May 4 we were away for a few days and came back to find the ground soggy from a recent rain and a few hours after we got back it rained again, capping the evening off with general lightning and gentle thunder. After doing chores around the house on the island we came to our land planning to spend the weekend. In the late afternoon I sat by the Deep Pond. The way to the chair by the dam is almost flooded, but I made it and when I sat down I got the sense that the water level of the pond was almost higher than my feet. Needless to say the beavers had worked on the dam but it leaked liberally. On the way to the road they pushed dead grasses up to stem the flood.
Not very effective, but they are working on it. On April 27 that spur of the dam looked rather meek.
On the parts of the dam where they customarily push up mud, it was hard to judge what was recent because the whole dam looked damp from leaking the recent rains. They also put leafless shrub branches on top of the dam.
Not sure what that might accomplish. Here’s how it looked on April 27. The mud and grass the beavers push up are beginning to swallow up the logs on the top of the dam.
In the middle of the dam they pushed up some well leaved honeysuckle branches that they cut.
It’s not hard to figure out the beavers’ thinking as they build up the dam but I am often confused by how they tend dams that seem to have reached their maximum height. A few summers ago I decided they put leafy honeysuckle branches on top of their dam to shade the mud so that it dries more slowly which perhaps gives it more strength. But that doesn’t seem to make much sense in this context. Anyway, beavers make better dams than I do. I’ll try to describe what they do and assume it is just what needs to be done. We walked up the road to enjoy the mid-Spring flowers. Here’s a photo of the extent of trilliums that I took at the end of April.
A few of the white trillium flowers are turning pink. I had not gotten a good photo of the sessile bellwort and there are always a few good patches along the road.
I pointed to a larger flower, not yet blooming, that looked like a bellwort.
Leslie had the name on the tip of her tongue, but we’ll have to consult an identification guide. We saw a few blooming phlox. And the most luxurious clump of hepatica leaves that we have ever seen.
I wish we had noticed the flowers when they were blooming. Then I tried to get photos of butterflies, other than red admirals which are still here. I managed to “capture” one of the small blue butterflies on a trillium flower, but its wings were folded and in that position the wings look a bit more gray than blue.
Promptly after doing the dinner dishes, I headed for the Deep Pond to see the beavers. At the same time rain clouds crowded in over us from the north. I got under the pine tree on the west shore of the pond just before the heavy rain fell. I saw two beavers diving behind the dam. I expected them to push some mud up on the dam but they just kept diving for roots. They didn’t stay together long and most of the time I could only see one swimming in the pond oblivious to the pounding rain and gusty winds. When the rain stopped I could see them both, but they didn’t relate to one another. One went up on the west bank and it looked like it cut something out of the juniper there. The other oriented toward and dam and west shore where I was. It went to the dam once and I couldn’t quite see what it did. Mostly it dove for roots and swam over toward me and sniffed the air. The peepers added their usual magnificent chorus. I heard one bullfrog and several gray tree frogs. I heard a wood thrush on the ridge and a half chevron of geese flew over. A big porcupine was high in the same twinned elm that killed a porcupine last year when the wind shook it out of the tree and it got wedged in the V formed by the two trunks. It was too dark to take photos. The peepers seemed to be in all the usual places, and we heard a couple whip-poor-wills in the woods.
May 5 we woke up at our land expecting a bright sunny morning, but it was rather cloudy. We took a walk to enjoy the flowers which are just as brilliant on a cloudy day. We saw phlox and yellow violets together as well as the usual thousands of white trillium.
Back on the island we heard and saw orioles and yellow warblers. And down toward White Swamp we saw an oriole and a bunch of yellow warblers. We think we heard a rose breasted grosbeak. I took some photos of the Deep Pond dam and at first look it seemed about the same, just the dead grasses darker from the rain.
But looking at that section of the dam from another angle it looked like they are pushing up mud, which, in my opinion, is what they need to do to stop the leaking there.
Their dam work is raising the water level. Half the scent mound on the west shore is now flooded but I think they are compensating by starting another mound nearby.
Looking back at the middle of the dam from the west shore, it looked like the beavers cut some more honeysuckle to place on top of the dam.
