Wednesday, January 4, 2017

June 2 to 5, 2004

June 2 a beautiful, cool, sunny day with a nice wind. For the first time this year I went to the ponds via the meadow behind the golf course, which I had been avoiding because this has been a wet spring. But I need to plow through tall grass in hopes of seeing a fawn. I did see three deer, bright in their new red coats, move off from the tiny stream, but no fawns. I did find a deer carcass which appeared fairly fresh.

In the wet meadow I saw where the deer probably dug out the elecampane roots, but no fawns. Up on the ridge the red topped grass was all over and for my photo this year I tried to capture a sparser group on a rock seemingly growing out of the lichens with white flowers looking on.

This was not a famous day for birds up on the ridge. I flushed two more deer, then sat by chance with a small cherry tree right in front of me. The blossoms were done but other excrudescences weren't. I assume the crop of red protuberances on the leaf are insect galls.

I crossed the double lodge pond dam which has been generously repaired with mud,

but there is still a leak under it. Given the beavers attention I was surprised not to find any freshly nibbled sticks. These beavers seem to be sticklers for dam building and must be feasting elsewhere. The Big Pond dam continues to grow by muddy heaves.

Here there are some nibbled sticks but scarcely enough to recoup the energy expended to build the dam. All the blue flag irises are out and the bees quite excited. I was out in the early afternoon when critters should be scarce, but my aim was to take a painstaking tour of the ponds. On my way to the lodge, I didn't see any of the old muskrat burrows in obvious use, and from the back, at least, the lodge doesn't look that used. There are some newly installed sticks in the front. The muskrats seem to be back here.

The deeper water in the pond, I have never seen it deeper, has activated some old burrows. Next I sat at the rocks at the midpoint of the south shore of the Lost Swamp Pond. Save for three herons who all flew off, one tern and a few blackbirds the pond served as nothing more than the play thing of the gentle wind. I wound up sitting over some old bullhead leftovers but there were no fresh otter scats at these latrines. I tarried near the bank lodge and noticed some some bushes hauled in for nibbling. No scats around there either. And the north shore otter trail looked unused. I went over the ridge to the upper Second Swamp Pond and sat in the shade when I heard a possible scarlet tanager above, but I slipped into a nap before I saw that bird. Some splashing in the pond below woke me up and I saw a wood duck with a considerable brood. Some ducklings were dutifully right behind her and others were taking tangents all over the pond.

The mother climbed up on a muskrat push-up and with a few squeals brought most of the ducklings up onto it too. She began fluffing her feathers, and then, when I just turned the camcorder off, she took alarm and hopped into the water and in a fury all the ducklings did so too. She keep squealing an alarm and the ducklings seem to form a ball behind her. Then she moved off and I assume the ducklings lined up behind her as they went through the grasses. I almost didn't go down to the shore to check all the way for otter scat. When I did I saw a bit of bent over grass, and a new, but not fresh scat. I also noticed goose poop on this trail so some of the mussing I've been noticing might have been done by the geese rooting around. I went back over to finish inspecting the north shore of the Lost Swamp Pond and I saw something black on the almost sunken lodge out in the pond. I first thought it was a blackbird but it didn't fly off and I soon saw that it was a mink. Once again I turned off the camcorder at the wrong time, just after the mink went into and disappeared in the pond. Then it rushed out with something in its mouth, set it down in the middle of the lodge, where I couldn't see it, and worried over it for the next ten minutes. I was prepared the next time it went in the water but this time fishing wasn't so successful. It came out empty mouthed, went back to what was in the middle and then, judging from its high head and steady stare,

it realized I was there. I saw it swim in the water, going up on a log once, then I lost it as it headed to the far shore. Meanwhile I saw a water snake swimming by. And I got glimpses of a muskrat ducking into holes, even the burrow on the east side of the lodge. There were no otter scats around. I crossed the dam, which has a little leak by the way, to explore the south shore of the now extended upper second swamp pond. I hoped to find a new lodge back there but the tangle of willow, honeysuckle, buck brush, etc., was daunting.

I didn't see any signs of a lodge nor any signs of bushes taken by beavers. I'll have to try the north shore. But it was getting on, so I went back and crossed the dam, which is still growing, and where a freshly cut sapling was laid out.

Then I explored the Third ponds, as I call them. They remain low with no signs of beavers. I went down the north stream, then crossed over the rock and scoped the little ponds on the other side.

A heron flew out of the East Trail Pond, and a goose without goslings took due alarm at my presence. I checked for scat and hung around enough to cool down, but the only excitement was a rather brilliant redstart. On the way home, I checked the New Pond knoll but there was nothing new there. I saw several more deer ducking through the greenery in the their red fur, but again no fawns. Somewhat surprised to see the deer so bunched up.

June 4 yesterday I toured South Bay in the kayak, contending with a surprisingly brisk north wind. So I didn't see as much in the water, save to note that pollen and blossoms were all over. Also the grasses are coming up, save at the very end of the north cove. Only one tern today, and perhaps because of the wind there were more herons than usual along the lee shores. I could see five at once and know that two were still behind me. I also caught a glimpse of an osprey. Not as much thrashing of carp. But the turtles were out. I saw what appeared to be the perfect turtle family, three on a small log, with two large turtles facing each other and the larger turtle partially covering a little turtle a tenth its size. First the large turtle not covering the little one fled, than the large turtle, leaving the little one alone frozen on the log. I thought I saw more beaver trimming of willow but that's a hard call because things look differently in different light. No major work. I briefly saw a raccoon prowling the shoreline.

