Monday, July 19, 2010

June 23 to 30, 2010

June 22 I resolved to paddle out to Picton at dawn if I woke up in time. I found that I awake at 5am. It was already rather light out but it’s hard to find a dark moment on the longest day of the year and it would over a half hour before the sun was up. So at 5:10 am, I left our dock and had a light southeast wind at my back. There were not as many birds on the river as I’ve sometime seen at dawn but, especially in the Narrows, there were a lot of dobsons flies flopping over the water. As I paddled up Eel Bay I noticed the wind seemed more in my face which I decided was good because it would blow my odor away from the north shore of Picton. Fortunately, there were no fishermen out that early and no one moored their yacht too close to the point. I didn’t see any seagulls flying around Picton, which I thought boded ill, but just as I approached the big rock 100 yards off the point, two seagulls flew across my path. I heard a loon calling nearby, but I didn’t look for it. I was looking for otters. The quarrying operation 100 years ago flattened the northwest shore of Picton Island, while leaving a jumble of granite boulders below the ridge behind the shore and a scattering of boulders in the river like the bones of broken fingers that reached out where the barges couldn’t go. I was at that distance from the farthest reach of boulders which made them loom larger than perhaps they really are and for that reason I trained my binoculars on them. Forget the boulders. In the river in front of them, I saw the rolling back of one otter, then another. Then I saw the heads of two more otters swimming behind the rolling backs. Over the years I have seen groups of otters fishing off Quarry Point at dawn, either three or four in the group. In the fall I categorized the group as a family. In the spring and early summer I described them as a group of males fishing together for greater efficiency. Given the pattern of otter pup rearing and dispersion with the latter occurring by the end of March, and given the observed predilection for adult otters to group by sex, there was no other explanation for the group. And while the groups I saw seemed to have a leader, the other otters did not relate to him the way I’ve seen otter pups relate to their mother. The subordinate male otters stayed close coordinating their dives with the lead otter. Families have spasms of coordination with much time spent by the mother trying to keep the pups from getting distracted. Sharing a fish with them seemed to be the only sure way to do that. Of course, I thought the four otters I saw this morning are the mother and three pups I have been tracking and seeing for months in the Wellesley Island beaver ponds. I didn’t have long to wait to get an indication I was right. An otter climbed up on a boulder next to a shoal marker. A large fish wagged in its mouth. Then another otter climbed up on the rock and the first otter gave it the fish and swam off. That otter almost seemed to toy with the fish at first then eventually got the hang of tearing the fish apart. I watched with binoculars and then looked around to see where the other otters were. Here is the advantage of not having a camcorder or camera, which I never take with me in the kayak. I could keep track of two or three things almost at once. Two otters seemed to be fishing together then one went up on shore and the other wound up fishing alone well off the point. Then when the otter on the rock eating the fish seemed to tire after it consumed half of it, another otter came up on the rock. I have often seen siblings snatch fish from each otter. This otter waited patiently until the other otter dropped the fish and swam off. The it took the fish in its forepaws and finished eating it. That had to have been the mother who first gave the fish to her pup and then came back to get a bite herself. An otter on shore started chirping and if the mother did that her pups would come to her. But I was watching the mother, eating the fish on the rock and she didn’t budge. I was not really watching pups, however. These were juveniles over a year old. I didn’t clearly see any more fish sharing, but two otters who climbed up on the shore had fish in their mouth. One seemed to manage without supervision but the other was visited by a larger otter and got its fur nuzzled as it ate. I clearly saw one otter go back on a trail through the bushes, back to where I know there were plenty of rocks for a den. I lost track of another otter but think it too went back through the bushes. The two otters together were on the shore more up toward the point, and I thought I might be able to paddle slowly to the shore where I could get a look at the remains of the fish I saw an otter eating. Other animals had an eye for these remains. A seagull and then a heron perched on that dining rock out in the water. A crow pecked at the remains on the shore. I did make it to shore and saw that the otter left behind a large bullhead head, but I disturbed the other two otters. Mother snorted at me and then they both disappeared. The above description is a bit too studied. I am trying to highlight the evidence to prove that I was seeing an overindulgent otter mother and three spoiled pups. My actual experience was much more fluid, difficult to follow and surprising. There is not much shoal area off the point, and just off the rocks that formed the old quays of the quarry, the water is 10 feet deep, and deeper still where I was floating. So that when I saw an otter pop out of the water with a fish in its mouth it seemed magical. I had no idea what they were doing under water. I’d often see a wake in the water without seeing the otter which meant that it was swimming just under the surface perhaps looking for a fish to dive after. I don’t think they were just getting bullheads, but maybe, and I don’t think of this relatively deep water with likely a rocky bottom as a good place for bullheads. Those groups of adult otters that I saw fishing here never seemed to catch a fish. The adult otter groups that I’ve seen always moved along around the point. These otters oriented around the area on the shore that I identified as the family’s den last summer and where I saw the scats yesterday. The bad news, I suppose, is that this otter family hanging together and visiting all its old haunts means that there is not a mother in the process of weaning pups in those same haunts. As I paddled back across Eel Bay, I saw two loons close together, looked like they were dipping in a courtly way, then they dove and disappeared. Then as I paddled through the Narrows, I saw two mink racing along the top of the cliff. One would chase the other and retreat, the other would rush over for another confrontation and retreat. This kept up for a few minutes forming an arc of angry minks high above me. Then they met, screeched, and one finally ran down the cliff and along the rocks on the edge of the river. A lot happens along the river in the hour after dawn. I got back home at 7:20 am, about when I usually get up.

