Thursday, March 22, 2012

on a whim

The day turns out nice, unexpectedly.   K takes up my offer to go canoeing, our first trip out together.  We portage down to Portage Bay with a plan of visiting all of the beaver lodges in Portage and Union Bays.  I send K over to examine a very large cottonwood that the beaver felled this winter while I pack the canoe.  It was a good 60 ft tall with a 2 ft diameter at the is a good example of their capabilities.  We start with the bank burrow on the west side of Portage Bay, which is accessible again now that the water has come up in the lake.  I aim the canoe for the familiar deep channel that leads up to the lodge, but we run up on the mud.  The beaver have changed their deep channel location (constant use and the dragging of branches back to the lodge creates a 3 ft dredged water path for the beaver where the rest of the water may only be several inches deep) about 20 feet south.  We stop briefly at the main lodge and then head north and through the crossing under place with a so-so headwind.

New lodge construction on Marsh Island

We pass an immature bald eagle on the west shore and then I stop us at #2 island to see if we can spot the marsh wren that was working here yesterday.  K spots the first wren nest of the spring.  I had seen the wren pushing cattail leaves around, but now there is a thin round shell of cattail fluff.  It isn't completed, we can still see through gaps in the construction, but it will be finished soon.  The male wren will build 10 to 20 nests here to attract one female.  She will fix one of them and lay her eggs.

There are still some herons gathered near the mouth of Ravenna Creek.  Six are on the point and we flush a few more.  This is the end of the spring congregation that goes on here early each March.

At North Point, I have K sample a beaver scent mound.  She agrees that the castoreum is pleasant and sweet.  It is a smell you never forget.  It is a smell that you catch on the wind every once in awhile in beaver territory.

We visit the NE lagoon before crossing the bay to the Big Lodge, which gets its name from the fact that it is 30 feet across.  There is enough water to get back into the beaver forest behind the lodge, but new low branches stop us all too soon.  So, I steer us to plan B, the sedge meadow.  It is a twisting path through hummocks and cattails, poling and nudging the canoe through to a meadow of sedges that lies hidden and surrounded by cattails.  The new 520 bridge will wipe it away, but it is still here.  K is a particularly good canoe partner.  She is up for crossing all the way through, which involves bog walking on floating cattail mats...and the chance of getting wet.

We do the big dead end, we take all the cattail short cuts, K spots the hidden lodge, geese are setting nest territory on the workbench lodge, we stop and chat with 3-Stars who reports pied billed grebes doing the mating dance thing (I've yet to see this)...K is a good partner, we just keep going until we seem to have no where else to go...delightful.

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