Monday, March 9, 2015

November 8 to 10, 2004

November 8 yesterday we made a very brief stop at the land. The Deep Pond dam still leaks and I think the beaver pushed a little more mud up on the dam.

No sign of its eating anything along the dam, no characteristic nibbled sticks. I assume that as a newcomer, it might be frightened. Meanwhile up in the poplar groove above the First Pond, the large poplar that had but a few nibbles was about to be cut down.

Since there was a chance that it could fall on the road, I continued the beavers' cut and eased it down on the trees along the road. I cut one large log off it, but their favorite part, the crown, remains hung up. Meanwhile on the other side of the pond, down at the end of the Teepee Pond, the ash they had been cutting was down and exhibiting that curious kind of splitting that I often see in ash.

The crown fell perfectly over the shallow end of the pond and the beavers have been enjoying it.

Last night we had a spectacular aurora, mostly green, filling half the sky, and the waves of energy ebbed and flowed at the zenith and even slightly toward the southern sky. For awhile even Orion was pulsed over. The northern sky was a solid glow as if it were presaging a dawning sun coming up over the arctic pole. The bright pillars of green now and then gave way to a shaft of red. For me the mesmerizing show was right above. There was a central cloud of energy which went through measured transformations. Ottoleo saw a heron's head, then a wolf. And around this relative calm circles of pulsing energy would surround it and then retreat. The sky never seemed so musical though the only noise came from a querulous duck on the other side of Goose Island. In the northern sky the aurora outshone the stars, but above and toward the south the stars shone through the aurora. Later when some light clouds moved in from the north, the clouds looked dark against the greenish bright sky. I turned the camcorder on this but nothing registered.

This cold morning there was a light snow and as I headed to Audubon the flakes grew to the size of a quarter. This was fine company for a walk and by the time I got to the pond I was quite warm despite the northwest wind. There were no signs of otters along the South Bay trail nor at the docking rock, but there were two new scats in front of the bench at Audubon Pond.

The beavers have also been active, and as I sat I heard one humming in the well mudded lodge.

The cache grows and sticks there have nibbled bare. The beavers continue to cut the ash, especially along the north shore. One large ash fell on another, that is only half cut.

If the beavers try to cut the smaller ash, it will be a dangerous operation because the hanging tree might fall on the beaver as the small ash gives way. They are now cutting the large ash they had been girdling and the wood they are gnawing into has a pink hue.

I checked the west shore above the burrows and bank lodge, but no sign that otters have been there. The ponds up from Audubon Pond remain shallow. I checked the mud under the bridge just below the Short-cut Trail dam, and saw what could have been an otter print. The dam is well used and for that reason an excellent place to den, but I couldn't see any otter scats, old or new, on it. The lumbering operations continue along the southeast spur of Meander Pond, and still no sign that the beavers have visited the dam. The work in the this open woods is so discreet and varied that you feel like you are strolling through objectified pages of scholarly abstracts.

Here is a paper on beavers and white oaks, there one on beavers and ash, and maple, and red oak. The few birches have been spared and the large poplars must have matured, rotted in some cases, beyond the taste of beavers, since I saw gnawings on hophornbeam and none on the nearby poplar.

One could also study tastes in tree diameters. I thought the beavers would be content to just girdle the white oak, but they are starting to cut into it.

Along one path there were a few logs lined up for hauling into the muddy pond, and up trail there were two downed tree trunks almost completely stripped.

Meanwhile all is quiet up at nearby Thicket Pond, still I took one photo. Just below I had seen the stump of a freshly cut maple oozing with sap, but up by Thicket Pond, I saw an old stump of a tree cut in the summer oozing with sap.

a good contrast between the sticky and the dead. On the way to the beaverless East Trail Pond, I was reminded that every winter a porcupine dens around there. It would have been fun to see it nibbling on that hanging trunk.