Seeing otters at dawn makes the rest of the day anticlimactic and necessitates at nap or two. We went to the land and I walked around the Last Pool and Boundary Pond. The beavers didn’t do much more girdling on the ring of hemlocks around the dead birch, which I noticed a few days ago. Then there was one hemlock almost girdled now there are almost two.

However, while I assumed they would strip each hemlock in that circle, the beavers had other ideas, and they tasted the high roots or low trunk of hemlocks a bit farther on shore.

There was also low gnawing on two maple trees nearby.

I moved some rock and logs onto those trunks to keep the beavers from girdling the trees. We’ve had enough rain to excite the mushrooms and something seems to be eating some mushrooms.

I always think of deer doing this but I know there are some red squirrels active along the east shore of Boundary Pond. I walked across on the dam and then up the west shore, after sitting briefly in the chair halfway up the ridge. I didn’t see any new gnawing or tree cutting. I think if I want to get a measure of what the beavers are eating, I have keep track of the duckweed, but I don’t have the slightest idea of how quickly it spreads. Before I finished my walk up the west shore, I saw an injured luna moth. It’s back wings were gone and it body wounded.

Not much I could do for it, but I took it back to the house as fast as I could so Leslie could see it. Of course I was hoping to get out and see the beavers at night, but it rained hard.

June 23 we slept in our house at the land and had a relatively quiet night. The best I could do to keep track of the beavers was repeat my walk of yesterday and see what was new. At the end of the Last Pool I saw a nibbled stick -- one of the rare ones here this year.

Last fall the fringes of the pond were filled with nibbled sticks. I’m not sure how to account for that change, and the beavers girdling hemlock after hemlock, though perhaps I exaggerate their taste for hemlocks. There wasn’t much fresh gnawing or stripping on them and no more gnawing on the maples either, but I still wrapped some plastic around the maples, held on by logs and rocks that I piled around the trunks. I noticed some delicate gnawing on a rib of a high exposed hemlock root.

I couldn’t get any sense of what the beavers did last night, except they seem to be pushing more muck up on the dam.

In the beaver ponds I watch on Wellesley Island, beavers push heaves of mud up on the dam and it is easy to tell how recently they did that by the color and consistency of the mud. But the muck here, dredged up from the floor of what was once a wooded valley, does not dry out and it remains porous until the beavers pile enough logs on top to squeeze out the air pockets. Later in the day I went down to the Deep Pond and I noticed that the pickeral weed is blooming.

Since there are no beavers here and I haven’t seen any muskrats, nor sure signs of them, I thought we might have a good crop of water lilies, but none seem to be developing.

