Monday, June 18, 2012

The Fawns of Spring and Beaver Multitasking

Twin Fawns wait for their mother to return 
By the end of May, while working in the reforestation fields, I was frequently coming upon fawns lying curled up in the grass. So still and so well hidden, you literally can stumble over one if you’re not careful.

A very young fawn, curled up in the grass near one of our benches
It’s normal behavior the fawns’ mothers to leave them alone like this for extended periods of time, while they are off feeding somewhere –usually in a nearby field or in the woods. After all they can’t produce milk for their young without eating a lot of salad –right?

Looking for a new place to set down

Occasionally, I’ll see a fawn become startled enough to run off, but they never seem to wander very far before laying down again to resume their vigil for their mothers. When the mother finally does return, a prolonged hello in the form of a cleaning and a long drink are in store for the youngster.
Last year I watched one fawn as it searched for a place to conceal itself. It was very young –probably born that same morning. It walked haltingly on its disproportionately long legs until it reached a grassy place underneath a young Pitch Pine. The grass wasn’t very high, but as soon as the fawn laid down, it really did disappear.
The Doe is reunited with her fawn
In that same field, some years back, I recall seeing a pair of young deer as they chanced upon a fawn that was bedded down in this manner. Their individual reactions were interesting: The young female wanted nothing to do with the little being that so abruptly popped out of the weeds and was now surveying her underside so hopefully. By contrast, the male deer strode right up to the fawn and gave it a good looking over. Next he began licking it with his long tongue. All was going well until the fawn decided to see if the amiable buck was also dispensing milk. The encounter ended with the 2 adult deer strolling off and the fawn lying down again to wait for its actual mother.
May Apple works on the roof of the beaver lodge
May Apple is the name of the adult male beaver that lives at our nature preserve. Yesterday, I watched him for about an hour in the afternoon as he near simultaneously worked on several tasks. The first thing that he was concentrating on was food procurement; he had dragged a Pussy Willow sapling out of the meadow and placed it about 10 feet out from shore, where it could be safely accessed by all members of his family.
Now it's time to work on the dam
His next task was to add material to the 2nd Pond’s dam, but after only 3 armloads of mud, he switched to searching for sticks of a particular size that he could add to the top of the beaver lodge. After doing this for only 15 minutes, he took a short snack break and then set out across the pond and toward the overland path that leads into a grove of Willows.

May Apple perceives a stranger standing on the path ahead - time to switch tasks

By this point, I had walked over to the same area in search of butterfly activity. May Apple was just starting to waddle up into the field when he noticed me. Initially, it looked like he was going to continue up the path and walk right by me, but after some minutes of contemplation, he turned around and once again seamlessly switched to another task. Still in the field, he began pulling up some assorted greens –some grass, goldenrod and ferns. Once he had collected a sizable bouquet, he swam out for the lodge, dove toward the underwater entrance and presumable brought the greens into the living chamber where they will be used for bedding.
May Apple brings some bedding material back to the lodge

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