New Hampshire Wildlife News
by Certified Wildlife Biologist, Eric P. Orff

New Hampshire Nature Notes
by Eric Orff

The dead of winter and the ice is great for fishing.

Thursday 01/14/2010

We've had a real cool spell with temperatures running below average a couple weeks now. This is "the dead of winter". Did you know that some animals are for all intense in purposes really dead right now for the winter? More astonishing is that these critters will arise again right around Easter or soon after as the sun melts the snow. The critter I have awe for is the tree frog. They indeed do freeze to death every winter. Solid ice. Life totally ceases for them for months at a time. They simply lie in wait under the leaf litter in our forests and wait for the earth to warm in spring. And when it does these frogs magically come back to life and flourish. They really are the dead of winter.

And thinking of frogs I wanted to capture my unusual observations of this past summers seeming total failure of reproduction of the American toad, bull frogs and tree frogs at least around my house. The toads started calling early but the long cold rainy spring shut them off. I didn't see a single juvenile toad in my yard this past year. Typically there are hundreds moving across my yard by July. The tree frogs called a few days from the trees around my house in early June but never settled into the wetland down back and called. I can only conclude that they never bred at all. All other years (29) that I have lived here there were numbers calling in the backwater below for a week or more. Not one bull frog call this past spring. And even green frog calls were sparse. I would say there was a near total failure of the amphibian breeding season in 2009 at my location.

I did get out ice fishing down on the Oyster River in Durham this afternoon for just a couple hours. More of a scouting mission as I have not fished there in several years. Nary a bite today and others around me had the same luck except one fellow a couple hundred yards away up towards the dam who was said to have caught close to 20. But I'll keep trying. I have not been salt water smelt fishing in a few years. just after I arrived a couple Fish and Game Department bio-aides were by to quarry the fishermen. They have been going on to the treacherous ice for decades to monitor the fish population by checking catches. They go out by day and night. Now I tell you this is out on to ice that is moving up and down 14 to 16 feet in each tide cycle. These are dedicated young professionals.

Here in Epsom the snow level is not all that bad. In fact on most of the south facing slopes there are bare spots. In the local fields the grass and corn stalks are protruding above the snow with even a few wind swept bare spots as well. Really not too bad of a winter on our wildlife.In my travels about I am seeing deer tracks all over the place. Wildlife is moving about quite easily it seems. And the sun sure is climbing back into the sky and will be keeping those south facing slopes clear if we don't get a burying storm. I have noticed a few open water spots in the Merrimack River in Concord though the Suncook River seems to be locked solid in ice this winter. It won't be long and there will be some real signs of spring. Owls calling and the perfume of a love struck skunk. I bet it will be your nose too that first senses spring!

Next Note

Life below the winter snow, entering the depths of winter.

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