Only the frogs are lively here this summer.

June 24 I finally got a chance to check on the beavers' move into the little creek between Shangri-la and East Trail ponds, and I also wanted to check that area as a possible route the otters took to get from the Second Swamp Pond to South Bay and then out to Picton Island. We’ve had some heavy showers recently and the creeks coming down to South Bay from the island swamps are a bubbling torrent, though I can still hop across on the rocks.

Back when otters used the lower beaver ponds in this valley, they scatted on the knoll overlooking the New Pond, which was the last pond the beaver fashioned down stream. I periodically check it to see if it has become an otter sign post again. There were trails up on the knoll, probably from deer, but no otter scats. Looking up the valley, despite the rain, there were no ponds to be seen, just lush green meadows.

Otters probably could navigate that, but I think it unlikely I could discern a trail given that everything is still growing. So I headed back to the East Trail. Since I first saw the new beaver development when it was almost dark, I couldn’t be certain of how much of what I was seeing today was new work. But now I’ll have a good photo so I can chart the beavers’ progress.

Thanks to the heavy showers, the dams the beavers had just made were leaking. Beavers usually wait until after the flood subsides before refurbishing their dam. In the light of day, I could get a photo showing the proximity of their dam to the East Trail bridge.

The trunks and debris below the dam have been washed down the creek after the dam up at Shangri-la Pond failed. My hope is that these beavers will move down into the lower part of the old East Trail Pond and restore it to its former glory, but these dams give every indication that the beavers are moving up stream back to Shangri-la Pond. The beavers tasted some maples on the bank heading up to Shangri-la Pond.

However, there is also munching below that upper dam. Right under the bridge, where there might be a little dam in the cattails, they’ve been eating cattails, stalk and rhizome.

And then behind the lower dam,

they are cutting the alders from the same clump that they harvested back in February 2009.

When I saw this development in the night, I thought I could see another pool below this one, but today with all the dams leaking, what I thought was a pool seemed like a general dissipation of water through the marsh below with no effort of the beavers to pond the water.

When I first noticed that beavers were back in the upper East Trail Pond, I thought they might have built a dam out in the middle of the meadow. I waded out through the wet grass to get a better look. If they had built the barrier holding back water, and I don’t think they did, they certainly haven’t pushed mud up on it recently,

And these beavers can be pretty vigorous when it comes to dredging and dam building, as their new development shows. I took take some photos of Shangri-la Pond so I can relish the changes if they move back there. Of course, that pond is not far away from this new development.

There is absolutely no signs of beavers being back in Shangri-la Pond. The area behind the dam that failed is the same as I last saw it.

And the lodge, which may well be the most commodious lodge near their new development, is a mound of green vegetation, and the pool of water in front of it just a lighter shade of green.

I also checked where the beavers had been a few weeks ago, saw no sign of them, but took a photo so that their new development tucked behind a big stand of cattails is in the background of the photo.

The beavers may still be lurking up here and going down to the new development, which is so much more exposed to view, during the night. With the rain, there is no lack of water in the upper reaches of the East Trail Pond, and I saw a stripped log in the water that I hadn‘t seen before.

I didn’t see any otter scats around Meander Pond. Grass seems to be claiming all trails radiating from the pond.

Soon the vegetation will so high that I won’t be able to see the lodge anymore. But the beavers left some massive tokens of their recent presence,

And I wonder, if that big red oak had crashed down to the ground, would the beavers still be here? I walked around to the dam and on the way saw that the milkweed was blossoming.

Plenty of water behind the dam, the wallows they fashioned were full, but the beavers were gone. As for the otters, that I didn’t find any signs doesn’t mean that they hadn't been here recently.

June 26 I went out to check the East Trail Pond again to see what changes the beavers might have wrought in 48 hours. In the meantime we had more rain. I should have been out searching for mushrooms because I saw plenty. The most colorful was some chicken-of-the-woods, or something very similar, on a dying tree’s trunk.

But I usually hurried past the mushrooms. The beavers are still coming to the creek between Shangri-la and the East Trail ponds. They’ve trimmed back more of the maple, gnawed some of the branches and trunk and have a good bit more to go.

