Friday, October 29, 2010

October 21 to 28, 2010

October 21 cold front moved through but not that much rain. We went to the land to get some spinach from the garden, and I checked on what the beavers have been up to. As I walked around the now huge Last Pool I saw water still flowing into the pond and that beavers had dragged things down along the same path that water is taking.

I looked up the valley and saw a tree they cut.

I went up to take a closer look and noticed that a beaver also nipped off some honeysuckle branches and hauled them away.

Then I focused on the trees they cut closer to the pond, three small ash in a row.

Down in the pond, both the lodge and the beavers’ cache pile are big enough so that I can see them, and plot their growth, without having to walk out over the pond on the poplar trunk.

The beavers continue to strip the bark off the trunk of the poplar and its branches that are in the water.

Maybe they’ll cut the branches rising up from the trunk above the pond during the winter. Provided the water in the pond remains deep enough, these beavers should thrive this winter. The trail from the Last Pool up the east ridge did not looked like it had been used so I didn’t go up it. I expected not to see any trees cut along the east shore of Boundary Pond, assuming the beavers are stocking their cache from the many tree I saw cut above the Last Pool. So I was surprised to see two hornbeams cut and segmented.

I presume the logs were used to bolster the dam. At one time I thought the beavers might rebuild the Lost Pool dam which they had breached as the water rose behind Boundary Pond dam, but looking up pond from where I stood, I couldn’t see any sign of the old Last Pool dam.

As I continued down the east shore, a half dozen ducks flew off, and then I saw that a beaver was at its nest along the shore, but it was up in a ready position, facing the pond, and it eased into the water swimming slowly away from the shore seemingly loath to get its dry fur all wet again.

Then it dove and never reappeared. I presume it went into the nearby lodge. I am beginning to think that this beaver is not out because there is no room in the lodge. They have two lodges now. So perhaps it is guarding the dam. I have frequently seen beavers inspect their dam and sometimes beavers build lodges for winter next to their dam or even on the dam. This is a long narrow pond and, if the dam was breached or failed, it would drain quickly and the lodge way up pond would become useless. Neither otters nor muskrats that might dig a hole in the dam are around. The muskrats seem to have left, which leaves humans as breachers. Until the Shangri-la Pond dam failed I didn’t believe that beaver dams failed, save in all leveling floods. And I must say that massive mud dam seemed more solid than this embankment of muck compressed by logs. Once the pond freezes which could well occur in a few weeks, water draining out of the pond is not a crisis. Beavers are used to that. At the moment the dam looks fine.

The beavers continue to push up a few small logs and there are places where logs seem to be braced against each other.

I’d have to see a beavers doing this before suggesting a beaver is weaving logs together. I walked up the west shore of the pond and saw that a beaver ventured up onto the trail in what I call the Second Gully and it cut a thin ash down and cut off the crown.

That work is well below the new Last Pool lodge. Then I walked up the trail heading to the small wooded ridge northwest of the Last Pool. The trail didn’t looked used so I glanced over at the trail, now running with water, in the middle of the valley. I saw a silver maple half cut.

Looking around I saw that the beavers had cut and hauled away several smaller trees. And a beaver seemed to leave a demonstration of just what size they wanted, ignoring the large ash and cutting the two saplings sprouting out of the tree roots.

Although they seemed to prefer trees a bit larger.

And up here they are avid collectors of the same kind of birch they often pass up elsewhere.

This work is on the west side of that relatively deep vernal pool, which didn’t dry out this year, that is on the shady east side of the valley. I didn’t see any evidence of a beaver lolling in that pool nibbling sticks. I continued up pond and saw more birches taken.

When the brush began to close back in on the trail, a beaver still found another birch, cut it down and even cut off a log.

One would expect that as beavers ventured farther from the pond, they would cut and haul without cutting convenient logs into smaller segments, nor gnaw bark for food. As I continued up the trail

I saw evidence of cutting and hauling, and also of staying put and nibbling the bark off twigs.

It might take a beaver five minutes to nibble the stick pictured above. I don’t think beavers are fearful in anyway when they are farther from their pond.

