Monday, April 20, 2009

April 21 to 30, 2008

April 21 we continue to have seasonably warm weather, almost 80 degrees, no clouds, no leaves, no shade. I worked on wood at the land until 11 am. Then it got too hot. The leopard frogs got a chorus rolling at the Teepee Pond and in the pond I saw a blackened frog that I expect might be a green frog -- no sounds out of it though. There were shiners nosing around in the pond, and I saw two painted turtles swimming. I checked for turtles up in the Turtle Bog and saw none. They must have moved down to another pond, probably the Teepee Pond or First Pond. Still no sign of wood frog eggs. I kept an eye out for new blooms and managed to get a photo of a dutchman's britches that quite shows the Dutchman's cut of pants.

I noticed that the water in the canal pointing toward the valley pool was muddy. And there was a trail in the mud where the canal's water had receded, and I thought I could make out a beaver's print. Then around the valley pool I saw some more fresh beaver nibbling on a birch sapling.

Not much new work, but maybe the beaver is digging up some plant matter from the pond bottom.

April 22 in the relatively cool morning of another sunshiny, still day we headed off in the motor boat. The river is still cold. Leslie had to wear her warm coat. There were fewer ducks on the river and we seemed to see more golden eyes
than anything else, but not many. No feathers on the water surface today. As we rounded the Murray Island headland we saw an osprey in the nest on the power pole, and an osprey in the trees over on Picton. The beaver continues to gnaw on the trees it cut on the Picton shore

and no doubt it has gone up and cut trees we can't see. As we continued around the island we saw another spot where a beaver managed to get up the sandstone cliff, about four feet high, and get up into the woods. But we saw no more beaver work along the shore, and nothing new at the lodge around in the cove. We were heading down to the end of the cove but turned back not wanting to disturb a merganser. There were no ducks in the next cove so we went down to the end of it and I killed the motor. We were greeted by a lusty snoring chorus of leopard frogs and the high trilling of several toads. We dropped anchor and soaked that in for a good 45 minutes. We happened to drift over a catfish nibbling what little vegetation there was on the shallow bottom there. Quite a monster of a fish.

We didn't see any of the smaller fish we'd expect to see there. Then I rowed up and we checked the point for otter scats. There were no more creamy black scats inspired by bullhead remains, but up on the terrace of grass, tucked behind the dead trees

there were some new scats. They had dried out quickly and a better indication of how fresh they were was the brown urine stain on the grass around them.

Not far from the ugly old scat was the brilliant yellow of a trout lily just bloomed.

Then there was a pile of litter on the slope of the large rock. A few years ago the otters made quite a pyramid of a scent mound here. I took a photo

and then scrambled over to check for scats on it or near it, but there were none. We motored over to Murray Island, but the big rock there, used as a latrine in other years betrayed no evidence of otters visiting it. As we went through
the Narrows, we saw a porcupine up in the just greening branches of a willow hanging over the water. It seemed quite happy and didn't let us keep it from nibbling the yielding willow buds. My photo didn't turn out well. Then we landed and as Leslie looked for blooming shad bushes, found none, I checked the otter latrine above South Bay and there didn't seem to be anything new there. On the way back to the boat, amongst the carpet of spring beauties, we found some delicate blue hepatica

After dinner we went down to the Big Pond to listen to the frogs and check on the beavers. We saw two beavers, one cruising back from the dam as the sun set

and the other diving and bringing up things to eat in the middle of the pond not far from the lodge. As we walked down to the dam, both beavers went back into the lodge. On the way there I stumbled over some relatively fresh remains. The leg bones seemed too small to be a deer's as did the base of the spine

I'm looking for beaver bones, as the coyotes killed one here on the other side of the pond and these remains seem to fit that bill. There is a good bit of old coyote scat around here, too. We heard mostly peepers as we sat the at dam
and a few leopard frogs. Then on the way back home we sat on a rock on the edge of the golf course as it grew dark and heard comb frogs, peepers, leopard frogs, a turkey's gobbling and a coyote's howl. And we saw a couple dozen bats fly out of the
woods and over the hot rocks coming out in groups of three and four.

