Sunday, May 24, 2009

May 8 to 14, 2009

May 8 rain yesterday, not needed. After dinner we went to the land to listen to the birds and frogs. Not many birds singing, save that the whip-poor-will, better called the whip-or-whit or whip-or-weee, kept up its periodic song all night perching along the road and sometimes up on the ridges. A very few gray's tree frogs joined the peepers. Walking down the road at 9pm, I heard a few toads singing, and saw one glow worm. Despite the moonlit night, at least until midnight, we heard no coyotes. I forgot to bring my camera which meant I could concentrate on bird songs in the morning. I sat down by the Deep Pond, just in time to see a muskrat ferry a grass bouquet from the inlet creek all the way back to the dam -- always the longest haul fr muskrats. Their
grass is always greener well out of sight. I heard a loud splash which must have been either from a snapping turtle or large fish. No signs of the beaver. I saw two groups of yellow warblers. Two in the honeysuckles on the knoll and one, at least, in the honeysuckles on the dam. Quite jumpy. A dam warbler flew all the way over to flap in a frightening or frightened manner (how do you tell the difference?) in front of the knoll warblers. A catbird was also in the bushes above the knoll. I heard the wood thrush again on the ridge. Heard but did not see a scarlet tanager. No rose breasted grosbeaks. Then back at the house Leslie saw a tanager, and a grosbeak. Both usually stay around. The grosbeak always around and the tanager getting more comfortable nearer us over the years. I saw a porcupine eating tender leaves on a small elm along the road. Back on the island I got my hand on my cameras and headed off for a hike. I had an ambitious plan to check on all the interior beaver ponds and meadows eager to weave the narrative thread of the beaver families I've watched over the years. I checked the two convenient otter latrines at the end of South Bay and saw no signs of otters. As I approached the creek coming down to the
north cove of the bay, a heron flew off several yards up stream which suggested that some fish might be swimming up. I stood and listened and saw nothing in the riffles at my feet. I looped off the East Trail so I could check on the Thicket Pond to confirm my suspicion that the beaver, briefly there, had moved on. The familiar old gnawing looked untouched. Then I saw gnawing on a big basswood, I think, a bit down the slope, a little closer to Meander Pond

Indeed I thought I could discern a plodding path down toward that pond, but the pond itself told no tales, looked unused, not at all muddy.

Thicket Pond was just as clear, but then I saw gnawing on the base and roots of a shagbark hickory right next to the water.

I continued up the north shore of the pond and saw no beaver signs. So? I moved on to Shangri-la Pond. Since it was a little before 5pm, before a beaver was likely to get out in the pond, I didn't walk up on the ridge as usual, but checked on the old work at the west end of the pond. While it is evident that a beaver has been gnawing more and cutting more off the red maple they cut at the end of the pond,

I don't see any evidence that a beaver has set up camp, so to speak, taking cut logs over the shallows or shore and leaving leftovers. One of the two red oaks they have been working on is well on its way to being cut down

and I saw some old work I never noticed before, farther down the north shore. They have half cut through a basswood topped long ago.

Curious project considering that beavers relish basswood leaves and this half tree has few. By plan, I should have climbed the ridged, looped around the north extension of the pond and then headed off to the Second Swamp Pond. But in the shade of the north shore, I was persuaded to slow down by the green at the foot of the massive rocks. After climbing a little cliff I could work along green ledges deer probably don't bother. I saw trillium

and solomon's seal

and the blueberrry bushes are blooming

All nestled in these small plots of green, not of grass, but canadian mayflowers

I moved as close to the lodge as I could which left me on a green ledge with a view of the next green ledge, with sere moss softening the transition from lush green to eternal pink rock and gray rock.

and I could have found a place to stretch out and look up at the massive rock seeming to cradle me

but having given up on my search for narrative in all the ponds, I could at least pay attention to the pond below me. I was perfectly situated over the spread of flooded grass and bushes in the middle of the west arm of the pond. Here
is where I think the beavers are doing most of their eating.

