and at the point at the entrance to the little cove that I usually walk down to, where I last saw beaver work, and otter scats for that matter, there were no signs of beavers or otters. I walked along the ridge and then down to where the creek from the Deep Pond enters the swamp. Grasses crowded over the channel
and the channel was shallow and clear. I walked up to the dam and it too was crowded with vegetation and the small pool behind it obscured by tall grasses. No trails. No mud. No sign that a beaver had been there.
I more or less walked up along the creek, back to the road below our pond and saw no signs of beaver nibbles anywhere, though admittedly it was hard getting a clear view thanks to the rampant growth once green and now going brown. After lunch I got to thinking about those beavers again and recalled that when I walked down to the Deep Pond from the Boundary Pool, I saw a small maple a bit up on the wooded slope above the Deep Pond that had been gnawed at the base. I thought it was porcupine tasting, but that was before I knew the beavers were gone. Indeed, when I went down to the pond the day I saw the gnawing, I saw one beaver for the last time. Maybe the Deep Pond beaver went up to the Boundary Pond not down to White Swamp. Since I was being distracted from sawing by watching a frog, then a turtle, surface in the warming brown water, and then a snake swam sinuously across the pond, I headed for Boundary Pond. Of course, I checked the ponds along the way, the Last Pool first, and saw that no beavers returned to collect the just cut stick and sapling. Then I checked the little slope above Logdam Pool, where the beavers had been cutting in the wide path up to the Hemlock Cathedral, and there, it was easy to see that the beavers had been back and cut three or four more saplings, including a maple with a trunk as big as a fist. That trunk had been segmented, judging from the pile of fresh wood chips on the ground, and that tree's crown and another's was angled ready for hauling back to the lodge.
I didn't probe for more proof that these beavers are doing well, despite the lack of rain. I walked along our boundary line and found the maple sapling gnawed at the base of the trunk which was right in a dry gully that led down to the creek going into the Deep Pond, a logical path for a beaver leaving the Deep Pond, though it was a relatively steep climb. On closer look, the gnawing still looked to be done by a porcupine than a beaver. The incisor scrapes were narrow and shallow.
Last winter there were porcupine tracks not far from the tree. However, there was no other evidence of porcupine gnawing, high or low in the trees. Once down at the creek, which was a trickle, I walked upstream and the creek was soon dry. The only beaver sign was a stump of a tree cut years ago. There is a deep pool of water just up from the creek, at least deep in the middle of a snowy winter when I was last there. I walked up to that and it was completely dry.
So what happened to the beavers? I went back to the scene of the crime which is to say where we found a beaver carcass. Seeing no signs above or below the pond, I would conclude that the carcass was probably that of one of the beavers that had been in the pond. Indeed, I found the back leg and foot of the beaver and saw there there was a good bit of skin on the foot which suggested that while a carnivore picked the bones clean, the smaller scavengers had not had time enough to winnow their way and devour this harder to get to fare. I also found a little pile of poop next to the inlet creek.
Not sure who pooped, but the only predator I've seen stalking the pond was a bobcat, and the scats did indeed look like photos of bobcat scats. The case in regards to one beaver would be closed save that I found that small wire attached to a bone in the beaver's front paw. I've been searching the internet to see if that is consistent with a trapper tagging a carcass, but have come up empty. I don't see how, in the hazards of life, a beaver could collect such an attachment.
Beavers do a great deal with their front paws, holding sticks, logs and leaves, pushing up mud and grooming themselves. I sat on the bank of the pond and pondered the mystery. I noticed as I picked through the confusing evidence, debating each point, that a raven in a tree behind me did its best imitation of a chicken coop in turmoil. It was as if it was reading my mind and mocking the twists and turns of my thinking. So I stopped and just looked at the colorful leaves reflected in the still pond. The raven settled into its usual croaks, seemingly communicating with other ravens down toward White Swamp. Then my mind started pulling again at all the lose ends of the beaver mystery, and the raven resumed its raucous commentary. I tried to calm myself, and the raven settled down, and with a hahaha flew off. So the raven, who probably knows what happened to the beavers, can read my mind. At least it seems to amuse him.