October 22 We had a sunny morning, which is getting rare this rainy fall. So I got into gear, grabbing my camcorder, and went out to the beaver ponds. I have been seeing fresh scat but no otters in the afternoon, so I figure they must be coming out in the morning. The only thing slowing me down as I hurried along Antler Trail to the Big Pond were the deer ticks. They have finally reappeared and I know from experience that after a freezing night they climb high up grass stalks to greet the warming morning and hope they can get a warm berth on a passing deer. I had to flick off a few and I find the best policy is to keep checking my pants. At the latrine at the south end of the Big Pond dam, I saw two big fresh otter scats.

I knew they were fresh because they were not tinged with frost like the old scats in the latrine. I scanned the pond for otters repeatedly as I moved along below the dam. I noted that the dam was still leaking in the upper hole but I didn’t study it. I knew the otters were out somewhere. When I walked down to the west end of the Lost Swamp Pond, I saw a large flock of geese there which directed my gaze well up pond since I think geese and otters coexist uneasily. (I often see ducks relatively close to otters.) I studied the beaver lodge in the southeast end of the pond, I saw otters on north edge of the lodge. I trained my camcorder on them and got a series of short unsatisfactory video clips. Movies have a sound track, but they need a thought track, what goes through the mind of the person looking through the camera. I clearly saw two otters and I first thought a mother was feeding a pup. Then they wrestled a bit and I thought they were two pups. They both went to the top of the lodge and seemed to play head to head, like two pups. I kept looking for but didn’t see a bigger otter that I could be sure was the mother. One otter remained on top of the lodge and seemed to scratch its head on the end of a log pushed up on the lodge, years ago, by the beavers. The wind was a bit at my back and gusting, but I thought I could safely move up the south shore of the pond and I went up to the rocks where otters often latrine, but as I sat there the otters seemed to have settled on the back of the lodge, and I couldn’t see them. It was 10am. I sat there watching for 15 minutes but only saw ducks cruising well behind the lodge. I assumed they were taking their morning nap. So I walked back to the west end of the pond and checked the mossy cove latrine and the latrines by the dam. I didn’t see any new scats anywhere, which boded well, I thought, for the otters soon waking up and coming down to these latrines. I saw that something had been digging up dirt and moss in the latrine just west of the dam,

But whatever it was left no poops, that I could see. I checked the latrine next to the lodge near the dam, and saw nothing new there, which suggests that the otters didn’t spend the last few nights in that lodge. The light was right for taking a photo showing trails in the low brush behind the latrine.

I assume otters are using these and perhaps beavers and muskrats, too. I also saw a dead and rather bloated, discolored muskrat floating in the pond next to the lodge.

I walked back to the rock overlooking the mossy cove latrine and sat there giving myself an 11:15 deadline for heading home. Fortunately the wind was not too chilly. I had something to look at. A big buck waded across the pond, well up from the lodge.

Its rack of antlers seemed to weigh him down. Then just when I was about to leave, I saw an otter on the north side of the lodge just up from the water. Soon another otter head popped up. Now, to me, they looked like two pups craning their necks looking for their mother swimming off in the pond.

I scanned the pond and saw no otter swimming off to the north. I hoped that once the otters got into the pond, a third would appear, so I could be sure that this was the family I saw here a month or so ago. But the otters didn’t go out into the pond, and soon I saw only one craning its neck. At last it went into the pond, but didn’t launch off swimming as otters usually do. It didn’t surface at all until it climbed back up on the lodge at the spot where it had been, only now it had a fish in its mouth. I’ve seen a mink fishing like this off a beaver lodge, why not an otter? Finally, I saw one otter launch itself off into the pond and swam as otters usually do. Then I saw another swimming close to it. There was a whole side of a lodge that I couldn’t see, so I expected the third otter, the mother, to appear in the pond. I kept taking video of two faraway heads popping up out in the pond. But they never swam closer to me, and I never saw a third head. But it was good to see them. I do think they were the pups which might account for their not touring the pond as usual. I went home the way I came which allowed me to take a more leisurely look at the Big Pond dam otter latrine. I saw that the water was muddy there,

And I saw another fresh scat -- which makes three fresh scats. A heron flew out of the grasses on the north shore of the pond as I walked along the dam.

