Sunday, March 19, 2017

March 19, 2017

Winter has received a generous extension from mother nature in the form of a mid-March storm, and what a storm it was, the biggest of the season.  14 to 19 inches of snow fell in the Lakes Region, accompanied by strong winds out of the northeast which left tens of thousands of people in New Hampshire without power.  Parts of Moultonborough and Center Harbor were without power for days, at least 400 of whom were still not restored as of yesterday.  This video shows some of the damage in Moultonborough along route 109 (courtesy of Sue Mangers and Sheila Adams.)  Fortunately Meredith seemed to be shielded from the worst of the winds and suffered mostly minor outages.

This snow layered on top of that remaining from prior storms pretty much buried all the undergrowth and formed large drifts where the wind blew the snow across the lake, dumping it on the western shores.
Blueberries and mountain laurel are buried
The ground here grades smoothly to the shore - that mound on the right is all snow

I took a short snowshoe trip the day after the storm to see who had been out and about, and I found a treasure trove of animal tracks.  I first came across the tracks of a coyote bounding along through the deep snow.
Coyote Trail
 A bit later I saw this sign:
A mark dropped, not sprayed

Those of you who saw the bobcat post on February 19th will know that I'm guessing this sign in the middle of its track makes me think this was a female coyote.

The most prevalent tracks I saw were from weasels - they were everywhere.

A pair of weasels traveling along the trail
Weasel prints

I didn't follow any of these tracks, rather they just kept crossing the trail, often following right along the trail for long sections, sometimes revealing the appearance of a pair traveling together (weasels tend to remain as a pair throughout the year).

Here one of them dug down into a hole to look for a mouse, their favorite food, though they will take any other small animal they can find - they are ferocious predators. 
It looks like it came up empty
At one point the trails of predator and prey coincided.
A mouse preceded the weasel here

I know that otters love to slide along on their bellies in the snow, but this was the first time I had seen such activity by a weasel.
Weasel slides

I was intrigued by the marks on either side of the main slide which look like perhaps their feet drag along beside their body.  As we'll see in a moment, this is not nearly so evident in otter slides.

In one area I think there was a set of bobcat tracks following along beside our weasels.

Bobcat on the left?

Not much farther along there appeared the tracks of the much larger River Otter, the size difference perhaps not evident in pictures but striking in comparison to the weasel.
The much larger otter slide

They are certainly fun-loving creatures, even creating their own roller coasters complete with twists and turns.
Otter roller coaster

Note there is no evident foot drag beside the belly slide of the otter.

Coyote, bobcat, weasel, otter - all of these animals were present within just a half-mile stretch of trail near the lake.  It makes me appreciate what is meant by a "co-occurrence" area and why it's so important to protect these special places.

This last storm put us over the average snow fall for New Hampshire and will keep winter activities in good shape for some time. What a difference a year makes:  today, the lake is in full winter dress.
March 18, 2017

While last year at this time we thinking about fishing, boating, and swimming.
March 18, 2016

The warm winter of 2015-2016 gave us the shortest ice season ever, with ice out on March 18th.  This year it's looking like we'll be much closer to our typical date around April 15th.  Only time will tell.  Spring arrives tomorrow!