Saturday, April 11, 2009

April 22 to , 2007

April 22 Hot day, over 70, but with a good westwind coming down the river so that if you sat in the wind you could cool down. With a west wind it's difficult to decide which is the best direction to take to tour the ponds. I had planned to approach the ponds from the north, thinking the wind was cheating from the south, but absentmindedly I plodded up to my perch at the south end of the Big Pond. Just as I asked myself why I did that, I saw a raccoon paws down in the water of the pond, right in front of me. We stared at each other, and, in an easy going
fashion, I got my camera out but when it whirred , the raccoon backed into the dry marsh and disappeared. The pond water level was higher, but still had another foot to go. Seeing a raccoon at three in the afternoon is a good sign that animals are eager to be about. So I sat on my perch and waited, camera ready.... Finally I noticed something dark on top of a grass pyramid and thought that if it was the resident muskrat on top of its little lodge soaking in the sun, well, that would be something.

I was pretty sure it must be a nesting goose, but through my spyglass, I couldn't tell if I was seeing fur or feathers. Since it didn't stir as I got close, it was certainly a goose and I finally got close enough to see how she skirted her eggs with her dark feathers. No sign of the gander. Since the water was higher, and no rain for a few days, I was sure the beavers had been down patching the dam. I saw two high and dry mud marks on both sides of the little channel behind the south end of the dam

and along the dam I found a display of left overs

The patching of the dam seemed a bit halfhearted

and I got the impression that a yearling was sent to see what was happening down here. Behind one modest dollop of mud pushed up on the dam was the modest remains of a meal of fresh green cattail stalk.

I decided approaching the ponds from the south would do, as the wind was a true west wind, cutting across the pond as I sat. However, ducks don't rely on smell so I only got a brief look at the four pairs of ring-necked ducks swimming away from me as I approached the west end of the Lost Swamp Pond. Then
there was a pair that didn't match and I wonder if they were widgeons.

All the ducks were soon in the air. The last to take flight were a female and two male ringnecks, so courting continues I guess. I went up to my perch in the rocks, kind of the underarm of the pond, leaving me a bit concealed but able to see almost everywhere. The goose was on her nest on the lodge in the middle of the lower pond. The gander was going about the pond quietly foraging for snacks, but not shamelessly. He stayed behind his patient mate. He looked rather dark for a goose, very distinguished.

It was much too early for beavers and seeing otters would be amazing luck, so I was out to see what the muskrats could teach me. While I waited I was rewarded by seeing the first swallows of the year, and hearing their melodious
gurglings as they tried out tree holes for nests. A downey woodpecker appeared out of nowhere to assert its claim to a dead tree trunk. Then a muskrat appeared out on a log at the north end of the strait that connects the two long arms of the pond.

