Tuesday, June 1, 2010

May 15 to 22, 2010

May 15 we went to the land to spend the night and after dinner I went out to watch the beavers. It was cool and cloudy but I wisely wrapped myself up as much as I could to ward off mosquitoes. I walked down Grouse Alley and up on the slight ridge overlooking the upper Last Pool, I saw that beavers had just cut down two small ironwoods. I eased up to get a photo

and then looked down at the valley. Didn’t see any beavers there. Then I went back along the high ridge and down to Boundary Pool. I didn’t walk directly down to my chair half way down the ridge because, from the ripples in the pond, I could tell that there were two beavers out. I saw one swimming right below me and another packing fresh muck up on the dam.

It was already getting too dark to get good photos. The beaver working on the dam looked bigger so I only walked when it was diving. Then the smaller beaver slapped its tail and while that didn’t alarm the beaver working on the dam, it did prompt another beaver munching on the pond shore to get back into the pond. All three beavers swam over to check me out, and the large beaver went back to work on the dam. One of the smaller beaver headed up the far channel toward the Last Pool and the other small beaver went into the lodge. Judging by the ripples I think two beavers began working on the dam, but both worked on the east end of the dam which was hard for me to see. Then a smaller beaver climbed up on the dam and seemed to be going over then it reared up and sniffed the air and got right back into the pond and lurked for a while over in the shady east side of it. I haven’t seen such interest in the dam so far this spring. This reminded me of their behavior back in the fall when building up the dam was a priority. I came to watch these beavers with some preconceptions. Because of the work on the pines, and a beaver going out of its way to get to them, I think the matriarch of the family has or is about to give birth to this year’s kits. So I could rationalize the work on the dam that I was seeing: because the mother having kits must stress the other beavers in the family, they react by fussing with the dam. Of course, I could probably rationalize that another way: to avoid stress the other beavers get as far away as they can by going up pond to eat. Then when I knew the three beavers I had seen were outside of the lodge, I heard strange noises from inside the lodge. There were low pitched, relatively quiet hums, one after another in quick succession that built to a crescendo that never got loud. This continued for about 15 minutes and a few time the final hums almost reached the typical volume of beaver hums. So I kept fitting different explanations on the noise: the mother was emoting because the kits were born or not born, or the kits or the mother was humming along to the kits’ suckling. When those strange hums stopped one of the smaller beavers went back in the lodge. Often when small beavers go back into the lodge there is a good bit of humming, but not this time. I heard a few normal hums 5 minutes or so later. I also kept hearing the glugs of beavers leaving the lodge but it was hard to keep track of comings and goings. I can only be sure of three active beavers. However when it was almost too dark to see, I heard a tail slap up pond. Too far away, I thought, for me to be the cause. Then one small beaver swam quickly back into the lodge, and a few minutes later another did. I am beginning to think that this is just pleasant entertainment for me and that I will never be able to make any sense of what the beavers are really doing. Meanwhile things were happening around the pond, mostly sounds. I thought I heard a few coyote like yelps below the pond. I heard them a few minutes before the beaver splashed up pond. Could the beaver have been reacting to coyotes. Then I heard what sounded like owl practice. I heard the usual rusty warm up of a barred owl and when it ended I heard a high pitched call like an owl chick was trying to chime in. That happened several times so I think the familiar sound did cause the sound I have never heard before. I’ll have to check the books to see if that is a possible interpretation of what I heard. Meanwhile there was a good chorus of peepers, some gray tree frogs, and then a whip -poor-will chimed in, with now and then a hermit thrush. I was treated to the full spring symphony. I also kept hearing scratching and I finally saw a porcupine crawling up a elm tree about 20 yards from me. It went up high enough to paw over some branches sporting fat green leaves. Then it climbed down and walked over about 10 yards behind me and then went up in the woods. I headed back to the house before it got too dark. Too cold a night to keep the windows open so we didn’t hear much as we tried to sleep.

May 16 we began the day with a walk down the road to White Swamp. About a dozen geese were grazing in Val’s pasture. That number will soon increase. We checked the jack-in-the-pulpits just off the Deep Pond, and it looks like that were set back a bit by the freezes we had a few nights ago.

