Wednesday, December 7, 2016

May 24 to 31, 2005

May 24 another morning of brisk winds and lowering clouds but no rain. I was hoping to get out at dawn, but will wait for a calm morning. So I started on my usual late afternoon hike, planning to skirt South Bay and then head into the beaver ponds. After not seeing anything new at the South Bay causeway latrine I was deflected from my plan by a memory of that something swimming into the old dock the other night. I thought it was a muskrat, but now thought it worth my while to check the north shore of the marsh on chance that the marsh might not seem as viable a place as it seemed a few weeks ago, prompting an otter bedding there to move out. And it did look a lot drier. I went to the channel leading to where a beaver and otter left scent mounds and it was dry.

Since I was last here, an otter left a few more mounds and gooey fresh scat.

Of course these animals can happily den in a drying marsh, I suppose, but the area might not seem as attractive as a burrow close to deeper water. Now, as for the scent mounds here, in this secluded place, I don't what to say. I rhapsodize with more theories when I see scent mounds on promontories that command a view. But I suppose channel maybe part of the well known otter short cut across the marshy point that juts out into South Bay, but I'll have to check out if there is another end, a south end, of this trail, which, I must say, I've never noticed. I didn't see any signs of fresh beaver activity, another bite was not taken out of the poplar back in the wood. I was now close to the willow latrine so I continued on to check that out. A month ago I saw fresh scats on trampled reeds just off the water. The rising water washed that all away. Now with the water receding I thought I might see scats there again, but I didn't. Instead I found a series of scent mounds

going back on a trail through the dead reeds. The trail led to a little grove of bushes and then to the larger marsh along the south shore of the north cove.

I crossed three deer trails, which of course otters could also use, and didn't find a trail going into the marsh. I went back to the willow and found no other otter signs, nor beaver signs. Having already skirted the edge of the marsh coming in, I took the beeline on the way out, through the middle of the woods, but soon stopped at an area of bare ground surrounded on one side with a relatively neat pile of leaves. 

It looked like an otter rolling area, and I got on my knees and did find some old scat,

and along a trail of about 25 yards over to the marsh, I found more old scat. All the other rolling areas I've found are quite in the open. These woods are rather open, with much space between the trees, so say this is guaranteed the most shady rolling area, not the place to roll around and then laze in the sun. Yet thinking how soggy living in and around the nearby marsh must be, this is a handy bit of dry ground for the otters. My next stop on my usual hike is the New Pond knoll, and here again I varied the routine. After seeing nothing new from the otters, I sat on the crest of the knoll overlooking the New Pond, facing the wind and then some light rain, because I fancied I might see a snapping turtle, as I have in previous springs. Plus the birds zip all around, especially the song sparrows at my feet. When I came to the pond, I saw ripples from small painted turtles dropping into the water from low logs, and one wood ducks flew away, and then the ripples I saw all seemed consistent with the gusting east wind in my face, so when a beaver surfaced in the middle of the pond,

I was rather surprised. Last summer I saw a beaver here on a hot day and watched it groom and rest, all the while wishing it would patch the dam and restore the pond to its former glory. I had my best beaver watching in this pond, but that was three years ago. This beaver floated motionless, checking up on me I fancied, for about five minutes. Then it turned and seemed to collect either the duckweed floating on the pond surface or something slightly more substantial just below the surface. Then it swam away from me diving frequently but not bringing up anything to gnaw. Then it swam toward me, diving again, and surfaced just below me, but under a downed trunk hanging a foot over this rather low pond. When I see a lone beaver like this, I look for what might be wrong. Lone beavers often seem out of sorts to me in some way - skittish or groggy or disheveled. This beaver seemed quite healthy, slow but alert, with healthy looking fur. It was by no means a small beaver, though not enormous. After floating below me a few minutes, it swam back to the far shore of the pond, and this time got a bit out of the water.

