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. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

October 24 to 30, 2004

October 24 a warm day for the season, though not hot, and I went out to check on beavers a little after four. We still had a breeze from the east, more from the south so I walked directly to the northeast end of the beaver district but this side of Audubon Pond. I went through the woods toward the Meander Pond dam and had to stare down a doe before I got there. She ran off and then as I approached the dam not only did a small deer try to run up the ridge to the north but a large raccoon went scampering that way too. The deer was stymied by a rock cliff and I think the raccoon was running so fast only because it was calculating that it had time to escape and didn't have to go directly up a tree. Then I noticed the many birds. Hairy woodpeckers were engaged in a noisy dance. A woodpecker always acts like it is eating or hurrying to the next tree, but when they are this noisy I think they have other things on their minds. Then there were a couple of hairy woodpeckers quite focused on bark and bugs. Blue jays were about and remarkably quiet. Chickadees, of course, perhaps drawn to what I think was a small flock of pine siskins, because they sounded like redpolls but had no red, but I'll have to think about that identification. I sat under a hickory tree and straightaway a downey woodpecker pecked around a hickory nut but it didn't persist so I assume a bug was the attraction not a new diet fad. A few minutes later nuthatches and perhaps a brown creeper worked the hickory bark. But I was there to see beavers. I saw no sign of beaver activity at the dam, nor at the lodge nestled in the over vegetated pond, but I could see that they were still using the larger southeast end of the pond. The setting sun lit up the bank to the east of the pond where they have been cutting so many trees. Pondering that,

I waited for a half hour. The last time I paid attention to this colony they were about their business between 5 and 5:30. I waited but no beaver appeared. Then as I walked around the pond to Thicket Pond, first appreciating the extent of their canal work which is easier to see as the grasses die back,

I saw how much more tree work they had done, principally cutting trees down. They are even well along on cutting down a white oak

-- three years ago this colony cut down a rather big white oak. This area is rather open and several cut trees fell to the ground but I saw only one tree that was well stripped.

I got no indication of where they are taking the branches and the few logs they've cut. Beavers wintering in Thicket Pond generally don't make a cache. And when I got up there I saw no signs of fresh beaver activity. This is an interesting problem which may have to wait until the first snow to solve. I still had enough light to check on the next beaver colony. Of course, the beaver-less East Trail Pond was perfectly quiet. I made a hasty check for otter scat and saw none. The Second Swamp Pond was also quiet -- no ducks. It is as if the first wave of migrating ducks had stopped here and moved on. As I eased my way through the meadow up to the upper dam, I saw a beaver cruising down to it from the opposite way. If I could only recognize these beavers by their heads I would know if these beavers came from the Lost Swamp Pond. That I can get that close to them which, I suppose, is a point in favor of their being from the Lost Swamp Pond because those beavers have been familiar with me since the spring while I had very few close encounters with the Second Swamp Pond beavers. I lost the beaver when it got close to the dam. Then as I inched forward through the wet grasses (which allowed me to move relatively noiselessly,) I saw a beaver heading along the dam coming from my left. There was no way that it would not notice me and it splashed its tail making a report loud enough to make me jerk the camcorder (how difficult it is to get a close-up of a tail splash, experienced though I am.) I briefly saw another beaver's head among some stripped logs back in the pond. With a few more splashes that head disappeared. The splashing beaver stayed on my case as I moved along below the dam.

I paused to notice some fresh otter prints in the mud. Last time I was here, there were no prints, so the otters are still using the shallow pond, if not going all the way to South Bay. When I got up to the Lost Swamp Pond dam it was almost dark, but the moon was out affording plenty of light to see wakes, and I saw two, both at the east end of the pond. One going to the north shore, the other coming out from it. Both, I think, were made by beavers. There were no wakes around the lodge in the middle of the pond. It makes sense to me that these beavers are orienting toward the Upper Second Swamp Pond. In a sense, that whole bush flooded pond has become their winter cache. And it makes sense that as they moved so closely to each other either the Second Swamp Pond colony or the Lost Swamp Pond colony would have to command this last remaining resource in the area. And it makes sense that the Lost Swamp Pond colony that at one time boasted at least 8 vigorous members would rule over the Second Swamp Pond colony, remnants of which I have watched for several years. Its high point was four or five years ago and since then it had only one or two kits a year. Once again I get glimpses of perhaps momentous events in the history of these beavers. I had learned enough without bothering the Big Pond beavers in the dark so I headed home down the quiet second swamp ponds and around the South Bay trail.

