Tuesday, February 11, 2014

June 10 to 14, 2003

June 10 I headed off a little after 4 pm planning to check on otter latrines and then see beavers coming into the upper Second Swamp Pond with a calm pleasant evening in store. As I sneaked up on the first creek into South Bay, a heron flew up from behind the causeway. However, no sign that otters had been through. No action at the second creek, save for a good flow of water, so I knew Otter Hole dam had not been repaired again. An otter had been by, leaving one of the best scent mounds I've ever seen

-- a neat pile of grass with a neat squirt of scat on top, right next to the flowing water.

Of course, as I walked around the bay I had an eye out for an otter fishing in the cove. That is where the fish are. I kayaked around the area two days ago bumping into carp not quite spawning yet, and eliciting plenty of bubbles that suggest bullheads are still around. (I also saw a raccoon working the shore, wading rather far into the water, and heard a fantastic toad trilling in mid-afternoon.) Today I saw a few carp swishes, and a common tern working further out in the bay. So I headed for the East Trail Pond. I went down off the big rock and sat on the grass ledge half way down where I often wait for otters. I noticed one new angle. The beavers have reduced the shade in this area and down where the otters like to sleep. I wonder if that will make a difference this year. A beaver soon swam out from the dam area, looked up at me and circled and then slowly swam up pond, heading for the ferns. However, just a few minutes later a beaver swam quickly out of that area, going directly to the dam without casting an eye or nose at me. I bet that it was another beaver, oblivious to my presence so I looked forward to sneaking up on it as it worked at the dam, which I did directly, going slowly to ascertain that geese not otters had matted down the grass at the old latrine. A little further on the beavers had matted down and mudded up a good swath of grass, and also a hole was dug.

Maybe the beavers are doing this looking for roots-- raccoons usually make more of a production as they try to get turtle eggs. Or, of course, turtles might have dug them and been scared off before they laid or covered up eggs. And then climbing up the rocks I saw a violet flower I don't recall ever seeing before, some kind of honeysuckle.

Camcorder ready I lurched up to see the dam and no beaver was there. The dying wind kicked up a gust now and then, perhaps one blew my scent to the beaver and instead of investigating, the beaver simply dove and swam under water to a lodge. The beavers had also marked where the otters enter the pond. No fresh otter marking down the ridge, but on top it looked much more mussed -- but no new scats that I could see. Realizing that I had to get to the upper Second Swamp Pond without alarming the beavers, I went to cross Otter Hole Pond dam. Coming down I saw a deer with fine reddish coat, working the shore. It soon ran off. The dam still has the same leak. Only thing new was a fine clump of blue flag iris where I had never seen them before. Going up beside the ponds I tried to stay inconspicuous and first checked the otter trail. As I approached I saw a beaver swimming in the Lost Swamp Pond, as well as two groups of geese, probably with goslings. Then I saw so much diving I thought an otter might be out but a big beaver climbed up on a log -- and don't forget the muskrat sitting on a log motor mouthing some grass. Meanwhile there was fresh otter scat in a muss of grass close to the pond. Then I angled up to get a view of the upper Second Swamp Pond and the little pond above.

Many times I've set out to rendezvous with beavers and wound up sitting alone for a long time. Today, just as I reached my vantage point, I saw a beaver swimming up the pond, setting sun glinting its wake. It swam quickly, was soon over the dam (though I couldn't quite see that) into and through the little pond. Mission accomplished -- but it was too nice a night to just go home. So I sat longer, and heard some wood duck commotion in the cattails in front of me. Then a muskrat swam out from the rocks below me to my left (I've always thought there were burrows down there that even otters used.) Then another beaver swam up the pond, going slower, diving more and taking little detours. But it too eventually went over the dam. It stayed in the pond and even nosed into the channel through the lush vegetation. Then I had the great notion that the quick beaver might have continued on to the Lost Swamp. I've been religious in my belief that the two ponds were starkly different territory, though once before I had some evidence of a beaver crossing over. I went up the rocks so I could see the Lost Swamp Pond and indeed I saw a beaver swimming near the dam, then I heard some splashing in the little pond above the Second Swamp Pond so I hurried down to see what was going on -- I may have even heard some growling. When I got close enough to see what was going on the splashing stopped, but I heard the bushes and grasses in front of me moving and indeed a beaver was walking up and then stopping to eat some greens. It soon paused, sniffed the air, and me, and turned and went back to the little pond, over the dam and back down the Second Swamp Pond. I didn't follow because another beaver was in the little pond and it came up just where the other beaver had been. So I think there had been a brief fight for rights to this delicious channel. The second beaver did more eating, especially of willow, but soon paused, perked up, smelled me 

and left just as the other beaver did. Then I went back to check on the Lost Swamp Pond, where again I saw a beaver leaving the dam where I think it left some mud or a mark. It then swam up pond toward the grasses peacefully swimming by two small muskrats who were swimming to their burrows on the other side of the lodge. I sat on the old rolling area, among some narrow holes dug into the ground, and soon enough a large beaver came around the bend and swam up to the grasses. So I think these were the Lost Swamp Pond beavers and the territories remain distinct. Going around the pond, I noticed four emerging mullein enjoying the view