It was not far from green grass, but then seemed to think better of being out of the pond and dived back in. Each time it swam toward me, I expected a slap of the tail, but then it half surfaced just a little below and to my left. It cocked its nose now and then, almost toward me, then turned its back on me and sniffed the air from that direction. Then it swam away quickly, once again to the back of the pond and for a moment looked like it was going to swim up the small stream feeding the pond, but thought better of that and swam back toward me. This time I got into even shallower water, and groomed its front paw a bit. Then it climbed up, high feet on a log, facing me, sniffing, but I apparently was not among the odors it was evaluating. It turned its back on me again and went up on the shore and this time got as far as the bright green grass and took some bites, Then it sniffed the air again, and seeming to take a moment to gather up a resolution, it walked up the gentle slope of dead reeds toward the old beaver lodge now quite high and dry.

It crossed my mind that this was a beaver born and raised in this pond three years ago, returned to see what had become of the old place. But that fancy dissolved when, after another sniff of the air,

the beaver walked right by the lodge without paying it any attention.

It continued on,

all the way to the East Trail and began walking up it. This was astounding and I wasn't sure what to do. I didn't want to lose sight of it but unless I dashed down the hill and crossed the dry part of the pond I will. But longing for a beaver to recolonize these abandoned ponds, the last thing I wanted to do was frighten this brave explorer. So I calculated that I had enough time to take the path down the knoll back to the start of the East Trail and then follow quietly and quickly enough to catch up with the beaver. After all I pictured it pausing frequently to sniff the air. When I got to a point where I should have seen it, I didn't. All I had in my mind was the picture of that beaver marching smartly up the trail and I got this absurd notion that it was my doppelganger and that it was quite logically marching all the way up the trail to the high rocks overlooking the East Trail Pond, just as I've done for years. Seeing its prints in the mud of the creek flowing over the trail pointing up the trail 

almost convinced to race up the trail after it, but why would a beaver go up a ridge -- to look for otters like me? From the trail the beaver work southeast of Meander Pond was almost insight. This beaver looked so healthy it made sense to think it was one of the well fed beavers from Meander Pond who walked a little too far down the gentle slope to the New Pond. So I went up to that pond, but saw no beaver in the grasses and leaves along the way. I did see a beaver in the pond, but it looked quite like the little fellow I've seen there twice before. Also the beaver in the New Pond had the habit of shaking its fur. This beaver didn't. I also saw the muskrat as usual, but I had no time to linger. Now as I walked around past Thicket Pond on my way to the East Trail Pond, I kept looking to the ridge to my right expecting to see a beaver looking down at me! Well, I convinced myself that the beaver wouldn't be in the East Trail Pond and it wasn't. The thick coating of duck weed on the surface had not been parted so I didn't just miss it either. I quickly checked for fresh otter signs and did see a new scrapping up of leaves, but no fresh scats. So I headed up the ridge so I could get a full view of Otter Hole Pond. Going up the trail and then skirting the ridge is probably a shorter and easier route from the New Pond to Otter Hole Pond than going up the now shrunken stream between the two ponds. However, I didn't see a beaver in Otter Hole Pond.

Finally I tried to stop thinking like a human. One odor I know beavers will hazard a long hike for is that from a poplar. Maybe that is the scent the beaver caught at the edge of the New Pond. Sure enough I found two large poplars right on its line of march, but there was no sign that a beaver had been there, and of course, I didn't see the beaver. I returned to the New Pond and saw that it wasn't there. So I succeeded in losing a relatively slow and clumsy animal walking in open woods with grass around hard half as high as knee high. But at least I didn't scare it. I was running late now, and had time only to check the otter latrine above the old dock on South Bay. After a couple of days wondering if an otter might be denning there, I was surprised to see a raccoon sniffing up the latrine and when it saw me, it went right into the hole below the dock. I checked for new otter scats but didn't see any. I wished I could have seen what the raccoon does around otter scats. I have not seen an osprey in a while but this afternoon I saw one flying over the bay with a fish clutched in its claws.

