Sunday, May 31, 2015

May 31, 2015

Oh, the first hot summer nights of the year!  Those nights when the windows stay open and the music of the night fills the house.  Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Sarah Brightman portray it well:

Slowly, gently, night unfurls its splendor
Grasp it, sense it, tremulous and tender 
(Click to listen)    

Add the scent of summer rain wafting in the open windows from an evening thunderstorm and the light of a half-moon shining through open blinds, and it is enchanting.

The performance begins well before sunset when the Tree Frog sings the prelude;  one soloist starts, and within seconds, dozens (maybe hundreds) of frog calls are resonating across the lake.

By the time darkness sets in the full complement of voices has joined the fray.  The long, loud call of the American Toad is distinctive as it carries over great distances.  Later at night the Bull Frog adds its resounding bass line.  (Hint - each of the above are links to their respective call - if you click them all at once you'll get an idea of what it sounds like on a hot summer night!)

On top of all this amphibious racket, the hollow call of the loon can be heard lofting from unknown stations on the lake.  I wonder if they have established a nest at this point.  Sometimes the Barred Owl joins into the chorus, but it was absent this week;  perhaps is it on tour, serenading another audience around the lake.

When the sun rose the next morning and sent the nocturnal animals to bed, plenty of daytime life became apparent around the lake, including a couple of large birds.  A female merganser has been on the lake much later than usual;  one day it decided our dock was the perfect resting place.

 After a nap and a yawn,

it was on its way.

On a warm summer afternoon, looking for a cooler spot, I took a run along the Red Trail that passes behind Crockett's Ledge west of Lake Wicwas, and saw that the Meredith Conservation Committee has been working to ensure the trails are kept in good condition, and that soil erosion will be controlled - they had installed several water-bars along the trail.
Erosion control on the Red Trail

These were made on-site using Cedar trees harvested right in the area;  they help prevent water from rushing straight down the trail, washing the path out and sending soil and silt into the lake.  A great thank-you to all those who work so hard so that we can enjoy the wonderful natural areas they protect, resplendent with natural beauty:

Lady Slippers along the trail approaching the White Mountain Ledge

As of today, the summer weather has taken a vacation, but it will return soon enough, bringing more nocturnal entertainment.  Maybe next time I'll hear the howl of coyotes in the night.
The coyotes are losing their warm winter coats

Listen to the music of the night

Sunday, May 24, 2015

May 24, 2015

Who's hiding in the woods beside the the lake?

Is anyone there?
Camouflage is a wonder of evolution.  Whether it's the bark-colored skin of the gray tree frog, or the mottled plumage on a wood thrush, camouflage has enabled countless species to flourish, often right in the presence of their most feared predators. The white tailed deer in the picture above is a great example.  I would never have seen this large animal - even though I knew it was in the area, having earlier seen it drinking from the lake - if it had not bounded off in a display of crunching hooves and waving white flag.  Let's zoom in a bit.
There it is

I was enjoying my last serene morning walk before the mosquitoes alter the experience - the first few were out.  So I was walking slowly and quietly, certain to make it a long, peaceful walk.  I'm sure the deer was watching me long before it revealed itself.
Who's watching whom?

Deer, although cautious and quick to flee, are also very curious animals.  When they detect motion that is not clearly threatening, they will wait and observe for a long time to determine what the source is, friend or foe.

I didn't know it was there until it bounded off a few strides, and then stopped to watch me again through the trees - that's when I was able to get a look at it, and vice versa.  It moved around a bit, stomping its front hoof a few times, trying to elicit a reaction from me.
Hoof Stomping

Eventually it decided I was not another deer, and it went on its way, gracefully, silently, simply disappearing into the forest.

More of our summer birds are returning to the lake now, including the Red-eyed Vireo, returning from the Amazon basin.

Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus)
You will hear this bird singing endlessly on warm summer days:  "cherup, cheroop, here I am, there I go".  And picking caterpillars from the trees.

It is a beautiful time to be in New Hampshire (even with the mosquitoes).
Lilacs along Camp Waldron Road

Sunday, May 17, 2015

May 17, 2015

The parade of spring wildflowers continues its march across the New Hampshire landscape, with new shapes and colors being presented every day.  My all-time favorite show, the Painted Trillium, went on display this week and will be on tour for the next week or two.
Painted Trillium

Some of the tiniest flowers are hitting their stride now, some of them blue, some white, and some that can't make up thier minds.  One might expect the Bluet to be blue as it name suggests;  I find they are more commonly white. 

Another entrant in the parade is the Goldthread, a miniature white flower on a single, threadlike stalk.

And there are both white violets (oxymoron?) and violet violets (redundant?) performing, mostly in sunny, exposed areas.

A taller shrub, the Swamp Azalea, has it's white, trumpet blossoms ringing out high above the ground-level performers.  This is a new plant that I just discovered right behind our house.
Swamp Azalea (Rhododendron viscosum)

These flowers have a touch of red in them, completing the patriotic theme.

The spiders have come out to watch the parade;  they have the fortunate ability to build their own viewing stands well above the crowds, giving them an excellent birds-eye view of the spectacle. 
Watching the parade from its front doorstep

Spiders will construct their webs in the same location every day if they find a productive spot.  But if the web gets taken down two or three days in row - as happens when they build a web across a deer trail (or by my face when they build on a hiking trail), they will wisely (and thankfully) move on to a new location. 

