Sunday, November 27, 2016

May 8 to 15 , 2005

May 8 I woke up at 5 am and could see that it was going to be a sunny day, but there was a good wind coming from the northeast which presented problems for staking out South Bay. I decided to find a spot on the south shore of the north cove which provided a distant view of the rock where I last found fresh otter scats, a good view of the latrine above the old dock, and with a little moving a good view of the end of the cove and the New Pond knoll.

On my way to that spot it was too dark to evaluate the latest otter leavings at the little causeway on the trail, but it looked like there had been fresh activity. As usual the first enjoyment was sorting through all the sounds. Other than the red-winged blackbirds, I heard the clunking of a bittern, and the yodeling of coyotes. There were a few leopard frogs about, as well as one peeper in the marsh before me. Then I heard the raspy commentary of the common terns. But I came to see an otter in South Bay, or at least a beaver or a muskrat. But I didn't see anything swimming in the water, not even a duck or a goose. Plus the red-winged blackbirds hanging on cattails kept looking like things in the water beyond. With more light came terns, and an osprey. The former did all the fishing. I waited there for an hour and then headed up to the Lost Swamp Pond where I knew I would at least see beavers. I did see a muskrat in Otter Hole Pond, but that is a wee affair now, much of it that once was an expanse is just a little stream.

I peeked over to see if the trillium patch down in the rocks was in bloom, not quite yet. I paused at the rock south of the Second Swamp Pond dam and sorted through all the ripples not made by the wind, and geese and ducks, some of them frisky, were the cause of all. I came up to the Lost Swamp pond so that I would be right with the wind and saw a beaver grazing in the west end of the pond. As I moved up toward the bank lodge I saw what I first took to be two ducks balled up on a log beside the lodge in the middle of the pond, but they moved and proved to be beavers,

balls of brown in the gold of sunrise. There were also a dozen or so geese moving through the pond quite noisily, so when the beaver came up from the west end and splashed, I thought it might be because of the geese. The wind was strong in my face and I was behind rocks. The two other beavers swam around in circles at the splash, and eventually one dove into the lodge. Then I saw a muskrat swimming to that lodge, and also disappearing. One of the beavers swam over to the dam and then down to the west end of the pond. As I was recording its movements, I saw a gray fox on the far bank and then going down to the Second Pond. Perhaps the beavers were splashing at it. Then I heard a splash at the far northeast corner of the pond, that couldn't have been a reaction to my presence. I got my spyglass out and saw a beaver swimming to the lodge, and something else swimming quickly way. I thought that if it was an otter that it would head down the shore and I would soon see it. Nothing materialized, then I heard another splash nearer to me, and saw no ripples in the pond. It struck me that it must have come from the Upper Second Swamp Pond and perhaps an otter that had bugged the Lost Swamp Pond beaver was now getting the bum's rush from a beaver in the Upper Second Swamp Pond. I got up and hurried over to the Second Swamp Pond, disturbing the beaver in the west end of the Lost Swamp Pond, on the way. As I came over the ridge, I saw a wood duck, and several geese, swimming placidly where I expected to see an otter. However, I could see that the otter trail there had been used, leaves and dirt dug up and I found scat on the bottom of the trail toward the pond.

I went back to the Lost Swamp Pond and the beaver was waiting for me, slapping its tail and swimming back around to get another look and whiff of me. I decided not to cause more disturbance by checking the usual otter latrines. I did see a squirt of scat on the north slope. When I got to the Big Pond, I was too late to see the beavers there. If an otter had gone through the upper end of the Lost Swamp, I thought that it might have come up through the Big Pond. I checked the dam for scats and saw none. The outlet creek is surrounded by mud

so I checked that for tracks and did see what might have been one otter's trail up to the pond

-- as well as tracks going out, that seemed a bit too light footed for an otter. A freshened scent mound at the latrine south of the dam would have clinched my theory but there was nothing new there. Anyway, if an otter did go through this morning, there was only one. On the way up the ridge behind the golf course I saw a porcupine at the base of a tree, perhaps tasting it. Of course, it climbed up as I approached.