Nothing remarkable in its nibbling, nor in its diving under water and then coming up with more to chew on. Then after the third dive it started swimming back to the lodge where the goose was nesting, pushing or holding in its jaws a wad of something worth eating. It dove into the lodge. It came out again
in about ten minutes and dove and came up with another wad and took it back to the lodge. Over the years three pairs of muskrats have divided this end of the pond, and I've seen a bit of contention between the pairs. Last year the center pair seemed to
battle the pair at the east end of this section of the pond. In other years I saw fights between the center pair and the pair at the west end. I wanted to stay until I saw some evidence that the muskrats had divided the pond this year. Finally I saw a west end muskrat, coming from the north shore of the pond and marking logs as it headed to the west shore. Then I lost sight of it. Usually muskrats swim on the surface of the water right after they leave their lodge. They are not as careful as beavers about swimming under water at least several yards before surfacing. But
sometimes muskrats just appear, and one with striking reddish hued fur appeared on a log in front of me. It too marked and nibbled. I was above the beaver bank lodge on the south shore of the pond and in front of that was the elbow of a log sticking out
in the water that had been mudded and pooped on by muskrats. I was in pretty good position to get a video of that operation. So when I lost sight of the muskrat that had been in front of me, I kept watching the elbow. The muskrat didn't visit it so I propped myself up higher to see where it might have gone. I saw it on a log right below me, nimbly walking along it, and then it was back in the water and swam back to the lodge, but didn't dive. It climbed up on the east face of the lodge, not bothering the goose at all. Then another muskrat came out and as far as I could tell
they were quietly nose to nose for a few moments. Then the touring muskrat swam across the strait, marked the shore over there and then swam along the curving north edge of the pond and swam up the strait, up pond, but toward the southwest corner of
that arm of the pond. This muskrat was making me a map. But then I had a cross thought -- what if this was the muskrat I saw swimming into the west end of the pond? what if this pair claimed all that I could conveniently see? So, I found myself not so ideally perched after all. I had to keep an eye to my far right
to see when the map maker would return and keep looking behind me to see if there was a muskrat behind me. I stood up, having sat for over an hour, I was cramped anyway. And here came the touring muskrat. Muskrats are sweet swimmers and, I think, make wakes with their churning tail of indescribable elegance, but they are
relatively slow. So while I would never turn the camcorder off as an otter swam, or a beaver swam with purpose (not just meandering about), unless a muskrat is swimming right toward me or right away from me, I let the camcorder rest as the muskrat swims.
Fortunately I clicked the camcorder back on before the muskrat swam to the log where I first saw a muskrat today, because the muskrat was back there, and the touring muskrat quite swam over it, and crossed back to swim over it again, and the submerged
muskrat seemed to think this was quite nice, then got on the log and resumed nibbling, while the other muskrat swam into the lodge. Then my other question was answered as I saw a muskrat swim from the west end of the pond and into the burrows in the north slope of the pond. And then I saw another muskrat swim along the same route only it didn't go into the burrows but swam up to the dam. Then it did some marking and nibbling up there and swam back into the burrow. So, I am pretty sure the lines are drawn, but all is peaceful between the pairs, for now. No sign of
an eastern pair, but hadn't I seen enough? I had other excitement during my hour on my rock perch. A scrawny, loud, pileated woodpecker flew right onto the trunk of the dead tree right in front of me and herky-jerkied up the trunk, pecking at a few
bugs, crying out for respect in a language I couldn't understand, then flying off and to do the same on a trunk just out of sight but not out of earshot. Then I heard the chattering screech of a red squirrel behind me and I turned to see it jitterbugging up a downed tree trunk, jerking a few inches and then wagging its tail
wildly and chattering. Then it rain to the end of the trunk, did the same dance, and then it ran back to the other end of the trunk. The noise stopped so I assumed it was gone, turned to see, and there it was quietly nibbling an acorn, as if the whole
display was to see just how much of a dull square I was, just to add a little triumph to the taste of its meagre meal. I felt like hopping up on my own trunk and doing a wicked dance, but I'll have to leave that to younger men. I think the beavers are beginning to dine on grasses because I didn't find any nibbled logs as I walked around the pond. There may have been a little more girdling but not much. Then I got up to the otter latrine. There were no new otter scats, unless an otter had made a meal of seeds and scatted them out.

This was disconcerting, and I picked at them to see if it might be fish roe, no.

Then I turned to the scats I had assumed were otter scats. With low humidity and a couple days of hot sun, these scats were dry and light and friable, much like the scats I dismissed as skunk poop. So I was on my knees looking for the true remains of fish and finally I did see an inch of bones and vertebrae that said fish and made the flakes all around look like fish scales and not insect armor.

If I had not seen an otter the other day I would be at wits end. The Upper Second Swamp Pond is low again, and the dam looked easy to cross because of the wide margin of silt that was revealed behind the dam

I had never seen a dam collect silt like this is so short a time. This was a good place to see tracks, and I enjoyed seeing the difference between muskrat and raccoon prints, with the former going into the water.