Back on the island I headed off a little before 5 to check on the East Trail Pond beavers. The hike out was uneventful. The newly arriving birds seem to congregate along the river first. There have been plenty of midges there to eat all Spring. Blackbirds seem to be getting most of them. A north wind had been picking up all day, blowing away most of the clouds. I sat on a rock up from the south shore of the East Trail Pond which afforded me a pretty good view of the pond. The last time I tried to watch beavers here, I saw one at around 5:40. And that’s when I saw one today, climbing up on the dam, more likely adding to a scent mound than adding to the dam. Then it got back into the pond and swam toward the lodge but I lost sight of it before it got to the lodge. The north wind swept the pond from the east making ripples most everywhere in the pond so I could not follow anything swimming in the pond by its wake. However, as I patiently sat I saw what looked a log a bit west of the lodge in an area surrounded by thickets which blocked the wind. I can work my camcorder well enough to begin to make sense of the subtle not just the obvious. Indeed a beaver was there, perfectly still for the first few minutes I watched it.
Then it slowly turned and faced a small stripped log floating in the water without making any effort to gnaw it.
Since I am keen on figuring out how many beavers are here, seeing one prompts me to look for another. Doing that, I lost track of the one I saw. I kept parsing the ripples in the west part of the pond but nothing in that matrix looked alive until very close to the shore I saw what I can best described looked like a turtle feet flapping out of the water as if a turtle were swimming upside down. I didn't see any shell break the water just flippers. This mystery continued to move and then was blocked by a tree.
I scanned the pond again and just caught a glimpse of a beaver on the dam, again looking like it was more likely marking than building. It got back in the water and swam behind the dam a little ways. I lost sight of it and scanned the pond for another beaver, but didn’t see any. This beaver did not look like or swim like the other beaver, and why would one beaver climb up and add to a scent mound twice within a few minutes? Soon enough I saw a beaver west of the lodge again in that area protected from ripples. And now the beaver was diving smartly looking for roots. More evidence that this was a second beaver, but it was too active, and swam over to where I could not see it. Several minutes later, I though I saw the slower moving beaver swimming by the lodge toward the dead grass stalks in the southeast corner of the pond. I was distracted by a muskrat climbing up on the lodge and lost sight of the beaver. I thought the muskrat was just marking the lodge, which I have often seen them do, but this time it came down and dove into the water and soon surfaced and climbed up the lodge again carrying vegetation.
It did this several times, not sure why.
Perhaps the portion of the lodge where it was denning had some holes in the roof. I was being nicely entertained, with robins flitting about when nothing was doing in the pond. Just when I was thinking how nice it would be to see an otter, I saw something splashing in the west end of the pond and unfortunately it was difficult making out what it was because of the glare of the sun. It reminded me of how mother otters dunk a little otter pup in the water. But otter pups, if any are around, are not ready to learn to swim in early May. The strong wind blowing by me went that direction which would certainly alarm an otter, and I didn’t see any more commotion. The only other indication that I got suggesting an otter family was around was some rather plaintive high pitched loud mewing coming from the behind me, but it had some resemblance to some of the shrill sounds the blackbirds make. It was about time for me to leave so I decided to sneak around the west end of the pond and go up on the trail atop the ridge north of the pond to see what I could see. As I got up a lone goose in the northwest corner of the pond started honking as four geese flew over the pond and landed by the dam. I didn’t see any otters. I did see two blooming trillium, a sight too rare in these woods.
As I rounded the pond I looked beyond two geese honking at each other by the lodge and saw a beaver leaving the dam. I headed up the ridge hoping to get a better view of the beaver. From the top of the ridge, I soon saw a beaver vigorously diving for roots in what now looked like a golden pond. Then I saw ripples coming from the left where a bigger beaver surfaced behind a floating log. The smaller beaver swam over toward it,
seemed to touch its tail. The big beaver had a start and swam in a circle to get behind the smaller beaver. That beaver turned and they bumped noses in a gentle way.
So not only was I pleased to see two beavers at once, but seeing a yearling with an adult suggests the beavers had a kit here last year. I was getting worried that only an aging pair of adult beavers lived here, and that a family I had watched for over 10 years had stopped having kits. However these two beavers didn’t stay together for long. When I left they were far apart again, hunched up in shallow water munching on vegetation.
When I walk up the ridge, I bumped into two small deer, who gave me long looks before they ran off. Going back down the ridge, a deer stood in my way.
