Saturday, November 19, 2016

April 1 to 6, 2005

April 1 cool, blustery, cloudy morning. I headed up the golf course with the wind at my back. The grass is beginning to dry out and the pairs of geese were mostly in the low lying areas, such is the comfort of water. Just before I got to the woods I saw deer remains and a dead skunk. The deer neck and torso were picked clean

so there was no proof of who killed the deer. I've been hearing coyotes howling up here on several nights. The skunk had been attacked probably the night before. Its mouth was open showing the white teeth of a young critter, but I'm no expert. 

Its rear had been ripped open and remained bloody.

Down wind of it I smelled its odor, which evidently failed to ward off a predator. I went down the Second Valley and saw no fresh gnawing left by any of the porcupines who had been active in the winter there. As I came down to the Big Pond, I heard and saw mallards fly off open water that extended from the upper dam down a dozen yards below the spring. Two mallards were loath to flee, but finally did. Two geese remained. I probably could have crossed on the rotting ice, but I went down along the edge of the retreating ice to the dam. The situation there was much like it was two days ago, water rushing out. No sign that any beavers had started any repairs. I continued around the pond and walked up to the lodge. I was hoping to see a comfortable niche on the shore where the beavers might be gnawing twigs and branches, but I didn't.

This must be a confusing time for beavers. The ice cover had dictated their behavior for three months, now they were freed from that constraint but their watery world was quite constricted 

-- unless they left and went out into the river. I approached the Lost Swamp Pond through the beavers' recent work and it looked like they had just cut down two trees.

So their interest in seeing what they can get out of the pond has not made them forget all this lumber. I was thinking of walking on the ice up to the lodges in the upper end of the pond, but there was too much open water up there. Indeed, I saw a muskrat pop up out on the ice munching grasses. 

The bank beaver lodge where I think the beavers are staying was quiet.

No otter scats now to be seen near it. I checked the old otter latrine on the other side of the mossy cove and saw many old scats but nothing new. As I walked around the west shore of the pond, I saw two flies fly off two old bullhead heads.

As I walked up the north shore toward the dam, a muskrat swam out from a bank burrow and dove under the ice -- I didn't see where it surfaced. I had noticed some buffleheads in the open water around the lodge near the dam. As I watched them through my spyglass, I saw three males stretch out one of their feet behind them, and soon saw that it was not a friendly gesture. I was hoping to get closer to take some video, and two of the ducks came flying right at me. After two fly arounds, one of the males flew off. All was quiet back in the pool but the victorious bird was evidently only catching its breath. It soon lunged at the other male,

who quickly flew off. Then it was time for some courtship displays for the female in the pool. I've often seen buffleheads in this pond in the spring, usually later, however, and never with such commotion. Meanwhile I was looking for fresh scats and saw none, not on the Lost Swamp Pond dam, nor the Upper Second Swamp Pond dam, nor the Second Swamp Pond dam, nor the East Trail Pond dam. So perhaps the otters have left the half iced and mostly empty ponds. The apt symbol of this is that as the ice melts around the hole in the East Trail Pond that the otters used much of the winter, there's no water in sight.

The only place for them to be in these ponds that makes any sense is fishing out the pools in the upper Lost Swamp Pond, but I can't easily get up there. The lack of water allows me to indulge in the pleasure of walking on rotting ice without any fear of getting wet. And I was surprised to see some green algae through holes in the ice.

In other springs I've been surprised at how early algae blooms in the warming pond water. I shall be surprised no longer. From the East Trail Pond, I walked over the ridge to Otter Hole Pond, once again forced to take a photo of how meager that once great pond is.

I crossed the dam and paused at the gaping hole. There was some old otter scat right next to it.

What it needs is the attention of some beavers.

Yesterday at our land, 52 acres south of the river, it looked like the beavers had gone foraging up stream taking some pine, but as the snow melts,evergreen boughs can look as fresh as last seen in the fall. The series of little ponds are mostly empty. It will be interesting to see if and how soon the beavers repair their dams. Today, I went in the afternoon and got to a perch above the beaver ponds at 3pm. The best time to conduct a census is when there is only one hole in the ice and the beavers are restless, but I never seemed to have a chance to watch for long and the beavers had been less restless this March than last. 