As I came down onto the rock overlooking the East Trail Pond, about twenty mallards flew off. Out of habit I keep my eyes on the ripples left behind by their takeoffs and their poop bombs, though I know no otters will materialize in them. Today I was rewarded and I saw two mammals swimming toward the lodge. Seeing two made me think otters. I trained the spyglass on them and almost thought it was a beaver, its head seemed so large, but the whirling tail gave it away as a muskrat. Their behavior was curious; they moved like muskrats on a mission and one seems to have hurried off disappearing into the cattails, while the other slipped, I think, into the lodge. This could have been a brief misunderstanding over territory. They better sort it out because this pond might be iced over in the morning. There were no otter scats to be seen which confuses me. In the past, otters who visited one usually visited the other. I walked over to the Second Swamp Pond knoll and as I peered down at the lodge, a small porcupine hopped down from the base of the trunk of the cedar in front of me and rolled down the slight hill. It soon gathered its senses, and perhaps thanks to a comforting word from me, went back to the cedar

and climbed to the top.

Meanwhile I noticed that the wind had picked up and as it played across the pond I recognized the same patterns of contending energy that I saw in the sky last night. Then all power seemed to come from the northwest. I was about to take a photo of the pond which looked larger and I saw a wall of white coming. I put the camera away for the rest of the morning and enjoyed a ripping cold snow squall. I did cross the dam below and saw that the higher water was no result of beaver activity. Water is flowing out the major hole. That made me wonder if the dams above had been breached, since we have not had much rain in the last few days. But not only could I not see, not only was the ground soon covered with snow, but I was getting cold. So I headed for home saving further investigation for what might be an icy, if not snowy tomorrow.

November 9 after the squall we had no more snow, but it did keep rather cold, and a breeze kept up through the early night. I continued my tour of the pond at 10:30 when it had warmed up to just below freezing. The end of the South Bay cove was iced over, but the willow lodge was next to open water, though the lodge is rather high and dry. I took the short cut over the ridge to Otter Hole Pond, where I paused to ponder if any animals broke the thin ice on the pond, and decided that none had. Up at the Second Swamp Pond most of the area around and below the pond was iced over. There was a patch of open water where the hole is, and no sign that an animal had used it. There was one mallard swimming in the open water 

and my passing didn't provoke a flight. I did send a few ducks flying off the Lost Swamp Pond and then I tried to parse the ripples for possible otters. All seemed quiet and after a good bit of scowling I saw no fresh otter scat on the north shore slope. A beaver had gone up and resumed gnawing the huge maple along the path. Then up at the old rolling area, I saw nine scats in the grass, 

and two on a trail that led up to some digging. The scats were blacker than usual and larger than usual. The largest looked to be the compendium of more than one large meal.

Only one looked more than a few days old, and had a millipede ducking into it.

The number and volume suggested to me that more than a mother otter and her pup had been through here. Plus there were no new scats where there have been a few pairs of scats now and then. I checked the dam, and while there was still a small leak, all seemed in good repair. I noticed that a beaver had resume gnawing a gnarly old maple just down from the dam. I walked over to the rock behind the beaver lodge across the dam, and saw no signs of otters there, including on a bit of snow that remained on the shady side of the dam. The Lost Swamp Pond was mostly opened, but a good bit of the smaller Upper Second Swamp Pond had frozen over. The beavers did break the ice to gnaw on the birch, stripping one half of the bark off.

Bits of gnawed wood were on top of the snow. This pond is quite full and not a little water is dripping over the top. I made my soggy way to the center of the dam and only saw the tracks of a bow hunter. No sign the otters had been through. As I walked over to the mossy cove latrine, I noticed that the beavers are continuing to work on the red oak -- one of the three trunks is now hung up in the crown of a huge red oak. 

Apparently I startled a red squirrel finding nuts around the half cut bitternut hickory that blew over. It nattered at me quite pointedly, tried to abide, and then ran off in disgust. As I approached the mossy cove latrine, I saw that the water around it was iced over so if there was scat here, I would know that the otters did their touring before the freeze. And there were three large scats, looking much like the others.

