Saturday, April 18, 2009

April 15 to 20, 2008

April 15 cool, sunny spring day and just after lunch I set out for a tour of the beaver ponds. I took the route we took in the deep snow -- Antler Trail and down the valley toward the Double Lodge Pond but cutting down the ridge to the old Middle Pond. I could make it well enough, not as wet as I feared, and, of course, all the brush and grasses were still dead. Heard one song sparrow. I could easily walk over the rivulets that make up the once grand Middle Pond and then I went
up to where the coyote scatted in the winter, an opening between the spruce and willows and the creek.

I found the scat I saw on the snow a month ago, and several paths, through the flat, probably deer trails. Then I tried to find the squirrel skins the fisher ripped apart, and what was once rationalized by snow was now all complexity.

It strikes me that as much as I protested about it, the snow was not deep. The snow made a clean surface, a clean plain. Now the terrain is deep, a tangle of woody vegetation, and it is about to get deeper and intractable. As I walked up to the Big Pond I found old coyote scats well placed next to the dam of
the pond just below the Big Pond

That pond, that I once called Double Lodge Pond, is just about gone, the dam well washed away. Last year muskrats courted out of that dam, mating back in the pond. Not enought water for that this year.

Despite the recent heavy rain and the continual runoff from the ponds, the creek below the Big Pond dam was rather tame, more like early summer than spring.

So I wasn't surprised to see that the beavers had repaired the dam. The dollops of mud were thick

and from below the repair looked impressive

but it still leaked. On the north gap, they also did a fairly good job

and they put a scent mound right next to it.

Another interesting feature of the dam was how they had neatly dug away at the dam where an old muskrat burrow was (my foot had gone down in it several times) Usually dams grow back, but these beavers are showing me how a dam can creep

They have been tinkering with this dam for about 30 years. Not far from the beaver scent mound there were old coyote and otter scat almost touching

That otter scat might not be that old, maybe just two weeks old. Despite the dam repair, the pond has not brimmed up to the top of the dam, still too much of a leak. The beavers' path at the north end of the dam looked fresh, and I
liked the way it went around the knot of cattails that filled their canal.

Think they could easily chew and dig through that, especially since it was on that path around the cattails that the coyotes ate a beaver early in the winter. A little farther up the path I saw a coyote scat right off the beaver's

While the beavers had come up the trail, I couldn't see any fresh work. They didn't revisit the poplars they had cut in the fall. As I continued on my way up to the Lost Swamp Pond I saw another fresh coyote scat well placed on a mound
of moss

I got the feeling I was on a coyote trail. Then coming to the pond, I forgot about predators and tried to sort through a pond full of mating ring necked ducks, and a few honking geese.

Last year I got a great video of the courting ducks, but this year they flew off down to the end of the pond. So I sat to see if a muskrat would appear. No. I did get a little nap. I saw old otter scats at the mossy cove latrine. This slope doesn't get much sun and the scats don't age. I couldn't believe that with all that scat, I didn't see an otter in this pond last year. Walking around the west end of the pond I didn't see any beaver or muskrat signs. I saw painted turtles.

As I approached the dam I wondered if I would just collapse into another nap for want of excitement, and there I saw a huge, fresh otter scat. Right next to the last scat,

on a line with the dam. There was also a good bit of scraping and more scats a little below the pond. But coyotes also claim this spot. This got a bounce in my step. There were even fish fry behind the dam.

The Upper Second Swamp Pond just below had some water in it, but as I walked on the dam I could see that no repairs had been made. Debris had collected in the hole slowing the leak. Meanwhile a hundred ducks flew off the Second Swamp Pond and when I got down to the knoll -- after sitting to listen to the comb frogs in the vernal pools north of the pond, I only had a pair of buffleheads, and a pair of geese to entertain me. Then a pair of mallards flew in and a red tail hawk made a dramatic swoop down on the pond. There was no sign that an otter visited the latrine there. Then I went to the dam to try to sort out the beaver work. A kingfisher flew in cackling. There are thick stripped logs behind the dam

but no sign that the beavers are tending the dam. It leaks liberally.

I walked around all their old work and didn't see anything fresh until I get well into the woods.

