Sunday, June 2, 2013

May 2013: A Good Evening at the East Trail Pond

It's been almost two months since I stopped keeping a daily journal and switched to monthly reports on what I saw and think I've learned. That won't work for May 15. As I walked up the ridge north of the East Trail Pond a little before dinner time, I got a hint that I was in for a treat.

The beavers have been gnawing on that red oak since mid-winter and still climb high up the ridge to gnaw it some more. As always I tried to move down the slope of the ridge to my usual viewing area as quietly as possible. Before I sat down I saw two beavers swimming to the west end of the pond to my right. I thought that would make it easier to keep track of the beavers if I saw some in other parts of the pond. But no sooner did I sit down than a beaver swam right below me and, as usual, slapped its tail.

It lurked below the winterberries, just leafing out, and just to my left, so I could still count beavers. Then the other beaver swam below me. I guess to see what all the slapping was about. So much for easily counting the beavers. The beavers seemed to have a discussion about my presence, a beaver style discussion. As the second beaver swam under me, the beaver that slapped its tail swam away from me out into the middle of the pond and slapped its tail again. But the beaver swimming below me, which looked like the larger beaver, didn't swim away from me, and the smaller beaver did a U-turn and swam back under the winterberries below me.

The winterberries had leafed out just enough to make peek-a-boo a trial, so I checked on the Blanding's turtles. The lowering sun was still warming several that were still up on little islands of mud.

I cannot identify the sex of Blanding's just looking down on them, but these two looked like a couple to me. The painted turtle was keeping a respectful distance. And as I looked around through binoculars, I saw another couple,

with another painted turtle at a respectful distance. Then way over near the beaver lodge, I saw another pair, not so chummy as the others.

But when I checked that pair 10 minutes later, things seemed to be clicking with them.

Was love in the air? Then the beaver that slapped its tail decided to tolerate my presence and it swam out between me and the nearest pair of Blanding's turtles,

and started nibbling some grass stalks sticking up out of the water. Blanding's turtles generally keep their heads high. The proximity of the beaver did not seem to give them pause, though generally very little gives them pause.

One of the pleasures of watching beavers is seeing the ripples they make in the water. The beaver nibbling spare grass stalks started swimming right under me and may have been eating pollen as it bobbed its mouth up and down.

Then I heard something climb out of the water well to my left and I saw a large beaver climbing up on the north shore. It started grooming then paused, turned and went to the trunk of the huge maple that the beavers have been gnawing on since winter. It got a bit of bark to eat and then went closer to the shore and resumed its grooming.

Then looking over at the dam, some 50 yards away, I saw a third or fourth beaver up on the dam grooming itself.

I couldn't be sure what happened to the first two beavers I saw. When I finally got a bead on them, I lost track of the beavers on the dam and on the north shore. Anyway, I saw a beaver stretching up for a bite from a fallen trunk on the south shore

and another beaver grooming on a mud island in the middle of the pond not occupied by beavers,

but I really couldn't be sure they were the first two beavers I saw.

Then it finally became crystal clear that there were four beavers out in the pond. I looked over at the north shore and saw two beavers grooming each other.

Then out on a mudflat in the pond, first one beaver and then another climbed out of the water to groom, but they stayed several feet apart and showed no inclination to groom each other.

I was not the only one noticing the intimate pairing of beavers on the the north shore of the pond. As you can see in the video clip above, twice noisy wood ducks swam by causing one beaver to look into the pond, looking a bit like it was caught red handed.

From my previous observations here I noticed that beavers butt into the ducks' romancing. Back on May 6, I saw a pair of wood ducks land in the pond and begin the rather long and slow dance that begins their courting. A beaver cruising in the middle of the pond made a point of swimming over close to the ducks, effectively shooing them away.

On pleasant May evenings at a beaver pond, I can think of nothing better to do than over interpret what I see, and, of course, adding a bit of romance. I hope that I did not see the matriarch and patriarch grooming each other. Indeed I think the smaller beaver made skittish by the noisy ducks is a yearling or two year old a bit nervous and overwhelmed by the patriarch grooming it. The matriarch should be in the lodge. This year's kits are either here or about to be born. But then again at one point in their grooming it looked like the smaller beaver was sucking on the larger. Beaver nipples are high on the chest. So maybe the matriarch was taking a rare break from her kit duties and a yearling stole some of mother's milk!

The two smaller beavers who groomed several feet away from each other were yearlings of the same sex. I think I've noticed competitive behavior between them before, though how could grooming be competitive. Meanwhile, I had an immediate check on my romanticizing at least as far as the paired up Blanding's turtles were concerned.

On the mud island right below me, a third turtle tried to climb up which didn't seem to elicit any reaction. The video clip below has been severely edited to show what reactions there were over the 40 minutes I watched them.

As the sun went down the turtles had nothing to bask in and to my chagrin, the turtles slipped back into the pond water one by one. That third turtle that tried to butt in on one pair, tried again, and then slipped off alone. It was time for me to join my pair, then home making dinner. I sneaked away so as not to disturb the grooming beavers, lone turtle still out, and laughing ducks.

It was a good evening for watching animals. Even the animals were watching animals. Before I checked the East Trail Pond, I sat at Audubon Pond and as I took video of a tern diving for fish in the pond I noticed a pair of deer pausing from their foraging to look up and watch, and a pair of geese on the other shore look up and watch, though two of their goslings were too busy wrestling to notice any diving tern.

That reminds me that there was another watcher at the East Trail Pond, the goose sitting on eggs on the lodge in the middle of the pond. She's been there for a few weeks.

I have no idea what she was thinking.

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