Wednesday, November 26, 2008

January 16 to 23, 2008

January 16 beautiful day to work on firewood at the land, sunny and just below freezing. Of course, I checked on what the beavers were up to. Down at the Deep Pond the only sign of life was under the clear ice in front of the lodge. Some of the bubbles under the ice were clear, suggesting that the beaver
had just been out for a snack.

There was broken ice up the inlet creek, but deer could have done that. I was surprised not to see rabbit tracks as I walked up to the Third Pond. Didn't expect any life under that pond and didn't see any. After lunch and after fussing with an obstinate ironwood down at the bottom of the second gulley down from the Hemlock Cathedral, I headed down to check Wildcat Pond. I saw a bloom of ice at the upper end of the Boundary Pool.

But there were no tracks leading to a collection of twigs on the snow. So I couldn't be sure that a beaver did this, but I don't think the pool could just burp up that ice! Down at the Boundary Pool dam it was a different story.
There was a beaver trail up the dam, lightly snowed over

but no sign that the beaver ranged far or cut any saplings. The canal between the Boundary Pool and Wildcat is running with water -- not as much as before. Toward Wildcat Pond I could see more beaver trails coming up on land

These led up to the crown of a huge tree that fell along the rock cliff. I had to study it a few minutes to see the small branches the beaver cut. Must be an old sugar maple. The trunk is mostly rotted out.

I could see the holes at the upper end of Wildcat Pond that the beavers used but no collection of lumber there nor trails from the holes.

Those were the only sign of activity that I saw. I did notice that there was mud on the back side of the lodge -- that's the side away from the sun, so beavers were probably up on it. And the stripped sticks on the front side of the lodge looked different, like some had just been pushed over, rather than pushed up.

I sat and contemplated that, glad a lodge in January could seem so protean.

January 17 Cloudy morning and warming up for predicted snow in the evening. I got the mail and walked around South Bay which has been slow to refreeze, and the South Bay trail had no remarkable tracks. I noticed that the muskrat lodge
in a low willow branch along the shore of the north cove of the bay had been completely washed away.

I checked the point where the creek from Audubon Pond empties and a beaver had been back there at the overhanging willow.

It stripped the cut trunk on the side

and underneath. I could see its tracks though the photo doesn't show it. No major work at the willow up below the otter latrine, if any at all, and no sign that the otters came to the latrine. So I headed to Audubon Pond. The pond was all ice but the water under the ice had retreated and as I walked along the shore I brought large sheets of ice crashing down onto the now dry shore. But animals had walked on the ice. I saw fox and coyote tracks. Then debated whether the neat tracks on a log were raccoon or fisher.

I saw a clear set of raccoon tracks at bit farther on.

The beavers have done a lot more work along the north shore of the pond

Indeed, they've made a rather intricate tableau

I could see where they had been in the snow -- much stamping around, not a well worn direct trail to one bit of work

The large ash has probably reached the point where a strong north wind will bring it down.

A few years ago the park staff cleared out a bank lodge near the park bench, trying to prevent beaver burrows from undermining the area. The humans put in a stone wall, but the beaver use this area so much -- once open ice with nibbled stick -- that I bet the beavers have restored their burrow somehow.

There was also a path to their work in the northeast corner of the pond. Before the flood eased a way back to the north shore this is where they had been doing most of their gnawing.

I took the high road to Shangri-la Pond and got a different view of the clear ice in front of the lodge. There was a thick trail of bubbles under the ice.

And there were bubbles under the ice where the cache had been and down toward the dam

I expected to see evidence that beavers had been out along the north canal, but I was didn't. No sign they had been there. I did notice something dark where I saw pee stains in the show below where the dead beaver had been. I
cleared away the snow and found what looked like a bit of frozen poop and a bloody beaver part. Good signs that coyotes got the beaver remains.

