Thursday, November 28, 2013

2013 "Ice-In"

It is Thanksgiving Day morning, and the thermometer reads 16F. The first ice appeared around the edges of the pond four days ago, and by yesterday it was frozen across.  Yesterday the temperatures were slightly above freezing, with occasional rain. I expected to see some of the ice retreat with the weather, but instead it continued to freeze across the lake, closing all of the open water by mid afternoon. I took this picture this morning.    

Saturday, November 9, 2013

It was a perfect day for hunting.

They had agreed to meet at 7 AM. There was a time, many years ago, when they would be up at 4 AM and in the woods before sunrise. But not now. Even 7 AM had been a compromise. One of the group had suggested 8.  The thermometer registered twenty eight degrees as he headed out the door, up the driveway to the woods behind his house. They had all been hunting this land together for over twenty years, and they each had their own routine. He had prepared a new stand overlooking a ridge that he liked to hunt, and he decided to take a long route there and "still hunt" - one step at a time - ever so slowly - to the ridge.
It was still early in the season and there was no snow on the ground yet to cover the leaves that had fallen last month, and they crackled underfoot as he walked. The prior night's frost only made matters worse, and every step he took echoed through the woods, foiling any attempt at stealth. Still, he thought, it was a perfect day for hunting. The crisp morning air felt good on his skin, and he wondered if he should shed a layer of clothing as he climbed to the top of the ridge.
It was a short hike to the stand, less than half a mile, and he decided to quicken his pace since he was making so much noise. The quicker he got there and sat down, he thought, the better the chances of seeing a deer that morning. He came to the big cedar that he used as a landmark, and he left the main trail and cut through the woods to the stand.
As he surveyed the woods around his stand he tried to detect which direction the wind was blowing. It was almost perfectly still, but he sensed the slightest current of air on his face, coming directly from the north. He was happy at that discovery; he would be downwind of any deer that crossed below the ridge. The sun had barely risen above the eastern horizon, on a southerly arc behind his back. This too was to his benefit, and he had positioned the stand to take advantage of the morning light. The surrounding woods had been carefully trimmed to open lanes of view to any deer that meandered through the forest. The woods had been logged thirty years ago by the prior owner and all of the hardwood had been cut down. All that remained of the oak were the stumps, standing like moss covered tombstones among the pines.
He propped his rifle against the cedar next to his seat, and he began his annual ritual. He sat on a hemlock stump that served as a hunting bench. He knew all of the surrounding trees by their bark, and he tested himself each year during deer season, trying to identify the tree without looking at the leaves. He knew the crocodile skin of a young hemlock, and the wild cherry like scabs of an older one. The blistery smooth skin of the beeches stood out from everything else. Horizontal lines on the bark marked the balsams that peaked to form the spires of his cathedral in the woods. He sat cross legged on the stump, and strained to hear a sound, any sound.
A whiff of smoke told him that the wind had changed, and he wondered if it was coming from his wood stove, or one of his neighbors' on the pond. It didn't matter. It was still a perfect day for hunting. He looked at the hunting pack that he had hung near his stand. The leather LL Bean cartridge case was worn from years of use. He wondered if Bean still made them. He had not looked at a hunting catalogue in years. He wondered how old the ten 32 Winchester cartridges in the case were.
He heard a crow fly directly over the treetops. He knew it was a crow by the sound of its wings, there was no need to look up. A blue jay squawked in defiance. It was the only sound he had heard in a while.
He was startled by the sound of a shot. He was surprised to hear a shot that close, but he thought it might be too far away to be either of his hunting companions. He was surprised by his feelings. He hoped it was someone else's hunting party that had shot at the deer. He didn't want to ruin his morning with dealing with a deer. Field dressing, dragging it out of the woods, hanging the deer, and then deal with the butchering? No, that is not what he wanted to do. That is not why they hunted these woods. In twenty years of hunting this land, none of them - ever - had fired a shot. He didn't want to change that right now. Because it was a perfect day for hunting.    

