Early December – Colder but Not Freezing

The weather is definitely changing. Warm, sunny days are in the upper 40’s or maybe low 50’s. When there is a wind, it is not very warm and if you go out on the lake in a canoe or kayak, you need to be wearing a life jacket because the water is very cold. You don’t want to be fumbling for a life jacket when you start to swim……

The lake has started to be taken down to the Winter level so water is going out of the dam rapidly. The lake level has gone down 6 or 8 inches in the last week or so but there aren’t many boats that have to worry about this, few are out on the lake. Not much activity on the lake but the waterfowl are still hanging around. At least one loon is still on the lake as of today, Dec. 1, and there are lots of ducks. My favorites at this time of year are the Common Goldeneyes. They are a diving duck that migrates through NH from the northern lakes of Canada. They form “rafts” at this time of year and 30 were together today.img_8314

They are a distinctive duck with eyes that are “golden”. They nest in tree cavities in lakes in Canada’s boreal forests. Half a dozen or a dozen eggs are laid and when they hatch, the chicks jump out of the nest, get to the water and start feeding on insects. The adults feed on insects during the summer but when they are here, in migration, they eat small fish, crustaceans and some vegetative material. I really enjoy these ducks because when they fly, their wings whistle. They generally don’t let you get closer than a few hundred yards but you can hear their whistling wings for many hundreds of yards. When they fly, they fly in close flocks.

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The eagles are also present and today were both in the old nest tree. I believe that the male is on the left as he has a pure white head. The female’s head isn’t as bright white and, although it is not completely obvious in the picture, is 50% larger than the male. While the ducks will leave as the lake freezes (and we hope the loons will too), the eagles may stay around all winter if they can find food. Ice fisherman often leave fish on the ice for them and they learn where the food is. One ice fishing group on Lake Wentworth in past years has had an eagle stop by on a regular basis when they are fishing…..img_8342

Still a few weeks from freeze-up. There were a few inches of snow around Thanksgiving but all that is gone and you have to go to northern Maine or the high peaks of the White Mountains to find snow on the ground. A couple of inches of rain over three days has helped the water table to rise which doesn’t happen if the ground is frozen.