The woods between the East Trail Pond and Second Swamp Pond are famous for fisher tracks. Years ago a fisher trail led me to a disemboweled porcupine here. I saw some tracks but decided not to take a photo unless the fisher showed me something. Well, it did, a hole where it might have gotten a bite to eat.

As I looked down over the lodge below the knoll of the Second Swamp Pond, I saw more bubbles under the ice than usual

and something had been up on and walked around the lodge

Perhaps not a beaver because I saw what looked like a mink track in a patch of snow beside the lodge. When mink drag back some heavy prey, like a muskrat, tails can drag.

Unfortunately, there was not an uninterrupted pack of snow along the shore. However, outside what I thought was a muskrat den, and which has always been a place of interest for minks, I saw that the ice had been broken, a small hole dug into the bank and many tracks

But up close, the tracks look a little heavy for a mink's. Did a raccoon come by too?

Once again I didn't see any signs of beavers along the Upper Second Swamp Pond dam, but I did see snowfleas, and some perilously close to a hole in the snow with water flowing below.

I can understand snowfleas jumping out from under the bark of tree, but why do they huddle en masse waiting for a thaw on this dam that has no trees? I also saw where a mink came out of the water behind the dam, and may have gone over the dam, but looks like it came back.

I was hoping to see another sign of an otter at the Lost Swamp Pond dam, but there was no disturbance of the snow or ice. Only possible sign of otter was more of a rush of water through the dam, but that's a hard call. When otters concientiously put a hole in a beaver dam, the water pours out and the ice on the pond begins to collapse. This dam is brimming with water and ice. I didn't walk around the pond but headed down to the Big Pond only to be disappointed to see that the beavers had not come out there. There were more coyote tracks and a nice patch of pee, if not poop, right where the coyotes had killed the beaver.

I guess this is how coyotes brag. Going up the first valley to the golf course, I saw deer and coyote tracks, and also where a grouse had spread its wings and strutted

January 18 cloudy with a brisk wind but warm enough to work on firewood at the land. A possum or two raided our compost pile. No sign of the Deep Pond beaver getting out from under the ice. Nor did I see any trails in the snow around Wildcat Pond. I approached along the ridge west of the pond and from there could see new spots around the lodge where they had opened the ice, and it looked like they had a just fetched birch log to gnaw on. Or had it been there a long time only to be revealed as more of the snow melted?

I didn't see any new work up on the ridge. When I went to the end of the ridge, and eased myslf down on the rocks I could see prints from an old trail but it was from a porcupine that dens in the jumble of rocks that forms the valley side.

At the foot of the jumble I was presented with a mystery, a tree that the beavers obviously cut that was hanging over a rock. The top of the tree had been stripped but that appeared to be too high over the pond for a beaver to reach. So perhaps a porcupine had worked on it while it was standing and then the beavers cut it down. More exciting to envision was a porcupine crawling out on the trunk after it was cut. Or did a big beaver on tiptoes reach the bark?

I haven't been at the dam of this pond for sometime, and from this fresh angle could better appreciate how the beavers have been enjoying their windfall birch that fell back in the late summer

I expected the pond to be lower at the dam, and expected a leak in the dam, so rapid seemed the loss of water during the late thaw, but the dam was in good shape, the pond's water level as high as the beavers could wish.

Judging from the trail and log on the dam spillway, beavers have been going below the dam

but I couldn't see any major work below the dam, nor any trails suggesting the beavers are doing any major work down there.

However, there are things to gnaw just below the dam. And the photo below suggests that the beavers didn't build up any dams below this one to back up water.

This beautiful area is all their world for now.

January 20 yesterday we had the near perfect winter day. Snow began early in the morning, almost white out conditions mid morning, and seven inches of snow when the sun came out at eleven. Then the wind whipped the waves up into white caps and the temperature started to drop on the way to minus 5 early this morning. Aa little before 10am when it was about 10 degrees and no wind, we went out to see who played in the snow. Deer had been on most of Antler Trail and one slept on it

Three others bedded down closer to some nearby junipers. We flushed a grouse, saw a hole under the rocks where it likely flew out, but no wing marks. As we came down to the South Bay trail, I thought we began back tracking a coyote. Leslie thought it was a deer. I soon won that discussion when we saw its huge poop on the little South Bay causeway.