I had to sit 45 minutes in the cold wind before a beaver appeared. At least it made a good entrance. I could trace its underwater path by the steady stream of bubbles on the surface of the water. It kept down through the gap in the old embankment and then surfaced at the edge of the ice in the Teepee Pond, swam along the edge toward the ice, then dove again and I thought it might be going to the far end of the pond where there is now a patch of open water, but it surfaced behind the dam. The first beaver out is often credited with being an inspector, and this one behaved in just that way. After checking the dam, it nosed the half cut willow, then headed back to the First Pond, dove as it approached me and I lost it until it surfaced in the First Pond where it dove at the edge of the ice and I didn't see it again.

After ten or fifteen minutes, a beaver appeared in the middle of the First Pond. Different beaver? It repeated the same route as the other beaver but in a different manner, on the surface through the gap, and dove under the ice sooner. Then while it was still down in the Teepee Pond, another beaver surfaced in the First Pond and gnawed some of the logs at the edge of the ice, and might have taken a small stick as it dove back into the lodge. The beaver returned from the Teepee Pond by swimming right below me, always on the surface save when it dove under a small branch, and then swam through the gap in the embankment closest to the shore. Then it swam to the edge of the ice and dove about in the same place and same direction as the first beaver. Then a smaller beaver appeared in the First Pond and swam on the surface into the Teepee Pond where it made a shallow dive as small beavers do, and I didn't see it resurface. Unless the little beaver that, a few seconds later, surfaced in the First Pond was that little beaver. That doesn't seem logical save that the little beaver swam right to me and dove. 

Then a little beaver surfaced further back in the First Pond and swam over and slapped its wee tail at me. Perhaps this little guy had a knack of diving and turning back underwater. That perhaps makes more sense than assuming that there were three little beavers each getting more serious about my presence. What was surprising so far was that none of the beavers was doing any serious eating. None of them seemed to focus on anything. The chill got to me. Before the little beaver slapped, a big beaver swam into the Teepee Pond surfacing behind the dam, I didn't expect the little slap to elicit any reaction so after an hour in the wind, I followed to see what was happening behind the dam. That big beaver seemed to be repairing the dam, and there was a small beaver there fiddling with a stick behind the dam. At first I thought it too was doing repairs, then I saw that it was eating. 

As I angled in for a photo, I made enough noise to attract the large beaver even though the stiff wind was in my face. It swam close to me then veered a bit out into the pond. 

I moved again for a better photo and it slapped its tail. The beaver gnawing by the dam didn't budge and paused its gnawing for about 10 seconds then resumed eating. I didn't expect the little beaver's slap to get any reaction, but this slap had more authority. That slapping beaver went back to the First Pond and while I had the camcorder aimed at the beaver still at the dam, it slapped again and the beaver by the dam didn't even flinch. So my census: there are at least two larger beavers and two smaller beavers. That the last slaps went unheeded might mean the boss beaver, the mother, was probably still in the lodge. More later, I hope. In none of these episodes of activity was there even a glance at my pile of logs, though I could see that some bites had been taken out of a hitherto untouched red oak log.

As I left the slapping beaver was weaving back and forth in the First Pond, still exercised at me, and the small beaver left its station behind the dam but I wasn't sure where it went. I glanced below the dam and saw what looked like fresh cutting on some trees, but I didn't see the beaver there.

April 3 Yesterday we had three or four inches of rain, cold rain, with much wind. Two years ago I blamed cold spring rains for keeping down the shiner population in the beaver ponds, but that was a series of cold rains. This was a gush of water. There were some showers today, and to take advantage of Daylight Savings Time I headed off to the ponds at a little before 5 pm. On the golf course, I saw more parts of the deer carcass, three legs.

