Monday, July 9, 2012

The Beavers of Secret Pond

3 of 4 new beaver kits chew on willow leaves with their mother in the background

Following the disastrous dam rupture at our main beaver Pond, our beaver colony moved downstream to a practically invisible and inaccessible pond, aptly named Secret Pond. Ever since, I have been trying to ascertain the health of the colony and it has proved to be somewhat of a challenge. In short, I have not been able to confirm the presence of several of the adults including May Apple –the colony’s patriarch. In my last post on this subject (dated June 24th), I was convinced that I had seen him working on one of the new dams, and I even captioned one of the pictures with his name, but I’ve since concluded that I had actually seen Blueberry, May Apple’s  2-yr old son, who resembles him in many respects.

A new kit playfully harasses its older brother -- Badger

As I mentioned in that previous post, the disaster had brought the season’s new beaver kits out of the lodge a little prematurely. I now know that there are a total of 4 new kits. They are quite small, but they are clearly eating solid food and are well adept at diving through the lodge’s underwater tunnels. In fact, the youngsters enjoy a large degree of independence around 2 ponds where they play, explore and generally harass each other and their adult kinfolk. 
2 kits wrestle with each other at Secret Pond

The beavers’ work at Secret Pond and at 3rd Pond has managed to bring the water levels up to respectable levels. Through dam building and dredging, the deep water areas have been expanded at the 2 ponds, thus enabling the beavers to more easily transport their construction materials to where they are needed. Also, the entrances to the 3rd Pond’s lodge are now submerged, which will make it much harder for intruders to enter.
A Green Frog sits on the rock right next to me

Much of the other pond dwelling wildlife have now moved from the upstream disaster zone to the newly restored ponds. Ducks, fish, frogs, dragonflies and even Whirligig Beetles are all in residence now. The more closed in and shaded complexion of Secret Pond attracts shyer species. Songbirds like Tanagers, Towhee and Thrasher sometimes sing from branches at the water’s edge. Veery, Kingbird and Baltimore Oriole also call while hunting for the insects –many of which are also attracted by the water.
A Brown Thrasher sings near the water' s edge

The nature experience at the bank of this pond is a quite intimate one. While sitting on the shore, it is easy to be completely immersed in the activities of the wildlife –the beavers are right there –only a few feet away. The birds sometimes fly right in front of my face and even occasionally attempt to land on me. Damselflies actually do land on my legs, and I often have a Green Frog sitting beside me as I scribble down notes on the beavers.

Mother Julia comes on shore to chew on some greens
The beavers I’m seeing regularly are the colony’s matriarch –Julia; also Blueberry, Badger (one of 4 kits that were born last year) and all 4 of the new kits that were born this spring. There may in fact be more beavers in residence, but if there are, they are not venturing out in the afternoon or evening, and I have seen little evidence suggesting that any other beavers are contributing work to their various construction projects.

Julia and Blueberry engage in mutual grooming --it's a beaver thing to do
Blueberry and Badger seem to be the primary workers now. They are most frequently seen collecting materials (some of which comes from the remnants of several destroyed dams) and using them to fortify the dam at Secret Pond –and to a lesser degree, the dam at the 3rd Pond. Unlike May Apple, these 2 young adults take more frequent breaks to eat, groom and interact with family members. May Apple in comparison was the consummate workaholic, he rarely took breaks and compulsively switched from one task to another.
The lodge at 3rd Pond is now occupied, if not exactly fixed up
The beavers may be working on a new bank lodge at Secret Pond, but I haven’t been able to confirm that, since the entire pond is not visible from my lookout’s perspective.

Meanwhile, a portion of the impressive crater that was once our largest beaver pond has already begun to turn green with plant sprouts. Grass seeds as well as a variety of other plant seeds that have lain dormant in the mud are taking advantage of this opportunity to grow. If the beavers continue to leave this pond’s dam in disrepair, this pond basin will quickly transform into a beaver meadow. The rich silt that collected at the bottom of the pond facilitates a fantastic growth rate of plants; so within a month, a lush meadow will be growing were beavers once swam.
Grass starts to sprout in the muddy basin of the old main pond

Don’t think that the beavers don’t know this. They are herbivores and they often feed on grass. At some point the beavers will return to repair the dam, and when they do, much of this grass will be submerged. The beavers can then safely harvest it –one bite at a time. 
A beaver kit reaches out for an Aspen leaf


  1. I am really enjoying this well written and very informative blog - thank you!

  2. Great update, thanks for posting! Our patriarch has been known to 'disappear' for a while, some reports say that they are actually keeping tabs on possible suitable habitat in case the family needs to relocate one day. Love to watch the 'pushmatch' tussel with new kits.

    Heidi Perryman, Ph.D.
    Worth A Dam

  3. Over the years, I too have recorded instances of colony patriarchs leaving the territory for extended periods. If that's what our May Apple did, all I can say is that he picked a fine time to leave -with the dams all demolished, the lodge left uninhabitable and 4 hungry kits! Oh yes, and a crop of willow in the field. Somebody could write a country song about it!