Thursday, November 13, 2008

January 1 to 8, 2008

January 2 The snow began falling and blowing early New Year's Day morning and didn't end until about 3 pm. We got about ten inches and then the temperature dropped and was about zero at dawn. I strapped the snow shoes on in the afternoon when the temperature climbed to 5 and made it over the ridge along Antler Trail -- I could follow deer tracks most of the way. Though I didn't see any deer, I saw side by side prints of leaping deer that suggested I might have just scared a couple.

The deer had stamped down all the snow around cedars small enough to offer their needles. The photo below shows a completely stripped juniper under the cedar, but most of the junipers were stripped years ago.

I didn't see any coyote or fisher tracks, nor any other tracks but deer. When I got down to the South Bay trail, I did see a mink trail,

and I could follow some cross country ski tracks, and I noticed that a coyote did the same before going down to South Bay. Despite the low temperature, there was open water in the creek, and a good rush of water

No tracks there. Going up the East Trail I saw a bit of fur on undisturbed snow, leavings from an owl's meal?

I had deer tracks breaking the snow a bit of the way up the trail; and a few yards of the trail had been wet enough to melt all the snow that fell on it. I made it up to my usual rock on the ridge from where I examined Shangri-la Pond
below. I was relieved to see no beaver trails below that I would have to explore -- I was a bit tired of trudging through the snow. I did enjoy examining the new contour of the pond. Where water had been open, there was little snow, just discolored ice, especially the hole in front of the lodge

The holes behind the dam were all snowed over, and a bit of the north canal was snowed over too.

The face of the snow around the hole at the beginning of the canal afforded a guage of the depth of the snow

Going back along the ridge, the billion year old granite looked rather lively head above the deep snow.

I took the trail I broke back to the South Bay trail and saw a hole in the ice out in the cove of the bay and went out to investigate. A deer got a drink of water, I think.

I didn't see any other tracks out on the bay, but didn't walk up far to check.

I walked around the bay to the town. One hike over the ridge was enough today.

January 3 minus five this morning, and when it got up to 2 degrees we checked the ice on Crystal Bay and did a little skating. In the afternoon, I headed off on snow shoes going up the golf course -- about eleven deer out there, in three groups. I saw coyote or fox tracks on the golf course and when I got to the woods and started down the second valley, I saw how fishers managed the deep snow. The one going though the area went from tree to tree

There were pieces of bark in the snow but I've never seen a deer eat bark like that.

Using edit functions with the photo, I can get a spot of pee in the snow beside one tree.

And I saw where the fisher jumped through the snow on top of one trunk lying on the ground, but couldn't get a good photo of it. No porcupine tracks and maybe one coyote came through. I headed to the Upper Big Pond where the beavers spent last winter -- absolutely no sign of beavers there now.

Two coyotes took advantage of the lesser depth of snow on the pond - say about 4 inches deep. I say two coyotes because their trail diverged as they approached the dam.

At the north end of the dam, I saw mink holes

and a trail heading toward the Lost Swamp Pond

So I pressed on in that direction. I couldn't follow the mink's trail because it went straight through the low bushes, but I crossed it as I wended my way (going through deep snow is sort of like wending, say, inelegant weaving back and forth) down to the Lost Swamp Pond. The south shore of the pond had deep drifted snow so no chance of meeting up with that mink trail there. A coyote had come down the length of the pond

and peed near the lodge

and then checked out the lodge.

And there's no doubt that the beavers are in the lodge, but they didn't have much cache and I didn't see any work nearby. I walked down to check out the dam. Beside the lodge by the dam, I was struck by the trunks of four dead trees
sticking out of the pond. Never noticed them, though I have walked here, in all seasons, for years.

At the dam I found a mink hole and trail at the east end

and what looked like another mink hole farther along the dam.

Could this be the same mink I saw heading into this pond -- didn't see any trail on the pond. I trudged on to the Big Pond -- there was slush under the ice of the Lost Swamp Pond and I had a nice block of ice on the bottom of my snowshoes. Here again I saw a coyote trail heading to the lodge, and good bit of activity on the top of the lodge

No hole in the ice or the lodge as far as I could see. When I got near the dam I was startled to see a hole behind the spillway and water literally bubbling out

So something was alive in this snow and cold -- the pond. I saw mink holes in the snow at the south end of the dam and a trail heading into the snowy grasses and bushes

I saw a smaller trail crossing the mink's, which given the relative size, must be an ermine's tracks.

I got a photo of the ermine's stride and will check it with the expert's books.

Going up the first valley, I flushed a grouse, but best I could tell, it hadn't been buried in the snow.