April 23 we went to the land, aiming to spend the night. So after doing some work I scouted for beaver activity and tended where the flowers usually grow. There were no new nibblings in the valley pool. The bloodroot display up on the end of the ridge is a bit tame this year again, a tenth the usual blooms, worse than last year. Trillium are starting to bloom here and there and since there seems to be more of this early activity, I suspect it will be a glorious season from them, as it seems to be for the spring beauties, dutchman's britches and trout lilies. I walked along the ridge to the large vernal pool up there and all seemed quiet there. Back along the crest of the ridge I saw deer bones on display.

Could a coyote, fox or bobcat have dropped the bones here by accident? But if this is an advertisement of some sort what exactly is the message? It doesn't seem like deer respond to these bones. So it's probably a case of predators showing off to each other. No blooms at the bottom of the ridge and once there it behooved me to head down to Wildcat Pond. The last pool where the beavers have been working is an easy walk from our house, so one night I want to stay by that pool well after dark. Was this the night? Blackflies were bad today, but
that's not a nighttime hazard. Anyway, this last pool looked was quite full of water and there was some more stripped birch logs around

but not that many. There was no mass of stripped sticks in the water. So I didn't really get a sense that the beavers all came up here and each found a corner of the pond and nibbled away. And the rivulet that runs about thirty yards from the dam forming this pool down to what I call the logdam pool was not dredged at all and didn't look well traveled.

So I got the sense that maybe just one beaver comes down to the last pool some of the time. I don't expect flowers blooming in this wet area yet. I did see many horsetails shooting up,and ferns stretching up. Then back in the woods I saw a spread of white,

not blooms, but the feathers of some poor bird.

Unless this was simply the case of an owl clearing out the nest since most of the array seemed to be a fluffy down. There were no bony remains. Along the rivulet I didn't see much tree cutting, and the logdam pool seemed a little
low, though here there were some concentrations of stripped sticks.

But since the water level has lowered these piles may just be old work looking fresh in a new context. At the dam I could see that the beavers had done their bit toward a bigger pond. The dam was built up and a side dam constructed, but without any April rains there's been no water to back up.

Boundary Pool didn't seem to have that much water either. However, I was seeing more work around the pool and the dam looked built up.

But the rivulet below here didn't look well used either. Five beavers going up and down every night perhaps making a few trips each would make more of an impression, especially with the water level so low.

At Wildcat Pond proper I didn't see any major new undertakings, but the pond had a good bit of water in it; though certainly not brimming the dam. I still haven't checked the dam to see if they have built that up. I always wind up on
the west side of the valley and the water in the pond is high enough to make crawling along the bottom of the cliff down to the dam a tricky operation. And today I realized that I got there just fifteen minutes before the beavers came out of their lodge a week ago. So after taking a photo of a modest mud mark on that mossy bank under the hemlock they favored last year

and taking a photo of the stately lodge and a pile of stripped logs on a mud bar

I settled myself half way up the ridge and swatted away the black flies until a beaver should appear. I must say I didn't expect the beavers to come out at 4:30. I can see hurrying out that first week after the snow and ice are almost
gone, but by late April, while one beaver might be delegated to patrol the pond during the day to warn away roaming unattached beavers, I don't see why the whole colony would get to work three and a half hours before sunset. That decided, I was amazed to see, at 4:45, a beaver pop out of the lodge, swim right toward me, then turn and climb up on the mud bar where several stripped logs were piled. The beaver groomed its reddish brown fur, nosed over a log particularly hard and then slipped back into the water and swam directly up pond. I waited another 15 minutes to see if
other beavers, not to mention the muskrats, would come out of the lodge. I also nursed a blackfly bite I got on my pinkie while I trained the camcorder on the beaver. No beavers came out. As the pinkie throbbed I headed up pond wondering how far up the beaver went. I stopped rather short. It had just gone to the shore of
the upper half of the main pond, and judging by the silent nibbling had fished out some vegetation from the pond bottom. The winter is all wood, but even in April, beavers find soft things to eat. The beaver didn't panic as I walked by which suggests that it wasn't a guard beaver but just one who wanted a bit of air and a bite. It's nice not getting slapped at. After dinner we went out to hear the frogs. I decided not to bother the Wildcat Pond beavers and instead try to see what kind of relationship the two beavers in the Deep Pond have. I wound up bothering them quite a bit. For once there was a good chorus of peepers around the Deep Pond, and leopard frogs and even at least one toad. Usually this pond is relatively quiet in the spring and is better for bullfrog rumbling later in the season. So that kept me
riveted even as the two alarmed beavers crisscrossed the pond, both slapping their tails at me. This suggested to me that they both thought of themselves as fulfilling the same role. Often as one beaver slaps away, the rest of the colony quietly goes about their business. One beaver did finally relax, diving down and bringing up vegetation and then going up on the bank near the lodge. I thought that was the larger beaver, the newcomer, which suggests there is no contest over the lodge and the feeding spot next to it. The other beaver kept angling closer to me, though
not exactly like an old friend. Perhaps it was worried I would crawl into the pond and stay too. The Third Pond was its usual piercing din; only a few peepers at the Teepee Pond and a half dozen leopard frogs. There was lightning in the far east from the front that gave us a brief sprinkle during the day.