October 8 There was a light south wind on the river so I hopped into the boat and went over to Quarry Point on Picton Island to see if otters had visited. I saw a cormorant fishing off the headland that had to fly toward, into the wind, as I motored by. Few other cormorants or other birds around. At the point, I thought I saw a trail in the grass coming up from the river and going up into the west end of the old latrine, but nothing else looked promising. So when I docked I went to the end of that grass trail and didn't see any scats. There was nothing under the very low pine and nothing on the pine litter on the big rock. The east side of the latrine looked to be unvisited but in the spare grass just above the rocks forming the point, I saw a chunky otter scat tucked behind grass molded into a scent mound.
And down on the granite below I got a better photo of scat. Neither of the scats were fresh but they weren't here three weeks ago when I last investigated. Plus a scat and a scent mound suggests one otter at least still thinks this latrine important to mark.
There were more cormorants in Eel Bay but not as many as last year. After going through the Narrows I rowed around to see the beaver lodge tucked behind the big rock on Murray Island. Last time I was here I heard a beaver inside. I expected to see more stripped sticks and logs ready to eat but all I saw in the middle of the huge lodge was a path up to the middle to the top of the lodge where there might have been a stripped stick.
I saw a little freshly cut log on the side of the pond facing the open water. The waves were too high to get a photo of the deep channel in the mud that suggests to me that beavers have been swimming in and out of the this lodge under the ice for years. Then I docked below the rock at the entrance to South Bay where last years the beavers almost cut down a willow that leaned over and entirely shaded the rock. The willow barely survived and now a beaver is gnawing it again, cutting off the healthiest limb and even gnawing on the well gnawed trunk again.
I checked the slope above for otter scats. There was a trail in the grass coming up from the rock, but no scats. I walked along the shore to take photos of the other willows that the beavers have been gnawing on. On the way to the next willow, I saw a small stripped willow stick.
But the beavers seem to devote most of their attention to stripping and then gnawing the trunks. I must say it looks like a pleasurable way to get a meal, tucked under the huge trunk and having your way with it.
At the next willow there was less stripping and more gnawing
and underneath the cut in the trunk was a pile of thick wood chips.
Of course, the stripped trunk remains. I did see a few stripped chunks of willow on the rocky shore.
The next willow down looked like it had to have been worked on by two or more beavers. The trunk was gnawed into at several places and limbs cut
If not two beavers, then one beaver is a bit fickle. The last willow I checked was the one just on the east side of the rock flanking the outlet of the creek coming down from Audubon Pond. Here a beaver gnawed into a more or less vertical willow
and that provided me with a good look at how beautiful a gnawed out willow can be, at least when it is this fresh.
They also gnaw on a branch reaching out to the river.
I checked on the interior beaver ponds after lunch, hoping to see otters in the Lost Swamp Pond. I pass the Second Swamp Pond on the way so I went up on the rock south of the dam. Several groups of ducks flew off -- fortunately away from a duck hunter back on the river. I saw ripples near the dam but as I suspected, four mallards were making them and then they flew off. A heron joined them and all was quiet. Then I angled up to the southwest shore of the Lost Swamp Pond and in the main only geese were on the pond and they placidly paddled up pond. Since I was back in otter watching mode, I approached quietly and stayed concealed and the geese didn't even honk. Then for twenty minutes I scanned the pond. There were ducks down at the southeast end flapping and sometimes swimming erratically enough that I got out the spyglass. From where I sat I could see that beavers were making a cache at two lodges, in the southeast end and by the dam. I walked up to the shore to look for otter scats -- and the nearest geese kept honking until I left the pond fifteen minutes later. I saw a trail in the grass but it led to a beaver bite on a big maple trunk rather scarred with old gnawing.
Then I walked over to the high rocks to east along the south shore. No beaver visits there, nor otter visits. But I got a better, though hazy, photo of the start of the cache at the lodge.