I was far enough away so that I could scan the grass clumps with my binoculars and saw nothing to dissuade me that the molding and munching and crushing I saw had been done by beavers. But the longer I sat and stared the more evidence I saw of other candidates. I had concluded that the rising water made this area too damp for goose nests. Then I saw an abandoned goose egg in the grass. And first one pair of geese flew in and landed at the western end. Then another pair of geese landed right in front of me and swam over toward the northern reach of the pond. Their landing lapped water over the turtle I was studying. I usually see painted turtles in bunches and as they slip off logs it is easy to see they are painted turtles, but this one turtle studied through binoculars from on high, seemed to have a different cut of shell, a different rainbow of colors on its neck, and moved more ponderously. The geese induced waves lapping over prompted the turtle to sink. I also kept my eyes on the beaver lodge and was stunned by this new view of it, a little pile of sticks seemingly at the foot of three huge pines

Then at the same moment I saw a beaver swimming from the lodge toward the dam, I heard a great thrashing in front of me and braced my camcorder ready to film a snapping turtle fight because that seemed to be what was in the offing. Well, in May, there is no need to search for narratives, sit still by a
pond and they will come to you. For the next hour I followed three stories: the snapping turtles, the geese, and the beavers. I saw one shell surface and twitch in a manner that made me suspect that the other turtle was under it. Then there was sudden upthrust of the other turtle, belly up, so to speak, with its legs flailing, and in an instant it was flipped back down under water. Then all was quiet, there. The pair of geese in the west end of the pond began swimming quietly down toward the east end of the pond. When they came in sight of the pair of geese in the north reach of the pond, one of those geese honked sharply and the two geese from the west promptly turned and swam back to the west. I've have watched geese long enough to know this would not satisfy the other pair. Soon enough they flew over in a honking
rage, first landing below me, honking with necks stretched out low, and then they flew up toward the placid pair from the west, and they flew off honking. Meanwhile, when that din stopped I heard a beaver tail splash from the north reach of the pond. I was not positioned well for the wind and assumed a gust from the west was enough to alarm the beaver that I was around. Then as I scanned over in that direction, not easy because the ridge blocked a full view of the north reach of the pond, I thought I saw another beaver. Then below me, I heard a loud sucking sound and turned in time to see a snapping turtle shell settle in the water now almost right below me. Then I saw one of the beavers swimming toward me until the rock ledge blocked my view. I
expected it to swim into view but it didn't. Then I looked farther back and saw another beaver swimming toward me. Here is where the choreography gets complicated. Just as one of the beavers surfaced in the middle of the grass and swam slowly
toward the south channel of the west end of the pond, the pair of bullying geese swam down toward the east. The beaver dove, the geese went by. Then a turtle erupted out of the water below me and moved faster than I have ever seen a snapper move seeming to run on the water for a few yards until it dove and disappeared. All the other turtle did, who had obviously been dominating the turtle that fled, was poke its nose out of the water.

Then as if by magic a beaver appeared right below me, too. While I wouldn't see the beavers eat the grasses and roots in front of me, they showed me that they obviously know how to swim underwater through channels in the grass,
imperceptible to me. So the beaver regarded me, swimming in slow circles. I suppose his poor eyes were no match for the camcorder. I saw him large and intimately. I must have been a queer lump on the ridge, with a not unfamiliar smell. It almost seemed like it was going to go about its business and get something to eat. Then
it turned, slapped its tail and disappeared.

It surfaced back toward the north reach of the pond. I was in the way, and headed home. Not sure when the snapping turtle head ducked back down under the water.

May 10 more rain yesterday, thunderstorms, some heavy down pours, but all that let the cold come through and this morning it was cloudy and cool, a perfect day to resume my search for the second swamp beavers. I noticed that some of the mayapples toward the end of the Antler Trail now have that pale green bulb bobbing under their broad leaves.

I angled up over the ridge to Otter Hole Pond where I checked on the clump of trillium under the ledge. They are blooming vigorously this year. I first discovered these trilliums back when this pond was full and I credited that for
their survival, the deer couldn't get to them. The pond has been dry for four years and the deer still haven't got them, and I am seeing more trillium elsewhere, often in the open and accessible.

At the south end of the Second Swamp Pond dam, I found modest signs that a muskrat had been there, some vegetation pushed up on the dam and some nipped stalks in the water.

But that was the only signs of any mammal being there. Certainly no signs of beavers. There were several leaks in the dam.

