In 2002 I extracted stills from the videos I took rather than use a camera.
April 2 chilly day, 40 degrees, with the sun diminishing as it clouded up. I crossed the soggy golf course discomforting some geese and then went down the farther valley because once the course is open I won't go down it anymore. Of course with all the snow gone, the valley is all litter and no lessons. I checked the old lodge for otter scat; the little cove there had a slight sheet of ice, so nothing had been there that morning. While there were no fresh scats, there was a stunning scent mount with a cattail stalk, a pine bough, and leaves.
Probably done by a beaver. Walking around the edge of the pond I saw a scent mound down at the dam, by the shore and behind the dead limb I often sit on. Much grass had been scrapped up. This is a spot the otters usually decorate but there was no scat around, so again, I assume, a beaver made it. They haven't wasted their time pushing mud up on the dam, which is still overflowing from the thaw. In the water behind the dam, I saw two shoots just peaking up. At the tipped up pine stump I saw muskrat scat on a log floating in the water. I went up to the lodge, which seemed quiet and snug. I continued along the shore until I found a grand beaver highway into the bush. It seemed like they were using it at the moment, though they also used it in the fall because there were many old cuts. Their path led up to the old overgrown road, so I walked along that and saw a tree they had felled a good 70 yards from the pond. Then I went up into the red pine grove and saw some coyote scat next to grouse droppings. There was fur in the scat, not feathers. As I came down to the Lost Swamp I saw several ring neck ducks,
and then as I walked closer, a pair of black ducks took off. I moved out to the log on the point because I was expecting to see muskrats, and I did. One crossed far off in the pond -- going rather fast for a rat
and not climbing up on any logs to mark. Then I heard a splash in the ground behind me. Unfortunately the rat stuck its head out of the water before the camcorder was going. It dove immediately at the sight of me. A few minutes later a rat swam out from the other side of the rocky point. I bet there is a connecting tunnel that somehow gets around or under the granite. On my walk around the pond I saw beaver markings at the mossy cove, at the foot of their favorite fall trail up to the west end lumbering, and at the rolling area. But their trail of the moment is on the north shore. I think another red oak is freshly down and well on its way to being stripped and segmented. Here there is a scent mount about 10 yards from the pond up on the little hill. But the big find of the day here was a small, dusty looking garter snake curled on some leaves.
There were no new scats, nor much sign of beaver work around the dam, save for a small root a beaver had dug into. How did it know it was there -- smell the sap in it?
At the East Trail Pond I came down the hill above the rocks and sat on the log just above where the otters had been scatting. To my delight there was a fresh scat, a light brown mucousy one.
That kept me still but nothing was stirring. When I crossed the dam I saw a whiter scat and then on the other side of the dam there were several scats smeared on the grass and one very fresh squirt of brown scat on the trail to Otter Hole Pond. The otter is here and certainly there's enough scat for otters making them. No otters in Otter Hole Pond. I sent off a score of geese, but the two resident geese stayed rooted in the middle of the pond. I walked down to beaver point to see if an otter scatted there. No otters signs nor beaver signs. I did see two phoebes or flycatchers.
Their tails were active but they made no calls. Ice still hangs on in the corners of the East Trail, Otter Hole and Beaver Point Ponds. The ice is away from the slant of the sun. However, at the New Pond the ice remains on the north side of the pond. Indeed this pond is still half ice. Perhaps this is a case of the trees helping the ice stay on.
April 4 a frosty night and then wet snow at dawn, which gave me some impetus to get out, hoping to find otter slides in the snow. I went directly to the East Trail Pond, where I last saw signs of otters. I came via the trail and then up over the rock ridge, slowly, because I could see ripples, but ducks and geese were about, hooded mergansers and mallards. I sat on my hat and waited. Wood ducks flew in, and not much else stirred. Down at the dam there were no slides, nor up the ridge trail. I could see that the beavers had done more stripping, though they still haven't touched the birch that fell over in their way. From atop the ridge I could both see Otter Hole Pond and half of Beaver Point pond and also eventually scare every duck off the ponds. The first two mass flights I expect, but I was disappointed at the pairs of mallards that flew off. The pair of geese remained. Otter Hole Pond seems even fuller, almost at its former glory, but I didn't go down to check the dam for improvements. I headed for Audubon Pond. I checked the New Pond lodge and once again it seems like a beaver is there
and I even heard a noise inside the lodge, but nondescript. This is a most solid lodge, who can blame a beaver for using it.
