The day began with a reconnaissance mission to the Kezar Outlet Fen and a check on the cranberry crop. One of the most delightful ways to spend an early October morning is foraging for those little red balls of tartness and while my guy may have blue greed in his need to pick every blueberry in sight, my greed turns red this time of year.
Of course, on the way to the fen, other red berries showed their shiny faces–and we rejoiced in their presence as well. Winterberries were they.
But it was those little gems that grew closer to the ground that caught our attention on this morning’s Greater Lovell Land Trust docent tramp. And like those who have come before, we each claimed a spot and made sure not to trespass in our quest to fill our bags with such redness.
It didn’t take long. And really, there is no better way to spend the morning . . .
for this is a place to share the joy of foraging, the beauty of place, and the conversation of friendships.
And then one friend and I returned to the beaver quest I’ve been pursuing for the past two weeks. It was another reconnaissance mission intended to find some new activity. Today, we traveled a different trail and visited an old lodge–again several years abandoned.
Though no one was home at the stick lodge, we did find a few inhabitants of a nearby sand lodge, aka ant hill. And Forester Dave, with whom I was traveling, pointed out that the sweet and bracken ferns circled the spot, but didn’t grow within at least a foot of the hill. His theory is that the ants chemically affect the ferns. That was new to me and one to observe in other places.
We continued on our way and eventually came to another beaver pond that seemed equally abandoned. The lodge was built along a side bank, but no new construction had taken place recently. Nor was there a display of food gathering in preparation for winter.
But . . . we found a food source of a different kind in the form of watercress.
We also watched a number of green frogs leap into the leaf-strewn water to hide–and yet slowly float to the surface in an ever curious way.
And we saw numerous “hop” balloons, those little slightly inflated cases of hop hornbeam fruits that protect the seeds–many of which flowed in the water. So where was the source?
We scanned the forest and finally found the shaggy barked tree beside the water.
After that, some bushwhacking found us passing through a muddy zone–and prime tracking location. Deer, raccoons, coyotes and bobcats had previously walked where we stepped. Do you see the C for cat in this print?
At last we reached our intended destination, only to realize that the beavers still eluded us. We were sure that since all other areas had been abandoned, this one would be active.
We were wrong. The only activity seemed to be leaves clustering on the water’s surface.
And so we backtracked and made our way down to another beaver pond, deciding that we’d travel in the opposite direction of the raccoons and follow the stream downhill. From the top of the land to the lower portion, we encountered four or five well built dams, all still intact, yet the water levels were much lower than we would have noted if the ponds had active beavers. To say we were disappointed would be an understatement.
We did, however, find a great scat specimen. We debated bobcat and coyote–sectioned as it was had us leaning toward bobcat, but there were some large bone pieces that suggested coyote. Either way–we knew both had passed through.
And we found a spring peeper and chatted about their callings in autumn weather that reflects their mating season–the fall echo season.
A little more bush and whack and at last we reached the brook below.
As we stood in companionable silence, a single leaf floated past.
When it was time to turn away, we continued on, reveling in sights missed on previous missions, including a balsam sapling growing on a fern-covered stump.
And then, and then, much to our surprise, we encountered fresh beaver works where only three days ago there had been none. In at least three locations, we discovered that tree roots had been gnawed upon. It was a subtle sign–but a positive sign.
The lodges, which number at least three in this particular beaver pond that keeps pulling me back, still don’t look like they’ve been attended to. And there are no winter food platforms yet, but apparently they have time and don’t need to button down the hatches yet.
Happy in the knowledge that we’d found the beavers, though we never saw them, we decided to continue to follow the stream to a trail that abuts the property boundary.
And being a forester, Dave quizzed me on a tree or two. This one I got wrong by its bark because it doesn’t exactly look like its white and green siblings, but knew by its leaf–black ash with no petioles on the leaflets.
About three hours later, we left the beaver community behind–our circle completed, figuratively and literally. Even the brook appeared to know, its froth circled in reflection of the log above.