I walked below the dam, passed the tree cutting the beavers did two winters ago, and looked for any signs of recent beaver work. I found some gnawing at the edge of an old aborted girdle on a large maple.

Certainly looked like beaver gnaws to me, though they were rather small. No gnawing up above, which a porcupine could do.

But that was it. Then I admired the large, should I say, huge, muskrat lodge in the old pool in the middle of what is now Otter Hole meadow.

No sign of muskrats being there now. I saw evidence of burrowing on the shore, but that was probably done in the winter.

So? I headed up the north shore of the Second Swamp Pond, even walking over the bank lodge below the knoll, where I saw a muskrat skull in the mud.

It was both startling and humbling to see no beaver or muskrat signs along that long shore, and the geese out in the pond, two pairs, had no goslings. I saw some old muskrat poop, not much, on a log jutting out behind the Upper Second Swamp Pond dam. I even checked the inlet creek, alarming some
pollywogs, but no signs of beavers having been there. As I went up to the Lost Swamp Pond lodge, a heron flew off, and I saw a muskrat swimming up from the lodge to the northeast shore of the pond. A bit of life, and when I sat on the rock behind the lodge, I heard something swim, lightly, out of the lodge and since it didn't surface, I assumed it was another muskrat. I scanned the apron of the lodge and saw some wee nibbled sticks, that a muskrat could have done.

Up on the rock, nestled in the moss, was a tableau of death, some old bones, the head of a little bullhead,

and the leathered remains of dead bat harkening to the art of the quattrocento

How can the remains of something so small show such pathos?

This suited my mood, my sinking feeling that after a 15 year run of watching beavers in this extensive network of ponds, the beavers had left, and nothing had come of the promising signs early in the spring of otters being here. Thanks to all the rain, there were more flowers to enjoy but this cloudy day was not a good one for photographs. I saw yellow and blue violets, pussytoes, and some plants about to bloom. By the east end of the dam I saw half of the remains of a frog

which an otter might have left behind. Then I saw some fresh mud pushed up on the dam and signs of a beaver fussing with where the breach had been in the winter.

Then I heard a swoosh of water behind me and wondered if that muskrat I sometimes scared away from the dam had been under there again. Then a beaver surfaced with chin up and tail cocked; it slapped its tail, swam deep, and surfaced well out in the pond. Then just off the west side of the dam,

I saw a large smear of fresh otter scats on a clump of grass

and a large blob of a scat that looked like it dripped off the mound.

There was another splat of scats where an otter had scratched up the grass.

Once again the beavers and otters fired my imagination, and I saw some very fresh muskrat poop on the usual rocks just up from the water of the pond.

The beaver didn't leave me alone. I got a few more tail slaps and it never relaxed the high profile of its head and fast swimming.

This beaver didn't act like the one I scared out of the lodge the last time I was here; it looked younger and more vigorous. Then over at the mossy cove latrine, I saw in an instant that an otter had been there too.

There were two scats on top of the rock

and down below there were two rolls of leaves

and a thin smear of scat on some moss clawed up, or clawed down from the rock.

Of course, I scanned the pond, but saw no otters. The west end of the pond especially looked muddy, which, I think, means that the beaver or beavers are eating the pond grasses. I did see two more examples of beaver gnawing on the
edge of old girdling.

I get the impression that the beavers take a break from eating the grasses and greens to sharpen their teeth on the hard wood of big tree trunks. Some girdling was near the spread of mayflowers that I think the beavers sometimes eat.

When I got down to the Big Pond, the beavers there let me know that they have been active, leaving nicely stripped logs on top of the lodge.

Then I inspected the dam and got the sinking wet feeling that the beavers had not worked on it. I went back to my old ploy of taking a deer trail to the middle of the dam and the deer trail was flooded and led me into standing water below the dam. So I hopped up to the dam hoping that would afford at least a rim of dry turf, but it didn't. To manage all the rain, the beavers are concentrating on keeping the part of the dam that holds back the water in order,

and below that part of the dam, it was relatively dry. The pond is as high as I've ever seen it and the water in the southeast end of the pond below my "perch" was muddy and there was a thin stripped stick there.

