Sunday, November 23, 2014

Before Ice Up

I came up here to check on the beaver dam that lies a mile or two up the river from the mill pond.  It had been breached early in the summer, but whether by man or nature I do not know...I was curious to see if it had been repaired.  There is a thin sheet of ice over 3/4 of the pond, but a narrow channel where the current runs stays open.  The thin ice at the edge sings in wake of the canoe - sand or sleet of a sheet of glass with an underlying "twang", 30 feet behind as if I'm being followed.

the mill pond

There is a lot of beaver sign as soon as I leave the pond.  Stumps of saplings and half cut full grown trees are frequent.  There is also the peeled sticks left behind, pencil to thumb diameter, with the obvious scooping cut of a beaver incisor...having been rolled in the dextrous front paws just like corn on the cob.  Winter is coming, it is a busy time.

A few blue jays scold me as I paddle, but the first bird of note is moth a moth with 3ft wings, blunt headed, big bodied.  It rises from the shore, unseen until it moves, and easily, instantly identifiable by the absolute silence...not a peep, not the slightest woosh of owl.  It perches a hundred yards off and I can see it's "mule ears".  A great horned owl.

At the tight left hander where the water always runs a little swift, it is running fast.  A new beaver dam has been built and while it doesn't cross the river completely, it constricts the flow to a narrow channel.  It raises the water upstream water level a foot.  The new lodge, the reason for the dam, appears within 50 yards of paddling.

the beaver pond
 The old dam, the one that had been breached, is repaired.  But, it is no longer two feet high like it was in the spring - the new dam downstream of it having raised the water level on it's lower face.  I cross it on the right side as usual, scaring up a flock of mallards from the beaver pond.  The lodge near the dam didn't look good in the spring and now it looks worse.  Clearly, it is abandoned and I would guess that it was abandoned when the dam was broken.

Beyond the pond is a section of meanders...narrow with deep water, but very tight turns, almost doubling back on itself.  It's a labor for me in my long lake canoe, calling out every stroke that I know...sweeps and pries and well forward draws to pull the nose around...slow down, speed up.  Paddling, but without rhythm.  Response to the situation.  It's a busy time.

food supply to the left, lodge to the right
Past the second bridge, I find a new lodge on the outside of a turn, just past a small dam.  Mussel shells show that raccoons have been using the outside of the lodge for a feeding spot.  A massive brush pile - branches and saplings jammed into the bottom of the river are beaver preparations for for when the river ices over.

I probably won't get here again before it ices in.

No comments: