It was as if the beavers were keeping tabs on me without really reacting, as they usually do, to my presence. The grooming beaver went back into the water but returned again. This time it grazed on the green grass. Seeing that underscored the lack of wood gnawing that I was hearing. It seems these beavers are content with a grass and leaf diet. Meanwhile the mosquitoes kept up a pleasant drone. When I looked behind me I could see a wall of them bobbing and weaving. Of course, a great many came on me to dine, and I was able to tend to most of them. Then a dragonfly began bobbing and weaving in front of my face. I fancied that it was eating the mosquitoes but I can't swear that I ever saw it actually eat one. I also fancied that there were less mosquitoes about when it was there, but that was probably wishful thinking. Another evening when I sat on the chair by the edge of the pond, a bird flew in and lit on a branch behind me and broadcast a loud staccato alarm. Tonight it lit onto a branch in front of me. I eased the camera on and saw that little showed up so I switched on the "might vision" and got an eery looking video of a whip-poor-will. The infra-red made its eyes look like huge glowing white circles.
It soon flew off, and while I was hearing the whip-poor-will call in the distance, I didn't hear the call from a nearby tree. I also walked down to the Deep Pond, enjoying the hazy yellow of a crescent moon. I disturbed a porcupine that was on the edge of the road, but nothing was on the pond to disturb. The frogs sang more around the beaver pond than here.
Usually I get back out to the pond to see the beavers in the morning, but I was catching up on sleep, and since the baby beavers did not make an appearance when it got dark, I didn't think they'd be out in the bright light of the morning. Despite the quiet, no humming, no gnawing, I'm pretty sure they are in there.
Before noon today I kayaked over to South Bay. Because of the heat and humidity there was still some mist on river. We had kayaked around Goose Island three nights ago and noticed a stream of dead midges in the river, with moths, other bugs and even a bumble bee, which we rescued, struggling in the water. There seemed to be fewer dead midges today and I wonder if that's because the water is warming rapidly. Three days ago, the shock of flying down out of 90 degree heat onto water that was still under 60 degrees was too much of a shock for midges and they died in droves instead of their usual more orderly fashion. I don't recall ever seeing dead midges bunched together. I was surprised not to see one goose. I saw several mallards some of them rather coy, no doubt loath to abandon a nest on the shore. Spawning carp were splashing along the shore, and especially along the marsh at the end of the south cove of South Bay. Fins were waving out of the water and splashing sometimes got furious. Herons also seemed to be around every bend; only one common tern, no Caspians. There were no signs of otters, nor fresh beaver work. On the north shore of the south cove there was a beautiful patch of yellow flag.
We went to the land briefly and I realized that I had no photos to grace the pages of my journal. So as I checked out the fresh beaver work up around the First Pond, I snapped photos of the daisies
surrounded by yellow, orange, and purple blossoms, all the pretty "alien" flowers. And there was a patch of blue flag beside the drying pool above the First Pond.
I am sorry I didn't see it in its prime. The only beaver work I saw was on the pine. Judging from where some of the branches were cut the beavers have been stretching up and bending down the branches. The ponds are still losing water to evaporation and the stripped leftovers are revealed in piles at the beavers' favorite feeding spots along the shore.
I found a handsome cocoon on a branch of a pine tree.
June 14 we've had the most miserable week of weather, hot, humid and still, at a time when we usually have our best weather. At the land I could manage to pump some water, and did some trimming of trails and views of the beaver pond. Again, I didn't notice any new beaver work. Grass must be their fare. Leaving the pond I saw frog that has adjusted to the drought, sporting brown, not green camouflage.
Last night we had enough showers to afford a cooler, dripping morning. When the sun came out in the afternoon, the sky was blue, no longer hazy, but it remained hot and humid. I headed off a little after four, taking my usual route to the island ponds. While we haven't had much rain, maybe a half inch last night, the heat, humidity and sun have pumped the vegetation. The woods were completely shaded, the robins' realm, and the grass along trails was almost waist high. There was a new otter scent mound just off the trail just past the small causeway at the end of the South Bay cove. The squirt of scat on it had a glint to it, perhaps because it was fresh,
perhaps from the morning showers. So I had my eye out for more otter signs. There was nothing new on the New Pond knoll, and the scat in the South Bay dock latrine, while fresh, was of the very flat, sticky, brown variety.
Something that unhealthy looking you don't wish on an otter. It was placed below some scratching in the moss, so it probably was from an otter. The river water has warmed considerably; we can swim off the dock, a week or two earlier than usual. The warmth seems to have put a stop to the carp spawning. There was nothing new at the docking rock latrine and no signs that otters are using Audubon Pond. The beavers have magnificently covered the pipe that the powers that be put through the old drain that the beavers have long mastered.
The pond in that area is mud brown. The new bank beaver lodge looked about the same. I suppose it is cooler for the beavers to burrow deeper into the bank, rather than build the lodge out into the water. Then I went back down to South Bay and checked the high latrine where the grass begins to cover all. However, just at the edge of the cliff down to the river there was a hole dug into the dirt and grass.
But there was no scat. Last time I was hear, a snapping turtle had come up the slope nearby to lay eggs. This hole did not have a turtle's style, so I suppose an otter dug it. Then I went back to walk around Audubon Pond. I didn't see any new work along the shore, so, here too, I assume the beavers are living off grass. I sat at the bench and for a while had nothing more puzzling to contemplate than why the pond looked so calm while the wind blew in from the west. I decided that I was so hungry to feel a cooling breeze that I magnified the power of the wind that hardly registered on the pond surface. Then I saw a muskrat swim out from the tall grasses on the east shore and head away from me toward the embankment. I watched it until it stopped almost below the embankment and started nibbling something. Then a pair of wood ducks flew into the pond landing not far from me. The male had all its striking plumage and the female's eyes were highlighted with a white circle. There were no ducklings. By the way, the geese seem to have abandoned the pond, and for years this unnatural pond has at least been a nursery for them. Then I glanced back at the muskrat and saw it swimming right toward me. I'm always flattered when something swims toward me. True the muskrat did dive three times and paused once a long time to eat some grass it fetched up, but then it kept coming, eventually swimming into the grasses off of my left. Then I saw another muskrat come out of the grasses along the east shore and begin on the exact route the other muskrat took. This began a cascade theorizing about patterns in nature, then the muskrat took a sharp left and disappeared into the causeway that makes the east shore of the pond. As I headed out I didn't disturb the muskrat near me, so I assume it still uses the borrow in this neck of the pond. Every year there is a lush crop of blue flag in a vernal pool under the trees on the northeast end of the pond
I inspected this year's crop. This year, I always seem to be rendez-vouing with these flowers too late to see them at their peak.
Respecting the west wind I angled toward the southeast shore of Meander Pond, planning to park myself at the end of the canal there where the beavers had just cut down a leafy tree. As I approached a deer, coated red now, distracted me as it grazed in the tall grasses in the swampy ground below the pond.
So I reached the end of the beaver canal while in the process of taking photos of the deer. After it hopped off, I turned to photograph the leafy smorgasbord in the canal. Then I heard gnawing and saw that a beaver was munching on leaves and twigs in the canal right in front of me. The tall grass combined with the leaves in its face made for bad photos. Then the beaver dove and swam toward me. I was quite exposed, standing up without a tree or branch to duck behind. The beaver came out on the ground at the end of the canal, right in front of me, and began grooming. The deer flies had discovered me and now and then my unavoidable twitching gave the beaver pause, but after a brief sniff of the air
it got back to grooming. Beavers have large appendages, and how one parks its tail has always entertained me. This time, so close, I got an appreciation of the challenge of controlling the huge back feet snaking around the fur ball body like a bat about to fly away while the beaver goes about the pleasure of biting and preening its fur. After biting fur and skin the beaver was still chewing as it raised its head, as it if was harvesting morsels from its own body. Then it went back in the canal, not in a panic, for it stopped at a large branch and began eating leaves, dove and found another branch to trim.
It also shook its head and body once, reminding me of the beaver I saw in the New Pond a week or so ago. I think this is the same beaver, judging from its nonchalance in the bright sun. So as not to disturb it, I walked away from the pond, though I paused to get a photo of the maple whose crown has been stripped in the last week, and another leafy maple just cut down.
