Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fe bruary 18 to 27, 2003

February 18 The cold snap ended. It was in the mid-20's as I skied up the golf course, with no wind, and now and then a gentle snowfall. The porcupine I discovered on the ridge above the golf course had been out again, leaving a fresh trail of pee. However, the porcupine trails crossing the second valley had not been freshened. And I now I think what I took, at a glance, for a porcupine in a tree, the other day, was indeed a
porcupine in a tree. Nothing was up that tree today and I'm kicking myself for not getting a photo the other day. When I got down to the Big Pond, and by the way skiing was excellent and easy, I was greeted by the remains of a good old fashioned otter
run around.

I enjoyed the spectacle which included holes on both sides of an ice ridge

and looping trails that went no more than ten yards from the holes. There is an old beaver lodge under all that ice and snow where beavers had wintered two years ago, and we had found the dead otter last year around here. Now the problem became, which otters are these and where did they come from? There was no trail coming into or leaving the area. I checked at the spring pool and the upper dam, and no sign of otters there. So I trusted that there would be something new at the lodge on the other side of the pond, but there wasn't. The dam, however, presented a startling picture of collapse

But there were no otter tracks or holes on the back side of the dam. On top of the dam there was a smudged trough going up to fissured ice, but no sign that anything went down that fissure

Most humbling was what it looked like on the other side of the dam, collapsed ice and a dry bottom. This most reliable pond might be largely bone dry!

I held fire on my judgment about the otters until I got to the Lost Swamp. Meanwhile the gentle weather provided other amenities. I saw an adult eagle hovering over the woods I had just skied through, and then it flew off toward the river. Then I looked up in a tree behind me and saw some cedar waxwings, zeeing quietly.

And then on my way to the Lost Swamp along the  surveyor's blaze, I heard a cardinal singing in the distance, and saw an eagle fly off from a tree on the south shore of the pond I was heading too. Meanwhile, at my feet were snowshoe hare tracks, but all a day or two old. It didn't take me long to ascertain that there were no otter signs on or around the Lost Swamp Pond. Plus the beavers had not been out at their lodge. I also saw the eagle roosting on a tree far to the northeast, a good half mile or mile away. I moved closer for photos and as I did two eagles flew off.

Although I haven't seen any, there must be deer carcasses about. Indeed during the coldest days, we began seeing some eagles. One on a tree north of County Route 100, and one flying over the ducks on the river in front of our house, yesterday. But back to the otters, according to my past tracking there were two or three otters in the Lost Swamp Pond. Did they move over to the Big Pond, and if they did how did I miss it? Or did otters I tracked onto the Big Pond about five days ago, who were at the dam, finally pop out for a romp (after perhaps digging a deeper hole into the dam.) Perhaps time will tell! Going down to the Second Swamp Pond, I shifted my sights to beavers. I did see a small hole near the beavers' first hole out of the pond, but on closer inspection it looked like an otter did that.

As I stood taking the photo above I didn't notice that there was a hole right below me

There were many deer tracks around and for a moment I entertained the theory that an otter had come in from the East Trail Pond which deer tracks obscured, but on closer scrutiny it seemed that the otter tracks were going out of the pond and they were suspiciously like the tracks I saw the other day. Before following those tracks, I went over to the dam, where there was no sign of otter or beaver activity. So back to the otter trail out -- at one point I thought I saw two slides sides by side, then realized the deer had made one. Then a little ways further on I saw two slides again and no deer tracks in sight! But then up at the East Trail Dam there were no slides as fresh as the slides I saw on the Second Swamp Pond either coming in or out, and only one old slide. However, at first glance it didn't seem like an otter had been out on the East Trail Pond -- so maybe the otter I knew was there, moved to the Second Swamp Pond. Then over at the hole below the mossy rock, I saw a fresh print and fresh scat, and at the lodge, an even fresher scat

There was no action up at the holes the otters had made up pond. So, it seems, there is one otter content in this pond; a good chance that there is an otter in the Second Swamp Pond; perhaps two otters in the Lost Swamp Pond; and definitely two or more otters in the Big Pond. Too many otters? Perhaps, but this is about how many I saw in these ponds in the fall. I didn't forget the beavers, and skiied up to their lodge. I soon saw that there was a beaver trail coming out of the hole they had made a few weeks ago, heading up the ridge.