Today I went off in the boat to see if the otters had visiting the latrine on the rock on Murray Island. I saw dirt freshly scraped up in two spots, much as an otter would do it.

But I couldn't find any fresh scat. I went over to Picton Point and saw some mussed up dirt there too,

and here I did find some relatively fresh scat.

Seeing how the otters command this bay is quite exciting since when I gaze into its depths (averaging about 5 feet) I don't see any fish and at this time of year no place for fish to hide.

But the rock across the bay on Murray Island is perhaps even easy for an otter to see and evidently a good place to check in and see what other otters are doing.

June 5 I headed off in the late afternoon going to the South Bay trail first. The carp were thrashing about at the end of the first cove and I even saw a bit of twisting. No sign that an otter had been out there, but the trail over the pipe at the north cove looked used, as did the trail up to the knoll, and on the rock at the crest of the knoll overlooking the creek, I found a new scat.

I fancied that the trail down to the New Pond looked used but I couldn't find any new scats. The New Pond itself is getting rather low and choked with duck weed.

I looked on the apron of mud below the knoll for tracks and most likely what I saw were raccoon tracks which in the mud can look a little more ferocious. I continued up along the south shore of the now almost empty ponds, where all was quiet. I sat on the large rock at the south end of the Second Swamp Pond dam and soon enough I saw a beaver out in the shallow evidently eating some sunken grasses. This is a spot where the beavers frequently foraged in other years. The wind was not favorable and as the beaver swam into the grasses, it could have been reacting to my scent. I waited to see if it would reappear either by the lodge or dam, but I didn't see it again. The wind began to pick up making it difficult to read wakes in the pond. I headed up pond and first checked for otter scat along the trail from the Lost Swamp Pond. I noticed that a beaver put a little mound with crossed sticks just where otters are want to come up,

and there was a slightly muddy trail up, which I assume a beaver made, but, things look a bit mussed. Over on the other side, just up from the Second Swamp Pond it seemed a scent area had been spread out 

and there was a new, almost fresh scat in the middle of the new array of dead leaves and torn grass.

I moved up on the ridge nearby so that I had a good view of the Second Swamp Pond and the upper pond. I noticed what looked like a trail in the duck weed coming down from that pond.

All was quiet save for the blustery wind and the oriole behind me for most of 45 minutes, then I saw a beaver coming down from the tangles above the upper pond. It went to the same spot on the north end of the dam that I saw a beaver visit before, but this time it didn't cross over the dam, but went up the south channel where I couldn't see it. And it didn't come out until I lost my patience and slowly moved up to the Lost Swamp Pond. This time it did cross over the dam, didn't swim down far into the pond but stopped at a stand of cattails and began feasting on a root. All to say, I am more convinced that all the beavers moved up pond, though I can't prove it. And that young ones should be in the upper pond soon. Then I went over the ridge where the Lost Swamp Pond, mostly out of the wind, presented a vision of calm. In a few minutes I saw the beavers, one small one leaving the bank lodge on the south shore, another larger one swimming down from the peninsula toward the bank lodge, and just when I was to conclude that the lodge by the dam was out of play, I saw a beaver cruise away from there. Two beavers seemed to have a bobbing engagement near the bank lodge, clearly the beavers are comfortable there. Then another beaver headed down to the west end of the pond, so I moved that way too, and was able to see an adult beaver swim up to a juvenile on shore, go up to it, almost nose to nose

and I heard some humming and then the adult went back into the water. The juvenile was poking in the grasses and other greenery and the adult went into the long grasses at the end of the pond, eating them I presume, because I heard no gnawing. Meanwhile the little one got into the water and swam toward me. I was sitting right above a spot where I saw a baby groomed by an adult back in April. The juvenile swam right below me, and since it kept looking up at me, must have been too suspicious to climb up into that old familiar grass. When it swam back in the pond, it didn't splash its tail. So I aimed the camcorder at the beaver in the tall grass and then nosing into the view finder was a deer. The beaver swam off, and when I looked out of the camcorder I saw a fawn that could barely walk coming along behind the doe.

Needless to say this was a treat. Not only did I see the mother licking the fawn

and the fawn briefly sucking milk, but I could see the beaver looking at them, at least for a bit, then it swam off. The mother spent much time licking under the fawn's tail,

perhaps to remove any scent so when she left the fawn in the grasses, it would be odorless. In due time, the mother walked slowly along and up the rocky slope to the pond and the fawn followed as best it could, stumbling here and there but never falling. I quietly retreated and headed for the Big Pond. I crossed the well-mudded dam without seeing a beaver, but when I sat on my perch at the south end of the dam, I saw a little beaver out in the pond, and as usual it swam over to inspect me. This time it came closer than usual. It got my scent and head high swam away and splashed its tail, but then it came back to get another whiff of me, swimming even closer.

It even twisted in the water like it was biting a bit of its fur, or addressing some discomfort. Then as I got my camcorder out, it took alarm again, and swam off several yards, stopped and probably would have come back to me, but it was getting dark and I headed on. I scared another deer, and I suppose the wind kept the evening birds quieter than usual.