Then I picked up the East Trail and took it over the ridge and then directly down to the dam. Walking down the ridge to the pond, I tried to picture a small otter managing the tall grass, and I thought that there was too much emerging vegetation in the rolling area. I didn't see any new scat either. The only trail in the grass was up the slope east of the dam and I know a raccoon patrols that area. A number of frogs jumped into the pond as I crossed the dam so the diminishing pool coated with thick green duck weed is good for something. No ducks or herons here, not to mention my old friend the green heron. As I approached the Second Swamp Pond, I heard a wood duck fly off. Here the wind was raking the pond which made it pleasant to watch while waiting for something like a muskrat at least to swim out of the grasses along the edge of the pond. This is also where fawn often make a first appearance, but I didn't even see a deer. I walked up the north shore, my old path obscured by tall grass and a legion of deer flies aiming to keep it that way. The beavers continue to pack mud on the Upper Second Swamp Pond dam so that the water behind seems stagnate with a tannic brown color.
Here too not much evidence of beaver wood work though the trail to a half-cut white oak is still beaten down. As I walked up to the Lost Swamp Pond dam, I saw a muskrat swimming away from it toward the beaver lodge by the dam.
Then as I stood on the shore watching it, I saw a beaver swimming toward the dam. My last few times at this pond, the beavers have not been out this early. It seemed too hot for me to hurry to conceal myself and too hot for the beaver to bother about me. I did go to my usual spot next to the long unused otter rolling area. The beaver noticed and reacted by swimming away down into the west end of the pond. So I waited. There was no activity in the flicker hole but swallows were evidently feeding babies in a hole in another dead tree trunk in the water nearby. Unfortunately, I couldn't see the hole. Then I heard gurgling from the lodge in the middle of the pond and a beaver soon surfaced and swam toward the dam. It was angling toward the spot where beavers had made a practice of leaving scent in the spring and I was curious to see if that is what it is up to, but with the west wind it got my scent as it swam near the area, and, of course, it began worrying about me. It slapped its tail near the dam and then twice again as it weaved in front of me. I suppose I learn little from a disturbed beaver but I am enamored of the beauty of its wake and the high purpose communicated by its head, or I should say nose, cocked slightly out of the water.
The beaver that swam down to the west end of the pond swam back as if to see what all the commotion was about. It kept its distance from the alarmed beaver, briefly probed the center of the pond for something to eat and then swam off to the far south end of the pond. Then I saw a tiny muskrat out in the middle of the pond that evidently swam from the burrows in the north shore of the pond. So perhaps the feud between muskrats here did not result in some leaving the pond. A turtle nest has been raided, roughly at the same spot raided every year by the raccoons.
I checked the north slope for otter signs and do think I saw some new, though not fresh scat near where I had seen the otter scat. I headed for the Big Pond, where the haze of deer flies accompanying me turned into a cloud. If the water had been higher the dam would have been difficult to cross. There may have been ducklings following a pair of adults far out in the pond. There was a close but childless goose couple. A lone seagull had been patrolling this pond during my previous recent visits, now there were two, vocalizing a bit harshly as if this big pond couldn't support the two of them. There were no otter signs, from which I might conclude that the otter is keeping to South Bay, but the grass is so high everywhere an otter probably could leave scats that I would never find.
June 18 the rains finally came, a day-and-a-half's worth. I watched for a break but none came. There was always at least a mist in the air and a northeast wind at least obscuring eyeglasses. This morning the clouds lingered, as well as the northeast wind, but the rain had stopped around midnight. Reasoning that an otter would have ample time to do some marking, I headed out at 8 am to check the latrines. There was a good bit of digging at the South Bay causeway but it looked more like the work of turtles laying or raccoons looking for eggs. However up and just off the trail there was a neat pile of dead grass. I checked the perimeter for otter scat but saw none. Then I walked out to the willow latrine along the north shore of the south cove of the bay. The otter trail I had seen in the marsh the last time I was here was now quite grown over.
However, when the cattails get too tall, an otter must squeeze between them rather than knock them down. A beaver has visited leaving stripped willow twigs on the mossy shore below the old willow.