There were no signs that beavers had been at the dam. I had a good wind to approach the Second Swamp Pond dam, and a nice chorus of frogs to cheer me on. The singing started at about 4 pm. I saw some possible fresh beaver gnawing but only a few bites out of a tree does not a beaver commitment make. It was too early to sneak up on a beaver at the dam, but I waited. This colony has long had a habit of going out early, then returning to the lodge, and then going out after dark, but they are not religious about this and no beaver came out on this warm day. I
checked the dam and the ash trees below the pond looking for fresh work and I think I saw it. Dry ash wood doesn't make it easy to date a gnaw but it seemed like one tree showed some relatively fresh bites and another bit of gnawing on a large ash
seemed like something I would surely have taken a photo of before.

I took more photos so I can keep tabs on this. I had high hopes of seeing the beavers in Thicket Pond, but I recalled that they really don't like coming out in the day until the button bushes grow leaves. For now those bushes were clothed in the song of the comb frogs, and some competing peepers -- Saturday afternoon jazz. I took a photo of a tree that looked just cut.

The beavers are still dredging and packing mud on the dam. Not so much to hold back water as to make the pond deeper.

I checked the old dock latrine. No scats and I felt like a cad forcing geese up and back into the wind.

April 24 Yesterday the temperature got into the high 70s and without any shade, I was quite out of sorts. Then a cold front rushed through with a brief thunderstorm and today was sunny and in the 50s and the wind was light and shifting. So I headed off in the boat to check the otter latrines on Picton Island. Unfortunately, on the way I had to disrupt the peaceful morning of a dozen bufflehead couples, and I scared up the flock of scaup, but it seemed about half as big as the flock I scared the other day. I haven't been to Picton since early January and, of course, I was anxious to see if the otters were still scating
in the old latrines and making scent mounds, as they did last year. From the boat I didn't see any activity on the lower portion of the large rock off the point -- no otter scent mound sticking up like a pyramid in the dead pine needles on the rock.
I made my usual inspection, photographing some spring beauties on the way,

and didn't see any scats at all on the rock, but off on the grass, also a popular latrine last year, I saw old scats, with a good number of them left this spring. But there were no fresh scats and while some grass had been dug up, none of the tufts had been crowned with a scat. I walked up higher on the slope, and found a scat up there, recent but not fresh. I waded though some juniper to the other side of the point where the otters had made their latrine two years ago and before that but seemed to ignore last year.

I saw old scats in the grass, old but from this spring, and I saw grass and leaves tufted up in a big way, but with no scat nearby.

Then in a low grassy area on my way back to the boat, I saw a fresh scat

on a mound of dead grass

So the otters are going about their spring as they usually do. As I left the point, I paused for a photo, honoring this significant piece of otter territory

I went slowly along the old quarry, recalling the spring where I saw scats on the rocks, but I didn't see any scats there today, though I'll have to poke around in the kayak to be sure. Buffleheads were about in Eel Bay and I got close enough for a photo

There were larger groups of ducks but they seemed to be roughly paired up. (That said, over in South Bay I saw one male fly by accompanied by four females.) From the boat I didn't see any scats in the latrine in the Narrows, I did see the osprey up on the nest on the power poll over the Narrows.

Looking over at the latrine above the entrance to South Bay, I saw that the leaves had been scraped up again.

But before checking for scats, I went downSouth Bay to the rocks that guard and gird the marsh between the two coves of the bay. The marsh is well watered now and with the cattails sere and low I could see the rock back in the marsh that I fancy is a key way station in the otter pups' growing up.

But there were no latrines in any of the rocks. I could see a trail out of the marsh to the rock farthest in, but it didn't end in a scat.

I did see the beavers' channel back into the marsh -- but no sign they are using it now.

In the flooded grasses along the shore, I saw a dead muskrat, a recent death, judging from the reddish tint of the fur. I couldn't see its head at first, but on closer examination I saw its teeth and eye.

I trust this is not the muskrat I've seen several times around this area. I was not in the mood for searching for a cause of death. Dead muskrats are one of the signs of spring. Back in the bay there was a tangle of gnawed
cattail rhizomes on a small raft of cattails.

