March 28 warm day, around 60 degrees, and I contented myself with a check of the South Bay otter latrines. I got up and over the ridge on Antler Trail without picking up a deer tick. I saw three deer running away from me in the distance. The best time to look for otter scat is not in the early afternoon of a hot sunny day, but on the little causeway where the South Bay trail crosses the little creek that feeds the south cove of the bay, I saw a scat with the grass still darkened by the stain of the otter's urine. The scat itself was not fresh but I knew it was new by the way it was oriented toward the old scat at the latrine. Indeed, it almost looked like the otter added scat to what before seemed to be the start of a scent mound with just a sprig of scat on it.
In the good old days when the mother raised pups around here, the scats and scent mounds were north of the causeway, and today I found two squirts of scat there. As I stared down at one, I saw a fly hovering in. I backtracked its
flight, for three feet, and saw more scat, new to me, and already looking old, but fresh to the flies and same scraping next to it.
I stepped back and took a photo looking back at the latrine hoping that this year otters would make nine scent mounds, like they did one spring several years ago.
This nosing about for scat has one fillip. I saw a leopard frog brown between sun and dead grass warming itself just off the trail.
I didn't see any new scats at the old dock latrine above the end of the north cove of the bay, but I did get a sense that something had been up their scraping the ground. I also saw what looked like the start of a beaver scent mound below the latrine and just up from the water.
Of course there is usually a scent mound here and it is possible an animal just scraped up the remnants of the old mound. The photo is off center, because here again my nosing about discovered an animal charging its batteries, a small painted turtle.
I was hearing plops into the water as I walked up the trail, poor turtles. At the docking rock latrine I looked down on what appeared to more scraping
and nestled in the rearranged litter was a bit of scat, again looking old, but new to me and I was rather head down at this old latrine just a few days ago.
Down at the edge of the rock I saw more pieces of scat either from old piles of scat being scraped apart or one otter having a rather scattershot style of scating. I hope and think it is the latter case. The trail up to the log where I saw the scraping and scat looks well used and a bit clawed.
Of course I use it too, but my old shoes give a different effect. A well trodden otter trail still looks bristly. I detoured up to check Audubon Pond and walked along the big embankment and up the west shore to the bank beaver lodge. No signs of otters, and there was still a little bit of rotting ice in the southwest corner of the pond which might show an otter's progress. I could see that a beaver appreciated the waning hours of the convenience of placing sticks up on the ice.
The pond is rather full again, making the bank lodge the most convenient place for the beavers to den, but there was no reaction from inside as I stood next to it, and no major additions to the collection of gnawed sticks in the water around the lodge. I saw sticks over on the north shore where I seldom see them, but before I suggest that these beavers are enjoying long swims and meals in places not visited for three months, I have to keep more track of the gnawing they are doing on the trunks of the big oaks just behind the lodge. The trail to them
seemed wet and the gnawing looked fresh.
Then I went back down to the otter latrine overlooking the entrance to South Bay. I had been looking out in the ice free bay, curious as to why there were only a couple of ducks out there. Then I saw that the bay was not quite ice free. There was a huge expanse of rotting ice stretching from the point at the south entrance to the bay out to the small island just off Grinnell Island. And a dozen geese at least were up on the ice, as well as a few ducks.
I put the motor on the boat this morning and I had planned to end the day with a boat tour of otter latrines along the bay that I can't walk to at this time of year. The ice blocked the bay! When I got to the latrine I sat down on my usual rock
and saw familiar and good sized piles of scat to my left and right -- last time I was here I thought those scats and a pile between them closer to the bay described a triangle. Now I looked just to my left, as I sat, and saw a nice
pile of scat that stretched that triangle into a diamond.
This is all accidental I always tell myself and indeed I saw several small scats out of the design, if you will,
but then there can be designs on a smaller scale. Last time I was here I saw a pile of scraped leaves but no scats associated with them. Now I saw the line of scraped leaves twisted and a scat revealed.
Then I stepped back and took a long shot of the latrine which, as usual, shows nothing but the usual randomness of grass and leaves.
The fault, I think, is in our eyes which feed our brain. The nose is probably the principal source of information to an animal inspecting this slope. If there is anything by design here, it is aromatic. Meanwhile the willow on the rock below this slope which just a few years ago, before beavers gnawed into it, provided commanding and inviting shade over all the rock has been battered back and almost knocked completely down by the waves and ice.
