Sunday, November 29, 2015

November 29, 2015

It's a fun time to explore the woods around the lakes, seeing the daily changes taking place, or discovering secrets hid by the heavy foliage of summer or the cover of snow in winter. 

Heavy rain raised the lake eight inches above full level, at which point several boards were removed from the dam which started to lower the lake rapidly.  On a cold night ice froze again on the surface around shallow, protected areas (you saw on Thursday that the beaver pond on Arbutus Hill froze over).  But then the lake dropped, and thin sheets of ice were left stranded, hanging onto trees and shorelines, dangling in space in delicate formations.

Drops of water show they are fleeting creations

On the very same day that the beaver pond was frozen there were hollows deep in the woods that displayed the intense green of summer in moss-encircled pools.

Right along Chemung Road, the bare branches of an apple tree exposed withering red fruit, that a few weeks earlier was disguised by green leaves, against a crystal blue sky.
Apple Trees along Chemung Road

Then there are things left behind in the forest, such as pine cones abandonded by a red squirrel.

Or an old steel pail from unknown date and origin left by a human.

This was near some wetlands in the middle of nowhere - perhaps it was someone collecting blueberries when they were chased away by a bear.    ;-)

That reminds me - it's still too early to put out the bird feeders! 

One last item - seen in the Oakland Cemetery with the trees bare along Meredith Center Road:  dozens of American flags placed at the sites of veteran's graves.  A wonderful tribute to our veterans, and a reminder of just how many have served in protecting our country and our freedom.
Veterans recognized at Oakland Cemetery

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

An early entry this week - to mention just a few of the things for which I am thankful:

Water and light

Changing seasons
Red berries on a brisk November day

Ice on the beaver pond on November 24th


Peaceful moments - in a world that isn't always peaceful

Daniel Webster and the State House in Concord

New life

And most of all, family and friends.  

And that's you!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

November 22, 2015

A taste of cold weather descended upon Lake Wicwas, but only down to the low 20s.  Still, it was enough to be able to sense the cold, unforgiving side of winter establishing itself under my feet as I walked along the trails on top of the frozen first few millimeters of earth.  Instead of just the edges of tiny leaves, large swaths of ground became frosted and the most vulnerable portions of the lake had their first visit from Jack Frost.

This first ice formed in different structures than in previous years.  Usually they have fluid, swirling formations - like those in the film "Fantasia" - but this year they were arrow-straight, like shards of shattered glass locked into the otherwise smooth surface of the frozen lake reflecting the glow of the morning sun.

I spent a couple of hours this week working in the Page Pond Conservation Area with the Meredith Conservation Commission Tuesday Trail Crew.  They are a great group of volunteers, dedicated to keeping the many trails throughout Meredith in pristine condition.
Part of the Tuesday Trail Crew
Recently they have been preparing for renovation work on the Page Pond dam which is going to receive some much needed repairs.  It is actually in remarkably good condition considering it's had no care in many decades - a testament to the quality of the work done almost two centuries ago, being built around 1830 [Ref:  Daniel Heyduk, "Page Pond and Forest - A History and Guide"].   But there were trees that were pushing roots into the dam, and the top of the embankment is starting to sink. 

Cutting trees that had grown into the top of the dam over many years

The top of the dam, cleared and ready for repair (note the low spot on this side of the sluice way)
If you haven't seen this impressive structure you should definitely go visit;  it can be accessed from either the Quarry Rd Entrance near Moulton Farm, or by the Blueberry Hill Entrance.   Click here to see the trail map and access points.  It is identified on the map as the Page Pond Mill.

The sluice way where the mill was powered

Back on a hike in my own neighborhood, I came upon this road block right across the Blue Trail in the Hamlin-Eames-Smyth conservation area.

It looks like a healthy beech tree, but the point where it broke off in the strong winds this week reveals that insects had been weakening it for some time, and the pileated woodpeckers had decimated the trunk going after them.

It's great to know that the Tuesday Trail crew will be along soon to clear it away.  Imagine how the trails would be without constant attention - it's a never-ending labor of love for the land.

Lastly, another landmark on Lake Wicwas is gone.  Long time residents of Lake Wicwas will remember the Munch family who built one of the first four houses on Wicwood Shores Road over 50 years ago.  Work has been rapid, with the old house completely gone and a new foundation already in place.