Certainly not as vigorous as they were last year. The other day I noticed a venerable maple fell but was hung up on an ironwood and bitternut hickory. I thought that by cutting the ironwood the maple would fall to the ground. I did and it dropped a few feet. I cut the bitternut and the maple dropped a few feet more. Then I cut another ironwood and it got down low enough to me to saw it. I’ll wait before doing that until gravity settles exactly where it wants that maple to fall. I often wonder why beavers don’t do this. So many of the trees they cut get hung up on other trees. It was not as dangerous as I thought it might be. The tree leaned against are under such stress that cutting through them just a third of the way makes them split up the trunk and rather noisily. So you get fair warning when something might give and, as you complete the cut, the tree under stress doesn’t just collapse, so that the whole load can come down in easy stages. But maybe I was just lucky. Since it got too warm to saw wood, I scouted the area around the First Pond and Teepee Pond for dead trees to cut, and saw about a half dozen. Many ash trees are just hanging on and it makes sense to wait on them since dead ash trees rot slowly. Both the ponds are very muddy just like last year

And again I don’t think muskrats are the reason. I think the turtles raise the mud. The pool above the First Pond and the valley pool don’t have turtles and they are not muddy at all.

On a dead tree in the nearby woods, I saw a striking arrangement of mushrooms on the stump of a tree the beavers probably cut in 2004 or 2005.

After I saw the photos I noticed the huge “arm” on which two of the mushrooms were rooted.

After lunch I went down to check the beaver work. The Boundary Pond is quite muddy,

Definitely caused by beavers. I wanted to take a close look at the hemlocks the beavers have been stripping. I had speculated that the beavers were peeling off the bark for bedding in their lodge to add to the comfort of the new born kits and their mother. It was easy to see that they had stripped a few more hemlock.

Then I looked for strips, to see how big they were, and evidence of gnawing. The strips I found looked no longer than five inches not a convenient size, I think, for collecting and taking back to the lodge.

And there was little gnawing. Only one small hemlock appeared to be on the way to being cut down.

The beavers could cut these trees down and some would fall toward the lodge making it easier to peel off strips and take them to the lodge. So I think the beavers eat most of the bark they strip though they leave many pieces behind. I walked down to the dam and took a close up of the area where they had been packing muck.

It didn’t look like they did any more packing after I left last night. I sat in my chair briefly. If the beavers are in the midst of the chaos of birthing and rearing why wasn’t there the same strange noise I heard from the lodge last night? The kits and their parents can’t be on the sleep pattern yet. Is the warmth of the day, added to the already warm lodge, conducive to deep sleep for young and old?

May 17 I headed off to check the beaver ponds late in the afternoon of a warm cloudy day. I saw a lone male wood duck in the muddy little pool below the Big Pond.

You don’t usually see a male alone at this time of year. Then it flew off and when I got up to the Big Pond I saw two wood ducks fly off including a whining female. Maybe the male flew up there and prompted his mate to take flight. I didn’t see any new otter scats, can barely see the old stuff. I did see more beaver nibbling at the south end of the dam, very delicate twigs

I should try to see where they get them, but in the state they are now they are almost nondescript.

The beavers here are finally getting more thorough when they mud up the dam,

and they cut some honeysuckle branches and put them on top of the dam.

I’m not sure why they do this, but since the honeysuckle is too light to add weight to the dam, I think they do it either to keep the mud moist so it hardens more slowly or to keep deer from walking on their dam. They cross it even more than I do. They haven’t extended their mud repairs down along the north end of the dam. I still have to splash along there, but there is not much gradient there and so there is no flow of water out of the pond. As I sat by the dam I heard quite a few green frogs giving their banjo call and the I heard what sounded like a whip-poor-will giving an tentative call. I’ve never heard anything like that at 4 in the afternoon so I hurried over to the woods where I think the call came from, but I didn’t hear it again. I didn’t see any new otter scats in the Lost Swamp Pond latrines, though I did see two chunks of moss torn up in the mossy cove latrine. No beavers out again. Thanks to the binoculars I could see that the beavers have added some logs and even collected some greens around the big lodge in the southeast reach of the pond. I couldn’t get a good photo. I saw muskrat take some grass into the den in the point of the peninsula. The large patch of mayapples, though one of the most shaded that I inspect, and a few shy white blossoms under the big green leaves.

