Thursday, March 5, 2015

November 1 to 5, 2004

November 1 a cool day, and mostly cloudy, but using the two-man saw as the sun peaked out, I soon had my jacket off. I finished cutting up the maple trunk, a good time affording more time for thought than seeing and hearing. I heard a chickadee, a raven and either a tree frog or wood frog. Up on the that stony knoll where I worked, I only saw a few stray flying insects and a few that crawled out from under the bark as I cut. Before I got to work, I checked the Deep Pond curious to see how the beaver reacted to the rain we had on Saturday night. As far as I could tell it inspired no new activity and the dam continues to leak at the point where I attempted my major repair.

I saw no evidence that it had been on land and only saw two wee stripped sticks along the shore of the pond but the wind could have collected them. After work, I checked on what the First Pond beavers have been up to. The strong wind accompanying the rain evidently blew down the large maple they had been cutting.

No sign the beavers have visited it since it came down. Back in the poplar grove they seem more interested in the willow, but I did see one poplar branch in the pipeline, to to speak.

There also may be a fresh nip out of a large poplar still standing, but that may be a case of not noticing it the last time I was here. Another smaller poplar was untouched as they cut down a hophornbeam.

I was there at 3:30 EST hoping a beaver would come out as one did the other day at 4:30 DST, but nothing stirred. The cache grows rather in a heap. The red squirrel did screech at me.

November 3 yesterday we had fairly steady rain and today low clouds broke up early and a northwest wind kicked in resulting in a cold but beautiful day. Bow hunting started in the part of the park I enjoy so I decided to check the areas not open to hunting to stoke my excitement. When the muzzleloaders come in two weeks, I'll have to confine my explorations to the East Trail Pond, Audubon Pond and the river. The wind and cold kept me off the river today. At the pipe near the creek into the north cove of South Bay I saw a few mink scats.

The water level in the river is quite low. This is a strange time of year. The November rains fill up the beaver ponds and at the same time the river water level drops. When the northeast wind blows, the water drops even more in the river. The otter trails up on the New Pond knoll were carpeted with wet leaves -- no otter scats on them. There were a dozen ducks on the East Trail Pond who flew off when I arrived. Due to the rain the pond has more water. Since the water drains through the hole in the dam that the otters made last winter, the varying water level in the pond is the same as it was during the winter. Then, when rain or a thaw raised the level under the ice, I would anticipate otters renewing their interest in the pond. So thinking winter, I looked for fresh otter scats, but found none. It will be interesting to see if their not coming is a case of their saving food for the winter, or perhaps they won't come to this pond at all. I walked down the East Trail and then along the north shore of Thicket Pond. I saw no evidence of any recent forays by the beavers, and the water in the canal was not muddy. The cut red oak hanging over the canal has not been touched by a beaver's tooth.

The lodge has not been prepared for the winter. After drawing that conclusion, I turned to look at Meander Pond and saw a dark lodge down there, too far away to tell if it was packed with mud, but I assume so.

For years Meander Pond had two lodges, one quite worn away and the other that they had used two years ago. Either they have made a new lodge, or they built up the one worn away. Before inspecting the beavers' recent work on the east slope of Meander Pond, I took a photo of the remains of their old work just west of Thicket Pond.

The most impressive remains like this that I've ever seen were just off what I call the Third Pond. The cut trees there were twice as thick as those here. Despite my recent harping on the the beavers' need for shrubby areas near the pond, they are doing their foraging here in a park like setting,

almost like a sculpture garden. Each cut raises its own questions. Why cut the maple that's a foot in diameter and leave, for now, the one that is four inches in diameter, and ditto with a pair of ashes? 

Why are some tree cut in seemingly meticulous round about fashion so that the tree stands on a point of heartwood, while others are gouged only from one side?

And does the beavers' propensity to girdle white oaks from ground level to as high as they can reach suggest their recognition of the difficulty of cutting the tree down?

Given that they evidently were building up a lodge, why didn't they concentrate only on the smaller trees that could provide logs of a size they could use on a lodge? Why not save the girdling of larger trees for the winter, because certainly they are not going to survive in Meander Pond without escaping from under the ice as soon as they can. Most of their lumbering is on the southeast end of the pond and there is no fresh work on the south side near the dam. And the dam, which is in great shape, seems unvisited. However, across the pond, a bit up the north ridge, I could see a large white oak being girdled.