There were probably be a few leaves still. Willows are tough old trees. When I got back home we got right in the boat to inspect the great sheet of rotting ice that had blown out of South Bay. This is a magical time to be on the river as visibility down is perfect. Indeed just below the ice sheet, I saw a rock I never knew was there.
As we got close to the ice, the geese who were on the other side of the ice got off with some peeved honking. I couldn't imagine what pleasure the geese got from walking on what looked like rough shards of ice, and some geese were even breast down on it.
Most have some life giving ache properties, perhaps I should try it. Our friend Patrick hurried out to join us in his kayak, and unwisely rammed the pack which didn't give in the least.
Yet when we motored up a wake, the ice sheet waved and crackled. We drifted over the shoals and saw the varied patterns of the stubble below. On one long rock, perhaps ten feet underwater, the algae was blooming. Didn't see any fish.
March 31 our drought ended. We had day of steady rain and then yesterday was cold with frequent showers and I even saw some snow in the mix. When I went out this morning it was cloudy and cold, 34 degrees. I headed up and over the ridge on Antler Trail. I didn't see any deer today. Down at the little causeway along the South Bay trail, I saw some leaves scraped together and sure enough there was a little otter scat next to it. In the photo below you can almost fancy you can see the trail of the otter coming up
from the water.
This scat was a few feet from some others. I didn't see any scats on the north side of the causeway. My plan was to check all the otter latrines around the bay and then check the beavers at least at Audubon Pond and Meander Pond. So next stop was the old dock latrine -- on a cold, cloudy day no
butterflies, flowers, turtles, frogs, or even birds slowed me down. There were some fresh scats at the old dock latrine. I took a photo of the first I found, showing it relationship to the water,
and then as I was leaving, I noticed a smaller fresh scat higher on the ridge behind me. Last time I was here I thought I saw the start of a beaver scent mound. Today, at that same spot there was a bolder up thrust of
leaves. Of course, a muskrat could be doing this, but I expect the classic beaver mark to appear soon: leaves, mud and crossed sticks.
The lodge the beavers made on the old dock last year is still in pretty good shape. At the docking rock latrine, the old scats were easier to see because of the rain and damp conditions, but I don't think there were new scats. Something did mark this rock with leaves, and it was such a neat job with no mud smears that I think a muskrat might have done it.
Not that they are neater than beavers, whatever that would mean, but being smaller, they don't track as much mud. As I continued up to see the latrine overlooking the entrance to South Bay, I veered off to check the
big willow the beavers cut down in the fall near the mouth of the creek coming down from Audubon Pond. Not only had beavers been by to resume their gnawing on trees cut down in the fall
they were also fashioning a nice muddy area tucked away from the bay where they could nibble on sticks.
Not that they are shy about going on the more visible side of the rock and enjoying more of the willow.
I don't think they resumed gnawing on the big willow trunk. I took some close up of the trunk. Looking down on the cut trunk, I think I can see the scars made by the sides of the beaver's incisors as it cut through the wood.
Then turning my head (and camera) and looking at the upper part of the trunk, I can picture the beaver cutting up into the soft wood of the trunk because I can see so many bold gnaws.
This suggests that the beaver is not just interested in the outer cambium layer of bark, at least when its meal is a thick willow tree. Then it was back to the otters. I always see the most scats in the latrine at the
entrance to the bay, and in my descriptions accompanied with close up photos I almost suggest this latrine is black with scats. So as I sat on my usual rock contemplating the changes, I took a photo showing how imperceptible all this scating is.
I did see a few new scats. One I knew was new because it presented such a perfect view of the scales in the scat. I can never resist taking a photo like that.
I also saw more scraping but no scats nearby. I saw one goose poop. They also like the grass up here. The whole time I walked up the north shore of South Bay, a lone goose kept honking at me. When I turned around and walked back down the shore, it stopped honking but still followed me.
Needless to say all the ice is gone in South Bay and also up at Audubon Pond. The water level in the pond continues to rise so that the lodge in the middle of the pond is hardly habitable and will afford no nest for a mother goose.
There was no great show of freshly stripped sticks around the bank lodge on the west shore, but a beaver did leave a rather elegant mark along the shore beside some recent gnawing.