The only excitement on the way home was some blue flag iris on the Big Pond dam -- not as lush as usual.

Much mud work on the dam, revealing tracks, but still some leaks. I sat briefly alarming the small birds and watching two terns diving. On the way home I separated a grouse family. Nice hike.

June 12 Leslie was interested in the red honeysuckle I found so I invited her to go botanizing with me. We took the boat over to South Bay, and, of course, the first sport is to see what the huge carp are up to. They still don't seem to be spawning. We saw several "hovering" in the shallows

but not chasing each other. Indeed, when we flushed a duck from the grasses below us, that set the carp to splashing. We detoured to check for otter scats near the creek coming down from the second swamp ponds, and there was a fresh squirt, but no new scent mound. Leslie brought the wildflower guidebook with us and gamely checked everything blooming. I'll note the specimens I got a passable photo of including good old fleabane

and speedwell

and yellow wood sorrel

and she found a characteristic leaf pattern that allowed her to identify the trumpet honeysuckle

We sat for a while looking at the East Trail Pond, enjoying battling orioles, swallows, kingbirds, and I spied what we always look for in this pond -- a Blanding's turtle.

but as I tried to get close for a good photo, it slipped into the water. I checked the otter latrines and found nothing new from otters, but at the foot of the trail just off the pond there was a fresh scat that looks like a fisher scat to me.

On our way around the upper East Trail Pond, Leslie found another honeysuckle growing out of the rocks, tartarian

but it had no flowers. Closer to the pond we found some old deer bones, well bleached

we recalled the days when we would have eagerly taken all the bones home. We got down to the pond shore near the old beaver lodge where I've seen muskrats, and this winter, otter slides.

There are two holes in the ground going down into the burrows behind the lodge.

No sign of anything using it now, and even the channels coming from the pond seemed unused. 

There continues to be work around the Thicket Pond, and the beavers have put some sticks on the old lodge.

I'll have to come here in the evening and try to see a beaver lurking on it. The trail up from Meander Pond is not only well worn, but the beavers chewed down the rotten logs in the way.

We went around Meander Pond on the north side affording a better view of the beautiful cliffs there

only the lichen didn't look vigorous. Looking the other way, we admired the blue flag irises in front of the well tended beaver lodge

This pond continues to have plenty of water, but, the Short-cut Trail pond remains dry. I expected to see goslings around Audubon Pond and we did -- two families munching the fresh grass in the pond just above Audubon Pond. Not much happening in that big pond, but we did see this beautiful silvery blue butterfly, closed

and opened

June 14 I headed off in the boat a little after 6 pm. I paused at the rock off the headland because there was a merganser sitting there along with a gull. We had another couple inches of rain yesterday. The paths were wet, the creeks running. I couldn't even cross over to check for otter scat. When I got up to the rock overlooking the East Trail Pond, I saw some broad ripples and then a beaver splashed me as it swam off the point where they had been marking. I walked down, earning more splashes, and getting a closer look

After splashing and weaving before me in displeasure, the beaver swam across the pond and briefly went up on the green grass, humped over a clump of grass -- a brief marking, then swam back to me and started splashing me again. It was not to be deterred from its imperatives. The heavy rain has broken up all the duck weed, and, of course, brought water brimming along the dam

Quite beautiful, but I wanted to check on the Second Swamp Pond beavers to see if the blind beaver is still in that colony. I checked the otter trail for scat, well knowing that with the heavy rain and damp ground it would be hard to see anything fresh. Since the dam was brimming I decided to cross the creek on the logs down where I fancy the otters sometimes den. The growth of a sticker made it dicey getting onto the log and then, just as I was over the middle of the creek, I saw a large wet oozing scat on the log

It also dripped down the side of the log. I stuck a stick in it, brought it up for a quick whiff. Didn't smell like otter scat but certainly looks more like an otter's doing -- unless a raccoon was having stomach trouble. The ground around the creek was wet, and under a log I saw two slugs have quite a time on top of a mushroom

I didn't notice the little green worms until I looked at the photo. I angled toward the Second Swamp Pond so that I'd come up on the knoll behind the beaver lodge. Up on the top of the knoll I was greeted by a raccoon dig out

and one of the holes did have turtle eggs which the raccoon devoured -- I didn't get a good photo of it. I looked down at the lodge and saw that it had been dug out.

