Sunday, January 8, 2017

June 20 to 30, 2004

June 20 I wanted to take a tour in the kayak but a brisk wind deterred me for an hour or so, then I decided to go anyway. I battled the waves in good fashion, got around the headland, and then breezed to the end of the south cove of South Bay. With the brisk wind there were not as many herons, but I saw two. A few turtles were up. Scudding through the emerging grasses I marveled at how many leaves and stalks were free floating and wondered if more were cut by motors or geese. I didn't notice any fish until I paddled out along the north shore of the point and under the willow tree where I saw an otter eating a carp two years ago. I saw a large carp lollygagging in the water. There was no wave in his dorsal find. Indeed part of it looked collapsed. It swam away slowly and I got the impression that it was dying. I didn't see any gash on its back, so I think it was being claimed by old age. 

The north cove was more out of the wind and at several points I noticed a bit of scurrying in the water. I first thought insects were doing it, but stopped seeing them and only saw minnows at the surface where I saw the scurrying. The activity made for bubbles and I could never see a minnow leaving a bubble. The bubbles certainly weren't coming from the depth of the water. Curious. I also saw a painted turtle floating on the algae -- seldom see them use so insubstantial a platform. Meanwhile the wind picked up and to get out of South Bay I had to do a little tacking at the end, and then I had a wild but easier ride home.

Ottoleo, and his friends Jonah and Justin, joined me on a Father's Day hike to Otter Hole pond, where I hoped to crawl into the large beaver lodge now left high and dry, though there is still enough water in the shrunken pond to attract a pair of mallards. I formed this notion back in the early spring when I saw the water level dropped revealing what looked like a commodious entrance to the lodge. Alas, upon close inspection I found that as all the mud packed on the untended lodge washed away,

the entrances to the lodge looked smaller. Plus the logs on the lodge must have settled down, no longer packed up in the mud. Looking into the holes I saw no inviting tunnel, only a jumble of logs.

I pulled out some logs on top of the lodge in a way that I hoped might provide entree to an inner chamber -- I did find that the beavers used at least one large flat stone to make the lodge,

but I found no smoother tunnel, only more jumble. This was disappointing. So I led the kids to the lodge Ottoleo and others went into two years again. Here again the logs had fallen in and the channels had silted up. There was no more inviting entree, and I checked all of them. So I led them up to the Thicket Pond so they could at least see a successful and remarkable beaver pond. The water is about six inches lower but there were still signs the beavers are there. I noticed the crown of two downed trees and waded through the high reeds in front of the dam and inspected a freshly cut elm, a twined elm in fact,

and a freshly cut maple.

Then I saw a beaver galloping away disappearing in the Meander Pond below. If we had been a little quieter we would have seen it. As we inspected the trees Ottoleo noticed a large longhorn beetle in an elm.

On the way back to the South Bay trail, Ottoleo entertained us by trying to stare down and then catch a small doe.

Then I, at least, was excited to see a new otter scat on the large pipe next to the outlet creek.

I went up and found a small new scat on the crest of the New Pond knoll, right next to the last two scats there. No action up on the knoll, and, of course, we hadn't seen any signs of otters on Beaver Point Pond dam or the lodge in Otter Hole pond.

June 21 I waited until 7:30 pm to go out on the longest day of the year to check on the beavers at the Big Pond. I took the TI Park trail and then went along the first swamp ridge. I flushed two medium sized birds, a black bird and then a smaller lighter bird, that I thought was a catbird. The former flew right off and the latter stayed long enough for a photo, and now I see that it was a cowbird.

The camera froze up after the photo and if it stays busted once again offers the opportunity to stop taking photos which, while they aid accuracy and memory, make me somewhat lazy in my seeing and thinking. I continued on to the pond. Along the river there was still a nice southwest breeze and I was planning to situate myself at the northwest corner of the pond, but as I approached the pond I noticed that there was no wind. I also noticed a pervasive small like the men's room at a poorly kept rest stop, a smell of uncleaned urinals. I saw the source all around me, the exuberant white blooms of the scrawny dogwood common to these parts.