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Red Spotted Newt

I spotted this salamander  while I was swimming yesterday, on a submerged log in two feet of water. It appears to be an adult red spotted newt ~ the adult aquatic stage of the common forest dwelling red eft.  

The red eft is the juvenile stage of this amphibian which returns to the water as an adult salamander, and can live over ten years. (or until a bass spies it sitting on a log)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Tree Climbing Water Snakes?

As we were canoeing around the pond today, Mary noticed what looked like a snake in a downed cedar tree along the north shoreline. A closer look revealed not one, but three water snakes sunning themselves. 

There are three snakes in the photo. Two snakes are coiled up together in the lower right. One more single snake can be seen in the top left. The cedar had fallen into the water giving the snakes easy access to the sunny perch.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Nesting Eastern Phoebe

One of the wonderful - and unanticipated - features of a log home is lots of nooks and crannies for nesting birds. Rare is the year that we do not have a robin's nest tucked into a cross section of log beam somewhere. This year brought a first - a nesting eastern phoebe - located immediately outside of our front door. 

One of the very recognizable habits of this "flycatcher" is that when it leaves the nest (which is anytime we open the door) it flies to a nearby low hanging branch in the woods, where it perches and furiously bobs its tail. 

It should take two weeks for the eggs to hatch, and then the birds will typically lay a second clutch of eggs - Double Clutching?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

It's Blue Gill Mating Season!

 It is the first week of June, which on Bullet Pond means two things: 
You can safely (hopefully!) plant your tomatoes.
The blue gills are spawning. 

The smaller female is on the right (and being a tease.)

We have three active blue gill nests - called redds - around the dock this morning. We also have one nesting small mouth bass. The water temps climbed to 70F in this week's hot weather, which prompts all of the activity. The females will lay their eggs and move off to deeper water. 

The larger males will stay on the nest and will protect the eggs from predators. In these pictures you can see the male fish is more than twice the size of the female. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Hummingbirds are back!

Look who showed up last week! This guy is all puffed up and looking a little chilled. He stopped for a rest on the top of a balsam near the feeders. 

It's Memorial Day weekend, 42F with a steady rain. Typical Adirondack spring weather! We do not put out any feeders until the birds arrive from their migration journey. When the birds do arrive they go directly to where the feeders were placed the prior year, which I assume must mean they are last year's birds.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Hemlock Varnish Shelf Fungus

I was clearing some brush on the property near the pond yesterday and came across a standing dead hemlock. The base was covered with a shelf fungus which looks to be "Hemlock Varnish". 

Hemlock Varnish Shelf Fungus

Hemlock varnish has been used in Oriental medicine for centuries. The mushroom's mahogany color is quite shiny and really does look like it is "varnished".

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Bullet Pond Ice Out - April 20, 2013

The first open water appeared last week along the north shore, exposed to the sun traveling though the southern sky. The winter ice yields to the encroaching water as a stiff breeze helps break up the ice and send it downwind with a few fallen logs to the west side of the pond. Over the next few days hooded mergansers usually show up to fish. Two appeared on the pond this morning. By tomorrow they should have the entire pond to explore. Sometimes they nest in the reeds near the Russo dock. The loons will join them very soon, maybe later today.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The New Year brings our first Deep Freeze

Bullet Pond ~ January 5, 2013
The New Year brought our first deep freeze on January 3rd and 4th, with temperatures dropping to -12F. Friends on Charley Hill Road a few miles south of here recorded -17F. Schroon Lake is finally freezing across the entire lake on the north end.

Foot trail west of Bullet Pond
We also enjoyed 18" of snow fall this week, and took advantage of it to do some snowshoeing west of the pond along the snowmobile trail. The only animal sign we saw on the entire trek was a vole scampering across the driveway. I was surprised that no one had been back there yet with a snowmobile. We'll go exploring again today, as temperatures have risen into the 20's.