April 24 I was awake at dawn, 5:45 am, and had fallen asleep early enough, about 10pm (one of the luxuries of not have electricity in a house) that I had the energy to get up, take a drink of water, and get out. I paused long enough above the Deep Pond to see a beaver in the gloaming and get a tail slap

Thanks, I needed that. Then I headed down to White Swamp where the sunlight was slowly spreading down the huge expanse toward where I sat on the southeast shore.

There were no fresh beaver markings in the cove where I saw a mark earlier in the spring, and no fresh work there. But a beaver had been up on the slope above the swamp proper, where I was sitting, because the limbs of the large maple had been stripped some more

and there were stripped sticks just up from the water.

It was too early in the spring to get a full chorus of birds greeting the new day so compared to the frog-fed music of the night, this dawn seemed rather quiet only punctuated by some goose quarreling, redwinged blackbird screeches (but that is getting tamer as territories get settled), and two bittern
goinks. I didn't see the wakes of any beavers or muskrats, not to mention otters. So I walked down to check the otter latrine. Two of the holes used in the winter were now covered with leaves. There was a damp trail to the hole nearest to the water

but no sure indication that an otter used it. Off from the mass of old scats in the latrine

I saw one possibly recent scat, but not a fresh one. But it's good to be here. This is a bona fide way station in the life of the otters here, something I don't see around my island ponds and along the bays anymore. This spot gets less sun than most spots along the swamp shore. The moss and grass have a
comfortable look -- I could nap here if not for all the old scats. There are three wide holes into a bank that, I think, doesn't lend itself to the creation of long burrows. There seems to be a face of sandstone rock preventing that. So I think otters come here because it is comfortable for them and not attractive to beavers and muskrats. Plus not enough sun for turtles. On my way back through the woods, I saw a red trillium out and blue cohosh about to bloom. I went up to where the creek from the Deep Pond enters the swamp and saw a bit of mud pushed up by a beaver
along the canal below the dam. Even though the dam has a deep leak and is not holding back water, it looks like a beaver pushed up three piles of leaves.

There were a few stripped twigs in the piles and then along the shore of the pond I saw some larger stripped sticks.

All this tentative work is recent. Since there are no signs of beavers between the Deep Pond and this dam, I think a beaver ranging widely in White Swamp comes up here periodically. There were no otter signs around the dam or the
canal below it. After lunch I checked the Deep Pond to see if the beavers had made any competing mud scent mounds, which is what two beavers did during a spring several years ago. No mounds anywhere. The dam is in very good shape

but there is no signs of the beaver parking themselves to nibble there. I did find a new spot where they are nibbling, along the higher bank of the pond across the inlet creek from the lodge. The lodge itself looks more built up, quite noticeable from across the pond.

I couldn't find any major swath of tree cutting and it is hard to keep track of their nipping the shoots from old roots.

I sat on my perch above the knoll which is getting some shade. This is a pretty spot in the spring with trillium, dutchman's britches and trout lilies growing around me as I sit. No beaver came out but a mated pair of mallards flew in and sampled the fare all around the shore of the pond. Since they didn't dip their beaks in deeply I assume they were getting bugs. After rimming the pond, they crossed back to where the meal seemed to be being served today. They got their beaks down so perhaps found some new shoots coming up from the pond. Two sparrows busied themselves in the leafing honeysuckle moving so fast I couldn't identify them.