Today at the land, I finally saw a dragon fly, a blue darner. With the days now warm in the 60s and bugs all about, the dragonflies seem rather late. I sat by the Deep Pond in the heat of the afternoon hoping that would warm up some life in it, but no, not even a muskrat appeared. I did see a garter snake along the shore, that refused to be disturbed by me and after flicking its tongue a bit, actually seemed to get its head down in the water and take a drink.

Up at the First Pond, something large plopped into the water as I walked around -- perhaps a Blanding's turtle. Meanwhile the beavers have completely stripped the pine trunk they have been working on.

Good chance the bark strips were used for the bedding of the mother beaver soon to be nursing kits, if she's not already at it.

May 10 I hiked over to South Bay at a little after 6 am. The sun rises at 5:45 so I had good light, and plenty of bird song. I forgot to mention that I heard a wood thrush singing my last time out and I heard one, perhaps, two this morning. My first stop was at the otter latrine on the little causeway, and there seemed to be much new scat, a new scent mound, and the scrapping around of old scent mounds, which, I think, left a ball of grass in the middle of the trail.

I poked the scats and one of the four on the newest scent mound was quite fresh.

So I had visions of just missing an otter. I hoped it was heading southeast, because I planned to head northeast and perhaps we would meet. There was new activity up on the New Pond knoll, but I didn't see any fresh scat, which I suppose was what I wanted to see since I pictured the otter ending its marking tour of the beaver ponds here. Then I went down along the South Bay cove to check the latrine above the old dock. On the way I saw a muskrat just off the shore nibbling what appeared to be a rhizome, quite white.

I had a good angle for a video. Then as I moved up to the latrine, I saw a beaver swimming along the edge and then disappearing into the marsh. Then the muskrat swam over to the marsh. So perhaps I was a little late today. There was nothing fresh and probably nothing new at the latrine, so I headed up to the East Trail pond, ear cocked for the scarlet tanager, but I didn't hear any. The East Trail pond was quite steamy with nothing stirring yet, though you could picture the little pool boiling away in a hot sun. Apart from the mass of red-winged blackbirds, there was an oriole singing, but I couldn't see it. The otter has continued to mark here, much new to me, nothing fresh. I went over the trail toward Otter Hole Pond and found scent mounds a third of the way up the ridge from the creek, but again, nothing fresh. Down in the mud along side the creek,

I saw three prints heading up toward the East Trail Pond dam,

and given the way they were grouped together, I think an otter made them. I went up to the knoll above the Second Swamp, not noticing any fresh beaver work and not seeing any beavers in the pond. However, I must say this colony, in the past few years, has not been famous for being out in the morning. I sat briefly, steamed by the sun - the mist on the pond lifted just as I got there. Two ducks flew away from the area of the pond just below the otter trail over to the Lost Swamp Pond -- why do ducks fly away? not because of an otter, this time. I went up to the north shore of the pond, with eyes studying any ripples. The wind was still which presents its own problems. From a distance looking into a low sun, a frog stirring can seem to make a major wake. There was nothing stirring in Upper Second Swamp Pond. The dam is in much better repair. These beavers have gone mad with mud, even piling some on a log in front of the dam. They also put mud on the base of the dam on the lower side,

which I don't recall seeing before. Thanks to this work, the dam was not leaking. I went up to the high point of the north shore of the Lost Swamp Pond and saw a beaver munching something right next to the lodge next to the rock by the dam. There were about 8 geese in the middle of the pond, a little quieter than yesterday. The goose on the lodge was standing up and I could see balls of fluff below her. I studied that briefly but didn't see anything move. The goose sat back down on it. Then the other geese started honking with the vehemence of early spring. The eggs of the geese on the island in front of our house have hatched and we counted five goslings. (Another curiosity as we rowed around the island -- a goose quacking like a duck.) So it was hatching time. Then the goose stood up again and pecked around the fluff as if she might be feeding chicks. I got a good view with the spy glass and saw that nothing stirred. Meanwhile a beaver swam through the contending geese around the lodge and then up next to the lodge. Evidently my theory of beavers being somewhat intimidated by geese is all wet. Then the goose on the nest lunged raucously into the pond and joined the fray around her. The nest was not quite yet abandoned because a goose went back and pecked through the fluff,

then all the geese moved off, and the nest was abandoned. Meanwhile through the spyglass I could see a beaver carrying a branch into the lodge in the northeast corner of the pond -- I bet the beaver nursery is up there. I saw beavers dive into both the lodge in the middle of the pond and the lodge by the dam rock, perhaps they moved out of the mother's lodge to make way for kits. Two little beavers seemed to pay attention to me -- I was sitting out in the bright morning sun, but they didn't splash or even swim crossly back and forth in front of me. Evidently they were ready for bed. The muskrats plied the far southwest corner of the pond, except for one tiny one I saw swimming into the burrow on the north shore. As I walked down the north shore looking for otter scat, I passed two piles of goose down.