The leaves around the rolling area in the woods were flattened down, not by an otter but by the damp. There seemed to be a new, but far from fresh, otter scent mound on the trail a few feet from the water in the marsh. I didn't find any new or fresh scat up on the New Pond knoll but I did see another neat pile of dead grass just off the trail.
Then I checked the latrine above the old South Bay dock and, just as I did last time, I found a fresh brownish scat without scales in it,
which, strange as they look, I've always blamed on otters. So I had a sense that an otter had visited its many latrines but I had yet to see a definitive, scale-laced, black scat. Save for the red-winged black birds and a wood duck with four ducklings escaping into the marsh, it had been quiet walking around South Bay. I sat down and waited for some splashing from the spawning carp, and in about 15 minutes saw two splashes. The woods on the way to the East Trail Pond ridge were relatively quiet, though there was an oriole singing along the fringe, the scarlet tanagers in the woods must have been feeding and not teaching the young to sing. As I came up to overlook the pond, a heron flew off from the top of one of the dead trees in the pond. Despite the rain the amount of duck weed choked water seemed too small to entertain an otter for long, but I was looking for an otter family now, hoping the resident mother had unveiled this year's litter, and a small pond might be just the ticket. Again I saw what looked like a new scent mound of grass just up from the pond, but no scats. I went up and down the ridge to try to see if an otter had come or gone that way, and on the slope just above the creek, I saw what looked like another grass scent mound, but no scats, and the vegetation around the little creek was rather lush
so there was no seeing prints in the mud anymore. I crossed the Second Swamp Pond dam which is getting difficult as the grass, vervain, nettles and cattails crowd the ribbon of mud. Fortunately the tall grasses below the dam are not in water.
No animal seems to have crossed over the dam along the north end of the dam, but there were two trails into the grass at the south end, but absolutely none of the mess an otter makes of grass, let alone a scat. Before checking the north slope of the Lost Swamp Pond, I saw at the west end of the pond, wind in my face, waiting for something to materialize. There were not even geese to watch. Then in the growing grass of the slope, I saw a possible otter trail and a little ways up I saw a stalk of dogbane cut and on top of a fresh scrape of grass.
And this time when I peaked around to find a scat, I saw a fresh black one filled with scales.
So I had been tracking an otter around the ponds. I went over the trail to the Second Swamp Pond and again saw a pile of grass, but no scats around it. Then I went back up on the ridge and headed for the Lost Swamp Pond dam. There was a fresh trail in the grass from the pond up and over the ridge. I followed it to some fresh beaver work on a strange looking ash tree.
Then at the foot of the trail at the pond there was a pile of bark and sticks
as if the beaver had marked the spot where the trail leading to the tree started. At the old otter rolling area, there were no signs of otters but two trails in the grass coming up from the pond. There was fresh goose poop all around and also freshly cut leaves in the pond. There was nothing new at the dam. Up on the rocks near the dam, there was much digging in the veneer of dirt there, and I think a raccoon found some turtle eggs, though there were still broken shells from last year up here. Still longing to see evidence that a family of otters had been around the pond, I checked the mossy latrine on the other side of the pond where there were four small goose feathers.
There were several ducks swimming out in the far southeast end of the pond, but I couldn't see any ducklings. I saw deer on my way up to the pond and saw them again as I left, red running through the green grass. For a month now, the Big Pond had been a bit of a let down with little activity save a gull flying about. Today as I approached a small muskrat swam right at me, dove once, then swam out to get another look at me, and dove again with a snap of its tail. With my next step a brace of wood duck ducklings left the tall grass in a panic behind their screaming mother. They didn't go far, looping back into the tall grass growing in the pond, and they were very quiet. I had to walk that way and as I did, the mother swam out and then did the wounded bird routine, dipping her wings into the water as she whined.
The ducklings didn't follow her and with my next steps they fluttered in the grass going from one clump to another. Meanwhile the mother kept flying around the pond keeping up her whining. Since I could hear it, I assume the ducklings could too. I hurried along the dam, not easy given the vegetation, but had to stop where a muskrat, judging from poop left behind, came up to take some cattails.
Then I paused at the south end where the muddy water
seemed almost alive with color and debris.