Going back around the pond, I hugged the shore and saw no otter signs until I got to the mossy cove. I saw a dried black scat flanked by a still soft brown smear.
I checked this the other day and didn't see a scat here, but if the scat was that new, that black part certainly dried out quickly. Of course, I hoped to see an array of scats showing that there was more than one otter touring these ponds. I took a photo showing the relationship of this latrine to the rest of the pond. The dam is in the left background, and that's where most of the recent scatting has been. Never could figure out this little cove's strategic importance to otters unless it marks the bank lodge just to the right.
As I approached the dam, I saw a milkweed pod bowed and breaking up. It's been a bad year for milkweeds, too wet I guess, so I took a photo
of seeds ready to be blown away. Two days ago when I first saw these scats there was bright sun shining on them. This was a duller day and I got a better look at the impressive array of scats, but I didn't see any new scats unless a smear a bit below the others was new. It would have been easy to miss ir the other day and the scat was hard.
Standing over the big pile of scats, I tried to invent the science of determining how many different days otters visited the latrine. To begin with there were some scats that were quite gray.
However I have inspected this area within the month. So scats are aging quickly. Then judging from the gradations of color at the edge of the pile...
well, I can't make any sense of it. Usually I see piles like this around holes in the ice and snow at the end of the winter and think I am seeing a month or two of poop from otters largely confined to denning under that hole for weeks at a time. Otters now range all over and have dens all over. I crossed under the dam and went up on the rock behind the lodge. There were no scats there. Perhaps the otters are respecting the beavers who are in the lodge, judging from the growing cache.
I looked closely at this lodge not too long ago and I could see holes in the mud and sticks as I looked down. Now the lodge is nicely covered with brush. If they bring mud up then I know they will winter there.
Seeing so much scat so close to a lodge possibly being prepared to house beavers during the winter, I recall all my old speculations about how otters and beavers relate to each other. Otters are prone to breach beaver dams, especially in the winter, so having a lodge next to the dam makes some sense if the beavers want to prevent the kind of deep hole in the dam otters are capable of making. So perhaps the otter or otters are overexerting themselves to contest the beavers who might be trying to warn them away from the dam. Nice story, but it would be nice to see the otters and beavers out there behind the dam. I walked back along the top of the dam and at the south end saw some mud and grasses pushed up, big heaves by a beaver.
The Upper Second Swamp Pond doesn't look like it is occupied by beavers. There are no stripped sticks on the lodge and no cache with green leaves or freshly cut branches.
But as I crossed along the dam, I saw mud heaved up at several places.
That suggests beavers are active. I didn't see any otter scats on the dam and no indication that otters or anything is going over the dam into the Second Swamp Pond.
I should think fishing is much better down there since it had water all year. At one point in the spring the upper pond was almost dry. It is getting better walking through the meadows. When the tall grasses die they fall over and I can just bounce along on that matting. Walking down the north shore I saw no signs suggesting that otters had visited. When they visited this pond before, they often lounged and scatted on top of the bank lodge under the knoll. Today there is a handsome mullein still blooming in the middle of the lodge so there is no way that otters have been on top of that lodge.
So this suggests that the otters go no farther than the Lost Swamp Pond dam and they perceive some competing otter claim to the ponds below and assert their territorial rights with a big pile of scat. But there hasn't been an otter sign around the Second Swamp Pond since December. At the East Trail pond, the beavers continue to trim branches off the crown of the red maple they cut below the dam.
And they have a nice little collection of the branches at the end of a short tail in the duckweed coated pond.
Of course, one beaver might collect branches like this for its own convenient dining, but isn't it more likely that one beaver is making it easier for another beaver to enjoy a bite? I walked up to the lodge in the middle of the dam, and it still looks like the beavers are bringing up sticks and mud.
However, water is still flowing through the dam here. Evidently a dam neglected for four years takes time to repair. Walking up the pond, I saw that a beaver is also nibbling a log out in the pond near the west shore.