How I wish they would restore Otter Hole Pond below, but I don't think there are trees enough for them around it, just a few red oaks. Coming up to the East Trail Pond, I scared more ducks, mostly mallards and a few wood ducks. Then I checked Shangri-la Pond dam which looks like it has been worked on.

I was also curious to see if the beavers would get back to developing a pond east of the end of their north canal, and they are. Their neat little leaf dam had been repaired and the water was backing up nicely, but I didn't see any freshly cut trees around it.

The north canal is no more. It has widened into an arm of the pond, today it even looked deep blue like the ocean.

The beavers continue to work on a trunk there, having just again cut into a log judging from the two toned wood chips below the cut.

I could also see fresh work back on the east shore and they continue to strip the big red oak trunk. It was too early to expect the beavers to come out. I sat and watched the lodge and then said, hey, that's snow near it.

As I walked around the pond I was mindful of looking for bones -- I want to find the skull of the dead beaver the coyotes plucked from under a fallen tree. I did find an old skull, probably a small deer. To get around the pond I went up the ridge to the north which afforded me a view of more snow on the shore, and ice in the pond, all bathed in the bright sun

Goodbye winter. Strange how so little happened then compared to just this day (I saw three different kinds of bees) and yet my mind is filled with winter stories. Up on the ridge I saw some bulging grey lichens, spring blooms after their fashion.

April 16-17 we went to land to spend our first night there this year. We got there early and did chores before preparing for the evening. While getting the tiller gassed up, I heard a swallow gurgling in the pine behind me.
Wouldn't show himself, but I was glad one had finally arrived. Since later I wanted to see the beaver that has been nipping birch sapling around the valley pool, I walked around the pool on my way to my sawing rock beside the Teepee Pond. In the last two days the beaver hasn't done much nipping, but one more large sapling had been cut and the water was still muddy. I also saw a small snake around the pond

and some peepers were warming up. So even if a beaver didn't show up in the evening the peepers would entertain us. When I got to the Teepee Pond, a kingfisher made clear that I was a disturbance. It cackled, circled the pond and then left. As I walked around the pond a brown bat flew low over the water and got a drink. And then I flushed either a woodcock, snipe or grouse from the shore of the pond. It sounded most like a grouse but I have never seen them so close to water, indeed almost in it. I managed not to disturb several sunning
painted turtles.

After lunch Leslie went up to the Turtle Bog and reported that two Blandings were sunning themselves on the bank. So I went up to get a photo of them and, if possible, flip the male over to check his markings and make
sure they match the markings of the turtle we have been seeing here for the last ten years. But when I got there, the turtles were gone. I sat in the shade, on soft moss, across from where they should be, and waited. (Getting too hot for working anyway.)Soon two things kept me from just showing my usual courtesy to nature by being still and wide eyed for twenty minutes, (though I think nothing compliments nature more than taking nap.) First a wood frog swam toward me cracking with each stroke. It was almost like he was hoping I was a frog and would crack right back at
him. He kept it up and soon two wood frogs swam over toward him, setting up a little sporadic cracking chorus. Then in the middle of the pond, a turtle head popped up and I could tell by the yellow chin that it was a Blandings. This was promising. Then I saw some rippling across and down the pond where Leslie said she saw a turtle. At first I thought it was a snake, but then I saw a turtle head moving rapidly (for a turtle) along the far shore. The turtle stopped at a birch log half in the water and began to pull itself up on it just far enough to crane its neck for a looksee around the pond. The other turtle head sticking out in the pond was between me and that curious turtle so I hoped it was looking for its mate and not sniffing the air for my presence. The turtle did two curious things. It rocked its shell in the water. The other turtle also rocked. The turtle stretching its neck also yawned and then puffed its throat out several times. The turtle low in the water raised its head higher, then dove, and surfaced with its back to the other turtle. Then the stretching turtle pushed itself off the log and swam toward the
middle of the pond. The turtle there sank in the water. The other turtle veered back down the pond where it had been. And it kept moving so I always had a pretty good sense of where it was. Usually, and especially at this time of year, Blanding's turtles, as they warm up, are so stately. This turtle seemed to be on a mission to check every corner of the small pond. Meanwhile, the two frogs right in front of me, who I kept checking on too, disappeared. I thought I must have twitched the wrong way, but then I noticed that a small turtle head had popped out of the water near where they had been. This turtle was much closer to me than the other two and it was much smaller than the other two. It soon got its head up enough to show its yellow chin, soon blinked, proving it was not some artful log. I had to get my camera out, risking the noise, and the little turtle didn't flinch.