Evidently a mink got the goslings and ate at least two of them on shore. I saw new scats on the otter trail back over to the Second Swamp Pond but none of them were fresh. Two geese greeted me at the Big Pond dam, but that was the extent of the activity, and there was no sign the otters had been through the area. A nice moment as I sat on the bank of the Lost Swamp Pond, on a tall tree across the pond, a heron landed on a top branch. At the exact same time, a swallow landed on top of one of the dead trees in the pond, both in my line of sight. I also saw dewy violets on that north slope of the pond.

May 11 we spent last night in the cabin on our land so I had a chance to see the beavers last night and early this morning. It was quite warm and humid, and a light south wind was perfect for seeing the beavers from the north shore of the pond where I can get the best view of everything. I first came up to the pond at 5:30 to check out conditions and perhaps see a muskrat or turtle. I noticed that the birch on the south shore of the pond was down with its crown in the pond. This looked promising and I positioned the chair so I'd get a good view of beavers taking leaves, twigs and branches off the tree. The last time I sat by the pond I saw and heard an under water splash, that is, nothing surfaced. I suspected a muskrat reacting to me just it got its nose out of the water. Today there were two underwater splashes, and now I think a large fish is making it. If so, the otters left something to eat for another day. Then to my surprise I noticed a little beaver nibbling on the birch crown. I knew harvesting that would be irresistible. But my calculation of the wind proved faulty, as the beaver heard me as I got out my camera. It promptly swam to the middle of the pond, slapped its tail and went back into the auxiliary lodge at the end of the pond. I went back to the cabin to eat dinner and give the beavers a chance to forget I was ever there. When I headed back to the pond a little before 7:30, I passed a small snake in the road.

It stayed still as I photographed it; then I got a stick and moved it out of harm's way. It scooted sideways, and then curled up

and even launched a strike in my direction. As I came up to the pond, I decided to hang in back of a large pine from where I could still see the birch crown but would be out of the eddies of swirling winds. I didn't see any beavers in the crown, but I still stepped up and took a photo, and then noticed a beaver on the shore of the pond in front of me, roughly in front of my sawing rock. My heart sank as it immediately swam off, but evidently it didn't notice me because it swam along behind the dam, and indeed another beaver came to about the same area in front of me, and even climbed up on shore and nibbled the half stripped willow log that has been there a couple of weeks. I craned my neck around a tree and got a photo of it.

Unfortunately my camcorder would not work, and usually not having a general record of the beavers' movements makes it harder to give a complete report. One advantage is that, not encumbered with looking through an eyepiece, I saw all that was going on. And much was going on. At first the beavers seemed to ignore the crown, one, perhaps the first beaver I saw, swam right by it.

However soon enough a small beaver swam up to and pushed out and started nibbling on a small birch log that looked well stripped already.

Then a larger beaver came along and bellied up to the birch, alas, it was too dark for photographs. Of course, my eyes were not only on the birch. I hoped to get a census of this colony to see how many beavers were in it. Three years ago there were two, then four, and last year there were certainly two kits added, perhaps three. My hunch has been that the two year olds have left, so there should be four or five beavers. During the evening I often knew where four beavers were at one time. More of the beavers came on shore. One was up near the stripped pine log at the upper end of the pond, another nibbled away on the flooded ground between the two ponds; 

