Sunday, July 27, 2014

July 27, 2014

Blueberry season is in full swing now, with ripe berries dripping off the high-bush blueberry bushes all around the edges of Lake Wicwas. 

If you want to enjoy this delectable fruit of New Hampshire you should hurry, as they will only last a couple of weeks.  Just beware you may have to fight over them with the bears - someone saw a black bear on Sheep Island gorging himself on blueberries!  I have been watching the Black Cherries for signs of bear activity, but haven't seen any there yet.  Only the birds and squirrels have been consuming them, as seen by the bare stems. 

Black Cherry

Bears are much less deft in their dining, leaving torn and broken branches in their wake.

While I was a-berrying near the water's edge I discovered some old scat that revealed the recent diet of this otter:  Crayfish.
River Otter Scat

There is always a lot of fish scales in otter scat, but this clearly shows crustacean shells as well;  they look like tiny lobster shells, even having turned red after baking in the sun.

My morning paddle around the lake revealed several interesting sights, including a Great Blue Heron enjoying the sunrise.
Great Blue Heron

Here's another picture of a heron, taken by Brian Matteson (thank you!) as it stood right on his dock at 8:30 in the morning of July 9th.

Farther along I came across two groups of loons out for a morning sail - probably the same five I saw last week, but split up into two teams.  First, a group of three,

and later a group of two that were far more interested in each other than they were in me.

They swam right past my kayak as I floated in the middle of the lake, even posing for a portrait.

These two played their usual head dunking game, with one dunking the instant the other put its head in the water.  I didn't see any foot wagging, so I don't know if any of these are the banded loon, but I'm guessing that one of this pair is just that, keeping an eye on the other loon to keep it away from the chick.  This guess is based on the information I received from Janelle Ostroski at the Loon Preservation Committeeon on what I observed last week.  She says the loon with the green and red-and-white striped bands - put on in early July - is the female of the nesting pair that had the chick this year.  Janelle says it's possible that she is hanging out with the other loons to make sure they stay away from her chick.  (With only one chick, a single parent will have no problem providing for it.)  I just read the article in the LPC Summer, 2014 Newsletter about how territorial loons can be when they are establishing a new presence on a lake, even killing other bird's chicks, so she is being a good mother. 

There is a single loon that appears to have taken up residence in a cove at the far end of the lake.  It just floats in the middle of the cove all day long, sometimes cruising the shore line for food and reconnaissance purposes.  When another loon comes into the cove, it meets it, confronts it, and I assume sends it away again (I can't tell them apart, so I can't be positive which one actually leaves).  Every now and then it puts on quite a dramatic show:  it almost takes off, flapping its wings harshly on the water as it skims along the surface at near flight-speed.  It will curve all along the cove, travelling well over 500 feet in this mode.  My theory is that this bird has staked its claim on the cove, and is protecting its territory, waiting for a mate to come along.  Maybe next year?

Back home, as I approached the deck, I startled a chipmunk that ran off the step and hid under a plant right beside my foot.  I also noticed a large black scarab beetle upside down on the step with its legs flailing uselessly.  So I flipped it over, but something didn't look right.  Closer inspection revealed its head was missing!  Mr. Chipmunk must have been munching on the beetle, starting with the head.  Much to Rosie's relief, by the time I grabbed my camera, the chipmunk had returned, and when I approached he ran away again, this time taking his breakfast with him!  There is one good side of chipmunks in your garden!

Those of you with insect issues weren't so fortunate with this next subject, so you may want to fast forward a bit.  With the abundant insect life around the lake, the spiders are growing by leaps and bounds.  This cute little guy (over 3 inches long, leg to leg) has taken up residence on our dock - thus the common name of "dock spider."
Dock Spider (Dolomedes )

Like most spiders, these Dolomedes have eight eyes, but unlike most spiders, they have quite an interesting feeding method that uses the hairs on their legs more than their eyes.  But that story will have to wait for another day or this post will get way too long.