Not sure why the trail is so attractive for deer. I had a quick walk home. My feet always seem lighter after I see beavers in a pond.
May 6 we came to our land to do more planting in the garden but first had to contemplate the turkey scratching on the gravel road that forms a border of our land.
I had time to see what the beavers had done to their dam. I saw more heaves of mud and a leopard frog was on every heave, though hard to see.
I don't recall any of the other beavers who spent time here pushing up a line of mud on the grass bank next to the area where the beavers have to build up the dam or lose 3 feet of water.
The beavers have raised the water level above the where my feet rest when I sit in the chair behind the dam, so I thought it prudent to move the chair over to the west shore of the pond and plotted a concealed path to it from the road and placed the chair on low ground with shrubs behind me. In the afternoon I returned to the white oak I cut above the First Pond and cut logs so that the tree no longer blocked our trail up to the Bunny Bog. I took photos of butterflies
and dragonflies along the way,
as well as green frogs who are raising their twangs along the pond shores.
It’s not a Spring day without taking a photo of a flower. The white trillium are beginning to blush with age.
We had dinner later than I expected and when I got down to the Deep Pond I saw that a beaver was already out and perhaps it sensed me before I saw it. So I stood still until it swam what I thought I was far enough away and then I moved down and hid behind a lower bush, and then when it dove again, I went down to the chair. The beaver swam right back over toward me
then turned and swam back in front of me,
and slapped its tail.
Often beavers take a dive after a tail slap. This one kept its head up and turned back to me and swam even closer, its nose working overtime.
Plus there was only one beaver out, even though it was 7:30, and I had expected the beavers to be distracted a bit by each other so I could sneak into my chair. Anyway for the next 30 minutes, or until it got too dark to take any video, the beaver spent 25 minutes worrying about me and 5 minutes nibbling a few roots. The other beaver never came out. Since two muskrats were swimming in the pond, I flattered myself thinking that some of the beaver’s tail slaps were directed toward them, but I really don’t think they were. I didn’t take video of all the swimming back and forth in front of me so I missed a neat variation on the splash. The beavers lunged down into the water and to my surprise that made a sustained roar of water loud enough to get any intruder‘s attention. As I left, it was still swimming and it didn’t slap its tail. I never saw another beaver and it is likely this was the new beaver, and hence not familiar with me. But where was the other beaver? I was compensated during this embarrassing half hour by the songs of hermit thrushes and as the darkness grew the peepers began singing. Walking up the road I heard two whip-poor-wills, one to the north and one to the south who seemed to compete by lengthening their songs. The one to the north seemed to win.
I think the road marks a boundary for them as well as for us humans. Peepers sang at the all the ponds, through most of the night, as did a whip-poor-will and a distant barred owl. Despite the just past full moon, I didn’t hear any coyotes in the night.
May 7 Of course I went down to see if I could see anything new around the Deep Pond. Not really. I suppose the pond itself tells the story. It’s very muddy thanks to the beaver rooting around and pushing mud up on the dam.
In some way this pond is the most humdrum beaver development I’ve seen. The pond was man made. As they dug out more fill dirt for a road, they hit a spring. Once the digging was done, the landowner stuck some dynamite in the dirt they used to cover the spring, and, as he tells it, the huge hole filled right up with water. I am not sure if humans with machines shaped the north shore of the pond which holds back the water or if beavers over the years mounded the dirt there. When we bought the land there was a large regular gap in the shore letting the water drain out which was probably dug out by humans which in turn suggested most of the mounding was done by beavers. When we bought the land, the pond below the high bank forming the east shore of the pond was too deep for us to touch bottom when we tried to dive down feet first in the cold murky water. Now we can touch bottom there when the pond is low so that end of the pond is from 8 to 10 feet deep depending on the water level. When beavers don't keep the dam in repair, the shallow section of the pond is about a foot deep. Now it is maybe as much as 3 feet deep. And that’s what makes the pond interesting. The beavers don’t need the depth. They need the shallows and that’s what they are expanding by building up the dam. Behind the east end of the dam, the vegetation in the water seemed well gleaned.
