New Hampshire Nature Notes
by Eric Orff
The wonders of life around us. Lobstering today.
Life is so full of surprises when it comes to observing wildlife. Case in point were a couple of things for me this last week and wound up with a great morning of lobstering with my long-time friend Jean Brochu in Portsmouth. He had his best day ever today with "13 keepers" collected. He only has a bit over a dozen traps he tends once or twice a week. I get down with him when I can.
But to back up a bit. While working on my yard last week I spotted a good sized pickerel frog. I had seen it a couple times before in the last couple of weeks and am on the lookout for it when I mow to ensure its survival. About this time each fall I will see one or two big pickerel frogs on my lawn just before they head to the muck for the winter. I believe they are out foraging preparing for a long winters sleep and really do move a long distance from water this time of year. I knew my two granddaughters were just down the road visiting my mom and would be back this way so I dropped the hapless frog into my rain barrel until they returned. Three year old Erin was very excited to see the frog bobbing in the 10 inches of water at the bottom of the barrel and she dove head first into the barrel as I tipped it on its side and quickly had the frog in her grasp. How excited she is with a frog in hand. We quickly took the frog to the back side of my lawn for release. At least this time she didn't kiss it goodbye as she usually does.
Last Friday I attended a meeting of the NH Lakes Management Advisory Committee as part of my duties as a NH Fish and Game Commissioner. The committee is made of scientists from DES, UNH as well as representatives from the boating industry, tourism and such. We had a couple of hours in a meeting inside at the Squam Lakes Association building then a wonderful 3 hour tour of the lake.
UNH professor Jim Haney brought along a sophisticated probe that he lowered over the stern of our craft a few times at selected spots. This one probe now does electronic measurement of things like oxygen levels, clarity of the water, PH, temperature at various depths and chemical make up of the water. All the while recording its findings for transfer to a data base back at the lab. Historically each of these measurements used to be done by taking samples of water at each depth, then involved hours of lab work. Amazing technology. Then as we were returning he got out his plankton net and we towed it just a couple of minutes behind the boat. The sample was transferred into a clear quart sized glass vial. It was full of period sized critters moving about as well as miniature plant life. I asked him about how many species of living zooplankton were likely in the vial. He said"two or three dozen or more." In fact he noted some strange pink colored miniature crustaceans. And he quipped "maybe some of these are new species never ID'd before." Imagine that life forms not already known right before our very eyes right in our back yards. He also stated that the eggs from these creatures can lie dormant for a long time. Eggs from zooplankton have been dugs up from deeper layers of lake bottoms that were aged to be 350 years old, yet hatched when released into the water. Amazing stuff to learn. It made my day for sure.
Now today's find was a lobster sprouting a new leg and claw. Many animals have the ability to replace missing limbs. And one of our catches today was a lobster replacing a missing leg and claw. Fascinating stuff all around us here in NH. All you have to do is get outside and discover it. Life is good!
The first day of fall. Colors galore!
Fall flying by as the leaves are already raining down in the rain showers.