As usual I was daydreaming as I approached South Bay and once again the heron flew off before I saw it. This time it flew into the marsh, perhaps a measure of the water level rising. Then as I continued it flew over to the other cove of the bay. I wasn't daydreaming when I approached the pool below the Short-cut Trail Pond but I still didn't see the muskrat before it dove. It was on the side of the channel. I saw bubbles going under the bridge and it even surfaced there because the beep from turning on my camcorder sent it into a panic dive. The beavers continue to work. The promise of sunshine was not fulfilled and the wind was up, so I didn't strain looking for the lonely little beaver. On my way to the bench at Audubon Pond I saw more beaver work where I've been seeing it.
One tree they had cut was gone, another smaller tree was just down, and there were stripped branches in the water. Plus there were several mud scent mounds. There was a small one next to a huge one,
evidence that the family I saw in the fall is still in tact and the little beaver I saw in that upper pond was not an orphan from Audubon Pond. This was good to see, though I am amazed at how long these beavers remain dormant. The pond is still half iced but most of the shores the beavers are usually interested in are open. Plus the pond has never been fuller. I couldn't cross the little bridge because of the flooding. At the muskrat dens on the west shore I could see that yellowish green fanning trail
on the bottom of the pond where the muskrat had, I guess, eaten all the plants on the bottom. Not all the dens seemed used. No otter signs on that shore, nor on the big causeway. My eyes were so glued to the shore that I did not notice a large dead deer on the small causeway until I was almost upon it.
Evidently it was killed when the ground was frozen because I could see no prints to the carcass. There were tail parts on both sides of the deer. The head red with blood, and the skin was ripped away to reveal the lower skull and jaw, and the ripping and gouging continued down the neck. This is consistent with a coyote attack. They are usually neater but this was a large deer. However, not much of the meat was taken. There was a hole at the tale, but the guts had not been ripped out. There were cuts in the carcass along the belly, but that could have been from birds, and I did see bird poop on the corpse. Perhaps it was killed by a group of domestic dogs not interested in the meat. Or the deer died a natural death and smaller animals like raccoons, fox or even an otter were gnawing on it. Not that I saw otter signs there. However when I walked down to South Bay, I dutifully checked the rock along the shore where they sometimes scat. On the ground above the rock, a ledge really, say, four feet above the rock,
I saw three or four piles of grass not in a place where runoff from the heavy rain would have made them. As I looked closely at them I found little bits of otter scat.
Then down on the rock, I found an old scat and another collection of leaves and grass with a little bit of scat. I have never seen this type of marking along this shore, as if an otter was claiming the whole island and warning other otters off. But what if an otter was marking the shore showing where the deer corpse was? Indeed, one scat seemed coyote like, with hair in it. Then again I have never seen any such otter interest in a deer carcass before. Walking along the South Bay trail, I flushed a group of deer, but one stayed and as I approached even began browsing the brown vegetation.
This stuff seems deader than dead to me. However, could a winter under the snow and a spring with melt water oozing out of the pores of the earth in some way make this desirable food? As I continued around the bay I saw many scats that looked like fox, perhaps one coyote. Then at the top of horseshoe, as it were, I saw remnants of otter scat in a place I wouldn't suspect it, though not far from one of the drains they have under the path. So I had a teasing time during the dull chilly day, the damp always seems to reveal hidden lives.
April 5 another cold morning, below freezing, and just above freezing when we set out for Audubon Pond. I wanted to check the otter scat for deer hairs and see what happened to the carcass. On the way we saw three garter snakes together. Out on the on the Bay we saw mergansers and hooded mergansers, but not that that many, I've seen more together in the ponds. Well, on closer examination there were no deer hairs in the scat, but there was a fresh scat -- brown and scaleless.
