Wednesday, July 15, 2009

June 23 to June 30, 2009

June 23 We're having our first heat wave of the year which prompted us to start watering the garden, which helps keep me out of the woods. It was so hot I didn't haul down the last bit of aspen log to the Deep Pond. Good thing, since the little beaver there seems to have lost its taste for it.

I didn't walk around the pond, my way of summoning the beaver's appearance. I was anxious to see how the beavers in Boundary Pond beavers are doing, but we had to chores to do on the island so we left our land at noon. I got a chance to walk around the Teepee Pond, hoping to see a Blanding's
turtle. I did see a rather large water snake, large for the size of the ponds there. Last year at this time, I anticipated that the Wildcat Pond beavers would move up to the Teepee and First Ponds so I cut away a good bit of honeysuckle and buckthorn to
afford myself a better view of the pond. I still think my anticipation was warranted. A beaver had been around the ponds cutting this and that, and the family had not started their lodge at Boundary Pond. Of course, the beavers didn't come. So I never enjoyed my view last summer, so today I checked it out. If I cut one buckthorn that grew rather tall, I still have some view.

However, with only turtles, a few frogs, and at least one snake about, there is not much to see save the annual drama: will the pond dry out? It is still in pretty good fettle. I could not walk down to it and then walk
along the shore without climbing up on rocks and then pushing through a wall of honeysuckle and buckthorn I've never thinned out. The vegetation in this pond, just as that in the First Pond, is being gobbled up.

I saw this especially in the shallows, so I bet deer are eating it. Despite a humid spring, it has been a bad one for mushrooms, not one morrell. Today I saw a healthy looking lobster mushroom, I think they call it.

June 24 we drove back last night to sleep on our land and just as we turned up to the house we saw a doe and her fawn. We like to spend the nights there to get our fill of bird songs and as it
got dark yellow throats were protesting with their loud call. Then the more melodious thrushes took over and finally the whip-poor-will. The morning bird songs are filtered through our dreams. I dreamed of a lull in a concert and the conductor asked for the audience to hum a C so his musicians could get back in tune. That suggests a mosquito buzzing in my ear, not the red eyed vireo or scarlet tanager warming up. After morning chores, I sat in the woods by the Last Pool, almost glad that it was unlikely a beaver would be out. Oven birds were behind me and veeries in front. Of course, I couldn't see them, or did I? I might have seen a veery in the shadows. Other birds were quiet, though I did hear a splash a blackbird made as it hopped on bugs in the pool. I frequently humble my own perceptions by making much of the two planes beavers, otters and muskrats operate on, our level and under water. But what of the birds in the woods in late spring? A blue jay flew to a branch in front of me, and then flew quickly and quietly to several other branches, all at
roughly the same height, like it had forgotten where the nest was, only remembered how far off the ground it is, which of course is a bit of ignorance a blue jay wouldn't display. But it suggests to me that the woods in this lively season have
different worlds unfolding depending on how high or low you fly or climb, leaving me all supine sapience oblivious to the goings-on in all the green spheres and cones and pyramids growing in the wind above my head. Then I got up and contented myself
with beaver conundrums: has a beaver started gnawing on one of the big poplars again?

If that brighter wood says yes, then it suggests the beaver gnawing on the outside of the cut has no interest in cutting the poplar down. Despite that possible visit to the poplar, the upper part of the Last Pool is not muddy at all, and the piles of things to nibble, left by the beavers, are getting overgrown from the vegetation around the pool.

On the east shore of the pool, I saw some segmented trunks I hadn't seen before.

The beaver could have gotten to them by walking up the shore. The shade makes it hard to see animal trails. I'd have better luck seeing them on a cloudy day. The sundoppled earth doesn't photograph well. In the photo below that I took from the dam of the pool, you may just make out where the muddy water stops, marking how far the beavers have retreated from their explorations.

My photo of the dam/pile in the middle of the pond was not legible enough for me to examine if the beavers, as I predicted, would pick things off it to take down to Boundary Pond as the pool dried. But I noticed another measure, neat piles of long logs and sticks beside the beavers' trail over this mid-dam -- the original moss covered rotten root that segmented the pool.

Will the beavers take them down to Boundary Pool? or are they laid aside in case the beavers decide to build a lodge in the Last Pool?

June 27 I finally got a chance to sit by the Last Pool and Boundary Pond in the late afternoon to see if two or three beavers are still coming out and to hear how much humming there is in the lodge, perhaps with kits inside. As I walked around to the east shore of the Last Pool, I again saw beaver work that I don't recall seeing before, the long trunk of a sapling lying by the water almost cut in half. I sat where I left my chair, with a view of the Last Pool channel. I got there at 2:30pm and I really didn't expect a
beaver to be out. The water in that channel has been muddy every time I've seen it recently and so it was today. I waited until 3 pm, enjoying the same birds as I did the last time I sat here a few days ago, oven birds and veeries, with a stray wood thrush call. Then I moved the chair down to the shady shore of Boundary Pool with an obstructed view of the lodge

and a good view of the channel between the upper and lower expanse of the pond. Of course a few weeks ago, it was all one big pond, now the water skirting the channel is not deep at all, revealing muck and litter.