At sunset we observed one enjoyable aspect of the wild fires taking place in Canada.  After the fine soot drifted the 2400 miles to New England, making its way into the upper levels of the atmosphere, it attenuates much of the shorter wavelengths of sunlight, providing stunning red colors, deepening in hue as the sun sets lower and lower.
Sunset colored by smoke from fires in Canada

The blueberries might only last a couple of weeks around the lake, but that's a lot longer than they last once they get in the house and Linda does her magic - then their life span is measured in seconds!

Monday, July 21, 2014

July 20, 2014

Our loon family continues to do well, and loon watchers around the lake are sending great pictures of the new chick and parents.  These beautiful pictures were taken by D.C. off Loon Point.

There are still many other loons on the lake, including the group of five I saw last week.
I'm guessing it's the same group because I saw the bird with a band on its leg, and this time I was able to get a good look at the colors on the band:  it has one green band and a second with red and white stripes.

I have passed this information onto the loon authorities and asked for any information they have on this particular bird - I will share what I learn from them.

Maybe all the visiting loons on the lake are grandparents, aunts and uncles who have come to meet the new member of the family!

I came across another new family on the lake this week:

The loons and the geese are rather visible on the water when they have new chicks, but ducks seem to be much more shy;  this is the first time I have a seen a duck family on the lake.  And when the mother duck noticed me on the shore, she swam well away to be a decoy, while the ducklings stayed in close formation, scooting off in a different direction. 

I checked the progress of the Black Cherry (see May 13, 26 and June 8 posts for earlier status).  The fruit is turning a vibrant red-orange color now and will be ripening soon.
Black Cherry

Closer to the ground, the Indian Pipe have joined the many other fungi emerging from the rich forest soil.

Indian Pipe
Blueberry season is also upon on - blueberry scones were on on the menu this morning for breakfast!

I identified a new bug this week as well (sorry RP!) and this one is a "true bug".
Assassin Bug (Zelus luridus)

It is an Assassin Bug (a member of the large genus Reduvius), aptly named, as it has a rather gruesome method of capturing its prey.  It injects a poisonous saliva into its prey through its long, thin rostrum (folded underneat its head in this picture).

This contains enzymes which liquify the insides of its prey, and the bugs sucks the contents out for its meal.  Yummy.  Fortunately, they appear to be harmless to humans.

Last week we took a hike up Rattlesnake Mountain, just north of Squam Lake.   If you've never done this hike you should try it - it's a short (1.8 miles round trip), easy hike up a well maintained bridle path, with one of the best best view-to-effort ratios you'll ever get!

Squam Lake from West Rattlesnake Mountain
It was a good hike with great friends!

(A delayed post this week due to technical difficulties at the internet provider.)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

July 13, 2014

Lake Wicwas' newest loon continues to grow under the attentive care of its parents.  There have been numerous sightings of the parents feeding it small minnows, and it has even started to dive on its own, though it surely isn't catching anything yet.  It will be several more weeks before it can secure its own food, though its days of free-rides on its parent's back are probably over.  Brian Matteson took a beautiful picture of the little one with a parent on July 9th (thank you for sharing!).
About 15 days old (Brian Matteson photo)

One of our loon watchers discovered that the Loon Preservation Committee has a live camera focused on a nest where a pair of loons are still incubating their eggs.  It seems a little voyeuristic, but check it out here:  These loons are well behind the Wicwas pair - perhaps they had a failed nesting and had to start again.

There continue to be several other loons on Lake Wicwas, at least three others this week.  I watched two loons acting up at one point.  They were floating very close together, frequently thrusting their heads quickly underwater and then back up again.  When one did this, the other immediately did the same.  They made occasional short, quick dives, making quite a commotion with loud splashes when they went down, returning to the surface close together again.  Maybe one was stalking the other to protect its claimed territory, or maybe it was a pair in some kind of courting behavior? 

On a morning paddle I saw three different single loons around the lake, each minding their own business, including this one stretching its wings as it woke up.
Good Morning!