These parts are quite gnawed and thrown about and skin lying nearby or still slightly attached to the bones. All that indicates, I think, that coyotes ripped through the remains. The skunk carcass was mostly devoured 

and I didn't notice any smell coming from it, though I didn't bend over and take a sniff. I went down the first valley to the Big Pond and headed for the Big Pond dam as usual until I noticed that the gap in the dam was widened by a rush of water a good four feet wide and the water was spreading out below making crossing it problematical. So I crossed the Double Lodge Pond dam where most of the water still went through the dam. This dam held up better because it is backed with many logs,

while the Big Pond dam is almost entirely of mud and grass. As I walked up to the Big Pond dam a beaver appeared and swam behind the gap. 

So the beavers know the problem, though as far as I could tell the beaver ignored the dam. It disappeared behind the dam and I didn't see where it went. Then another beaver cruised toward the gap. Though the light wind in my face and the roar of water raised my hopes that it wouldn't notice me, it did and weaved behind the dam nose up and slapped its tail and rather stayed on my case, eventually going thirty yards on the other side of the lodge at the fringe of the area of rotting ice in the middle of the pond. I could tell it was still worried about me because it swam back and forth.

There was other life in the pond, though four clumps of grass and turf swollen with the rain fooled me for awhile into thinking they were two still and dark ducks at the edge of the marsh. I did see a pair of mallards, and thought I saw a ring neck duck, but couldn't find it in the spyglass. A muskrat popped out from under the rotting ice a couple of times. At the head of the canal behind the north end of the dam there were some freshly stripped logs so the beavers are getting back to their old work.

However, I didn't try to find where they got the logs from, saving that for a drier day. Seeing that level of activity in the usually placid Big Pond, I expected to see a riot of activity in the Lost Swamp Pond. It took a while to develop. At first I just saw a few geese out in the now open water in the southeast end of the pond. The ice between the bank lodge on the south shore and the dam was just about gone, what remained easily parted. Yet there were no beavers out. I sat on a high rock above the mossy cove near the bank lodge and waited. In about ten minutes a beaver appeared cruising down from the northeast corner of the pond, perhaps coming from the lodge where the beavers began the winter. The beaver swam past the lodge by the dam, and continued closely behind the dam, then climbed up on the shore at the west end of the dam and went down the slope. I thought it was resuming the old pattern of winter foraging, but it came right back over and got back into the water. Then it swam along the north shore, about half way down, then climbed into a clump of grass and wiggled its rump as it passed through leaving scent. It got back into the pond and swam back past the dam and lodge heading back up into the northeast section of the pond, passing a pair of buffleheads on the way. As it disappeared a beaver popped out from the little lodge in the middle of the pond and swam directly over to the west end of the dam and went up just as the other beaver did, and returned and went back into the pond. Then it too swam up toward the northeast corner of the pond, but not before stopping and getting up on the lodge. I wanted to video tape this methodical behavior but there was a light rain and I was a bit far away. There was no more action and I got up to scan the southeast end of the pond, where I saw a couple of muskrats. Then I noticed another beaver swimming toward the dam, coming out of the lodge in the middle of the pond. It went to the middle of the dam and dove. This excited me because I'm keen to see spring dam repairs, but it surfaced and I soon noticed that it went up on the shore at the west end of the dam, checking out the fresh scents. Then I noticed a beaver swimming behind the dam that didn't check the scent there, but did swim down and check the scent further down the north shore. After doing that, it went higher up the slope and seemed to park itself next to a log. Meanwhile the beaver just at the dam came down and went up where the scent was and spent a few minutes worrying over it. With the drizzle the air turned cold so I eased on down hoping to get around the pond without disturbing the beavers. But just as I headed around the end, the beaver at the scent mound went into the pond and slapped its tail. Not only did the beaver on the bank pay heed and get into the pond, but a muskrat nearby snapped its tail and made a splash. All three of them swam away to the east. 

