Sunday, April 17, 2011

Two Canoe Day

I rise early, too early for the head cold and raspy throat that yesterdays canoe trip extended. But, I have a meeting in the marsh to attend. I have to be at the big lodge at 7 to meet up with B and MA, two local activists working on having the ridiculous backwards plans for a new SR520 bridge redesigned (I often refer to the current bridge as the stupid bridge, which is an accurate statement - the new bridge plan is stupider) .

I put in about 6am at the east end of the ancient portage. It is still and grey but the clouds are not a solid blanket, a sun event may happen as the morning progresses. Two heron fly overhead and I notice them by the reflection in the water to the left of my canoe. A brief glance and I decide that I prefer the reflection. I watch carefully the surface of the still water. Moving animals such as beaver and otters are easy to spot on an unbroken surface. As I near the workbench lodge, I see nothing and I disregard the workbench itself as it is now under a few inches of water. I pass by listening to the zip of my paddle as it recovers submerged. A splash. I didn't see it, but there was a beaver near the workbench although all that remains is the expanding ring of waves from its tail slap.

Castor Canadensis - The North American Beaver

At the next point, now between the workbench lodge and the hidden lodge, I spot a beaver in the water, then a second and eventually a third. I sit. They spread out and then return. One swims directly to and into the hidden lodge. One swims behind me, near the point, slapping a tail every few minutes. Another disappears behind the point and then, if it is the same beaver, comes to the shore and rips a dry cattail out at the base and swims off with it. The tail slapper slaps again. I stay as long as I can, checking my watch and heading off around the burial island towards the meeting spot.

wind up for a tail slap

note the webbed hind foot

As I turn the cattail point near the big lodge, I find a large beaver ahead of me, swimming with a cattail, which it abandons as it slaps its tail 15 feet from me. It moves into the cattails, unseen now except that it slaps its tail three more times as I continue, the noise turning my head to see the last of the fountain of water as it falls behind the cattails.

Near the lodge, I find a big block of foam, a 75 pounder for sure and I just herd it to land with the canoe. I see the big beaver once more as it approaches the lodge. At the same time, a canoe is approaching and I am sure it must be B and MA, who I do not know, but who impressed me so much by their willingness to be in the marsh so early in the morning.

We chat some of the politics, the concerns, an exchange of information. Then we head off on a tour.

My new friends both have canoe experience, so the tour is mostly me pointing out the things that I have been noticing and watching, the things that I track on 3 or 4 days a week, a frequency that few get to experience. I point out the brand new goose nests and we find the scent of castoreum on the beaver scent mounds between the hidden and big lodge. They've not seen the hidden lodge before. I show them the feed spots where the beaver have left cleanly stripped branches and we head north where I show them the fine stand, or partially standing stand of alder trees that the west lodge beaver have been eating. At the NE lagoon I send them in first, knowing that they will flush any ducks. A dozen common mergansers come out as they go in. We sit here awhile and talk history. 150 years of so called progress has altered this area so much. Then we head back, finding more wind as we reach the main bay. I bid them farewell after a final talk at the ancient portage. My cold has the best of me and I need a nap, but I wouldn't have missed this morning for anything.

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