It is possible that deer did this and maybe muskrats did some too. And, of course, there would be vegetation here even without the flooding. I often see beavers up on dry ground eating grass, but I think this type of foraging is more nutritious because the beaver also easily gets to the roots of the vegetation. Over the 14 years I’ve watch this pond the vegetation in the pond seems to have been about the same, with more water lilies some years than other, and more milfoil when beavers aren’t around, which is to say, I think it will be easier for me to get into the water if I take a swim than two years ago. (I didn’t swim here last here.) The only time I’ve gotten a sense that beavers didn’t have enough vegetation in a pond to make it attractive was this year. Huge flocks of migrating geese landed in the Big Pond and Lost Swamp Pond last fall and seemed to strip the bottom of vegetation which was easy for them to do because the ponds were shallow since the beavers were gone and the dams not repaired. Back to this pond. We’ll see how many water lilies bloom after one beaver lived off them for since last summer. Water has flooded over where I had been chronicling the slow accumulation of nibbled willow sticks on the shore.
There are still plenty of little willow shrubs which the beavers have never seemed to relish that much. Much more dramatic has been their cutting branches off two juniper bushes up on the high southeast shore of the pond.
The Indians, it is said, observed that beavers cut “spruce” in the Spring and they thought it was “medicine” for pregnant beavers. I hope so. But I have seen evergreens cut in all seasons. Some of the juniper branches the beavers cut are now soaking in the water below.
I walked back into the woods where all the small maple saplings are leafing out. I had thought the beavers only cut hornbeams here but I see now that some of the saplings they cut close to the inlet were coming out of old maple stumps. I couldn’t see signs of beaver activity along the inlet creek save for some dredging. Building up the dam is flooding this area, and that makes me think that maybe this beaver couple, if they are indeed still together, might just have kits this year.
Despite there beings pairs of beavers here over the years, we have never seen kits. The other man-made pond I watch, Audubon Pond, hasn’t had kits in 10 years despite having a pair of beavers over most of that stretch. The beavers and, I think, over zealous park employees, removed all the shrubs along the shore that provided cover. This pond has never had a good place for a beaver to lurk without being seen. It seems absurd to say it, for one assumes that with any species love has its way, but perhaps beavers don’t mate or give birth in ponds that are too open. Indeed, all the ponds I watch have lost their cover except the current East Trail Pond, but I have seen plenty of kits in my day all in relatively open ponds, so as I sit by the Deep Pond this summer, I will have to ponder this some more. I crossed the inlet creek to check the flowers along the knoll and also saw how the deeper water is providing secluded spots in the pond like just east of the lodge.
As for flowers, the trilliums are fading and the phlox are bursting out.
I didn’t watch the beavers tonight. We headed home to the island to do chores.
May 9 It rained most of the day yesterday, then after the rain stopped, we went to our land after dinner trusting that the moisture and relative warmth would increase the evening singing of the thrushes and choruses of the frogs. Of course, I went down to check on the beavers and, by way, I moved the chairs again, putting one at the dam and another on the above the east shore of the pond in front of a small honeysuckle. Standing on the road I saw two beavers in the pond. One looked darker and larger than the other.
I went down to the chair by the dam and hoped sitting on my somewhat water resistant windbreaker would keep my butt dry. I saw the smaller beaver out in the middle of the pond and didn’t see the larger. The beaver swam closer to me but didn’t slap its tail. It swam back and imitated a floating log in front of the lodge. Then it dove into the lodge and a few minutes later a beaver emerged in the water near the lodge and took a lackadaisical swim around the pond first nibbling honeysuckle leaves from a bush hanging over the pond,
And then climbing up the bank and eating grass.
I was getting a bit damp as there were off and on light showers and headed back to the house. During the first part of my vigil at the pond there were thrushes to enjoy and then during the second part the peeper chorus picked up in the valley above the pond. I’m not sure why I briefly saw two beavers and then just one. Looking at the video, I wonder if after the smaller beaver dove into the lodge, the larger beaver came out. Anyway, certainly not like the first night I saw them both together when they were both active, seemed to keep an eye on each other and eventually huddled and each groomed the other.
This morning we tried to take a walk earlier than usual. Leslie got out first and saw a rose breasted grosbeak near the Third Pond and heard the chick-bing of a scarlet tanager above the Deep Pond, as well as thrushes. I was sure I heard a vireo near our upper garden, but it’s a bit early for their arrival let alone melodious singing. On my walk I saw a muskrat swimming with grass in its mouth just off the road as it goes by White Swamp. It dove before I could tell exactly where it was headed. Then I heard a squawk or two and soon saw a gallinule swimming into the tall grasses. Then farther out in the swamp I saw a heron standing on a floating log and sprucing itself with its long beak.
