Monday, June 29, 2009

June 16 to 22, 2009

June 16 we were away for a few days, and got to our land before lunch. Fortunately it was too hot to collect firewood for next winter, though on the hottest days I sometimes take pride on preparing for January, so I went to check on the beavers. I sat at the Deep Pond and enjoyed the dragonflies and yellow warblers, and then when I twitched at some point, I heard a snapping turtle scramble off the beaver lodge below the knoll. I went to check on the beaver. I have been fancying that the beaver has been nipping a cluster of ferns, and I could check old photos to bolster that case, and I will do that, but for the moment I am rather taken by the poses of the ferns.

Ferns usually seem to circle their wagons, forming a citadel of green, and these ferns do seem to give way. Then I went up and over the knoll above the lodge, and I when I walked on the lodge I saw the water move as something swam out from the lodge. While I waited for the beaver to surface, I took a photo of the stripped aspen log outside the lodge. I donated the log, but I could see that the beaver were also eating vegetation suitable for the season which they left next to the log.

Then a beaver surfaced in the middle of the pond, and I was surprised that it seemed a bit stand offishish. The last time I say a beaver here, five days ago, it swam right up to me. Then I saw another beaver surface out near the far bank. I was worried that one of the beavers left the pond two weeks ago, and was glad to see there were two. This second beaver was undoubtedly the one that had gotten close to me. It swam over to be and swam back

and forth below me

and then it swam over to the dam, as if it was seeing if I had brought down more aspen. No, I hadn't. I first wanted to see how many beavers I had to feed. When the beaver in front of me went to the dam, where it went up on the dam to mark some mud, the other beaver swam over, rather more exercised and it slapped its tail twice. I retreated, having other beavers to check on. Last week the two beavers at Boundary Pond had been out around 3 pm. I got there at four and sat in my chair above the lodge. Straight away I heard some humming from the lodge and soon
after a beaver came out and swam up pond. I am pretty sure there are kits in the lodge, but the give away is to see beavers ferrying leafy branches into the lodge. Today I saw that. A second beaver swam out and got the branch. Then the first beaver
that came out swam back with a branch and I tried to get a good photo of that. Unfortunately, the beaver noticed me before it got to the lodge. I got a photo of a beaver looking up at me.

Curiously, it didn't take the branch in, but left it outside the lodge. Evidently it didn't cue the beavers in to my presence, because one then began taking logs and muck up on the dam

I tried to get a photo of that, but only got a photo of the dam. Once again the beaver didn't push the log or muck up high in the dam, just larded it on back of the dam. Last summer I thought five beavers were in this lodge, and during the fall, winter, and early spring, I usually saw only three out in the pond. Today I saw four in the pond, leaving the mother in the lodge, possibly, accounting for five, plus the new kits, who I am pretty sure I could hear mewing. Indeed another beaver came back ferrying a leafy branch, but once again, before I could get a photo, it noticed me. Indeed, another beaver came out to look at me too. I had to content myself of a photo of the lodge.

And after one of the beavers slapped its tail, I retreated. I was holding up the feeding of the kits. When I headed up pond, I was startled to see a beaver swimming down the Last Pool, then I remembered that one had headed that way before the tail slapping. I got a video of it swimming down the muddy channel to the Last Pool dam.

video clip to come

Then I walked up the long muddy trail at the end of the pool

leading to an elm just cut, with every leafy branch trimmed off it.

As I neared our house, Leslie reminded me of the verio nesting low in an ironwood between the cabin and our house.