October 23 cold damp morning and afternoon and we went to our land to get come Brussel sprouts and firewood. We walked down the road admiring the remaining leaves, mostly still colorful. We saw a muskrat lodge out in the White Swamp. Not many birds around. Then I checked on the beavers. They have returned to the end of Grouse Alley just above the Last Pool and cut a line of small trees on the side of the path closer to their pond.

I couldn’t get a good photograph to illustrate this, but the beavers now seem to be cutting off the crown of these small trees and hauling away the trunk, leaving the crown. In other seasons, the beavers eagerly eat or take away branches from the crown and leave the trunk. I also saw stumps of trees just cut with old stumps of smaller trees next to it.

The beavers are now interested in trees of the right size and shape. Of course, I went down to the pond and saw where they are depositing what they haul into the pond. Their cache keeps growing.

The rains we’ve had recently have been light and the pond is losing water, though still big. Once again I can see the clear bottom of the main channel going down the middle of the upper end of the Last Pool.

I walked out on the trunk of the poplar and got a close up of the lodge which is also growing, packed with more muck and sticks.

I took two photos of the cache, one to give an idea of the uniform pole shape of everything loaded into the cache,

And a close up to show how the beavers trimmed branches off the trunks to turn trees into poles.

While taking photos, I finally heard a noise from inside the lodge. A splash into the water, but I didn’t see anything surface in the water outside the lodge. The beavers continue to eat the bark of the poplar and the big branches of the crown.

On cold damp days at this time of a year, I sometimes find it difficult to get back into a groove of nature study. In three months, a day like this will be a thaw and I will easily merge as one with the earth. So I made a quick walk down the east shore of the pond, so I could get warm. On the way down, I saw that a beaver was still cutting trees well down the shore from the Last Pool.

I think the tree the beaver cut is an ironwood, and it made a couple gnaws on a nearby hemlock, which was their diet in the spring and early summer. The beaver was not in its “nest” along the shore today. I got close enough to the dam to take a photo to show the lower water level.

Going back up the east shore of the pond, I saw that a beaver cut a relatively large hornbeam and began girdling a deciduous tree that I think is an ash.

I should have gone up the trail through the middle of the valley above the Last Pool where I saw much fresh work the last time I was here, but the trail didn’t look fresh so I didn’t.

October 25 we had rain yesterday and showers this morning. I headed off for a hike a little after 10am, was treated with a few minutes of sunshine and got home just before it started raining again. I checked the otter latrines along South Bay and to see if otters had visited Audubon Pond again. I went via Antler Trail and enjoyed the grasses, lichens, and mosses gracing the granite outcrops. I especially liked the poverty grass

And the red of the blueberry bushes.

There were no scats in the old otter latrines toward the end of the north cove of South Bay, which made sense because the water level of the bay is about as low as it gets at this time of year. I also looked at the big willow trunks a beaver had been gnawing a month ago, but comparing what I saw with old photos, I don’t think the beavers have been down there either. I was disappointed in not seeing any otter scats around the docking rock latrine because the water is deep enough there. Then I went up to Audubon Pond, and scanned the shores and lodges before I walked around the pond, just in case otters were out. The beavers have pushed a large stripped log on top of their lodge.

Over the years I’ve noticed that beavers push logs up on top of their lodge when otters are around. I’ve also noticed that otters enjoy napping on top of beaver lodges and even have a knack for fashioning penthouse dens in beaver lodges, especially the venerable one in Audubon Pond. So I expected to find fresh scats in the otter latrine in front of and on the park bench close to the lodge. And there they were, slightly off the to the side of the bench in the grasses just up from the pond water.

My theory about the otters here is that they are the family of three I saw in the Lost Swamp pond, and that they distinguish themselves from the otters out at Picton by having blacker scats. Unfortunately for that theory the scats at my feet were quite gray, quite like the scats I’ve been seeing at Picton.