For once these beavers seemed to be behaving by the book, minding scent mounds above all else and taking proper alarm at my presence. I continued on around the pond to see if I could find the scent mound and to see if the rain damaged the dam -- I had expected to find the pond filled to the brim and it seemed a bit lower to me instead. As I got to the north shore slope, a frequent otter route, the grass seemed pressed down and I saw something that could have been an otter scat. On a dark and dank evening, scats are hard to see and evaluate. I also saw a definite coyote scat and a possible goose dropping. Plus the beavers had made paths up on the this slope in the fall, and it takes awhile for grass to reassert itself and obscure the old paths. I decided to continue on to the dam where the better light might show some definite otter scat. Then to my surprise a beaver swam by me, then swam back, then retreated and slapped its tail and turned to look at me before swimming back again to the edge of the rotting ice. Thus ended the by the book behavior. I took some photos and went to the shore to look for the scent mound. I saw nothing big and guessed that a little patch of dark vegetation might be it.

Meanwhile out in the pond another beaver swam down toward me. I continued on and since I didn't see otter scats in the usual latrines. I paid full attention to the beavers. Last April two or three small beavers kept investigating me at this pond, so small I was sure they were babies conceived in the fall and born in the winter (whether this can happen is a matter of dispute among experts.) The first two beavers looked to be normal though a bit small. Then two more beavers swam down toward me from the east, one so small that I first took it for a muskrat.

Just like last year, they all seemed to be on their own, even when they passed each other they didn't veer or hum or circle each other. I got one photo showing them almost relating

but these were really ships passing in the night

Three of the four beavers swam within ten feet of me, and briefly swam back and forth below me.

Then one went to the lodge by the dam and got up on it to gnaw a stick. Another followed but didn't go on the lodge. Another went out toward the center of the pond. None of the little beavers slapped a tail at me, nor did the two larger ones. I decided to head back to the north slope otter trail by going down the ridge which would give me a chance to see if there was any action in the Upper Second Swamp Pond, no, and see what the beavers in the Lost Swamp Pond continued to do -- I lost track of them. But on a rock atop the ridge I found a fresh bullhead head.

That got my head down in the grass and mud. There was a good bit of fresh digging on this slope for whom I credited the beavers and deer, and I saw no fresh otter scats. There is at least one heron around, indeed I saw one fly high over the pond, but I don't think herons would litter a slope with a bullhead head. You can always blame crows but they have been scarce in this area this spring. So back at the north slope I reexamined the possible scat and still couldn't decide. One seemed to have a muskrat tooth in it but the dark matter around the tooth didn't seem typical of otter scat.

Plus this scat was not on the usual otter trail. Over on the trail I found a scat that looked more like an otter scat but I couldn't tell if it was old and just freshened by the rain. The close-up photo makes it look fresh since none of the little bones are bleached and the lack of scales indicates that the otter was eating scaleless bullheads and pollywogs.

Then I followed the old otter route over to the Second Swamp Pond, and up at the crest saw smears of scat in some moss, but this was a somewhat dry conglomeration also too much like an old scat revived by rain.

That said I didn't recall any scats in that area in the fall. Then almost down to the Second Swamp Pond, I saw a more convincing scat in some moss, looser, wet and some black slime on a nearby leaf.

However, the pond is quite small up here, with a wide apron of mud and even some rotting ice, and I didn't see any prints or signs of commotion there.

So I decided to head down to the Second Swamp Pond dam where I have recently scowled over the area looking for scats. Two ducks flew off near the bank lodge and I paused to look at them. As I continued, I almost convinced myself that an otter must be around then I looked up at the Second Swamp Pond dam and saw an otter scatting. Despite the drizzle I got out the camcorder. By the time I got it going the otter was back in the pond swimming toward the lodge, seeming rather fast in the shallow water. Then I lost it. I scanned the shore with my eyes and saw that it was on the shore across from me gnawing away on a fish big enough to require it to get out of the water to negotiate.

