Thursday, November 29, 2012

Birds, Brown Plants... Beaver!

Spoiler alert: There's a Beaver at the end of this post. I know, I'm excited, too! But I have lots of other things to share from today's awesome woods walk, and I feel like I need to save the best for last. So don't worry, we'll get there! (Or, skip to the end if you want instant Beaver gratification.)

I spent a good chunk of this afternoon wandering through the fields and woods of a nearby park, enjoying the bright sunlight that made the day feel almost warm. This time of year most of the field's plants are dead and brown, but there are still cool things to see, like these fantastically puffy milkweed seedheads:

And there were lots of different birds out today taking advantage of the field's bounty, including several sparrows. A big Fox Sparrow popped up briefly from foraging on the ground -- these birds are not extremely uncommon in Connecticut, but this is only the second time I've seen one here, and I just love this one's rich red "beard":

Dark-eyed Juncos were everywhere, handsome little puffballs on bare branches:

And a single warbler was flitting around, fairy-like, among the goldenrod stems. This rather nondescript little fellow is (I'm 99% sure) an Orange-crowned Warbler, quite rare for this area (or at least, there are hardly any recent eBird reports of this bird around here). In any case, I was happy to get to meet this very active, very plain bird:

As the sun was going down and I was leaving the park, I walked past a small pond and stopped to admire the amazing ice patterns forming on the water's surface (seriously, how does this happen?):

And then when I turned around, this stump jumped out at me (well, not literally, but you know what I mean):

Huh, now that looks suspicious! Somebody definitely worked hard to bring this tree down, and recently, too:

I've seen years-old beaver-chewed stumps in other woods around here, but never anything as bright and fresh at this. And now that I'd been confronted by this stump, I took another look at the pond... and saw the many chewed branches along the water's edge (making a very pretty pattern, actually):

And is that a pile of sticks -- maybe even a growing lodge -- on that island in the middle of the pond?

I'm sure I've seen beavers before, but it's been many, many years, and I've never seen one in Connecticut. So just in case, I decided to wait and see if the creature who cut the branches was actually hanging around and might make an appearance. And sure enough, after just a few minutes, I heard the sounds of splashing and ice cracking, and then a beaver's nose and ears surfaced:

And there's a beaver tail!

The beaver played coy for a bit, swimming around under the ice. Soon, though, it swam over to the shore, and after some more ice cracking (to make a hole, I suppose), it grabbed a nice thick branch and brought it back to the island, emerging entirely from the water. There you are, Mr. (or Mrs.) Beaver!

The beaver was really into chewing its stick, and didn't seem to mind that I was sitting right there taking pictures:

So exciting! Beavers are basically awesome, and I really hope this one gets to stay in this pond -- I know beavers and humans can clash over property and tree use, and the beaver population is growing (after actually having been extirpated from Connecticut in the mid-1800s... how crazy is that?), but this pond is in a state park, so.... Fingers crossed! If this beaver doesn't mind living in a place where people visit and travel, surely we can spare some of the trees that make this part of the park pretty, right? I guess we'll see.

Right now, anyway, there's a very happy beaver here with lots of sticks to eat. I couldn't resist recording a quick video of the beaver in action -- if you turn up the volume and listen really closely, you can even hear some chewing:

What an awesome day. :D


  1. Apropos. So do the beavers actually eat the trees, or do they just build stuff with them?

    1. Apparently beavers eat the smaller twigs and bark -- it looks like the beaver I saw was gnawing the bark off of that big stick, corn-on-the-cob-style. So I guess trees are both useful and delicious! (Also, haha, that link is very funny. Poor beavers, and poor guy!)

  2. Great beaver photos! I see lots of beaver sign where I live in northern NY, but rarely lay eyes on one at work, since they usually are active during the night. How lucky you got to see one.

    1. I certainly feel lucky! I actually hadn't thought of the nocturnal thing until you mentioned it, but you make a good point! I'm planning on stopping by again in the morning sometime soon, so I'll see if the beaver is active then, too. I wonder if I just happened to be there when the beaver was waking up for a night's work, or if this particular beaver is a daytime worker as well.... Either way, it was a very cool thing to get to see!

  3. There was sure plenty of "evidence" that beavers were in the area. I laughed when I saw all the chewed off sticks. It takes a lot of wood to dam the pond, build a lodge, and maintain their food stores for winter.

    1. Lots of evidence indeed! And yet I would have totally missed it if that big chewed off tree stump hadn't been right in my path, because I wasn't looking for the signs and I never expected to find a beaver here. I guess beavers do need a lot of wood to get ready for winter!