Wednesday, January 9, 2013

October 18 to 31, 1997

I wrote this in January 2013 based on hand written notes, videos and photos taken in October 1997, as well as my memory.

October 18 Saturday I went out with Ottoleo. He saw some animals high on the ridge across from where we always sit at Otter Hole pond when we are waiting for otters. We couldn't decide what they were although there were at least three of them. Otters? fisher or raccoons? Did not look like raccoons with such black fur. Meanwhile no otters appeared in the pond.

October 19 Ottoleo and I climbed up to where we had seen three black animals high up on the ridge and we saw no otter scats up there. There are porcupine dens up there so maybe some fishers were nosing around them. Ottoleo headed back home to play with friends and I headed down to the dam to get over to the other side of the pond. I saw the otters up pond, and managed to get to the other side, to my usual spot where I sit when I watch them, without their seeing me. It seemed like they were taking the same route toward the lodge as they did two days ago with the mother in the lead and her pups chirping quietly behind her. But while the mother swam boldly to the lodge, the pups stayed behind and fished in the shallows along the northwest shore of the pond. The mother went on the other side of the lodge so I lost track of her but soon enough she joined the pups.

They swam over to the shallows along the north shore of the pond fishing as they went.

One pulled up with a fish, raising its head high about the water as it chewed

and then once again the mother swam toward the lodge, this time swimming to the side where I could see her. She swam quite fast and, I thought, purposefully.

She dived directly into the water beside the lodge and I kept the camcorder trained there long enough to give me the impression that she went into the lodge. I noticed that there was a strip of mud on that side of the lodge suggesting that beavers are beginning to prepare the lodge for their occupying it during the winter. When the otter came back up to surface of the pond another otter was on a log next to the lodge. Then they both dived down next to the lodge. I heard a noise, a kind of chuckling purr. Later I learned that's a sound otters make when they are coordinating their swimming. No sound from any beaver

I got the impression that they were checking to see if beavers were in the lodge. Then they both swam back up pond, but not far, and close to me. Centering their diving around a tree trunk floating in the pond.

The otters -- I could always see two and I think all four where there -- churned the water with their foraging which seemed very successful judging from the number of fish they brought up. Then their roiling moved a bit up pond and I was treated to some synchronized dives.

I think the pups were no longer being fed by the mother. They were catching fish on their own.

I have been getting looks at these otters for a couple weeks, always seeing two together, then three, and now and then seeing four together in the water. Today all four of them scampered up on the far shore. As they came back down into the pond, it looked like the mother stood guard up on a downed tree trunk as the three pups hurried into the water.

They swam along the north shore of the pond. I waited patiently and then finally noticed an otter on the bank lodge. It began digging down into the dirt of the lodge.

Eventually it was joined by at least two more otters, but one dropped down into the water. The remaining two began nuzzling and one seemed to enjoy being rocked around on its back, but unfortunately, the distance to this lodge is just a little beyond the range of the camcorder. Indeed just beyond the two active otters there was a lump of black that I sometimes thought was another otter, sometimes thought was a shadow. Then the otter that went swimming came back up on the lodge and I think nuzzled that black lump awake. But I really couldn't be sure.

It is very difficult to distinguish one otter from the other as they rolled around. When I left they seemed to be falling to sleep. They were up on lodge for a long time and I had to get home.

October 23 with the first flush of using the video camera, I have neglected my journal. As I copy my experiences on other tapes, I get to see everything again. On Monday (20th) I made a tape tour of the First Swamp and Tuesday an update on the Big Pond - discovered muskrats on the other side of the huge embankment.

This after seeing a dead muskrat at the Big Pond dam. The dead muskrat and live muskrat seemed rather small. In the first swamp area there is very little evidence of work but around the Big Pond there is much activity. I still have other swamps to record. Cold front with showers and a few snow flakes came through yesterday. Below freezing this morning. The otter behavior I cannot understand is why they leave a log as they eat a fish and with fish in the mouth swim in a large circle and come back to the log to continue eating. Is this an aggressive move to ward off other otters? Then why do otters always fish together? I have seen them snuggle on a lodge twice and have yet to see any "bad behavior." It is all affection and comfort. I assume the otter that verbalizes most when beavers or I am around is the mother. I am not sure if she is the otter who goes off alone at times. One otter seems smaller, but two pups seem to be the size of the mother. There was no otter evidence in the first swamp on my last trip. There had been some before and none around Audubon Pond, nor at Shangri-la Pond. Every time the otters fish in Otter Hole Pond they seem well rewarded. Meanwhile the beavers seem to be devoting all their attention to Beaver Point Pond. I will wait for a warmer night to see if they lodge there. Beavers seem bothered by the otters, and judging from body language are less intimidated by them than the otters are by beavers. Otters also aware of the herons and vice versa. The ducks are in a world of their own. Today after taking video of the Lost Swamp Pond, Third Swamp, East Trail Pond and Otter Hole Pond, I almost got a video of at otter pooping on the rocks under where I usually sit at Otter Hold Pond.