They’ve pushed mud up on their new dams

But the pools they created haven’t gotten much bigger.

The creek is hemmed in by its relatively high banks and the creek falls several feet as it comes down from Shangri-la Pond, or meadow, as it is now.

The dam below the bridge creates a terrace of water not really a pond.

I fancied I could see trails going over the dams, with two trails going into the old East Trail Pond.

But I am so anxious for them to restore the East Trail Pond that I’m foolishly impugning the work of these beavers who have amazed and surprised me with their resourcefulness over the past ten years. To be sure, it may not be the same beavers I saw ten years ago who survived a drought in Meander Pond by dredging one channel from a bank burrow to their lodge, but I am certain it is the same family. I did walk up to the pond these beavers fashioned above Shangri-la Pond, which seemed to be the direction they were taking when their main pond was swollen with water. I saw no signs of beaver attention. Their old upper pond held water but it was choked with vegetation. I took a photo of the section of the dam of the main Shangri-la Pond that failed, just in case the beavers get back to work there.

Then I turned my attention to my otter problems. Can I find any evidence to indicate the route they took to get back to the river? Of course, as I headed to the Second Swamp Pond dam, I knew there was a chance I'd find new scats, fresh scats!, and that the otters would be there or in the Lost Swamp Pond or Big Pond. These otters have shaken all my confidence in my old theories of how otters handle this habitat. There is an outcrop of granite that almost reaches the pool of water that remains in the upper part of the Otter Hole Pond meadow.

There was a beaver lodge in the right hand side of the photo above, the remnants of which are covered with vegetation. So the beavers’ dredging in front of the lodge probably accounts for the resiliency of this pool of water where the little creek still runs. When the beavers moved down the valley to make a bigger pond, I think the mother otter prized this area as a place to raise pups, at least for awhile. Then I think the mother otter principally raised them in the East Trail Pond, which is also mostly meadow now. In the winter I can walk through this meadow, so I know where the remnant of the old dam above this pool is, and I think that smaller pool was the first area the beavers developed about 40 years ago because 30 years ago I saw what was then a rather decayed beaver lodge. Remnants of that disappeared about 15 years ago. However, the roar of vegetation in a wet meadow at the end of June easily drowns out all memories of they way things were and should be. In a word: I got my feet wet. Of course, wading in water changed my priorities from finding that old dam and finding otter signs to simply finding a drier path through the meadow. My feet found two old trees trunks and they directed toward where I recall the little creek flowed into the pool behind the dam I was looking for. But I forgot about a second little creek that forms from an hole in the north end of the dam. Negotiating that brought me well away from the pool I was looking for and I had already given up on the dam. All this may not present any difficulty for four otters and perhaps it would offer an opportunity to find who knows what to eat, but even for them, going down the length of this meadow and a meadow below half as big would probably be a challenge. The photo below was taken from that rock outcrop, the only dry land in the meadow save for the old Otter Hole Pond dam in the far back of the photo.