But I was surprised to see that the coyote didn't come up from South Bay, as they have been doing. It came down from the ridge east of the bay.

Now we looked for fisher tracks, but they were not to be seen. I took my obligatory photo of South Bay.

And then we headed up the East Trail. By the way the seven inches of fluffy snow was easy to plow through. As we got up the ridge we saw more coyote tracks, once again keen on the high road

and then as we went up the ridge overlooking Shangri-la Pond, we saw where a coyote leapt off of a rock

That deserved a close-up

We continued up the trail, around the rock, and saw how the coyote came up from Shangri-la Pond and then turned to look back down on the valley -- a characteristic coyote maneauvre.

Then it climbed up that rock and hurried on its way. We saw trails down on Shangri-la Pond and debated whether coyotes or deer made them. I think the deer come to the rocky walls looking for moss and lichens.

When we got to our vantage point we couldn't see any signs that the beavers have been out. We saw a stampede of tracks that I thought the deer made, perhaps stamping down looking for water. Leslie thought coyotes had been there.

We went down to investigate and Leslie eased herself out on the pond and decided she was seeing deer prints

But she soon won the debate, and called me over to the trunk that had killed the beaver. There was a nice coyote poop where the carcass had been.

More evidence that a coyote dragged it away. There was a neat direct trail up to the site, the coyote was clearly going down memory lane, or up in this case

Across the canal I did see a bit of indecision as it turned to go to that site

Or so I think. We decided that in this snow deer usually went down deep enough to make a print while the coyotes weren't quite heavy enough. We crossed the East Trail Pond and saw that the porcupine had been across and back along the East Trail Pond dam at least twice. There was a nice highway of tracks going into the jumble of rocks on the east side of the pond but the photo didn't turn out. Then we reached the woods where we invariably see fisher tracks, and once again we did. I
think I will now name it the Fisher Woods.

It looked like we were seeing two fishers, or one fisher was vibrating along a coyote trail

There was nothing doing at the Second Swamp Pond, but we did get up our courage to cross the pond on the ice. We had great hopes of seeing signs that the otter came out at the Lost Swamp Pond dam, but nothing doing. The pond snow was

no great rush of water from the dam either, so the otter is not widening any holes there. Going down to the Big Pond, I condecended to take a photo of deer poop and prints around a pine, that had fallen

No signs of beavers being out at the Big Pond,but it looked like there had been an apron of once open water, or at least ice warmed and thinned by activity underneath, around the lodge

I was surprised not to see coyote prints in the usual place, but then we saw a trail of a running coyote, I think, the gait is a bit strange maybe

Then up in the valley to the golf course, I crossed another fisher trail, flushed a grouse and then crossed a beautiful trail of two coyotes. I could almost see them chasing each other

almost stride by stride

then merging in a run up the next ridge

I backtracked them and saw where the leaped down a rock.

This must be mating behavior, a love chase on a very cold night.

January 21 we went to the land where, as usual, I took a break from sawing ironwood to check on the ponds and look for tracks. Someone had walked down the road with their dog, but I think the tracks I saw behind the Deep Pond dam

where coyote tracks. The prints of domestic dogs are larger and splayed out.

But I couldn't tell what the coyote or coyotes were up to. No signs of the beaver getting out from under the ice. As I headed down to look at Wildcat Pond I noticed that a coyote walked down the middle of the valley

mostly walking over the canal and then onto the Boundary Pool and meandering a bit there

and then on Wildcat Pond

I expected it to check out the beaver lodge but it didn't. That said, such a direct route suggests that the coyote had no doubt who owned this land.