What a pose to hold during the busy spring! Having bothered the Boundary Pond beavers too much, I went back down to the Deep Pond after dinner bearing a fat juicy aspen log (well knowing that beavers prefer leaves at this time of year but all the leafy branches off the aspen had already been offered to the beavers.) In past weeks one beaver usually swam out promptly after my offering hit the water. No tonight. I sat for an hour and no beaver appeared. So much for thinking that the beavers here had grown dependent on my offerings and that the beaver briefly left alone had grown dependent on me. Tonight only a small bullfrog, head just out of the water, looked at me. I could take that personally because no other bullfrog answered its periodic croaks, sometimes one, usually three or four, and one time six. But I didn't take it personally. The deer also appeared from the dense bushes across the pond and once again it snorted once it understood I was there. Snorted and ran away, and then peeked back out, and then snorted and ran away for good. No muskrats appeared either. I did hear the barred owl warming up for the night's calling. When I walked up the road in the almost dark, I heard a porcupine, probably, grrring in the bushes under a tree, and then at the crest of the road, I saw a bird shaped like a whip-poor-will looking none too happy in the middle of the
road, while "whip-poor-wills" poured out of a tree above. I tried to get close enough to get video with my "nightshot" function on the camcorder, but then the lump on the road flapped up and another bird flew down fluttering
above it. I could see the white of its tail feathers. Probably the adult whip-poor-will. I soon heard the call a good ways up the road.

June 17 I spent the morning collecting wood, principally the rest of the big ash near the Boundary Pool that I cut in the winter. I saw that the beavers cut a larger elm above the Last Pool

and at least cut off the end of it and took it down pond.

While I worked no beaver stirred. As I carried wood back, I though I figured out the verios. There is one calling near the Boundary Pond dam, one near the house, and one in the woods in between. I checked the Deep Pond to see if the
beavers finally appreciated my offering. It was half eaten.

And the dam had more mud on it.

I didn't walk around the pond. There are some daisies blooming beside the dam. It is now my policy not to take photos of daisies unless there is a bug in the blossom, which is usually the case. So I snapped a photo, and was surprised that the bug didn't fly away, or even move.

Only when I put the photo of the computer did I see that a white spider had ensnared it.

I should add that the birds and frogs sang well in the warm evening and warm morning, providing a real blending of many species. The cuckoos called more than in other years. The wood thrushes were prevalent; the rose breasted grosbeaks and scarlet tanager harder to discern, but we think they were there. The ravens mercifully quieter than usual.

June 19 I planned to hike around the island yesterday but it rained and drizzled and mizzled all day. This morning as I headed off to Antler Trail there was mist in the air but I also saw a patch of blue. That didn't lead to sunshine but the precipitation soon stopped. I saw two deer off Antler Trail. My first stop was the willow lodge latrine. The water level in the river is still high but there was no evidence that that inspired a beaver to move into the lodge. A porcupine had nipped and stripped some willow
branches, and a beaver cut off one of the lower branches and left some nibbled sticks behind.

The old otters scats were now under the tall grasses and blue flag irises.

So I think I can conclude that there is no otter mother raising pups in the marsh this year -- once again, I should say. Last time that happened was in 2005. I dutifully checked the margin of the marsh along the south shore of the
north cove. Some trails coming up, but no scats or scent mounds. The trails were probably made by animals going down for a drink. There were no new scats at the docking rock latrine along the north shore of the bay. Yet I still headed up the shore to the check the latrine over the entrance to the bay. Glad I did. I saw a doe and her fawn just off the trail. The does ran off immediately and the fawn held its ground. I walked seven steps toward it and took another photo, and was able to repeat that three times.

Then it ran off, splashing a bit in the water of the mouth of the creek coming down from Audubon Pond. It met up with mother, standing on the trail. She snorted and they ran off together. Geese had been up in the grass where the otter
latrine had been. I could see their poops, and sinuous trails in the tall grass.

Audubon Pond still has high water. I walked down the embankment and admired that mud the beavers had piled on the drain.