January 5 yesterday we went to the land, but Ottoleo and Leslie used the snowshoes for a hike. I cleared snow off the wood piles. Today, the thaw began, just above freezing when we went out in the morning to check on Shangri-la Pond. We saw three deer move off from the Antler Trail. Didn't pick up other tracks until we got down to the South Bay trail. A coyote used our trail a bit before going up on its usual route from the bay to the swamps. A fisher also used the trail, and when it came up from the bay, it made a few leaps, like it was eager to get on the superhighway of snowshoes, deer, and coyotes

It left a nice print in the snow

and then headed up the slope at the end of the New Pond knoll. Not many more fisher tracks. Perhaps its not a case of fewer fishers being out, maybe in the deep snow the fishers only make one circuit through their territory, and on
busier days we are seeing the same fishers making another go round. We made it up to the ridge south of Shangri-la Pond in good shape and couldn't see any holes in the ice neither in front of the lodge

nor along the dam

but we could see some work on a few trees. The maple next to the smaller maple I saw a beaver cut was now down and there was a well snowed over trail to it

but I would have noticed this, I think, the other day, so maybe a beaver got out there on the 3rd. Then heading up the canal we saw a frozen-over hole in the ice where the beavers got out

to gnaw on the red oak crown.

Finally we got up to the end of the canal where it was easy to see the beavers had been cutting two of the larger trees. Indeed, one is a red maple which is not one of the beavers' favorite trees.

At first glance it looked like a trail went well up into the woods, but we soon saw that deer continued the beaver's trail. From the red maple work a beaver veered over to another tree which it didn't bite on and then angled up to the trunk on top of the dead beaver, but turned back from that and went to the hole. I snowshoed up to the dead beaver -- still covered by the snow

and then realized that my tracks ruined a story. Did a beaver come up to work on the trunk and then recoil because of the dead beaver?

Probably not. Too sentimental a story. I could wax poetic on the peaceful white blanket on the beaver, but that had been violated. There was a small hole in the ice, probably just mouse size, about where the back foot is that mice, I think, have been gnawing.

When the snow melts, we'll see. A woodpecker had been ripping through a standing dead tree trunk not far from where a beaver had been cutting the red maple. Leslie noted that a photo of both worthies at work at the same time would be quite a prize.

I took a photo from the end of the canal looking back to the lodge.

Because of the melting, the water is up to the level of the ice so a beaver coming to this hole this morning (and surely one did otherwise the hole would have iced over) had to swim quite a long way -- say 50 yards -- under the ice. We headed back via the East Trail boardwalk hoping to see some redpoles in the meadow. Leslie saw some around the house at dawn. But nothing to be seen save thousands of snowfleas, one group dancing around a fisher's print

and I could admire another fisher trail scooting up a snow covered boulder.

Probably won't go below freezing for another five days -- goodbye snow.

January 7 almost 50 degrees when I went out for a hike at noon, almost as warm yesterday. The snow is fast disappearing. The granite on Antler Trail was clear of snow and the wet snow in between and in the valleys was manageable but
slowly soaking the boots. It was very difficult to read tracks. I saw grouse poop but no grouse tracks. And was the deer poop all around fresh or just exposed as the snow retreated? Ottoleo reported scaring a porcupine under the old out house along the South Bay trail which reminded me that I had not reported the other day that I saw a porcupine trail crossing my trail. I scanned the trees for a porcupine but saw none. I decided to first take the easy way up the north shore of South Bay before
heading into the interior where snow remained. I soon saw where a porcupine had gnawed above an old girdle

and there was fresher work higher in the tree.

There was a gooey, long black poop in the middle of the trail, very hard to identify

I veered up to Audubon Pond which was still frozen over. I noticed some fresh porcupine work here too, but it had started misting and I couldn't look up with the camera. Well, not until, farther along I saw a small porcupine curled up in a tree.

I walked down the embankment looking for holes in the ice or otter scats revealed by the melting snow. Saw none of that, but did see where a coyote scraped through the snow and scratched the grass

Coyote prints were nearby and a trail on the ice, but not clear enough to tell if one or two coyotes were about. I went back down to South Bay to check the otter latrine and on the way saw marks on the ice of the bay that looked a bit like otter slides

That got my hopes up. Thaws test the memory. I passed beaver work on the bank, some that I knew I had seen before, but some that I wasn't sure about.

When I got to the latrine, I only saw the old scats from last week. I went down to the rocky shore to get a closer look at possible slides. I saw some fish parts which looked fresh, but everything looks fresh after a thaw, especially the beavers' gnawing on the willow there.

A chunk of wood in the water made it seem like a beaver had just been there.

Getting closer to the possible otter slides in the ice didn't make anything clearer.

Then, walking back down the shore, I saw more beaver work and another trail in the ice, this one curving in toward this work. I decided that a beaver had made the trail. The trail was wide, and steady, and no prints to be seen in the ice or snow. Beaver tails can smooth over prints. Something an otter's tail seldom does.

There was one bit of evidence suggesting otter. Farther up on shore I saw a small gray scaly scat on a log right in front of the burrow under a tree.

But a mink probably left that small scat and a rich fish diet made the scat uncharacteristically loose.

I went out to the rock point curled around the outlet of the creek carrying water down from Audubon Pond. No sign of otters, but beavers had cut one thick overhanging branch of the willow there,

and were about to cut the other.

This willow shades some lush moss, perhaps no more. I went back down the South Bay trail enjoying the hints of fog,

and then up the East Trail which had more snow but not as much as I thought it would have. Of course, because of the melting the trails were running with water. I saw two flying insects doing a mating dance. When I got up to my lookout on the ridge over the pond, I saw a beaver out at the dam. It climbed out on the dam and then went over and down into the now flooded patch of cattails

It came back with something to gnaw, probably a rhizome because I couldn't hear its teeth gnawing. And it seemed to scrape the root with its paws before pulling it to its jaws.