I continued walking around the pond, trying to remember what trees had been cut before the snow piled up. I thought I saw new work and judging from how the water looked in the cove at the northwest corner of the pond, beavers have been swimming there and most likely going on shore to eat.
On the north shore, I saw gnawing at the foot of a shagbark hickory just being flooded by the rising water. The beavers have cut up a smaller tree now floating in the water, and in the foreground there was a circle of deer hair, as well as a few stomach parts and some skin.
This is the site of the only deer kill I saw this winter. We had seen deer hair frozen in the ice on the pond, but not much. Most of the remains are on the shore. With the pond full, the canal going back to the ash work on the north shore is full too, and the beavers are using it. I looked down at the trimmed crown of the ash that fell in a winter storm after being almost cut down in the fall.
There was a smaller ash cut behind me, which I think the beavers just did. The beavers had marked the beginning of a trail from the ice free part of the north shore, to the east, which led to the downed ash to the west. Now those marks seem to have been erased, but there are fresh mark which seem to mark trails to cut ash up on the slope to the north, but that may be jumping to conclusions.
As I walked around the pond, I saw a handsome, noisy brown wren, and then a pair of common mergansers landed in the pond. This has been the best winter for seeing those beautiful birds, and they are usually paired up male
and female, white and reddish. I headed up the ridge so I could get a bird's eye view of Meander and Thicket Ponds. If I saw fresh work around the former, I planned to go down and inspect it, but I didn't see anything fresh. I was able to see the old
channel in the north canal of the pond, so well used by beavers three winters ago. The grass had not yet grown over the long trough they made.
I also wanted a bird's eye view of Thicket Pond because I am planning to write about the history of the pond and this is the best time to get a sense of its shape and size. Fewer leaves are in the way. Continuing along the ridge, I enjoyed how the rains made the mosses more buoyant, and then I saw that a grouse parked itself high on the ridge near the moss. Not a place I expect to see grouse poop.
I couldn't get the perfect view of Thicket Pond, couldn't quite get the extent of the canals to the southeast and northeast.
I kept going down the slope to see if I could get the perfect angle and then I noticed a large patch of fresh beaver gnawing on a white oak nearer to the pond.
I went down to the pond to look for more beaver signs and I saw a pile of muddy grass on a log on the route between that oak and the lodge nestled in the thicket of button bushes.
I saw some tentative marks here and there along the shore and then I saw where the beaver did some tentative gnawing on a red oak.
My hunch is that one of the two year old beavers that left the Shangri-la Pond colony last spring first moved down to the East Trail Pond dam, then wintered in Meander Pond and now has come up to Thicket Pond where it may
have been born. I bet this beaver rejoins the Shangri-la Pond colony. I think there are three beavers there now, though I've only seen two so far this spring. If I see four beavers there, then I might be right, if there are no beavers in the surrounding
In the afternoon we went to our land. All the ice was off the Deep Pond, and while there was no perceptible holes in the dam
there is a liberal leak heading down to White Swamp.
I'm pretty sure a beaver pushed some mud and grass up on the base of the lodge, as opposed to a muskrat, but still no major beaver doings there.
I looked for any fresh tree cutting by the beaver, which can be hard to discern as the running sap brings trunks back to life. I saw the most convincing evidence of recent cutting below the dam, where several trees
were cut relatively low, which means they were cut after the snow melted, and I don't recall cutting down here in the fall.
Peepers are starting to chorus around the Third Pond. There is still ice on the Last Pool so I thought it should be easy to determine if the many nibbled sticks I found at the end of the pool were fresh. If so, I should be
able to see the trail of the beaver over the ice.
I couldn't see a sure trail, but the dying ice was so beautiful, that I didn't investigate as closely as I should have so as not to disturb it.
It's quite possible that the beavers will build up the little dam to this Last Pool, as I call it, or they may sense that expanding the rivulet going down to Logdam Pool is the solution to this summer's problem of finding
Or they might continued to build up log dam which at the moment is breached so that the level of Log dam and Boundary pools are the same.
I heard some gnawing inside the Boundary Pool lodge, not much, and as I got closer it stopped. There still a little ice on the shady east side of the pool, and a little patch of greening duckweed on the sunny west side of the pool.