October 25 cloudy day, relatively warm. Worked at land and, of course, took the opportunity to see what the beavers had done. Southwest of the pond there were some beaver bites on the sapling that had been lying there a few days, and I saw one small tree freshly taken in that area, and then out in the valley I saw a large tree taken. Certainly they are very tentative when they are foraging here. I continued toward the pond going on the slope side of the valley pool and there they had taken bigger trees including a good sized bitternut hickory.

Then on the north side of the lodge I saw that the sticks they had embedded in the first little dam above the larger pond were now buried by fresh mud.

Nearby a birch was freshly cut. At the large pool continuing up toward the road they had cut one of the larger willows that was wrapped with chicken wire.

Of course, I was most interested in what they might have done to the poplar I cut for them. They took more bites out of the large log they moved, and more bites out of the larger trunk that log had come from. Then further on toward the road they trimmed some branches off the small poplar I pulled down and started cutting the larger poplar, half of which I left hanging, at two spots.

They ignored the two larger poplar logs I left lying for them. No sign that they started any fresh cuts on any poplars. I forgot to add that they took a pine along the little rivulet coming down from the road.

These beavers are eating pine, poplar, bitternut hickory, maple, birch, willow and prickly ash.

So, of course, the cache continues to grow.

Near the cabin Leslie noticed a magnificent hornets nest up on a birch tree,

and also some delicate spleenwort 

and a magnificent globe of moss.

Driving into the the land we saw a large hawk and while I was resting at the Teatro Picolo as I call it, a large hawk flew over me. A crow flew cawing over it, and then some wee redpolls flew by, unimpressed by the hawk which soon flew off.

October 26 cloudy day, but warm. We went out to look for otters. There seemed to be a slight wind from the southwest, so we went to the South Bay trail first and then approached the Lost Swamp Pond from the northwest. Of course, I checked the Second Swamp Pond first and saw no herons, no ducks, and no otters. The water level seems higher than its low ebb so I suspect that leaves and grass have clogged up the holes in the dam. No sign that any beaver has been to the pond. By the time we got to the Lost Swamp Pond, the wind was dead which, of course, made it easy to see anything swimming in the water. The ducks flew up pond. I soon noticed what I took for a muskrat swimming to the lodge from the west end of the pond. I saw another muskrat swimming from the northeast shore of the pond, well up pond. Then I saw a beaver coming from the upper northeast corner of the pond and swimming into the lodge in the middle of the pond. Seeing a beaver out at 9:30 in the morning always makes me think it might have been on otter-watch duty. I did see some ripples around the lodge, but they were tame, and, I assume, made by muskrats. We waited about 20 minutes and the beaver nor anything else came out. I didn't check the latrines along the north shore, but I did ascertain that there were no fresh scats at the mossy cove latrine. So we headed to the Big Pond. I angled to it so we could see any fresh beaver work among the poplars northwest of the pond. It didn't seem like there was anything new. But when we got to the dam we saw that the beavers had been active. They had packed mud up on the lodge

 and I saw several cattail rhizomes up on the dam.

In at least two spots I also noticed muskrat poop high on the beaver packed mud along the dam.

So it's possible the muskrats have been pulling out the rhizomes. A new muskrat lodge has blossomed along the south shore.

I kept scanning the pond for otters, especially the cove beyond the lodge. Two waves of ducks flew out of that area, but no otters appeared. Then we climbed the high rock overlooking the ponds and enjoyed the colorful view.

We were at the land briefly and I checked to see what the beavers had done. On the way I bumped into a painted turtle on the path between the Teepee Pond and the valley pool, and it looked rather clean and brownish, like the photo.

Then just beyond the beaver lodge I saw an outcropping of large white mushrooms.

They seem most interested in cutting birch, and with such energy that they seem bent on taking them all. Here is a photo of the same clump yesterday and today.