A hose is still draining the pond but can just keep up with the rain and inflow. A pair of geese and three goslings were in the pond. And in the pond just to the east, a large deer browsed in the water. I didn't see a fawn nearby. I went back to the South Bay trail and took a dry route to Meander Pond. Then as I waded into the tall, wet grass, a deer woke up and leapt away. I didn't see any sure sign that the beavers have been using the canals that form the south section of the pond, but the canals looked like something had been in them. From the
south shore of the dam, the spread of blue flag irises along the north shore looked quite striking.

This is the best year ever for blue flag in the sense that there are clumps everywhere. Yet each individual bloom seems a bit emaciated and more violet than blue, probably because it has been too cool, wet and cloudy this spring. Judging from how the water relates to the muddy dam, the water level in the pond has risen,

which means the beavers have been working on the back dam. Next time I'll have to check that. I took photos of the dam work, and while I could see that the beavers have wallowed in the little pool below the dam,

I didn't see any well used trail down to the cattails and alders below the dam. But I was distracted from making a close study of that by the sight of the cut ironwood up on the ridge. It was quite impressive.

I cut dead ironwoods for firewood and know that there is no easy wood to cut inside an ironwood, like you sometimes find in maple and red oak.

The beavers have cut some of the lower branches and have much more available.

Since it was around 10 am, I didn't expect beavers to be out. So I didn't sit on the rocks next to the ironwoods, I sat on a trunk near the new lodge. All was quiet there and I think some ironwood logs have been taken to the lodge, for food and then building materials.

While at Audubon Pond, I had heard some very loud screeching. The best way I can describe it is by saying it sounded much like Terry Jones when he played a wife or mother in the Monty Python's Flying Circus sketches. I soon saw there were two screeching ravens, both being chased by small birds, but when they eluded them they still screeched, and they each kept screeching as they flew away from each other. When I got over to the ridge above Shangri-la Pond, two ravens were perched high on one of the dead trees in front of me -- exit screeching. Of course on my way to Shangri-la Pond, I scouted the north shore of Thicket Pond. Something had parted the muck in the north canal, about the width of a duck. I didn't see any beaver signs. It is important to see if a beaver is still here, to figure out if
non-related beavers would be comfortable so close together. Shangri-la Pond it turning green, and it is quite beautiful. In the west end of the pond the larger bushes and plants are flourishing,

and in the lower pond the grass sprouts are brilliant.

There are even some growing where the dam had been washed away.

There is probably as much water still in Shangri-la Pond as there is in Meander Pond. But there is no cover. The channels are in the open. When the beavers moved into this pond in the summer of 2007, they could dredge old channels
that high vegetation all around them. I didn't see any snapping turtles or muskrats today. Maybe they like cover, too. I should sit a spell and see if they remain, but today I had more ponds to check. As usual there were no beaver signs at the East Trail Pond dam, and no beaver signs at the Second Swamp Pond dam. In the woods between the two, I flushed two woodcocks. I got my camera out to take a photo of the spot to jog my memory when I wrote my journal. Then two more woodcocks flew off but not from where I was pointing the camera. The Second Swamp Pond is low enough so
that I could walk on the lip of exposed mud behind the dam, but there is still a large pond of water behind the dam. I headed up the south shore and then over to the Lost Swamp Pond. The beavers have evidently moved to the lodge in the middle of the pond. It was piled high with logs, muck, and even what looked like nannyberry boughs.

I scanned all the nearby shores of the pond and couldn't see where the beavers might be finding their building materials. The dam has fresh mud on it.

No signs of otters either at the latrine by the dam or at the mossy cove latrine. There was a good bit of digging in the moss on and around the granite outcrops. I imagine this is done by a turtle looking for a good spot to burry her eggs, and not by a raccoon looking for eggs.

As I approached the Big Pond I could see that it was going to a challenge to get to the other side of the pond.