What a treat to have seen a beaver floating on that. I rowed over to and up the north shore and saw some fresh beaver gnawing where there was a collection of stripped log and branches.

If I saw this in a pond, I'd say it was the start of a bank lodge, and it may very well be the start of one here. I'll have to keep an eye on it. I docked at the docking rock, no sign that otters had been there, nor beavers. As I got
up to Audubon Pond, something along the shore slipped back into the water, a turtle most likely since nothing surfaced out in the middle of the pond. The beavers have not done much work around the pond. The girdling on one tree on the west shore seems to have grown.

And a windfall pine branch on the north shore has been half nibbled -- juicy fare compared to ash trees, which they usually lumber. The hole on top of the bank lodge has been covered and as I stood looking at that, something inside the lodge dropped into the water, but I didn't hear it swim away so it was probably a turtle or frog. I saw a dead painted turtle on the boards below the bench on the north shore.

Nothing cut off, so I don't think the otter did it. I finally got to the otter latrine above the entrance to South Bay, where from the boat, I thought I could see a new scent mound, and once again, just beyond some spring beauties, I
enjoyed fresh otter scats

and leaves scraped up as a scent mound.

So an otter has been around, marking the traditional sign posts in the otters' world. I walked down to the old dock latrine to see if this otter's claims extended that far, but there was nothing new there.

On my way to the sawing rock at the land, in the moist area below the Teepee Pond dam I found blossoming trout lilies and bent over to better reveal the shy yellow flower.

There were a pair of striking spring beauties,

and many others. The dutchman's breeches were blooming and the meadowrue, but I couldn't get a good photo. Some trillium are almost out. I haven't gotten comfortable with the spring yet, but the flowers have, and as always, they rather reconcile me to all these changes. I was able to look into the pond for a few minutes and saw a good number of shiners poking around and even a bullhead touring the bottom. I noticed a spider swimming on the pond, and got a little video of its stuttering progress -- seemed to swim with four legs and keep the other four
rooted to the water.

April 26 yesterday we worked in the garden and I sawed firewood. During a break I walked around the Deep Pond, no sign of muskrats. The featured flower was dutchman's britches and I managed an interesting take on a blossom

Who could resist pollinating such a production? Today after the fog lifted, the day warmed up into the high 50s, but never got sunny. I headed off for a tour of latrines and ponds, first checking the willow latrine on the north shore of the south cove of South Bay. There were a few curls of raccoon poop on and below the willow trunks. No signs of beaver nibbling on or around the lodge, but on the runway on the east side of the lodge there was a pile of sticks and leaves, like a beaver scent mound, except the mound had been scraped down from the slope, and
no mud or wet grass brought up from the water, like beaver's usually do. The tasting of the large ash tree there seemed to have invited a deeper gouge, but no serious cutting yet. Then just beyond the moss and just along the edge of the marsh there were two fresh otter scats. So fresh that I could smell them -- ah, I haven't gotten a good smell of otter scats since the warm days of October.

This latrine is convenient to the bay

and to the marsh where I think the otter pups are often raised. Seems to have enough water in it.

I heard two splashes in the marsh, but the first sounded like a turtle dropping back into the water and the other sounded like a fish. The scats were so fresh, I expected to see an otter or otters swimming by. None did, but an osprey flew over and perched in a tree at the end of the bay. Then a Caspian tern flew about, skimmed the surface a bit, but didn't dive. I continued around the bay, even checking the New Pond knoll latrine, but found no scats. It looked like something had been scraping around the latrine above South Bay, but there were no
new scats. I saw some fresh beaver work on the north shore of the bay among the remains of a red oak that the park maintenance people cut down in the fall.

I forgot to check the possible bank burrow that I saw the other day. Up at Audubon Pond I saw more beaver girdling. They began gouging into the wood on the east side of the curvy ash trunk and began striping the bark on the west side
of the ash.