But that most startling sight was a huge snapping turtle on the lodge in the middle of the pond. Its huge tail and huge head seemed to be flowing out of its shell.

The last time I came here, I didn’t have binoculars and couldn’t be sure the goose had left her nest. She's gone. I saw two pairs of geese down in the Upper Second Swamp Pond and one pair had five little goslings and the other pair had at least two large goslings. Not that the geese are confined to that pond. There is a good deal of goose poop next to the Lost Swamp Pond dam. So as not to disturb the geese, I headed toward Meander Pond via the Second Swamp Pond dam. There were no new otter scats there either and only a muskrat or two seemed to be using the dam, and no geese around. I took a slow walk down the south shore of Thicket Pond and perhaps a beaver has girdle more of the white oak it had been working, but, again, I didn’t see any other gnawing, cutting, or mud packing or marking. However I did see some otter scats beside the pond right where a path comes up from Meander Pond. These were not fresh, but I am pretty sure they are not the same scats I saw here back in late November.

All the other scats the otters left around Meander Pond have dissolved and fell apart leaving not a trace months ago. Plus there was digging beside these scats

and grass scraping and more scats a few feet down the trail. Of course, this reminded me of how the otters I have been watching for two months in the Big Pond, Lost Swamp Pond and Second Swamp Pond did their scating and scratching. My guess is that the scat I saw today is about a week or two old. So these scats might be a clue as to which way they went, or at least which way one or two of them went, after they left those ponds. So does this give me a measure of how long they stayed in the interior ponds? From November 22 to May 2 or so? And does this show that the otters went back the way they came, to Audubon Pond and perhaps to Picton Island? But I’ve been out to Picton recently and saw no scats, and went around Audubon Pond on May 5 and saw no scats. Thicket Pond is oriented so that there is another likely otter route other than down the valley to Audubon Pond. There is a wet well wooded slope down the woods to the New Pond, as I used to call it when it was a pond, which was the first beaver pond up from the north cove of South Bay, the lowest of a string of ponds that went back to the Lost Swamp Pond. So the otters who scated at Thicket pond could have easily circled back to the Lost Swamp Pond. I have a theory that before otter families break up the mother takes her pups throughout her territory one more time. This is a tenuous theory because, as a correspondent reminded me, otter pups are supposed to disperse and find new territory. I fondly thought of the mother’s tour as a school for survival. Instead it might be fair warning, reminding the young where they don’t belong anymore. While the path from Thicket Pond down to Meander Pond is well worn,

I didn’t see any otter scats around Meander Pond. So I put the otter problem aside and tried to address the beaver problem, but first I stumbled onto a crop of many small jack-in-the-pulpits sprouting out of the wet turf over the slow but persistent spring in the northeast corner of Meander Pond.

And I forgot to mention that I saw star flowers in the dry grassy areas around Thicket Pond.

The beaver problem is this: have the beavers left Meander Pond? I’ve not seen any fresh tree cutting, trimming or gnawing along the north shore of the pond. Nor are the canals there muddy. There are no signs of recent activity that I can see around the lodge,

though while I stood there a muskrat swam by. Last spring, I saw the beavers eat the vines on the dry rocky north slope of the pond, but they also cut some ironwoods. Down at the dam I got the impression that a beaver had improved the little dam that forms the second wallow,

And here is the last photo I took of that area on May 12:

So it appears that if there were any changes made by the beaver, they are subtle. I took photos of trees the beavers had worked on in the fall, that, judging by the color of the wood, may have been worked on recently, like a big half girdled trunk on the way to one of their alder patches,

And a tree cut in the fall that is convenient to the southeast pool of the pond.

But the evidence seems to be pointing to the beavers having left, which would be the end of a story I have been following for a decade, unless I can figure out where they have moved.