I didn’t see any trails in the wet meadow and as I got closer to the Second Pond dam the few trails I saw were parallel to the dam and were obviously made by deer. Then I got to the trails down to the otter latrine by the creek. There were no new scats there. Then I went up to the Lost Swamp Pond dam and there were no new scats there, nor over at the mossy cove latrine nor at the rock above it. The otters had not been back. There was not much else happening in the pond. I forgot to mention in an earlier journal entry that while I was watching a beaver over on the north shore, I saw that huge snapping turtle lurking in the water in the middle of the pond. A snapping turtle is the biggest thing that can swim in shallow water and make the least impression to a land bound onlooker: some bubbles, a tip of nose, a push of shell the same color as the water. Of course, they are more safely appreciated from a far dry perspective. Then as I sat on the rock, I stopped peeling back memories and had an idea that began with my taking myself out of the picture. The otters started scatting on the rock above the mossy cove latrine, just after they saw me up there. So naturally I assumed that was their way of telling me that they could track me as easily as I could track them. But why would otters care that much about me? So I asked myself again, why did they come up on the rock to scat. I have seen otter pups led up ridges by their mother in late July and I’ve tracked otters in the first snows going up the high granite ridges that rib the island and flank the ponds. That explained to me why otters like to climb up the smaller rocks near the ponds to scat. The mother needed to inculcate and foster that impulse to climb which otters need to negotiate this habitat. The otter family I have been watching never showed me the route it took over the ridge. There was snow cover most of the winter and they always took the low route from pond to pond and never went back to the river, as far as I could tell. The same time that the otters came up on the rocks was about the same time in May when the meadows thicken with vegetation. If, and that’s a big if, the otters are inconvenienced by the meadows and they might prefer going through the woods, then the mother might want to work on that impulse to climb rocks. But then I had another idea: is it possible that the rock knoll I was sitting on served as a kind of training map for the otters? Other otter families have used this knoll to scat on in other years and as far as I could tell judging from how the moss was scraped away, they simply scrambled up the face of the rock fronting the pond. But these otters first came some dirt along side a steeper face of rock, though only three or four feet high. And then they walked around the low pointed end of the rock and found a route, indicated by a lot of scraping of dirt, behind the rock, up the side not facing the pond. They also walked down the rib of rock and scatted as they went.

It struck me that this rock is a miniature of the pattern of larger outcrops that go from this pond all the way to South Bay, and that especially going from this end, the best instruction for getting to South Bay without being seduced into sideways was to keep curling behind rock outcrops to the south, and gaining the top going to the north, and then down again to the west and curl up again. I recollected that in most cases the high nobs of the outcrops face the northwest. So I tried it. Of course, there is a trail over to the rock near the pond, because that’s the route I take when I go to sit on the rock, wait for otters and check the latrine.

The reason the otters then have to go around the south side of the rock outcrops is that if they don’t they will keep heading back down to the pond. The south side is the dry side and generally presents an easy way. However, I didn’t see any otters signs up on the rock outcrops.

And for the trails I did see crisscrossing the area, deer likely made them. Indeed, one was off to my right studying me.

For most of the way the ridge is remarkably level, but I keep seeing outcrops and in each case it made sense to keep on the south side.

Slipping down the hill to the north, or right in the photo above, meant going back down to the Second Swamp Pond. Just beyond the rocks in the photo above, the ridge dips down and there is a wide valley that runs from the Big Pond to the Second Swamp Pond. There are tall grasses to negotiate and I saw some trails through, but deer are more likely to have made them. Soon enough the ridge begins to climb, and there is no pond to worry about, but still, it seemed to me, that bearing left made for an easier passage.

However, when the ridge started to slope down toward South Bay, there is valley that angles down and to follow that might lead human or otter astray. The rock ridges are not all parallel to the meadows and pond, some are almost perpendicular to them.

But if otters followed a broad deer trail, they would have no trouble continuing on to South Bay. Eventually, my supposed otter trail ran into the creek coming down from the Big Pond. At an old dam, which was the most down stream dam the beavers made on that creek some 15 years ago, I saw some matted down grass. But it was pretty clear that was caused by the flood of water down the creek after a few of our recent downpours, not by rolling otters.

Then if the otters didn’t want to slip down to South Bay through the lush vegetation, they could address another rock out crop. As I approached, I imagined how wise I’d feel if there were any otter signs on it.

But not only were there no otter signs, there were no trails at all up there, just thickets. However, it certainly was an easy ten minute walk back to South Bay, and otters could manage it in the half the time it took me. Back in the old creek I saw a vine with yellow flowers

moneywort, an escapee from rock gardens.

