Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The dominant mammal

On my portage, and not far into it, I meet two new (new to me) neighbors, E and B. They are active in their neighborhood with green things and such and we have a delightful long chat.

I put in at the south lagoon, a strategy to hide from today's wind. The festivities start with a survey of the hidden lodge. Few people know of its existence, cloaked in a blackberry bramble in plain site of anyone with a canoe. There is much more here than I thought when I get out an look at it from different angles. The beaver have excavated three channels that run into the low birch forest. This lodge probably started life as a bank burrow, but is gradually becoming a semi-attached island lodge.

the hidden lodge

I head east into through the long familiar "east channel of the burial island", yet it is always different. Somewhere on one end or the other lives a large and powerful beaver, one who marks the territorial boundary with surprising regularity. New scent mounds appear often, and today the scent of castoreum drifts in the air, with fresh trails, a dozen of them, running up the bank to a food supply that lies just out of my sight. This is the dominant mammal here, if one disregards our own species. I wiggle the canoe into the flooded beaver forest of the east marsh. It is gnarled trees, cattails and small hummocks topped with brilliantly bright green moss. But, there is a lot of wood, misshapen and twisted, bent and stunted. Nowhere is there any wood that doesn't show the distinctive teeth marks of the beaver. And, it's these same chewed trees regenerating for the umpteenth time from some old rootball that hold this marsh together. These are the anchors against wind and wave, at least until firm ground develops. It is construction where human eyes often only interpret destruction.

It rains as I sit wedged into a dead end, some 200 yards from open water. I write and because I am so quiet, unseen birds begin to creep back, moving closer, unaware of my presence. While redwing blackbirds trill, I hear a grunting call that I do not know. Then, a deep chortle laugh that I am not familiar with. A heron flies over, neither of us seeing each other until the last second. The deep chortle laugh calls out again, but from a different direction. The south nest eagles whistle at each other as they near their nest, some 300 yards distant. It hails for a few seconds, a noisy moment in the marsh, ice pellets hammering dry cattails. The sun comes out. The blackbird trills. I do not need to go anywhere.

Notes - the floating cattail island has become an island once more, opening a 20 ft channel after 11 months of being connected to land.

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