I moved close to the hole, which didn't have fresh work in it, and the pattern in the snow left by a beaver's tail was so well sculpted that I guessed that a beaver had gone out but not come back.

I strained to follow the trail with my eyes, and then saw another trail coming out of one of canals dug toward the trees. I went over there, saw how the trail going up the ridge came back down to this point, and I saw a huge hole coming out from the ice. Trails from that led to fresh work on standing trees, and logs dug out of the snow.

Not only were their logs lined up ready to be taken down the hole,

but I could hear humming and gnawing almost under my skis. These beavers had been less active before, so it is not surprising that they were anxious to get out and eat. It was warm enough to tarry a while and see if they might come out, but they didn't and I moved on to Meander Pond. As I inspected the snowed over otter holes near the inlet stream, I saw two, then three, stunning porcupine trails. The curves in the snow were so delicious, I had trouble connecting them with a spined animal!

I followed the trail over to the ridge south of the pond -- two porcupines had come a long way, from dens about twenty yards apart, to get a drink of water. I also expected to see that the beavers had come out at Meander Pond, and, indeed, as I skied down the pond, I soon saw two beavers out just below the dam, one gnawing downed trunks and the other collecting small branches from the oaks they cut down the last time they were out. I saw each beaver walk below the dam taking branches to the hole in the ice

First one beaver sensed me and disappeared. Then the other, and the scent of me put it into a trot. Still, it poked its nose out of the hole to make sure something was there

Needless to say, at the sight of that pose, I had my camera snapping, and after a a few seconds of that, the beaver plunged into the hole for good. So, under a gentle sunset, I skied across South Bay and to home, quite pleased.

February 20 about18F at dawn, but with sun, and a southerly wind, a warm-up was obviously in the works. I went off on skis which worked fine until the end of my trek when the temperature got above freezing. Not only had the porcupine in the tree trunk above the golf course been active, but it looked like it had tried to free up some room inside by pushing out some droppings.

A porcupine had been out at the bottom of the second valley and also at the den near the Big Pond, but no porcupines to be seen. Down at the Big Pond, it was easy to see that otters had been out since my last visit -- there were otter prints on my ski trail. There was more scat, and a bit of mud tracked around,

plus they dug a hole, a little over a cubic foot in extent, into the snow.

Their slides, like before, didn't extend far from their hole, not much more than ten feet. I went down to the dam. Thanks to the thaw of yesterday -- above freezing for five or six hours, there was water trickling out of the dam. The bird over the pond today was a raven, hovering and gurgling quite near me. And then as I headed toward the Lost Swamp Pond, I heard a cardinal's song again. I toured the Lost Swamp Pond and was flattered to see raccoons using the trails I broke, but no sign of otters. The raccoons did veer off to dig into the bank here and there.

I saw raccoon tracks on all the ponds. I also didn't see any fresh evidence of an otter in the Second Swamp Pond; plus, no sign that the beavers tried to get out. Up at the East Trail Pond dam, there was some muss at the central hole into the dam, but clearly raccoons did it.

At the hole by the mossy rock there was only a hint that an otter had been out. However, at the lodge, there was fresh scat, and evidence that an otter made a point of sniffing my tracks from the other day.