April 25 we headed off in the boat, aiming at Picton but first docking along the north shore of South Bay in order hike up to Shangri-la Pond. On our way into the bay we saw a small flock of scaup, say about 20 with 15 males and 5 females, and a few triangles away from the flock.

There were also a few pairs of buffleheads that delighted us as they flapped black and white darting over our heads. I docked where a beaver had been active, trimming a branch off a low hanging willow and sitting on the bank long enough to strip a long, thin stick. There was a huge bullfrog half hiding under the rock where we docked. Periodically I see one of these monsters along the river shore that always seem two or three puffs larger than the ones I see in the beaver ponds. It didn't budge while we docked the boat and got out next to it. I checked the old dock latrine and once again saw in an instant that something had been scraping up the leaves.

Some of this looked like deer work but some scrapes got down to dirt like an otter had been there. Finally I saw three or four squirts of fresh otter scats behind all the scraping.

Since I saw scent mounds along the marsh on the shore across from this latrine, I am hoping that a mother otter is raising pups around here. But while more scent mounds would encourage me to think that is the case, this seemingly
disorganized scraping of leaves seems a lot like what I saw last spring which didn't result in any pups. There were a few comb frogs scraping away at Thicket Pond, and we saw raccoon tracks on the muddy trail suggesting that at least one raccoon survived the spring trapping for rabid raccoons. We went up the ridge south of
Shangri-la as quietly as we could because in the fall we saw beavers out in the pond so many times during the day. But coming along the ridge we only raised up a few wood ducks. There are three old lodges in this pond and I saw some evidence in the
early winter that the beavers might be using one, but now that lodge is almost flooded over

and I couldn't even see the other two. No signs of beavers using them. The lodge they are using looked quite striking from above and Leslie heard a hum coming from this snug home.

Looking around from this high ground I could chart the progress of the red oak stripping which is almost completely done unless the beavers can roll the huge trunk over, which they can't. I saw that a beaver had invaded an island of
gnarled old trunks and started gnawing the bark off them.

I must say this is not what my theories of beaver behavior, which I carry around in my head, dictate. I think beavers range as far as they can in the spring to take advantage of higher water to find new sources of food. But not in
this case. I walked around the pond to find proof for my theory and more or less came up empty. The beavers have been building up the dam. Indeed I think the old logs they are backing the dam with come from the old lodges.

But they haven't defeated to pipe through the dam so as much as they've raised the water level they are not getting what they should for the amount of work their doing on the dam. So perhaps that keeps them from being as far ranging as beavers usually do. They have also worked on the dam that forms a pond just above the north canal

Indeed the pond is getting pretty big.

But I don't see much fresh work around it, and none in the valley above it where they had made a few forays in the fall. Going along the East Trail I saw trillium growing out of a small cavity in a three trunked red oak

That the trillium managed to grow there is amazing enough. The blooms were also as beautiful as a trillium can be.

Back in the boat we continued on to Picton and off Quarry Point saw a huge flock of scaup, at least two hundred off them, all buddying about and making a pleasant gurgle with their soft quacks. We drifted down into the bay where we heard leopard frogs and toads the other morning. Today, as we ate lunch, we heard fewer leopard frogs and no toads. As we drifted by the beaver lodge there we debated whether it was occupied

Of course beavers don't hang out at their lodge in the spring like they do in the winter when they collect a cache. I did see some fresh girdling along this shore, and Leslie pointed out some old beaver poop on the bottom of the bay down at the end of the cove. Meanwhile, the scaup reformed out off Quarry

Before dinner I went off to collect the beaver bones I saw the other day. I have the same bones from an adult we found dead on the river years ago. I hope to get around to comparing them. I flushed three deer as I walked down Antler
Trail. The great attraction up on the rocky plateau are the blooming shad bushes.

I took the photo hoping to capture the blooming tent caterpillar webs too, but they don't rival the blooms yet. After I got the beaver bones, I checked the Big Pond dam, more mud on it and even a coyote print

And then I got another insight into how these beavers are extending the dam down stream. I could see how they dug through a portion of the dam undermined by a lateral muskrat burrow.

Muskrat burrows like this often destroy a dam's usefulness. But beavers here have been pushing up mud along the dam for 30 years, mud that silted up behind the dam. I didn't see much evidence of beavers eating along the dam, but back among the poplars north of the dam just in the woods that they had cut in the fall, it looked like there was fresh gnawing on one of the trunks, judging by the color of the wood chips.