Meanwhile the big turtle swam by it. I didn't risk any camera noise around that big alert head, but then it went back to the birch log and this time climbed out much higher

still craning its neck for a look around. Then the large turtle launched itself for another tour, this time of the other end of the little pool. At the same time another small turtle briefly poked its head up near the opposite shore. That could have been the first turtle I saw. Blandings are
not that prolific and to think there was a mated pair with two offspring in this small pond might be too much. Then as unceremoniously as it surfaced, the little turtle sank. The big turtle came back staying mostly under water, but did climb up on
some twigs in the pond like it wanted to take another good look around the pond, then it swam on its head out a few inches now and then, and then disappeared. Was the large turtle taking a census? Hardly a joyful family reunion but perhaps I don't
understand the meaning of a turtle's blink. While both big turtles rocked a bit in the water, the little turtle was perfectly still. On my way back, I almost stepped on a large leopard frog.

Before dinner I hurried down to the Deep Pond because I wanted to take a photo of the dam so tomorrow morning I could judge how much work the beaver did. As I went Leslie reported that "your beaver" was out. And when I got to the pond, the beaver ferrying sticks from the inlet creek area turned and faced me. It dropped its stick and then began swimming back and forth showing its displeasure and slapping its tail several time. I was lucky enough to get a shot
of the curling tail before one slap.

This slapping was disappointing. I thought this beaver and I had grown accustomed to each other last year. I also thought the beaver looked much larger than I remembered. Adult beavers are not supposed to grow in the winter but that's because they sacrifice for the young, and this beaver was alone. Over the winter I tried to manage my firewood collecting so that no matter where I go to check on a beaver, I can find a log ready to take back to my sawing rocks, a very beaverly way to go about it, and I should add I never take logs the beavers are eating themselves. Anyway I went high up the ridge above the Deep Pond and when I looked down I saw something else floating in the pond, shaped like a beaver. So I hurried down and soon saw one beaver climbing up on the feeding platform next to the lodge and another beaver swimming toward me in the middle of the pond. After I parked a saw log at the bottom of the ridge on my shoulder, I went back and told Leslie that I saw "my beaver" and also "your beaver." After dinner I went up to the Teepee Pond working on the theory that the beaver denned there and then swam to the nearby valley pool. Leslie went up on a rock near the valley pool working on the
theory that the beaver came up from Wildcat Pond. We were both wrong. No beaver showed. No matter. The peepers around the valley pool were incredible, not only making the maximum din but boasting a few witty peepers who added harmonious trills and variations. Among peepers at least five percent seem to be Mozarts. I saw the bat flying over the Teepee Pond. I heard coyotes. No peening woodcocks though.

I did not get up at dawn, a knack I seem to have outgrown with my 60th birthday, though I lay in bed more or less sleepless more mornings than I'd like. But the moon had been out most of the night which contributes to restless sleeping. Since the day promised to be very hot, over 70 degrees, we did our work in the morning. But at the Teepee Pond work is a pleasure. The pine warblers arrived. The bat flew about and I made a stab at getting a photo

I saw a painted turtle sniffing the air just like the Blandings turtle I saw yesterday. Leslie checked the turtle bog before lunch and saw a turtle up on the bank. When I got there after lunch the turtle was almost back in
the water

when I sat down it sank and I didn't get a show like yesterday. Didn't even see a wood frog. I did hear a towhee. I forgot to mention that yesterday several cedar waxwings flew through the area. Of course, I walked around the valley pool and didn't see any fresh beaver work. Then I headed down the valley toward Wildcat Pond to see if the beaver work from there had extended much farther. I didn't see any work above the last willow they cut, but I soon saw that a pool had grown, almost reaching that willow, but for the moment the beavers were clearing out small saplings, not sure of which tree

and they are thinning the small birches

making a nice meal of some of the

This pool has almost flooded some of the old mossy trunks with the roots of other trees growing out of them. I usually pick my way over the puddles and mud on that, not this spring.