June 27 visitors have filled my evening hours and last night even at our land. So when the birds woke me up at 4:30 am, I psyched myself up to get out at 5 am and go see the beavers in the Boundary Pond. Two years ago I went out at dawn a couple of times to see this family when they were still down in Wildcat Pond and I didn’t see any beavers. However back when there were beavers in the First Pond, I frequently saw them in the early morning. We had heavy rain on the 24th and then light rain yesterday not ending until the evening so Grouse Alley was wet from the leaves of the low branches to the flooded trail. Mosquitoes soon noticed me. I didn’t see any beavers in the Last Pool and I noticed that the Last Pool channel had flooded over its dredged banks, so now the Last Pool is almost big enough to call a pond. I didn’t stop for photos saving that for later in the day when there will be better light. I could see blue sky through hurrying clouds so at least it wasn’t raining. When I got to my chair, I was greeted with about five minutes of quiet. Then one of the yearling beavers veered over in my direction and slapped its tail. I looked around to see if another beaver was out to react and I didn’t see any. Fortunately for my viewing pleasure, only that yearling seemed alarmed at my presence and even it soon went about its business. There is an inherent frustration when watching beavers closely. The major thrust of their lives is evident all around: a dam, lodge, and trees large and small cut down. Yet you rarely see them cut a tree, or even gnaw on one; at this time of year they almost never work on their lodge since the last thing they want to do is pack mud on it and make it warmer inside; and in this gentle valley the dam is never jeopardized by a flood of water even after two days of rain. I expected to mostly see browsing in the duckweed. Indeed there was a neat ring of duckweed around the lodge.

The beaver swimming up pond in that photo above -- a blur in the lower half of the photo, continued up pond without browsing the duck weed. Then I could devote my attention to a larger beaver pushing muck up on the dam. It too came up below me but evidenced no concern. There are three entrances to the lodge and from where I sit, there is one at the left side, facing the upper pond, one facing me, and one on the back side facing the far end in the dam. When I see ripples around that back side entrance, I sometimes see ripples, and then a beaver, swimming up the east shore, but I usually see ripples behind the far end of the dam, and in a minute or so that beaver moves down the dam so I can see it. I soon saw a beaver down there. So in short order I saw three beavers and sometimes in the evening I have to wait an hour or so before I see three. Plus there was humming from the lodge. Not that anything but a human could sleep through this typical summer dawn. There was the general song of birds mostly hermit thrushes, and particularly close “peee-a-weeees” and “teacher-teacher-teacher” of the oven bird, and either the raspy call of a scarlet tanager or a vireo that felt compelled to up the tempo of its nonstop singing. The green frogs’ banjo twangs kept time and some deer flies were awake. (I won’t highlight the noise of the mosquitoes which is a constant.) I must say the beavers at the dam were not inspired by the up tempo bird song to move any faster. Indeed they were so slow that I suspect they were nipping some duckweed there.

However, the beavers had probably been up and active all the night -- not sleeping like everything else, and I have never had a chance to do a close study of how beavers manage the muck they push up on the dam. When a beaver pushes mud up on a lodge, it often doesn’t do anything to it, leaving it as a big wet gob. A beaver might feel compelled to squeeze some water or rearrange the conglomeration of forest litter that makes up the muck it pushes up, or it might find bits and pieces in the muck worth eating. When the beaver retreated from the dam a few yards and dove for more muck, it left a thick stroke of bubbles,

which came from the muck, not the beaver. I must say what I was seeing at dawn surprised me because it was so much like what I usually see the beavers do in the evening at the start of their day. In the evening, they first tend the dam and then all head up pond. So at dawn I expected the general trend to be for beavers to return from up pond to the lodge. I thought that maybe I was seeing the bookend of their activity with some dam tending before going into the lodge, but this morning the beavers left to go up pond.

Then I was startled to hear a tail slap up there. I thought there might be a bobcat on the prowl so I kept looking over at the east shore to see if one sauntered on by. Of course, beavers slap at deer and raccoons that stray too close to them. There continued to be activity around the lodge. A yearling came out of the lodge periodically, looked at me, and dove back in. At the same time there was plaintive humming in the lodge probably from kits. I fancied that the yearling was tasked with keeping an eye on me and that if I hadn’t been there the kits would have been allowed to come out. With this family, in my experience, in July kits only are allowed out when it is dark. At 6:15 am, it was rather light out. Then an adult beaver came out of the lodge pushing a thick white log that had been stripped of bark.