No signs of otters though, but there is not much dry land around the dam to scat on. Not a good day for noticing birds. I walked under one melodious oriole in the woods.

May 11 taking a break from gardening I went down to the Deep Pond and confronted a water snake on the road

It wasn't easy to persuade it to get off the road. It snapped up and bit the stick I used. As I sat by the pond, I saw a muskrat swim into the burrow in the dam, and I enjoyed the birds, wood thrush, warblers, catbirds. I walked
around the pond looking at the flowers and looking for signs of a beaver being around. The pond is a bit muddy but there are muskrats at work. There is no equivocating in the vegetable kingdom. As it fades to pink the trillium is joined by the blue and violet phlox.

I didn't expect to see fresh beaver work but I did my duty and enjoyed the little fish darting down the inlet creek -- have to catch one and identify it. I went through the maple saplings that beavers have not touched since the fall and then scanned the grass on the high bank of the pond. There I saw
a pile of cut juniper boughs stripped as only a beaver could do.

So? I walked slowing along the bank and a few wee stripped sticks and some a more substantial.

So either a beaver came back to the pond, coming up from White Swamp, perhaps specifically to get some juniper, which doesn't grow farther down stream. Or that shy beaver that has been here two years remains in the pond, more shy
than it has ever been. I'll just have to keep watching. I had a chance to take a quick walk around Boundary Pond. A beaver cut a small willow up where beavers had been cutting birches above the Last Pool but the big poplars seemed untouched. Instead a beaver had half girdled a nearby beech tree

and the girdling on the birch almost in the water of the pool is a foot or so higher.

I was distracted from the beaver work by the trillium on the mossy ridge east of the pond. There are a few purple trillium and I got a good photo of one.

The beavers continue to built up the dam mostly with sticks but one pushed up another rock.

Yet despite the build up, the dam still leaks. Indeed it is getting quite soggy below the dam.

The lodge seems to have more logs on it, too.

I wonder if one day I will be able to sift through those sticks to count and categorize them? During droughts this area gets quite dry. As I took photos of the lodge, I heard a beaver hum from inside it. I sat for some minutes but
didn't hear any more noises. Because the beavers keep piling logs on the dam and lodge, it is hard to see if the water level in the pond is really higher. However, back around the stump of the big birch at the upper end of the pond, it is easy to see that the water level is up.

And the beavers keep stripping sticks there.

May 12 we planted the tomatoes today. Then we stayed at our land for dinner so we could better hear the birds, and so I could check on the beavers. Before dinner I sat at the Deep Pond. Walking down the road, I saw a porcupine sleeping up in tree, a saucer shape gently swaying in the wind.

Over the past two years the shy beaver would often come out before my dinner, but not today. I did get a glimpse of a muskrat again and heard the wood thrush. Then I checked for more beaver work, and there was a beaver cut stick
bobbing in the water over some cut juniper boughs, but this still wasn't completely convincing. The stick was not stripped. After dinner I headed down to the Boundary Pond. In the gloaming I spied another large poplar above the Last Pool that the beavers have begun to strip.

I got out a bit later than I would have liked, and was disappointed to see a beaver hurrying down the Boundary Pond as I walked onto the scene. This happened before and it took about 20 minutes for a beaver to come back up the pond. So I sat and waited. Right away I saw another beaver, a bigger beaver,
swim off from the west shore a bit down the pond, and when it swam over to the middle of the pond, I heard humming. Was the smaller beaver that saw me sharing its alarm with the old beaver? Don't know, but both beavers disappeared. I heard two veerys singing their song which is the perfect accompaniment for diminishing light. A blue jay squawked as it danced in the tree above me, which might mean there is a blue jay nest nearby. Then when I was about to give up hope, I saw a beaver cruising quickly up the pond. Once again, it dove so it could swim underwater through the breach in the log dam. It surfaced below with me with its nose up sniffing the air. I was sure it knew I was there, but when it swam away from me, it swam a little bit up pond. I saw ripples but heard no gnawing. Then it swam over toward me again,
and impulsively, so it seemed to me, climbed up on the grass just below me. It did a bit of scratching at the base of its tail, and then ate the fronds off a couple small ferns, and then ducked a bit back into the water and seemed to eat the duckweed floating in the water. This is just what I wanted to see, a demonstration
of the beavers interest in soft greens at this time of year. Then it swam back to the channel and swam up pond, where I couldn't see it.