Up by the pond, the carcass had been reoriented, torn a part and properly scavenged. Its rear ripped open with the femur bone bare and one hoof thrust up at its slit neck.
Again because of the freeze there were no good prints, save for a couple that looked more like dog than coyote. We also saw some beaver prints evidently going over the causeway but I couldn't be certain. A goose was on duty atop the lodge.
Nothing new at the Short-cut Trail Pond, though it was nice hearing Leslie's oohs and aahs at the beaver work. Then we checked the New Pond lodge and I couldn't discern any difference from yesterday. L then went home and I continued up to beaver point where there was no scat and no beaver work, but the remains of a dead red-wing on the small dam leading to the point. I crossed the dam and went up and sat above Otter Hole Pond. Without investigating closely it didn't look like they were building up the dam. They have work to do in three or four spots to get the water even higher. Again I was entertained by the slow dispersal of the mallard couples. I decided not to exert myself to day, check the rock dens for otter scat and go home. As I was about to go down to the dens I saw a furry lump just out of the water -- a beaver. Its fur still looked wet and it was doing nothing with its nose down almost to the grass, sitting on its tail. Eventually though it had its tail out in the sun.
This was not the best place for sunbathing, a little breezy, but there it was obviously doing just that. I got a look at its eyes that were blinking like it was very tired.
I eased closer and it started for the water, touched fringe ice, and then came back, sniffed again, and finally lay on its side. Like a dog, its hind legs seem to twitch in scratching mode, and then with a sigh it was still.
I thought of scaring it to see where it would go, thinking that it acted like it didn't belong in the pond, but thought better of that. I started easing away, and then like that it was up, in the water, and splashing me with its tail.
I went back to my perch. It circled around in the pond and was back at me splashing. I retreated. When I looked around I saw it dive about 20 yards from the lodge, which was what a beaver should do. I began to leave, then when I turned around again, I saw ripples at the dam. Then I saw the beaver in Beaver Point Pond, cruising quickly. The chase was on. I've never seen a beaver move with such dispatch for so long in so straight a line. I saw it cross Beaver Point dam and swim in the Porcupine Hotel pool. When I got to the New Pond, I did not see it. I saw some ripples at the edge of the remaining, but it didn't take long for the wind to repeat the pattern. I assume the beaver went directly to the New Pond lodge. I didn't go over to bother him some more. I also assume that it doesn't quite belong to the Otter Hole Pond colony.
April 6 another cold day but the sun was out. I left the car for Leslie at the Nature Center, and then walked down to Audubon Pond. On the way I saw a dozen turkeys hurrying through the woods. Down at the pond, the beavers continue to segment the little dead tree they took down. No otter signs. However there was a lone male merganser on the pond. Today the geese were together and floating around the pond. The deer carcass has been pulled at and gnawed some more. The chest was open, the ribs picked clean and much bile souped inside.
Again with the freeze no good tracks around it. I checked the rock along South Bay and there were no fresh scats there. The brown one of yesterday got an old look in a hurry. I did notice, for the first time, how much otter scat was underneath the tree tilting up on the rock.
None of it fresh. I couldn't see any hole into the tree or bank, but even without, it is good cover. Out on the Bay I saw two herons, and right along the shore a pair of what looked like goldeneyes, though they didn't act that much like goldeneyes.
I didn't see any fresh work around the New Pond lodge, but didn't look closely and, of course, without the ice, the beaver can range anywhere at ease. Up at the East Trail Pond there were fewer ducks. There was one new otter scat, just freezing up,
at the foot of the trail up the ridge to Otter Hole Pond. I found the most ducks on the Second Swamp Pond which has grown quite a bit. I will have to check the dam. When I came up on the Lost Swamp I saw the usual complement of hooded mergansers, and this time the honking geese. As you can tell, I was under time constraints for this hike. I did pause to appreciate the array of leftovers that the beavers have left by the shore.
So I hurried along the Big Pond dam, noticing some patching especially along the north end, but still much water flowing over.