I looked up the shore and saw no evidence of any beaver work up there. The beavers at Shangri-la Pond are in the process of cutting two trees at the now rather small pool of water behind the upper dam
But it looks like they put a hole in the base of the dam to let the water flow out
And I get the impression that they are eating the small cattail stalks below the dam. Down beside the canal, close to the pond proper, there were a couple of uneaten stalks. Of course, muskrats might be harvesting them, especially up here where they are smaller than along the main dam.
The beavers continue to work on the red maple that blew down, with uncharacteristic dispatch.
And the maple across the canal is now down. They continue to gnaw on the large red maple in the middle of the whole development. Last year the big trees were finally cut down with the November snows, but those were tastier red oaks.
They also make slow progress cutting the big maple along the north shore of the west end of the pond.
Such big lumbering takes the breath away, but what they mostly seem to be doing is segmenting reasonably sized logs.
I was delighted to see that they had mudded up their lodge. This colony has always been on the ball for the many years I have watched them
There is the makings a little cache out in the same area 10 yards in front of the pond that they used last year, but the few branches they have there didn't even register in the photo I took. Walking along the south ridge, I saw their nibbling pile, seemingly more leaves than nibbled sticks.
Thanks to the rain, I think, the beavers are active again at the west end of the pond, a little more work on the red maple and cherry tree trunks at the end of the pond
and they cut some smaller maples clumped on the slope west of the pond.
October 9 Leslie wanted to see the fall colors in Shangri-la Pond, so we biked over to the entrance to the state park and hiked up to the pond before lunch time. On the way I went down to see if I could tell what the beavers at the East Trail Pond did over night. They just about cut off all the branches in the crown of the red maple they cut down.
One branch was still in the trail up to the pond.
Soon they'll have to cut another tree. At Shangri-la Pond I didn't notice any change in the east end of the pond from last night, save that a maple branch added to the cache well in front of the lodge raised it bright yellow leaves above the pond level.
So I expected to see a good night's work along the west end of the pond where that branch probably came from. Going down the ridge south of the pond, I noticed that beavers did cut several cattail stalks along the dam during the night and along the north shore there is another large maple they are beginning to cut. Perhaps they didn't do that last night, but the blazing leaves and the angle of the sun on the trunk made this quite notable today.
The nibble pile looked like it had been used
but I couldn't figure out where they might have cut the branch I saw down near the lodge. I didn't see any new trees down along the west end of the pond. That said, the water at that end of the pond was quite muddy. Leslie was sure a beaver had just been there.
Perhaps I wasn't looking hard enough. We were in relaxation mode and spent most of our time sitting on the ridge enjoying the colors. So lackadaisical was I that I left my hat behind at the spot where we sat above the lodge. When I came back to the rocks on the west end of the ridge and prepared to sit down, I saw a garter snake with yellow stripes staring at me from the next step up a huge pink granite boulder.
Unlike the usual snake, it didn't slither away but came right at me, perhaps attracted like a good model to my clicking camera. Then it turned down moving quite beautifully over the lichens and darker, orange, granite.
It then turned back but stayed away from us on its way down toward the pond. On the way home we saw a small water snake in the road. Its earthy color was quite beautiful though less flashy than the garter snake's. We tried to prompt it to move off the road, but it was quite stubborn.
October 10 beautiful sunny warming day and I took a lunch out to the Lost Swamp Pond to wait for an otter to show up. There weren't even geese in the pond when I walked down to the rock above the mossy cove but I soon had something to think about. Right next to where I sit on the rock was a squirt of what I usually take to be the mucousy part of an otter scat, but there was no black scaly matter nearby.
I scanned the way up from the pond and saw no obvious trail, and so I ate wondering if when I was up here two days ago, I could have miss seeing this. Answer: not unlikely since it is a small squirt and I didn't sit on the rock two days ago. Down in the latrine proper I saw the black and brown scat I saw two days ago, and nothing else. I sat for a half hour and nothing stirred but ducks and geese in the far southeast end of the pond. As I walked around the west end of the pond to check for new scats at the dam, I passed a wide trail coming out of the end of the pond and heading to the ridge.