There were no otter scats around the bank lodge, but the beaver evidently has reclaimed it, judging from a muddy path up around it. The hole on top of the lodge has been patched and there were some recently stripped logs on the lodge.

I didn't continue around the pond and instead hurried up to the Lost Swamp Pond where I wanted to see what the muskrats were up to. Well, hurried after a fashion. An osprey flew over Audubon Pond, but I couldn't get a good photo. Then on the south side of the embankment a groundhog came down from the rocks and posed for me.

I saw but didn't investigate the beaver work on the far side of the pond above Audubon Pond. Then on the ridge above Beaver Point Pond meadow I saw a my first violet.

I only looked down at the Second Swamp Pond dam, and it looked well tended. And before I settled into my rock perch to watch muskrats in the Lost Swamp Pond, I checked the mossy latrine. I am sure something did some major scraping and left some piles of grass -- but I couldn't see any fresh scats.

The trouble with muskrat watching today was a strong east wind rippling the pond. I could still see the muskrats but in the ripples they and their wakes seemed smaller. The first muskrat I saw was swimming from the point across from
me to the lodge out in the pond, and at the same time a muskrat swam from the lodge to the dam. The muskrat from the point went directly into the lodge, and I lost track of the other muskrat. Then I saw a muskrat swimming to the northeast end of the pond. If it was the same muskrat that swam to the dam, it shows some sharing of territory between what I call the central and eastern muskrats. Then the muskrat came out of the lodge and swam to the northwest -- threatening to blast my conceits about the territorial divides, but it stopped up on a log just before it would have ventured into what I think is the territory of the western muskrats. It nibbled on the log for five minutes and then swam back into lodge. When it came out the next time, it swam to the east, not far, dove, got something to eat and took it back to
the lodge. I was getting cold and walked around to the dam, where I didn't see any new otter scats. On my way I saw a hepatica bloom, well almost bloom, which is rare on the island.

Sitting on the knoll above the dam, I noticed a muskrat up at the eastern end of the pond, and a muskrat swam from the north shore, I think, all the way over to where I had been sitting, and went into the bank lodge over there. Not sure whose territory that lodge is in. I didn't see any muskrat that I am sure is a western muskrat. So nothing to disprove my theory; nothing to give it much support; certainly no contention between the muskrats yet. I noticed that the dam had been well mudded by the beavers, and some nibbling there too.

And while on my rock perch I saw a beaver nibbling at a stripped log along the far south shore. I also saw two turtles; one was a painted turtle painted black, so it seemed, by the ooze from which it emerged.

Not many peepers or birds today, mostly heard flickers. I went home via the Big Pond. I flushed a heron but nothing else was on the wind raked pond. The pond is higher thanks to the beavers doing a more creditable job patching it.

I always enjoy seeing the curve of this dam even though I've been seeing it for almost the past thirty years.

April 29 rain ended and clouds brightened mid-morning and we went off in the boat to South Bay to see if the shad bushes were blooming up on the ridge. I docked the boat below the otter latrine above the entrance to South Bay and was pleased to find otter scats when I climbed up the ridge. The largest pile

was filled with crayfish parts, as I saw when I stirred the scats up with a stick.

There were three different scats spread out over the latrine

and the others were slimy and with fewer crayfish parts.

As for the shadbush -- really quite a good sized tree --

were not quite in bloom, but the midges were appreciating the buds.

We sat up on the top of the granite ridge and heard a few comb frogs in the vernal pools below us, and toads trilling back toward the Narrows. A pair of chipping sparrows moved through, one foraging below us and another trilling in the trees. Down at Audubon Pond I examined the gnawing on the curvy ash a bit more closely and noticed that the beaver is gouging down as if cutting the root, not cutting the tree

which suggests that the beaver gets some pleasure and no doubt nutrition by doing that. The embankment has a good number of mud marks on it, made, I now think, by the beavers. Near the drain which remains clogged there were more mud

one quite a nice composition with stripped stick and clam shell.