There was one goose around, perched for a while on a nearby muskrat lodge, then it swam off. So I don't think geese raised the mud -- the pond is a bit deep here, so the muskrats must have been very active. No sign that an otter had stopped, though I assume this pond is on its rounds. There were no gulls today. A heron flew over and the red winged blackbirds expressed their usual alarm. A good hike.
At the land, the mushrooms are coming out, to my delight,
and for the bugs.
I also saw some bugs I've never noticed before.
The pool above the beaver pond is holding out, though we are preparing to rescue tadpoles if needs be, a raccoon might get them first.
June 19 cloudy, cool morning with a steady northeast breeze. I headed off in the kayak for South Bay and trusted the east wind to ease my way into the bay and coves west of the entrance to the Narrows. The beaver lodge tucked on the bank on the north side of the first large outcropping of granite had leafy branches on it. A large maple fell down in the water near the lodge and judging from the bite marks the few branches cut had been cut a while ago. As I continued along the shore I saw a few beaver nibbled twigs, but no major work. I only disturbed one fish as I made my rounds. Up in the grass behind the large rock on the east shore of the Narrows, I saw a clan of geese grazing, at least the goslings, 6 or 8 of them, were grazing as six adult geese stood guard. I could see trails leading up to the otter latrines on shore that I know about, and didn't see other trails going up in the grass. I didn't see any fresh beaver work but the grass and leaves along the shore are thicker than usual so it is more difficult to see into where the beavers might be working. I did see a fawn in the grass, and, since it sat down in the grass when it saw me, I reasoned that this fawn was still in that stage of becoming shyness when it would drop for concealment and not run. And an hour later, I came back to South Bay in the boat, docked at the docking rock and looked for the fawn where I last saw it. It saw me first and sprinted two hundred yards down the trail
before it stopped and looked back. Meanwhile back in the kayak, blue flag iris were almost my constant companions as I paddled along the shore. At the end of the cove I saw two small ducks that avoided me by swimming, not flying. The smaller ducks always seem to elude me with more grace, as they glide more quickly in the water. Whether this is just an illusion or small ducks are more efficient swimmers, I don't know. I didn't see any splashing carp but had two upwellings from fish and one bump. Just beyond the rock on the south shore of the north cove, I saw a red winged blackbird nest that was easy to see, and when I came back in the boat, I photographed it.
How the nest was woven into the cattail fronds struck me as rather neat. There was no signs of life or death in the nest. A few spatterdock were up, this one almost in bloom.
I also began seeing yellow loosestrife, right next to the water, and rather small plants.
The one I photographed was in front of a trail into the thickest brush along the shore.
This could have been made by otters, but I didn't see any otter scat nor scent mounds on the matted down grass. Since I had checked the otters' willow latrine yesterday on my hike, I didn't paddle that far down into the south cove, only far enough to see the patch of yellow flag that I noticed a week or so ago.
It was still in bloom, and when I came back in the boat, I took a photo. When I was there in the kayak a small raccoon was working its paws into moss along the shore. Last year I formed the idea that the mosses actually harbored less wiggling life than the water grasses matted along the shore. However, this raccoon seemed to be getting something to nibble from its probing into the moss. I got rather close to it, and at the sight of me and my kayak it looked hard, and then turned and went into the bushes without any sign of panic. A mallard and heron were nearby along the shore, and neither seemed put out by the presence of the raccoon. However, when it went inland, two song sparrows were not amused. When I came back to take photos, I checked for otter scats and found a new scat at the docking rock latrine,
and two small fairly fresh scats on the rock itself.
At least an ant and grub acted as if they were fresh. Then at the rock on the south shore of the north cove, I saw where otters had been up in the grass just beside the rock,
and there were enough fresh scats
to make me wonder if a new otter family had made the mess. Wood anemone were poking out in the tall grass, here,
and blue flag along the shore. I saw a common tern dive straight down for a fish, heard an osprey, several herons and not a one squawked when it flew off as I approached. Once again I noticed yellow warblers getting bugs in the willows. I don't recollect these warblers doing so much in willows in other years. We've been noticing a different kind of smell in the water, call it a mild scent of putrefaction, and I wondered if it might be from all the bugs that died in the water during the hot spell. Today it still smelled smell faintly here and there, but didn't see any dead bugs on the surface of the water. As I rounded the headland a dozen swallows darted over my head and at first glance I couldn't see any bugs in the air. Then I concentrated and saw small yellowish bugs flying quickly in the air, seemingly going some where, not just fluttering aimlessly. Perhaps the cool breeze got them out of their usual swarm.