This can happen anytime but I fancied this was a special end of the day chore getting the lodge ready for sleeping. Then I saw even move intriguing behavior. The adult beaver that pushed out the log swam slowly below me toward the dam. Then a yearling who had been up at the far end of the dam -- and I was not sure if it had been working there or had just come down pond swimming along the shaded east shore, swam over to the adult, and circled around it as the adult turned back toward the lodge. The yearling tried to go nose to nose with the adult. I didn’t hear any hums. Then the yearling dove toward the lodge and the adult continued on to the lodge. I fancied the yearling had been ordered to bed.

Then I looked around and saw it steaming back behind the dam carrying a twig with a few fat leaves still on it. Then at a little before 6:30 am I saw some end of the beavers’ day activity. A beaver swam from the lodge directly over to the spot of the east shore where I’ve seen beavers sitting in the morning, evidently exiled from the crowded lodge. The beaver got up on shore and went directly to that spot. The adult beaver continued to dive and get muck and push it up on the dam. Then it swam back around in front of the lodge and dove in. Perhaps it was soon in dream land but if so it had to sleep through a continuing chorus of humming in the lodge. Speaking of humming, I saw a humming bird up in the crown of one of the trees in front of me. I left at 6:45 to get my breakfast. Of course, my day wasn’t done, and after eating and doing chores I walked around the ponds. I first checked the wallow above the Last Pool and saw that it was not muddy which suggests that no beavers went up there last night. Thanks to all our recent rains much of the area above the Last Pool is now flooded, not just the wallow.

And water continues to flow into the area down the beaver path up to the meadow. Although the Last Pool has expanded into a pond, I didn’t see any new tree cutting by the beavers, and they didn’t do any more gnawing on the maples I tried to protect, nor on the many hemlocks they are in the process of girdling. As I continued down the east shore soon I saw what the beavers had been up to. They had built a small lodge

The hemlock trunk they built on had been cut by a logger years ago. And they built on dirt and between several trees. I couldn’t figure out just by looking where a beaver would dive to enter the lodge.

When I watched beavers in the First Pond and Teepee Pond years ago, I saw them fashion three alternative lodges, but they could easily manage that by simply expanding and piling logs outside muskrat burrows. Last year the beavers here didn’t build an alternative lodge but they did go down to Wildcat Pond where their old lodge was. I continued down the east shore expecting to see the beaver that I saw swim over to the bank a few hours ago, and I did. It was well camouflaged in the brown leaves.

I waited to see if my presence would scare it back into the pond, but it didn’t budge. So I turned around and as I walked up to the new lodge, I saw a stripped log in the water near it.

I should have checked to see if that was the stripped log I saw a beaver take out of the main lodge at dawn. But I was soon distracted by a loud buzzing noise which I hadn’t noticed a few minutes ago when I walked by the Last Pool. While it sounded like swarming bees, looking up at the mass of them just above the trees, I couldn’t be sure what they were.

I waited to see if the swarm was moving, as well as all the individual bugs. If so, it was moving very

June 28 I headed up Antler Trail and then veered over to South Bay. We had more rain last night and the mushrooms were popping out all over in the woods, especially the lemon yellow ones.

I did see on exotic looking purple mushroom.

I checked the docking rock otter latrine and saw no signs of otters being there. Then I went up to Audubon Pond. The trail down to the small pond below the embankment still look used and the pond below looked muddy, though I couldn’t be sure how much new tree cutting the beavers have done. Perhaps they cut an ash down near the dam. It looks like a pleasant place for beavers.

The beavers continue to cover the caged in drain and there seems to be some method in their attempt: use logs and mud to cover the sides of the cage and thus raise the water in the pond.

Fat chance. I headed down to check the otter latrine above the entrance to South Bay. If the family of four otters had been there, I’d expect to see the grass rolled down if not torn up. At first glance it didn’t look like otters had been there. Then on the grassy sloping edge down to the rock above the river, I saw there tubular scats encrusted with crayfish parts.

Raccoons could have left this, so I broke open one of the scats and saw the black fecal matter that is the glue of otter scats. I also caught the pungent smell characteristic of otter scats.

Plus on the rock below there was a big bullhead head. Otters usually cut the head clean off, but this was a big fish and I could picture an otter ripping the head off and leaving a jagged presentation behind. Perhaps a raccoon came along to pick the exposed vertebrae clean.