Two of those first four houses have now been torn down (the first being the Ruprecht's), leaving the Linn camp and the second Hamlin camp - the first was destroyed by fire - as the longest standing homes on that side of the lake.  It will be fun to see what rises up!

And quite literally, as I write, this is what the November sky has to offer Lake Wicwas.
Sunday's weather clearing out

Sunday, November 15, 2015

November 15, 2015

Winter is being very gentle this year, approaching in a kind and mild manner.  No October snow storms, no real cold weather yet, in fact it has been relatively warm.  The smallest elements freeze first on those early cool nights when when the mercury falls below zero centigrade - tiny bits of dew and condensate that collect on leaves on the ground in open areas exposed to radiational cooling.

The few remaining leaves still on their plants also get some garland from mother nature.

Beautiful crystal formations
With most of the leaves having abandoned their trees, exposed branches reveal hidden treasures, such as this bird nest left over from last spring's breeding season.

I walked by it a hundred times and never saw the clandestine residence.  I don't know what bird made this nest, but probably not a robin (too messy) or a chickadee (too large).  Maybe a thrush?  They were in the vicinity this spring.

I saw signs of deer rutting in a concentrated area near the lake, so I set out my camera to see if I could catch a picture of a buck - I have never caught one with antlers.  And sure enough, one made an appearance in just a few days.

And about an hour later, a doe.

Mating season for White-tail deer in New Hampshire takes place in late November, followed by a 201-day gestation period, resulting in fawns born in early June. 

I got a second picture of a buck - I don't know if it's the same one, but it looks to have a bigger set of antlers.  One of the points is broken off - perhaps it has been fighting over territory and females with another buck.  Look at the size of its neck! 
I wonder if this buck sired the fawn I saw back on August 2nd.  

Male deer grow new antlers ever year in late summer;  the size of the antlers being predominantly a function of their food source - abundant food develops larger antlers.  By January the antlers will have fallen off and become a desirable food source for small rodents, an unusual twist in the food chain.

Male deer become aggressive during mating season, losing much of their usual caution - much to the benefit of hunters - and is why relatively more bucks than does are taken each year.

These deer were walking along the trail just before a beautiful sunrise, when hunting can commence, (rifle season started on Wednesday), so don't tell the hunters!  ; )       And wear your orange!
Sunlight illuminating the clouds five minutes before sunrise

Sunday, November 8, 2015

November 8, 2015

It was nice to get home and find some New Hampshire color still in the trees, even if it's the late colors of copper oak and burnt-orange beech.  After a few weeks in the desert it is rejuvenating to return to the warmth of trees and water. 

Beech trees glowing brightly in the autumn sunlight

Lake Wicwas is so peaceful this time of year - on a calm day the entire lake can be a reflection of the world for hours at a time with nary a boat to make a ripple.
Which side is up?

All week I saw just one boat, though there are still a few hardy souls on the lake hanging on to every last minute of wonderful late-fall weather.
Ready for 70 degree days in November

I took a paddle this week on one of those warm, calm days;  New Hampshire can be simply radiant in November.

I saw no wildlife on my trip - no loons, heron, osprey or beaver, though signs of beaver are all along the shore where they have built scent piles to mark their territory.  Many of our summer birds have left for warmer climes;  soon the Canadian birds will make their appearance, stopping for rest and nourishment on their travels southward.

I did see a group of geese and a pair of mallards later in the week.

The mallards were scooping up some tasty bugs that had recently hatched out on surface of the lake.  They were scooting along with their beaks in the water acting like vacuums, just slurping up dozens of those tiny, nutritious morsels.

Back on May 17 I posted pictures of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker visiting the lake, and mentioned how it drills holes in trees to let the sap leak out - which it then eats, as well as any insects that get caught in the sticky sap.  This week with the trees bare and better visibility into the woods, I found evidence of its work this summer:  lines of tiny holes drilled into this hemlock tree.

Some of the holes have dried-up globs of sap in them.

Yesterday we spent a few hours up on Arbutus hill pressing cider from this year's bountiful apple crop, cutting, chopping, and pressing a custom blend of McIntosh, Cortland and Russet apples.
Cutting the apples - the first step (after pruning, spraying, picking, washing....)
Filling the chopper
Pressing - then poured into jugs through a sieve
It was quite an experience - hard work, but time well spent with good friends, and the result was truly special - better than anything you can buy.  Thanks for the experience!

Life ... water ... trees  -  and friends.     It is good to be back at the lake.
Sunrise again over Lake Wicwas