There were fewer ducks on the Lost Swamp Pond. As I sat briefly on the rock above the mossy cove I saw a small beaver scent mound at the end of the cove.

I checked for otter activity, and saw that there had been more digging at the base of the rock,

and a good deal of new but not especially fresh scat squirted on and below the mounds of leaves scrapped into piles.

I get the vibe that the same lone otter that was often around here last summer (though I never saw it here) is here again. I think it is now two years old and should be sexually active, but I bet all this aimless digging means it is
still single. That somber judgment said, I should spend the time to try to see this otter here, and perhaps prove myself completely wrong. As I walked around the west end of the pond to the dam, I saw a pile of freshly nibbled beaver sticks on the

And nearby a beaver had a bite of cedar, a not unusual spring treat for them which lore ties to their medicinal needs during pregnancy. There was at least one dollop of fresh mud on the dam. So the beavers are paying attention to this end of the huge pond. Meanwhile an otter has visited since I was last here and the little piles of scat just west of the dam form a triangle now.

As I walked away, I noticed that the goose that has been nesting on the lodge in the middle of the pond was standing up. Not a good sign.

I've seen a coyote swim out and raid a lodge in this pond, and mink often den in that lodge. Then I once saw a goose on that lodge pecking incredulously through the fluff of her nest while I was standing next to some of the remains of the hatchlings on the shore. Well, I might be embellishing that, but
the goslings were all gone and the goose on the lodge looked confused. The Upper Second Swamp Pond remains low, dam unrepaired, and the Second Swamp Pond was quiet but as I looked down from the rock south of the dam, I saw the hole the beavers
fashion out of the dam in the winter.

In this case the beavers might have taken advantage of a muskrat burrow, or, of course, they could have dug the whole thing out themselves. Looked like freshly stripped next to the hole, but that's a tough call.

April 26 once again in the high seventies and with oppressive humidity so after very little work at the land I did the minimal of checking up on things. No fresh beaver signs around the valley pool but around the First Pond I saw a bit of pine cut and stripped. Unfortunately I haven't checked this area for several days so I can't tell how recent this work is. Then in the hot afternoon I checked the Deep Pond where again I didn't see any signs of major wood work. Evidently the beavers are living off the spring greens emerging from the pond bottom. I sat up on the knoll and then went over to the lodge. That prompted
something to swim out. I waited with camera cocked and waited for something to surface in the pond. Nothing did until after I had taken some photos of the lodge

which seems to be garnished with more stripped sticks. Then I saw a large beaver surface in the pond over on high bank riddled with burrows for dens.

It floated like a log and I went back along the beaver trail behind the lodge to see if they had been cutting trees there. Nothing recent that I could tell, so I simply enjoyed the trilliums out shining the lichens which looked
blooming too.

When I got back around the pond, the beaver was gone. I sat to see if it would surface again, collected a couple of ticks, flicked them off and went home.

April 27 we went off to South Bay in our kayaks first thing on a cooler morning. I saw that beavers, or at least one beaver, had cut branches off willows leaning out all around the bay. Then as I got up toward the upper end of the north shore I saw deep cuts into willow trunks as well as cut branches. I almost get the impression that there are at least two beavers doing this, one with a weakness for trunks, which in the long run could be bad for beavers, but some of the willows severely cut in the fall are still sporting blossoms. I saw a large light brown
porcupine high in the willow above the big lodge, sleeping amongst the delicate leaves. I was just telling myself that since I didn't see a porcupine around here in the winter that I might not have one here in the spring, like the last few years. Wrong again. There was one boat of bullhead fishermen, but no bullheads raised mud as my kayak sped along. Leslie spied one possible otter scats, very liquid, on a rock beside the point. But there were no other otter signs and I scoured the shore as best I could from the kayak and with high water I got a good view of most of
their usual latrines. The scaup are still about, as well as buffleheads. Mallards look about ready to nest -- the pairs wedded to the shore, so to speak. There seem to be more geese nesting here than usual and picking some rather exposed areas on
rocks right along the shore. A mother raised her head up as I paddled by and I could almost pat it. On the other hand, there seem to be fewer redwinged blackbirds. But once we heard two orioles singing high in trees on the point, we tuned out the
blackbird calls. Herons seem to be around in their usual number, with several perching in trees, which suggests to me that they are still somewhat undecided about where to spend the spring. We crossed the Narrows and went along Murray Island. The geese here were so noisy we couldn't heard the frogs. We saw a muskrat swim into the marsh and a pair of muskrats engage in foreplay underneath a floating dock. Then I had the privilege of paddling by a pair of mergansers, plumed to perfection, the male's orange legs and feet glowing. We poked around the beaver lodge there and
I still couldn't tell if a beaver was using. Probably so though I only saw one tree cut and segmented in the bay that lodge commands. I'd like to say here is where the willow trimmer lives, but beavers can lodge in the many boathouses on the south shore
of the bay. Most owners have not been up yet to clean them out. Coming around the headland of Wellesley Island, I saw a muskrat dive into one of the newer boat houses.