I didn't notice any major new work on what they just cut down near the lodge, but the beavers can range far now.
April 2 Today was our first full bore Spring day, shirtsleeve warm by 10 am and no need to button up until after 6 pm. It was a get-things-back-in-shape day for us, especially my saw pit by the house, so Leslie scouted the Turtle Bog first to see if the Blanding's turtles were out. She saw one large one up on the mosses near the birch logs unmoved by her presence and she glimpsed a long yellow neck in the water, and noticed a small
kerplunk which might have been a small turtle dropping into the water. I saw three turtles there last summer. I headed up to the bog after lunch. I saw large painted turtle drop off the bank into the Teepee Pond, and then a small turtle nosed out of the water. Up at the Bunny Bog I heard at least two wood frogs calling. This was the best spot for wood frogs last year. I went as quietly as I could down to the Turtle Bog and let pass a chance to get a video of a giant beetle swimming in the water. I
heard a kerplunk next to the mossy shore where the Blanding's turtles often bask, a small kerplunk. I sat down and waited. I saw boatmen bugs swimming after tiny bugs in the water. Then a frog swam in front of me.
video clip to come
I think it was an amorous wood frog who first on the bottom of the pond and then on the surface struck a ready-for-love pose.
Then I heard some scraping and first looked high since it sounded like a porcupine climbing a tree, and from winter tracking I know that I porcupine has been denning here. Then I saw a huge Blanding's turtle up on a bank of leaves just out of the water.
I got a photo, causing the frog to swim off, but when I tried to get the camcorder out the turtle dropped into the water. I stayed put and while I waited for turtle action I was entertained by a large fly or small bee who
seemed quite taken with me (animals fall in love in the spring much earlier than humans.)
Then I heard some more scraping in the leaves across from me but couldn't see the cause, until I stood to go and a smaller Blanding's turtle hustled back into the water. The porcupine has been around, having done a good bit of debarking in a white pine conveniently tilted for easier climbing.
Down at the Valley Pool the peepers were in full chorus, and it looked like a muskrat might have cruised through the pool giving the muddy tint of the water.
Before dinner I sat up in my rock seat on the knoll above the Deep Pond beaver lodge. A muskrat in the water when I arrived took refuge in the lodge and then swam out three times, went toward the middle of the pond, surfaced then swam back to the lodge. Then it swam out and continued all the way over to one of the burrows in the dam. Otherwise the barred owl sang a bit and one raven kept gurgling over me. Over the years I have accused ravens of teasing me and other animals, imitating a cuckoo when flying over cuckoos, imitating a bobcat just after I first heard a bobcat, imitating a coyote when I was following coyote prints in the snow, and once, I swear, mocking my furious thinking when I was trying to fathom who killed a beaver in the Deep Pond. This knowing raven must know I
principally try to watch the beavers, and yet to perplex me or beavers, the raven never imitated the noise beavers make, until today. The raven flew low over the pond giving the whining hum of a beaver, then once across the pond gave a mocking gurgle and flew off. This whine was made I think with great effort because I thought the raven was flying harder than usual. Then I looked down in the pond and saw that a beaver had floated out of the lodge below me. I have never heard this beaver hum. I think it is the sole survivor of a family trapped out in White Swamp two years ago. Well, the beaver didn't react to the raven and slowly swam over to the dam and went to half stripped logs along the bank and began gnawing.
When it had enough of that, it swam along the dam a few yards and then climbed all the way up on the bank behind one of the honeysuckle bushes and I could no longer see it. So I tried to sneak away from the pond and get
back to the house for dinner. When I looked up the beaver was swimming right toward me. I froze and it paused, stopped smelling in my direction and nosed toward an almost completely stripped log. Then as I stepped down the hill, it swam toward the middle of the pond. I tried to hurry away and when I looked back, the beaver was floating placidly in the middle of the pond as it has often done the past two years, just looking at me. After dinner I headed for Boundary Pool. When I climbed the ridge west of the pond for a vantage point affording a view of the lodge and of log
dam, so I could see where the beavers went when they swam up stream, a beaver swam off from the shore below me. However, it wasn't in a panic, didn't slap its tail and didn't go directly back to the lodge. By the ripples I saw in the pond, I guessed
that there were three beavers out. Then I saw one dive back into the lodge. But I think it came right back out. Despite being on the ridge I couldn't get a good view of the three places the ripples said the beaver were
Finally an adult swam back to the area on the shore where I first saw a beaver and started stripping a slender stick. Then soon a smaller beaver came up to the same area and gnawed on smaller things before going up pond where I couldn't see it. Then a beaver by the dam swam back around the lodge and dove where the beavers had their winter cache. It had enough of a struggle with a thin hornbeam trunk that it raised a good bit of mud. It took the stick over to the
shore below me, where I couldn't see it.