Needless to say this was quite exciting, not only seeing an otter but seeing it successfully forage in water I thought must be completely depleted. After looking at the video, I am pretty sure it is a juvenile otter, one year old, and there was something about it that makes me think it is a male. Then it got into the pond, swam toward the lodge, and I lost it. While it made sense that it simply went into the lodge, it also might be going back to the Lost Swamp Pond now teeming with beavers, and I couldn't miss that. As I walked along, I saw the otter swimming up pond well past the lodge. I hurried along, and then I saw it veer off to the side. I continued up the ridge and then saw the otter fishing in a pool of water and then it headed back down pond. I waited for a few minutes hoping it might resume the way to the Lost Swamp Pond, but it didn't. Instead something else moved, a beaver.

The otter didn't make any noise, which they often do when a beaver is around. Judging from the video it is possible that it looked at the beaver. Unfortunately the beaver doesn't appear in the video until the otter is long gone. Certainly the beaver didn't seem perturbed that an otter had passed close to it, but I can't be certain that it did anything to persuade the otter to turn around and go back down the pond. Last year I longed for a beaver to come back down to this pond, hoping one would eventually work on the dam. This beaver was far from the dam and was obviously eating wet grass, but if the beavers want to stay in the Upper Second Swamp Pond, it would be much easier to repair that dam by repairing the dam below and backing water up to the Upper Second Swamp Pond dam. In case there was another otter, I went up to look at the Lost Swamp Pond. Now the beavers were acting more like they did the other day. I saw two nearby exploring the west end of the pond that had just lost its ice. They were far apart. I saw another beaver swimming in the middle of the pond, and thought I saw one back in the dead grasses above the north shore. To get home I went past the Second Swamp Pond dam, to check for an otter there. All was quiet. I went home via that convenient valley that is one of the few that runs north-south through the ridges. I found another deer kill there, bones quite clean and spread a part. coyotes again, I think. It was lovely hike through spruce, pine and moss. Leaping the creek that drains the Big Pond got one boot soaked. I cocked an ear for frogs but didn't hear any.

April 5 cold rain yesterday and puddles iced over last night. Then at ten o'clock this morning the sun came out and ice thawed, coats came off. We were at our land and I checked the Deep Pond first still hoping for a beaver to come and repair the dam. No such luck. The water running out of the gap is wearing down a channel. The pond is low and seemingly lifeless. I also keep checking the third pond, where a beaver can find things to eat. Three years ago a beaver denned in the Deep Pond and frequently climbed up to the Third Pond. Mourning cloaks are flitting around now, and Leslie saw an orange butterfly. The phoebes have returned and while we were eating lunch in the cabin one landed on a nearby branch that provided a view of last year's nest above the cabin door. I spent of the morning working on the logs at the Teepee Pond. The beavers seem to have lost interest in that pile. I've only seen one log floating in the pond that they got from me. I can tell because both ends have been sawed, not gnawed. The beavers have been busy making scent mounds. There are two near my wood pile

and three on the bank just south of the dam. There were contrasting types next to each other, one mostly dead blackened leaves and the other grasses.

They don't seem interested in marking upstream. They have also been into the small pond at the head of the valley -- it's quite muddy, and the short path from the Teepee pond to it is wet and muddy. Last year the beavers dug out a carpet of sphagnum moss near here, so carefully that I figure they were after the moss. This year, just off the path, an area about the size of a throw rug has been worked over making it muddy with clods of dirt pushed up seemingly at random.

Difficult to say what the beavers are after. It's possible they aren't doing it, because I saw at least three places where deer had dug down to get at elecampane roots,

but that activity is all on the other side of the First Pond. Not that the beavers are neglecting their tree cutting. They cut an ironwood a few feet from their mudding.

I didn't expect to see beavers in the late morning and early afternoon, but I am surprised that I haven't seen a muskrat yet.