It was a beautiful morning for a paddle.

The lake's summer colors are filling in nicely now.  Both the Yellow Water Lilies and the pretty white, Fragrant Water Lilies are in bloom everywhere.
Frangrant Water Lilies

The Steeplebush are also blooming along the shoreline.
Steeplebush (Spiraea tomentosa) on Sheep Island
 Did you notice the pile of beaver-debris on the rocks?

Their flowers are a favorite of butterflies, though I saw none this early in the morning.

At the other end of the day, there was a spectacular full-moonrise over Lake Wicwas.  People were calling it a "super moon" because it is larger and brighter than usual.  The proper name is a "perigee moon".  The moon doesn't have a circular orbit around the earth;  it has an elliptical orbit, and this month the closest approach (perigee) occurred on the same day as the full moon.  This will occur for the next two months as well, and in August the moon becomes full in the same hour as it reaches perigee, making it the most super!
Moonrise over Bryant Island

Full Buck Moon

The Native American name for the full July moon is the Buck Moon, because July is the month when the antlers of the male White Tail deer start to emerge.  If you're looking for the next two super moons In August and September, remember that moon rise occurs around sunset.
The end of another perfect summer day on Lake Wicwas

(No bugs this week, RP!)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

July 6, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

There was a lot going on around Lake Wicwas this holiday weekend, both human and wild.  Of course, there were lots of boats on the water and fourth of July parties everywhere, but most exciting was that the loon chick has survived its first, critical week.  I have not seen it, but others have;  the parents have been giving it rides on their back (which also keeps it safe from ever-hungary predators, like large mouth bass and snapping turtles) and catching small fish to feed it.  I have no pictures, but here's one from a previous successful nesting on Wicwas.

The weather was pretty wild as hurricane Arthur passed to our east, bringing strong winds and whitecaps, but the family found safe harbor in one of the many protected coves around the lake.

On Sunday morning there was a loon parade, celebrating the fourth of July a little late, maybe postponed by the weather like the Meredith fireworks.  There was one leader - the drum major - way out in front, with five others following along.
Independence Day Parade on Lake Wicwas

I don't know what caused the parade behavior, but I again wonder if it has to do with distracting loons away from the new chick.  We are expecting to have a speaker from the Squam Lakes Science Center at the Lake Wicwas Association annual meeting on August 2nd - maybe we'll get some answers about all this interesting bird activity.

When one of the loons did a "foot-wag" it revealed an identification band put there to help track and understand loons.  I was not able to discern the colors well enough to identify the band - I could only see some green and perhaps some yellow - maybe we'll get another chance in the coming days.
A Fuzzy Leg Band
And speaking of bands, our proud new father received its own band just this week.  Late one night a group of biologists and local loon watchers carefully capture the male loon and placed a band on its leg.  This will let us see if the same pair has been returning to Lake Wicwas year after year.  They also made note of the bird's health and other key parameters.  He was set loose unharmed and was back with the family the next day.

Another diving bird has been living on Lake Wicwas:  a Cormorant.  You may see it perching high in a pine tree near the middle of the lake.  I found it resting on the end of a fallen tree one morning.

The warm weather has encouraged the mushrooms to grow.  These tiny Orange Mycenas had just emerged on a old rotting log.
Orange Mycena (Mycena leaiana)

These fungi start out their lives with this bright orange color, and then fade as they mature.  These were only half an inch in diameter, but can grow up to one and a half inches across.

They have some useful properties, including an orange pigment and a slight anti-bactierial property.  It is not considred edible, though I didn't find any evidence saying that it is poisonous.

Another mushroom growing now must not be poisonous, at least to chipmunks and squirrels!  This new sample didn't even to push its way clear of the forest debris before someone decided to feast on it.

A healthy meal for Chipmunk

And there was at least one other non-poisonous treat that got consumed immediately upon emerging:

There was nothing left of this by July 5th!