Then I knelt down and inserted my camera into the hole through the snow and ice next to the lodge, and got two interesting photos

This next photo probably gives a better look at the otters path down into the pond water

I thought I heard some stirring in the lodge, as the camera beeped. I could see that the beavers had been out too. Two days ago it looked like the beavers were going to favor a hole they fashioned at the end of a canal, but it was easy to see that they had made a third hole, closer to the lodge, which was to be the focus of their activity

Indeed, as I took a photo of that bouquet of sticks in the hole. I heard a beaver dive from the hole into the water. I waited to see if it might peek out. No such luck. These were the beavers I thought might be most anxious to get out. But I had high hopes that I might see something at Meander Pond. However, the hole the beavers used the other day was frozen over. I got close enough to notice that this was a new hole, gnawed out of a good six inches of ice, and brimming with, now frozen, water.

There was no evidence that they tried to open their old hole, snow covered, and, undoubtedly frozen over, a few feet closer to the dam. Rather than go to Audubon Pond and the boring way home across South Bay, I skied over to Beaver Point Pond Dam. Not expecting to see much more than deer and porcupine tracks, I was delighted to see the distressing sight of a small caterpillar on the snow.

Then on my way up to the Second Swamp Pond, I saw holes and old slides, likely made by an otter in the dam of the upper part of Otter Hole Pond.

This revives suspicions that there is an otter lurking in these ponds. Tomorrow should be warm too, most of the day, and then there is rain in the forecast after that. With water flowing in the ponds, perhaps the otters will be on the move again. I'll be more careful with this shuffle, as it seems they finally moved from the Lost Swamp Pond to the Big Pond, and I missed it. But maybe not....

February 21 with temperatures almost 40 degrees I couldn't resist slogging out on snowshoes to see if any beavers might be out. It was indeed slow going. At first it seemed like I had the right idea because there were at least a dozen deer on the golf course, but that was the extent of my seeing any live mammals. No porcupines were out, though their fresh work was much in evidence. I found some interesting tracks, large in the melting snow,

but they went up the ridge and I was headed down. Because of the melting snow, the otters' world on the Big Pond seemed more indistinct and old looking. But on close examination I think at least one otter had been out, but nothing like the activity of their last two forays. With such slow going I didn't check the dams. I was about to take a photo of waxwings high in an oak, but they flew away, much more skittish in the warmth than they were in the cold. The Lost Swamp Pond remains inactive, not even a sign of beavers being out. And the beavers didn't come out at the Second Pond either, and no sign of the mysterious otter there. A pileated woodpeckers call kept me hoping for action. I approached the East Trail Pond so that I could see the beavers who I was certain would be out. My first look was not promising and I distracted myself by taking a photo of fresh porcupine work,

hoping for things to develop where the beavers are. No. Not only were they not out but they had even cleaned up their hole. The bouquet of branches was gone, leaving one large ungainly branch out on the ice.

If these were starving beavers one might expect an orgy of eating until the next deep freeze, but these beavers couldn't be that hungry -- not even a sound from them under the ice or in the lodge. It did look like that they had used all three holes since yesterday, but that is a tough call. And they had a tree almost cut and ready to fall.

So maybe they had been at it constantly for 24 hours, and finally had to rest. With the melting of the snow, old otter scats often reappear, but I think the spread I saw outside the hole by the lodge was mostly fresh. I took close ups of the scat, hoping that would provide enough clues about what the otters were eating so that I won't have to take the next step and start analyzing this stuff.

There were scales, some large soft innard parts, no hair, but the mass was small, black and moist. I went down to the hole they've been favoring near the dam, and there were very fresh prints there,

but not too much new scat, if any. Though the handwriting was on the wall, I pressed on to check on the Meander Pond beavers. At one of the many clumps of stumps on the pond, I saw a hole made by otters, but not used that day.

I thought it would be interesting to see what the view was down in this hole, stuck my camera in and took some wild shots.