April 6 up to 60 today, mostly sunny, but a northeast wind kept it from getting hot. I had Ottoleo take me over to the Narrows in the motor boat around three o'clock and I took a leisurely hike and got back home at 7:30. Of course, all the ice is gone from the river and bays, though we passed one chunk of floating ice. There were a half dozen buffleheads fishing in the Narrows. As I got off on the rock there, two wood ducks left the big willow tree nearby, probably looking for a hole to nest in. I scowled at the usual otter latrines and saw no fresh scats. I took the trail along the shore and saw beaver gnawing on one big willow along the shore that I thought might be fresh.

I also saw some fearsome looking coyote poop just off the trail.

There were no fresh scats at the high latrine at the entrance of the bay. At the docking rock I did find some new scats in the grass. Then I headed up to Audubon Pond and saw some familiar spring scenes. Below the embankment three deer were grazing in the grass. Two moved into the woods, but one, the biggest, kept its ground as I got closer even continuing to graze.

Then it raised its white flag

and fled, the other two deer still in the nearby woods joining the flight. On the long causeway I saw two geese, who displayed the same aplomb as they did in other years, moving slowly off into the pond.

At the drain of this 40 year old man made pond, a beaver had pushed some mud up in a vain attempt to slow the water from running out of the pipe. There were some scent mounds on the causeway. And on the slope behind the lodge, another ash was down and a bit trimmed 

but not stripped like one in front of it cut in the fall. Then floating next to the bank lodge in front of the bench I saw a freshly stripped log.

So the beavers are still here. There is a still a large mass of rotting ice in the pond, and two seagulls flew down to prospect on it. Then they flew off quickly. I expected a fight but they flew high up. Then two large birds flew over me. At first I thought they were crows after the seagulls, but I saw they were quite large. When they perched on a high tree on the other side of the pond, one of seagulls dived at them. The big birds flew off and I saw enough brown and flashes of white to convince me that they weren't vultures and were probably eagles. They flew together in pleasant fashion, keeping low and disappearing over the trees. 

As I approached the dry Short-cut Trail Pond, I heard a scattering of peepers. When I got up to Meander Pond, I heard the start of a chorus of peepers. Before sitting to enjoy that I checked the dam of the pond and was pleased to find it repaired and the pond water level quite high.

I sat on a recently cut white oak not far from the lodge hoping to see a beaver as I enjoyed the chorus of frogs, at least a dozen peepers often trilling in unison with their sound reverberating off the huge granite cliff to the north of the pond. The log I was sitting on attracted several flies. Then I saw a small thing swimming around the lodge that dove like a muskrat with a back kick. It never stayed up long enough to get a video. Then a good bit of blackness hurried from one clump of grass to another right in front of me - a huge shrew? I put off trying to find the current meals of these beavers for another day, and headed south aiming to check the New Pond knoll for otter scats and then head up to the East Trail Pond. In the south end of Meander Pond I saw two geese, one curled up and the other looking at me.

Neither budged as I walked by. It was fun walking on the still frozen ground under the trees and sinking down when the icy dirt collapsed. I imagined I was in muskeg, if only for a few yards. As I approached the end of South Bay I saw the tips of a heron's wings lift up. I got the camera out and snapped away as the heron flew off when I got closer.

Then heading up the knoll, I scared two wood ducks out of the raging creek

and then two more out of the New Pond.

I didn't see any fresh scats, and so went back to the East Trail. Going up the ridge the line made by the beech branches still sporting dead leaves looked like an array of spring flowers.

Further along two small trees, in a forest of the largest trees on the island, that had been completely stripped by porcupines had an aura of being strange white blossoms,

a sign of spring when death seems lively. Coming over the rock ridge to the East Trail Pond was quite a shock. The pond was quite empty, black with dead leaves and muck save where there was still some snow and where the downed tree trunks still had some pallor.

There were pools of water along the stream and behind the dam. 