and another came up on the bank right off to my left, above the burrows. I've seen muskrats up there but never a beaver. Unfortunately all three were not up on the ground at once. The one area I could not see was down along the dam. I did see two beavers swim down that way, including the one I think is the runt. It's small and I've thrice seen it swimming very quickly down to the dam following another larger beaver. I am pretty sure that after I had assured myself that there were two beavers up pond from a line drawn between me and the birch crown and two down pond, a third beaver crossed that line swimming up from the dam. I should add that one problem with this way of counting is that one beaver seems to have the habit of going everywhere under water, and is certainly capable of swimming from one end of the pond to the other under water. Soon it became too dark to take a census, failing more beavers swimming up from the dam, so I leaned back and enjoyed the peepers and the gnawing on the birch. I don't think the darkness had anything to do with it, but when it did get darker one beaver spent a considerable amount of time gnawing on the upper trunk of the birch. At one point I could hear what sounded like its upper and lower teeth hitting, so I thought that perhaps it was about to cut off a log. I kept looking to see a bit of white birch heading up stream, but there was no cut. Then a beaver coming up from the dam, that I saw go down that way, nosed into the birch and slapped its tail. It's possible that one finally smelled me, but it's also possible that it was contending with the other beaver for rights to the birch. Anyway, all was quiet; one beaver, I am pretty, swam away, but within five minutes the earnest gnawing continued. I headed to the cabin before I lost all light. The peepers continued singing; no whip-poor-will calling yet.
I was out of the cabin a little after 6 am, and greeted a sunny, relatively warm morning. We had a spot of rain in the night. When I got up to the pond, there were no beavers near the north shore so I eased on up and over to the chair, without incident, and then there was much to see. This morning there was more interaction between pairs of beavers. For example, one beaver pushed another away from the birch; then later when one beaver took a birch branch back to the auxiliary lodge, another beaver followed close behind.

It would not be out of character for an adult to push one of its offspring aside, I've often seen such displays of impatience, but would it be more likely that a two year old would bully a yearling? Let me hasten to add, that there was no more bullying around the birch. Indeed, soon there were four beavers around it.

Two even nibbled the same stick which led to some humming and perhaps huffing, but both stayed on the stick. Then I noticed another beaver that shook its head often, as if to get water out of its ears. There was also a bit of grazing in the grass, at one point two beavers were up on the bank near the lodge. Now back to the census. Once again I often saw four beavers at once, with discrepancy in size, obviously two generations. I also knew there was a fifth because, it had gone back from the birch to the auxiliary lodge. Then a beaver came out of the main lodge. It could have been the one that went in the auxiliary lodge, but it seemed to be on a different mission because it ignored the birch and went up for grass. Then I noticed a beaver diving behind the dam. So my hunch is likely wrong. There are probably at least six beavers, so are least one of two year olds remains. And I used to have an old rule of thumb that there are always two more beavers in a colony than the number you see in the pond. So I wouldn't be surprised if the whole progeny of the two beavers who moved in four years ago remains. Now how do I account for the different style of foraging this year? Perhaps in due time some of these beavers will range as far as some of the beavers did last year. Like last year, the beavers seem to have three places they dive to for security. The beaver that likes to swim under water seems to prefer the burrows on the north shore of the First Pond. Around 7 am some of the beavers seemed to stop work and go directly to the auxiliary lodge, as if their work night was finally done. Soon enough the birch was clear of beavers and that left a beaver on the grass near the lodge and the beaver diving behind the dam. Meanwhile I was still waiting for some beaver to cut a long birch log -- I could see that a log was almost cut through. So on its way back to the lodge, the beaver behind the dam veered over to birch, cut the log with a bite or two, took a minute to find a good grip on the long log

and then carried it back to the auxiliary lodge. The beaver on the grass jumped into the water as beaver and log passed below it and followed.

But before it went too far another beaver seemed to intercept it and direct it back to the bank where they both got up to nibble more grass and low bushes just budding.

I don't think I am imagining this, I did get a good 9 hours of sleep between my observations of last night and this morning. Of course I hadn't had breakfast and I began wondering when to leave when I looked up and saw that the beavers had left the bank and evidently gone into the lodge. I was surprised not to see a heron or ducks when I came up. For a second I thought I heard a bittern than I realized that I was only hearing one of our many ravens (a butcher dumps carcasses nearby) imitating a bittern. I will keep my ears peeled for a raven imitation of a beaver. The beech trees behind the cabin are getting their leaves, 

quite beautifully.
May 13 the cold came back; yesterday it didn't get much above 45 degrees, last night it got down to 25 degrees. The sun was out when I headed off to the ponds and it soon got to around 50 and if I stayed out of the north wind I was comfortable. Going over the TI Park ridge I flushed three or four deer and an oriole was up in the just budding leaves of the higher trees. The otter latrine at the small causeway on the South Bay trail looked unvisited and when I saw nothing new on the New Pond knoll, I began to reconcile myself to the otter being in the another part of its range. I've long noticed a pattern of the otter signs not appearing for a week or two after a week or two of activity in the area I watch. I solaced myself by enjoying the shad blossoms.

