Friday, February 21, 2014

June 25 to 30, 2003

June 25 went fishing this morning and caught two perch worth keeping. The larger, about ten inches, had hollow stalks of some grass in its belly. I noticed a good number of goslings being escorted in the river. This evening I went to check on the beavers, and otter scats. There were no fresh scats on the South Bay trail and only one fresh scat at the East Trail Pond, few yards up the ridge trail.

Is it possible only one otter in the group of four marks? or is this the scat of a resident otter who has more or less been there all spring? Now to the beavers: I briefly went up to the end of the Thicket Pond. I could get a good view of one of the canals coming off that pond, but it was about 80 degrees, humid and windless near that wooded area, so I didn't stay. But I was pointed in the direction of the rocks overlooking the old lodge in the upper East Trail Pond, so I went there. I eased down because last time I scared a beaver right below the rock before I saw it. No beaver this time but I still sat and within a few minutes a beaver splashed from the middle of the ferns and shrubs in the pond.

I thought that would put a damper on my beaver watching, and didn't even strain to see the beaver swim to the lower end of the pond because the vegetation was so thick. Then I heard subtler splashes getting closer and figured a muskrat must be out. The critter came to the lodge below me and dove into it before I could see what it was. Then I was treated to beaver hums from the lodge. Not until then did I notice that the lodge had been rebuilt with old logs, and some freshly nipped shrubbery was on top of it.

The beavers had moved back in as they had in previous springs. When I learn a new wrinkle in the story of a colony, I am content to move on, almost want to, as if I felt it was somehow wrong to let the beavers reveal too much in one night. When I slid down the knoll above the Second Swamp Pond lodge, I heard something splash in the water but soon decided it must have been a turtle or muskrat. At first all was quiet in the pond, save for the two redwing blackbirds in an endless dogfight. Noting the lack of gnawed sticks on or near the lodge, I began thinking the lodge had been abandoned for a new development up pond. Then a small beaver materialized, swimming toward the lodge,

and dove directly into it without paying any attention to me. Then I noticed a beaver diving into the shallows on the other side of the pond, demonstrating why there were no gnawed sticks about: the beavers are feasting or roots and grasses, and, with nose and tail up, looking happy about it. Then I was distracted from beavers by a doe walking down to the pond followed by her fawn. The fawn came closer to be licked, then they separated again.

They were on the opposite shore of the pond, their reddish fur bathed in the light of the setting sun.

Then I glanced down at the pond below me and saw a beaver's back arched up out of the water, disappeared, bobbed up, and then that back rolled in a dive and the beaver went back to the lodge. I lingered, hoping that beaver would come back out. No, but a muskrat shot out of the lodge so fast that I got the impression that the muskrat entrance must be higher up than the beaver entrance. The muskrat went off toward the grasses closer to the dam. Meanwhile I lost track of the beaver foraging on the other side of the pond; the deer continued their bucolic pas de deux. I went home a good hour before sunset, content with what I learned. Crossing the East Trail Pond dam, I found some bittersweet nightshade.

June 28 a succession of sunny days now, and long days. I headed across the meadow behind the golf course expecting to trip over something, but no deer to be seen, let alone a fawn. The elecampane are cranking out their big leaves, but no blooms yet. It's the season for small flowers like blue eyed grass

as well as butter and eggs, cinquefoil, and on the ridge above the meadow this elderberry bush with berries

Up on the ridge there was not a towhee to be heard, and no deer there either. All quiet in a place that should be crawling -- but the days are very long. Down in the swamps there were more birds, though not as many redwing blackbirds as before. No geese or ducks, but I saw a long line of the former -- that is goslings still in line and probably in family groups, just off Goose Island. They went to the shallow area and practiced flapping in the water -- call it running in the water because they can't fly yet. It is easy enough to get to my perch beside the Big Pond dam, where there was no otter scat but an eyeful of tiny fish fry to watch, but crossing the long dam is now a chore. The cattails are beginning to bloom, as it were, and they are thick in the middle of everything

Behind them it is not as wet as it was, call it soggy, but it is tangled, and with touches of beauty like this bindweed

It is hard to say if the beavers are still tending the dam. It is in good repair but I think the wet mud is the result of the pond level beginning to drop, not the beavers pushing wet mud up on the dam. Dragonflies and damselflies are everywhere, principally white tails and bluets. The latter fancy the leaves of the emerging pond vegetation

The rocky banks of the Lost Swamp Pond are not as lush as the mud flats around the Big Pond, but with such a good view of the dead trees in the pond, there is much activity if you are patient to wait for it. I sat so I could check out the kingbird nest in the birch trunk column. I soon saw a handsome kingbird near it. Then when it flew off a smaller, squeaky bird landed on the birch bark. At first I thought it was a baby, but when nobody came to succor it after it squeaked I began to wonder.

The adult stayed at a distance. Finally I saw the game afoot. Not until the fledgling flew up and fluttered in the air, did the adult come and feed it. Good training. At the same time a downy woodpecker was beside itself above me. Then I moved a few feet away and saw the trouble. I was too close to the little hole in the dead trunk on the bank which contained the babies. Both parents popped bugs inside the hole. A kingfisher also flew by as well as the usual herons. I had an eye out for fresh beaver work, but saw none. The woodwork on the north slope has not been resumed. Despite being completely girdled the maple tree there has a handsome crown of leaves,

at least this year. The milkweed is beginning to tower over the dog bane, and I saw one appreciative hanger on. 