video clip to come
So all I needed now was a hum or the sound of gnawing in the lodge and I could account for four beavers. And I've often seen the first beaver to come out of this lodge go far afield, so it was possible that I missed seeing the first beaver to come out, which would account for the fifth beaver I expected to be in the lodge. But I heard nothing from the lodge and an extra beaver didn't swim in from a long trek. But I still think there are more beavers and they could very well be asleep in the lodge. At this time of year beavers adjust from
staying awake during the day so they can take advantage of the warmth to get out from under the ice, to concentrating their activity at night. During the transition why wouldn't some beavers get radically out of sync with the others. As I walked up
pond I didn't see any beavers. I did hear peepers around the valley pool, only a few along the ponds I had been watching. In the dark I went down to join Leslie at the Third Pond where there was a deafening chorus of peepers, as well as some wood frogs
croaking, no leopard frogs, and some whining that Leslie thinks might have been ducks concealed in vegetation.
video clip to come
A penting woodcock flew over her earlier. I sat by the Deep Pond too, where there was one peeper. One beaver swam by me quietly. I didn't see the other beaver. Leslie thinks that beaver might be back in the lodge and
pregnant. My hunch is that the other beaver left as mysteriously as it arrived, but I've said that before only to see the beavers united again.
April 5 the rain ended and a cold cloudy morning soon warmed with sun so I off I went primarily to see if otters revisited their latrines. I thought it would be too wet to check any
beavers ponds save Audubon, Thicket and Shangri-la all of which are on or just off wide trails. At the latrine at the end of the south cove of South Bay I saw fresh scats between two old scats. Part of the scat was scaly, and there was a whitish blob which might technically be a scat. Some say otters cough it up. I wonder if it is fish ovaries that made it through the otter's digestive system intact. I am still too squeamish to scoop it up, take it home and ponder it under a bright light. (I'm too patient to be a scientist, someday I think I might just see a otter deliver the same type of blob fresh before me eyes.)
Over the past few days we must have gotten almost three inches of rain and there was quite a flood coming down the creeks especially into the north cove. I got a photo of a flood back during the official thaw so today I went up onto the knoll over looking the New Pond and the ponds above it, all mostly meadows now.
For a number of years otters latrined up here but no sign of any otter being through as has been the case for the last few years. There was no signs of otters visiting the latrine above the old dock at the end of the
north cove of South Bay. However, a beaver has built up and spread out its scent marking just up from the water, just as I predicted.
As I walked up the trail along the north shore of the bay, I first flushed a heron from the shore below me and it flew over to the rock across the cove.
Then I flushed an osprey, perhaps one of the four that has been flying high over the river the past few days. As it flew off over the bay I heard what sounded like ice clinking. There was enough wind for that but the ice was long gone. Then I heard what sounded like ice clinking and clucking. A huge flock of scaup was out in the bay
with a good bit of courting going on.
Nothing makes you feel quite so lonely as watching one of these congresses of animals seemingly so vitally engaged with each other. Human crowds are so dull compared to the pert pulsing dances of the scaups. The red oak along the trail that a porcupine visits off and on through the years, seems to be getting more of a going over this spring.
I've never seen a porcupine up this tree, usually I see one out in the willows, but I think the leaves are the great attraction in the willows, and there are no leaves yet. At the docking rock latrine, I saw what looked like more scraping in the dirt and leaves, but no new scats. No otters active, I fear, but a beaver or two has been busy. More of the fallen ash at the rock where the water runs in from Audubon Pond had been trimmed, and I could see what looked like fresh gnawing on willows along the shore.
And the scent mound there had been puffed up and there is a small one above it higher on the shore.
