bright orange and red, and the east facing hills seen from Crockett's ledge are brilliant yellow.

South from Crockett's Ledge
Maples Reveal their True Colors
It appears that the fall migration has begun as well, with my first sighting of a Wood Duck since spring.
Mr. Wood Duck
And Mrs. Wood Duck

This should be just the first of many interesting birds that will visit Lake Wicwas over the next two months for a rest and a meal on their way to their winter homes.

Now, I'll apologize in advance for this next sighting, but remember, I didn't invent this, I'm just an observer!  This mushroom is known as a Stinkhorn - it is a member of the genus Phallus, named for an obvious reason. 
Stinkhorn  (genus Phallus)

The common name of "Stinkhorn" comes from the fact they emit the most horrendous odor, which actually has a reason related to reproduction:  the stench attracts flies which land on the top of the mushroom which has the spores needed to reproduce.  The spores stick to the flies' feet and are transported to other locations when the fly moves on.  It was working quite well today.

These fungi grow from an egg-like object, most often in areas with dead wood on the ground; one can be seen here just protruding from the peridium. 

They grow to full size in only a few hours, and live but a couple of days, so they have to attract insects fast!  Scientists do not know the reason for their odd shape....

One more note:  the local animals continue to enjoy the bounty of the fall harvest,
A Chipmunk's Dinner Table is our Front Step

as we do too!
With Apples from Arbutus Hill!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

October 6, 2013

The foliage at Lake Wicwas is just about peaking now.

The hues are rich as the leaves are still losing their green pigment, and the cloudy and wet weather intensifies the colors that are being revealed from beneath the chlorophyll. The maples are particularly vibrant right now.

Cloudy weather and no wind meant even the leaves that have bid farewell to their parent and fallen onto the lake make for intriguing sights, with these leaves apparently floating in air.

One of our local nature experts told me this weekend there is a Black Tupelo (also called Black Gum) tree on the shore of Lake Wicwas right in our cove.  I have read there are some old-growth Black Gum Trees in the Hamlin/Eames/Smyth area, but I have never found them.  So I went out today to look for this local specimen, and found it - in fact two - just where it was described.

Black Tupelo (Black Gum) - Nyssa sylvatica
Black Gum grow in wet areas, and these had their roots right in the lake.  It is a tree I have noticed many times, but had never identified it.  (In fact, if you look at the first photo in this post, you will see them!)  The Black Gum has uncommon leaves that are thick and glossy, and turn bright scarlet in the fall.

It also bears fruit which is consumed by many animals;  if this tree had fruit, it has already been enjoyed by the lakeside creatures.  I now have another tree I know; I'll have to go searching for the old ones up behind the lake (thanks RB!).

Regarding wildlife around the lake, I ran into several deer this weekend, and we were even treated to a Bald Eagle sighting.  It had landed right on the shoreline at a rock off one of the Islands.  (Sorry - too far away for pictures.)  It stood there for ten or more minutes, just resting, dunking its beak in the lake now and then for a drink.  I think it was enjoying the fall foliage, and providing entertainment for the Lake Wicwas Board meeting which was occurring at that moment.  It was a nice reminder of why we all work to protect this beautiful lake.

With a mild weather forecast for the next week, we should enjoy one more weekend of good leaf peeping for Columbus Day.