Last year I enjoyed this view since I could easily mark the progress of the beavers up and down pond. The channel was deep enough for a beaver to swim up it underwater, but shallow enough so that I could see a wake on the surface of the water. I heard a hum from the lodge at 3:08, but no fanfare suggesting a beaver might soon swim out. So I contented myself watching the dragonflies low over the sunlit pond water. I understand that they are eating mosquitoes, and some of them were always trying to bite me. So I wished the dragonflies would spend less time chasing each other, at least that's what it looks like they are doing. There would appear to be an unlimited supply of mosquitoes and no need for a mosquito predator to stake out and defend territory. It clouded up briefly which set the green frogs and a bullfrog to croaking. I also noticed some frogs jumping down from perches several inches above the water. The last two jumps seemed to be associated with dragonflies coming near. At 3:30 I heard some more serious humming from the lodge. However it wasn't until 4, moments before I had planned to leave to go water the garden, that I heard a beaver swim out. I caught a glimpse of it swimming down toward the lodge; then saw it on my side of the lodge before swimming back toward the lodge. Then I heard another gulp of water and saw a beaver swimming between me and the lodge, but lost sight of it as it swam behind a clump of logs and vegetation. I kept waiting for it to reappear. Then a sound in
the water drew my attention up pond,

where I saw rippling water, and then saw the beaver. It had swum up the channel right in front of me under water and I didn't notice. Then, I think, it swam up the channel toward the Last Pool. Then I saw the first beaver again, near the lodge. I paid closer attention and could see its progress as it swam under water up the channel. Unfortunately, it must have had an eye on me. It surfaced in front of me, nose in my direction, and even had its tail cocked, perhaps for a splash. No. It dove facing up pond but must have looped under itself under water because it wound up swimming back down to the lodge. I had hopes that the other beaver might soon return bringing down food for the kits, but when it reappeared, it too seemed wary, bearing no food, diving and disappearing. I was hoping it would swim over
and grab a leafy green sapling in the water across the pond that had been recently cut.

Heading home I checked the upper end of the Last Pool to see if it looked muddy from that beaver swimming there. No. The pool is getting low revealing shoals and levies of twigs, sticks and logs left behind.

After dinner I went for a walk down the road not actually planning to sit by the Deep Pond, but as I walked by I looked over at it from a vantage point on the road, and saw a beaver swimming below the far shore. Then as I stepped down to
take a closer look, I saw another beaver up in the grass on the northeast side of the pond. So a pair, once again. The beaver in the grass retreated into the pond where the other beaver, a smaller one, joined it, swimming behind it, until the smaller beaver dove, and then surfaced in front of the larger beaver. I think they briefly went nose to nose and then separated, and then swam together up the inlet channel. When I saw two beavers together for the first time a few weeks ago, the larger beaver swam under the smaller and then pushed it a bit. Then I took the
under swimming as an agressive move, now I am not so sure. I waited for the beavers to return. Only one did, first munching on what looked like a bit of nipped willow, and then it went up on the grass and back toward the inlet. I also noticed the half
stripped poplar log was now completely stripped. As I walked up the road in the almost dark, I heard a whip-poor-will singing in one of the oaks near our house. Then it stopped and flew over toward me, circled me twice, flying and fluttering so I could see the white stripes on its tail, all without its making a noise, and then it stayed low flying down the road where I think another bird joined it and they hurried into the woods and soon one called energetically well up the road. I felt rather blessed and annointed even though the whip-poor-will was probably just after
the mosquitoes swarming around me.

June 28 I took the remaining aspen log down to the Deep Pond, doing my duty once again. It was a hot muggy morning and we got our watering and other chores done by 11am. Then after lunch, around 12:30, I went down to Boundary Pond. Not expecting a beaver to be out, I
poked around to see if I could see what the beavers are doing at the Last Pool. The "levy" of twigs left by the retreating water at the northwest corner of the pond doesn't tell the whole story. On the moss covered rib that forms the end of
the pond there was a stripped log and stick that looked new to me

and while the channel from there down the pond was not muddy, it looked like it could easily be used by a beaver.

More convincing was the broad trail heading up. I walked up its well worn way, turned and took a photo looking back at the pool,

and then a photo showing how beavers recently waded through the ferns, eating some, unless a deer did that (I did see a deer browse along here),

ending in an elm, cut and segmented. Deer didn't do that.