I turned around and saw more scats between me and the bench.

And nestled in the grass was a gray tubular scat that looked exactly like some I’ve seen at Picton.

Of course, I could wiggle out of this by suggesting that the otter family making black scat began eating gobies. But I shouldn’t get too deep into this. I still haven’t caught a gobie so I haven't compared its scales to what I am seeing in these scats. These otters also scatted on the park bench,

And one scat deserved a close-up.

Yes, I fancy that one can read a great deal of history in a scat, not that I know how, and I am not really training myself to do so. So I suppose my passion for photographing otter scats is more esthetic than scientific. Poop in general stills nature, deadens what was alive. Loose otter scats littered with parts from the animals eaten, jumbled by the otter’s unique digestive system, capture the energy of predation. The otter seems to be in too great a hurry to leave a bland record of its diet and in doing that some of the energy of its prey remains. I got a better look at the log up on the lodge.

One could argue that this log was hardly a barrier to otters plopping themselves on top of the lodge and inadequate to plug any hole on top of the lodge. Maybe the beavers are drawing a line in the sand so to speak. The interesting thing about this log is that the beavers are not cutting any trees around the pond, at least that I can see, which raises the possibility that a beaver brought this log up the slope of the big embankment from the little pond they fashioned below this one. With that in mind, I continued walking around the pond, and I didn’t see any beaver work until I got over to the bank lodge along the west shore. I didn’t see any trees recently cut down but I did see a few smaller stripping logs floating in the pond near that lodge.

As I stood near the lodge, I half expected some otters to come out, but none did. A few yards farther along the west shore of the pond is the long ash trunk where otters left black scats the last time they were here. Otters had been back but instead of painting the trunk of that downed tree, they painted the stump and lower trunk of another downed ash.

These scats were also grayish. This latrine is along a little bay formed by a vernal rivulet and from winter tracking I know it is an otter route coming up from the Narrows, and it’s a route I often take.

Perhaps, I should have walked over to the Narrows to look for otter scats there, but I haven’t seen activity there in so long, so otters may no longer think of marking there anymore. And I had more of Audubon Pond to check and the otter latrine above the entrance to South Bay. I went to South Bay first and saw a trail coming up from the water and rocks to the base of a tree on the slope, where otters had scatted recently,

and I saw another scat.

It was not as fresh as the scats I just saw at Audubon Pond, and not as juicy. Walking along the slope I saw another scat of the same type. Once again, I am inclined to think two roving adult otters left these. Then I went back to Audubon Pond and checked the beaver work in the little pond below the embankment. I saw a stripped log floating in the middle of the pond. Could that be a log from the same tree as the log up on the lodge?

At the east corner of the pond hard against the granite cliff there, I saw some fresh cutting on a downed trunk where it looks like the beavers are cutting a long log.

Since it wasn’t supposed to rain in the afternoon, we headed over to our land expecting the rain to let up, and it did. I made a quick inspection of the beaver developments at the Last Pool, and as they move closer to our house, I have less and less distance to go to see something interesting. The beavers have started cutting small trees another 10 yards down Grouse Alley closer to us.

In the photo above you can see that they cut two trees, hauled one trunk away and trimmed the branches off the other getting it ready for hauling.

Other beavers I’ve watched in the other ponds have often hauled trunks and larger branches with smaller branches radiating out. If some of those branches get snagged while being hauled, then the beaver will trim off the offending branch. The beavers have been cutting branches in Grouse Alley for a few months but so far have mostly stayed on the east side of the valley. I can think of one exception. Now they are cutting a line of small trees on the west side.

No signs of them going up on the west ridge yet. They cut a bigger hornbeam in the middle of Grouse Alley closer to the Last Pool.

As I walked around the upper end of the pond, I saw the beavers were stripping a log they left where it fell about 20 yards up from the pond.

I searched for a good angle to take a photo of the lodge and cache pile in the Last Pool without walking out on the poplar trunk.