The cattails ruled behind and below the dam. My only hope was that deer or the beavers themselves fashioned trails below the dam. The latter had a short one, starting from a pile of nibbled sticks by the pond water

but I could follow the trail back only ten feet or so before the meadowsweet swallowed it. I continued down away from the dam, saw some nice bindweed flowers

but no usuable trail. So I got wet feet. I angled back toward the dam, which after all was a strip of relative rationality. I saw the raccoons were able to take advantage of it. Their prints just fit on the fresh mud the beavers pushed up on the dam.

But I didn't fit, so I wallowed in the wet below the dam, looking through cattails to admire the sprigs of fresh honeysuckle the beavers are still putting on the dam.

When I got to the spillover where the dam is thick enough to handle my prints, I didn't dare add my weight to the growing mud wall of the dam which looked a bit thin for my heft.

At the south end of the dam, for the past 20 years or so, there have been blue flag irises. They are still there, and I've taken photos of them earlier this spring, but no portraits of an individual flower. They won't be around too much longer.

As I waded through the meadow south of the pond, I saw a striking moth, I guess, with electric colors around its head.

All the meadows I waded through on the way home were live with moths, butterflies and dragonflies. But nothing stood still long enough for a photo. We went to our land to spend the night. At 4 pm I went to the Last Pool with a new strategy. I have twice bumped into a beaver at the end of the Last Pool when I headed back to the house at 5pm. So I set up a chair in the woods with a clear view of the end of the pond. To my left I could see where the beavers have been clearing saplings.

I soon heard some gnawing, which startled me, but then I saw a deer browsing just on the other side of the pool. That it didn't notice me boded well, I thought, for seeing the beaver when it came. Then I saw the water well up, the forewake of a beaver, I am sure, but the beaver didn't appear. Ten minutes later, I saw the welling water again, and again no beaver appeared. Evidently the beaver went over to a pile of sticks on the east shore of the pool, a bit down from where I was sitting. So I walked down to another chair I had set up at the upper end of Boundary Pond. Again I saw wakes in the pond, but no beavers. Before going back to the house for dinner, I walked down the pond far enough to hear humming from the lodge. I noticed that the beavers don't seem to nibble logs around the birch stump

I also saw how they are dredging the channel going to the Last Pool.

Bad luck that I missed them. After dinner I sat down at the Deep Pond. Only one beaver came out and kept swimming in front of me and even slapped its tail. I hadn't brought an offering of aspen, expecting instead to gain credit for what Leslie brought down in the afternoon, but the beaver had already eaten that. I took the tail slap as an order and went up the hill and brought back down so aspen saplings. The beaver eventually went over to the dam to take a bite. I am surprised that the beaver doesn't dive and bring up vegetation to eat, which is what most other beavers in this neck of the woods do at this time of year. A muskrat swam out in the pond just as I was leaving in the dark.

June 21 yesterday I worked on firewood in the morning and then it rained and threatened to rain. We actually got very little rain, but the humidity was daunting. So I wasted a day. However I did hear something exciting in the middle of the night, coyotes yodeling. The weather was the same this morning but the gloppy atmosphere began slowly clearing. After morning chores, I cut the remaining aspen trunk in half and took one of the logs down to the demanding beaver. I noticed to some vegetation pushed up on the

I sat by the pond long enough to see two muskrats along the shore. I keep expecting to see baby muskrats. Then I walked around the pond. Before I got to the knoll, I noticed another trail through the ferns and into the woods,

and I still think the beaver is eating ferns. When I came down on the lodge on the other side of the knoll, nothing seemed to swim out, and there didn't seem to be too much evidence of beaver activity around the lodge. I continued around the pond hoping to see more evidence of beaver activity other than stripping the aspen we bring and building up one small section of the dam. I soon found it. Two circular clearing in the spread of ferns along the inlet creek,

and a newly built canal leading to them.

I was rather impressed. When I got around to the high side of the dam, the beaver was out in the pond. It didn' stay long looking at me. Still only one beaver. I did see another trail up the bank and into the grasses, but I learned
that I sometimes assume beavers do too much. I credited a beaver for wearing down the grass on one section of the bank. A raccoon came along and dug out the eggs that a turtle buried there.