May 26 I was up and out a little after 7 a.m., and at first it seemed like a calm, sunny, and warming morning, but the east wind picked up and became strong. Still as I set off up the TI Park ridge it was relatively calm and I noticed a lack of bird song. I walked up the ridge to the Big Pond and was greeted by a large and fresh otter scat

a few yards off the south end of the dam.

Unfortunately conditions were bad for looking for otter made wakes and ripples in the pond. Not only was the wind whipping up little waves and the low angle of the rising sun had them dancing with light almost blinding. I was easily distracted by a diving tern, but think I studied the pond enough to prove an otter was not active. On the way to the Lost Swamp Pond, the melodious song of a grosbeak had me studying the fresh green crowns of the trees, but I couldn't see the bird. Up at the Lost Swamp Pond the wind seemed stronger, and the light conditions were almost as bad. However, right in front of me, hunched on a log nibbling away was a muskrat

and I saw another muskrat swimming behind the dam. Evidently the wind was too much for the beavers, because they are famous for being out in this pond as late as 9 am, a good three hours after dawn. Looking to the northeast, away from the glare, I saw a goose family, 4 goslings, and a duck family, that is a female mallard and about ten ducklings, newborns bobbing in the waves, but not helpless. They were ahead of mom and tacking smartly through the wind and waves. I couldn't help but envy the exhilaration they must experience being thrust into the elements almost from the first day of their life. The waves were almost as big as they were. Meanwhile the childless goose couples honked at me a good bit; then flew off, landed on the far lodge, one pecking around on top much like the coyote did that I saw there. Then the honking began again and they flew off toward the river. I hate to impute to myself the luck of stumbling upon significant events in the lives of other animals, but was this couple saying goodbye to this pond, or is this a daily ritual? The couple with goslings swam to the shore, the adults standing sentinels at each end while the goslings pecked in the mud. I checked the old otter latrines on the rocks in the far southwest corner of the pond, and there was no sign at all that an otter had been there in the spring. It doesn't seem that any otter has gotten comfortable fishing in this big pond. And there was nothing new in the latrines on the north shore that otters have visited. At places I found a nice combinations of violets with an equally small yellow flower.

The Second Swamp Pond had turned dark blue thanks to the racing ripples and the sun now at my back. I checked the foot of the otter trail down from the Lost Swamp Pond, and while there were no fresh scats, there were two new scats on the rotting tree trunk just up from the water.

But there were no more signs of otters. Evidently an otter just goes through and marks the trails to and from these ponds without getting comfortable, whether it is the female reserving space for raising the otters now depending on her back in the natal den, or a male who with many miles to mark has scant time to linger, I know not. After I crossed the Second Swamp Pond dam, I was entertained by the lilting song of an yellow-orange bottom bird that I don't think was the usual Baltimore oriole. The song was short with a good beat -- wheet wheet whe WEEE Oh or wheet wheet wheet weh WEEEE on. I finally got it in my spyglass, out on the end of a limb, like an oriole. It was sprucing up its rump down and every ten seconds sticking its head high for a single whistle. I whistled back, frequently, and it poured song back at me. Then it flew off and with a lighter step I headed over to the East Trail Pond. Just as I came over the ridge, I saw a ground hog's back and it soon disappeared in its nearby hole. There was nothing new at the East Trail Pond, and so small that it is now almost all duckweed.

Only the wind clears off some of the surface. I went down to the New Pond, where there were no fresh scats, no beaver, but I heard that bird song again, with a WEEEE that was not so Thelonious as the other bird's. Finally there was nothing new at the latrines along South Bay. I did hear the osprey and saw a heron that seemed darker blue than most. Once the wind dies I will begin kayaking around here getting to know the herons, who have yet to croak at me this spring.