After lunch we went to the land and it was cool enough to haul some logs to my sawing rock. On the way to collect an ash by the valley pool I saw a small snapping turtle

walking up, at a good clip until I stopped it in its track, up the old tire rut that runs down the valley.

No signs of fresh beaver activity at the pool or nearby ponds. I sat in the chair by the ponds waiting for a Blandings turtle to emerge, none did. Then a little before 5 pm I headed down to the Wildcat Pond to check on the beavers there. I decided to go down the valley, on the west side of the pools: stay low and see the beavers and then escape going up the ridge. I thought that would minimize my disturbing them. Plus I could get a sense of what they had been up to the last couple days. I saw a line

of brown cup shaped mushrooms.

The beavers have been most activity around the middle pool that I call the logdam pool which has grown the most recently. Up on the ridge there were two small trees just cut

and down in the pool I could see the remains of one of them, a pine, with plenty of stripped sticks in the water below the pine boughs.

When I got to the edge of Wildcat Pond, I thought I saw a beaver swimming near the lodge so I sat and soon saw that only wood ducks were down there. Black flies were all over my face. I pulled down my brim and my hair, put on gloves,
tucked my pant legs into my socks and protected my forehead by flicking away all the flies that lit on the underside of my hat brim. Never a dull moment. A male wood duck swam into the upper half of the pond where I was sitting and even paused to preen, suggesting that I was as inconspicuous as a blackfly tormented well bundled 180 pound man could be. The duck didn't even fly as off as my periodic flicks at flies gave my position away. It swam quietly back to the lower pond. I also finally bugged a blackened green frog and it jumped into the water. Then I saw a muskrat
swimming by the lodge. The photo below shows the view I had. The muskrat was off to the right of the lodge, the ducks off to the left and behind the lodge.

A muskrat made it back to my end of the pond, quite popped in. I couldn't follow its progress the way I can a beaver's. The muskrat looked rather small but knew what it was doing, motor mouthing through plants on the pond surface that I couldn't see and then swimming farther up pond. Finally at 6pm on the dot there was a big heave of water from the lodge, a beaver surfaced and just like last time went directly to the pile of logs on a little mud bar on my side of the lodge and groomed and nosed about. It soon swam off the mud bar and I could see by its
wake that it was heading in my direction. It looked like a small beaver and seemed to sense my presence immediately and it swam up to me as close as the water would allow. I kept the camcorder running but didn't turn to get a better picture. Little beavers, I think, sense things better than older beavers, but they have more curiosity than their elders and are slow to sound an alarm. Certainly that was the case this evening, or maybe a muskrat saved the day. The beaver swam away from me, then turned back, and looked to me like it was going to give me the once over again
but as it was about to turn toward me a muskrat swam right by it, just a few feet away from the beaver, heading up pond. After a slight hesitation, the beaver followed the muskrat up pond. Meanwhile another beaver swam out of the lodge and went up on the mud bar to groom and sniff. Then not only did the beaver who
sniffed me swim back down pond, but another small beaver followed it. Evidently while I the first beaver was nosing me, another sneaked by. This second beaver swam slowly, sniffing the air, evidence that it was also worried about my presence. I lost track of the beaver that had just been on the mud bar, but soon enough
another beaver came swimming up pond toward me. I could see the beaver was forming the idea that a tail slap was in order but just as it was angling to do that, a small reddish muskrat rotored right by the beaver

and right in front of me and started eating some duck weed. As the muskrat turned again toward the beaver,