So I sat on my usual perch and straight away noticed a beaver bobbing out in the middle of the pond. Its head was tilted up like a beaver working on a root, though I was too far away to be sure what it was gnawing on. Meanwhile there were some large wood duck ducklings making a ruckus in the grass and through a break in the grass I saw their wild gyrations as they followed their mother up pond. They must be trying to catch bugs which I suppose is great sport for a ducking. A mallard couple swam near me, no ducklings followed. Then the beaver in the pond swam back to and into the lodge. About ten minutes later a beaver which seemed to look like the one that just went in, swam back out, and it was followed by a smaller beaver that came out toward the middle of the pond and then swam right back to the lodge. The larger beaver swam up pond and out of view toward the southeast corner of the pond. About fifteen minutes after that two beavers swam out of the lodge. The first veered up pond and foraged along the edge of the grasses, and the second angled toward me. It smacked its tail when it was still well out in the pond, and I noticed a muskrat swimming out in the vicinity. This was the second muskrat I saw. The first swam past the lodge and then turned into the muskrat borrows behind the lodge -- actually a hole with some sticks over it that the beavers had used. But I think the beaver was nosing me because it swam to the dam and then began going back and forth, slowly approaching me. This appeared to be the small beaver that often splashed me as I crossed the dam coming from the Lost Swamp Pond, often at this time. It didn't get as close as usual, then turned and splashed

It stayed around still watching me and I bade it a fond goodbye. There were a few mosquitoes but what really bothered me were these tiny flea-like gnats that got on my skin, but didn't seem to bite. The wood thrush was singing in the woods on the way back, but no whip-poor-will.

June 23 I went for an early afternoon hike to check for otter signs on a perfect blue bright day of 70 degrees. Before I went I checked the camera which I had massaged a bit yesterday and it worked! At the first latrine along the South Bay trail, which hasn't been used for a while, I saw a flattened scat that was perhaps too brown to be an otter's, but I could see fish parts in it. At the second latrine along the trail, I saw more scat on the pipe,

and then up on the New Pond knoll, overlooking the creek, there was a new scat, which is the one up in the top left hand corner. The scat before that is in the lower center right.

The creek was completely dry, despite a quarter inch of rain which got my hopes up that a beaver had done something. I walked up it from the pipe to the trail up to the knoll but saw no otter prints, or any other prints for that matter. And there was no sign that the otter had gone over the knoll. I did flush a heron out of the New Pond so thick with duck weed and algae that I wonder how the heron finds a fish. Perhaps it is after frogs that poke their heads up. I crossed the dam and judging from the squeaks, green frogs predominate. As I walked up the dry ponds I saw that no beaver had been patching anything. 

These longest days of the year have been sunny, great evaporators, and the ponds have simply gotten too low to keep up a flow to the creek. Coming up to Otter Hole Pond, I saw something brown on the lodge, light brown so I didn't think it was a beaver or otter. Indeed it was a groundhog, sitting on the crest of the lodge. I know a groundhog has been living around here for a few years. One denned in the rocks below where I used to sit to look at the otters and beavers. So like me, this groundhog's dreams may have come true -- a chance to sit on top of the lodge. It got down and started grazing in the grass,

heading my way. I think it smelled me and then when I inadvertently snapped a twig, it did what I was unable to do -- went inside the lodge. I stopped briefly to look at the Second Swamp Pond and then went up to the Lost Swamp Pond. I should have had the camcorder running, first one heron flew off from the west end of the pond, then another flew off and then the goose family swam by. Then all was quiet. I checked the trail over to the Second Swamp Pond for otter scats and found none. I sat for a while looking at each pond and other than briefly seeing a muskrat swim up the Lost Swamp Pond, all was quiet but pleasant all the same. The milkweed is blooming and one plant with floppy flowers had a yellow leaf -- fall is in the air.

Then I headed for the East Trail Pond, and crossing the upper dam, I flushed several frogs and sent pollywogs diving into the mud bottom. Then I stopped to check the Second Swamp Pond lodge. I saw a huge snapping turtle draped greenback and all on a log.

I forgot to mention that a snapper was on top of the little lodge out in the Lost Swamp Pond. It was that kind of day. In the woods on the way to the East Trail Pond I saw these berry blossoms.

At the pond, I flushed a heron, then there was nothing to be seen save that when the ponds get so shallow, especially in a bright sun, every motion under the water seems reflected on the pond surface. And I still marvel at the patch of big leaved plants that I thought should bloom and instead turned out to be grasses.

I crossed the dam and then sat in the shade -- no scats there either, but still I watched for a mother otter and her charges. I headed for Thicket Pond taking the north side hoping to surprise a beaver working on the fresh work. No such luck. I did admire the canal curling around the pond.

The beavers seem to have trimmed the maple we saw down on Sunday but have done no work on the elm, which seems typical. Maple always seems to get gnawed first. I wanted to continue the tour, especially check the docking rock, but I had chores to do at home. I have a hankering to see otters in South Bay early in the morning, but I also have plans to try to stay up all night on the land to get a better measure of the beaver family there. That said, this seems the lazy time of year for these critters with the grub coming easily.

