Tuesday, October 25, 2016

October 1 to 7, 2008

October 1st we got some needed heavy rain last night and much of the morning. We had prepared for it and Leslie took her canning equipment to our island house where electricity helps dispel the gloom. However, as she set up this morning she realized that we forgot the pressure cooker. So she went to the land to get it. She came back at 3 pm bearing the lower jaw of a beaver which she found as she walked around the Deep Pond and came down the inlet creek. So we both went back to the land for dinner and looked over the remains of the beaver in the gloomy afternoon. They were right along the edge of the narrow inlet
and a bit spread out. Coming up from the pond we first saw the tail bone
with a tiny bit of scaly tail attached
and vertebrae with a few ribs attached.
Then there was a stripe of intestines and then the upper part of the carcass
A foreleg had been ripped off and left a bit farther up the trail
So? When Leslie first described it to me, I recalled the presentation of muskrat remains some predator left us. But these beaver remains were obviously waterlogged. On her second look, Leslie, I think, got it right. She thought these remains had been dragged out of the pond where they had been picked rather clean, and the bones got a brownish color and the fur separated from the carcass and the remaining tail scales were bleached pale. I had last seen the two beavers in the pond on the evening of September 1. Could one of the beavers have died in the pond, deteriorated in the water and then been dragged out, say by a raccoon, and been on land long enough to make a home for many maggots? Of course, waiting to see if two beavers came out as usual would help answer the question. But first I took the opportunity of taking more photos of beaver parts, mostly for the pure aesthetics of it,
but looking closely at the upper jaw (Leslie had brought the lower one home with her,) I get the impression from the suturing on the eye socket bone and skull, that this was a young beaver
and the teeth are rather pristine compared to other beaver teeth I have.
And what can the finger bones of its paw could tell us?
If these are the remains of a kit, then there should still be two beavers in the pond because neither are kits. So I sat on the high bank half obscured by a leafy bush. When we first walked around the pond we sent green frogs jumping into the pond, and now I was entertained by the ripples of green frogs swimming back to shore. I had about 45 minutes until dark, and with 15 minutes to go, I saw a muskrat swim into the beaver lodge. I walked back to the road and then down to the spot on the road where there is a good view of the pond. I saw a muskrat swim out of the lodge and dive for greens. I had seen one beaver in the pond, in the afternoon, a few days ago. No beavers appeared. Arguing for one of the pair I've been watching dying is that no beaver has been nibbling sticks on the grass near the lodge, and one of the beavers often liked to do that. If indeed the beaver died in the pond water, as we think -- makes no sense for the land based predator like a bobcat to kill the beaver and take it into the water -- then perhaps the beaver died in the water from wounds received on land by a predator, or it was shot by a human while it swam in the water -- there is a clear view from a the road at one point, or it simply starved to death or died of illness, or it was drowned by the other beaver. I took the upper jaw, one leg, and the tail bone back with me. I can collect the rest later unless something spirits it away, though there is very little meat on the bones. And, of course, I have to see how many beavers remain in the pond on another night or early morning.

October 2 a perfect fall day so, back on the island, we hiked over to Shangri-la Pond where I knew the leaves were changing. Thanks to the recent rain the creek coming down from the second swamp was running. We expected to see some mushrooms after the rain and cool nights, and as we walked along the East Trail I was wondering where the annual fall crop of chicken of the woods was. Then we saw orange mushrooms on a downed tree trunk. Usually we see chicken of the wood just off the ground on a standing oak.
As usual I couldn't resist taking close-up of these flames of orange and yellow
some with tears of dew
Then we went down to the East Trail Pond to see how the beaver there is doing. The red maple had lost a bit more of its crown,
though it was hard finding which branches the beaver cut. No new trees had been cut down. I noticed that some water was leaking from the dam and flowing downstream. But I am sure the beaver is still here. The lodge looked larger though I think the beaver is making it by pushing up old dead logs more than pushing up the sticks it has nibbled.