Some small ducks, too much in shadows for me to identify, were on a closer log.
I didn’t see any beaver signs along the road and as I walked back to the house, I decided it was as good a time as any to check the beaver lodge and pond along the south shore of White Swamp. I could see the pond from the ATV trail I walked on and veered over to see that. It was full but I didn’t any fresh beaver nibbling or cutting along the shore like I did when I checked it a month or so ago.
Looking to the south, up pond, I saw downed and half stripped tree trunks but I think that is all old work.
The most recently cut hornbeam stumps that I could see didn’t look that recent.
Rather than go along a slippery slope to the dam, I retreated and went over the high ridge between the pond and the swamp to check on the beaver lodge. The first photo is the lodge today and the second is a photo I took on April 12.
Even figuring in the different angles of the photo and the shadows, it looks like the lodge has grown in the last month. There were nibbled sticks along the nearby shore but certainly not a big pile nor any scent mounds.
Rather than go to check the dam, I walked down the shore to the west to check the old otter latrine. I know the beavers cut trees down that way last year. On the other side of a little cove near the lodge I saw a trail of blackened leaves up a slight slope, but not slight enough for muskrats to manage. So I think beavers did it.
A bit farther along the shore I saw another pile of dead leaves with what looked like freshly nibbled sticks nearby.
Once again I was struck by how two of the stripped sticks were crossed,, more grist for my beavers making signs mill.
The wet ground and humid air complicated my effort to guess how recent beavers markings and strippings are, but the moisture is great for the moss and lichens.
The otter latrine along the south shore has always been used mostly in the winter when three holes in the turf allow easy access to the water under the ice. Often I see piles of old scats outside the holes representing heavy winter use of the area by otters, but I didn’t see any old scats today. I saw a few scats in the winter so evidently otter use of the area didn’t pick up in the late winter and early spring. I did see one relatively fresh scat
on a rock a few feet from one of the holes.
To get to the latrine I scrambled along the shore, to head back to the dam I used a deer trail behind the lower ridges that line most of the south shore of the swamp. There is a lovely cove just west of the otter latrine where a beaver had cut a small tree but didn’t take it away. Up on the deer path I saw nice patch of several red trillium, though they have lost most of their petals.I came down the ridge and approached the dam from the west and got below it were I could see mud at the base of the dam which looked about the same as it did a month ago.
The water was leaking out with a low roar, but I did see something that was new, a log on the top of the dam in the runway animals might use to get up and over the dam.
The water was so high behind the dam I couldn’t get any sense of whether a beaver had been working on the dam.
I should have crossed the valley and walked up along the inlet creek to see if the beavers have been there. But I didn’t think I could cross on the dam and the creek below the dam was too wide. So I think beavers are here but I still haven’t figured out how they operate. Perhaps one evening I will get down here. I went back to the road by the easy trail and then sat for a few minutes behind the Deep Pond dam. I noticed that a rock that had been on top of the dam was now buried by almost a foot of mud.
I also saw leopard frog on one of the heaves of mud.
It was mostly brown but with green mouth and chin.
May 11 we headed off in the boat mid morning to check Picton Island for otter signs. On the way out we didn’t see any buffleheads. They must have headed north. We didn’t see any common mergansers until we got to the bay south of Quarry Point. The geese we saw were still nesting or guarding nests, no flocking up in the river yet, much too early for that. The grass on the south shore a little behind the point was well parted so I got out of the boat and checked the latrines there. I got out on a rock below the huge rock that slopes down to the river. Years ago when I first discovered that the otters came here, I saw scent mounds and scats in the middle of the rock. But two trees were blown down on the rock, both pines, but the otters continued to scat and scratch and no doubt roll in the pine litter on the edges of the rock. Looking up, I got the impression that some had just been doing that.
But I didn’t see any scent mounds or fresh scat. So the raked over look of the pine straw probably arose from the recent rains. Rains could have washed away scats and scent mounds, too. There were old bleached scats with only the crayfish shell bits remaining.
Crayfish laced scats can age quickly but they do stick to rocks. I think these scats were left within the last month. The sun baked rocks here are flanked by a grassy slope that has a good bit of shade.