In the evening we went to our cabin on our land on the mainland to spend the night, which gave me another opportunity to check on the colony of beavers there. The northeast wind was still blowing so I went up to the pleasant nook under a large pine at the west end of the pond and the first thing I saw was otter scats, 

not fresh, but left there since the otter visit back around May 3. Then I looked up to see what the beavers were doing and there was a small one swimming right in front of me, and it promptly slapped its tail and dove. The wind was so fresh in my face that I was confident that beavers would return and I tried to get comfortable under the pine tree. Sure enough, I saw a beaver rolling up out of the water, with something to nibble, right next to the shore just to my right. Then soon enough a larger beaver swam down toward me. My vantage was half behind an old dead pine trunk half submerged in the pond -- 8 years ago I cut off all the larger dead branches, and half behind a dead honeysuckle bush. The dead pine trunk formed a little cove, so to speak, and the newly arrived beaver swam right in as if uncertain that I was really there. It swam back and then along the pine trunk. Meanwhile I got my camera out, and that was noise enough for me to get a slap of the tail.

The smaller beaver off to my right swam out toward the middle of the pond, finally a beaver responding to a tail slap as if it were an alarm, and then it stopped, dove, and brought up something to eat.

The larger beaver continued to weave in front of me and then the smaller beaver swam over, and up to the larger beaver's tail, hummed, and dove. They both seemed to busy themselves, oblivious to me,

then about ten minutes later I saw them both swim up pond and out of my sight. A gray tree frog made some fitful calls behind me -- it was a bit chilly. I heard the chick-burrs of a scarlet tanager, not to mention the buzzing of a bumble bee in the honeysuckle flowers behind me. Then I saw a beaver on the other side of the dam, and looked over and saw a beaver reaching up to trim a birch trunk hanging over the pond -- not the big one I saw them work on a week ago, but a smaller one. Then the beaver by the dam swam up pond and the other beaver swam over to the dam and began putting on a bit of a show for me. In earlier efforts to count beavers here, I had been thwarted by a small beaver who had the habit of diving with head facing forward and then surfacing well behind where it dove. Assuming beavers swam under water the direction they dove, I had mistakenly counted the beaver surfacing behind the dive as another beaver -- though I soon smelled a trick. Tonight this beaver did several of these twisting dives, swimming out to the middle of the pond, diving and surfacing back at the dam. Then it swam out and didn't dive. It was getting dark now which made wakes coming down pond seem bolder, but I do think the large beaver came back. It cruised behind the dam and stopped which prompted me to stand up. I could tell by trails in the grass that a beaver had been going over the dam into one of the shrinking pools just on the other side and then going off into the wood to find trees. However, when I stood I soon saw that the beaver didn't go over the dam. It was swimming toward me. I stood quite still and once again it swam into the cove and this time didn't seem bothered by the flash of my camera.

It even continued under the trunk of the dead pine and stopped. Another flash didn't cause alarm but it soon swam off back toward the dam. Then a small beaver swam back down but they both soon went back up pond, and while it wasn't quite dark it was getting chilly so I went back to the cabin. I have been trying to determine if the two year old beavers have left this colony, as they are supposed to do, and tonight, for the first time, I got a definite feel that they had. Not only were that not as many beavers in the pond at once, but the smaller beavers seemed more relaxed. Beavers have a tendency to make a parade from one scene of activity to the next. The more beavers in the pond the more contentious this parading about can get. Tonight, there was none of that. Going back to the cabin I heard a whip-poor-will calling down from White Swamp.

May 27 It started getting light at 4 a.m., a fact that can't be avoided in our small cabin with 16 windows, but I slept on until 6 a.m. and then went out, amidst a full chorus of birds all in full song without any distress calls, to the beaver pond. The wind had died so I went up toward the saw pit angling for my usual spot along the north shore of the pond. At first it seemed so quiet that I worried that the early light had prompted the beavers to go to bed earlier, then I saw a small beaver swim out from the corner of the pond where the north shore burrows are and it headed somewhat in my direction, then turned to look at me and continued down behind the dam and smacked its wee tail. Then I had an hour of placid entertainment, as, I think, the three small beavers proved my point that the two bullying two year olds were gone. One nibbled a bit on shore at the back of the pond,

then swam over to the auxiliary lodge carrying what looked like an already stripped stick to me. 

