Friday, July 27, 2012

Beaver Kits Climbing Trees and Bluebirds Acting Like Kestrels

2 beaver kits grooming
All of the beavers that were with us after the June dam collapse remain with us today and they continue to work on their dams as well as the lodge at Secret Pond. The 4 new kits are now seen daily and their interactions with each other and the 3 adults continue to be of interest.
Julia and all 4 of this year's kits feeding on Aspen leaves
A survey of potential beaver habitat located up to 1.5 miles downstream from Secret Pond has revealed no sign of beaver activity, and casts some doubt on the possibility that the colony’s 4 missing adult beavers managed to survive and have made their home somewhere else. Still, it’s important to remember that beavers can travel a significant distance overland, and it’s conceivable that some or all of the missing individuals have come upon a spring-fed wetland or even part of a tributary unconnected to their original stream.
For the first time in years, Julia drags a tree back to the pond

With the apparent loss of May Apple, the colony's patriarch and main provider, the job of food collecting has passed to his 2-year old son, Blueberry, and also to Julia, the colony's matriarch. They don't exactly have the job down yet, but they've been steadily improving.

Beavers venture up on the land
At first Blueberry kept coming back with boughs of Tartarian Honeysuckle –a ubiquitous alien bush that beavers generally regard as inedible. Bringing willow or poplar would've been considered to be more helpful, but Blueberry has a “thing” about willow. About a year ago he mounted a one beaver protest against this particular menu item by taking May Apple's newly collected Pussy Willow boughs and unceremoniously pitching them over the dam. Now, necessity is making Blueberry overcome his finicky ways, and most recently he has been observed retrieving willow saplings and even eating them.

Sarah's Pond continues its transformation into a grassy meadow
It had been a while since Julia has had to venture into the sapling grove –probably at least 2 years, but the other day I happened to see her accompanying Blueberry as he traveled away from the ponds and up to a place where some Aspen Trees still grow. Their aim was to gnaw down a choice specimen and then haul as much as they could overland and at least one hundred yards back to Secret Pond.
The top of the old dam sprouts many flowers - Blue Vervain, Joe-Pye-Weed and Boneset
Meanwhile, the antics of the young kits back at Secret pond include shoving matches, walking and riding on top of older siblings and their mother, and most surprisingly, tree climbing. Beavers are not generally known for their tree climbing ability, but if a tree trunk is properly aligned, they might just attempt to scramble up. And this is exactly what one of the kits did. Since the tree turned out to be a Black Willow, their were plenty of small branches sprouting from the trunk, and so the kit's initiative was rewarded with a snack.
A beaver kit stands on a tree trunk and reaches out for some willow leaves
On land beavers are fairly awkward appearing animals, but in the tree, the little kit looked surprisingly at home. He stood up on a wide branch to reach some leaves –and this made him look ever so slightly like a Koala Bear. When he was finished, he turned around and quite confidently walked back down the branch and plunged back into the pond.
A beaver kit having a slice of apple

During the first half of the summer, dry conditions and high temperatures around the nature preserve have attracted more animals than normal down to the beaver ponds as they sought relief. Songbirds were coming to bathe and even deer came to wade in the water and feed on submerged plants.
A large part of Morton's Pond is now covered with mounds of tall grass
A few sandpiper types have shown up at the remains of the main pond. The Solitary Sandpiper comes daily to probe the mud alongside the deep stream channels. Robins, Goldfinch and Bluebirds also frequent the mud flats as they transform into a meadow. Definitely, the Robins and had an easier time pulling worms out of the mud than they did probing the baked ground of the upland fields. 
A juvenile Eastern Bluebird looks for insect prey to pounce on
A small flock of juvenile Bluebirds were more interested in working the parched and grassless parts of the old pond bed. Here, without obstruction, they could easily see their insect prey moving. Much like a Kestrel, the bluebirds frequently dive down on their prey from a high perch.
Square-stemmed Monkey Flower grows in the beaver meadows
The Goldfinches seem to be most interested in pulling up strands of algae along the water’s edge. In this activity the goldfinch is alone, for no other bird species seems interested in extracting food from this slimy material.


  1. Aspirin is acetysalicilic acid, a synthetic chemical modeled on compounds called salicates originally found in the bark of Willows that reduce fever, inflamation, and pain.Tn Tree Farm Nursery

    1. I guess since most of the trees that beavers consume the bark from are members of the willow family, they must be feeling no pain. Thanks for the comment - MP