ICE FISHING & A PORCUPINE ENCOUNTER!
Yesterday marked the annual fishing derby in Phippsburg. Despite dire weather predictions, the skies actually let some sun shine on the activities. The temperature rose into the 40's, making for a slushy going on the ice covered Center Pond. As you see here, huts were set up, even heated in some cases. People got around on all terrain vehicles, though some cars and pickups drove out onto the ice. These derbies really bring out the fishing enthusiasts, and there is a lot of partying and fun. The snow made for good snowball making, and a few snowmen were constructed while waiting for the baited traps to send up a signal. Here is one such trap just set. You notice the ungloved hands and bare arms...it was quite mild outside! The traps are set using primarily live minnows for bait. That orange flag swings up when something is hooked. See how slushy was the snow cover on the ice!

Some fish were caught and carefully packed under snow to keep for the weigh in. I saw a beautiful Pickerel on the snow that a few gulls were eying overhead. The largest fish caught among the fishermen I checked was this Brook Trout. These are cold water fish and are stocked in the pond for just such winter activity.

One of the fishermen I had met last year was back again. He has a Native American connection and enjoys playing their wooden flutes. He has even started making his own. Sure enough, he had his instruments along, complete with a microphone to augment the beautiful sounds. Here he is playing a double flute, made of Maple. You will notice a fish lies nearby, and he has the comforts of home. See the microphone lying on that colorful bag?! What a treat to hear him play.

I left these characters to their fishing, and went across the road to the local school for the democratic caucus vying for attention on this winter's day! This was a real eye opener for me, having previously voted in Connecticut which only has primaries. Here in Maine, we have caucuses which give residents a chance to speak their minds and support their choices for candidates. I was just amazed at the interest these citizens had for this activity......surely grassroots democracy! After the speeches were given, votes were taken. In Phippsburg, Obama edged out Clinton for delegates.

Yesterday I finally found some time to get outside and check on nature's beauty and activity. It was bitterly cold with wind adding to discomfort. All that mush from higher temperatures had frozen solid. The tide was high so I ventured inland. I took a short cut, walking across the ice covered Lily Pond. The beaver lodge is still vacant. I climbed up into the woods following tracks, mostly those of deer. I circled back to Western Reach where I've seen porcupine activity, and lo and behold there he was huddled at the door of the latrines! What do you do if you confront these animals? Well, I just pulled out my camera and enjoyed the moment. They don't see too well, and when I moved around in the crunchy snow, he would look at me briefly then turn into the corner with his quills standing at attention. In the closeup, check the nearby scat. I think he also had urinated since there was fluid nearby. Usually you can see where this animal climbs under the latrine for denning purposes. These animals are primarily nocturnal, and maybe he had come out to get an early start on dinner.

I went out again early this morning at low tide to look for sea creatures. It was in the teens, and most any standing water had frozen. Even the seaweed was crisp with ice. I turned over a few rocks and found several Sea Stars and amphipods. A crab was found after digging him out of the sand. One thing interested me, and that involved crows. They were getting a jump start on the gulls, and I could see where they had been picking over the shoreline for goodies, and leaving white patches of scat. Are they more tolerant of the cold than gulls? I wonder. You might ask what I did with the animals I found. Ironically, I put them in some water and placed them in a COOLER to keep them from freezing! What a turn about from our warm weather collecting. The animals are now overboard in the saltwater which is far warmer than the air. I hope to use these animals for a show and tell at a program I'm giving on Friday. I hope the snow doesn't prevent my getting to the wharf to retrieve them!
2/12/08 Un-quilled Ronnie