April 8 showers let up and I went out a little before ten. On the way to the East Trail Pond, I paused at the South Bay cove to wonder if a small squirt of otter scat might be fresh. There were hooded mergansers on the East Trail Pond and I thought I might get to a good vantage point and sit down before they flew off. No such luck. A lone goose remained in the pond, a sentinel, for I saw another goose folded elegantly on the side of the beaver lodge.
I sat for about fifteen minutes, and the wind picked up as I did rippling the placid pond. There was fresh scat at the west end of the dam, two very large groups of smears and they were different in color and consistency. One was gray and the other black. One tubular, the other flatter. Both had a generous amount of fish scales.
Not far from it, a beaver made a bodacious scent mound with grass formed in a two foot wall and a stick crowning that. Perhaps the beavers are trying to tell the otters something. There was a squirt of scat on the way to Otter Hole Pond. I decided to cross the dam and go to the Lost Swamp Pond first. In the middle of the dam, after kneeing my way through a flock a mosquito-like flies, I found two whitish scats, or otter upchuck. They were of the consistency, texture, and almost color of cold fried egg whites.
I'd say they were older than the other scat, and there was the same type of scat on the slope east of the dam, but older than the other scats.
On the lower Second Swamp pond, I saw a pair of black ducks, that impressed me with their size. They seemed brave as I approached, but then a wave of black ducks on the upper pond flew off, then another wave, then another, and then the two in front of me, perhaps 50 black ducks in all and a few mallards. Then as I passed the upper pond, a pair of wood ducks flew in, the male, I'd say, quite ardent. Of course with me around they soon flew off. As I came up to the pond below the dam, I thought I saw the usual hooded mergansers, but they appeared to be scaup, ten males and a female.
Then they flew off they flew together in tight formation and landed just on the other side of the pond. Down at the north slope, I saw scuffing in the grass and then when I walked further up the slope I saw several otter scats, perhaps from today. I went down to Otter Hole Pond instead of my usual route to the Big Pond. The pond is so full that otter rock could be back in business. Indeed some moss had been scraped up but I didn't see any scat nearby. I checked the rock den area for signs that otters had been there.
A beaver had left a scent marking at the spot where the beaver was trying to sleep the other day. I don't know if that beaver did it or another resident beaver trying to tell the stray beaver to get lost. There were no otter signs and I also fell in the pond as one of the rocks I jumped on flipped over into the pond, but I had a grip on the rock wall. I crossed Otter Hole dam and there is now only one major leak and one very minor leak. The beavers have been working.
I've crossed this dam many times but this is the first time I've kicked down a loose rock. The beavers must have just pushed it on the dam and had no time to anchor it. And in doing the patch on the hole farthest west on the pond it looked like they may have made a little dam behind the leak to back up the water.
There were no scats on the dam, but down at beaver point, I saw some scat, not too fresh. So the otters seem to be going from pond to pond; their scats are large. I'd guess that the East Trail Pond is still where they are denning. I suppose I should check up stream from it the next time I am there. The repairs on Otter Hole Dam mean that Beaver Point Pond is losing water. The algae is now hanging dry along the shore.
April 9 a warm day with showers that ended about 4; I went off to check on some beavers at 5, primarily I wanted to see who was in Audubon Pond and where they were lodging, as I think the old lodge too low in the water. I took a detour at the East Trail and went up to that pond in hopes of seeing otters and since I had a little time to kill before beavers could be expected out, I wanted to spend it at the most beautiful pond. The wind and sun did play nicely on the pond. Only a few ducks were on it. A pair of mallards shopped the shore unimpeded by other ducks. In about 15 minutes a beaver appeared. I do think traveling under the ice speeds beavers up. This one paddled slowly toward the dam, seemed to bump into something to nibble, then swam over the to rock on the west side of the dam and climbed up a bit. I couldn't quite see what it was doing. probably marking. It got back in the water touched a few sticks, and then swam up and around the pond. I saw what the ice conceals -- the beautiful ripples a beaver can make.