The lodge appeared to be high and dry. However, despite all the signs of depletion, a heron flew off and robins seemed eager to get around to all the dank opportunity around them. Wood ducks were in the pool behind the dam. I dutifully checked the latrines for fresh scat. Then crossed the dam where I noticed how deep the hole through the dam had become. This was most likely caused by the rush of water during the last big rain, but its possible that the otter that spent so much time there continued to dig in an effort to keep the water flowing and delivering things to eat as it survived under the ice gallery along the dam -- which still partially remains in all its splendor. If we have a bit of a drought I might be able to get down into and see if I can see what happened. After taking more photos of the low pond,

I headed up the ridge, no scats at that latrine, and then went to the knoll overlooking the Second Swamp Pond lodge. I was in for another shock. The pond was filling up, already attaining three-fourths of its former glory.

I sat down above the lodge to admire the expanse, though I only had two geese to watch. Then two more geese flew in and their was a brief fight between the pairs. Then the pond's recreator swam below me, a beaver. It swam over toward me and perhaps my presence kept it from going on to the dam. Instead it dove out in the now flooded marsh in the middle of the pond

and foraged over to the other side where it found a spot to get mostly out of the water and munch. Looking out in the middle of the pond, I saw a deer carcass floating there, still bloody. I've never seen that before. I crossed the dam and saw how tentative the repairs were,

and there was still a bit of a leak. This beaver, I assume, wintered in the Upper Second Swamp Pond, which for the last month has been almost dry under the ice. The beaver came back down to its old home pond to repair its dam so that the water will back up below the Upper Second Swamp Pond dam, making it easier to repair that. Of course, the relatively easy repairs it made resulted in a glorious sheet of water, much more than a repair of the upper dam would have afforded. I found fresh otter scat in the grass below the dam.

In the short term this growth in the pond doesn't make it easier for the otter to find fish. Hopefully, it won't get the great notion of breaching the dam. I didn't go out on the Upper Second Swamp Pond dam but from afar I didn't see any evidence of repair. I went up to the Lost Swamp Pond which was quiet, so I checked the otter trail back over the Second Swamp Pond for new scats. The trail looked so unused, the scats in it looked so old, that I began to doubt the scat I saw on a wet evening a few nights ago, which convinced me that an otter was around, was really fresh. Even though it was after 6 pm there were no beavers about, so I decided to lay low in the rocks beside the dam and hope that a beaver came out for its evening scent marking right in front of me. I resolved to wait at least twenty minutes then I saw something on the lodge near the dam that disturbed me: a a five foot long, five inch in diameter, beaver log sticking straight up in the air from the top of the lodge.

I immediately suspected a human vandal. Someone had made a hole in this dam back in the fall. I crossed the dam, looking for footprints and found none. Nor were there footprints on the lodge. As I stood there I heard a beaver swim out from the lodge into the pond, and around the lodge I could see several freshly stripped sticks in the water.

When I hopped over onto the lodge, another beaver swam out. I pulled the log out and saw that it went into a hole about a foot deep. I put the log back in. I suppose it would be possible for a beaver to push the log up so that it would go into the hole. I have seen beavers fill holes in this lodge with sticks, smaller than this log, when otters were around. I know otters like to wiggle dig into the tops of lodges looking for a place to den. Of course, coyotes and foxes dig into them too, but I have never been on top of the lodge so I don't know if a hole was there. Quite a quandary. Meanwhile there were two angry beavers out in the pond, tail slapping and swerving. So I hurried away, and went to the Big Pond. There too, I had a pleasant surprise, this pond is also refilling.

This surprised me because the gap in the dam was five feet wide and the drop down to the next pond was three or four feet. There was no way to flood water back to this gap. However, using a few sticks, cattail stalks, grass and mud, the beavers had managed to make a dam almost a foot high that was holding back water.

Perhaps the pond drained out enough so that the water stopped flowing over this gap and the beavers built up their repair. There is still water leaking from the dam elsewhere. Of course, I sat at my perch at the south side of the dam and hoped a beaver would come out to at least inspect the dam if not work on it. But none came and it got dark, so I headed home. I had to pause along a beaver path near the pond because the light made it easy to see the winter's harvest.

And then up on the ridge above the golf course, I bumped into a porcupine climbing a pine tree.

Not a bad day, three dam repairs, even if I didn't see the otter or sure signs of it being in the ponds today.