Sunday, March 20, 2016

March 20, 2016

If you saw Friday's post you know that the ice went out of Lake Wicwas on March 18, the earliest date ever, by three days according to my notes.  Lakes Winnipesaukee and Sunapee also went out on the same day.  The last spot on Lake Wicwas to clear out was the boat ramp, as the northwest wind blew the remaining ice down into that cove.
Friday, March 18 - The last of this short winter's ice

It's quite a change from last year - remember what the lake looked like in March 2015?
March 21, 2015 - A much different look three days later than this year's ice-out
With the ice gone from the lake the migratory birds started appearing immediately.  Of course the geese arrived even before the ice was out, walking around on top of the ice as usual.  But there were sightings of loons on the lake right on the 18th, as well as several of the other usual early spring visitors.  The first to appear was the pair of wood ducks looking for a nest in their favorite spot.
Male Wood Duck
Soon a pair of Hooder Mergansers stopped by for some fishing to nourish them for their travel farther north.
Male Hooded Merganser
 It's cool that they can raise and lower their hood!
A pair of Ring-necked ducks made an appearance also.

They didn't hang around long, but their departure showed their distinctive markings on their wings and bodies.

Finally, a threesome of Common Mergansers came by, two males and one female.  The female had chosen her mate, but the jilted male continued to pursue the pair, with the female occasionally chasing it away - I would have guessed the male would have done that.  Following behind her chosen one, the female swam for a long distance in very strange position - perhaps showing her submission?
Common Mergansers

The trails are all cleared of snow now so we should have several weeks of great hiking before the bugs make their appearance.  It's a great time to be out in the woods with the visibility so much greater than when the leaves are on the trees blocking the sight lines.  In one large melt puddle that collected in a depression I saw large masses of debris floating on the surface.

Closer inspection revealed there was actually some kind of life flourishing there.
Countless numbers of emerging creatures

And even closer inspection told us they were snow fleas! (Linda guessed it!)
Snow Fleas!

We saw these on the snow a few weeks ago and now I know where and how they develop.  It appears that they hatch out as a pink color, then change rapidly to orange, then on to their mature black color. 
Transitioning from larvae to adults

Based on their inefficient mode of transportation (see February 28 post) I wonder how they manage to get from their hatching puddles to become so well distributed throughout the forest.

Even after a short winter it is a beautiful sight to behold the sun reflecting off liquid water rather than ice.  I can't wait to discover what wonders the lake will reveal to us this year.

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