Not uninteresting. This shows the extent of the galleries, as I call them, in the middle of the pond; how the remaining water refreezes and how easy it is to break that ice. It is not hard to imagine an otter foraging in this damp darkness finding fish in the pools of water. I can't remember if a channel goes through this area, which is where most fish would probably be found. As I eased down on Meander Pond, I noticed some birds, principally robins taking advantage of a small pool of water where the spring drips in. As I feared, the Meander Pond beavers were not out. But their hole was ice free. Here again there were no sticks and logs jamming it. It was getting late, and since slogging was slogging, I took the beeline over the ridge to South Bay, where a beautiful sunset accompanied me across

How strange the contrast: visions like the above help humans get through the winter, the chaos under the ice succors the otters and beavers.

February 24 It began raining just before noon on the 22d, and the temperature not only did not get over 32, but it began dropping, with the rain continuing even as the thermometer dropped to 27. So we had an ice storm with accumulations of from an inch to an inch and a half depending on how a branch or stalk was oriented to the northeast. These two stalwarts out on the Big Pond got the brunt of it.

Then in the afternoon of the 23d we had light snow as the temperature dropped down to the teens. The transition from rain to snow also helped. When I went out on the evening of the 22d it was slicker than a skating rink. The morning of the 23d, sleet pellets made most surfaces manageable. When I went off to tour the ponds on the morning of the 24th -- with temperature a little below 10, I went on snowshoes even though most of the snow, with all that ice, could bear my weight just wearing boots. Where snow had blown off I appreciated the teeth of the snowshoes. So we generally had 10 inches of compacted snow, an inch of ice, and two inches of fresh snow. Really that's a recipe for easy travel, and once out of the wind, indeed it was, save for dodging the many overhanging icy branches. Comfortable myself, I set about to see how other animals adjusted. The porcupine up on the golf course ridge had been out more than once, and made the point, for me, that climbing up trees into the branches after an ice storm is not easy. It feasted on the a pine just a few yards from its tree trunk den

evidently starting from the bottom, where there was less accumulation of ice, and not really relishing the cold fare higher up. The porcupines in the second valley were also active. The crisscrossing of some of their trails gave me the impression that they were eager to get about and ascertain that the ice had not covered everything. I looked for examples of low eating and finally found one down at the rocks just above the Big Pond

I also saw possible fisher tracks in about the same place as I did before, heading in the same direction

There were also coyote and fox tracks, and, of course, deer. By lowering and breaking branches an ice storm provides deer some benefits

though on the whole, I'm sure they'd rather do without the ice. Going down to the Big Pond, I saw an otter slide coming up to me, coming down out of the woods. I also saw fresh scat at their latrine and slides heading in other directions.

I followed one going up pond which strayed into the grasses and then, not 20 yards from the hole, turned and returned to the hole.

Then I followed a slide heading toward the dam. It veered up to the tree along the pond, sniffing a large spruce,

and then continued close to the grasses but still going toward the dam, then, about two-thirds of the way there, it veered up into the grasses, under a pine and then onward until it made an abrupt turn and angled up into the icy brush, say, 45 degrees off course if it wanted to get back to the hole.

I left that tracking for later and went down to the dam, where I was surprised to see that an otter had been out, and scatted, but didn't seem to go or come from anywhere else. I walked along the dam -- with the depth of snow and collapse of the ice, you can be a hundred yards away and not see that the otters have been about. I took the surveyor's trail to the Lost Swamp Pond and saw much rabbit activity,

and one grouse trail. Save for the trail of a fox, the Lost Swamp revealed nothing. Nothing indicated that the beavers up pond had been out so I didn't go up to check. I'm waiting for the return of skiing conditions to tour up there. To my surprise the Second Swamp Pond beavers had not come out either, nor did I hear anything. They have plenty of room under the ice to roam about without having to get wet. The creek below the dam was frozen over. However, I did find a good example of how the ice segmented as it collected on the trees

which must help trees from breaking in the wind. As I came up the East Trail Pond dam I saw that an otter had been out of the hole to the east of the dam,

which hadn't been used for a while. I soon saw that an otter had been out of the middle hole and scatted in front and above it.