January 23 we had two bouts of lake effect snow with thick fluffy snow, rather than icy snow, and a substantial wind. As a result, when I headed up the golf course today I was treated with a hundred odd snowrolls

a few of them quite substantial

This is a testament to both the power of the wind and the playful reaction of the fallen snow. The snow was relatively deep and it was slow going most everywhere. I was on snowshoes. There were two deer browsing on the golf course, and
only a few trails of deer. When I got up into the woods and headed down the valley I was following the trail of either a coyote or deer, probably the later. Definite deer trails crossed our trail. And I took the time to take a photo to show how
definite they could look.

No sign of fisher. I actually was looking out for grouse at the foot of the valley, and I heard three fly off, but didn't see them which was quite weird. I was walking around an exposed rock with a hole under it and with each of the three steps I heard a whoosh and each time I looked at the hole in the rock and not up into the pine trees. I did see the grouse tracks

There was no activity behind the Big Pond dam. The snow was deep enough to make the pond slushy. A beaver that wanted to could did out anywhere, but none wanted to. It struck me that because the coyotes killed at least one beaver in this colony, there were fewer beaver mouths to be fed, less of an impetus to get out and forage. When I crossed the spillover, I did see some tracks that walked along the edge of the pond. They sunk into the slush and didn't leave the characteristic forked deer print, so I think this was a coyote.

It was easy to picture it slinking along, quite a change from the parading and romping that recent tracks have suggested.

I walked along this trail, and didn't sink in slush. The rest of the pond looked spongy with some holes waiting for an errant foot.

I saw deer up around the pines north of the pond, and then I saw them again heading up to the ridge overlooking the Lost Swamp Pond. I paused at the windfall pine that attracted several strains of deer trails

And when I got to look down at the pond, I saw three deer cross it. The beauty of their brown moving over the white snow in the gloaming warms the growing cold.

I was hoping to see a sign of the otter at the Lost Swamp Pond dam, certainly no slides there. But the dam was leaking quite a bit, and something came out from below the dam

and made a brief trough up it, but probably too small for an otter,

and too tentative. With such a leak through this dam, I expected to see the pond below flooded. The ice had been browned but it had also collapsed. The pond looked low. If some animal is manipulating all this, doesn't make much sense to me.

Crossing along the dam would be too awkward with ten inches of snow and clumsy snowshoes so I braved the slush on the Second Swamp Pond. Not only did the sun ball up in a low thin cloud, but a sudden squall of light snow hit.

Too much excitement to notice the cold wind. I walked above the lodge and saw an interesting track below. Hopped like a mink

but went on top of the lodge and then moved on.

A mink would probably aim lower, and while the trail didn't look like a coyotes, the pawing on top of the lodge did.

No fisher trails in the Fisher Woods, so much for that name, but there were some parallel strides coming down the slope to the East Trail Pond creek.

I assume coyotes did this. On the flat I could see a stride next to a deer trail.

The porcupine who crossed the East Trail Pond dam has kept up its foraging, not only is their a trough in the snow, but there are fresh prints in it.

We walked here a few days ago, and there is only a faint impression of our trail. I had great hopes that the Shangri-la Pond beavers would be active. For the past several winters this colony has often entertained me on deer winter evenings like this. But here to, perhaps one less beaver in the colony means less need to get out. The snow in front the lodge was all white, a few stains behind the dam; photos didn't turn out. There was a deer on the opposite slope, studying me. I trotted home as best I could and didn't try to photograph a mink trail going down to South Bay's north cove, too dark I thought. But a coyote romp along the South Bay trail, about where we saw a big poop the other day, couldn't be denied, and voila, the flash worked and the photo is not bad

The trough almost looked like an otter made it, but I think it was two coyotes diving into the snow

and then heading out onto South Bay.

Saw another mink trail heading down from the
ridge to the south of the bay, but too dark for even the flash.

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