Then I walked along the dam toward the west end of the dam and finally saw a new development, a branch from the red maple that the beaver had hauled over the dam.
I looked back down at the maple and saw a wide trail from the dam down to it. Thus far I had an image of a furtive beaver coming out of its lodge right behind the cut maple and going down to the maple. Now I saw evidence of the beaver using the pond, and a bit farther up pond there were some stripped logs floating in the duckweed coated water.
I really couldn't see much difference in the amount of water in the pond after those heavy rains. We crossed the old boardwalk through the meadow above the pond, and then checked on what the Shangri-la Pond beavers have been up to. They' continue to trim the crown of the red maple, cut last winter and blown down this fall
but I didn't see any new projects on this end of the pond. Of course we sat on the ridge above the lodge and I assured Leslie that though there was little evidence of work at the dam nor around the lodge, she'd see plenty on the west end. I could see that they started to cut another tall red maple on the north shore across from the lodge. So they are in the process of cutting two large red maples and a basswood.
Walking down the ridge we saw that they cut the second trunk of the birch growing on a ledge midway up the ridge.
In other years, especially in the winter, beavers came up to the top of the ridge to cut trees. Then a little farther up pond I got to show Leslie a pile of their fresh stripping, with a leafy maple branch ready for eating.
They have stripped the crowns of the red maples they cut along the north shore of this part of the pond. And they cut a large red maple right at the end of the pond
Late last spring this colony cut a red maple at the end of the northeast canal of Meander Pond. It was the last tree they cut there and they didn't take one bite out of it. Now they seem to have a taste for red maples. The disdain of beavers for red maples is famous and "red maple swamps" are what they say survives until the bulldozers come.
There must be variations in these trees that interest beavers. There was another tree cut at the end of the pond, farther back on the shore, and we crossed over to the leafy slope where I think one beaver at least is eating acorns. Looking back we got a better view of the maple they just cut as well as the cherry tree they are working on.
Then I convinced Leslie that the beavers were indeed after acorns. She found one that might have been scarred by a beaver's incisors.
The path up the ridge to the moss, that I was sure the beaver made the other day, seemed unused. We climbed it and continued on to Audubon Pond enjoying the crickets singing on the ridge. In the morning near our house Leslie had seen a flock of forty blue jays. Just as I said that I was surprised not to see them on this ridge, a small flock screeched through the high oaks. I hadn't been to Audubon Pond in a while and was pleased to find some changes. The beavers are once again cutting ash trees on the north shore
and there is a wide path in the grass coming up to where they trimmed the crown of one that fell conveniently next to the pond
There is also a trail up the slope where they cut two more ash trees. And judging from the recently stripped ash log nestled against the lodge in the pond nearby, the beavers have moved back into that lodge.
I checked the bank lodge on the west shore and the burrow they had been in along the south embankment, and I didn't see any stripped sticks or logs there. And the beavers cut a small ash behind the bank lodge and are cutting another larger one.
However, I didn't see more trees cut farther back in the woods where they had been foraging. Indeed, they had almost reached a depression that usually becomes a large vernal pool, and with more rain, perhaps an autumnal pool. Be interesting to see if they use that. Heading home, I checked for otter signs at the docking rock and saw none. We saw that turquoise beetle so common in the fall
and two dead short tail shrews,
just a few feet from each other. Perhaps dropped by an owl or hawk.
October 3 we worked at the land today. I sawed at my sawing rock at the Teepee Pond until the wind and sun dried out the bush somewhat and then I collected some logs. After lunch I walked down toward Boundary Pool and saw that the Last Pool had water again, all the way to its upper shore, but no sign that a beaver took advantage. The canal from the Last Pool dam down to Logdam Pool once again had water in it, and judging from the muddy water beavers had taken advantage of that.
Indeed I saw a beaver print in some dredged mud pointing to some fresh gnawing on a curly birch.