June 25 a nice inch of rain last night and a cool, mostly cloudy day, and the lack of wind lured me out in the boat to check the otter latrines in Eel Bay -- and the sun stayed out for most of the trip. What is most remarkable is how little life there is on the water and above it, especially if you stay away from the herons on the shore. Few ducks, geese, terns, or cormorants, and because of the chill not that many people. The Murray Island latrine looked unused -- one clump of grass bent over. And all the scats at the Picton Island latrine looked old and the trails in the grass went along the shore, not up and down like an otter would use them. This was disappointing, but this is the first year I've consistently checked these latrines so I don't know what to expect as the summer wears on. Next I stopped at the docking rock and here again I saw some bent grass, but no new scats, and I don't think the rain washed it all away. I walked up to Audubon Pond and by the looks of the mud the beaver is still battling to plug the drain, in vain unfortunately. There were no trails in the grass going up the embankment but in my tour around the pond I saw the beaver was busy in the usual spots. More small trees, elms, I think, were cut in the southwest corner 

and another mid sized pine tree was down in the southeast corner, where, by the way the beaver had quite cut up and moved the first pine it cut.

Otherwise there was no activity along the shore. I spotted seeds on the beardtongue flowers.

There were possibly some cut branches around the lodge, I could see leaves in the water, but no sign that the beaver was gnawing on them there. The goose family was grazing on the causeway and I moved them into the pond.

and the goldfinch were checking out the milkweed crop though it is too soon for them to feast on it. I also checked the latrine at the inlet creek and there didn't seem to be any fresh scat there or up on the knoll, but I got the feeling that something, perhaps an otter, had scooted through. And I saw a bit of fall, or at least an oak gall

had fallen from a tree.

June 26 we've had a cool spring and cool early summer and today's high was in the mid-60s, yet we still had a brief, violent, afternoon thunderstorm. After dinner I headed off to see the beavers, and finding the vegetation mostly dry, I went through the meadow behind the golf course. The grass is thick, and though the creek running through it appeared dry, I heard the quock of a green heron. Two deer hopped away but I didn't get a good look at them. As went up the ridge on the rocks the vegetation danced around. The recent rain has everything popping. All my old paths are grown over and I even got stuck in a jungle of willows which I thought might not be a bad thing. I fancied that the odors sticking to me as I scraped through would be attractive to beavers. This ridge is famous for towhees and I heard two very close to each other trading calls. On this fresh evening, cool, clear and with a breeze, there was no choking odor of urinals. I sat briefly on my perch beside the Big Pond dam, and there was nothing to be seen but a solitary tern. I crossed the overgrown dam and didn't see any recent beaver work but I'm sure the beavers are still about. I took a photo of the morning glory like flower as I crossed the dam.

I came down to the Lost Swamp Pond just above the bank lodge on a perfect angle to see two beavers munching on twigs along the shore nearby. This was the scene I plotted to get the last time I came out here when I had the wind facing me. Tonight I misjudged the wind -- though a brisk southwest wind is always hard to adjust to around these ponds, and an adult beaver soon got my scent, swam out toward the middle of the pond and splashed with authority. The other beavers didn't panic and one stayed munching on the shore. The alarmed beaver pounded its tail some more, and the other cruised off shore a bit.

I noticed a deer grazing not far from me -- and it didn't smell me yet. Every time the beaver splashed it twitched in a fright and looked around.

That impressed me, because once again I heard coyotes yodel and the deer didn't betray any fear at that. Anyway I decided to move along up the pond figuring that would get me out of wind enough to calm the beavers. Of course, the deer fled. I also flushed a small deer family. I scanned the pond for more beavers and as luck would have it another adult beaver swam by, coming toward the lodge, and it pounded its tail at me. After I scared off a heron who was fishing at the point across from me, I decided to move on to the Second Swamp Pond. I saw beaver wakes far across the pond toward the dam so was surprised when I walked past the lodge to see a small beaver back at the feeding spot working on a twig. Then an adult beaver surfaced and the juvenile moved off a bit. So I stopped and took some video. The light was bad but I could get some good silhouettes thanks to the beaver's propensity to strike interesting poses. When the adult swam off toward the lodge, the juvenile immediately went to where it had been, fishing up a nondescript stick that appeared to be a couple of feet long. Then another juvenile came loitering into this feeding zone. Then I noticed an adult beaver swimming toward the shore with its nose in the air. When it got next to the lodge it banged its tail. Both juveniles immediately swam out from the shore, but not far, they swam in circles, like they may actually be in a panic, but in a few minutes one swam back to where it had been munching on a stick. This happened again: the adult splashed, the juveniles swam out a bit and went in circles, then one returned to the stick. The other drifted out into the pond.

I moved around the pond and had just enough light to check the north shore trail for otter scat and to my delight I found two squirts and the grass and leaves looked like an otter or two had been through. I continued up toward the dam but saw no more otter scats. I saw the results of a successful raid on a turtle nest.