October 24 I went out to Hoping to finally get video of an otter pooping. But today there was no action. I blamed two people who walked in from the state park trails and up to the bank lodge where I've seen otters take naps. They had a dog, albeit a small and well behaved one. Here I could see myself or ourselves just a few years ago walking steadily through what I now sit and stare at, chatting through what I strain to listen to. I saw that the beavers are making a winter cache in front of the lodge in the middle of Otter Hole Pond.

October 25 I went out in the evening hoping to see beavers add to their food pile. I saw several beavers but none at work. Most came up to the pond from the east, as if they were coming from a bank lodge, where? Since they came without food, I assume they were coming to get something to eat at the cache. They don't always wait until winter to get the food they store for the winter. Half of the beavers dived on the upstream side of the lodge, half dived next to the food pile, which has grown quite a bit.

Half seemed to sniff the lodge before they dived as if getting instructions, reading directions. One was down beside the lodge in front of me munching on green leaves. Those leaves wouldn't keep until winter anyway It struck me that they were using the lodge as a place to eat leaves and gnaw the bark of sticks just like I had seen otters use it as a place to eat the fish they caught.

Two of the beavers went over the dam one after the other.

And once in Beaver Point Pond one seemed to stay right on the tail of the other. There are more trees in that pond and the upper part of the pond looks shallow. I got the impression that there were already beavers down in that pond. I soon heard tail slaps. Did the newcomers warn the other beavers that I was around? Or was someone else was observing them down pond? When I walked down, a beaver swam over to me, gave me the long look,

Then it swam down wind to confirm its suspicions,

swam back to me and started slapping its tail.

The beavers knew I was there and even if I could see them in the dark, I would just see how they reacted to me, and not what they were really up to which I assume will be cutting trees in Beaver Point Pond and trimming off branches to haul up to their cache in front of the lodge in Otter Hole Pond.

October 26 I went out at noon. Middle Pond and co. were frozen. Otters were back in Otter Hole Pond, four of them going through all the paces. After bobbing around as a group in the middle of the pond, they swam quickly down toward the beaver lodge, making some nice rolling dives.

There was no aggressive investigation of the beaver lodge. A pup or two used the logs in the cache in front of the lodge to dive off of,

but none of the otters went up on the lodge. They fished as they headed back up pond. While fishing together, there seemed to be no sharing of fish or trying to steal another otter's catch. So I think I can conclude that all the pups have learned to fish. Well, there was one brief byplay as one otter screeched another away. Then the mother, I think, got a big fish and resting on a log brought it high out of the pond as she chewed it. Each of her pups swam by her and not one made the least feint toward her and try to beg for a bite.

They swam to the bank lodge up pond and I saw two of them, pups judging from the playfulness, dry themselves in the sun there.

I tried to get closer and was discovered. I thought they were all hiding in fear but when I walked out going down pond, two of them came huhhing after me to see that I was leaving and then dived into the bank lodge. I went to Audubon Pond, much work all along the path on the north side of the pond.

October 29 we finally got a big storm with rain and wind. Golf course is closed so I can start my tour of the ponds from the beautiful rock behind the course. With the rain the Double Lodge Pond is half full but the water is draining out though not as fast as before. Hole in dam, I suppose, has silted up. Beavers have slapped mud on the Big Pond dam -- some small leaks. The dead muskrat there is muddy but uneaten. Saw that a beaver had come over the dam and down 15 yards to get some shrubs.

October 30 sunny today. We saw a brush pile on the north shore of the Big Pond and upon further investigation we discovered a beaver lodge up there far beyond the boundary line, up on Nunn's land. Four big beaver trails into the little grove of trees over there, mostly fir trees. I continued on to the Lost Swamp Pond, no action there. Going down the Second Swamp I saw three of four bluebirds flitting through with chickadees close behind. I took a glance at Otter Hole Pond and briefly saw an otter. The brush pile in front of the beaver lodge is growing slowly. Leslie and I came back to the Second Swamp for lunch, sitting on the rock that affords such a splendid view of the changing leaves. Then we went down to the upper part of Otter Hole Pond and saw a couple otters nuzzling on the bank lodge in the sun

-- sleeping much of the time. Then I got video of one pooping!

In the video clip below, you can hear Leslie discussing the marking of the otters, which was worth noting. Later I learned that juvenile otters don't have distinct white patches under the chin.

More gnawing around Beaver Point Pond but nothing added to the lodge.

October 31 In the evening I went to Audubon Pond hoping get video of several beaver wakes at once. I am entranced by videos of beaver wakes. One beaver was already out and I saw it swim slowly and dive into the huge lodge.

But when the beavers came out, three of them, they mostly hung out around the far end of the huge cache stretching out from the lodge, I assumed munching on the logs and sticks collected there.

I was far away on the ridge and could just see a very small animal at the front of the cache pile. Then there was splashing, like a beaver getting mad.

First time I had ever seen what might be taken for a beaver fight, but one fighter was so small I think it might have been a muskrat. But there was no noise, screeching or squealing which I think muskrats of otters might make. Then everything quieted down. Soon enough the beavers were hunched quietly around the lodge placidly eating.

Otherwise today I saw a red squirrel attack a woodpecker on the rocks, bird got away of course. Saw geese flying north. I saw an osprey in the Second Swamp. Also heard hooting of an owl there. Walking in the dark I must have scared a dozen deer.

No comments:

Post a Comment