Since I didn't see any ripples coming back down the pond, I assume it went up into the Last Pool. I waited for another beaver. The male wood duck arrived first, and this time seemed disconcerted that its mate was not around. As it got darker, I realize that I wouldn't be able to see the second beaver coming up so I decided to sneak back and try to see what the beaver up pond was doing. Just as I was scanning the lower pond through the camcorder to make sure there were no ripples
down there, the beaver slapped its tail behind me. This is the second time this has happened. Is the beaver playing with me? After slapping its tail, it stayed around swimming below me, as if to demonstrate its lack of fear. Then it continued down pond. The temperature was dropping below 50 so I was glad to get back to the warmth.

May 13 it got down around the freezing mark last night and then it warmed up quickly. The river was calm so I headed out in the kayak. I didn't see any buffleheads. They must have moved on. I went down to the end of the south cove of South Bay which was pleasant but uneventful. No signs of beavers being down there. No action from the fish. No herons. Coming out I saw two geese looking anxious as another pair of geese landed about 30 yards up the bay. The two pairs exchanged angry honks and then the pair near me flew off to the north. I paddled up within 5 yards of the other pair. They
didn't flinch when I paddled by. I saw no otter or beaver signs on the south shore of the peninsula, but I did smell fish, wafted by the light north wind. But there were no otter signs on the north shore of the peninsula. I did see a fresh beaver mark on the rock where all the aquatic mammals like to mark. I tried to avoid scaring the many painted turtles out for the sun. On the north shore of the north cove I saw where a beaver went up near where a beaver had cut alders last year. No sign of any cutting of those trees, but some grass from the bay had been left up
there. Beavers here are after the greens, too. When I got near the docking rock I began paddling up the bay parallel to a female or juvenile common merganser. This was near where I saw the striking pair last week. Side by side with the male, the female had been quite puffed, her breast feathers seemed a lesser shade of brown than her crest. Now I saw how gray the bird's feathers are, and alone, she did not seem that striking at all. She did seem to enjoy paddling along with me, then ducked into the shore. I didn't see any more beaver work or signs, but below the otter
latrine above the entrance to South Bay, I did see some bullhead parts in the shallow water, and I saw half of a crayfish up on the rock. Perhaps otters left them.

I headed off to check some beaver ponds at 3:30. I wanted to sit for a good while at the Lost Swamp Pond and then I would go over to see the beavers in Shangri-la Pond. As I came down to the pond, I recalled the days when approaching this pond meant being on tiptoe for otters, checking wind direction, hiding my profile. Even though I saw fresh otter scats last time I was here, well, I ambled down with just a few quick looks at the pond. Then I saw something swimming up the narrower passage between the northwest and southeast reaches of the pond. I looked
at it through the binoculars and thought it was a beaver. I had to move to get a better view, but since I was standing right there, I checked for fresh otter scats at the mossy cove latrine. Looked promising at first, I thought more leaves had been
scratched up, but I didn't see any fresh scats. Then when I looked for the beaver again, I saw no sign of it, which suggested that it wasn't a beaver. Could it have been an otter? Finally I saw muskrat working the shore in front of me. Then I saw another muskrat over at the opposite point also nibbling fresh green grasses.

Then the one in front of me swam over toward the other. They didn't exactly meet, though both dove at the same point. No evidence of any conflict, and then I saw a third muskrat swimming into the grasses below me. I get the impression that there are too few muskrats here to spark the territorial fights that I see here some springs. A heron flew over the pond, probably not landing because I was there. I heard a flicker, and an oriole, and then I saw a common tern working the pond. A female blackbird tried to chase it away, and perhaps it did. The
tern swooped and soared seemingly oblivious to it, then flew over me and away. The south wind was picking which gave me a hope of sitting low on the north cliff at Shangri-la Pond and getting a good view of the beavers without disturbing them. I walked around to the dam and I noticed that muskrat poop that I saw the other
day was now flooded.

The beavers are building up the dam with mud and even positioned a large log perpendicular to the dam at the spot where there was a breach in it during the winter.