However, they did work with the poplar. They cut a log off the one hanging close to road

and trimmed some branches off two of the smaller poplars that I pushed down. Needless to say the canal from all this work down to the pond looks well used.

When I walked behind the lodge I heard something in the pond. I suspected a muskrat and sat in the chair for about ten minutes and sure enough a small muskrat appeared, swimming from the cache to the burrows on the north side of the pond. I also got a glimpse of something scampering along the Teepee Pond bank, could have been a black squirrel, but possibly a mink. 

October 27 The river was relatively calm so we headed off in the boat to check otter latrines. When we went through the Narrows, where the fall colors were quite nice, we hit a northeast wind with chop in Eel Bay. The wind was soon at our backs and since I could see something on the rocks at the Murray Island latrine,

I got out of the boat. I feared the smears were goose poop, but they are otter scats.

It doesn't look like the otters dug around in the nearby dirt but further along the rock there was digging, two holes,

and a tiny scat, very likely from an otter, outside of one. So we headed across the channel to the Picton Island latrine with great anticipation. To my delight there were a half dozen large relatively fresh otter scats.

Not only had otters been to that latrine but more than just the mother and the pup I've been seeing. I had been theorizing that now that the vegetation in the river has died back getting crayfish must be easier, but I didn't see any crayfish parts. I took a photo of the Picton latrine with the Murray Island rock latrine in the background. 

Further up the hill their were well bleached bullhead parts, but they were under a pine tree. So an osprey might have caught and eaten them and then raccoons, their scat was near, might have cleaned up the bones. Then we headed down to the end of the cove where beavers had an active lodge, and there are freshly cut branches outside the lodge, though not formed into a classic cache.

The beavers had been on top of the lodge, judging by the mud trail

and it seems like they have deepened the bottom around the lodge. We wished them good luck for the winter. The cove is too shallow to hazard going to the end of it, especially with the east wind picking up. I scanned rocks with the binoculars and didn't see signs of scat. Meanwhile, an osprey, we think, flew over us. No cormorants, a few ducks and seagulls. Then we went to the docking rock on South Bay where there were no signs of otters, but a beaver has been gnawing the large low willow branch.

Up at Audubon Pond I was delighted to see that the cache outside the lodges was substantial and the lodge was mudded over quite a bit.

We could see several ash trees along the shore either cut or being cut.

Beavers here have always cut ash and I was long curious why they left several near the pond shore. These beavers are profiting from what other beavers had left behind. I have long thought that only one, perhaps two beavers are here. Now I am certain that there is a pair if not more. I'll have to come over in the evening and see what I can see.

At the land, the beavers had not done much more up from the pond except segment and remove the birch that had been hanging over their canal. The cache grows and I noticed how several thick ends of birch branches rim the cache with the twigs and leafs oriented toward the center, and judging from the angle of the branch ends, well sunk in the pond. While adjusting my camera to get a photo of this, the camera froze again. An attempted on the spot repair failed. This is the season for videoing otters and beavers anyway. Pretty picture time is almost gone.

October 28 another frozen morning in a bright sun with another east wind. I crossed the golf course and headed down to the Big Pond expecting to see otters. Over the years I have gotten so used to seeing otters on these bright chilly fall days that I wouldn't let my knowing that there was only a mother and her one pup around chill my expectations. What if the crowd of otters that might have scatted at the Picton latrine had moved onto Wellesley Island? Of course, an east wind and low morning sun guarantees ripples in the Big Pond and a few gusts of wind had me standing from my low perch beside the dam, but no otters. I did hear redwing blackbirds making it sound like spring. I didn't see any ice, but the pond was rippled and sun drenched. Again there were no scats at the dam latrine and none on the dam. So I decided to hike over to where I had seen an otter on the shore, and check the lodge out along the way. The pond water is so high the old otter latrines around the lodge were flooded. This lodge always looks smaller when you get up close to it,

but it is mudded up and over and over the noise from the road traffic, which carries so well in an east wind, I heard some beaver humming. As I walked around the cove above the lodge, I began to despair of finding scat because everything was so wet. Finally I came to a broad beaver trail and on it there was an otter scat -- looking very fresh as it was just thawing off the frost. The beaver trail was well worn and the canal up to it cleared but not especially muddy.