Then I went back to the pool and continued walking around it. I saw that a beaver stripped some more bark off the smallest of the poplars they had been working on.

They also have been cutting the prickly ash here. However, I am not sure why the water in the pool near this evidently recent work is not muddier. It maybe a case of the pool here simply being deeper to begin with. I checked the rib of sticks and logs in the middle of the pool, and it looked like a beaver had pushed some mud up, and maybe dredged a bit, but that could just have appeared because the water is a little lower.

Either case I like discovering what looks like the beavers' fine tuning this beautiful shaded pool of water in the woods. Just off the pool I saw an ash stump with green sprouts all around it. Indeed, I wasn't sure this was an ash when I saw it cut in the fall. The leaves on the sprouts now tell the tale.

I haven't seen any evidence that the beavers nip off these sprouts. Then I sat in my chair in the shade just off Boundary Pool. Neither oven birds nor veeries called. Perhaps I was there too early, then again nothing changes habits more than birds once they are off their nest. I did hear some intriguing mewing and also clucking coming from up on the west shore. No idea what was doing that. Not a raven. The usual raven was about giving unimaginative yodels now and then. I also heard some sporadic humming from the lodge. After an hour I walked down
to the dam. The beavers are stripping another small hemlock near the one they cut but which didn't fall.

Just like with the other, they stripped bark and roots. No cutting yet.

I took a photo of the east side of the lodge, which is their favorite entrance to the lodge. It almost looks decorated over the entrance with a big log and twigs, but here I am fancying too much, I think.

Then when I got over to the west end of the dam and looked up at the lodge, I decided I had to take another photo showing how the early afternoon sun bathed the lodge.

Last year this lodge was in the shade. Could that be why some of the beavers come out in the afternoon, the lodge is simply too hot? especially with the added kits? I went up the ridge, up the beavers' well worn trail and saw that they had cut another tree or two, taken a bit of it but with plenty of leafy crown left to get.

Back down at the pond I saw a purple flowering raspberry plant

with a bug enjoying one flower.

These grow all over the slopes of the south shore of White Swamp but this is the first time that I've seen them on our land. Nice addition. Back in the pond, I saw that the beavers still had not collected the leafy sapling they cut a day or two ago.

So as far as I can tell, the beavers are more or less all over the pond and pool. I still haven't seen any evidence of their going down into Wildcat Pond, which they did a good deal last summer. However, I have been remiss in checking
that pond.

June 29 I went over the ridge on Antler Trail as usual but this time cut off the South Bay trail toward Otter Hole Pond. Then I went up to the Second Swamp Pond which looked untended by beavers, but still had plenty of water in it, though the tall grasses were rather
crowding the dam.

Then I angle over to the southwest shore of the Lost Swamp Pond where I didn't expect anything and aimed to sit for an hour and enjoy all or nothing. As I came down to the pond wood ducks and their ducklings swam away -- about 10 ducklings I think. I sat on the rock above the mossy cove, and was surprised
to see much of the vegetation in the pond uneaten.

I expected the beavers to have cleared that out. However, I had no doubt that the beavers were still there. The lodge off in the middle of the pond had been bulked up.

I don't think this is a case of their cutting trees to get logs for a lodge. I think they raided the old lodges, especially the nearby bank lodge. I took a photo of that and will have to compare it with old photos to see if logs had
indeed been taken off the lodge.

Of course, on the way to that bank lodge, I inspected the mossy cove latrine for otter scats, and to my surprise I found some rather old scat, but new to me.

An otter is acting a good bit like me, getting over to this huge pond just once a week. Pity we both can't visit at the same time. I sat on rocks with a better view of all the lodges. The lodge out in the southeast end of the pond was green with growing plants

The beavers, otters, and geese are letting it go to seed, so to speak. But looking from so far away, I shouldn't jump to conclusions like that. Birds entertained me at first, both phoebes and king birds getting bugs. A heron flew
high over the pond, as did an osprey or hawk. I didn't get a good look at what flew out of a tree near the pond and circled over the now relatively dry bushy meadow above the Upper Second Swamp Pond. In other years I would expect an osprey to circle over water, but I am noticing them over meadows this year. Then I saw a muskrat swimming along the northeast shore of the pond, slowly circling over to the north shore of the peninsula. Then I saw another muskrat swimming straight up pond as if to cut off the circling muskrat. I scrambled to get out my camcorder expecting to see a battle over territory -- something I have not seen here this year. But when I got the camcorder focused, both muskrats had disappeared. This seems to be a slow year for muskrats. They were heavily trapped three years ago, though not in the ponds I watch. Then an insect entertained me. This spring I am always checking my pants for deer ticks, and I found one crawling up me as I sat on the rock. In the early spring I only found deer ticks. Now, especially on hot days, I find all types of insects on me. I think I took a photo last year of the same type of pugnacious mite that crawled and hopped on my pants today, and when it stopped seemed woven into the fabric.