The turtle wore down the grass, and may have made the trail up into the grass, or the racoon did that. Leslie alerted me that the raccoons have been digging up around the Teepee Pond, so I went up there, and found two place where the raccoons found eggs, rather close together.

I wish I could better identify the eggs to determine in the Blanding's turtles laid them. Once again the First Pond is quite muddy with a diminishing circle of vegetation in the middle.

Last year I saw a Blanding's munching out there. There is also water in the pool above the First Pond, where I also saw a Blanding's turtle once. Then I went up to check the Bunny and Turtle, now looking for old flower friends.
The loosestrife was at the neck of the Bunny Bog,

but there was only one blue flag iris at the end of the Turtle Bog. I would have thought a wet spring would have made them flourish. I headed down to Boundary Pond, to ponder that from my chair. On the way down the west shore of the
Last Pool, I saw that the muddy water more or less stopped at the middle section.

I was right the other night. The upper end of the pond is getting too shallow and the beavers are spending more time in the middle and foraging along the east shore of the pond. So I got my chair and moved it over to the east shore back in the woods where I could get a view of where I now think the beavers are hanging out when they come out to the Last Pool. One can reduce the beavers foraging to a standard pattern, and certainly by taking the long scientific view, it's just flood, gnaw and leave a meadow. But the nuances of their choices, their subtle
adjustments to water levels and the most particular local conditions turns watching them into an ongoing aesthetic pleasure, not without dramatics. Of course, at 11 in the morning I didn't expect a beaver out in the pond, but I did hear humming
for the lodge -- and not the humming of contentment. Crossing over the Last Pool dam, I couldn't resist taking a photo looking down at Boundary Pond

and back up the Last Pool.

Yes, I'll put my chair just beside that romance. I have speculated that the beavers created a pile of sticks and logs in the middle of the pool, less as a dam and more as a cache to raid when the water dried up in the upper part of
the pool. Now I'll study that, at the moment it doesn't look like they are paying much attention to it.

Preferring to cut sapplings a bit up from it, even leaving one hanging in the air.

I continued down the east shore and had to waste some pixels on the now cut and leaning hemlock they have been working on the last few weeks.

Since they built it, I've been criticizing the Boundary Pool dam for leaking and blaming the lack of mud for the beavers' inability to stop the flow. Now it looks like the beavers have mastered the situation. I'm not sure if the heaps of hemus now on the dam did it

or their pile logs and muck well behind the
dam, which I thought was just an exercise in channel clearing.

Much to think about in this regard and I hardly know where to begin. Some day, perhaps not this lifetime, I will have to get down and dirty with a beaver dam. But the area below the dam is now drying out

and there is a small trickle going down the wallows below the dam.

Last year, I speculated that they taught the kits to swim in that wallow, no sign of that yet.

When we got back to the island, I headed off in the kayak to tour South Bay. A brisk north wind blew away the clouds. There was a goose family with five goslings right off our dock. Going around the headland, a mallard and two ducklings were beaking up all the bugs they could, the little black bugs that dance on and fly just above the water. Out of respect for the strengthening wind I didn't go down into the south cove of the bay. As I headed down the south shore of the north cove, I paddled by 18 goslings and their attending elders. All the goslings were sizeable, and many were squat down, fluffed into a ball, I guess because of the wind. Down on the next rock I saw ducklings, couldn't count them because they quickly sought cover in the high grasses. The geese barely flinch when I get close. No otter signs, but not from lack of fish. A heron flew across the bay with a large bullhead in its beak. The carp are still about, not so much spawning as eating. Much of the vegetation toward the end of the cove has been eaten and when I paddled through patches of thick grass, several carp splashed as they swam away from the
kayak. Some spatterdocks are blooming. I rode the wind across the Narrows and paddled where I usually see schools of fish, and only saw on rock bass. Not easy to see through the rippling water and usually the wind shuns this cozy cove that faces the east. On the islands in that cove, I saw two large flocks of geese goosing, if
you will, the long stalks of blooming grasses. One was a mix of adults and goslings and the other most adults. I surprised some lounging ducks with ducklings, and on the next rock, there was a water snake sunning itself. I heard and osprey and saw a common tern make a successful dive. No signs of beavers using the huge lodge tucked behind the rocks of Murray Island. I saw a loon diving and then preening its feathers out in the river.