Then it dove and I could chart its progress up the canal as it rippled the water at the few places where the water was open. Or so it looked. Then it poked its head from what I thought was ice. It headed up to the red oak and went up to resume stripping that thick trunk, somewhat lost in the mist and fog. I took a photo of the now colorful lodge below

and the canal

and headed that way to chronicle new work and check on the dead beaver. I didn't calculate that water would be flooding down to the canal from all directions and I made the mistake of trying to walk around the flood which only opened up new flooded vistas. I also got a look at the work the beavers had done up there. Unfortunately it was raining too hard to take photos of it all. When I got down to the dead beaver, the rain let up enough and I could photograph what the mice had been eating, the tail

and a good number of insect scavengers were there too.

Otherwise the carcass just gets flatter. No sign that beavers had come up there, no more cutting of the trunk. But there was more gnawing on the nearby red maple.

The rain started again, and the fog got so thick I couldn't see the red oak where I last saw a beaver. I was wise enough to cross where the many rivulets of melt water collected in canals near the main canal. With a few jumps I made a quicker job of it, though missed one clump of grass and splashed a bit. Despite the rain and fog I decided to press on to the Second Swamp Pond as planned. The East Trail Pond boardwalk wasn't quite flooded, and I managed to get across the dam without incident. I went up the ridge where there was less snow and saw a
curious spread of porcupine poop. I assume it must have spent a long time on a branch high above and let the poops rain down.

I got to the knoll overlooking the Second Swamp Pond beaver lodge, and there seemed to be less open water around the lodge than before the thaw.

And it was too foggy to see anything in the patches of open water behind the dam. Since all the dams that I needed to cross to get home my usual way were probably soaked if not breeched by the flood, and since it was raining, I
backtracked and then went up to the East Trail and went home more or less the way I came. Everything was wetter on the way back.

January 8 we spent the whole day at the land and taking advantage of the thaw, temperature up into the 60s and some sun, I collected ironwood logs that had been buried in the snow. I checked on the Deep Pond beaver just before lunch. There is a flood of water coming into the pond

and going over and through the dam

The ice remains seemingly unfazed by it all.

The beaver had not broken much ice around the lodge and I saw little evidence of its activity.

Well, the heat and sun was nice but I had to envy this lone beaver which thanks to ice's propensity to melt so slowly was getting through winter at a mean 32 degrees. After lunch I headed to Wildcat Pond. I took my saws planning to cut
some ironwood, then I confronted a flood of water in Grouse Alley, though I did find an almost dry pile of grouse poop at the head to the gulley.

So I parked my saws on a tree and hit the high road -- grouse had been there too. I saw a pile of poop on a rock ledge.

While the snow had melted in Grouse Alley, the inner valley was all snow, pools of water, and a steady flow of water down to the Wildcat Pond. In the damp, old beaver work looks fresh and a tree a beaver had cut a month ago looked like a beaver had just been there.

And then some wet stumps and logs all look black, like beavers hunched over nibbling. The valley was too wet so I headed up to the ridge to the west, keeping an eye on the black strip of water snaking down the center of the valley. Then I saw a stick wiggling out of the water. A beaver was doing the
wiggling, and there was even another beaver in the open pool of water they were in. Soon one, that I think had been cutting a stick off the branch, dove and the other hunched up suspecting my presense

I got some video but in a few minutes it too dove into the black water. I waited to see if it would go upstream but it didn't. I continued down the ridge toward the rock ledge that overlooks the lodge. The beavers didn't surface,
as far as I could see, anywhere on the long way back to the lodge, say 70 yards. There was little snow on the ridge. And all the gnawing on tree looked fresh, whether done by porcupines or beavers

I noticed some beaver cutting of the juniper -- that was new to me

but when I got to part of the ridge I was familiar with, everything looked about as I had left it.

I did see where a branch on a small white oak had been cut, which I don't think I had seen before.

Meanwhile when I looked down at the lodge, a beaver dived under the ice just below me. I sat and waited. In about ten minutes, a large beaver surfaced and looked up at me.

It broke its stare briefly and pushed the ice floe around and nosed a nibbled twig. Then it looked up at me,

dove again and disappeared. There was a whining kit or two in the nearby lodge. The pond itself was a delight to look at

with stripped logs on the ice

and the lodge, black with mud, striped with logs, looked alive.

They had also gotten up on the ice and began gnawing on the trunk of the big birch that fell two months ago.

But the beavers were apparently spooked by my presence and it was time to head home. Walking back down the ridge, I tried to determine how far the beaver had gotten up the canal. I had seen them at the end of Wildcat Pond proper, then there is a narrow canal going up about 30 yards to what I call the Boundary Pool. There is a little dam there and the ice behind it looked broken and some stripped sticks there. So maybe a beaver got up that far,

but I don't think any farther. Of course, I saw some flying insects that I couldn't identify, and the chipmunk that lives around the house was out.

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