I also was treated to a new bird sighting this week, a woodpecker I've long know the name of but have never seen - the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. 

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)

This bird may have been the original maple sap farmer.  It drills shallow holes in trees to let the sap flow out, and then collects the sap with its tongue.  It will also eat the insects that get stuck in the sap.  I have heard the drumming of this bird lately, and will look to see if I can find any of the tell-tale shallow holes drilled into trees with sap running out.  These are much different from the large cavities the pileated woodpecker makes in its search for ants.

It's yellow belly is clearly evident;  this bird is a female, as it doesn't have the red spot under its neck that a male sapsucker has. 

I have spotted the Osprey several times the past couple of weeks, so it appears it has put Lake Wicwas on its parade route again this year as well.
Osprey over Sheep Island

Sunday, May 10, 2015

May 10, 2015

Spring is popping out everywhere around the lake now;  the big event this week has been the trees going into bloom, as anyone with spring allergies will be able to tell you.  The thousands of flowers on every tree give an indication of just how much pollen can be disbursed into the air.  Look at the long flowers on the birch trees, each with gobs of pollen in them.
Birch tree in bloom

Some trees, such as the Service Berry (Shadbush) and the Hobblebush Viburnum, have much more noticeable flowers, providing cheery blossoms for mother's day.
Shadbush (Downy Serviceberry)

Hobblebush Viburnum

It's amazing how reliable the flowering of some of these trees are.  Even with the long winter and late spring the shadbush - so named because it flowers when the shad (used to) run in the rivers - are blooming within two days of their usual date. 

The maples trees are getting to ready to release their seeds in the form of miniature helicopters that will spiral with the wind in search of fertile ground many yards away from the tree that bore them.

These will soon be providing a feast for the chipmunks, fattening them up for the hawks and foxes.

Speaking of hawks, this week I spotted a much larger bird flying amongst the tops of the maple trees - a Broad-winged Hawk.

It landed in a tree right over me, giving a quick glimpse of it from below before returning to flight.
Broad-winged Hawk

Another amphibian was out this week, enjoying the nice weather and sunning itself right on the deck. 
Gray Tree Frog (Hyla versicolor)

The Gray Tree Frog is well camouflaged for its normal habitat in the trees;  it rarely descend to the ground except to breed, which it does in both vernal pools as well as permanent ponds without fish.  It does break its cover when it hops, flashing bright yellow spots on the inside of its legs.

A reminder if you're out enjoying nature:  the tics are plentiful this year.  They like to hang out on the edges of grasses and leaves, extending their legs with a glob of sticky goo on the end to instantly attach to anything that brushes against them.
Wood Tic
To not leave you with that vision, I did see a merganser this week.  Our good friends on the lake (who treated us to fresh-caught salmon straight from Lake Winnepesaukee and home grown rhubarb pie!) saw a dozen or so mergansers fishing by the outlet.  So I guess they are still passing through the Lakes Region.   Be sure to note the fish in its beak!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

May 3, 2015

The activity level is accelerating rapidly around the lake now that spring is finally arriving.  I found my first wildflower of 2015, a Mayflower (Trailing Arbutus) up on Crockett's Ledge.
Trailing Arbutus (Mayflower - Epigaea repens)

It was at the edge of the woods on the ledge where it enjoys lots of sun, which must explain why it was a few days early, arriving on April 28th!

The second wildflower I saw was a new one for me, a Coltsfoot. 
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

This member of the aster family is a pretty hardy plant, as there are dozens of them pushing up through the sand plowed up all winter long on the edge of Wicwood Shores Rd. 

At first I thought they were dandelions, but unlike dandelions, the coltsfoot displays its blossoms first; the leaves come later.

Higher up off the ground, the Red Maples are really showing their colors now. 
Red Maple Buds

And flitting around in the tops of those maples have been large flocks of an early spring arrival, the Yellow-rumped Warbler.
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata)

These hyperactive creatures are constantly hopping from branch to branch, darting out to catch a bug, and back again.  They barely sit in one spot long enough to snap a picture!

I'm thrilled to see so many of them, making an early dent in the bug population, and yes, they really do snatch those nasty buggers right of the air!
Locked on and going in for the kill

In the other direction, down at lake level, the beavers are going great-guns too. 
An evening swim in the rain

They are swimming in the lake every evening, and are already depositing branches along the top of the dam, trying to curtail outflow from the lake.  They are piling mud and debris all over the shore line, and bare sticks, left behind after being gnawed clean of every last bit of bark and cambium, adorn the lake bottom.

Ringed-neck duck and beaver enjoying a rainy evening together

One evening this beaver was sharing its cove with a solitary Ring-necked duck. 

When they detect me on the shore - which they always do - they let me know their displeasure with a loud smack of their tail on the water. 
Beaver Alert
Click the video:

Oh, and let's not miss one of the greatest sounds of spring and summer - the Spring Peepers!

(Yes, those are also raindrops you hear.)

One final note:  the Meredith sculpture walk is about to be updated.  If you haven't seen all these great works of art, including three by Meredith's own Steve Hayden (one of which is the iconic sailboat in scenic park) you should do so soon. 
"Black Sailboat" by David Little & Steven Hayden

Fred Huntress was in town this week starting to make spaces for new creations.  There's not much time left to get one more look!
Fred Huntress and "Railing Sleeper Bear Club" by artist Justin Gordon