I take it to be a widow going white on the wing tips. It looked like an otter, or otters, had been up the north slope but I couldn't be certain there were any new scats, and certainly no fresh scats to be seen. I checked the old rolling area and dam and no scats at all there. I expect this to be a famous place for otters in the fall. It was relatively untouched in the winter, and since then, and never lost much water. Along with the fry I am now seeing schools of tadpoles. I should have had my camera ready when I walked down to the Second Swamp Pond because I knew a fawn had been there, but I didn't and I missed getting a photo of the lovely as it scampered on its wobbly jagged legs across the little dam and into the shady bush. The lack of rain and surfeit of sun are telling on the newly fashioned upper dam

though there's still plenty of room for a beaver to maneuver in. Behind the dam was a fine collection of symbols of the season: muskrat leftovers, boiling algae

and heron poop on the side. My walk down the north shore of the Second Pond was uneventful, save for seeing some old friends, a patch of beard tongue set off with ox-eye daisies. I sat above dam in the shade of the thick cedar, but the heron still squawked when it flew by. The oak there also makes shade despite its being girdled. Over at the East Trail Pond, I realized what I had been missing: no wood ducks ducklings yet. I crossed below the dam, because this is the time of year when interesting things can grow in that ever wet area and I did see this

which strikes me as a deer devoured jack-in-the-pulpit with berries quite unripe. At the latrine beside the dam, there were too many flies for just old scat and I did find a fresh scat a few feet from, and very similar to the last fresh scat there

so at least one otter is coming by. This was such a small scat that I can't believe the crossing of the twigs was intentionally done by the otter, but who knows? I went over the ridge and found fresh scat near the same spot where I last saw fresh scat about ten yards up from the creek. This careful marking of this route mystifies me because there are so many other ways into these ponds, like along the creek. I checked the mud there and it looked like otter tracks, print and tail, to me.

I went back over the ridge to check the mossy rock. On my way there I got a whiff of otter scat, but saw none. Before leaving I noticed a curious two tone look to the duckweed behind the dam

No new scats along the South Bay trail, and one goofy yearling doe who didn't want to get out of my way.

June 30 up at 5:15 am, and using the bike, got to the South Bay cove before 5:45. I saw a bit of new scat at the south causeway latrine, but nothing fresh, and, during my 45 minute sojourn on the banks of the bay, saw no otters. The carp seem to be done spawning. I heard one splash. Saw at least three herons, two in a chase. A front moved through, with a brief afternoon shower yesterday, and left a breeze that kept some waves rolling in, which may have diminished the usual seething life one sees in the water on a sunny morning. (Yesterday, during the gale, I lay on the dock and a mallard with six ducklings swam by. The babies able to chase bugs on the surface. Then a handsome water snake swam under my nose. Flip on my back and see the swallows hovering, and an osprey.) I headed up to the East Trail Pond, sitting on the big rock and then lower for a better view. No otters nor beavers, nor muskrats, for that matter. Birds provided all the entertainment. The flickers are noisy again. Baby redwing blackbirds are as persistent in the squeaking as their parents are in their screeching. A brief glimpse of a goldfinch. Battling hairy woodpeckers, on whom I almost pulled out the camcorder before deciding I could never capture their bouncing ferocity. A pileated woodpecker went to a tree where I saw one go another day -- perhaps a nest there. I wondered where the orioles were, and a few minutes later saw one dashing about. Behind me in the woods, there was a woodpecker drumming duet, and distant songs of the veery. I saw no fresh scat, perhaps a new scat on the top of the ridge.

I went up and over and looked hard, and was rewarded with a vision of a small toad

Down in the creek there didn't seem to be any fresh tracks -- water from the rain filled the old ones. I saw a large plant in the middle of the mud, and looked hard to see if it was a jack-in-the-pulpit

That early in the morning I always find it hard to decide where to go. But since I have been telling myself that the Lost Swamp Pond is ready for otters, I headed in that direction, stopping first at the Second Pond lodge, just as I came over the top of the knoll I saw a beaver make a rolling dive into the lodge. I waited and it came out again, and just as one did the other evening, humped over in the water

then went into the lodge. I waited and it came out again, and this time humped into the water and did a strange twisting of the body, then dove back into the lodge. Don't yet know what to make of that behavior. Behind me I heard some strange noises. First, like a crying mammal -- but I guessed right that it was a bluejay, which soon made its characteristic call. Meanwhile I finally saw some wood duck ducklings. Rather mature, buddying about the grass in the middle of the pond. When mother duck flew in and squeaked for them there was no quick paddling to her side. I headed up the grasses of the north shore stopping to photograph the beard tongue

and then admiring this milkweed plant which showed the flowers in three stages of development

Then I kicked up a flurry of small dragonflies, sparkling gold as I walked through the green

It is getting drier going to the upper dam. However, I saw a sure sign that the beavers are still using it -- willow left out for nibbling.

I had my camcorder ready for a fawn, but none jumped out. As I sat beside the Lost Swamp pond, I did see a buck browsing across the pond on the point, just making out his big velvet antlers. I was waiting for a muskrat to reappear, and soon one did. I got a video of what looks like a youngster -- no longer a baby. It came out to me twice before going back to the den in the bank. As I walked toward the den, I saw another small muskrat swimming from the end of the pond toward the den. It seemed to detour just to get a look at me

then dove and went on its way out in the pond. I rarely see muskrats acting so much like beavers, and these seeming so young. But they looked, sniffed, once wiggled water out of ears. All I can say is that these must be very fat and cocky kids. The kingbirds were still at it, and even sparing with swallows. Perhaps the wind and front drove the bugs closer to the ground and hence the competition. The mullein is starting to bloom -- strangely, with just one huge flower out. The rest, I guess, is still cooking

I continued on down to Otter Hole Pond, where, save for one heron in the middle pond, nothing much was happening.