The poplar trunks are rather in the way which I assume only adds to the perfection of the pond for the beavers. They can gnaw on the one that fell this year and the one that fell last year provides excellent cover. I can get a better photo of the lodge alone from the east shore of the pond.

And it looked like one of the long trunks they are hauling to the pond has been pushed up on the lodge. We are planning to stay late here tomorrow night so I can get a look at the beavers coming out of this lodge. So today I wanted to check the areas they have been working up on the high ridge to the east. It doesn’t look like they are using their trails. But I want to make sure because if they are going up there, I might want to sit along the east shore tomorrow night. So up I went, and I didn’t see any new work. Looking down from the ridge, I could see that there was no beaver in the nest along Boundary Pond. I went down and walked up the east shore to see if a beaver cut trees along there again, no, not until I got above the Last Pool, and there I saw a line of stumps from small trees just cut.

There are two rivulets feeding the Last Pool, one going down the middle of the valley and one along the eastern edge. The beavers had gone up the middle rivulet, cutting trees here and there, a week ago. Now they are cutting trees along the east rivulet, all the way up to the vernal pool, which I’ve always expected them to use in some fashion but they never have until now. I could see two stumps in the southeast corner of the pool.

They continued farther up, even though the rivulet stops there. I didn’t see any evidence that they brought back anything to eat in the vernal pool. But I should keep checking. They did neatly cut off a small birch log nearby.

How convenient to strip that in a couple of feet of still water just a few yards away. I kept looking for a trail back over to the middle rivulet that goes higher up the valley and I also had a hunch that I would see a bigger tree cut up there, much as that goes against common sense. And I did:

A beaver cut a larger tree a little to the west of the middle rivulet. I’m not sure what kind it is. The stump was about 6 inches in diameter.

There didn’t seem to be a trail along the middle rivulet

So I think a beaver veered over here from the vernal pool on the east side of the valley. As for the size of the tree, while it makes sense for beavers to cut smaller trees farther from the pond since it will be easier to carry smaller branches and logs back to the pond, I think I can make a case that beavers like to cut at least one larger tree wherever they are foraging. Perhaps it’s simply a way to reward themselves for venturing so far; perhaps the larger stump serves as a beacon for other beavers when they go out to forage there.

October 26 we had a beautiful warm day to spend at our land that recalled all the relaxing pleasures of summer. Yes, I took a nap, and took it easy in the afternoon, though straying down to the Deep Pond where I saw muskrat poop on a big poplar log just behind the dam.

But judging from the lush vegetation on and behind the dam, if muskrats are indeed in the pond, they are doing more pooping than eating.

I positioned myself, in a chair, near the Last Pool at a little before 4:30 pm. Back when the day was longer, a beaver in this family commonly stirred around 5pm. I sat on the west side of the Last Pool because the wind was gusting from the southeast, and from a vantage a tad north of the pond, I had a good view of the beavers’ trail up a slight slope to the trees they have been cutting along Grouse Alley and of their trail up the valley above the pond. I couldn’t see their lodge, but I could see their cache

and at this time of year, kits and yearlings especially fatten up at the cache as soon as they come out of the lodge. The cache is both a store of food for the winter and a convenient place for younger beavers to fatten up from the winter. And so I waited. The warmth inspired some peepers to call. So many trees were bare of leaves that the gusts of wind left a staccato trail of noise through the surrounding ridges. It also was threatening to rain. I first heard drops hit leaves high in trees; then I felt a kiss of moisture on my bare arms; then I saw small beads of water on my camcorder; but I never saw a drop of rain hit the pond. I could also see down pond from where I sat. So if a beaver swam up from the lodge behind the Boundary Pond dam, I would see it. Indeed, I saw a muskrat curl its tail as it nibbled vegetation in the lower end of the upper section of the Last Pool.