I usually find the fresh looking scats in that shady area, but not today. And the clumps of grass are spread apart so no trail was easy to see.
I went over to where I had seen the trail in the grass from the boat. Looking down on it from above, it did indeed look like otters had scratched up the grass at the foot of the slope.
And there appeared to be a trail up the slope. But I still didn’t see any fresh scats.
There was an old crayfish-laced scat on a rock there.
There was also a trail in the grass connecting the grassy latrine I first saw with the rock latrine I climbed up on.
I have never seen that before which leads me to believe that other animals like porcupines or coyotes might have made it. I have seen otters move laterally along the shore but they also get up out of the water then back in and then swim down to the next area of the shore that interests them. In the last few years otters have spent much more time on the north shore of the island. We cruised slowly down it and didn’t see any otter scats. We’ve had a lot of rain which can wash scats off rocks, but there should be some remnant of it. I’ll have to get out here in a kayak and take a closer look.
We got to our land in the mid afternoon and I first sat, almost napped, by the Third Pond. I saw a muskrat swimming around that twice dove and disappeared when it noticed me. There are probably two muskrats each successively alarmed at my presence. Then I went down to sit by the Deep Pond dam. The beavers have done a lot of work on the dam since the morning of the 9th when I last saw the dam. The board I put just behind the leaky west end of the dam to keep my feet dry was now covered with dead vegetation
which must have covered more substantial stuff because the dam wasn’t leaking as much, I was able to get over to the chair, which I had put back behind the dam. When I sat I really felt like my feet were below the water level and I do think they were. The beavers are building up this shore with mud.
On the dam proper, to my left, they are backing the mud they push up with old logs and branches. It looks like they went below the dam, found logs down there and brought them up to brace the dam. Of course, they actually found the old log sunk in the water and mud behind the dam and then pushed them up and over the dam.
The logs are in the pond because a few years ago I humored the two beavers who were here then by bringing down aspen logs that I cut when we had to cut trees to keep our garden from getting too much shade in the afternoon. In the middle of the dam where the shore is relatively high, it looks like the beavers rolled up a big log onto the shore. They prefer logs to be perpendicular to the dam.
At the other major gap in the dam, actually widened in one of my inept effort to “repair” the dam where it was riddled with muskrat burrows, they once again pushed big logs over the dam so the logs became perpendicular braces.
After obsessing so long with nibbled sticks and nips on thin saplings, seeing work like this took my breath away, but it is typical of what beavers can do. And I think I err in making their work seem so mechanical. It finally dawn on me that a long log thinner than the others had been in the middle of the section of the dam to my left and the beavers had pushed it over almost to where my chair is.
I can’t say that I know why they did this. I sat by the ponds before and after dinner. At the Third Pond, a muskrat was eating grass on the far side of pond when I sat down in the chair on the west shore.
I don’t think it noticed me but soon enough swam toward the middle of the pond and dove. This was one of our first warm afternoons of the Spring and I dozed in my chair. Not long after my eyes opened again, I saw a muskrat swimming right toward me.
It stopped in front of me, briefly imitated a floating log and then dove.
Then I went down to the Deep Pond and sitting by the dam briefly saw a muskrat carrying a bouquet of green grass to the lodge.
After dinner I tried out my new placement of a chair at the Deep Pond over along the northeast shore just in front of the line of big honeysuckles there. I got to the chair without seeing the beavers, and then looked over at the dam and saw the bigger one eating the leaves or blossoms of a honeysuckle branch on the dam and the smaller beaver pushing mud on the dam nearby.
Then the smaller beaver swam over to the bigger and went up to the dam.
The bigger backed away. The smaller half followed but then dove behind the dam. I expected it to come up with mud to put on the dam, but it came up with a root which it munched. Then it seemed to make a point of getting closer to the other beaver, and they swam together briefly, and, I thought, amicably.
The beavers then generally stayed on the other side of the pond. First one and then the other swam toward the lodge and I thought they would dive into it, but neither did. I lost sight of both as they swam into the vegetation over there, taking advantage of the bigger pond. Finally, as it got dark, I saw the smaller beaver dive into the lodge and the bigger cruise up the inlet
Which now is a wide bay, and it disappeared into a clump of flooded shrubs. So I got away without either beaver noticing me, and accompanied by the songs of frogs and birds headed home for dessert.