The beavers piled up brush in the gaps of one these little ridges to form the pond

It doesn't look like they plan a major dam with mounds of mud, and thus flood much of our valley, but I've said that before. I hope the beavers sense that this flat at the top of little stream's watershed won't be able to create a huge pond. Thanks to the dam the area below it for twenty yards or so was a bit dry. Then I came to their next pool which was still well above the Boundary Pool where they did much of their harvesting of small trees in the fall. They created this new pool by packing mud and more sticks on that pile of logs that
didn't back water up last year.

I still haven't figured out if beavers had originally arranged the logs, or the lumbermen who must have cut them many years ago. There was also not that much fresh work around this new pool -- call it logjam pool, just
below last pool and about Boundary pool. I call them pools because there's a good chance they'll all be dry in July despite the beavers' efforts. In the spring beavers seem compelled to go as far as they can to harvest trees. And now I understand the determination I saw in the beavers the other afternoon when I saw
them leave Wildcat Pond and swim up snow banked canals. They were eager to get water pooling conveniently to the saplings and birches. Boundary Pool looked the same as it did in the late fall, save for a remnant of snow.

though I'd say this dam too has been mudded up and little and logged on.

I was too early to expect beavers to be out but I was curious to see if the beavers continue to gnaw on trees where they had gnawed on them in the winter. They did some some fresh stripping, here and there, but I think the freshly stripped logs I saw on a convenient mud mound in the pond, were logs brought down from the first pool.

In the the back ground of the photo above you can see how high the winter girdling on an elm was. Snow does elevate beavers. This pond is not as high as it could be, suggesting that the beavers have not done work on the
dam. But the pond was high enough to make going down to the dam along the west shore, where I was, a bit inconvenient. The lodge looks huge

suggesting to me that my suspicion that they were adding to it all winter, pushing logs they finished gnawing up on top, was correct. I didn't see any fresh gnawing along the shore nor up on the ridge. I set out to go
directly to the Deep Pond and not go back to our property line. About thirty or forty yards from the edge of the ridge overlooking the beaver lodge I saw some small maples that a beaver had cut. The cuts were relatively high so this was probably late winter work. This got me to thinking: the trail from that point to the Deep Pond was roly-poly but a down hill trend all the way. So the new beaver in the Deep Pond could have come from this pond, though it made more sense to assume it came
up from White Swamp. I wanted to approach the Deep Pond from that direction to see if the beavers had moved up stream to cut trees, not that I could see. When I got out of the hemlock forest, I saw my first hepatica, and I always blow my photo of the first hepatica. Loath to block out the sun I get bleached blooms. The beavers were not out at the Deep Pond, which was a good sign. Over the years this pond has been a refuge for beavers that at times did not seem to get along at all. One season one beaver slept on the shore, evidently afraid to join the other beaver in a lodge or burrow. So both these beavers seemed sensibly denned.
They certainly have made a huge pond

I looked for fresh tree cuttings and only found one bush, that I thought was a honeysuckle, taken. Since we planned to head home to the island, I didn't have time to wait for the beavers to come out. I walked around and took a photo of their continuing dam work

noted some fry in the water, and then headed down the stream to White Swamp. While it makes a great deal of sense to me to think that a beaver leaving familiar ponds to find a new home would hurry on his way and not stop to eat, I always look for leftovers along what might have been the beaver's route. I didn't see any signs of a beaver munching on the hundred yard way from the Deep Pond to White Swamp. The dam did not look tended, but I did find beaver mud mounds along the channel below the dam. I couldn't get out to the mound that flanks the spot where the channel meets the swamp, but I did see that there was otter scat there

just up from the water.

Stepping a little to one side, I got a much more romantic photo of White Swamp that makes it look as wide as the ocean blue

Leopard frogs dominated the discussion from that direction.

