Sunday, April 9, 2017

April 9, 2017

Spring sure it taking its own sweet time to arrive in New England this year.  Right now there are still 20 inches of ice out there - no joke, I checked.  The ice was clearly sound enough to support me, so I took the auger and cut a hole about 30 feet from shore.  Even subtracting the top 4 inches which, though strong enough to support my weight, was soft enough that I could remove it with a sharp shovel, still left 16 inches of good solid ice.  Progress towards ice-out has been hindered by the recent snow falls, including another light storm on April 5th.
Yet another April snow
Last week I saw the first geese and ducks, and this week more have  arrived, as well as the first of the great blue herons.  I didn't get any pictures but on a run down Chemung Road I did flush out a heron that was fishing in a tiny spot of open water where Lake Wicwas comes close to Chemung Road.
Just enough open water for the heron to hunt for food
And the geese - I always think this is a ridiculous sight:
Canada geese taking a stroll on the ice
It seems like they are looking around at each other asking, "why are we here when it's still warm in South Carolina?"

We have had enough warm days to get the sap flowing, and buckets are hung on sugar maples all around the Lakes Region.  This is the scene beside the Lakeland School.
Syrup being collected beside Lakeland School
Plastic tubing and buckets appeared at the school for the first time time this year;  last year they still used the system of spiles (metal taps put into the holes drilled in the trees) and metal pails hung on the spiles.
Metal pails (and no snow), March, 2016
You may have seen the high-tech system used in a large sugar bush - a stand of sugar maples - where long plastic tubes wind from tree to tree, running down hill to terminate at a large collection vessel at the bottom of the hill.
Sap collecting system at Prescott Farm in Laconia (January, 2016)
I do miss the nostalgia of the old galvanized steel pails, though I'm sure this high-tech system keeps out a lot more of the rain, pollen, bugs, and assorted debris that made its way into those those classic pails.  I suppose the old timers felt the same way a hundred years ago when those modern, unsightly metal pails replaced the classic wooden bucket.
Classic sap bucket complete with hook to hang it on a tree
Another sign that spring is coming was the first evidence of a skunk, a set of tracks showing it was rummaging near the house, probably attracted by dropped bird seed on the ground.
The hap-hazard trail typical of a skunk

Like bears, skunks don't truly hibernate, though they will spend most of the winter sleeping away in their dens, only coming out during a warm spell to poke around for any available food.  Their presence means they are hungry, wanting the snow to melt as well.

I took a hike up to a remote pond the day the snow fell to see what other animals were active;  it was still misty and gray after the storm, but beautiful in its own way.
Wachipauka Pond, Warren, NH

There were lots of animal tracks along the way:  Deer, coyote, snowshoe hare, bobcat, even a fisher - but no bear or moose tracks to be seen.  I was amazed at the size of some of the hare tracks;  I have nothing to show scale in this picture, but each track from front to hind foot is about two and half feet long.
Snowshoe Hare tracks

The larger prints are from the rear feet, and show how the foot spreads out to distribute the animals weight on the snow, lending it the name "snowshoe" hare.  A snowshoe hare weighs almost twice that of a cotton tail rabbit.

Along the way I was happy to see a few signs of spring pushing through mother nature's stubborn hold on winter.
This Hobblebush Viburnum, tired of waiting for spring, is pushing its buds out
The forecast has warm weather for the coming week - maybe there will be more sightings of the elusive 2017 spring soon.

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