I followed the trail

which led to a large ash along the surveyor's line that the beavers had cut down.

The other excitement up pond is a huge freshly wrought muskrat lodge across the pond.

I followed the new beaver trail further into the brush which led to another downed tree, but I couldn't see a clear trail continuing to the Lost Swamp Pond. Once there I checked the latrines on the rocks of the south shore reasoning that otters might mark the route they took to the Big Pond. I did find two scats on the pine needles just up from the pond on the flat rock where I generally see scats every year.

There were no otters and I was so far up pond that I scared away all the ducks. I took a slow walk around the pond, and saw no more scats. I even warmed myself in the sun lying in the old rolling area on the north shore, but I was too late for any excitement. Down at the Upper Second Swamp Pond dam there seemed to be no fresh work on the birches and ash on the north side of the dam. I made my way to the other side, admiring the continued dam work of the beavers, and noticed a beaver cut branch floating in the north side of the pond behind the dam.

So I checked the north end of the dam and found a broad beaver trail leading to a cut elm and large ash.

It seemed to me that the beavers could have easily made a path going further up pond, and there was a small one, but not well used. The beavers evidently like to come to the dam and then go off foraging north of the pond. As I walked down the north shore of the Second Swamp Pond, I noticed that it had more water than it had when it reached its nadir, and we have not had much rain of late. So I checked the dam. There was no evidence of beaver work so I think it is just a question of vegetation clogging the low hole made by the swirling flood waters back when we had 4 inches of rain. The water now laps up to the level of another large hole.

And in the shade behind the dam, there was ice. I also checked the East Trail Pond and after scaring off 8 ducks, saw that there were no scats around. On the way home I even eyeballed Otter Hold Pond and marveled at how green the algae remained behind the dam.

I also saw some gnawing on a maple, done by a porcupine

not by the beaver this pond so desperately needs. The current sense that I get of beaver ways is that they eat preferred trees and then move on. They come back and now eat less preferred trees and it seems to me that there remain plenty of those to eat. So what prevents a return of the beavers? I suppose its the dearth of saplings and shrub willows. The two beaver paths I discovered today led to large tree but all along the paths were tangled shrubs and here and there I could see where the beavers had taken a nip out of them. The way to the remaining red oaks and ashes around Otter Hole Pond goes over grass, and short grass at that. I can get gloomy about this because the large number of deer keep saplings from growing. But I've counted beavers out before and they've returned showing me another couple years worth of food that I had not noticed. I didn't go to the land today; Leslie did and found that a beaver had moved back into the Deep Pond.

October 29 sunny day and a little warmer. We went to the land and the first thing we did after unloading some horse manure was to check the Deep Pond for beaver activity. On the way we saw what Leslie thinks is an immature red tail hawk

that we've seen a lot of and who doesn't seem to be shy. While the pond water level has not risen much, we haven't had any rain lately, there was fresh mud on the dam

where there had been a leak that I had tried to patch and then dollops of mud here and there along the dam.

Where I had dug out the old dam to expose muskrat burrows, and where a board I put in didn't quite patch the dam, the beaver moved up heaps of mud that almost did the job

-- the board had been washed out a while ago. Save for two cattail leaves floating in the pond, I didn't see any evidence of the beaver eating along the dam. Along the shore on the opposite side of the pond the only possible signs that a beaver had been there were a sprig of cut juniper

and a trail in the grass. Juniper sprigs don't age but the nip on a juniper bush looked fresh. Leslie could have made the trail yesterday but the trail looked like a beaver plowed through. Meanwhile up at the first pond, the beavers had been back working on the poplar. The ends of the three small trees I had pushed down were taken, and while one large log had not been moved again, it had been stripped a bit. Plus there was mud on it, which I find curious.

Did a beaver try to mark it? The beavers also cut down two more willow trees. And once again I attempted to get a good photo of the cache, and failed. When I came up to the pond a heron flew off, and judging from the amount of white heron poop on the shore, this is the main hangout at least for one heron.