The ponds below the Short-cut trail pond seemed to have more water than usual, but I didn't see any evidence that a beaver had visited the area. I did flush a buck and a doe, the former pausing to get a better look at me before he ran away. Coming down to Audubon Pond I could see sunlight glinting off the fresh mud of the lodge,

but the beaver work on the nearby ash pales to what the Meander Pond beavers have done. I fancy that there is only one or two beavers here, and young ones at that. One ash has been girdled to the ground, which I can't recall seeing before.

This is a treatment usually accorded to the harder oaks. The big news is that in the grass before the bench there are otter scats, two of them. They have that scaly grayish tinge characteristic of so many scats that I've seen this year, which can make scats look old. They did look moist, but it did rain yesterday.

There was older scat on a log. The pond is high so many old bank burrows and lodges could be dens but other than a faint trail over the embankment of the pond I didn't see any other signs of otters. There were two mergansers in the pond and when they first popped up together, I dropped to my knees in case they were the two otters I've been seeing so much. There were no scats on the docking rock at South Bay. With the water so low I could hardly dock there now. I paused to take photos of the mud exposed at the end of the cove and there were trails in the mud that rather looked like otters could have made them.

I was late for lunch so I'll have to investigate that later.

At the land I first checked the Deep Pond and saw that the beaver had not done any more work on the dam, affording a cold frog a warmer perch.

The dam continues to leak, but I did see little globs of mud that looked new so I think the beaver is still there. Then I split the maple logs I had cut. I didn't expect this brief loud work to alarm the beavers in the pond below -- they couldn't see me and the wind was blowing toward me. I went down to the pond around 4 pm and as I approached through the broad pines and spindly honeysuckle, I saw a beaver in the pond. I had camcorder ready but when I got to the pond the beaver had disappeared. I stood waiting for about a half hour and two beavers swam from the auxiliary lodge to the main lodge, but underwater. All the while I was hearing gnawing behind me, and didn't think a beaver could be there because that's where I had just been, but as the noise continued I back tracked and saw a porcupine high in a red oak at the foot of the ridge.

When I got back to the pond, a small beaver was out, floating parallel to the pond and obviously wondering if I was there. Then it swam toward me in that typical weaving fashion of a wary beaver. Then it swam back to the cache, nosed around and took a twig too small for me to see in the water back to the auxiliary lodge. It came out again and remained wary, but this time as it swam closer to me another beaver came, a larger beaver, and after a brief nose cocked swim into the far corner of the pond, dove into the cache and took a more substantial log back to the auxiliary pond. Meanwhile the wary beaver stayed on guard below me. To leave, I backed out and though it could surely hear me now, the little beaver did not splash. I also heard humming in the main lodge and I think at least one beaver swam under water from there into the TeePee Pond but I never saw a beaver down there. Perhaps my splitting wood so near to the pond prompted them to be more secretive. 

November 4 In the 20s last night but exposed to sun and wind there was no ice on the Deep Pond when we got to the land a little after nine. The beaver had been busy, heaving mud up where that frog had been perched, and garnished two other mud heaves with pond grasses and stripped twigs.

It mostly stopped the leaking at this point, but water was still running from where I had made my major repair. The beaver had done more work there

and I soon heard that the leak came from a few feet to the right of the repair. I think the water is leaking into the burrow the muskrats made running along the dam. To defeat that burrow I dug away the corrupted part of the old dam and tried to make a new line in the sand, so to speak. It'll be interesting to see if the beaver will do more. While it had obviously worked at the dam, I couldn't tell where else it had been. I saw a few more wee stripped sticks along the far shore but they could have been blown there by the wind. No sure trails in the grass. I took a photo giving a long view of the dam work. 

On my way from the cabin to the remains of the maple I've been working on, I noticed no new beaver work in the grove the grouses fancy. The valley pool was muddy, and still had some ice. So the beavers had probably been through there. But there was fresh work right next to the pond, with a few strips taken out of an ash heretofore untouched, and strips taken out of an ash they had started to cut a month ago. There was nothing fresh behind the dam, then two tall skinny maples a bit beyond the late grove of prickly ash were just cut. I saw a large log floating by the shore of the First Pond and investigating saw that it was a chunk of the willow that hung over the largest pool up the little stream from the road. They cut that a while ago, defeating the chicken wire wrapped around it.

I fished the log out and removed the remaining chicken wire. Going up to the knoll to do my chores, I saw that the beavers were working on the maple that they had worked on a while ago, and then, I think, the wind blew it down.

So they didn't ignore the windfall. On my way back to the poplars I checked on the red oak the porcupine had been eating. The beavers too continue to work on it, perhaps they may cut it down, saving me the effort.