I knelt down and stuck my camera into the hole, but didn't quite have the camera angled right to get a good photo.

Then I went to the hole that an otter had often come out of in the last week, and there was no activity. The prints of the otter around the dam today seemed large, so I formed the impression that a new otter had come in. Up at the lodge, there was some stamping around

without the large prints nor the yellowing brown to reddish brown scat it had been dropping.

So I think the "old otter" was in the pond too. Then as I went up to check the beavers, I saw an otter trail leading from their hole and sure enough soon saw a trail coming down the ridge behind the lodge, just as an otter came down early in the winter.

It went into the first hole of the beavers, out the second and then continued on top of the pond toward the dam. The beavers here had also been active, though not in a major way.

As I was determining this a beaver hopped below under the ice, going from the lodge, toward the water. I saw it dash under the hole! I was sure it was a beaver because of the clop clop of its panicked hoping. Perhaps the otter coming through had it on edge. Then I followed the otter, becoming even more impressed with how big it is. It had opened a hole at the end of a canal, went into it, came out

and then went to the hole to the east of the dam.

So, if my romantic view of this is correct: the mother separated from her pups back at the Big Pond, and now the male who rules this territory has come. I noticed much clearing of the areas around the holes as if the otter were trying to read the messages left by the scat there. If my romantic view is wrong, then the dominant male has happened upon the young male who has been lurking in these ponds since abandoned by mother after his sister died last winter. Back at the Big Pond, my romantic view got some confirmation as the trail of the otter into the woods proved tentative, and, in my opinion, showed inexperience. It went to large oaks sniffing around them,

didn't go up the hill, and eventually did back to the hole.

It's hard to imagine an adult otter wasting energy on such exploration -- however, I suppose a pregnant female might want a warm hole at the foot of an oak! Never be definite with otters. However, I can definitely say that I crossed over an otter slide as I walked to the Big Pond. One trail went back to the hole, but another came out, through the porcupine rock, and I walked over the trail that continued up into the woods, around a big tree, and then back to the hole. The trouble with otters is that in your mind you think you are getting a clear feeling of what's going on, and then when you write it down that clear conception becomes quite clouded.

February 25 Leslie dropped me off at the Nature Center and I hoped to find the tracks of the otter who came into the East Trail Pond from that direction yesterday. But first, not far from the Nature Center, I noticed many porcupine tracks and then the animal itself

up in a not very tall tree.

This looked bad for my theory that the ice would keep the porcupines browsing low, but nearby I did see some low browsing, and the tree it was in, the browsing was on the side of the tree away from the ice. Although it was a sunny day, it was only 10F. Still there was melting on the branches and perhaps a little on the trunks in the full sunlight. I was on snowshoes, noisy snowshoes on ice, and an owl flew off before I could get a look at it. I walked directly down to the East Trail Pond to eliminate the possibility that the otter came in from Audubon Pond. Then I walked along the slope to where the tracks came in and began back tracking up the ridge. I was encouraged by the prints of a fox also back tracking the otter. Suffice it to see the otter went directly up and down the ridges, and had no interest in the valleys through which one could go to get to the same place. This is a rather beautiful area with many pines and dramatic rocks -- and the ridges and valleys squeezed closer together.

The otter was not unique in taking this rigorous path. It came down one of the steepest slopes on a deer trail which I imagine must have been hard on its belly.

It went across the broad ridge that really forms the broad backbone of this end of the island, and then had scampered up a rounded ridge on the south end of a huge old beaver swamp.

I expected it to have originated or at least to have spent some time there, but no. It slid directly down to it from the east, and then climbed up directlu to the south. So it took me back up to the broad ridge

and then up yet another ridge that overlooks that -- I guess the highest point of this end of the island. All the way I was trying to appreciate the maleness of the slides -- no diversions. Though I began to wonder why it bulled up and down so relentlessly. Then just before I hit a frozen over bog (I could tell it was not a beaver pond because poplars were everywhere) I saw three slides!