They were low down on the slope. I thought the beaver lodge way out in the upper portion of the pond looked shaded differently and with my spyglass I determined that otters were on it. One of the brown lumps silhouetted against the sticks of the lodge lurched up and over another lump. In about 10 minutes they ended their nap, with one having a grand tail waving scat on top of the lodge. Soon I saw two otters, a mother and a pup began foraging in the pond, seemingly having great success. The mother's tail was so large that momentarily I thought there were three otters until I saw that she merely had her tail curled out of the water. Though they were over 200 yards away I could still see the fish in their mouths which means the fish must have been pretty big. They concentrated their foraging in what I assume is a shallow flat, and given how the tail waved up as they dove and swam, the depth could not be much more than two feet. They also foraged independently, and one, the pup I think, periscoped a couple times and looked around for mother. Then one swam toward the rocky point, across the pond from where I was sitting, and the other followed. The pup went to the front of the rock

and the mother went into the tall grass behind and off to one side of the rock. The pup seemed to chew on something, then rolled over on its back. Meanwhile, after a poop in the grass, the mother came up on the other end of the rock, the pup came over and they frisked together,

then the pup went back to the other end of the rock, and soon was back into the water. If ever a pup was prepared for separation it was this well fed specimen, but it obviously still doted on its mother. The mother, after another tail waving scat,

soon scooted across the rock,

dove, and soon swam up beside her pup and they foraged together, sometimes diving simultaneously in somewhat circular fashion and sometimes surfacing together in a parallel line.

When they got over to the north shore, I lost them for a few minutes, and I think one at least went into one of the muskrat burrows over there. I picked up the pup again who foraged at the end of the pond. Then a large wake broke from the muskrat burrows and soon after that the mother surfaced as she swam down to where the pup was. I was close enough to hear them now. As usual they made no noises with their mouths, but while I couldn't hear the diving of the pup, I could hear the diving of the mother. I was hoping they would go up to the north shore slope latrine, where for years I have seen otter scat and where I have only once seen an otter scatting. But the mother swam quickly out toward the middle of the pond, the pup followed, and soon I heard her blowing snort. She had sensed me. As she continued snorting they both climbed up on a log and looked at me. I was trying to hide behind a large pine and the north wind was in my favor, but they had seen enough and swimming together they swam back to the north shore and, I am pretty sure, disappeared into a muskrat burrow. It is interesting that they didn't use the beaver lodges. At one point one foraged within five yards of it. While the otters were foraging in the far end of the pond, I heard some sharp hums from the beaver lodge. I was not entirely disappointed that the otters had discovered me, because I was freezing, especially my hands. So I hurried home via the Big Pond, where there were a few large ducks. The lodge which last time looked like the Rock of Gibraltar now, with sticks stuck into it, looks like el toro.

The area behind my perch by the dam where the otters scatted before seemed more worn down, but there were no new scats.

November 10 another cold night but a south wind in the morning bringing clouds and warmth. We went to the land and checked the Deep Pond first. The fringes were iced but there were wide areas of open water. None of the ice seemed disturbed by a beaver -- no bubbles under the ice behind the dam. I looked for signs that the beaver did anything. There appeared to be a bit more mud at the gap, and then over near the low point that goes out in the pond, I saw a cut sapling with a branch nipped off

and two wee stripped sticks in the ice nearby. I studied the ice outside all the burrows and nothing shouted that a beaver had been here. Then I saw a slight trail in the bit of snow remaining on the shore of the pond along the shaded high slope. I followed the trail past some juniper and up to an ironwood at the edge of the woods. I didn't see any gnawing on the ironwood where the trail definitely ended.

But seemingly coming out of the base of the trunk of the ironwood was a maple sapling just like the one I saw in the pond. I looked more closely along the ground and saw the nipped stump of another sapling. Thanks to the lightest covering of snow, I was able to see what the beaver was up to. The trail seemed slight, so despite its skill in moving mud, this may be a young beaver. Up at the more active beaver pond most of the middle of the ponds was open, ice around the fringes.

The water around the cache was open and the water in the middle of the cache was frozen.

I saw a completely stripped log which may be the one I freed of chicken wire. In the snow around the pond it was difficult to tell if what appeared to be a trail was just the snow melting in the damp or beavers had been there. I did see some twig drag marks in the snow. Back in the poplar groves there was no sign the beavers had been back there. I did see a nip at the base of one of the smaller poplars but they may have been there before. The prickly ash groves seems a little more cleared out. At the other end of the pond, the beavers are stripping the trunk of the ash that so conveniently fall down toward the pond.

The valley pool seemed well iced over,

so perhaps the beavers did not get into it last night.