June 21 On this longest day of the year, I waited until after dinner to take my hike. My plan was to wait at the Big Pond until the beavers came out, which I guessed would be about 8 pm. Then I would see what was happening in the Lost Swamp Pond, and then go down to the north cove of South Bay, where I once saw an otter, to see if otters might be foraging in the pond when it got dark. However, as I headed away from the house, I smelled rain coming. On the way to the Big Pond, walking along the ridge, I flushed a bird, and then three fledglings fled from where I was standing in quick succession. I caught on to what was happening soon enough, but even as I looked down at the dead leaves where the fledglings had been, I could not see the one still there. The mother began doing a wounded bird act, which allowed me to follow. I saw her long slightly curved beak, so these were snipes, not woodcocks. As she led me one way, I could hear peeps that I thought might be coming from the fledglings. Then she disappeared and I walked toward where I had heard the peeps, but nothing materialized. I came up to the Double Lodge Pond dam. That pond is very low, and there was nothing remarkable on the dam. In other years geese liked to parade with their goslings along these small ponds. The rivulet coming down from the Big Pond is almost closed over with tall green grass.
I checked the ribbon of mud and while I didn't see any otter prints, I saw a few toe-nail marks, so to speak. I know from experience that otters, even otter families, can manage getting through the tall grass. Before checking the dam for any signs that otters had come through, I sat on my perch on the south end of the dam and started my vigil, waiting for a beaver to appear, and it was only 7. I thought the clouds might bring them out early. There were other things to watch. A pair of geese swam over to a patch of green grass behind the beaver lodge. I was struck by how the male stood guard the whole time, about ten minutes, that the female was grazing. I wouldn't have noted this during courtship, nor if there were goslings about now, but this was a couple without charges. When the female headed back into the pond, the male grabbed some grass for about 30 seconds, and then joined her in the pond. There's dignity in following instincts. Then a duck, a mallard judging by the large silhouette, directed a rambunctious band of ducklings toward the marsh just northeast of the beaver lodge. The little ones knew how to motor on the water, and kept churning all around their mother, in short wild spurts, well, the distances must have seemed far to a little duckling. A few darted back to where the caravan had been, and then caught up to the van. Not too long after that parade, another duck, perhaps a wood duck, came with a line of ducklings in such good order that they seemed to be extensions of her tail. Of course, these ducklings were smaller. Then two deer foraged for grass behind the lodge, where the geese had been, and one waded into the pond to bring out some soggy fare. I thought this would be a good time for a beaver to appear to protect its turf, so to speak, but none did. Meanwhile I heard some coyotes but then it started to rain. That perked up the tree frogs and bull frogs, and the head of a snapping turtle, really just its snout, poked up out of the muddy water. It reappeared three times, the last time farther out in the pond The shower seemed to subdue the bird song, though a few swallows kept after insects. Five ducks thought about landing in front of me and then flew on to South Bay. I left at 8:30, and no beaver appeared. I did, I think, see a muskrat dive along the north shore of the pond, but it was getting dark. Next time I'll come back to this pond when it is dark, and if no beaver slaps its tail at me, I'll walk around the whole pond. Perhaps they've moved into a lodge up pond. So I didn't complete my hike as planned, and fortunately I didn't have too much long wet grass to walk through before I got to the woods.
Yesterday at the land, just as I came up to my sawing rock by the beaver pond, I saw a ball of baby bullheads swirling just off shore.
One year I saw adult bullheads swimming above and below the ball, but I didn't see any adults around this year. The ball stretched a bit at times, the fish sort of poured ahead, but the great impetus is for the fishlings to circle.
The ball itself mysteriously progresses through the pond. I went to check something else briefly and when I came back, the ball was behind the dam, twenty or thirty feet away from where I first saw it. Meanwhile back below the water pump, a painted turtle made its slow way to who knows where.