Logdam Pool was muddy though not exactly as wide as it was. Thanks to their dredging the beavers have concentrated this pool of water, and the narrow, deep wallow behind the dam looks comfortable.
I checked their dry trail from Logdam Pool up the ridge, up on my own trail to the ridge, and I saw two saplings ready to be taken to the pool. One is a maple which they cut all the time
and the other was an ash, which they seem to be just getting. Maybe there is season for ash to be cut, because the Audubon Pond beavers on the island have just started cutting ash too.
I didn't see any new gnawing around Boundary Pool and now that the pool has expanded again, the feeding areas they were using along the dredged part of the channel through the pool don't look so special. I've always had the impression that beavers take advantage of more water in a pond to range farther for food. I think I finally got the right light to show the beauty of the crown of golden fern around the lodge.
Then I went up the ridge and saw they had taken the time to segment a trunk into logs and left one log behind.
They seem to be interested in elms up on the ridge cutting down smaller ones and girdling larger ones,
but they have stopped their girdling on other large elms. I don't think they extended their range up on the ridge. From there I walked down the boundary line to the Deep Pond. First I fetched the backbone of the dead beaver and then I walked around the lodge to see if I could get a beaver out in the pond. No. So I went back and walked on the lodge which, layered as it is with small sticks, was quite springy, but no beaver came out. I left a small maple branch near the lodge and then walked around the pond. After heavy rains beavers often push mud up on the dam, even it doesn't need it, so I walked around to the dam. On the way, near the east end of the dam, I saw a wide path in the grass leading to some nipped bushes,
not willows, and not exactly downy arrow-wood. The leaves look like that but not the fruit and stems.
At the dam I didn't see any mud, and meanwhile no beaver had come out. I left a large aspen branch at the dam. I also checked the little pool of water behind the Third Pond dam, which at least is exciting some red dragonflies. The buttonbushes there are quite beautiful
and some flies are enjoying them.
Leslie saw an eagle fly over.
October 4 I began cleaning up the beaver bones and I delicately tried to make the foot bones presentable
and I saw that there was a plastic coated wire embedded in one of the toes with a small triangular metal piece at the end of three inch wire.
This suggests that the beaver was a victim of last season's trapping, tagged, skinned and discarded into or upstream from our pond. Poor beaver. [Two weeks later after more decomposition, I saw that the wire was tendon and the tag a piece of skin.] The only encouraging upshot is that the two beavers we have been seeing are still alive. However, Leslie went to our land today and reported that the aspen branch I left at the dam and the small maple branch I left by the lodge were untouched. I headed for Shangri-la Pond a little before 5pm, hoping to see the beavers cutting up the red maple that they cut down at the west end of the pond. I also wanted to catch a glimpse of the beaver or beavers now in the East Trail Pond. I went to that pond first to see if I could see any more trees cut down, and I approached going down the rock ridge behind the dam so I wouldn't get too close to the lodge in the dam and disturb the beaver so that it stayed in the lodge. Coming down the rock ridge I saw where the beaver had gnawed two ironwoods about 20 yards from the pond
There was a discernible path down to the pond. When I walked in this area before I would have noticed the path and followed it up to the work, so this is fresh work. But you see different things in different light so I can't be sure. That the beaver is gnawing on ironwood is interesting because the beavers now in Shangri-la Pond never showed any taste for that tree. Then as I was studying that I saw a mink hop up on a downed log below me. It raced over to the dam, and even did a little digging into the lodge. No beaver came out; the mink didn't get in, and hopped up the far ridge. I took a photo of what is now the upper end of the pond so I can judge later if the pond is getting bigger.
I didn't see any stripped logs in the pond, nor branches waiting to be eaten, but it looked like there was a bit of mud on the part of the dam now serving as the beaver's lodge.