the beaver slapped its tail, prompting the muskrat to disappear and leaving some doubt as to whether the slap was for me or the muskrat. The muskrat dove then surfaced and swam by the beaver without incident. The beaver swam up pond,
and I soon saw it reaching up and peeling bark off a tree. Then it swam back down pond, and in front of me began eating some vegetation it brought up from the pond bottom. Then, a few feet from me, it treated me to a display of a beaver, tail cocked up, curling into the water bringing up gobs of soft things to eat and
stuffing it in its mouth with little human like hands. Never had eating seemed so sensual, perhaps the human equivalent would be eating an avocado salad while floating in a vat of red wine, though I've never tried that.

I was transfixed, and then, in my mind, drawn into the pond, though of course I couldn't twitch or I'd be discovered and the moment would end. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw a small beaver swimming toward me. Once again it nosed me -- when a beaver enters sniffing, it is a bad sign, and then it swam over to the larger beaver first stopping at its tail and I thought maybe I was safe and the little beaver was about to imitate what the larger was doing. Then it swam up to the nose of the larger beaver. I appreciated its discretion. Beavers,
especially small ones, can hum with an irritating whine. I scarcely heard this hum.

Then the little beaver turned away, swam back toward me, took a few more sniffs and swam away. The other beaver kept chewing then I could see its nose rise with a sniff of the air. It turned, swam away and slapped its tail. Well, it was time for me to leave anyway -- mosquitoes by the way were now competing with the blackflies. I packed my cameras away and then looked up and saw a large beaver high up on the downed birch they had been stripping during the winter. Its tail was hanging down and looked to be about three feet up from the water.

I had never seen this before. Here was a beaver playing on a jungle gym. I got some video as it dropped head first back into the water making a big splash.

Perhaps the other beavers going back to the lodge gave it the heads up about my being there. I climbed the ridge, not looking back. Hadn't I seen enough? Counting my bug bites helped get my circulation going again. Some snipe got close when I was sitting, judging from their flutter, but not close enough to see. After dinner I headed down to the Deep Pond and from the road saw two porcupines up a tree eating the tender buds.

The larger one was higher up and swinging in the tree, then it showed me how agile a porcupine can be climbing down a tree, a beaver with very sharp claws on its forepaws. The two beavers in the Deep Pond were out, swimming apart. Once again one didn't do anything but float and swim slowly. The other was
munching things it brought up from the bottom. The former slapped its tail. I left them in peace and went up to listen to the peepers' chorus at the Third Pond.

April 29 Yesterday we had heavy rain and got, I'd say, at least two inches. Today we saw how the Deep Pond beavers responded. What's interesting is that they piled up dried stalks on the dam and added just one heave of mud

That part of the dam is holding back all the water. There is a leak in the middle section where it looks like they mainly used mud. Maybe the new beaver here has some new and good ideas about dam repairs. I collected logs down near the pools above Wildcat Pond and didn't see any evidence of new beaver work. And there was nothing new around the valley pool, but the canal from the Teepee Pond was quite muddy. Deer or raccoons could have caused that.

April 30 A cool mostly sunny morning and I took a big tour of my island haunts going over the ridge on Antler Trail and then around South Bay first checking in on the willow latrine out on the south shore of the point. I surprised a small porcupine down along the water's edge and tried to calm it with sweet talk as it slowly climbed up the willow

At first I thought it had a bad foot but it managed to climb all right. I am looking for a porcupine around here that doesn't or can't climb to account for the intense low girdling I saw just on the other side of the
South Bay trail. The water level of the river is the highest I've ever seen and many of the holes around this perennial animal denning site are flooded. No signs of otters; beaver work would have been washed away by the rising water.

Once again it was easy to see that something had scraped up the leaves above of the old dock at the end of the north cover of the bay, and I saw a new otter scat in the middle of it

and a line of older looking otter scats too. I think the scats look "old" because the heavy rain quite washed out the black fecal material that makes otter scats look so fresh and juicy (if I might coin an
advertisement for them.) I would have liked to have seen signs of a visit after the rain, evidence of an otter thinking it had to freshen up its claims. There were a few ducks in the bay. It almost seemed like there was too much water in the river to
expect to see anything. The marsh between the middle island of the point and the little islands at the point was almost flooded over.