I saw deer tracks in the trail, but the trail was too wide and too much grass was pressed down to attribute the whole development to deer. I have never seen otters around here, except maybe on the snow in the winter. I walked up the trail and didn't see any beaver work. For the moment I continued around to the dam and saw that beavers had been active. There was a stripped stick in the pond floating over the vegetation that was their summer fare. Now they are after woody bark.
And at the dam, I saw fresh dollops of mud pushed up.
But there was nothing added to the cache at the lodge. I checked for fresh otter scats and saw none. I walked down to the Upper Second Swamp Pond and saw nothing new there. I even checked a round pool at the upper end of the Second Swamp Pond, once a favored spot for otters, but saw no scats on the old otter trail from that pond back over the ridge to the Lost Swamp Pond. Walking back around the pond heading toward the Big Pond, I stayed on the ridge until I saw a leafy branch floating in the water not far from the trail I had just discovered coming out of the pond. I went down and saw freshly cut alder branches in the water.
There are no alders near the pond, so I followed the trail up the ridge
and then another 40 yards down an easy slope into the woods until I got to a depression of a sometimes vernal pool, and there were alders
and two trunks in the clump had been cut and there was a cut branch nearby.
The beavers going this far from the pond is not unprecedented but the last time they came up, say 5 years ago, it was for huge poplars a little closer to the pond. These beavers are certainly game. Let's hope they make it through the winter on this far away fare. I checked the woods north of the Big Pond where they had just cut one large ash, but no sign they had gone back to that. However, they had just cut some smaller trees, dogwoods, I think, but I'll have to check on that. It is not always easy to identify when only a stump is left. One tree they took had been wrapped around a tree they took last year.
I cut trees myself, dead trees, and I often leave a good one uncut because I forget to go back. I waded through the meadow out to the lodge and it looks like, judging from the muddy water, that they are widening the moat around the lodge
as they pack the mud up on the lodge.
I must say, this is my model for a compact, no nonsense beaver lodge, and I certainly look forward to seeing the level headed beavers who must be inside. I didn't see any signs of activity along the dam from beavers or otters. So I'm afraid that otters aren't residing in these ponds now. They just visited the Lost Swamp Pond for a week or two, coming in from the east. Hunting starts next week in this area. Let's hope the otters return before then, and I bump into them.
October 11 we went to our land for two nights which gave me a chance to see the Boundary Pool beavers as well as investigate evidence that a beaver returned to the Deep Pond. But primarily we enjoyed the beautiful leaves. The night after we left aspen branches at the Deep Pond dam there was no sign that a beaver took a bite. Then the next day after that, Leslie reported that half the aspen I left had been stripped. So when I got to the land today, I checked the dam first thing. A remnant of a stripped stick floated in the water. I walked around the pond looking for other signs. The small maple branch I left right near the lodge remains untouched, and there were no signs of any activity in front of the lodge.
Then I thought I saw the print of webbed beaver foot in the mud as if a beaver walked up to the lodge. But there was no sign that beaver had been on the lodge, and a heron had clearly left something.
Indeed, when I came down to the pond a great blue heron had glown off, and a green heron had flown around the pond and found a refuge in the thick honeysuckle bushes below the dam. I continued to walk around the pond and saw no signs of activity in or along the inlet creek. The burrow on the bank on the other side of the mouth of the creek had a streak of mud coming out of it suggesting that something had swum along the pond bottom to get into the burrow. But a muskrat could have done that, and I have never seen a beaver swim into that burrow set rather low in the bank.