May 19 I headed off in the morning in the motor boat and docked on the rock below the otter latrine above the entrance to South Bay. After seeing otter scats between Thicket and Meander ponds the other day, I wanted to see if the trail continued to Audubon Pond and South Bay. As I was tying my boat to the remnants of a willow that the beavers gnawed, I saw crayfish parts on the rock just up from the water,

And on the rock behind the willow trunks I saw some otter scats.

These were not fresh scats but were about as old as the scats I saw a Teepee Pond. I walked along the rock to where I usually see otter scats and there I saw a crayfish claw and other parts

and what looked like a trail up the rock, as if one can actually see such a thing.

But there were no scats here. However, as I continued walking up the rock

I saw crayfish parts scattered all over

And in the green moss above, I saw two old otter scats.

This was in an area west of the grassy slope where I usually find scats and otter scent mounds.

I am pretty sure otters eating the crayfish left the parts. Raccoons would not be comfortable on such exposed rocks and the water off the rocks gets deep quickly -- I really didn’t have to pull the motor on my boat up. And that the parts were spread over a wide area suggests to me that a group of otters like the very active family I last saw in the beaver ponds on May 1 could be having the crayfish feast. However, there is not much scat, but maybe crayfish are harder to digest than bullheads. I also found one small dead bullhead up on the rock, but a bird could have dropped that. I am remiss in not knowing enough about crayfish, some are native to these waters and some, like the one whose blue claw was left up in the moss, maybe an exotic brought in by a fisherman for bait.

The grassy area looked about the same which means that in some areas it looks like an otter was scraping up the grass, but in the main, the grass keeps growing and I didn’t see any fresh scats. Perhaps the otters eating the crayfish are respecting the claims other otters have kept up on this latrine. As I walked along the shore toward the trail up to Audubon Pond, a common merganser swam off the rocky shore with about 7 ducklings behind her. I tried to get some video with my camera, then snapped a photo,

And then I used my binoculars to enjoy the show. Of course the female merganser is a strikingly beautiful and noble looking bird and as ducklings go, these had interesting marking, feathers flecked with white like their mother. Eventually almost all the ducklings climbed on her back and with those white markings, I had to do a double take to make sure the ducklings were there. I walked up the creek coming down from Audubon Pond and didn’t find any signs of the beavers going more than a few feet down from the dam they built below the huge embankment that forms the manmade pond. Needless to say, if you turn away from the embankment, the new beaver dam and the pond behind it, muddy from beavers, looks quite bucolic.

I took photos of the tree cutting, gnawing and bark stripping the beavers have been doing, primarily getting ash trees.

There are two paths down the embankment. The one in the photo above had been their principle one, but recently they made another one,

Which is probably used more because at the top of the slope it forms three branches.

The photo gives the beavers’ view going up the slope, though they probably travel it at night. Below the trail, there is a nice collation of things to eat.

The primary reason the beavers came over the embankment, I think, was to get to more trees. And at first they cut trees high up the slope on the far west side. Then the park cleared the mud the beavers had packed on the big pipe that is supposed to keep the pond water level from rising too high. Once that was opened there was enough water flowing out to inspire them to make a dam below, and because the new pipe opening is caged,

the beavers haven’t been able to stop the outflow, though they are trying. Beavers do like to control their ponds, but, alas, this is an ugly man-made affair. I didn’t see any fresh beaver work as I walked around the pond, though the lodge in the pond looks built up and used.

I did find some white bird feathers pulled out and a bird’s leg.

Not a duckling, which is what you would expect to see. Might be a tern, and the likely suspect for taking it, is an osprey. They are over abundant this year and one is always lording over this pond, and there was one today, though it flew off over the bay as I walked around. I also saw what I was looking for, some new otter scats at the foot of the bench where, over the years, otters have often latrined.

They look about as old as they should be if a couple of otters, if not the whole family, were moving on to South Bay. Of course, I can’t prove any of this, unless I happen to see four otters in South Bay and since I have been too busy or lazy to get up in the morning and look, there is a little chance that I will see them. There are two geese families in the pond. Four adults and five goslings, much lower than the usual ratio.