I looked for more otter scats -- or raccoon poops, and saw none. I did see some old fish jaw bones, probably from a pike. I checked the moss covered extension of the rock for scats and crayfish parts and didn’t see anything notable except, once again, I had to try to imagine how crayfish parts got up where I was standing, so far from where the otters usually do their business here.

I decided to go check the otters’ infrequent latrine along the edge of the Narrows, and took the high road. Up on the high rocks overlooking the channel between Murray and Grinnell islands,

I saw more crayfish parts.

So? There were no otter scats up here, nor have I ever seen otter scats here. I began to like my birds-eating-the-crayfish theory. I went down and around to the rock along the edge of the water where the otters sometimes scat. I didn’t see any scats, but a bit farther along the rock I began seeing crayfish parts and I found them all the way up to the high point of this little peninsula.

I suppose I will have to start thinking about how the crayfish parts themselves might reveal which animal pulled them apart. I did find raccoon poops here, and it was easy to see that there was no black matter and a good bit of leafy matter in the poop.

So I had a bit of a lesson today, and will have to become more of a student of crayfish. I walked up the high valley from the Narrows toward Audubon Pond and was lured over to look at the cave in the south wall of the valley.

Thanks to the recent rains, it was rather dripping in the cave. Perhaps that kept the porcupines out. I saw no signs of the being there. In the moss below the cave I saw more yellow mushrooms. I walked around Audubon Pond and saw no otter scats, and no beaver work. I think the beavers are still here though, and live here and commute to the idyllic little pond below the embankment. As I walked down the causeway between the big expanse of pond and the shallow pond up creek, I saw a baby muskrat nibbling grasses.

I had to walk that way and soon sent it scurrying into hole which was convenient to holes heading out in the pond where it appeared a muskrat family was clearing the vegetation on the pond bottom.

Baby muskrats sometimes think a few minutes is enough time for coast to clear, but I didn’t linger for the chance to see it again.

June 30 in the late morning I had a chance to walk around the beaver activity. Today I saw that the wallow just above the Last Pool was muddy, but all the flooded area around it had clear water.

The beavers haven’t been lured into dredging out muck there. I walked down the east shore of the Boundary Pond where I saw that the beavers’ ardor for hemlock bark had cooled. There were a few fresh strips taken, generally along a ridge of bark at the bottom of the trunk that went down to one of the outer roots. Their auxiliary lodge looked the same, but there appeared to be a fresh trail next to it going up the ridge. Glancing up there I saw that they found another maple to girdle.

This girdling was pretty well completed, but I did what I could to protect the remaining bark. I went back to the trail that went straight up the ridge.

While a steep climb, I’m sure a beaver could easily manage. This ridge is dryer than the west ridge where I have seen a yearling slip and struggle to get up. I found a nipped red oak branch on the way up,

And then almost at the top of the ridge I saw the stump of a small freshly cut red oak.

I scouted around for more cut trees but didn’t find any. A beaver coming up here is not unprecedented nor one cutting only one tree. I saw a stump from a cut made last year.

There are some long relatively thin logs in the little bay below the auxiliary lodge. More than were here the last time I walked by.

Perhaps these are the remains of the red oak cut above. A beaver has made the plot along the lower east shore of the pond, where it often sits in the morning, look more comfortable with more branches around to nibble.

I would try to sneak up on the ridge and watch the beaver here except that whenever I have seen one here, it is completely immobile. I might have to wait an hour to see it take a bite. The beavers continue to push muck up on the dam. A stripped log on the dam that I could see a week ago is now completely covered with muck.

I sat long enough in the chair on the ridge above the lodge to hear some hums. I sat long enough to host a dragonfly on my pants.

As I headed down the ridge to walk up the west shore of the pond, I had to pay my respects to a mullein with whom I could argue who was taller.

I think it beat me by an inch or two. Everything green is bursting. Beavers ignore mullein but the duckweed and frog bit is spreading too and the beavers have made trails through it as they feast on it.

So full and so green. The pond has been perfected, thanks to the beavers and the luck of a lot of rain.