The sky looked dark and I was sure it was going to start raining so I broke my vigil and hurried down the ridge to my chair overlooking the lodge in Boundary Pond. I figured I could sit there long enough to ascertain that no beavers had come out of that lodge, and then as I walked back in the rain, I might see a beaver that came out of the Last Pool lodge. When I got up on the ridge, I saw that there was pink sky to the west. Rain was not on the way. So I sat above Boundary Pond for 15 minutes and then went back to my seat beside the Last Pool. I soon saw the bright sunshine high in the trees along the ridge east of the pond. Finally I saw the pond water rippling as only a beaver can set it off. The beaver swam toward the west end of the pond, I just got a glimpse of its nose from behind a tree, and then it retreated. I thought it might have smelled me, but in a few minutes I saw it feasting contentedly in the cache.

It looked like a yearling to me. Then after it seemed to adjust its position and face the cache, it looked a little smaller.

After several minutes of eating, it abruptly left and swam under a poplar trunk back toward the lodge. Then I heard some gnawing on the trunk. A few minutes later a beaver came under the poplar trunk, and the gnawing stopped. But I thought this beaver might be the kit, as it often cocked up its tail as it tried to position itself to get something to eat in the cache.

But when I looked at the video that beaver looked big. Perhaps it cocked its tail up because there was less room to move around. Meanwhile it was getting dark, which made it easier to fancy that there was another beaver in the cache. Perhaps there was. The last act of this little drama was dramatic. The beaver in the cache swam around the cache pulling a small stripped tree trunk. It followed the V-shaped channel back to the lodge and as it turned to go up it, I heard the loud slap of another’s beaver tail. I never saw the slapping beaver, and I wondered if this tail slap was indeed an alarm that sent all beaver inside the lodge. But soon enough a beaver swam back down and up and V and resumed munching in the cache. Too dark. I had to go. These beavers are close neighbors now, but it might not be until March thaws that I really get a true bead on how many are living in this lodge.

March 27 the rains and stronger wind came in the night but ended more or less around 3am and as I lay in bed at 6am, I heard no dripping nor blowing. I got up and found a clear moonlit night with a breeze and it was still warm. I had prepared the boat for a dawn outing, and the sun gets up so late now that I had time enough to eat my regular breakfast. The moon was high in the sky but waning. The bright stars and planets were steady, despite the rain the air was mist free. There was no fog on the river, and when I got out toward the headland I found a good wind. Yesterday, most of the changing leaves still on the trees looked worn and a bit dull. In this moonlit dawn they were a layer of rich color coating the wavy contours of the islands lending both the trees and land the semblance of a new life and I, so fast all alone in my slow boat, was speeding through a new world. But I had some thinking to do. I prefer looking for otters in a kayak. I feel too alien in a boat. So I came down the middle of the channel between Picton and Grindstone and then killed the engine at the west end of the quarry and drifted back with a line and a worm in the water. I still have not caught a gobie and they are reputed to forage more in the dark. The wind blew me along and I had my binoculars at the ready in case something stirred on the shore. I did see a mink on the dark shore, but no otters there or in the channel. Meanwhile, there were no gulls flying around and I got the impression that otters had not been foraging here during the night. As the sun finally peeked up over Murray Island, I went over to the Picton shore. The last time I was here at dawn, I didn’t see otters, but I saw clear evidence that I had just missed seeing them. Then there were juicy scats and fresh fish parts in their latrines. Today, most of the old scat seemed to have been washed away and I saw nothing fresh in the latrine they’ve seemed to favor most this year.

I rowed down the shore of the quarry until I got to the slanting rock that seemed to be a signboard to announce their presence, and it looked about as it did two weeks ago.

So? Maybe these otters, with their gray scat, did go over to Audubon Pond. Meanwhile I was noticing that now that the sun rises farther to the south, this rocky shore is not lit up and warmed up by the dawn. It was warm this morning but for most of the month the temperature at dawn has been just above freezing. I motored over to the otter latrines on the other side of Quarry Point. They were drenched by sunlight. And thanks to a north wind blowing down a big pine tree half of the latrine was covered by pine branches and green needles.

But at the part of the slope a little to the west of the downed pine which the otters have been using more of late I saw what looked like a fresh trail up in the grass going up the slope.

Despite the wind and waves, I was able to angle my boat into the rocks, hop out, and tie the bowline to the huge juniper. I didn’t see any scats on the lower level of grass, but saw relatively fresh scats and digging up on the higher level.