Then I checked the latrine just above the old dock in South Bay and there was a large liquidy otter scat, brown and wet, with a smaller squirt about a foot away.

This seemed so fresh that I sat down on the shore not only on a chance that an otter might appear but to see what might be swimming in South Bay. Of course the otters are probably getting bullheads, which accounts for the scaleless scat,

and bullheads sleep on the bottom during the day. Meanwhile across the cove in the marsh the male red winged blackbirds were not only chasing each other, but two of them took after either a wren or a song sparrow, chasing it down into the cattails. Usually bird chases end with one bird flying off. In this case, the little bird, as they often do, found cover under the cattails. Then further out in the marsh I saw red winged black bird chase another small bird with the same upshot. As I continued walking up the South Bay trail, I pondered a scheme to change the way I tell time. Instead of it being 9:45 am, I would say I was out at 4 ad, or four hours after dawn, which is at about 5:45 am this time of year. Noting that I was out a 4 ad, I told myself that would explain why I didn't see many mammals about, certainly not as many as when I was out at 1 ad a few days ago. Of course the other time markers would be bd, before dawn, bs, before sunset, and as, after sunset. I didn't see any fresh scats at the docking rock half way up the north shore of South Bay, but I did see an old scent mound for the first time. It was a few feet behind the big rotting tree trunk lying on the crest of the little cliff along the shore. 

Then I headed up to Audubon and suddenly 4:15 ad started to seem a little livelier. There were two deer grazing on the embankment with a third grazing in the shallow water along the western shore of the pond.

Then there were four geese on the causeway behind an ash that the beavers had cut down in the past few days. I went down toward the deer, and they grudgingly scampered off. There was nothing new on the age old otter trail from the drain and over the embankment -- no otter signs there since the winter. Then I headed down the causeway to bother the geese. The first two flew into the smaller pond to the east, honking, and then I saw a red fox running along the end of the causeway and up into the woods. The next two geese went into Audubon Pond. I walked around to the bench to see if any critter had made its mark reclaiming the now graveled area from the park busybodies, none had, and just as I was about to sit, a beaver slapped its tail out in the middle of the pond. I sat and watched and though this is the home of slapper who often seems incessant in its efforts to bang me away from the pond, this beaver floated calmly in the wind, and then gently swam against the ripples. 

Along the causeway I had paused at the old beaver bank lodge along there and noticed that there were quite a few stripped sticks around it. However the pond level is so high, I didn't think a beaver would be denning there. Perhaps this one is, which means, the destruction of the bank lodge next to the bench was more disruptive for the beavers than I originally thought. I thought they had not been using that bank lodge, but beavers do prefer to have at least two dens. Then the beaver dove, and I didn't see it again. 

A common tern flew over, and a heron fished briefly at the foot of the embankment before flying over the trees and over to South Bay. I headed up to Meander Pond and this time checked the dam. I noticed that the inner dam has been breached, probably a while ago. And they have dug out the little pool below the dam packing the mud on the side.

Other then new gnawing on an old girdle on the north shore of the pond, I have not seen much evidence of the beavers being down here, yet the beavers want the comfort of this pool. I angled toward the back dam of the pond, which I've discovered provides the driest pathway on up to Thicket Pond. I stopped when I saw a tail flip in the water, I waited for a few minutes and then there at 5 ad was a beaver diving in a muddy pond. It was now at the back of the pond and I thought for a moment that it sensed me, but meanwhile ducks were just flying off, and ducks always fly off before a beaver notices you. The wind was in my face and then I saw a beaver swim out of a canal at the south end of the pond, but it had no idea I was there and swam closer to me and hunched up in a shallow and started gnawing on a branch.