Its first try at getting the stick into the lodge failed, then it tried again and brought it down. Another small beaver had a curious habit of humping head down into the water as it swam through shallow areas.

I suppose its quick way of grabbing a snack.

When things quieted down in the pond, after I got a good close-up of a swimming beaver,

I heard humming from the main lodge, both the usual humming as when a beaver dives in to greet those inside and some much higher humming -- from one of the newborns, I assume. The beavers disappeared from the pond a little after 7 am. 2:30 AD by my new way of telling time, but I kept hearing hums and gnawing from the lodge. Three or four times I could hear a splash into the water and I cocked my camera, but no heads popped out in the water. On my way back to breakfast I walked around the pond and noticed that either last night or the one before, the beavers cut down a tall ironwood about ten yards off the north shore. 

One branch had almost made it to the pond.

I'll keep an eye on this; sometimes they make it no farther. They also trimmed the top off the pine they had cut. I checked the otter latrine by the lodge, and there was a scat that looked fresher than the others, and judging from the photos I've taken this month it was added to the pile well after May 3d. Earlier while I was watching the lodge, I thought I saw a weasel dancing on and through it, and saw that it ate something on the mud runway next to the lodge. However, this supposed weasel was suspiciously reddish, and when I checked the runway and found a slight hole dug out, I decided I had seen a red squirrel, curiously quiet. Realizing that otters had made two visits to the beaver pond, I went down to check the Deep Pond, but once again saw no signs that the otters had visited. I did disturb a nesting bird out of low honeysuckle bush and could easily take a photo of the eggs,

evidently of a grosbeak. I moved along so as not to further disturb the birds, but I'll go back and look for the grosbeak. I sat by the low pond, noting at least one large plant emerging from the shallow, 

perhaps a pickerel weed, and there was a belt of swarming bugs about one foot off the surface, but no muskrats or turtles. Heading back up the hill, I enjoyed the apple blossoms

and pondered one tent where the caterpillars didn't seem to thrive, only a couple very small ones.

May 29 late in the afternoon of the 27th I finally got over to South Bay in the kayak but once I got there the wind picked up cutting short my exploring as the water is still too cold to face splashing waves. I did make it to the rock on the south shore of the north cove where I had seen so much otter activity a few weeks ago. However, today I had to do a bit of my own scatting and in a hurry. Getting out of the kayak, in a hurry, resulted in my getting wet up to my waist. Then I was barefoot, hurrying to cover, and then after scanning the horizon several times to assure my privacy, I found on walking back to the kayak, that a fawn a few yards away, curled up quietly, had seen all. As I sat drying a bit on the rock, an osprey flew in, as well as a heron. 

Yesterday at the land, I was debating whether I should make a study of the beavers' cutting so much ironwood around the pond, trying to gauge how much of the tree they utilize. To postpone a decision, I went to work sawing a maple they had cut almost a year ago and only half used. On the way I passed the leafy ironwood they had cut two nights ago, and to my surprise all its leaves were gone. 

The beavers took every branch and much of the trunk and on the trail to the pond and in the pond there was not even a remnant of this harvest. Evidently every bit of it was taken into the lodge for the nursing mother. I also tried to photograph the grosbeak on her nest but I found the nest abandoned and only one egg remaining.

Whether a snake or crow got the eggs I know not.

I was up and heading out to the ponds before 8 am today. This is the first busy weekend, for humans, so the first animals I saw today were smiling humans on the roads circling their haunts. Once into the woods, I can't help but assume that this influx of humanity must affect animals as much as it does me, but of course it doesn't. I approached the South Bay trail causeway convinced there would be no otter signs, after all the otters have already stopped making scent mounds here, and as I checked their usual scatting spots, one, two, three, I saw nothing new and then on the east side of the trail, a feet or so from spot three, there was a very fresh otter scat.

