Sunday, July 26, 2015

July 26, 2015

I didn't get to see the loon chicks this week, but Amy Wilson, an outstanding photographer and local resident sent me some fabulous pictures.  (You can see her work here).  Below are just a few of her photographs - if you want to see more, and hear more about the Loons of Wicwas, come to the annual Lake Wicwas Association this Saturday, August 1st, at 9:30 am in the Wicwas Grange in Meredith Center.  In addition to updates on the lake water quality and recent conservation efforts around the lake, there will be a short presentation on Lake Wicwas's loons, including this year's nesting activities.  I hope to see you there!   (All photos by Amy Wilson.)

Mom!  I'm hungry!

Dear, won't you please get Liberty something to eat?

C'mon dad - what am I going to do with that?

That's more like it!
Full bellies make a happy family
See you on Saturday (there will be food!)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

July 19, 2015 - Scarlet Tanager

We have had the most stunning bird loitering around our house for the past several weeks:  a Scarlet Tanager.  It is amazing how well a such brilliantly colored bird can melt into its surroundings. 

Scarlet Tanager
It spends its time up in the canopy of oaks and maples, sometimes in the blueberry bushes, picking succulent, protein laden worms and caterpillars off the leaves.  Only when it takes a short flight from tree to tree does it becomes visible for a moment.  As soon as lands, his bright red form most often just disappears in the mass of verdant leaves.

During its residence here for over three weeks I have only been able to get a couple of really good looks at it, and those were fleeting.

I was surprised it spent so much time in a small location, then Friday revealed more of the story.  I was picking a few blueberries near the shore when it winged right over my head, only a few feet away.  I then became aware of a lot of persistent calling from a tree very near me - it was quiet, yet continued without pause in a very insistent manner.  A small fluttering motion caught my eye, and right above me sat a tiny puffball of feathers, white and yellow, rather ragged looking, and the explanation for the resident tanager became clear:  it has a nest in the area and its young had just hatched out.
Newly Hatched Scarlet Tanager Chick

The adults were calling it quietly yet firmly and I watched the chick as it made a couple of feeble flights from one branch to another, each flight becoming a bit more confident and adept than the previous.  The male kept flying in with food for the chick, usually big worms pulled off the leaves, which it devoured happily. 

I never did see the female, which made me wonder if it was off nursing another chick, or perhaps still on the nest.  I doubt I will ever find the nest even though it must be close by;  they are small and built in well hidden locations.  That was only two days ago, but I haven't seem them since - now they are probably moving on around the lake.  Keep your eye out for a happy family of beautiful birds!

Of course, the tanager chick isn't the only new bird on the lake - the two loon chicks are both well and growing rapidly. 
Freedom and Liberty with Mom

Thirteen days old

The family is venturing far and wide around the lake now;  one evening they were all the way down at the far end of the lake, giving Freedom and Liberty a tour of Lake Wicwas during a peaceful sunset cruise. 
A Sunset Cruise

Later in the week we saw mom working diligently to catch fish for the chicks, who seemed to be sharing well - no fighting when she came up with a fish;  they seemed to know who's turn it was. 

We knew it was mom because we saw the band when she did a foot wag.
The aqua-colored band is barely visible on mom's leg

But there was no sign of dad anywhere - until we headed back to Marion Cove.  There has a been a single rogue loon spending a lot time in this cove all summer, and it appeared to me that Freedom and Liberty's dad was standing guard, making sure the rogue didn't leave the cove and threaten the kids.  He was keeping a close eye on it, watching under water whenever it dove.  Then on one dive, dad took off on a wild, fast, splashing, wing-swimming dash to the mouth of the cove. 
Stay away from my family!

It sprinted a couple of hundred yards, stopping at the narrowest part of the cove entrance.  My guess:  it went to blockade the cove to make sure the other loon didn't get out while mom was distracted with her fishing endeavors.  It was quite a show. 