Then a pair of ducks flew in, landing in the pond in front of me. They were small and drab, not easy to identify, and I decided not to train the camcorder on them. Then they began putting on an irresistable show with quick dives in the water, then rearing up with wings flapping. Even when they climbed up on a log to preen their feathers, they did so with quirks I've never seen in a duck before, using their flipper feet like grooming beavers do, and then stretching out their neck and making quick yawns with their beak and they scratched behind. Then they squatted down for some firm rest

eventually sidling closer to each other. I first thought they were wood ducks recovering from molting, but they didn't act like wood ducks. They looked small, which I could better see when a mallard landed near them. I saw some blue as
they preened back feathers, so perhaps they were teals. I wanted to check the Big Pond today too, but had to check the Lost Swamp Pond dam first. As I walked around, I looked for signs of beaver work and while I found none, except the muddy pond bottom where vegetation had been eaten, I did see three or four trails up from
the pond through the grasses, ferns and dogbane.

I suspect beavers coming up to eat the grasses made the trail. At least there was no goose poop that I could see. The bouncing bet like flower is popping out just underneath the tall green grasses.

And the milkweed, as well as swamp milkweed, are out, more vigorous then last year, I think. No sign that the otter used the latrine by the dam, which is now thick grass, ferns and milkweeds.

There were many perfect multiblossom spheres in various stages of development

and some quite perfected. I shaded the plant below, changing the sundrenched pink of the blossoms to violet.

Then next to the dam there were stunted milkweed plants, two of them drying out.

Over on the north shore I got another angle on the lodge.

It looked like the honeysuckle and nannyberry I had seen on the lodge last time, quite bushy and green then, had been compressed with logs put on top of them. The sunnyside of the lodge is getting this treatment suggesting the beavers are doing it to keep the lodge cooler. Last time I was here I saw a lot of digging into what little dirt there is on the rocks forming the shore, and I wasn't sure if turtles and raccoons did it. Judging from the egg casings strewn on the rocks, the turtles had done it, and now a raccoon has dug through the area.

I glanced down at the Upper Second Swamp Pond which looked very low, beaverless, I am sure. I didn't see any fresh beaver work as I approached the Big Pond, and the piles of sticks along the dam didn't look especially nibbled. I did see one or two stripped sticks in the water,

and it looked like something had picked through the cattails along the dam.

But better indications that the beavers are arounds are the solid state of the lodge,

and the dam. It actually supported me, though it was squishy

but testing that beaver packed mud beats wrestling with the cattails below the dam. And where the mud gets baked by the sun, the dam was fairly firm

I wasn't sure if the mud behind the dam had been pushed up recently. It looked that way suggesting the beavers are bulking the dam back rather than building it up any higher. At this time of year it is both difficult getting to and seeing this dam. There are no ridges where one can sit and study how the beavers manage the dam. Heading back through the woods on the ridge, I saw how ants digging into a rotten tree trunk had left twin towers below.

Then, once again, up on the granite plateau I saw a turkeys with their poults.

This time they didn't scatter, but all seemed to crane their necks to get a look at me.

June 30 Just before dinner, I headed off for a quick kayak tour of South Bay. One common tern made two dives and a swoop. I checked the willow lodge/latrine first and saw some beaver nipped sticks on the mossy shores. The grass back in the latrine was not compressed, but I did see the bony remains of a carp on the moss next to the shore. Of course, a raccoon could have pawed that out of the water. As I usual I saw three or four herons, with the
croaking heron up in the tree. I always assume that the heron up in the tree is the boss heron. Going up the south shore of the point of the peninsula, I saw a small muskrat, or so I think. It was drizzling and my binocular were fogged up. I heard a few carp splashing in the north cove. But the whole time I was in the north cove I was distracted by a lone white bird paddling along the north shore. It wasn't a swan, judging by the neck, and the black outlines on its folded back wings looked like the picture of a juvenile Ross's goose, which would be quite a rare sighting,
so let's call it a stray snow goose. Of course I checked the otter latrines along the north shore of the peninsula and saw instead healthy clumps of blueflag iris and white wood anemones. No smelly scats. Going up the north shore of the cove, I moved a
mallard family along, counting nine ducklings, quite a haul for a mallard. The tight group made a nice wake as it crossed the cove. Then two young osprey flew out of a tree by the shore and flew together in close formation. I cut behind them, heading home for my dinner. Out over Granite Slate shoal, I saw a loon fishing, second time I've seen one in our neck of the river. At the point just off Goose Neck Island, Ottoleo was in our boat catching what would become our dinner

Not such a sweet kiss.