I didn't go too close so as not to prompt the beaver to lay low because I hoped to see it out when I came back in an hour. I crossed the board walk over the meadow noting that the water in the channels going under the boardwalk looked a bit higher. Then I went as quietly as I could up the ridge south of Shangri-la Pond. Since a few months ago the beavers got into the habit of noticing me peering down at them (they were oblivious to me up there last fall) I sat away from my usual spot and tried to blend into the large pine trunk. The foliage seemed more colorful and I noticed that in the gloaming the girdling of the large red maple by the edge of the pond added a scar of flesh tone to the colors of fall.
I wanted to see which channel the beavers took down to the west end of the pond, but by six o'clock no beaver had come out, so I walked down the ridge, taking the path away from the pond so I could sneak up on beavers in the west end, if they were already out. On the way I looked down at the meadow of the upper west end of the East Trail. When the dam was at full force this area was flooded. Now it's rich with colors and exhibiting a nice variety of plants, if only I had the courage to wade into and identify them all!
There were no beavers in the west end, but I could see that they just about stripped the red maple they cut at the end of the pond.
They also continue to strip the cherry tree trunk lying in the pond water nearby. After waiting in vain for 15 minutes, I went back along the ridge, looking down into the pond all the way, hoping to see beavers. I didn't but enjoyed seeing how the beavers were bunching together leafy branches at convenient dining areas.
A close-up shows the stripped logs that remain after they eat the leaves and strip the bark.
They continue to slowly strip the bark off the trees they cut down weeks ago.
When I got above the lodge, I waited to see if anything would come out. Evidently the beavers are in their get-out-late phase. My rough guess is that their schedule has a two week period. They are twice as fickle as the moon -- which is a completely meaningless statement. Here too there appeared to be a little mud on the lodge, and it looked like there was one leafy branch in the area ten yards in front of lodge where they put their cache last fall.
I scanned the north canal, and saw no sign of beavers up there, and unlike last fall, the water wasn't muddy. The pond is deeper this year and unlike last fall when dredging was in order the beavers don't raise mud everywhere they swim.
Duck hunting has started and as the sun went down there were several barrages of gun shots. I don't think there are many ducks about so I think this was primarily a case of the Nimrods giving all nature of taste of what is to come. Murder is afloat now, soon to be afoot. The fireworks did raise the geese, unfavored and now out of season, and a flock angled over me and then topping their honks came the shouted cackles of a pileated woodpecker. It landed on the dead trunk near the lodge where it had fooled me in the spring into thinking it would have its nest hole. As planned I went back to the East Trail dam and waited until almost dark, no beaver stirred.

October 5 On my way down to the Big Pond dam, I saw some shaggy mane mushrooms beside the road.
Nice to see. Then I saw that it was true, the beavers have left. The branches were untouched. So yes, the beaver, that I last saw on September 26, was showing itself as its way of begging me to bring down more trees to eat. I was too late with my latest offering. Or did the emergence of the beaver carcass scare the live beavers away? When we bought this land a little over ten years ago there were no beavers on it. One day on the river, I fished out a huge dead beaver and buried it on our land beside the Deep Pond. Shortly after that, a live beaver came to the pond. Of course, I brought the carcass here out of reverence; the trapper left a carcass as token of what passes for sporting recreation. I'll look for the beavers down in White Swamp when the duck hunters are gone. I sawed wood at the Teepee Pond and saw a large green frog up on a small log in pond, sniffing changes in the air. After lunch I walked down to Boundary Pool. I almost didn't, not wanting any more bad news about beavers. I'm glad I went. At the upper shore of the Last Pool, I saw a thin log and nearby, the ash tree they cut it out of. The sapling got hung up and a beaver at least cut a log out of it, though it left that log on the shore nearby.
I crossed in back of the pool to see if they returned to gnaw on the big poplar, no. I continued down the east shore of the pools and saw that they are using the canal below the Last Pool. There was a maple branch in transit down the canal.
They cut a curly birch near Logdam Pool
and closer to the channel they started gnawing on a larger birch.