However, I saw nothing new up on the New Pond knoll, from the otters that is. I sat there a bit when I noticed a warbler servicing a nest in a nearby sapling and got a video of one visit and a photo of another.

I brag about that because the flitting speed of a warbler seems uncatchable. There were also no new or fresh otter scats at the latrines along the north shore of South Bay. When I reached the far latrine at the entrance to the bay, I explored my idea that the otters marked there to defend, so to speak, this commanding spot overlooking the river.

It has the crowning heights of the island behind

I could manage to walk up the ridge on plausible animal trails, through the grasses and blueberry bushes, but any small animal could have made them. I didn't see any more scat nor anything resembling a rolling area, but I've never noticed otters climbing pausing along the way. One large downed tree trunk was decorated with a bubbling mushroom.

Once on top of this rather beautiful grassy granite ridge, I did ascertain that it was the highest observatory around. Indeed looking in one direction I could see the water of the Narrows,

and looking another I could see the water of Audubon Pond, and, the water of South Bay was behind me. An otter coming up here would position itself for possibilities. The woods around the rocks are quite open and in any season an otter could get down fast. There were several standing trunks of old stunted oaks. I looked into one, which I often do because these trunks are possible otter dens. I usually see nothing but this time I saw two eyes staring out at me. So I thrust the camera over the hole and in that way discovered a raccoon family nestled inside.

The birds enjoyed perching in the crowns of the dead oaks, all greeting the view with a song, except for a pileated who saved its squawk for when it glided down into the woods. A bit of the granite crown here is exfoliating into the start of a grand stairway,

contributing to the illusion that you are on the top of the world. Heading down to Audubon Pond I went under one of the most muscular arms of bare granite.

There were three geese on the pond, with the lone goose doing the most to defend the non-existent goslings from my intrusion. I walked around to the bench, not noticing anything new at the bank lodge. However, as I walked up to the bench I saw a beaver swimming to the main lodge.

I don't know if I had flushed it from the shore or out of the bank lodge. It didn't slap its tail at me, perhaps a first time for that at this pond, so perhaps this was simply a tired beaver heading home, It didn't go into the lodge directly but circled around and went in on the side almost out of my view. I decided not to check Meander and East Trail Pond today, but went back to the South Bay trail and then up along Otter Hole Pond and the Second Swamp Pond, enjoying grosbeak song along the way, and stopping to see one. I also heard that Thelonious bird across the Second Swamp Pond continuing its unique WEEEEEE. And a new flower is up.

I began checking for otter scat at the edge of the Second Swamp Pond end of the otter trail and saw nothing new all the way over to the foot of the Lost Swamp Pond end of the trail where I saw otter prints in the mud, coming and going.

That suggested that I had missed seeing and scat. I turned and saw a fresh scat right beside me.

I felt like I had connected the otter that scatted at the South Bay causeway with the otter that scatted here. But which scat was fresher? Of course, I scanned the pond and I saw a beaver cruising to the lodge in the middle of the pond. I once had a theory that a beaver out in the day could be a sign that an otter was around. I walked around the point to the point from where I can see the whole pond and I did see something black in the water way up in the southeast end of the pond, but I easily saw it was too slow for an otter and I finally got an angle that revealed the faraway triangular head of a beaver. Meanwhile the beaver around the lodge nearer to me swam over

and slapped its tail, but not in a panic because it continued to dive for goodies underwater. But the splash might have inspired the faraway beaver to cruise home. It swam purposefully all the way to the end of the pond and stopped seemingly looking up at me. There had been a light west wind at my back but there was a bit of light rain and after that the wind died. So not smelling me the beaver dove for roots and things and then even got up on the land in front of me and came closer to eat some of the grass.