I backed out the way I came and didn't disturb the evening calm of the pond. I heard sporadic bursts from chorus frogs and peepers. The birds were steadier. This pond had the jays. Audubon Pond was surrounded with robins. But before I got to that treat I got a chance to inspect the beavers at the Short-cut Trail Pond. As I came up a beaver was pushing some mud up on the dam below. I settled in to watch that, but it walked up on the dam, then into the water and swam toward me with a little stick in its mouth. It reached a log in the pond and climbed up on that to eat the stick. There is no accounting for this wandering about. I moved closer, since the wind was in my face, but with a glance to my right I noticed two beavers swimming out behind the Short-cut Trail dam. One was right behind the other. They both seemed small and the one behind seemed tiny. It all but latched on to the back of the bigger beaver, and floated higher in the water.
They swam out into the shallow pond then circled back toward me, then right for me, and the bigger got half way out at the shore to sniff me. The little one remained quietly in the water.
When the big one swam back, the little followed. They did a tighter circle and then dove into the dam lodge. I was hoping they'd swim through but they didn't. Could this have been a baby born in the lodge during the winter? I don't know how else to account for it. I tried to sneak across the bridge without disturbing the beavers below -- I spied another one in that pond. But the first beaver I saw did some powerful tail pounding. I moved swiftly on, which the beavers may have noticed because they stayed out in the pond. When I came up to Audubon I saw a wake, but from the two geese. I sat on the bench and waited, and waited. Different ducks flew in: scaup, then mallards, then wood ducks. I heard some splashing in the water over by the shore where one of the wood ducks was sitting innocently on a log. I was about to decide it was a fish, when I saw a muskrat nervously touring the far shore. It stayed right along the shore I eventually lost it in the grasses in the shallows. I waited until seven, still no beavers, and there was a half gnawed stick right in front of me, perhaps moved there by a person, but along the shore, the pile of freshly gnawed logs grows.
As I walked down the long causeway another muskrat came swimming close along the shore. It ignored me and as best as I could see was just nibbling what grasses -- still mostly brown -- that it bumped into. It too made striking ripples.
Both muskrats struck me as small, but it takes a while to adjust once again to the sizes of these critters that I haven't seen for a while. The park people had been around the pond, beaver felled limbs were moved out of paths and the deer carcass was gone. A dozen crows flew over, seemed to caw over the situation and most moved on. Here too I heard sporadic frog calling. Out in South Bay I saw a few more scaup, quite frisky, and a pair of buffleheads.
April 11 only a slight chill in the morning, but still need a jacket. I went straight away to the East Trail Pond and sat. The goose was at his post, and one mallard swam back from the lodge and soon commenced quacking. I had time to reflect on a poor prediction. I thought the beavers would stand on the ice and finish stripping the cherry tree they so enjoyed in the fall. They didn't.
Finally I walked down to the dam and saw evidence that I may have missed some excitement. A beaver made an even larger scent mound between the pond and where the otter has been scatting. And then right at the scat site, there was a bit of mud with a stick on it, beaver-style.
Just beyond that was a fresh otter scat -- bug fresh.
It also had bits of thin, brown shell. I have suspected this comes from the bullhead but I've never really crunched a bullhead head to find out. There was only one scat. I should go up the third swamp ponds, but if there is a otter mother looking for privacy.... The beavers have pushed mud up along much of the dam, which they aren't so apt to do since this pond gets so much water. I went down to the Mother-of-All-Dams to see why the Second Swamp pond is holding so much water. On the north side of the dam there was much work -- some good size elm and ash down or gnawed.
All tracks led to the dam. And the dam has been repaired -- not very solid work, mostly sticks and grass, but up at least one foot.
On the south end of the dam they are ruining an old treasure.
I scanned the pond for any sign of a lodge and saw none. I couldn't even see the old lodge. Apparently it had gotten so worn down that now it is flooded over. I think this area is short of burrows, so I guess the beavers must either be coming up from Otter Hole pond or down from the Lost Swamp. I'll have to camp out there some evening. Last year I think when they were here briefly they came up from Otter Hole. Of course, while mumbling to myself about this, I sent a legion of ducks up into the air. This shallow pond has always been their favorite, and its increased size has increased its popularity. The Lost Swamp pond was quite taken over by geese. I didn't really scare them, just that every time I moved they redoubled their honking. I admired how as they swam along they used the beaver logs floating in the water as a perch to do some sprucing on.