It soon became apparent that I was probably backtracking a female trying, like another mother I've been watching, to get away from her pups. The other two slides stuck together

and even together they were smaller than the mother's slide. At points the pups diverged, like around a small tree.

At one point I got a good contrast in the size of the prints.

The trail back began to ease down a gentle slope, not that it was easy for me because the otters thought nothing of going through thick stands of bushes. Then we reached some old fields. The otters had come up through the willows, I kept going around. Finally I reached the edge of the woods, saw a beaver pond with snow covered lodges, surrounded by cattails. The tollbooth entrance of the park was beyond on the road above the swamp.

The otters had opened a hole below the dam of this swamp -- here the drainage is to the northeast, not back toward South Bay.

But the otters had not stayed. They went over the road, up from an active beaver pond.

I crossed the pond and went to the dam, where there was another hole, that the otters had been in, but no scats. I could see a hole at a small dam further down the creek,

but it was getting late. I more or less took the otter route back, but successfully skirted the thickets. I did by luck pick up the trail of the two smaller otters. They probably went down to some ponds to the east of what I call the Third Pond. I'll have to check that out. But it was getting late and I couldn't pause to explore or even take photos of the fresh otter activity at the East Trail Pond. An otter had been out at the old hole near the inlet creek, at the lodge, at the dam hole, and the hole east of the dam.-- much scat outside all areas, and from a cursory glance in the gloaming no sign that an otter had left the pond. This was a cold day with a predicted low of minus 15 for the night, so I wanted to get home to reduce worry. So I didn't try to sort out the fresh trails at the Big Pond hole, except it was plain to see an otter had back tracked my trail of the day before, and I saw a definite slide back into the pond. I did stop and take a photo of a dead deer at the foot of the second valley down to the Big Pond.

My guess is that coyotes ran it down the valley and it slipped on the ice, but I'll have to check that out to. I got home at about 6:20, just before Ottoleo went out to scout for me! Amazing how easy it is to charge along on snowshoes in the cold.

February 26 another cold night, but not as cold, and it was above 10 when we headed across the golf course, trusting our boots would keep us above the snow. We tried to figure out what killed the deer, and found blood on the rocks above him. So it wasn't run down the valley, There was blood, fur and tail at the foot of the rocks

and the carcass had been dragged out into the valley. The fresh prints were all from birds - with one large print, but too thin I think to be an eagle's.

With the carcass frozen, birds probably have more success with their picking than a mammal might have. There were fox and coyote prints.

Up on the rock there may have been two coyotes coming one way while the deer was coming the other.

Down at the Big Pond porcupine rock, there was fresh pee and some hair or spines on the trail. The other big news around there was evidence of rabbit tracks. The first we've ever seen them on that side of the Big Pond. Then I turned my attention to the otters. Coming back last night I thought I saw clear signs of a major otter foray over my old tracks, but today I couldn't see that. It looked like an otter at least had been out at the hole,

I certainly would have noticed that sweeping slide down to the hole before, but there were no new forays off on the ice. We also checked the dam and saw nothing new there. At the Lost Swamp Pond we noticed tracks around the old otter holes along the south shore, and perhaps two fishers had visited them.

There was such a discrepancy in the size of the prints that we couldn't help but conclude that a male and female had been through -- together? can't tell. Once again there was no activity at the Second Swamp Pond, except I got a video of a chickadee trying to deal with the ice,

but over at the East Trail Pond, Leslie's jaw dropped when she saw the largest spread of fresh scat ever.

It was black and dripping in great gobs just below the hole on the east side of the dam.

There were also two tracks coming to it.

I immediately had an idea of what was going on, but first I checked the other holes near the dam, and there was fresh scat at both -- not great gobs though. Then as I turned to go the lodge, I saw a beaver on top of the bank lodge. I whipped out my trusty camcorder, for here was a beaver out in the cold.