It reared up to sniff a couple of times and soon went back in the water but not in a panic. It swam over to the side of me, but again dove for roots and didn't slap its tail. Beavers are more mellow in the morning. The last time here, in the strong east wind, I didn't see any beavers. There activity today, after 10 am, shows that they haven't suddenly grown shy of the morning. Two goose families were in the pond. The group I had seen before with four goslings, and a family like my own, two parents and one sprout swimming between them. Then as I left the pond, the beaver swam down the shore as I walked. I noticed a small muskrat hunched on a log in the water. Finally the beaver slapped its tail, and the muskrat dove into the water leaving its own alarmed ripples. As usual a tern worked the Big Pond, and I saw a goose standing on top of the beaver lodge with its head pointed down at the lodge.

I had seen a goose here early in the spring, but had lost track of it recently. As I crossed the dam, this goose did not budge. I saw another goose swimming at the edge of the marsh behind the lodge. I couldn't see eggs or goslings. I have never seen a goose strike a pose like this, and the other goose was quiet and retiring. Let's hope eggs are hatching and both were just on tenterhooks. The beavers have packed more mud on the part of the dam they had repaired.

And there appeared to be otter prints in the mud going down from that section of the dam.

But I didn't see any fresh scat in their usual latrine.

May 31 yesterday I attempted a photographic study of the frog around the Third Pond, where, by the way, bugs were pulsing just above the water. The frogs faced both toward the pond

and away from it.

The only one that moved while I "studied" them was a large one higher on the bank.

It, I think, jerked a bit to get a bug.

Today I headed off at around 4:30 pm to see the beavers in the ponds, with, as usual, checking the otter latrines along the way. There was nothing new on the South Bay trail, but quite a ruckus above it: two male orioles, a female, and the catbird that is usually there. I went in to check the rolling area in the woods jutting into the marsh, and there may have been new activity but no sure sign. There was a bit of water back in the marsh,

but no new scats down by it. With the green cattails coming up, I could now see what earlier must have been a wet swath through the marsh a good twenty feet wide.

Dare I call it an otter superhighway, not to mention a boon to beavers and muskrats? There may have been a new otter scent mound in the middle of the New Pond knoll, but it was not fresh. There was a fresh scat

just up from the water at the old dock latrine along South Bay.

There was some splashing out in the bay, but the spawning carp did that. Then I headed off to Meander Pond where I sat up on the east bank of the pond facing a fresh west wind. I immediately saw one beaver swimming slowly toward the U of the meander, then lost sight of it. And I thought I saw another beaver swimming quickly up to the lodge. I was sitting beside a good size oak that had fallen so that the partially leaved crown was just tickling the pond. Since this tree had fallen in the past few days, I hoped a beaver might come up and try to trim it. The tree hangs high and a beaver trimming the branches would have to stand tall. However the beavers showed no interest in the tree. I did see a muskrat swimming high and fast in the water going around the U. Meanwhile along the channel blocked from my view by the tree, I heard splashes in the water. So I moved just on the other side of the oak,

expecting to see an active beaver over there. I soon realized that muskrats were doing the splashing. As best as I could tell, at least two muskrats from the southeast end of the pond were vying with at least two muskrats from the west end of the pond for control of the channel that runs past the beaver lodge. The muskrats chased each other sometimes around in circles and two muskrats chased another back to the southeast end of the pond and one chaser hopped on the back of the rat it chased. Save for occasional splashing all this chasing was silent. I got the impression that the muskrats from the west end were containing those from the east. Perhaps areas off the channel, shallower now that the pond is losing water, were uncontested. I finally saw another beaver. Indeed it was cruising down the channel when a frenetic muskrat hurried past on a mission. If a beaver's head just sticking up out of the water can look askance, then this beaver looked askance as the muskrat zoomed by. This beaver joined the other in the southeast end of the pond who all the while had been diving here and there and nibbling sticks. However, unlike other times I had seen the beavers, these two didn't swim up to or near each other. At about 6:30, I moved on to see what the other beavers were up to. The East Trail Pond no longer seems to have a flow of water through it,

which means, it is very low. I walked out on the boardwalk to check the grass coming up in the mud. I didn't see any interesting prints. Where the pond still has water it looks like the duckweed is supporting a beige blight.