I told myself to look for more beaver work as I continued up the trail, but I was distracted by a group of four ducks whose carrying on went beyond courtship dancing. Three were definitely male buffleheads and they were chasing what looked like a female or immature bufflehead, I assume a female. She never flew away only apart. The males chased sometimes just one, sometimes two, sometimes all three. And then, of course, the males had to chase each other while still flapping toward the prize. She seemed to dip low in the water, but didn't dive. They generally came at her from the rear. Nothing strange in that but the chase
weaved back and forth along about 200 yards of shore line, well away from the other ducks, though two geese kept honking at me, I assume, during the baffling bufflehead squabbling -- much chattering from them all the time.
video clip to come
Eventually they went around into the Narrows. So it was quiet when I sat at the otter latrine above the entrance to South Bay. Again, no scent mound here -- they usually make them here in the spring, and there was just one
new spread of scats, just below one of the bigger smears of scats on a rock.
Then a motor boat came out from the Narrows, then three male buffleheads flew back down the bay, then the whole flock of scaup took to the air making a great clucking wind over my head. I scanned the bay and saw that at
least one pair remained, but happily mated buffleheads. Then the three males that just flew back in flew back out. Audubon Pond had more water than I have even seen in it. Water was just coming out of a cut off the southwest corner of the pond called the spillway. Most of the boardwalks around the pond were flooded or
inaccessible. When I got over to the bank lodge, as I went up to inspect what looked like more leaves and such pushed on top, I saw a beaver swim off into the pond and it was soon slapping its tail at me.
The photo above shows the ringing ripples from a slap out toward the middle of the pond. The other beaver was along the shore too and swam out into the pond after the first slap. However, it didn't slap its tail or pay me any heed but swam directly over to the embankment. I think one beaver usually assumes the burdens of driving me away. The slapping beaver stayed on my case.
In the photo above just a few sticks of the lodge off the north shore of the pond stick out above the flood. Thanks to the flooding the beavers have an easy swim to ash trees along the north shore that had been accessible
only by going up a canal and taking a little walk.
The flood half covered the causeway forming the east shore, but I didn't check to see if that inspired the beavers to do some lumbering up that way. Judging by the restless energy exhibited by the beaver in the pond, I don't think it was pleased with the flooding. Since this is a manmade pond the beavers can't easily regulate it in their usual fashion of making holes in dams. Higher up on the northshore, a porcupine showed me another aspect of spring that
I've yet to key into. Green shoots worth browsing were coming up.
The porcipine made a menacing shape as it climbed up a nearby tree.
I took the low road to Meander Pond which afforded me an opportunity to take a photo of the old Shortcut Trail pond where the dam is no more and the pond now a meadow.
While there were still stripped sticks outside the Meander Pond bank burrow, the water was so clear that I don't think the beaver has been in and out recently. I admired the deep trench leading to the burrow, the key to the beaver's survival during the winter.
I expected to see more beaver work at Thicket Pond and I did, more girdling and one red maple, I think, cut down and at least one branch trimmed off it.
Geese are nesting in the pond and wood ducks were trying to go about their necessary business, but quiet as I try to be they can't abide me. Indeed their first impulse was to fly with the wind into the thickets. Then a few minutes later they left the pond flying into the wind, as they usually do when they flee. I sat up on the south shore of the pond behind some more girdling on a white oak, but no beaver stirred.
Comb frogs picked up a chorus and a few peepers. As I walked up the East Trail to get an overview of Shangri-la Pond, I noticed what looked like fresh beaver work at the west end of the pond and then I saw that almost all the water in the pond was gone!
I hurried to the dam to see what had happened and saw that about ten feet of the north end of the dam was gone.
Looking to the north I could see that hole expanse of water that it took the beavers over a year to create was now drained.
It looked like the beavers first effort to stem the flow had been a little dam well back from the main dam.
As I walked out on the dam from the south end, I paused to see the patch the beavers put in the hole they made in the dam during the winter.
That hole, rather high up in the dam, had nothing do with the catastrophic failure on the north side. At the scene it seemed pretty clear what happened, the high water from the rain, and probably the wind from the storm pivoted the top of a dead tree into the dam. I never noticed the dead tree but a photo from October 2007 taken before the beavers rebuilt the dam and pond shows it lurking behind the dam, seemingly stuck forever in the mud.