As I snuck up on the beaver -- to no avail, it did not come back out of its hole, Leslie tracked the otters. They capered around a tree and, as I soon discovered, two of them came in from the east,

coming down the big slope where, I theorize, their mother came down two days before.

I saw three tracks side by side, but since I couldn't see where the mother may have come out of a hole, I suppose it must have been a case of the pups picking up their mother's old trail.

Then I got close to the beaver hole and saw its back as it dove deeper therein -- camcorder not running. The beavers had been out, I think from the hole on the side of the pond. I could see fresh stick drag marks. The one at the lodge, however, seems only to have climbed on top of the lodge. As for the otters, the slides of the two new ones down from the ridge was quite striking. It was impressive how they made a beeline to the hole their mother had gone in -- except for one run around a dead tree!

And then what is notable: even at this age the pups seemed to move as one. Of course, it's likely that they were not strictly together as they ran. But that they adhered so well to what becomes one trail speaks to their dependence on each other. There was also activity at the lodge

and the hole the otters made at the inlet creek. Going home we went over Otter Hole and Beaver Point ponds, where there was no fresh activity.

February 27 we walked across South Bay and along the Narrows. This use to thrill me, but now I want to be where animals do something. There were dog, fox, raccoon and deer prints, but not until we walked up the valley that cuts down to the Narrows did we see something puzzling: a bird poop, wing marks, squirrel tracks.

Did an owl try to get a squirrel? Then along the trail we followed a deer with a bleeding hoof -- ice can be hard on them. Nothing doing at Audubon Pond except as we sat on the bench a mature eagle circled above up enjoying updrafts from the frozen but warming earth.

Leslie went home to bake her birthday cake and I walked up to Meander Pond where there was no evidence that the beavers have been out. But the vent hole of their lodge

is well steamed.

To my surprise, even though the temperature got above 20, there was little otter activity. Otters had come out of the inlet hole, swooping over to sniff the snowshoe track I left two night's ago.

No activity, I think, at the lodge hole, and none at the dam except perhaps brief scats at the east dam hole and at the hole below the mossy rock. To the huge smears at the east hole there was an addition of a squirt of scat of a rich amber color up on the left hand corner.

Now what does all that mean? I suppose the migration of the past days took its toll, and the otters recouped and explored their new pond. I am surprised that there is no sign that the other otter left the pond. An indication, I suppose, that this is all one happy family. The beaver was not out, as I approached with camcorder cocked. However, when I got very close, I saw the hump of a beaver's back as it went deeper into its hole -- no video of that, again. Nothing doing at the Second Swamp Pond, nor Lost Swamp. I finally walked up to the lodge, which has been visited by canines. It has a generous vent hole, and from whence I heard mewing.

So the beavers are in there. That these worthies have not been out more is a great strike against my theory that beavers organize themselves for winter foraging above the ice. Right in the middle of a large pond, these beavers are not positioned for doing that. All I can suggest is that beavers have not wintered in this lodge for several years and perhaps there is a wealth of edible sticks around this lodge under the ice. Seeing the other otters lying low, I was not surprised to see no certain activity from the Big Pond otters. I walked up to the spring hole, where birds and raccoons have been. I wasn't sure what the green stains along the edge were -- poop or juices from rotten fish being pecked by birds?

The porcupine near the Big Pond was rather active and took a trail near to my usual path. I saw its sampling of a few small trees and then some gnawing at the base of a poplar, which I've never noticed them having a taste for.

And the trail ended there. Since it was not up the tree, I assumed it walked back the same way it came. After thinking sagely yesterday that mammals would not get much out of a frozen corpse, I was surprised to see much hair pulled off the deer,

and the deer's belly had been worked on

-- the skin pulled back and the scavenger uncovered red meat along with the offal. Another priceless day, though the sun bright on the snow becomes brutal. Today, the raven was gurgling about again.

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