Swallows have been on the river about week. Today is the first time I noticed them working the air above the ponds. There were no fresh otter scats and really no discernible fresh beaver work. I assume they continue their old projects. At the Big Pond, the beavers have done some work on the dam, but the dam is so long and seemingly fragile with high water, that there isn't much they can do. I think logs are being moved around at the dam, but I don't think the beavers are doing much nibbling there, though I'm sure a brief evening visit might very well disprove that. I walked down the small ponds below the Big Pond. The Middle Pond doesn't have its usual amount of water. The smaller ponds get a pleasing green color. At the pond below Double Lodge pond I noted the low water, leaking dam and need for a beaver, then saw some freshly gnawed sticks on the shore. Actually right next to the bones of the small deer that died two years ago. How white its skull is now and how large and white are its young teeth.
Nearby was a muskrat skull with one half of the lower jaw. I took it because I just noticed how sharp the lower incisor of the muskrat is.
The upper end of the Middle Pond had an interesting site. The thaw flood cut through the meander of the creek
The creek used to cut into the high bank on the south side. Now that channel is drying out.
They can pound the air when a number take off, and with their penchant for roosting on dead limbs, they drop a few bombs as they go off. Thinking the carcass had been taken away by park staff, I wondered what brought them here. Then I saw that the carcass was just up on the hill. Perhaps dragged their by human or animal. Its picked bones were bleeding red.
Meanwhile on the pond, a goose and a few ducks steamed away from me. The pond is quite scummed over with pollen. I also noticed this the other day, but just a small portion. I got to the bench and waited until 8pm, almost dark, but no beavers came out. I did see a new stick on their pile, but the one half gnawed stick in front of the bench was still there. Perhaps what work I've seen has been done by beavers coming down to the pond from up creek. Toward the Short-cut Trail Pond, the peepers set up a deafening din. The other big news is that mosquitoes were out and angling in for a taste of me.
April 14 I headed off mid-morning on a cloudy, humid morning, rapidly warming, and went directly to the East Trail Pond, but deigned to notice some small fish swimming at the South Bay causeway perhaps contemplating a run through the conduit pipe and up the creek. As we got to the ridge over looking the East Trail Pond, Leslie was distracted by a possible pine warbler. I kept my eye on the pond, and ducks made all the ripples, and there were not many of them. A heron also flew off. I sat and watched and soon saw two flickers, three swallows, two pileated woodpeckers, close to each other but not dancing to the same beat. A vulture hovered above them all. The leopard frogs were in good voice, at times roaring like a crowd. I went down to the dam side and found a fresh otter scat.
This scat also had shell like material, but tubular. I scrape through this stuff and just can't picture what it comes from, not crayfish, not turtle, not bullhead; other new scats, not so fresh, were on the trail up the ridge. In the chess game between beavers and otters, the beavers had made no major move. Just one stick and small, very small, blob of mud on it. However, the beavers have been raising the dam, principally with mud, but I found two rocks on top of the mud.
On one beaver stick I found what looked like fresh goo. I don't think anything so pure ever came out of an otter.
Perhaps this was pure unadulterated castoreum. Then at the end of the dam I saw a handsome leopard frog.
Over on the other side of the dam, on the slope where the otters scat, there was a very fresh leaving, off white with the consistency of fried egg whites.
This was exactly at the spot where a similar leaving was. I say leaving because I think this was upchucked by the otter. (I just read an 18th century report on yellow fever patients -- human, who vomited something described as "a viscid, tough mucous, similar to the white of eggs.") Now why an otter might upchuck the same stuff in the same place, I don't know. Clearly the otter or otters are making this their primary pond of residence. And I think there are two otters because I see two different colors of scat. So I poked around the rocks, smelled and saw nothing, and then walked up the creek coming down from the third swamp ponds. I found a beaver marking midway, and signs that something had gone over the third pond dam but saw no prints. The pond dam is not in good repair.