But at least there is hope. I took down another aspen branch and left it at the dam. I got to the slope over Boundary Pool at 5:30 and first noticed that the green duckweed behind the crossover into the wallows going down to Wildcat Pond had been well parted. Duckweed is not quite dying out yet, so I wondered if a beaver or two was going back down to Wildcat Pond. I didn't have long to wait to see a beaver. At 5:35 I heard a loud dunking sound from the lodge, and soon I saw the water behind the lodge, from where I sat, rippling. The entrance to the lodge the beavers had been favoring most of the last month which headed directly up pond was now blocked by a growing cache pile of the trunks of small ashes and maples. Then I heard a beaver gnawing and was just able to see it hunched up on the edge of the lodge. Then it swam along the channel going around the lodge and once in the channel heading up pond bobbed around the edge of it speckling its head with duckweed and brought up something to gnaw on. When a beaver does this it gives the impression that it is nosing over the water, but I doubt if it can smell what is under there, so I think the nose is just following its busy front paws that are feeling for things to eat. It kept bringing up what I call nuggets of bark because I can't see any stick in its paws when they came up out of the water. Then it nosed a bit farther toward the edge of the pond and soon brought back a two foot long branch into the canal and started stripping that.
October 12 bright sunny warming morning, not the best condition for checking for recent beaver work. The bright sun makes it harder to distinguish trees cut last night from ones cut a week before. I began seeing work up on my trail just up from the end of Logdam Pool. I saw at least one cut sapling that hadn't been there before, but I haven't been here for a few days I don't think it was last night's work. Then along west flats going down to the pond and along the edge of the pools, there were clearly more small trees cut, but the bright sun made it hard to make a timeline of cuts.
I also checked the canal heading up pond and that was muddy
Meanwhile the west shore of Logdam Pool wasn't that muddy. That gave the impression that last night the beavers were using the canal, not nosing around the slopes west of the pond. The cache on the north side of the lodge has grown. Since there is no depth to sink branches, the beavers more or less stack them in a pile beside the lodge. Quite possibly the stick pile will soon be as big as the lodge.
Last night I saw a trail in the duckweed heading to the dam, so I expected to see muddy wallows that would lure me down to see if they had cut another elm down around Wildcat Pond. I was surprised to see that the wallows were not muddy at all, but a bit of mud had been dredged out of the wallow and packed very low on the dam
as if a beaver thought it his duty to work on the dam, even though their dredging has afforded them what water they have and the dam hardly holds back any water. Going up the east shore of the pool, I saw that the east side of the lodge has been mudded up a bit in preparation for the cold. As usual I walked up the east shore scouting for freshly cut trees. I walked under the hemlocks looking toward the pools and I didn't see any progress on the birches they have been lackadaisically gnawing. However, I did see a small hemlock cut and ready for taking down the canal.
Now and then these beavers cut hemlock. They cut one high up on the west ridge a few weeks ago and I remarked that the tall hemlock prevent small hemlocks from growing on the east shore. So I started looking into the woods, and soon saw why the canal above Logdam Pool was so muddy. A beaver came up that and then went a little ways up the east ridge and cut at least three small maples.
A beaver was relaxed enough in the woods, and last year about this time I saw a bobcat coming out of these woods, to partially strip the trunk of the maple. Usually they take trunks to the pond for their delectation.
I checked the big poplar and the area of elms above the Last Pool that they had cut but there was no new work there. Meanwhile the branch I left at the Deep Pond was untouched. Once again I got the slope west of the Boundary Pool lodge at 5:30pm. I just time to get a photo of the cache. Beaver work often photographs better in the gloaming because the cut wood stands out so clearly.
A beaver came out about 5:40 and set itself up right below me and proceeded to strip several sticks. I had a nice view and passed a pleasant ten minutes.
I learned something too. Fishing out a small twig, the beaver simply ate the whole thing, no delicate stripping. I much prefer to see the orderly nibbling as the beaver methodically turns and moves the stick with its front paws. Meanwhile it was quiet in the lodge. The beavers inside bided their time despite the noisy gnawing beside them. This beaver didn't root around for a new stick with its paws. It ducked its head all the way down in the water, bit a stick, brought it up and grasped it with its paws. Once again, as soon as that beaver moved off, swimming up pond, another beaver came out. This one seemed to sniff me and then fished up something to eat.