Then the other beaver swam up to it. This second beaver was definitely smaller and briefly it swam right behind the larger beaver, almost hanging on just as it did when it was a kit. Then the larger beaver swam up the canal, often diving and bringing up things to eat, then got out of the pond and waddled about ten yards to a downed tree that I couldn't quite see. When I sat back down on a small tree trunk, the little beaver got alarmed, swam a bit toward me and slapped its wee tail. The larger beaver didn't seem to notice. Then it slapped again and the other beaver trotted back into the canal of the pond, swam mostly underwater back to the little beaver, and then they both found something to gnaw. The little beaver did hum now and then, but evidently not in alarm. The large beaver made no effort to sniff for me.

I had never seen this type of reaction to a tail slap before. Indeed the small beaver then swam up the canal and back. Perhaps the large beaver didn't like that because then the larger beaver nipped the smaller beaver when it ventured too close with its twig. The small beaver took this quite seriously retreating a good ten yards, and then tentatively going back. Then they gnawed side by side without incident. The little beaver then got a grip on a pretty good sized branch and carried it back to the lodge. As I followed it around the circle of the meander, I saw another beaver, larger, coming the other way. And this beaver swam up to the other beaver and was rather disruptive with the branch it was moving poking the other beaver, but it didn't react.

Soon enough this new comer carried a rather large branch back to the lodge.

By now it was 5:30 ad, after 11 am, and these beavers showed no signs of retiring. I heard gnawing by the beaver in front of me and gnawing from the lodge, 30 yards on the other side of me. I retreated quietly and while the beaver noticed, it didn't slap its tail. Last spring these beavers had often been out during the day when they were in the Thicket Pond, and I attributed that to the extensive cover of button bushes they have in that pond. Meander Pond is quite open. Since we haven't had much rain, the East Trail Pond is quite low again. Nothing was to be seen, save for one painted turtle. I checked the otter trail and I did see what looked like new prints in the mud.

I didn't see any fresh scat there, nor over the ridge down to the creek. Then I walked up to the Second Swamp Pond dam, deciding that there has been no fresh beaver work there. But there has been some work on the dam, the pond is quite high. No new otter scats along it. By watching beavers so long I couldn't check the Lost Swamp or Big ponds. I crossed over land to the old Middle Pond which is now almost empty of water. There is a huge gap in the dam. 

This was the pond where I first learned about beavers eleven years ago. I saw three horse tails coming up in the meadow, with a leafy skirt I've never noticed before.

In the afternoon at the land after finishing our chores we sat at the Third Pond and enjoyed yellow warblers, myrtle warblers, chestnut sided warblers and black and white warblers, as well as phoebes and chickadees.
May 14 we had some needed rain and late this afternoon the mist and clouds gave way to humid heat and sunshine. I headed off to check the Big Pond and Lost Swamp Pond since the Meander Pond beavers kept me from them during my last tour. The golf course is open so I went up the TI Park trail and then veered up along the north slope of the long ridge behind the golf course. I sat down twice to hear the birds and heard orioles, at least two towhees, one rose breasted grosbeak, and finally a catbird. I saw a bluejay low in the bushes and a few myrtle warblers higher up. Nothing working the crowns. Perhaps there are not quite enough leaves for a scarlet tanager to be comfortable up there. I crossed the Double Lodge Pond dam which has a large deep hole and backs up little water.

The small pond was very muddy but I saw no evidence that beavers had been in it. There were heron and raccoon prints, and again, I think I saw otter prints.

I sat at my perch on the south end of the Big Pond dam and enjoyed the birds. A common tern flew around the expanse of the pond twice and I only saw it dive in once. Then a murder of crows drove a redtailed hawk away from the woods. First there were a dozen crows after it, then three or four, and then one kept dive bombing it

until I lost interest and almost sight of them. Barn swallows were after the swarming gnats, black flies were out today, and a song sparrow worked the clumps of grass on the dam. There were two white-throated sparrows peabodying to each other from both sides of the pond, quite loud and melodious. One mallard splashed into the pond while I sat, and the geese didn't move out from the marsh beyond the beaver lodge until I started to cross the dam. I planned to sit until a beaver appeared, but rain clouds started moving in, the wind pick up and became chilly. I checked the otter latrine before I left and was amazed to the find another scent mound a couple feet farther back from the lodge than the last. With the green grass coming up, the piles of dead grass that make up the mounds are easier to see.

