Sunday, November 27, 2016

November 27, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

New England weather sure does keep one agile.  One day you're out kayaking, watching mink in the warm sun and two days later you're shoveling snow.  Well, maybe not shoveling, but at least brushing it off your car.

The day before it was cold and clear;  from the south end of Lake Wicwas I could see that it had already snowed in the mountains to the north of the lake.
Sandwich Dome in the center and Whiteface snow-covered on the right
And then on Thanksgiving we received another light blanket of early snow.

Snowflakes that form in the warmer weather don't have the symmetrical shapes of the classic Christmas card image, but rather take on a more rounded appearance due to their partial melting and refreezing on their trip to the ground.
Snow crystals melted and re-frozen and all balled up together

It has been cold enough for the beaver ponds to start to freeze up as well.
Beaver Pond in the Hamlin Conservation Area

And there has been a little ice on the lake in some sheltered marshes, with the storm spreading frosting on the beaver lodges.

There is no ice forming on the lake itself yet, so we're in that narrow window when snow on the land stands out against the open, reflecting water.

 With this stretch of cold weather we put one bird feeder out a bit earlier than usual and immediately attracted the usual range of visitors, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and of course, chick-a-dees.

But around here we could be back to 60 degrees any day so we are on guard to recall the bird feeder at a moments notice to stay ahead of the bears, who are just as agile as the New England weather!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

November 20, 2016 - Mink

The weather was so nice this week I had to get out on the lake for one more paddle, most likely my last voyage of the year.  And there were a lot of others out enjoying a warm, serene day on Lake Wicwas, starting with a pair of Hooded Mergansers floating along beside the now-brown marsh grass.
A pair of hooded mergansers on their way south

There were lots of other ducks on and above the lake, including this male mallard that flew overhead.
A mallard that evaded the hunters

I didn't see any loons, and having not heard them for the past two weeks, I'm assuming they have left for their winter fishing grounds on the Atlantic coast.  Of course, the Canada Geese are still here.
Just two of many geese still on the lake

They are the first water fowl to arrive and the last to leave;  I counted over 20 still on the lake.

But the highlight of the day began when I noticed a little splashing near the shoreline and stopped to watch.  Soon enough a little wet creature popped up out of the lake onto a rocky ledge.
Who is this emerging from the lake?

After a quick glance my way

he (she?) gave itself a good shake to dry off,

and a beautiful mink appeared.

Another look my way, and he decided to jump back in the lake.

As I paddled along toward home I kept hearing rustling in the dry leaves up on shore, and knew my friend was taking an upland route to search for chipmunks or other tasty morsels to surprise.  All along the cove he went, back and forth, down in the water, swimming near the shore looking for aquatic life,
Searching for frogs, crayfish or snakes under the bank

then up onto land again looking for mammals.
He knew I was watching
Who's watching whom?

but didn't appear too alarmed and continued along on his way.  Mink are quick animals, rarely stopping for more than a moment.  I got my best look at him when he ran across an open spot at someone's beach.

This experience with one of nature's more elusive animals will surely be one of my most memorable wildlife moments.  It never ceases to amaze me what diversity of life is sustained by the wonderfully preserved riparian habitat surrounding the lakes in central New Hampshire.  The generosity of so many people who have helped to preserve our natural treasures can never be thanked enough.
One more beautiful spot soon to be preserved forever

Sunday, November 13, 2016

November 13 - Hide and Seek

An interesting old tree with a couple of inviting woodpecker holes caught my eye as I walked by on a mid-morning walk, so I stopped to take a closer look.  As I was contemplating the unusual intersection of trunk and limb, interspersed with the woodpecker holes, someone poked its head out to return my stare.
Who's out there?!

For the next eight minutes I stood motionless, the two of us sizing each other up. First the little chipmunk stayed perfectly still while it assessed the situation.

Then it climbed up the inside of the hollow tree

and stuck its head out the secret back door to see if the coast was clear on that side.

Not comfortable with what it found, it went back and forth on the spiral staircase a few times looking for a safe escape route.
Love that tail!

I was waiting for it go up to the attic and look out the third-story porthole, but it didn't oblige me this move.  Eventually it became bold enough to climb out the front door.

And finally exited its safe haven and in an instant was down the tree, running along the ground, and off to another hideaway.

The chipmunk had won this game of hide and seek, but had I been an owl, a hawk, or a fox, I wonder if it would have fared so well.

When I wasn't playing hide and seek I was enjoying another beautiful November week at the lake.  Even as the plants fade away for the winter
Goldenrod gone to seed

new beauty is revealed in the void.
Pretty, but sadly, this is an invasive species, Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii)

And then there are some who just refuse to let go.

It reminds of Peanuts, and Linus waiting for the final leaf to fall.

And walking one afternoon I had the sense that something was watching me, and discovered that someone else was playing hide and seek.

Tonight is the full Beaver Moon - perhaps we'll get a peek at it.

Update:  And here it is, the full Beaver Moon:

P.S.  The picture at the top of the blog is a scene that appeared one cloudy morning this week when the sun broke through a tiny hole in clouds and illuminated the far shore for about 30 seconds before closing up again.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

November 6, 2016

It's here, November - that transition month when it's not really autumn anymore and winter still seems to be off in the future.  But mother nature provides a warning against complacency:  on November first I saw my first ice.
Ice on the beaver pond in Meredith's Page Pond Conservation Area

Then on the second day of November, as if on cue, the first of the migrants from Canada appeared, a lone Hooded Merganser.
A lone merganser cruises the lake

With a little luck we will see more of these pretty ducks over the course of the month. 

I also caught a little Song Sparrow picking seeds from the fall grasses.

A song sparrow rests in a cherry tree
November is a month of variation.  We can count on a couple of beautifully warm, sunny days (there were kayakers on Lake Wicwas this week),

as well as some cold, gray days.

A classic November view from Chemung Road

Early in the week the blueberries were shining brightly, but by today, they are all but gone by.
Blueberry and huckleberry's fall glory

This month of transition provides a nice display of various habitats at different locations on this south-facing hill.

The top of the hill is populated almost exclusively with white pine.  The center elevations are predominantly filled with the copper and dark orange indicative of oak.  Then at the bottom of the hill, where the ground is low and probably the wettest, are the bare branches of the maple trees.  In the uniform green of summer this differentiation goes unnoticed.

Some leaves will hang on right through the month, providing a little diversion from November drabness. 
But even though a few bright colors are still hanging in there, most of the remnants of fall are now scattered on the ground.
Over the next four weeks these will change to brown and gray, along with the weather, as November transitions, unforgivingly, towards winter.