April 18 I have been neglecting reports on what's happening on the river. This winter a house was built on the island in front of us as well as a boat house in our cove. That made it less pleasant to linger out on cold days to see what the goldeneyes and mergansers were up to. Plus there was
an ice jam just down stream which kept our cove frozen most of the winter and I could only get the boat out once late in the winter. I must say the ducks, desperate for open water, put up with the construction. The late thaw changed the way geese go
about divvying up territory. They kept in large flocks and more peacefully shared what open water there was and what grass the slow thaw revealed. There were fewer battles or at least they were quieter. When the snow and ice disappeared pairs seemed set and in place. Today the river was calm and we motored out to Picton Island. In April the buffleheads pair off and spread out over the river -- at least that's how it appears in the day. As we cruised between Murray and Grinnell islands, scaring up pairs of buffleheads and a few small groups, we noticed duck fluff and
feathers spread evenly across the expanse of water, like a huge flock had been preening during the night. No photos I took turned out well. Buffleheads are a flash of black and white, small and fast. As I turned around the headland of Murray Island and headed for Picton, I saw fresh beaver work on the shore just above the sandstone layers that relieve the river here of the hard pink granite.

And as I angled close for a photo, we saw the beaver swim up along the shore toward the east. My camera batteries died and as I changed them the beaver turned back to where it had been working, and disappeared near it --
perhaps on a ledge formed by a sandstone layer. As we continued around the island heading east, we didn't see any sign of a lodge. I haven't seen a beaver around here in years, and was quite surprised seeing one after nine in the morning. I'd like to
determine the range of the beavers who work the river shore. How do they divvy up territory. The old lodge in the bay looks like it has been used. There are some nibbled sticks and a muddy trail beside it.

However I didn't see any fresh work on that shore, so it is possible the beaver we saw is lodging here which is certainly out of sight of the fresh work we just saw, at least a couple hundred yards away, and a route that
can get some waves and strong currents. Then I checked the otter latrines at Quarry Point, or rather on the other side of Quarry Point, the rocky slope that faces the main channel of the river to the south. I could see from the boat that otters had been there. The turf was quite dug up

and I found otter scats just below the rocks above the digging.

But I must add that there was also coyote scats there. This is where I saw the coyote climb out on shore when it swam over from Murray Island in December 2006. I found very fresh black otter scats closer to the shore, two squirts

This is when the bullheads spawn and I've always thought it would be the time for otters to catch bullheads, but over the years I haven't been able to prove that they especially go for bullheads now. I also expect to see crayfish parts in the scats this time of year. The scats looked so fresh that we kept an eye out for otters, but saw none. I cruised by the latrine at the entrance to South Bay which didn't look used, and continued down South Bay to check the flat rocks on the south shore of the north cove. I saw some old scaly otter
scats on the large square rock just up from the flat rock and a smear of more recent scat laced with crayfish shell parts.

But I didn't see any other scats on the rocks along the shore or on the rocks inland next to the marsh. The river water level is high and this inner marsh looks like it could really work for an otter mother raising pups, but no sign at all that one is about.

I did see where a beaver pushed up mud on the rock that commands the entrance to the marsh, or rather where the beavers had a channel into the marsh two years ago

No signs of other beaver work in the area. A pair of osprey are in the nest on the power pole in the Narrows, despite an osprey catching fire there two years ago. We saw a swallow at last, flying over the river.

At 3 pm I headed off to check the beaver ponds, timing my departure so that after checking the major ponds for activity I would wind up at Shangri-la Pond at 5:30 to see the beavers there begin their evening. As I walked along the ridge heading for the Big Pond I heard barking. I had just read that coyotes can bark like domesticated dogs, and since these barks seemed to be rushing through the woods, I braced myself for seeing a coyote not acting as it usually does. Instead I saw two over fed beagles nose down in the woods, running by and completely ignoring me. No humans followed. Now that's hunting: frenetic and noisy. Not at all like the wild predators who live here and who survive without being bred for hunting. I got to my perch at the Big Pond dam and after a few mallards flew off, all was quiet, sundrenched and getting rather warm -- almost 70
degrees. I dutifully sat for twenty minutes even though the boatmen bugs in the still pond below me seemed too hot to row. Then a half dozen leopard frogs serenaded me. When I crossed the dam, they hit the pond, though I saw one contemplate an early
return to the warmth of the mud.