They also cut a small ironwood nearby. Back in the poplar grove the crown of one tree that I had mostly cut down was gone. I couldn't picture the beavers pulling it down since it was quite extensive, then I noticed that three small pines in the area were also cut and removed. That must have lowered the poplar crown. Meanwhile most of the big logs are untouched. The beavers seem eager for crowns, and the willow crown nearby that fell next to the little stream is mostly cut and taken away. Still they had time to cut another prickly ash or two. Of course, more birch are down. On my way back to the cabin, I walked past the lodge and saw more mud up on it, and saw the cache buoying up the cut pine boughs.

Then just when I thought I had a measure of the beavers' diet I walked over four or five ironwood trunks and logs.

I've seen other beavers cut ironwood and then leave most of it. These beavers take the smaller branches and make a go at cutting logs.

November 5 blustery night with a good bit of slashing rain, but it got warmer as the front moved through. This morning remained blustery, cloudy, but dry and around 40 degrees. Since this is not exactly bow hunting weather, I made a quick tour of the Lost Swamp and Big ponds. I flushed a half dozen deer along the TI Park trail, outside the hunting range, and then didn't flush another until I sent two yearlings scampering from the thickets above the Double Lodge Pond. A heron was huddled behind the Second Swamp Pond dam and the poor thing quietly flew off into the teeth of the gale. With my next step a pair of hooded mergansers flew off. The pond remains at the same level which encourages me because it remains deep enough for a beaver to swim to it down from the upper pond. The water fowl were all in the Lost Swamp Pond, a half dozen black ducks set off at least fifty more further up pond, then the geese gathered beyond the lodge by the dam flew off without even debating the matter -- save for one that paddled around the point instead. The birds had found areas of the pond somewhat protected from the wind but the rest of the pond was relentlessly raked by it. Somewhat to my surprise there was a nice large fresh otter scat on the north slope trail, but only one.

That kept me head down along the whole north shore and there was another scat at the old rolling area, though not in the exact place where they had been scatting before. Also there was not much evidence of rolling. This could be the scat of a male otter marking territory for the winter rather than the mother and pups who seem to scat in tandem. Here's a photo of this otter-visited north shore from the rolling area looking west.

And here is a photo looking to the east, which I include to show that the beavers have been keeping the dam in repair.

However, there is still some leaking through the dam, not as bad as before. I took a look at the Upper Second Swamp Pond only far enough to ascertain that the beavers had done no fresh work on the south end of the dam. I should have checked the spillway to the creek for otter prints, but I pictured the otter going over the north slope trail and I knew there was a mud there. But I was wrong, that track of mud is just covered with water. There were no fresh scats in the old latrines along the trail. I went back to the Lost Swamp Pond to check the mossy cove latrine and on my way around the end of the pond, I saw a beaver trail up to the cluster of red oaks that the beavers had started to cut last year. 

The new workers seemed more interested in girdling than cutting. The half cut bitternut hickory that blew over a month or so ago remains untouched. Then the ugly old maple about 10 yards up in the rocks on the south slope of the pond has also had some fresh gnawing.

No sign of work on any of the large trees that remain in the area. There were no signs of otters at the mossy cove and no sign of them in the pond. On my way to the Big Pond, I checked the grove at the edge of the thickets where the beavers had been working and saw that they had trimmed all the crown of the ash they cut, and cut one large log off the poplar they cut. I was perplexed by two small ash that one would think they could cut in one sitting without fear of being crushed by it, yet the trees remain standing a few gnaws shy of "timber."

The trail from this work down to the Big Pond is quite wet. I'm noticing that when beavers drag logs they seem to make a rolypoly trail and the depressions fill with water.

Not that this will inspire to dig a canal. The cache in front of the lodge has grown and the lodge too. It looks like the rock of Gibraltar.

The water is brimming the dam, leaking throughout it, and the beavers have pushed up mud and vegetation (I should identify that stuff.) 

I could see that deer had crossed the dam; not many raccoon tracks, and then at the south end of the dam, near my perch,

I saw what had been missing here for sometime -- a large otter scat.

It didn't seem as fresh as the scats at the Lost Swamp Pond. Some grass was tufted up, perhaps an otter scent mound. While there were not many ducks on this pond, there were flocks of other birds. In the woods at the northern fringe of the pond I saw several nuthatches, and heard some blue jays. As I sat on my perch, I saw a flock of black birds twisting through the wind, and heard peeping behind me but couldn't see the birds. A good hike considering the conditions. 

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