We sat at the bench, which is almost flooded, to see if we could see the goose on her eggs. Apparently because of the higher water level, the beavers put more sticks on their lodge

so unlike the other day, I could not see a nesting goose as I sat on the bench. The gander acted as always, sitting on the causeway and then swimming quietly out into the pond when we came close to it. As we discussed this problem a
beaver came out of the lodge, swimming toward the middle of the pond and slapping its tail thrice at us before more or less disappearing. A muskrat also came out of the lodge, and came much closer to us, got some grass from the bottom of the pond and
returned to the lodge. Going around the pond I saw some elegant fresh work on ash trees in the northeast corner of the pond

And enjoyed how a beaver cut a long dead ash log to clear the path to fresh ash work.

Collecting firewood, I've learned to appreciate old ash that at first glance you think must be rotten. It still makes good firewood, and for a beaver, a good bite. Using the camcorder I tried to see if there was a goose nesting on the lodge (I forget to bring my spyglass.) I didn't get a good image but I did see something white like the stripe on a goose's head, so perhaps the beaver built up the lodge while the goose remained on her eggs, which would have been amazing to see. Time will soon tell if the goose and eggs are still there. While I checked the
shore for otter signs - none, Leslie checked out the toads and as she walked toward the Narrows, and heard them coming from Murray Island.

At about three I headed across the golf course to enjoy probably my last visit to the Upper Big Pond by this route -- the golf course will soon be open and closed to hikers like me. The first thing I noticed were two midges, tail to tail, on my jacket.

Meanwhile, a million flew above me. I had rather soggy way to the Upper Big Pond, the deer trails that I usually follow were all flooded. And that made the pond itself, so domesticated by the beavers, seem high and dry in its pristine beauty, even though the beavers ravaged the dead cat tail stalks which now are litter along the edge of the pond shore.

I also walked back to the canal branching off from the southeast corner of the pond. I thought I could see some fresh cuts on the trees back in the chaos of lumbering, untouched since the fall. I also saw some nibbled sticks in the canal and a pile of beaver sawdust poop. Usually I only see that in the winter, but this was too neat a pile to be from the winter. Old beaver poop seldom survives the spring thaw and runoff intact.

As before, the pond remains full without the dam being patched. No reason for the beavers to bother repairing. They certainly are familiar with it because I could nibbled sticks along the dam, some in pile. At the north end of the dam there had been a good bit of nibbling

and heading up the slope I saw several piles of freshly nibbled sticks. Beavers never seem so neat when I actually see them nibbling.

Approaching the Lost Swamp Pond I passed a trunk the beavers had stripped and saw a few nibbled sticks along the shore,

but I was soon distracted from that by many ring-necked ducks, most still paired up, and on the shore beyond the lodge I saw two deer still with brown winter coats foraging in the shallow edge of the pond.

Then something spooked them, not me, and they went into the bush. I got down to my rock perch at 4 pm, and a muskrat swam out of the lodge and then disappeared along the south shore of the peninsula across from me. A few minutes later another muskrat swam out of the lodge and swam toward me, but a little off to my right. The muskrat stuck its nose in the air as it swam. I often see beavers do that. Did it smell me? Then it disappeared along the shore right below me. I know there are burrows under there. Soon enough that muskrat reappeared and swam back to the lodge. Then a muskrat came out of the lodge and swam off to the shore of the peninsula. Once again it had its nose up, so I don't think it was trying to smell me. So I waited for one or two muskrats to swim back to the lodge from the peninsula.
Instead, a muskrat swam from the burrows below me, back to the lodge, with a mouth full of grass. Confusion. Evidently, there is not just one pair denning in the lodge and maintaining the territory around it. My guess is that there is some kinship and
sharing between the muskrats in the middle and those up pond to the east, or was there something else going on. Indeed I didn't learn much about muskrat territory today. During my first 90 minutes of watching there was little marking. There was
courtship. A muskrat swam back to the lodge from the peninsula and as it approached the lodge another muskrat popped up. They briefly went nose to nose and then one followed the other around in circles. They both went to the lodge, perhaps up on it, I couldn't see because they were on the back side of it. Later, as I watched a muskrat swimming back to the lodge, another suddenly appeared behind it, and again there was more chasing. Then the muskrat doing the chasing passed the other and sped to the lodge. The jilted muskrat stopped short and then swam back toward the
peninsula. Today during my hour of watching I was entertained by a downey woodpecker dancing up the dead tree beside me. Then three ring necked ducks landed in front of me, two males and a female. The smaller drake seemed to be paired with the female,
but the larger wouldn't go away. Then after a bit of commotion I didn't see, the smaller drake swam back below me, alone. I looked over and saw the larger drake looming over the female, but they didn't seem happy and soon flew off, with a loud quake. When I walked around the pond to check for otter scats, I saw none, but
did see that the hepatica I noticed the other day had blossomed.