This exploration cost six ducks and two geese their peaceful day, and don't forget two grouse and three entangled garter snakes in the bush. This, of course, was a good area for frogs, especially comb frogs.
and perhaps a little more work on the other side of the dam. I think this is all being done by a visiting beaver, not a prospective resident. I took a look at the old lodge in the middle pool of Otter Hole Pond. It is surrounded by water for the first time in three years, but it is in such disrepair. Down at Otter Hole Pond, the beavers continue to work on the large pine tree despite the impressive amount of sticky sap coating it.
I should try to get a photo of them working on this. I finally saw a painted turtle.
In the leaf litter I saw a large spider, reddish brown,
Crossing the dams the soggy turf almost oozes with little spiders. Down at Beaver Point Pond there was no sign that otters had been there. Some beaver stripped logs were about and the water around the old lodge there was murky. Beavers must enjoy putting a little space between themselves and their mates in the colony who they spent the winter with. A song sparrow sat on a stick above the lodge, then dove right into the lodge -- another kind of precision flying. The leak in Beaver Point dam to the north of the lodge in the dam is quiet, perhaps patched. But there are three leaks still on the south side of the dam. Going out we didn't notice any flowers by the side of the road. Going back I saw these worthies
whose name I have to look up every spring.
April 15 true to my resolve, I woke up before dawn and was on my way to the East Trail Pond by 6am in a fog left by a rainy night. There was no excuse for the frogs to quit singing, and the birds, robins especially, added to the melody. At the little South Bay causeway I paused because an otter had left a pert pile of leaves with a squirt of scat on top. I hoped this wouldn't complicate my quest because I wanted the otter staying put in the East Trail Pond. Then crossing the next creek I saw the remains of a bullfrog on the log bridge,
but no sure sign that an otter left it. Up on the ridge over looking the pond, I first noticed
the song of the hermit thrush. Not quite as noticeable as in summer evenings when it's often the last bird singing. A few ducks flew off as I looked for a perch on the rocks. Then I saw beavers below and they quickly took alarm and splashed me. There were at least three cruising about behind the dam. I worried that this might complicate seeing an otter, but I enjoyed their antics. One little one made a point of nosing me and splashing me, and then climbed up on shore below me, tried to eat some grass and then groomed itself.
A few days ago I had noted that through the long winter they never finished debarking the cherry tree in the pond. Well, this morning they went to work on it. Eventually all three took their gnaws at it. Then I saw a different kind of ripple out in the middle of the pond. One otter was fishing. It went past the lodge toward the far shore and I could barely see its ripples in the fog. Then it cruised toward the dam. No beavers swam into its way, though one was stationary, watching, about ten yards away. The otter came toward the shore I was on, and glanced up perhaps at me, perhaps at the beaver behind it
then hurried down to the area where it usually scats. It came on shore
It was hard enough to see because of the fog, which was getting worse, plus the trees blocked my view of it but I could see bits of its jumping and tail action. It was taking its time and then a beaver, the large beaver, swam over toward it. The otter screeched, with pressing insistence I thought. The beaver dove and swam away and the otter came into the pond swimming back along the near shore, and no beaver followed.
It didn't blow at me, so perhaps I wasn't the cause of its hurrying along. While it dove several times in a foraging fashion, I didn't see it eating anything.
Another beaver was up on the shore grooming itself near where the otter scatted. There was some shoving around the tree. Once out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw one beaver splash another with its head, either that or it blew water at it! The larger beaver rather unceremoniously pulled another beaver off the log. At first I thought it might have smelled me and was pulling the little guy to safety, but the big one curled up on the log. It wanted it all. I was getting chilled and was curious if I could see the otter elsewhere. There was no sign of it in the upper shallows of the pond. I went to Audubon Pond, entertained by two pileated woodpeckers in the logs and leaves on the way. Only one goose was out in the Short-cut Trail Pond area, and the two geese were at their usual positions in Audubon Pond, beautiful, gray and quiet in the fog. All the frogs were at a distance. I thought I heard a beaver gnawing in the lodge. There has been a little more work left on the usual shore. Perhaps there is just one beaver left there and it lives a quiet life. I checked the rock down at South Bay but there was no sign an otter had been there.