Since the rains prompted the beaver to return up to the Last Pool, I went down to Wildcat Pond to see if there was any new tree cutting down there. I saw that they did dredge a little mud out of the wallow below the Boundary Pool dam but Wildcat Pond looked the same, as if all the water recently added drained away, which is likely. Boundary Pool dam, by the way, doesn't hold back much water. The pool is more serviceable because the beavers have been dredging.
As usual there was more work on the west side of the pool. I was intrigued by a small log, I first thought it was ironwood but I think it is elm, right next to the pool.
Why didn't a beaver nudge it into the pool? The trail coming down from the ridge was jammed with two maple branches
and there was the beginnings of a cache pile in front of the lodge.
Why do these beavers deserve this happy end of my estate and the poor beavers in the Deep Pond reduced to begging and then leaving? A little farther up from the lodge was a pile of stripped logs, plump yellow tokens of beaver well being.
I checked the path onto the land that they seemed to favor back when there was a drought, and judging from the mud in the channel, they are once again favoring the waterway.
However, a little ways up the dry path, I found a freshly cut log
and at the end of the path saw where a beaver cut a stick off the ash sapling they had cut a few days ago.
These beavers may just make it, if the ice doesn't freeze so thick that they can't swim under water out of their lodge. But even then, they might have ways of surviving.

October 6 I headed off at 3 pm to check on the closer ponds, which I haven't done since the coyote made the beavers come out of their lodges, but first I went to the East Trail Pond to see if I could find fresh work since two days ago. Yes. Once again there was a branch or two behind the dam
that the beaver cut from the red maple below the dam. The crown of that tree is getting rather sparse.
I walked up to the portion of the dam being fashioned into a lodge and found another trail of mud up onto it.
No sound from the beaver or beavers below, and no work on the ironwoods on the slope nor the smaller red maples next to the one already cut, even though all those trees had been gnawed a bit. I looked hard at the trees below the dam, a collection of basswoods, red maples, ash trees, and oaks, none too big to be cut. But I couldn't see any evidence of beavers even tasting those trees. I simply crossed the Second Swamp Pond dam. No need to see the lodge below the knoll. If the beavers are in the pond there would be some token of it at the dam, mud or a stripped stick, and while there were trails over the dam, there were no tokens of beavers. The water is low on the dam and the water not muddy at all.
I wondered if all the water had been captured behind the Upper Second Swamp Pond dam, where, thanks to the coyote, I did see a beaver. While I didn't cross the dam, I couldn't see any mud pushed up on the portion I could see, nor any stripped sticks. The water is much higher than it was in the summer, but there didn't seem to be anything new at the lodge.
I think the beavers have a lodge up pond, and given that deer season is upon us, I might get up there to check it out. Unfortunately, when I went up to the Lost Swamp Pond, I set scores of ducks to flight, mallards and some black ducks, for sure, and probably others. However, I didn't hear any gunshots directed at them from the river where they may have flown. I went up to the west end of the dam, an old otter latrine, to see if the beavers have started a cache at the lodge at the east end of the dam. I saw that an old trunk just below the dam had toppled over and then I saw that some of the bark that had fallen off in the crash was covered with black. Otter scats! a thick spread of otter scats, and a smell to match.
A little closer to the pond there was another spread, and then a lone scat closer still. That looked to be the freshest.
My mind reeled. I had been here a couple weeks ago and saw no scats. The trunk probably fell in the wind storm since then. Seeing such a spread of scat, I envisioned a large family of otters contributing to the pile, but not having seen otters for so long, I needed to see them, not imagine them. Needless to say I scanned the pond. No otters. I did see that the beavers had started a small cache at the lodge by the dam. Nothing new at the lodge in the pond. The coyote had not scared them into a permanent move.
I walked around the pond checking the old otter latrines and there was no sign of otters there. The pond water had a strange color, almost brown turning to pea green, like beavers and muskrats had stripped the vegetation and now otters were raising the silt as they went after pollywogs and bullheads.