October 30 warm day with rain on the way so I went out just to see the otters. Of course in other years I had six large ponds or more to visit. This year I have two large ponds at the service of probably no more than two otters. To make a long story short, I didn't see any otters, nor any fresh scat, though I didn't check the beaver path up from the lodge which is the only place where I've seen otter scats around the Big Pond. Crossing the Big Pond dam, I did notice some tracks that could have been made by an otter crossing over the dam into the pond but I also saw canine tracks going along the dam so I suspect the dog or coyote made them all. I tried more photos of the new muskrat lodge hoping the lack of sunlight would make the lodge itself glow - maybe. 

Near the lodge there was a beaver path up into the brush 

which I followed and came to the beaver traffic circle around the freshly cut saplings.

The Lost Swamp Pond was also quiet save for some skittish ducks. The beavers seem to be building up the lodge in the middle of the pond putting more freshly stripped sticks on top as well as a bit of mud,

but there is no cache. However, as I walked around the pond, I saw a beaver swim into the lodge coming from the north. The other day we saw beaver here at 9:30. This beaver was out at noon. I would have waited to see if it came back out but it started raining. I checked the rock behind the lodge near the dam and saw raccoon scats and old otter scats. The dam is leaking. I noticed this the other day but it was too small a leak to mention. Now the leak should be attracting the beavers' attention. I went home going down the south shore of the Second Swamp Pond where all was quiet.

At the land I headed down to the Deep Pond in a light rain. The beaver pushed mud up all along the weak points of the dam.

At first I could only admire and not take a photo because it was raining. I moved up onto the knoll for a bit of protection and in hopes that the beaver would make an appearance. It didn't but I got a nice photo of its black work along the golden shore.

In my repair I pushed the old dam back. The beaver seems to be working along the old dam line which may be a sign of its zeal, or its sagacity.

The muskrat burrows have probably weakened the whole length of the dam. There was also mud pushed up on the path to the new holes high in the bank that I thought a muskrat might have made.

However the mudding up didn't extend along the high bank and I didn't see any signs that the beaver had been there. I saw two small stripped sticks, one square up on the mud

and the other floating in the pond. So is the former meaningful and the latter mere litter? After a brief lie down in the cabin listening to rain, I headed up to the First Pond at 4 and the rain let up. Leaves flutter down with every pulse of the wind, in legions, yet the next pulse brings more down. The litter can be measured by inches forming a thick canvas that's the summation of the growing season. The beavers are oblivious to that and cut to the essentials, demonstrated by the white wood of the stripped logs and branches floating on the brown pond water. They even cut a sapling wrapped with chicken wire

and left it behind the dam of the little pond at the side of Teepee Pond -- evidently this pool of water has become a comfort zone. The wind was swirling but I still sat in the chair at my usual exposed spot, hoping to train the beavers to accept me there in the evening as they seemed to accept me in the morning. Of course, in the morning I arrive in the dark. At about 4:30 a beaver came out quietly and bent its head to the cache pile, then its nose popped up, it turned to and swam a few toward me, then turned and splashed and disappeared. So much for their accepting me. I sat quietly for another twenty minutes, enjoying the leaves and then I decided to go up and check the work in the poplar grove. I paused at the point along the shore that affords the closest view of the lodge which the beavers are beginning to pack with mud. Then I saw a trail of bubbles coming out of the auxiliary lodge and a small beaver soon surfaced and soon swam toward me.

I snapped away with my camera and then noticed that another beaver was snacking at the cache. The beaver in front, a small beaver, began to swim over to the other beaver

then pulled up when the other beaver got interested in a stick.

It pulled the stick over to the auxiliary lodge

and dove leaving the smaller beaver in its quandary.

It circled a couple of times and then got its nose into the water and began to get interested in the sticks and leavings there.

By this time I had the camcorder on, then out of the corner of my eye I saw another beaver swimming up from my right. I have never seen a beaver with its nose so thrust up so that its back curved like an otter fresh from catching a fish. There was no doubt that this beaver had my number and it sharply smacked its tail. The other beaver's quandary was over and with a snap of its tail it dove with the other beaver. Nothing stirred after that so I moved on to chronicle the goings-on above the pond, which in the main was steady work primarily taking out the smaller trees,

though there was more gnawing on the large poplar log.

and they took another small pine. Here too are the stripped sticks in the small pools -- what a wonderful world these beavers have fashioned for themselves, but now winter comes.