A beautiful summer afternoon. My favorite bird, the great blue heron, greeted me with a landing across the river just as I was launching my kayak at the Riverside Cemetery on Packers Falls Road in Newmarket, NH.
Dragonflies and damsesflies were abundant and the water was smooth and calm as I paddled downstream towards the maze of bends, coves and inlets that make this section of the Lamprey River such an enjoyable paddle.
I was surrounded by so much life and activity and many plants were in bloom; Yellow and white water lilies, pickerel weed and the lovely bright red cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis.
Insects have difficulty maneuvering the shape of the cardinal flower so it relies on the hummingbird for pollination. Unfortunately, I did not have the pleasure of a visit from a hummingbird while I was enjoying this brilliant plant.
It was a hot day and I encountered several groups of children jumpining off of rope swings and swimming in the cooling waters of the river. A few anglers were trying their luck, and though I saw some jumping fish, they appeared to be on the small side, maybe sunfish.
I paddled along for over an hour and there was still much of the river I didn’t get to explore, but I thought it best to turn around and head back as the sun was strong and I didn’t want to get too much of a good thing. Enjoying the shade along the river’s edge, and meandering through overhanging branches I came across some very strange looking stuff. At first I thought it might be amphibian egg masses, but upon closer inspection I guessed that it was some kind of a gelatinous algae. I was wrong. A little bit of research when I got home and I learned that its not a of plant or egg mass, but a freshwater bryozoan, a colonial filter feeder. Many bryozoans are found in marine ecosystems; the one freshwater form is in a class called phylactolaemata.
Life on and in the Lamprey River is not all pretty flowers and dragonflies! I also came across this active wasp nest where I took a quick photo and quickly went on my way!
Paddling back toward the cemetery I thought how fortunate I am to have this beautiful river in my town. Previously, I have enjoyed the tidal portion of the river, below the McCallen Dam on Main Street and continuing right out to Great Bay. However, my childhood summers on Lake Winnipesaukee and my years as a limnologist have provided me with experiences that have given me an affection and a sense of wonder and respect for freshwater ecosystems. I look forward to my next visit with the Lamprey River and its flora and fauna, the good, the bad, and the ugly!