Sunday, April 1, 2012

Beaver Update, Freezing Flowers, and Turkeys in Action

All 4 of last years kits and Blueberry (far right)

Recently, our family of beavers have stopped coming out in the afternoon, so in order to see them I have to visit their pond just before dusk. Last night I was lucky enough to see that all 7 family members were alive and well following what turned out to be, a not so long winter. May Apple, the adult male, was busy working on the second pond's dam, although as the daylight began to fade, he briefly suspended work and came onto shore to eat some grass and get some grooming in. Badger, one of last years kits, tried to goad his father into wrestling. May Apple humored him for a brief moment only, and then left to resume his work. 

May Apple swims off toward the sunset
All of the other kits, including Blueberry, who was born in 2010, came up to the first pond's dam in order to eat the apples that I brought. Nothing quite makes beavers happy like apples, except of course for the leaves and bark of the Aspen tree. When you see them chomping away on aspen with such relish, they make it look so good. But if you are ever tempted to taste aspen bark yourself, let me save you the trouble, it’s incredibly bitter.

During my last 2 evening visits, I hadn't seen Julia, the clan's matriarch, so I was pleased to see her swim out from the lodge right as it was getting dark. I expect that she is pregnant by this time of the year and within a month she is likely to give birth to a new batch of kits. I probably won't be able to confirm that until late spring, when the new kits begin venturing out from the safety of the lodge.
Dahlia (left)  and Blueberry
The fact that May Apple is spending so much time and energy fortifying the 2nd pond’s dam may be an indication that the family intends to move into that pond's lodge before long. This could be problematic since one of our resident pairs of Canada Geese seems, for the moment, to be favoring the top of that lodge for their nest site. If May Apple has any plans to do any roof repairs he's going to be in for some grief.

Julia finally comes out
Twinleaf proves to be  freeze resistant
Spring Beauty - also freeze resistant
The new spring blooms have slowed down now as the temperatures have becoming more seasonable. Nearly 2 weeks of 70 and 80 degree highs caused some plants to blossom and get their leaves far too early. Subsequent low temperatures (sometimes dipping down in the low 20s) killed back some of these over eager species –including a few of our trees. Freeze-killed flowers on some trees will mean less seed and fruit production this summer, which is not good news for wildlife. Quite a few of the normally early blooming plants can tolerate periods of below freezing temperatures. Twinleaf, Red Trillium, Toad Shade Trillium and Spring Beauty mostly looked fine after the temperatures rebounded some. Wild Ginger flowers did get freeze-burned, but their hearty leaves fared much better, and their unopened flowers will still have a chance to develop normally.
Hazelnut flower

Male Turkeys displaying
Wild Turkeys have been engaged in their elaborate courtship rituals. Their numbers have been down at the nature preserve after several years of unsuccessful reproduction. I watched 2 males counter-displaying in our largest field. They were both puffed out with fully expanded wattles. Their heads were a vivid shade of blue, and they contrasted greatly with their red wattles. Their tail feathers were fully fanned out and the birds were artfully tilting them to and fro in an attempt to impress the single hen that was in attendance. More typically, such a performance would be witnessed by a large group of hens –typically they would easily outnumber the males. This lone female turkey was trying her best to seem like a crowd. She was running tight circles around the males, and making very quick and close passes along-side the one that she apparently favored. 

1 comment:

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