I went down to check the docking rock for scats and found a new one, not recent, but no scratching and no crayfish parts. The water remains rather shallow off this rock and I don’t know if that should make it easier to get crayfish or not. Anyway this could be scat from the otter that has long kept tabs on the bay. Finally I went up to Meander Pond coming to it via the clump of alders southwest of the pond. No new cutting there and half way back to the dam, one of the alders the beavers cut was still on the path. I walked around the south shore of the pond looking for something to suggest that the beavers are still here, but I didn’t see anything. With no nibbled sticks or fresh mud on it, the lodge looked unoccupied.

But I’ve been surprised before. If they are gone, where did they go? At least one evidently visited Thicket Pond. The marsh below Meander Pond dam used to be the upper part of Shortcut Trail Pond. Now it is a rather dry marsh with a mostly dry rivulet snaking down the middle.

There is no Shortcut trail anymore and just a pool of water where the beavers used to dredge behind the dam.

The old lodges in the area have more or less disappeared from rot. Beavers were here ten years ago. My hunch is that it is more likely beavers would go back to Shangri-la Pond or, if not to East Trail Pond, then up in the a series of ponds to the east, but still on state land, that I used to call the Third Ponds. On a nice cool morning, I have to take a long hike.

We went to our land in the afternoon and I napped and did a few chores. A scarlet tanager was chick-burring around our house, and a grosbeak, hermit thrush, verio and phoebe sang much to the enjoyment of our budgie. After dinner I went down to Boundary Pond to check on the beavers. I took the wooden folding chair, carried it down the shady east shore of the pond and positioned it in a depression with a view of the hemlocks the beavers have been girdling. I didn’t have long to wait before a small beaver swam by me up the pond and evidently didn’t notice me. Then I saw ripples in the pond below heading to the east shore. A beaver reared up in the pond and I couldn’t tell if it was gnawing on one of the old downed tree trunks or sniffing the air. Then it got back into the water and came over to the shore. I couldn’t see it for a few minutes, only some ripples. Then the ripples stopped and the beaver walking quickly over to one of the girdled hemlocks,

got up on its hindlegs and reached up as far as it could to get a bite of bark. Then it hurried back to the pond, but not into it. I couldn’t see what it was doing. Then a few minutes later it walked back over to the hemlocks and this time picked on a smaller tree where the girdling was not so high. From what I could see, it was ripping off bark with its teeth, and then bending down and eating it more thoughtfully. So I got no indication that it was collecting strips of bark to carry back to the lodge or anywhere else. It was having a meal. Then the beaver that went up pond swam back, and dove in the channel right next to me. Again there was no indication that it knew I was there. After about 10 minutes the bark eater went back into the pond and the other beaver began swimming down pond. They met almost nose to nose and seemed to do a do-see-do, circling each other and the smaller beaver going back up pond and the other beaver going back to the lodge -- not bearing bark, as far as I could see. When both beavers were out of sight, I moved my chair closer to the hemlocks. I waited 15 minutes for a beaver to reappear but none did. When it got too dark in the shade to take photos, I left my chair, walked up pond, crossed over it where the channel narrows at long since broken Last Pool dam, climbed up the ridge west of the pond and walked down to my chair overlooking the lodge. I didn’t see any beavers out in the pond, so I walked right down and plopped into my chair. A beaver had been munching something on the shore right below me, and it lunged into the water. It was a small beaver and I expected a tail slap from it, but it only swam over to look up at me and then ducked down to get a little twig and swam with that over toward the dam. Another small beaver appeared, and didn’t give me as close an inspection as the other beaver did. Not only did it continue about its business, but it even had a brief tussle with the other beaver who was back near the shore where it had been when I scared it.