The beavers continue to do a good job patching this dam but I don't see much evidence of their eating anything. Of course this is a huge pond and by raising the water level they are better able to get to trees well up pond. I went up into the woods where they had worked in the late fall and saw, perhaps, one recently cut tree. When I came down to the Lost Swamp Pond the ring necked ducks were still courting but most stayed well up pond, and I watched the male goose swim lazily around the lodge where his mate was nesting. I heard the beagles again, now well on the other side of me, still barking. Perhaps because of that there were a lot of ducks flying over me, a pleasure to watch. I was sitting on the rock above the mossy cove latrine and kept looking down at the ruffled leaves wondering if an otter scratched them up or the dry heat was making them curl.
Finally I went down and saw some relatively fresh otter scats.

A close up shows a bit of moisture

So I expected to see more fresh scats at the dam, but I didn't. And no sign that the beavers had done any repairs, not that there is any need for them, but beavers often try to get ahead of such things. As I headed down
the north shore of the Second Swamp Pond the frogs were not quite as loud. They probably prefer singing at night. I didn't see any beaver work along that shore. This pond has not backed up like it usually does, and that always makes me wonder if the beavers have left. When I sat down on the knoll above the lodge, under the shade of some cedars, something dove in the water right below me. It sounded like a beaver, but then ten minutes later a muskrat swam out of the lodge. Then just when I decided a muskrat made the dive, I saw a beaver swimming up to the far south end of the pond. So I decided that beaver had made the dive. I watched the beaver make its lazy way along the dam, going up at a couple of points, perhaps marking, certainly not eating. Then it swam back to the lodge and looked up at me

and didn't seem to care that I was there. Then I headed off to Shangri-la for my date with those more showy beavers. As I came up to the dam, I noticed that the dam was built up three or four inches, and that the well drilled cv pipe through the dam had a fountain of water shooting up from one of it last holes.

So rather than sit at my usual perch high above the lodge where the beavers were used to seeing me, at sat lower on the rocky ridge in the shade with a light wind crossing between me and the dam. I couldn't even see the
lodge but I was perfectly positioned to see a beaver work on the dam. I had to wait almost an hour for a beaver to come out and when it did, it slapped its tail even before I saw it. Then it swam out to where I could see it, looked at me and slapped its tail. I've learned to wait on beavers, give them time to adjust to my gentle presence. So the beaver circled around and slapped its tail at me again. A bird high up in a pine tree, who judging from a bit noise I had been hearing had been there for sometime, started laughing. I had to laugh myself and got up to go. I went up to my perch to at least get a photo of their recent stripping of the red oak trunk

and of the lodge, where there were some freshly stripped, chunky logs, and this was my first photo showing the lodge surrounded by water.

Then I saw the there was a beaver grooming itself on a little platform of dirt not far from the lodge

This looked like the smallest beaver, with nice reddish fur. Meanwhile the slap-happy beaver was cruising up pond to the west. The little beaver swam out in the pond

and then toward the dam and I paused just in case it.... but it turned in a circle like it too wished me gone. So I left. The jovial woodpecker up in the pine started hammering away. I decided the tail slapping was a good sign. It probably meant that a beaver was about to have kits, or had already had them, which meant that my fear that the beaver killed by the falling tree back in December was the matriarch was unfounded. I went home via the Second Swamp Pond dam and finally got a good look at the hole they made in the winter. It looked
like they dug and pushed through the dead roots of an old bush.

and I saw how they were trying to patch it with mud and a log pushed in perpendicular to the dam

and I saw where they've been nibbling and marking with mud

The mud almost looked like an otter scat. But I saw none of that. The dam is rather soggy, and like me, an otter might be hard pressed to find solid turf. The beavers have pushed mud up but have not built the dam up like the usually do in the spring. I think patching the hole they made and used in the winter is proving a bit difficult. The beaver was still out, up pond, swimming lazily, no tail slaps for me. Maybe there are no kits in the making here. We'll see.

April 19 very hot day for the season almost 80, and with no leaves, no shade. We checked the Turtle Bog but no Blandings sunning, still no frog eggs, and no caddisfly larvae crawling on the bottom armored in spruce needles. I did see a blue darner dragonfly. There were no signs of fresh beaver work around the Teepee Pond or valley pool. But there were flowers blooming below the Teepee dam: dutchman's britches almost out, and plenty of hepaticas

not so many spring beauties

and a mysterious arrival

We went to see if the Deep Pond beavers might be out at 5pm, just before we had to go. No, and no signs of fresh work. So I took some photos of their piles of sticks on and near the lodge so I would have some measure of future activity, and one of the beavers swam out into the middle of the pond.