The scat on the last mound was not fresh, but further in along this trail of scent mounds was one with scats that looked a bit fresher,

but by no means from today. The style of the mounds and the number of them corresponds quite closely to the mounds at the mouth of the little creek that flows from this pond down to South Bay. However, there is twice as much scat in and around the mounds at the South Bay latrine. Even factoring in that it took several years for me to really start noticing scent mounds, this year, by far, I've seen more mounds. As I crossed the dam I noticed a muskrat swimming from the far end of the pond. First it seemed to be headed to the beaver lodge, then it veered toward me as I stood on the dam,

then it veered into the grasses clumped in the water at the north end of the dam.

I tried to sneak along and get a glimpse of it eating but it took alarm and swam underwater toward me and then into the depths (about one foot of water) between a cluster of grass clumps. Then it swam underwater from the refuge out into the pond. Then I noticed a muskrat along the south shore of the pond, swimming out, diving and swimming back into a marsh. Then I saw another muskrat well out in the pond, and finally the muskrat I scared away from the dam left a veeing wake as it swam into a marsh way up the north shore of the pond. This was the hour for muskrats and by my new system of telling time, it was 3 BS, three hours before sunset. I should add that this was the best day in a long time for seeing wakes on the pond. When the mallard splashed in and swam quickly toward the dam, I could see its widening wake glinting with sunlight as it moved to the far side of the pond. It would have been a perfect time to see the roiling wakes of an otter. As I came down to the Lost Swamp Pond, I saw an oriole low in the tree.

Then I waded through this year's crop of mayapples. In one section the leaves were just drooping out and the bud between them. They were shaped in a way which quite fooled the automatic focus of the camera.

As I was photographing this I saw a beaver out in the pond, now it was 2 BS, but in the main I saw muskrats, another three of them. I also saw four goslings on the shore with their parents. Then it clouded over and got cold so I headed for home via the north slope of the pond and then down along the south shore of the Second Swamp Pond. At the otter latrine in the mossy cove on the south shore of the Lost Swamp Pond I didn't see any new scat, but there was beaver work, gnawing an exposed tree root.

The otter trail on the north slope seemed used, and a muskrat evidently had been at the base of it, but I didn't find any great gobs of scat until I got to the tree trunk lying just up from the Second Swamp Pond.

There was nothing to be seen on the ponds as I headed home save for a muskrat in Otter Hole Pond. I flushed a half dozen wood ducks from the marshy sections of the ponds. A new yellow flower was out, a strawberry.

I checked on my secret crop of trillium on the rocks below the ledge of Otter Hole Pond and they seemed a bit shy in their hideaway.

The latrine at the South Bay causeway looked added to, but nothing telling me that I had just missed seeing an otter.
May 15 more rain last night, sunny and warm enough today, but far from hot, and the west wind picked up again. We spent the afternoon at the land, and I mostly lounged by the turtle bog and scouted around for flowers. Off what we call the appleweg I found two glorious patches of violets, yellow

and Canadian white.

Of course there were blue violets about, too.

Then nestled in a rock ledge above that carpet were some delicate columbines.

In the same area I finally saw a yellow butterfly. And the tent caterpillars were getting into gear.

I walked along the moss cliff valley where the trillium are famous and had to pay respects to two monsters.

Nearer the road I saw one turning violet.

Of course, I checked up on the beaver activity -- again none in the far reaches of the area, where they foraged last year. They took down the pine tree next to the one they just cut and completely stripped.

They don't seem to have gone up stream from the pond either, an area of poplars popular with them in the fall. However, I saw beaver prints in the mud of the little pond, now drained, just above the main pond. With the mud washed away there is left a curious looking stick bridge.

They seem to be continuing to work on the birch that fell out into the pond,

and they did cut a large ironwood about twenty yards from the pond -- perhaps the farthest they've cut recently. I checked the otter latrine near the lodge and the old scats have even more of a greenish tinge and there was a blob in front of them, that I would say was a fresh scat, save that I've learned how long these blobs can seem to stay fresh. I'll have to check old photos of the area to see if it is new or if I just didn't notice it because of the there were so many nearby.