I was hoping that the muskrats in the burrows in the north slope would come out and swim in the west end of the pond, but none did. However, a muskrat came out of the lodge and swam toward me and marked the western end of its territory and then it swam across the pond and disappeared into the burrows below where I had been sitting. Twice that's happened after I left my perch. Perhaps the muskrats do notice me. As I continued to wait for the western muskrats to come out, a flicker flew onto one of the dead trunks sticking up out of the pond, but not where
a flicker nested last year. This flicker was rather quiet and then flew off without one warhoop. I kept looking down at the ponds over the ridge to the north, filled with rippling sunshine and ducks, until I scared them. But I tried to stick to my
muskrat story, then figured that the day's first act was over and the second act was slow to begin, only the painted turtles could keep on the edge of their seats.

So I headed home via the Big Pond dam. This time of year the ducks that had been promenading in the middle of the ponds, pair up along the grassy shore, and as I walked along the Big Pond dam, I sent two pairs off. Then I noticed something on the dam

I thought it was a beaver and expected it plunge into the pond, but it kept its head in the water and its tail back on the dam. Beavers usually address a dam in the opposite way, and, sure enough, as I got closer, I saw that it
was a small porcupine perched on the dam reaching down into the water behind the dam and bringing up wet goodies to eat.

As I approached, it bristled, but didn't budge.
This is the season to see porcupines dipping into the ponds, but I've never seen one so bold as to dine in the middle of a beaver dam. Of course, I walked down below the dam, which allowed me to see a muskrat swimming in the small pond
below. So I detoured from my trail and snuck up onto the knoll above the pond to see what this muskrat was up to. It swam in circles, whistling, and then dove into a burrow in the dam. I waited, muskrats usually whistle to each other, though earlier
this spring I saw a muskrat apparently whistling to himself. The muskrat came out again and then immediately dove. I blamed myself and back away. I was about to turn and go, then two muskrats came out and began circling the pond one after the other.

Then the lead muskrat stopped, balled up and let the other muskrat try to mount. When I study the video and turn scientific I will count how many brief mountings there were, at least 30.

Three times the female muskrat went back into the burrow and three times she came out for more. As the male seemed to flag, he seemed to work his nose into her rear. She did stop for every mounting, but, especially early on, didn't make it easier by lowering he rear. Maybe a couple times she got low down in the water.

The whistling, seeming to come from both muskrats, didn't stop. The female swam as muskrats always do, but the male had a good bit of swagger in its tail, waving it back and forth; but neither puts tail in the air. After the third go
round, and I don't know how long they were at it before I got there, the female dove into the burrow with a flourish of her tail; the male followed, a bit spent. I was not close enough to see any penetration or passing of fluids, and sun was bad for
video. But the situation of the small pond itself described what was going on.

Below me the water in a small rivulet gurgled into the pond, and since the dam is old and porous, I could see the water flowing out. These fluids were electrified by the angle of the low sun. The pond was pregnant, the muskrats her children.