I didn't see any turtles on logs but did see a little twitching under the duckweed.

However, as dry and choked as the pond seems to be getting, an otter or otters still visit. I saw two gobs of new scat on the trail down from the ridge,

and the rolling area was dug out some more. Do the otters find anything to eat in the pond, or are they just keeping up their claim to this territory? Having seen otters work shallow ponds before, I suspect its the former. I've seem them forage through duckweed before, too. On the other side of the dam, there seemed to be a trail in the grass up the slope, but I didn't see any scats along it. There was nothing happening at the Second Swamp Pond, save for the birds zooming about. I hoped to hear my Thelonious bird, but didn't. I rode the southwest wind up the north shore of the pond and was surprised not to surprise a beaver in the Upper Second Swamp Pond. It still is not easy crossing the dam, and while in the middle of that trial, I began to hear Thelonious -- too far away to try to record. I got up to the Lost Swamp Pond enough minutes after seven to expect to see beavers. The wind was strong enough to blow away my scent, yet hardly rippled the pond. For the next hour, I didn't see one beaver. Here too, the muskrats put on the show. I followed a small one as it marked a few logs and then swam up to me, quite like the young beavers I came to see, even swimming back and across below me.

Then it dove and surfaced far down by the burrows on the west end of the pond. I saw muskrats in the far south end of the pond, some just coming around the point into the north end. Then a muskrat came out of the lodge in the middle of the pond in front of me, and it brought up grass to the end of a log and nibbled away. It dove a few times. I was soon distracted by a flicker feeding chicks in the dead tree trunk right in front of me and the mother didn't have enough bugs to quiet the chicks that had the knack of yawning and chattering at the same time. She kept looking around, perhaps knowing I was there, and finally she jumped into the hole and settled them down.

She was soon out to get more. The noise set the tone for the next act. A second muskrat had come out of the lodge in the middle pond and foraged a bit near the muskrat on the log. I actually remarked on how peaceful it all seemed at this quiet sunset hour. The muskrats in the south end of the pond foreshadowed what was to come. I noticed a muskrat going around the point following another. Then I heard a splash and one muskrat hurrying back with the other close behind. Then a muskrat swam out of the lodge by the dam, and I sensed there was going to be trouble. It swam toward the nibbling muskrat via every log along the way which it seemed to sniff up and mark with care letting its tail drape over the log as it dove. And I heard a noise which by the movement of the muskrat I could tell was not coming from the birds. The muskrat was in a snit, with either teeth or intense hyperventilation making the noise. Plus it seemed to mark everything twice. Then the other muskrat swam out as if to meet the challenge. They both swam over toward the lodge in the middle of the pond. I should add that all these muskrats seemed small, and when they did engage they didn't do it head on. One tried to catch the other from behind which led to a quick chase and then both dove and separated. One muskrat got up on a log next to the lodge, the other circled in and then they would engage again. Then the muskrat at the lodge swam out to taunt but would dive as the other muskrat closed and resurface twenty yards away. I don't think I was seeing play. While the fighting was not the brief head on fury I've seem between other muskrats, in this much longer encounter there was no evidence of any affection or camaraderie or even familiarity. When they separated the muskrat heading back to the dam once again marked logs, especially one that bobbed in the water. It marked that twice. I got the notion that the beavers were laying low -- after 8 pm and they weren't out, just to avoid getting between two feuding muskrats, but when I got to the Big Pond, there were no muskrats out and no beavers either. I didn't see any otter signs around the Big Pond dam save for some prints in the mud.