Sunday, November 18, 2012

Beaver Logging and The Lone American Pipit

Julia wrangles an Aspen log

This week at the Beaver Pond was much like last week, and like the week before. Food storage is just about the only thing that the colony is concerning itself with. In recent weeks, it has not been unusual for there to be ice on the ponds –at least in the mornings; and I think that the ice has provided an even more powerful incentive for the beavers to get their winter food reserves into shape.
Beavers can actually move logs twice as big as this one
The other day I watched Julia working on an aspen log, which was around 18 inches in circumference. The branches had been mostly stripped from the trunk already, and presumably taken back to the pond. Now she was sectioning the trunk into pieces small enough for her to transport over land. Amazingly, it took her less than 6 minutes to cut completely through this thick log. With each bite, her huge incisors pried off a long blonde chip. After every few bites, she would re-angle her jaws and bite down again to extract another chip. If I only had a pair of loppers like that!
Julia sections the log
Now with the log cut in roughly 2 equal sections, she was ready to use some muscle. With her mouth, she grabbed a hold of one of the pieces and jerked it upwards –angling it so she would be able to drag it lengthwise down the trail. After switching sides, she took hold of it again with her teeth –lifting up the front half and then using her weight to lunge it forward. Once Julia got going, the log slid well on the beavers’ slick logging trail, but then it got hung up in a low honeysuckle bush. But, no fear, Julia knew just what to do; she got her snippers out and took care of the impediment in less than a minute and then she was off again towards the pond with 4 feet of log dragging behind her.
5 minutes into the job, she's nearly finished
Once she made it back to the water, it was smooth towing for a little while, but then she tried to dive with the thing. The combination of the log’s buoyancy and the fact that it was getting hung up on branches already in the food cache, presented Julia with another challenge. The log popped back up to the surface, and the large beaver emerged right behind it. With renewed determination, she grabbed onto the log –gripping it very close to the end; and then using a combination of momentum and brute force, she plunged back underwater with it. The water was clear enough so that I could still see the log as it moved like a guided torpedo along the bottom of the pond. This time it was pulled clear of all obstacles, and was securely stowed at the bottom of the food cache. Wasting no time, Julia climbed back onto shore and headed out to retrieve the other half of her tree.
Julia readjusts her grip
Its times like these that I’m particularly glad that the beavers are friends of mine; If they weren't  I could easily imagine myself being stowed at the bottom of the pond just as easily as that log was. This is yet another good reason to coexist with beavers!
She makes it to the water with the second log
The American Pipit - an unusual visitor for us
An unexpected visitor to the nature preserve was a single American Pipit. Pipits are rarely found alone, so I wondered if he may have been injured or sick and fell out of his flock. Normally, the species is found in flocks along beaches and in large agricultural fields. Their call is very recognizable –in fact, their call, which sounds a lot like “Pip-pit” is what gave them their common name.
The Pipit looks rather thrush-like from the front
The Pipit has a barred chest, which makes it look somewhat thrush-like from the front. Its tail is dark, but edged with white feathers. Also, the Pipit is a tail bobber. Almost constantly, the bird pumps its tail up and down as it goes about its business. So far for the last several days, the Pipit is making due in our largest field. I keep hoping that a flock of his fellow kind will fly over and he’ll be strong enough to join them.


  1. I think you must mean 18"in circumference otherwise the log in the picture would be a LOT wider than it appears. :-)

    1. You are so correct. I'm afraid that's not the first time I made that error. Well, for the record, they are capable of cutting trees with 18" circumference and larger, but they certainly can't do it in 6 minutes or drag them away afterwards.
      - M