Sunday, May 21, 2017

May 21, 2017

There is so much going on around the lakes in spring and early summer - people and animals returning, trees flowering, flowers blooming, amphibians breeding - it's hard to decide what to leave out from the journal. It's always a good feeling this time of year when you meet a familiar face on the trails that you haven't seen for a while.
A Gray Tree Frog (Hyla versicolor) sitting in the middle of the trail
This little gray tree frog seemed happy to see me as well, as he was quite content to sit and chat with me for a while, even offering to pose for a portrait before I went on my way.  Later that evening he sang a nice etude for all to hear around the lake.  (You can listen to the song of the gray tree frog here.)

There is much to enjoy at a frog's-eye view at the moment, and purple seems to be the theme of the week.  
Fringed Polygala (Polygala paucifolia)

Wild  Common Violet (Viola papilionacea)
In addition to fringed polygala and violets, there are wild strawberry, sweet white violets and trillium blooming down at frog level.  A bit higher up is more purple - lilacs, rhododendron, and rhodora.
Purple Lilac (Syringa vulgaris), the New Hampshire state flower, even though not indigenous to NH
Rhododendron at Oakland Cemetery

Rhodora (Rhododendron canadense)

Other friends get the bird's-eye view of these charms, although their own colors compete for attention in the upper-level beauty pageant where yellow and orange are added to the color scheme.
Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)
Hang on to that bloomin' blueberry bush!

Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia)
Black-throated Green Warbler (Dendroica virens)
This week brought me two new sightings.  The black-throated green warbler I have heard many, many times signing it's memorable song, but I had never seen one, as they hide deep in the trees' foliage;  I was happy to finally see one in person.  (Though I must say I can barely see the green on its back that gives it its name.) 
A small streak of olive green is visible on the back of its head and neck

The next flying ornament, a mourning cloak butterfly, was also a new discovery for me.  
Mourning Cloak butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa)
They have some unique characteristics, including the longest lifespan of all our butterflies.  Although some migrate, most overwinter locally, and thus are among the first to appear in the spring.  They breed in spring, then after feeding - especially on the sap of oak trees - they go into a state of dormancy during the hot summer, reawakening in fall to feed again and store energy for the winter. [Ref:  Butterflies and Moths of North America]  I also learned they make an audible click when they take off, a defensive trait to startle a predator.  [Ref:  "Eastern Forests," Ann Sutton, Knopf, Inc, 1985]

On a somewhat sad avian note, we appear to have had a visit from the bear this week.  We woke one morning to find one of our birdhouses ravaged by a wild beast.
Bird house, with nest to the left
I'm guessing that only a bear would be able to pull apart this house, bending five nails in the process.
Birdhouse easily and cleanly disassembled required some strength
A raccoon or a weasel would happily go after a bird nest, but with not a scratch left on the birdhouse, I think it was a feat requiring the strength of a bear.  We're glad we had taken in the bird feeders a few weeks ago.  

I did some work with the Lakes Region Conservation Trust this week on Rattlesnake Island. (Can you count a trip on Winnipesaukee and a perfect hike on an island "work"?)  It was my first time on the island and it is beautiful, including a nice two mile (round-trip) trail with great views south and west towards the Belknap Range, and north towards the White Mountains.  

If you are on Lake Winnipesaukee this summer, make a stop there.  The Lakes Region Conservation Trust does ask that you become a member if you visit, and display your decal on your boat.  Their dock is on the southeast point of the island, and is marked.  
Approaching Rattlesnake Island from the east shows the ledges upon which the trail passes
Alton Bay and Mount Major to the south as seen from the ledge
White oak flowers frame Gunstock and Belknap Mountains to the west

Boats and docks are starting to appear on all the lakes, and more people are arriving every week.  I look forward to seeing many more familiar faces on the water and on the trails in the coming weeks. 
More friends returning for the summer?
Welcome back to summer!

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