Then I went back to follow their trail over to the Second Swamp Pond, and I saw two scats at the crest of the trail.

I didn't see signs of much activity near the Second Swamp Pond, so I continue to be puzzled at why I don't see scats at the other Lost Swamp Pond latrines. I saw a small muskrat swimming in the upper Second Swamp Pond and just as I was losing the light saw a wood duck family swim across the pond. I went home via Otter Hole Pond where I saw a heron in the very shallow water. I remember a few years back when I marveled at the herons foraging in the Second Swamp Pond which back then had been reduced to a small pool of water. 

June 28 continued cool, and cloudy today. When I got to the East Trail Pond at about 5:30 there was a pleasant shower. I went along the tangent to South Bay to check the otter latrines and found nothing new along South Bay and one new but dry scat on the mossy rock latrine at the East Trail Pond (though all the moss has been scraped away!)

It's possible this is an old scat pawed around by a raccoon looking for turtle eggs, but I might as well be optimistic. As I came down to the mossy rock, I flushed a green heron that flew off quocking and that inspired a blue heron to fly off croaking, and they seemed to compete to express their contempt for my intrusion. I sat a bit under the pine while the rain played on the pond and once again I saw the grass twitch independently of the elements, and a black furry critter briefly appeared. I checked the trail over the ridge for scat, and saw none going up it, but the grass up on the hill was mussed a bit and I found a trail going down the other side leading to a hole under the trunk of a downed tree -- perhaps a groundhog. I decided to cross the Second Swamp Pond dam, pausing to look at a deer grazing in the tall grass. I saw no sign that the beavers have been below the dam. The pool around which they did much harvesting last year is about dry, and even the channel and pond below the dam is quite low. However, there was dollops of fresh mud on the dam, so the beavers are still tending it. The great pleasure was the flowers and grasses, especially the vervain.

and some plants had more violet than purple.

And there were three different grasses with bold fruits or flowers.

The frogbit is also blooming but there is not that much here. There are luscious clumps of beardstongue.

As I walked up the south shore of the pond, I flushed a bevy of wood duck ducklings with the mother wailing behind them. I checked the otter trail between the ponds and saw a scat under a tree on the north side that is probably new, but not very fresh. It was probably made at the same time as the new scats I saw the other day and I just missed it in the evening shadows. So I can't say an otter has been back yesterday or today. Over on the Lost Swamp Pond side I didn't see any new otter scats, but a small beaver steamed toward me, but not for an inspection.

It pulled up and dove for a snack. Meanwhile an adult beaver swam down from the dam, with nose high in the air, and still well away from me and the small beaver, it banged its tail. The small beaver didn't react but I heard a flush of activity around the bank lodge which puzzled me because I hadn't noticed any beavers out there. Then I saw three beavers swimming away from the lodge, as if the loud tail splash was not a signal to hide but to get out and get to work! The three beavers went in opposite directions, one toward me, one to the west, and one to the east. I didn't tarry since my dinner was waiting. As I approached the Big Pond I saw what looked like a beaver swim into grasses along the south shore near the dam. Crossing the dam I saw the beavers' mud work but the beaver didn't swim out to greet me. At the end of the dam I saw the iris seeds and framed a photo to include a cattail head.

Crossing the dam I also flushed a large furry critter perhaps a shrew, and I flushed a woodcock which I haven't done for a while. Then below the dam I saw two deer grazing in the pond below,

and admired their white flags as they retreated.

Their flight inspired two more to run further down stream. Plus I saw two deer grazing together around the Second Swamp Pond. I might have glimpsed a doe and fawn fleeing around the Lost Swamp Pond dam - certainly no shortage of deer.

June 30 I took a tour of South Bay in the kayak. A brisk wind seemed to keep the herons moving around more. There were certainly not more than usual and perhaps a few less. I saw one tern, and with the clouds and wind, not many painted turtles. I did see one good size turtle on a log that was like a painted turtle but missing much of the paint. The vegetation is coming up in the shallows, and there is quite a collection of cut grass, whether from boat props or geese, I know not, but my guess is the latter. Justin reported seeing a beaver off his dock early in the morning, and I saw some beaver work on the willows along the south shore of the cove. I also saw a few nibbled twigs under the willow on the opposite shore, where I once saw an otter. From an otter's point of view the edges of the cove are still swimable under water. But I saw no sign that otters had been around. A few waterlilies are out and right on the edge of the cattail marsh. The water level is keeping up which might effect the blooming. Coming out of the north cove, I heard an osprey call. I looked up into a pine and didn't see it until it flew off a dead limb with a fish clutched in its claws. I didn't notice fresh beaver work along the north cove, nor any hint that an otter might have been around.