April 20 to beat the hot day, I got off to tour South Bay before 9am. At this time of year I am looking for otter signs, never a sure thing, but spring is a sure thing and quite diverting. However, up on the granite plateau, as I walked along Antler Trail, I saw about a dozen deer, and if this was still winter, I would say they were yarded up. But of course there is no more snow. The photo below shows where they congregated under the shade of the pine in the background

I walked over and found some juniper, which I don't think they eat now, and what looked like ground vines sprouting up, which I know they do eat, but I didn't see any ripped out or chewed up. There was soft flat grass to sleep on, some pawing in the leaves, but no oaks around. They left in two groups, going in two directions. One deer stood alone, staring at me. I went out to check the willow lodge latrine along the north shore of the south cove of South Bay and no saw no signs of any recent visits by otters or beavers. And they tried to trap out all the raccoons to stem a rabies epidemic. I sat on the willow to see if any piscivores might be looking for bullheads. An osprey swooped down and didn't seem to get anything. There was a steady chorus of leopard frogs interspersed with some peepers.
The redwinged blackbirds were not shy either. Since the marsh that surrounds the point is flooded, I walked slowly along the marshy edge of the south shore of the north cove, and saw two piles of leaves that looked like otter scent mounds,

but I didn't seen any scats. Sometimes scats are under the leaves so I reached down to lift up some leaves and felt something gooey

So I think an otter was here which is an interesting development. The scent mounds are on an easy path from one cove to the other. Of course I was hoping to see fresh pawing and scats above the old dock where an otter or perhaps two
had already done quite a bit. But there was nothing fresh in the latrine. I sat and studied the cove and bay and then noticed that there was a tailless bullhead in the water in front of me.

Of course, I can't prove it, but I think otters often bite off the tails of the bullheads. The bullhead survives this operation and I have seen them actually swimming in the water. This bullhead was still alive but not swimming. This was just across the narrow part of the cove from where I saw the scent mounds. So, up to the docking rock latrine: no fresh scats, but I thought some more leaves had been scraped up. Then I saw a wet trail going up the trail to Audubon Pond, and a little pile of leaves. I followed and then saw beaver prints in the mud. So I
continued up to the pond thinking I might be hot on the trail of a beaver, and when I got up to the pond, I was greeted by a tail slap from a beaver in the pond just east of Audubon Pond. I don't like bothering beavers who are slapping me, but I had to get a photo. As luck would have it, the beaver swam into the big pond and kept slapping. I got a good photo:

The beavers here are leaving mud marks all along the shore. They always do this and I always think that means kits are on the way, but none appear. Of course, they do it because it is so easy for beavers to come up from South Bay. Indeed the beaver that slapped might have been engarde because the beaver I tracked up from South Bay tried to move in. Down at the otter latrine over the entrance to South Bay, I was first attracted by the spring beauties

then I finally saw scats

not yet all black and smooth like an otter eating bullheads should leave.

There was a fresher scat behind the scraping near a mound of moss. As usual I was complementing myself on being so observant and then I saw that the granite rock I had just been sitting on had scats on it.

There were no signs that beavers had been around. I checked high on the ridge but the shadbushes were not blossoming. I saw three deer together up there. Back at Audubon Pond I had a lot of beaver work to log in. They are using the bank lodge, pushing on new sticks and there is a trail of mud
behind the lodge.

A little farther behind, they've taken to girdling white oaks, even though there are red oaks yet to be girdled,

They are also picking up on their girdling where other beavers left off.

and they are cutting ash trees even as they don't do anything with other ashes they've cut down.

They seem to be starting on oaks and a cherry

and then when they do complete the job, often the trees don't fall.

Tough being a beaver, but it's not as easy to see the success stories: trees cut, segmented, made a meal of and pushed up on the lodge. There is fresh work around the lodge in the pond, but the water is so high, the goose can hardly keep up on her eggs. On the east shore of the pond I saw three elaborate complexes, if that's the word, of eggs

so extensive I think they might be fish eggs.