Yesterday, on our land and in the rain, I saw a snapping turtle digging out a nest on the beaver lodge. By putting so much mud on a lodge beavers are inviting this. As I stood on the knoll the wind was swirling behind me so I decided to sit half way down the slope, propping my legs against a cedar. Then the wind crossed me, heading east, which, I feared, would ruin my beaver watching because the beavers returning from foraging up pond would easily smell me. But I hoped to see the blind beaver, and I reasoned that it was unlikely to be one of the beavers charging up pond, and seeing it bump into logs around the lodge would be the easiest way to identify it. First the muskrats entertained me -- one coming out of the little burrow just to my right and another bringing a mouthful of grass across the pond 

and taking it into the beaver lodge. Last year I thought the muskrats used a different entrance to the lodge -- not the same one the beavers generally used. And, of course, the old conundrum: why do the muskrats go all the way across the pond to get grass that is abundant close by? When the muskrat went in the lodge, I set my timer to see how long it'd stay in. In 10 1/2 minutes it was back out, saw me, thrashed its tail and went back in the lodge. But meanwhile I was being distracted by beavers. I saw one cruising down from the east, just as I feared, nose up, but when I thought it should smell me, it veered toward the shore, not away from it. Then to my amazement it continued on, swimming right below me, and then getting out of the water to sniff, I thought me, and then rooting around on the shore. I hadn't noticed that a scent mound that was right below me.

I got good video of its sniffing, and how it sniffed a few feet around the mound,

then the beaver walked over the mound but I don't think it marked the mound. It continued swimming down pond, going around the bend of the knoll so I couldn't see it. Would it come back? In about ten minutes a beaver reappeared, emerging from the water, so I couldn't be sure if it was that beaver returning, or another coming out of the lodge. It swam straight for the dam, seemed to check it briefly, and then disappeared into the grasses in the southwest corner of the pond. Then there was some confusion but I eventually did see two beavers patrolling the dam. One, I think, eventually went over and the other did some curious leaping into the pond. Then another beaver swam down from the east, and this one smelled me, veered out into the middle of the pond and splashed its tail.

It dove and I lost it for a number of minutes, then I saw a beaver on the far side of the pond swimming down to the dam. It went up to the dam as if to go over and then thought better of it, and swam off into the grasses, where I had seen another beaver go. Then a beaver swam out of that area, and went along the dam to the north. Meanwhile I was losing light, which made it more difficult to keep track of the beavers. Then just before I was about to leave, indeed I was standing up to leave, I saw a beaver come over the dam and swim directly toward me. I looked forward to seeing it dive into the lodge, but as it approached it slowed and I feared it saw me. It dove, and I saw bubbles, but not leading to the lodge. The beaver surfaced below, swam to the scent mound, emerged with an armful of grass, put that up on the scent mound,

climbed over it, turned, and climbed over it again, this time shaking and rubbing its butt on the mound.

I had never seen marking so well -- and had the camcorder running.

It plunged into the pond and, after ignoring me so long, finally, its duty done, gave me a long look, first as a floating log and then splashing. As I walked away it continued splashing. It was getting dark but I still managed this photo of a blue flag iris -- it was out of the pond and so irresistible 

I went around the north end of the East Trail Pond, reasoning that would be drier in the dark. I danced along on fallen trees, and escaped without a great soaking. I was also curious to see if beavers were in those small ponds to the east of the East Trail Pond -- didn't see any muddy canals. Walking around the lodge, I did notice a fresh trail in the wet grass, coming down to the pond, narrow, more like an otter trail. First I walked down the trail and saw that the critter did go in the water. There was a stick with a dollop of wet grass on it beside the fresh trail. Then I followed the trail up the hill, a route otters used in the winter. It didn't lead to any fresh beaver work. I'll have to check the ponds up the plateau to see if otters have been there. Then I got on the East Trail and up atop the ridge between the East Trail Pond and Shangri-la Pond, the raccoons again did a lot of digging, and managed to find some eggs.

That's a good 50 foot climb for turtles coming from the ponds. Instead of staying on the trail, I walked along Thicket Pond, where I didn't see a beaver, nor hear one above the din made by the tree frogs, but the pond had the look of a beaver using it.