Here is how that old tree was oriented today, almost 90 degrees to the right of where it had been.
Another photo taken a year later in October 2008 shows the dam above flat of thick cattails.
Evidently this was not a washing away of the dam. It was a punch that allowed the water to push that part of the dam, almost intact, ten feet below the dam.
a photo from the north shows the knock out swing of the tree trunk.
Over there I could see that there were no footprints. No humans had a hand in this. Looking from the south, gives the best view of the dam repair.
From below the dam I saw evidence of the size and force of the wall of water as it busted through the dam
and went into the East Trail Pond. A broad swath of cattails stalks were leveled.
I headed up pond to see if I could see signs of a wall of water coming down into the pond, say if the dam of the upper pond burst. All looked in order up there. The upper pond and its dam were as before. Now I could study the beavers canals in the main pond,
a melancholy task I couldn't put my heart into given the devastation.
At first the lodge appeared high and dry
but on closer look I could see that the beavers still had a water entrance on the west rear side.
And there is still a channel to the west.
So I came back a little before 6pm and as I came up along the ridge northwest of the pond, I saw a beaver out along a large tree trunk to which the beavers seemed to anchor their little dam. Then the beaver reared up and got a whiff of me. It swam back to the area in the pond below me. I tried to hide behind a pine tree. Despite the lack of water, the beaver showed me that the trenches dredged by the beavers forming channels throughout the pond could still conceal a swimming beaver. Indeed as the beaver swam back to the underwater entrance
to the lodge, it stayed under the muddy water most of the way.
video clip to come
I moved farther down and lower on the ridge and stood behind a tree affording me a view of both dams
and the lodge. The first thing to come back out of the lodge was a muskrat who was oblivious to dam repair duties and swam up the channel to the west. Then the beaver swam back out carrying muck in its arms -- I suppose the beavers have to remodel their lodge a bit, digging down to get a more comfortable fit with the lower water level.It deposited the muck beside the channel, and then swam back to the main dam, and started working on it, alternately fetching logs and putting them on the dam, and fetching mud and carrying that up on the dam. I saw it put one long log parallel to the dam, while pushing other sticks over the dam.It seemed to try to use its head to bead a large log into a better position as it stuck into the dam.
video clip to come
Then another beaver came out of the lodge but only swam as far down as the little dam, and ignored the beaver working at the main dam. Then the new beaver swam back to a pile of stripped stick, almost below me, and got a
bite to eat,
and then it swam up pond. No alarm. No panic. These beavers were trained by their parents to always dredge. I've seen that over the years I watched them. So this beaver, though not doing any dam repairs, kept diving in the channel bringing up mud. And that persistent dredging made the dam break bearable. There are commodious pools of water and channel below the lowest level of the dam.
video clip to come
The beaver at the dam soon stopped working too, and swam up in the same diving dredging fashion to get a bite at the same pile the other beaver dined at.
and then it swam up the west channel but not far. It waded into the tall dead grass and began gnawing on something. I could hear but not see. Then another beaver appeared behind it, and I am not sure if it was the one
that swam upstream or if it swam out from the lodge. After swimming a few circles around the gnawing beaver, it swam down and began working on the little dam! I didn't know what to make of this, as it was clear that the least repair of the main below would back up water over this little dam. Well, it was getting cold and on my walk home, (and I didn't see a beaver in the west end of the pond,) I heated my brain trying to figure out that little dam. Could it have been an independent contribution of a younger beaver? a useless display of its propensity to imitate
older beavers? Or was it simply a case of carrying out old orders until new orders are given? Or am I just too poor an engineer to see the beavers' collective genius? While there is no flow in the pond, it stretches to the west where the prevailing west wind can be funneled into greater force. Perhaps the small dam is a precaution to check the formation of wind generated waves that would wash out repairs. So in response to massive damage to the dam, the beavers' response is not to call all beavers out and rush anything that might fill the huge breach. Instead there is a
measured response, maybe a strategic response, and from what I saw, reliance on the careful appreciation one beaver has of the problem. Not that I think one beaver is necessarily the master beaver. The other beaver working on the smaller dam seemed to
know what it was doing too. Finally, I have alluded in this journal to the possible dam repairing abilities of muskrats. I saw three out in this sorely diminished pond, not one even looked at the busted dam.