The tussle didn’t last long and the beavers by turns seemed to swim aimlessly or fish a twig out of the water and worry it with its teeth, often by the dam, where it was difficult to see them because their fur blended in with the black muck behind the dam. Then I must have been distracted by a bird because I looked down and was startled to see a beaver trying to climb up the ridge a few yards to my right. The beavers made a path up the ridge last year and it is so steep that I have trouble getting up, and probably couldn’t without some trees to grab onto. The beaver slipped a bit on some rock and dirt until it got into some greenery and as far as I could see as I leaned over and looked down, it was nosing through leaves looking for something to eat. Then it suddenly got back on the path, trotted up the remainder of the path and disappeared in the greenery higher up on the ridge. It soon came back down bearing a twig not much bigger than itself. Once back in the pond, it swam over to the lodge carrying its prize, but didn’t take it inside the lodge. I heard its gnawing coming from the water near the lodge. Then the other beaver climbed up on shore and went up into the greenery for a few feet a few yards away from the path. Then the other beaver swam back over toward the path, and the beaver a bit up the ridge, turned and hurried down to confront the other beaver who was just a little bit smaller. It was getting too dark to take photos and it was getting difficult to see, but from what I could see the bigger beaver was rather rough with the smaller and rather than simply shove it, which is how beaver confrontation usually play out, it seemed to be trying to keep the smaller beaver’s head underwater. I began to wonder what I should do if this fight did not stop soon. Meanwhile, I had been hearing some scratching noises up in the woods behind me, and I assumed it was the same porcupine who I eventually saw who made scratching noises behind me. But tonight the noises came from an adult beaver and I saw it drag a large sapling or small tree down the path and into the pond. That stopped the fight between the beavers. One swam back to the lodge and the other swam into the crown of the cut tree and started eating. I thought the adult who brought the tree down was gnawing on it too, I couldn’t quite see it. Meanwhile the beaver who went over to the lodge started diving in a frantic manner acting more like a kit than a yearling or two year old. Then the adult beaver climbed back up the path and back into the woods. It paused at the level where I was sitting and seemed to take a bite out of the tree there, which gave me pause. I made a quick calculation and decided and it wouldn’t fall on me. Then the beaver continued up the path and came right back down with another tree. Evidently it had cut it just after it cut the other. When the tree hit the water the two beavers were there and maybe a third, maybe another adult. Not only was it dark when I was trying to digest this excitement, but the pond and woods were a roar of gray tree frog trills, peeper chorus, the cries of a rail, briefly the barred owl and the persistent call of a whip-poor-will.

I got the impression that the beavers feeding off what the adult beaver brought down, all went into the lodge, and lively humming ensued. Then the enterprising beaver climbed up the path again, soon came down with another tree, and this time I think it was serving itself. I heard gnawing, and didn’t see it come back up the path. I forgot to mention another noise, mosquitoes, and I had had enough of them, so I climbed up the ridge and headed for home. It was hard not to get the impression that something exciting was happening in the pond. The two yearlings were jumpy, at first off in their own, but both were drawn back to the lodge but my being there didn’t drive them back into the lodge. They were waiting for the adult beaver who ignored and brought down three leafy branches with uncharacteristic dispatch. Then suddenly it was ok for the yearlings to go back in the lodge and the adult had the pond to itself to munch on leaves. I assume the matriarch was inside the lodge either having kits or nursing them and the three other beavers were serving her after their fashion. This is a nice story but one implication is that the fifth and sixth beaver that I thought should be with the family are gone. Did the runt of last year‘s three kits not survive the winter? And did last year‘s yearling leave, and was it the beaver who had a meal up at the Turtle Bog?

May 20 warm humid day, a good day for mosquitoes so when I went to Boundary Pond, to see if I could tell what the beavers had been doing while I was watching them last night, I kept up the pace. I more or less retraced my steps, and took a photo of the grove of hemlocks where the beaver had stripped off and gnawed on the bark of two of them.

Judging from the photo I took last night, I can be sure that the low gnawing on the big maple tree was done last night. Then I went back to the Last Pool dam, crossed the channel and walked along the ridge then down to my chair above the lodge half way up the ridge. I could see that the beaver trail up the ridge had been well used, and, of course, last night I saw an adult beaver go up it twice and a juvenile once.

However, despite all the cutting and hauling, no leafy branches remained in the pond.

I followed the trail up to the crest of the ridge -- not a dirt trail up there, just worn down vegetation and I saw what the beaver cut last night, the branches off an ironwood that had been cut down.

There were two ironwood logs left up there which I don’t think the beaver who brought down branches cut last night did. He seemed to be in too much of a hurry.

As the beaver went up the trail last night, he seemed to pause at the same level my chair was at and gnawed something. I had wondered if he was gnawing a tree that might fall on me, but the only think I sawed gnawed there today was an ironwood trunk that looked like it had been down for some time.