I have long held the theory that another family of otters has long ranged in the more interior ponds of the island. That would explain why there are scats up here but not in South Bay where, I think, the family I watched for years centered its activities. So the thick spread of scat at the dam may be boundary marking by a couple otters and not the excesses of a family who might be expected to spread out more. I went to the south shore of the pond and sat with a view of the large lodge in the southeast end of the pond, where there appeared to be a start of a cache, too. The beavers here make a practice of hedging their bets on where they will spend the winter. So, once again, I was alive for otters, once again a slight moistening of my eyes would blur the shadows two hundred yards away and I would get out the spyglass just in case an otter was waking up. There was a sharp northwest wind, supposed to go down to freezing tonight, and that raked the pond with stripes of ripples. I looked for ripples going against the grain and only saw a duck flap. No sighting today, but the game is afoot, again. Of course I hoped I might see the otters in the Big Pond. As I gained my usual trail through the meadow and to the pond, I saw that it seemed wider with grass pressed down the way beaver bellies do. So I walked back in the woods, I saw that the beavers have renewed their cutting of trees back there, cutting a good sized ash.
I also saw piles of wood chips but no logs or cut trunks or stumps. Then I saw that the beavers had segmented a rotten poplar that had tumbled over on top of the poplar they cut last fall. There were beaver gnaws on that poplar too, which was fresher, I imagine, than the rotten one.
So they had cut large rotten logs and I couldn't see any around. I hoped to get a good enough view of the lodge from the dam, and it looked like some logs might have been pushed up on the lodge, which looked well tended, though there was no cache in front of it yet.
I saw a feeble closed gentian on my way to the dam, about where I see one every October.
As I crossed the dam, I got excited over large patches of compressed grass, but saw no otter scats there. I saw a few trails going over the dam quickly swallowed by vegetation, but no sign of a beaver bringing any thing out to eat. As I waded through the grass below the dam, I flushed the little coyote again. It hopped into the woods, silently. I suppose my seeing it so often is strange, that has never happened to me before, but I can't think anything is amiss. The coyote looks healthy, and since every blur I see below my waist is usually two chipmunks chasing each other, I wouldn't be surprised if coyotes have spread themselves apart the better to enjoy those little morsels. I was hoping to see otter scats at the south end of the dam, often where otters have latrined, but there was no signs that otters, or beavers had been there. I saw one heron in each of the large ponds. The herons look very blue again. Song sparrows fluttered under and around the cattails and grasses. First a flicker flew right at me, and then a blue jaw, probably attracted by my red hat.

October 7 got down to 32 last night on the island, but soon warmed up enough for us to kayak over to South Bay. The water temperature is probably still above 60. There were fewer cormorants about today, maybe a half dozen. As we paddled down the south cove of the bay, I began herding a flock of geese. They started taking their honking votes and since we were on a collision course, I was sure they would fly off. But a heron flying off from the shore behind them was the catalyst for their clattering escape. No signs of beaver activity along the north shore of the south cove. The water level has dropped another foot and I'd say we are a little below the usual water level at this time of year, though higher by a half foot than last year. So we enjoyed a closer look at the vegetation under the water. We heard a redwinged blackbird singing from the trees on the point, which sums up the season. They were the first migrators here in early March and among the last to move south, though we fancy that these birds came from farther north. I checked for otter scats in the north cove and saw none and I think the beaver no longer visits its grassy platform next to the rock where it was wont to gnaw stalks. And the beaver no longer trims the alders along the north shore. A beaver still might be gnawing on one of the willow trunks in the cove across from the point. Between the willow just east of the outlet from Audubon Pond to the half dead willow below the otter latrine at the entrance to the bay, the beaver or beavers have been gnawing every willow within reach. We even paddled past one half gnawed willow log bobbing in the bay. I am not sure why they have such a passion for willows. I don't think the willows, as resilient as they are, can survive too many more years of this. I'll walk the shore soon and get photos of what they are doing and resume pondering this. Leslie saw some small schools if fish. I didn't. None jumped into the cold air.

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