Since it had rained in the night all the scats were glistening. There were also some fish bits about, next to the scat which probably indicates how recent they are, though there are fewer scavenging birds around to pick up such morsels.

The scats did not look especially gray, nor, for that matter, did I see crayfish shell bits. And since I didn’t see any scats low on the rock, I don’t think I can conclude that the otters on the other side of the point shifted their activities over to this side. But I can conclude that there are more otters than usual in this neck of the river. I was headed back home, I took a distant view of Quarry Point. Now the otter latrines on either side of it were warmed by the sun.

On my way back through the Narrows, I pulled the boat up on the Wellesley Island shore and checked the old otter latrine along the Narrows for scats, and I didn’t see any. I don’t think I’ve see any there for a year or two. Then I hiked up the valley through the ridge to Audubon Pond. I took the camcorder, because, by my theories, there could be otters there. But none were out, and the beavers weren’t out either. I checked the latrines and saw no new scats. Then I checked the otter latrine above the entrance to South Bay and the sun was shining so brightly on it, I couldn’t focus on the old scats. Nothing new there either. I headed home more or less empty handed, but with the memory of the moonlit dawn.

October 28 I suppose I should have rushed off yesterday and checked the beaver ponds on Wellesley Island for new otter scats, but I knew I could tell today if otters had been there yesterday. The only drawback of going today was that there was a fierce wind -- 30 miles an hour and gusts and the threat of rain. When I got to the Big Pond otter latrine I could see that the grass had been scraped up into three tufted piles.

But I didn’t see fresh scats on or around the tufts of grass. I saw scat that was at least a couple days old.

There is even a possibility that the scat is older, that an otter or another animal scraped up the grass and old scats together. Probably unlikely. The pond water level was high again and the high leak through the dam had half the flow it had a few days ago. But I saw no signs that a beaver patched it. Perhaps one did or the hole was clogged with vegetation. Much to equivocate over at this dam today. I headed to the Lost Swamp Pond hoping to get a better sense of when otters were last in the area, but I didn’t. I saw some scraping in the mossy cove latrine

But only a small squirt of old scat at the base of the scrape.

I couldn’t’ say that an otter family had been romping around here. Meanwhile I noticed that quite a few ducks and geese came to pond, not so much to escape the wind, because they were out in it, but to escape the high and driving waves the wind had whipped up in the river.

Unfortunately my movements prompted the ducks to flee, save for a few, a male hooded merganser and four females or juveniles. Half of the geese stayed put, too. I walked over to the dam, and saw no signs of otters there, not even out on their latrine next to the old beaver lodge where I think the otters often den. Well, I thought I had the otters figured out both at Picton Island and here, and in two days all my confident notions were shattered. Evidently the otters wore out both places, that is to say, stop getting enough to eat, and so they moved on. But save for last fall and winter with the otter family that wouldn’t go away, otters here have always behaved like that. So I should be happy that things are back to normal. I crossed along the Second Swamp Pond dam, nothing new there, and headed over to the upper East Trail pond to see how those amazing beavers were faring. They are girdling and gnawing another pair of trees, a kind of ash, I think, near the pools they dammed up between the old East Trail Pond and Shangri-la Pond.

But save for one maple that they cut down early in the summer, none of the other bigger trees they’ve cut here have fallen down. I went up on the ridge and with many leaves down off the shrubs in the pond, it was easy to see their lodge.

That bit of white in the far right of the photo above is a pile of stripped sticks. I like where they’ve placed their lodge because it suggests they might develop the whole pond and restore it to its old glory. I saw three litters of otter pups raised in this pond. As I continued around the pond, I saw that while the lodge is boldly down pond, they are cutting trees back in the woods along the west end of the pond.

I might have a good shot at seeing these beavers since I can sit just below a park trail and see them, and when it gets dark and cold, as it surely will, I can hurry home. Or I might be lucky, as in other years with this family. They’ve long showed a propensity to work in the day. Now we are off for two weeks for a southern tour, a break we need. There will be much to check on when we get back.