Late March, 2005

Things to Come

This time last year I was looking for a good beaver colony to start a beaver project. It really wasn't until the end of fall last year that I found a site to work, but it's a pretty good one. I can get in fairly easily, the beavers have young, they seem to accept my presence reasonably well, and the stream flows east to west, so the sunrises and sunsets fall along the length of the water instead of being blocked by the hills along the stream. That means extra shooting time and nice light to work with.

Today was the first time that I dared venture onto the trails that I take to get back to the dam. The snow is starting to disappear and the nearby snowmobile trails through the National Forest made travel easier. I hiked along the ridge that forms the north side of the stream and as the beaver pond came into view I stopped from a distance to watch and listen. I could see the dam rising up out of the ice in the pond. Open water was visible on maybe a third of the pond starting along the dam, then along the south bank of the pond and across an open channel from the middle to the North bank. I also could hear the familiar sound of gnawing.

I couldn't see the beaver doing the gnawing, but I could see that beavers had recently cut many of the trees along the north bank near me. I slowly moved closer and sat down. As the beavers appeared I watched closely. When both were underwater at the same time I moved my tripod and camera gear down to the channel where one seemed to be spending a lot of time.

While I was there it was like an exciting glimpse of the Spring to come. I could hear a Canadian Goose honking around the bend. I saw a beautiful Hooded Merganser drake paddling around with his hen. I also saw several of my favorites, Wood Ducks. I also saw 2 Blue Herons and a hawk. I can't wait to get on the water and get some close up images of these birds!

The beaver shots above came as one of the beavers fed on a tree that they had cut down and felled into the pond. The beaver is sitting on the tree in these images. It would stick it's head under the water and pull off a chunk of bark and then pop it's head back up and gnaw on the bark for a while. Beavers have this interesting adaptation where they are able to seal off their throat while their mouth is open under water so they can bite, chew and carry wood while submerged and not get water down their throat.

Just before I left a coyote started howling nearby. Then another joined in and soon it was impossible to tell how many were around as the hills echoed with their song.

I found myself thinking of coyotes reflected in the water, blue herons wading in the shallows and splashing down on their prey, ducklings floating behind their parents, beaver tails splashing and all kinds of other wonderful images of spring yet to come...

Above the River