As I approached the docking rock latrine halfway up the north shore of the bay, it was easy to see that an otter had been there. Leaves had been scraped below an old rotting log well above the water and there was a new scat on the log, but this one too was washed out and old looking.

I veered up to check Audubon Pond and in the mud of the trail going up to it, I saw a fresh beaver prints heading down to the bay. As I pondered that an osprey flew along the shore of the bay with a huge bullhead in its talons and I missed the chance of getting photo of that. Audubon Pond is the highest I've ever seen it with the causeway forming the east shore of the pond flooded over in the middle. I went back down to South Bay to check the latrine over the entrance to the bay. Here too I could see that something had been scraping leaves up,
sometimes down into dirt, and once again I saw a washed out scat. Then I went back to Audubon Pond, taking a deer trail over the rocks because I saw that the trails around the pond were flooded, even the boardwalks. It was easy to see that the beavers had moved into the bank lodge on the west shore. There were stripped logs on and around it, as well as muddy scent mounds, and in the background the main lodge in the pond barely stuck up out of the water.

Behind the bank lodge there was some striking girdling. The beavers continue to work on a large white oak, and they stripped bark off a nearby red maple. They do this, experts say, to line the chambers inside the lodge to make them more comfortable, though I have never seen such lining when
I poked into old lodges. After stripping they started cutting the red maple, though it is not one of their favorite trees. I could tell it was a red maple because I could see the leaves, red now, coming out on the still lively branches, despite the girdling.

Although they seem to have cut a few more ash on the slope of the northwest corner of the pond they left a lot of cut unvisited. I think thanks to the high water in the pond

They are returning to cutting the ash down on the shore aiming to put another big trophy tree right into the pond.

The bench by the lodge is flooded but I didn't want to get too close to it. I could see mother goose bravely on the lodge as the west wind sent the water lapping perilously close to her eggs. The guard goose was
positioned to warn me away.

As I took the route high on the ridge north of all the old ponds above Audubon Pond I saw how full Meander and Thicket Ponds were, so I veered down to them just in case a beaver was taking advantage of that fullness of
water. No. I heaved a sigh as I slow hurdled the obstacle course of logs along the north shore of Thicket Pond. I had enjoyed watching the beavers there.

The last tree they cut was a large red maple. The beavers didn't touch it once it was down but moved over to Shangri-la Pond. The barren tree now had little red leaves popping out around the trunk.

Of course, Shangri-la Pond is quite full too. I couldn't see much new work around the lower end of the pond, nor did I see any in the west end of the pond. So I expected to see some activity behind the dam they built making a pond up from the north canal. And the dam was higher with what
had just been leaves and mud now backed with logs. But I could only see one bit a serious girdling behind the dam.

I realized soon enough that the board walk across the East Trail Pond was likely flooded so I went over the high rock and quite beautiful ridge east of Shangri-la Pond. I'll be back here when I search for the remains of the beaver that died back in December. It was easy to find a dry way down the valley east of the East Trail Pond and then up and over to the Second Swamp Pond. The water was high here and now the wind was brisk and a squall moved through giving us some
spits of white ice, what a month ago we called snow. I was surprised to see that a beaver had cut and taken the honeysuckle at the bottom of the knoll where the otters often latrine. For years I had been making my awkward way around those pesky bushes.

I also saw some scats up in the latrine and these were a little blacker than the others I had been seeing. It certainly seems like one otter at least had been blazing a trail for me, so to speak.

So I approached the Lost Swamp Pond expecting to see even more scat because that's where I had been seeing scats, but up there I hit a dead zone, so to speak again. No otter scats, no beaver work on the dam nor on the dam below forming the Upper Second Swamp Pond, and as I feared the last time I was here, the geese had abandoned their nest on the lodge in the middle of the pond. But I did see violets on the sunny north slope, two common terns flew over and I saw mayapples popping out in the shade behind the south shore

I also flushed three deer as I headed to the Big Pond. No geese here either, but, surprise, there was an otter scat along the dam

the freshest looking one of the day.

Two herons flew up from the pond below. This was the third and fourth heron I flushed. All of them were tucked out of the wind breaking over the shallowest water. There is a great campaign along this section of the river to raise the water levels and keep them high to save the environment (and please duck hunters and fall boaters) Herons seem to like
the old shallows.