This was good to see, but I was disappointed that there was no fresh scat at the otter latrine beside the dam. I crossed the Upper Second Swamp Pond dam and saw no signs of muskrats and beavers having been there. Since I wanted to approach Shangri-la Pond from the north, I decided to walk due north from the dam and check the old Third Pond, then ease down the ridge north of it to Shangri-la. Not only are there more flowers here and every where thanks to the wet spring -- I'd been seeing blue, white and yellow violets, as well as white trilliums and pussytoes -- but there are more trees sprouting up. In the shade of a grove of beech trees were a dozen or more beeches-to-be.

A pair of mallards flew off the Third Pond, and there is a bit of pond still, but the dam in untended and leaks in several places. It's been years since beavers were here.

I stayed low on the shady ridge north of the series of small ponds down to Shangri-la Pond. Beavers did build the ponds and perhaps someday beavers will return, but not today. Then I went up and over the rock ridge so I could get a look down at the wet area east of the little pond above Shangri-la Pond. There was water down there, but no fresh beaver work. I was about to walk around the north end of the bigger pond, when I saw that something was wrong. Once again, Shangri-la Pond had lost all its water. I hurried over to the dam and from what I saw it looked
like the huge tree trunk, that had busted the dam a few weeks ago and that the beavers easily built a repair around, had been washed through that repaired section of the dam. The rotten stump and roots that had been behind the dam had been washed through it.

Needless to say with the whole tree having been pushed through the damage to the dam was complete. And there was the curious spectacle of two twenty foot sections of dam pushed downstream side by side.

Most of the pond bottom, especially toward the north was revealed which presents a curious kind of ruin of what looks like haphazard litter, though when I took photos of those trees cut down by the beavers, it all seemed meaningful to me then.

But there was water in the west end of the pond, and I saw the wisdom of that little dam built by the beavers behind the main dam. The failure of the main dam was not a complete catastrophe.

Then I walked back to the dam on my way to the other side. I could have walked across on the tree trunk that caused all the damage. And I was amazed at how the whole trunk was washed through.

My initial impression when the beavers repaired the dam was that with the top of the trunk angled through the dam, the repaired portion of the dam had to be unstable. The beavers should have cut through the end of trunk and moved it so it was perpendicular to the dam. Perhaps the thunderstorm with heavy rain and gusts that we had on Saturday, May 9, had moved the trunk and that weakened the dam. But that was four days ago, which was disheartening because that meant the beavers had decided not to repair the dam and may have left. There was that stump staring at me

Perhaps the trunk floated up....What happened was hard to visualize. Maybe the trunk had nothing to do with the weakness and simply floated down in the ensuing flood. Needless to say I looked for footprints or tire marks, blasting caps and any sign of human involvement, and there was none. Going along
the south side of the pond, I took a photo of the little dam that saved some water and kept a bit of the north canal intact.

But water was leaking through it and very little was puddling behind the main dam.

On the face of it, that should make repairing the main dam easy, but I think beavers like to work in the water, not like humans who divert the water and pour the concrete. The lodge did have some water around it,

and the back side entrance seemed to have water lapping into it.

I didn't see any signs of nibbling. So if this did happen on the 9th, that's a long time for the beavers not leave any signs of life. When I sat high on the ridge south of the pond, it was 5:30. A beaver came out by then when they
repaired the dam before. I sat and waited and saw a turtle bubbling in the now shallow water below. Though no longer flooded the vegetation in the pond was still soggy and accessible to ponderous swimmers.

It slowly dawned on me that while the pond had lost 90% of its volume there was still plenty left to support every form of life that had been there. Then a muskrat swam up the south channel. I got my camcorder ready anticipating some commotion when it swam over the turtle, but the muskrat scooted
up into the grasses and started eating. Then another muskrat swam up and avoided the turtle by diving under the grasses then surfacing in patches of open water in the middle of the grasses. The other night a beaver showed me how that worked. I even saw
the two snapping turtles and once again one was chasing the other. This time the drama wasn't under water, I could see it, which gave the turtles no pause. There was water enough for all the odd jobs of pond life.