Another unexpected moment gave me a second show, as well as a startle.  I picked my grill cover up where I had left it overnight to dry, and out flew a large creature - I jumped back, my first reaction was, what is a bird doing in there?  The next thought was no, it's shaped like a bat, as it fluttered slowly around me.  But then I settled down and took at good look at it, and saw it was Polyphemus Moth, a member of the Giant Silk Moth family.  It flitted around a bit, and then vanished into the shadows of a dense hemlock tree in search of a dark spot to resume its daytime slumber.  Like most moths, the polyphemus is a nocturnal animal, and it had selected my black grill cover as good spot to hide from the bright summer sun.  No chance for a photo, but here is picture taken by photographer Stephen Lody.
Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus) - photo by Stephen Lody Photography
Adult polyphemus moths have wing spans of six inches, and the caterpillar grows to be three to four inches long and as big around as your finger - that would be a feast for the Scarlet Tanager that would feed the chicks for a week!  But alas, all the parents around Lake Wicwas must work tirelessly in the upbringing of their young.  It's nice to think they also take some time to relax now and then, and enjoy the beautiful surroundings in which they live.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

July 12, 2015

What a great weekend to be in New Hampshire - a few beautiful, hot, summer days, just the way it should be in July.  It was a bit hazy, but not too humid when we took a short hike up Lockes Hill, right off of route 11 in Gilford. 

It's a nice easy hike, less than two miles and only a few hundred feet of vertical, but there are nice views of Winnipesaukee, blueberries at the summit, and a neat set of rock-in chairs along the trail called the "Lake View" trail.
Lake Winnipesaukee from Lockes Hill

A dozen chairs made of NH granite - with a view!
One other great feature - you drive right by Sawyers Dairy Bar on the way home.  You always need ice cream after a good walk!

I didn't have any more loon chick sightings since my post on Thursday, but I had reports today that both Liberty and Freedom are still doing well.  The parents are even leaving them alone on the surface while both adults dive for food.  It must be a challenge finding enough tiny minnows to feed two growing chicks.

The blueberries around Lake Wicwas are ripening now, and the birds and chipmunks are feasting happily on them.  I was surprised to see the birds are also eating the black cherries while they are still completely green.  They are picking off every last cherry long before they have any chance to ripen.
Black Cherry trees picked clean of their fruit

There won't be any cherries left for the bear this year. 

This week I was greeted by several amphibians near the lake.  This Pickerel Frog met me two mornings in a row right in the same spot. 

It must be a hot location for insect catching.

This American Toad was lying in wait for its breakfast to wander by its hiding spot beside a stone wall.

With apologies to the more squeamish viewers, the hot weather brings larger and more interesting insects.  Grasshoppers are abundant and growing bigger by the day.

Soon they'll be as big as your finger.  And spiders are popping up everywhere.

I'm sure none of these summer creatures will mind if we are treated to a lot more hot, humid, serene summer mornings;  I know I won't mind!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Loon Chicks

Freedom and Liberty appear to be doing well - I saw them both out on the lake today.  Long distance pictures aren't very good, but they clearly show two little chicks!

And here are a couple more pictures from July 5th, only one day old.

Mom offers her wing for a safe harbor:

Dad is only stretching here;  he wouldn't attract this much attention if he felt any danger.  But if you see an adult acting like this away from the chicks it means it feels danger and is trying to attract you away from the chicks. 

They sure look little out floating in the middle of the lake!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

July 5, 2015

Happy Independence Day!  And thank you to all veterans who have ensured our independence for these 239 years.

This was a weekend for the people.  A record 900,000 people were projected to travel to the Granite State to enjoy our mountains, shoreline, and lakes, and those recreating at Lake Wicwas had a great weekend, even with a touch of rain on the fourth.  There were boats of all shapes, sizes, and propulsion.  There were power boats,

pontoon boats,

sailboats having a mini regatta,

and tubers, skiers, and boarders.

There were boats with dogs,

and islands with dogs.

There were kayaks,

fishing boats,

- even steamboats!

And most importantly, everyone was having a good time!

So this was a weekend for the people of our country.  But a Lake Wicwas blog wouldn't be complete without a bit of nature, and this weekend we had a big event on the lake - the appearance of twin loon chicks, born on the fourth of July!  In honor of the Independence day hatching, I look the liberty (no pun intended) to name them.  Here are Lake Wicwas' newest residents, Freedom and Liberty.
Freedom and Liberty on the day they hatched - the fourth of July  (Photo credit:  Marge Thorpe)
 And here they are today:

Mom looks a little tired, taking a snooze after four weeks of strenuous nest sitting and doing all that worrying.  (The loons should know better than to hatch their eggs on the busiest weekend of the year.)  But so far, everything looks good. 
Hitching a ride (and being protected from snapping turtles and large mouth bass)

This week I hope to post a few more pictures of our new neighbors. 

On the way back from the morning kayak I caught a Great Blue Heron flying overhead.

And watched it land high in a pine tree where it sat for a long time perusing the water for a good fishing spot.

A great Independence Day weekend ended with natures own fireworks on Sunday night, aided by humidity and some smoke blowing in from Canada.