Last night when I walked down the ridge, the beaver had not been far from me. He was so intent on getting some greens down in the pond for his mate to eat, or so I think, that it completely ignored my being there.

May 22 I had planned to set off on a cool morning to find out where the Meander Pond beavers had moved, but I had nothing better to do on this hot, sunny afternoon, and I figured that if I rode the bike over to the state park, most of my hiking would be in the woods. So I left my bike at the entrance to the state park and headed to Thicket Pond where I had last seen signs of beavers. I had to make a quick stop just past the little causeway because the color of a clump of wild geraniums was too beautiful to ignore.

The only other thing remarkable along that bit of trail is that there is so little water flowing down the two small creeks into South Bay. I hiked up the East Trail and veered over to Thicket Pond and to the white oak that a beaver has been girdling by fits and starts. Now it appears to have completed the girdling. Beavers generally don’t go on to cut down white oaks the way they do red oaks. The trail from the pond to the oak was not worn down and the channel in the pond was not muddy.

But every time I see the oak there seems to be a little more girdling, and that was the case today. Judging from old photos, a bit more has been girdled since May 12. But if beavers are here what else are they eating? I walked around the east end of the pond and saw that some bark had been stripped off a maple recently,

But there was no beaten path to this work, and really no other trees around for a beaver to gnaw.

Beavers don’t gnaw buttonbushes which form the thicket in the middle of the pond. I continued walking over to and down the north shore and found no beaver signs, and using binoculars I scanned the interior of the pond not getting shaded as the buttonbushes leaf, and I saw no stripped sticks, which are usually littered about when beavers are in a pond. There are plenty of stripped sticks in and around Meander Pond but nothing new. Not that I went down there for another looksee. Today I was working on the premise that the beavers had moved. So, I headed for Shangri-la Pond. Three Mays ago they moved from Thicket Pond to Shangri-la and last May they moved back from there to Meander Pond after their dam failed twice. Well, there was certainly no signs that beavers were back in the west end of Shangri-la Pond. On my way up the ridge to take a photo of the dry prospect, I paused to enjoy the columbine growing underneath the huge granite overhang, where porcupines often den.

Eleven months ago, the west end of Shangri-la Pond was covered by a sheet of water a couple of feet deep. Today it is only half green.

There are pools of water closer to the old lodge where the beavers had dredged and anchored their cache of branches for winter food.

I pondered whether I should go down and try to measure the depth of the pools, and also analyze how fallen tree trunks, remains of cutting beavers did here 10 years ago, prevented the beavers from dredging next to their lodge. But today I was not trying to understand the past, but find the beavers. I walked up on the top of the ridge and looked down at the upper end of the East Trail Pond which used to be a favorite spot of beavers at this time of year before beavers left the pond back in 2006. Today I could see water in the pond and all the ferns and shrubs certainly were a lush green. I went down the slope to take photos the oasis

And then I sat down and wondered why no beaver seemed to be there. And then I saw a beaver swim out in the open down between the green. I fumbled between my camera and binoculars and the beaver disappeared under a shrub.

Then I had to doubt myself -- was it a large muskrat? Then from under that shrub I heard a beaver tail splash. Of course, I waited for it to appear in the open again but it didn’t. Then 10 minutes later I heard a splash down toward the middle of the pond, still in the world of green, but just beyond I saw a channel of brown water, and what looked like mud dredged up along its edge.

Here the beavers have found a paradise of green tucked in the back of a pond abandoned by another family of beaver years ago. I didn’t want to disturb them anymore, though I have been disturbing members of this family for 10 years now. So I decided my mission was accomplished. I found the beavers. So I headed home going back along the ridge to toward the trail and I bumped into a maple tree leaning on the ridge rocks with its leaves wilting. I looked down and saw that a beaver had cut it.

And the work had just begun. There were two cuts on the trunk.

It shouldn’t be too hard for them to get most of the trunk. I didn’t see any other gnawing, but I think they have just moved in and there are plenty of leafy greens in the pond to eat. I used to think beavers would never leave this pond because in May they seemed so content swimming back into this nether part of the pond and munching seemingly to their hearts content.

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