June 22 the north wind kept up, less humidity though still warm. I headed off in the afternoon with my usual ambitious plan to check on the Meander Pond, Lost Swamp Pond and Big Pond beavers. And just before 5pm as I sat next to the cut ironwood at Meander Pond, I thought I was right on schedule. I had walked along Thicket Pond and saw how impossible it was to see a beaver if one was indeed still there. The thickets of buttonbushes are all in bloom and the grass around the pond is high as it gets.

The channels that I could see are no muddy.

Then I sat near Meander Pond lodge waiting for a hum, though these beavers when they were in Shangri-la Pond with a family of 5 or 6 rarely hummed when they were inside the lodge.

The only thing I heard was a beaver tail slap coming from the section of the pond behind the dam. I was generally upwind so I assume the beaver got a whiff of me. I waited to see if the tail slap inspired any beaver to seek the
safety of the lodge, no. So I headed down pond to see if I could see the beaver in the meandering channels canyoned by grasses.

Then I checked the big ironwood they just cut down and saw that they had cut several branches, though plenty remained.

As I walked up the rocks to get a closer look, I saw that a good bit of vegetation growing between the rocks had been trimmed, never seen a beaver with such a taste for such a rock garden, as it were. Then as I scanned the pond, I saw a beaver swimming up the channel toward the lodge, and, what I took for a muskrat swimming down the channel. But that muskrat soon swam right below, definitely a large beaver. Then I thought it disappeared in the grasses below me.

If the beavers knew I was there, I wasn't sure why one settled below me. I first assumed it was just force of habit, because the beaver remained hiding. Then I saw it climb up on the lower rocks, evidently oblivious to me as it nibbled the vines and stickers.

Indeed it even climbed up to the ironwood and I lost sight of it as it moved into the crown. I didn't hear any gnawing though. Meanwhile I kept hearing something in the dead leaves and grasses to my right. The beaver was off to my left. I first assumed it was one of the many chipmunks but the noise didn't ricochet back and forth among the rocks. It was a slow crackling. So I started looking for a black snake leaving the warm rocks as the sun went down. But the noise was moving up. I soon saw the yellow chin of a Blanding's turtle. The beaver was
about 10 yards from me, the turtle 10 feet. To keep an eye on both, I began moving as deliberately as a turtle. Despite having an eye on me

the turtle kept coming

I assume impelled by the need to lay eggs while it was still warm. Personally I didn't see any soil ahead of the turtle, but what do I know.

I finally decided I had to move if I was going to see the beaver. I assumed it was quietly eating leaves, but it was possible that it was taking a nap. It was probable, I thought, that the beaver didn't know I was there. That tail slap I heard may not have been an alarm, but a signal, one beaver serving notice that it wanted to go back to the lodge and that the other beaver should keep an eye on the pond, which sounds a bit remarkable until you consider that these beavers had just relocated after their dam failed twice. Anyway, when I moved, I heard a footfall, the beaver's, and then I saw the move climb slowly down the rocks, not alarmed at all. It stopped to nibble a vine and when it got back in the water it swam slowly munching sucking the duck weed floating thick on the surface. Then it
detoured into the grass and I saw it climb up to nip the leaves off one of the taller bushes. Stuck between a turtle and a beaver, the wind seemed to blow all the world around the three of us. In sync with them, my mind was moving too slowly to ask the obvious question: why was I there?