Then it struck me that the little dam the beavers made when they did their first repair cut straight across the pond, and that what was holding back water now was curved. Have the beavers been trying to master the situation. I hurried
back to that little dam to record their progress

The curve was there. It almost seemed as if they were learning from their mistakes, that a straight dam was a weaker dam. Looking closely I could see how concerned they were with design and not simply, as before, plugging gaps along a conveniently positioned tree trunk.

They were short on sticks. Think of how many were encased, as it were, in those two failed sections of the dam! They were relying on muck, which is probably one reason this repair is set back so far. Much of the muck was washed away
during the failure.

I went up and looked closely at the section of the dam remaining and saw how the rushing water scoured and washed away all the muck that might have been there.

I saw now why when repairing the dam before, the beavers swam so far back to get mud. The pond behind the dam was deep and worked down to clay if not stone. Of course while this is a reflection on the beavers' skills, they did have to cover the pipe park officials put through the dam years ago which required much mud to thwart, mud that could have been put to better use elsewhere on the dam.

Still no beavers out, and I was late for dinner. As I hurried away I took a photo of the empty west end of the pond and wondered how soon I would see it full again.

May 14 a storm was brewing, the south wind kicked up in a big way and there were some spits of rain. I hurried to Shangri-la Pond and got there dry. Yesterday I toured the devastated pond in the bright sunlight. Now it was dark which meant that stripped
logs shined. For example I saw several on the high bank just beside the lodge.

I had never noticed beavers stripping logs there and I didn't think I saw them yesterday, but looking at one of the panoramas I took yesterday, I see that they were there, just less noticeable in the bright sunlight. The darker day made for better photos and I thought I saw a freshly stripped stick on the crest of the dam still there.

But, a photo from yesterday shows the stick there, but dull in the bright sunlight. So bright yesterday that I couldn't take a photo of the lodge standing on the dam side of it. Easy to see how high and dry it is today.

I thought there was fresh work on the dam

but looking at yesterday's photo I see that there wasn't. And it didn't look like they did any work on the north end of the little dam.

I walked down the north canal to take advantage of the chance to get a different perspective on all the girdling they've done over the past year.

In 2007 and early 2008 they cut down some big red oaks and a huge willow. But this year they only seem to gnaw into the old girdling.

Could that have anything to do with the beaver being killed by the falling tree in December 2007? At the end of the north canal, they cut down a mid-size maple

and here I saw where I bet they got the logs they stripped on the bank near the dam.

They also did a good bit of stripping under the trunk of the maple at the end of the canal.

All to say that I think they cut this tree down, and cut logs off it, after the dam broke. I looked for prints in the mud to prove that, but couldn't find any. There was no smooth mud to receive a print. There were roots
and litter everywhere. But that idea seized my imagination: faced with catastrophe the beavers responded by proving they could cut down a tree and brought the logs to the bank overlooking their predicament where they ate and considered. I measured the depth of the north canal -- over a foot deep, to prove the beavers' comfortable with the new dispensation.

I started to work my way down the north shore of the west arm of the pond, heard thunder, and then climbed a bit up the cliff and ducked under a granite ledge to see if the storm would blow over. I wasn't far from the spot
where I took photos showing the evening reflections of rocks and trees in the expanse of water behind the beavers' repaired dam.

Now I overlooked grasses and mud.

The wind spark another theory for the disaster. One of the strong west winds we've had lately may have been concentrated by the rock canyon walls and whipped up strong enough waves on that expanse of water to weaken the new part of the dam.

But the canyon walls, protecting me from the rain, didn't look that malevolent. Then I heard a peeper sing and that prompted me to sing a poem into my camcorder which caps a rather prosaic narration accompanying a short tour of the pond as it now is.

But I sang that out of conviction that the beavers were there, and had been out last night. Now, looking at the photos, and thinking some more, I am not so sure. The storm has ended and I'll got out after dinner and stay until dark and see if I see a beaver. And I did, sitting from 7pm to 8:15pm. I saw a muskrat and my heart raced when I saw something swim below the dam as if it was moving mud, but that turned out to be a snapping turtle. I saw two pileated woodpeckers dance up and down the trunk of one of the bigger dead trees. But that
didn't cheer me up. The beavers had gone.