Since posting this blog yesterday, my Maine Master Naturalist mentor, Susan Hayward chimed in and corrected me. If you’ve read this previously, please be sure to scroll down to the Squawroot discovery. (Or not Squawroot). Thank you, Susan, for sharing your knowledge once again and setting me on the right track.
Our intention today when Connie Cross and I visited the wetland at Sebago Lake State Park’s Campground was to . . . well . . . walk with intention. There were several miles of trails to explore during the offseason, but we decided, or rather I did, that we should circle the beaver pond to see what we might see.
It was raining as we drove to our meet-up point. And so we piled on extra layers to ward off the damp chill, and thought about snowshoes–to wear or not to wear? Connie chose to throw hers into a backpack and I went without.
Our journey down to the wetland was one that had been recently traveled by others, including a certain waddler who showed off its finger-like prints in the melting snow. It made perfect sense to us to follow the track of a raccoon for it would lead to water.
Everywhere by the water’s edge, we noticed the works of another mammal–some old and others more recently hewn by the local beaver family.
And then we spied the lodge and noted the mudded sides and recent additions to the chimney stack at the top and knew that it was active.
As we watched, we noticed that someone decided to call upon the residents–for a female mallard hopped from the water to the lodge and began to climb up.
One might expect a fox or coyote to pay a visit to a beaver lodge and reenact the story of the big bad wolf and three pigs. Or as noted on tonight’s PBS show entitled Nature: Leave it to Beaver, the visitors might be a muskrat, mouse, or frog who check in at the inn, but a mallard?
Apparently, she liked the contents amid the mud used to insulate the house.
As we watched, the sky above began to change and we noted such in the water’s reflection. Clouds, sun and blue sky marked a morning in transition.
Continuing along the trail, Mr. and Mrs. Mallard became our friends and seemed to follow us, that is, until he signaled to her rather like a dog points, and a few seconds later off they flew.
In the meantime, we heard a splash in the water behind us. What caused it? There was no snow high up on the trees that might have fallen. And then . . . we saw the creators. Beavers. There were actually three–moving about slowly and then suddenly splashing again and disappearing into the depths below. And the chambers within. We were in awe and felt honored to have shared a few minutes with members of the family.
Finally, we pulled ourselves away. And then . . . we came upon another find. And somewhere from the depths of my brain after some word association like Indian pipe and Pine sap, I pulled up the name–Squawroot. Connie looked it up on her phone and tada, I was right. Another name for this parasitic plant is American cancer-root for it only occurs where it can attach to oak roots and we were in a forest of red and white oaks. Like Indian pipe and Pine sap, this plant doesn’t have any chlorophyll and therefore no green color. It actually reminded us of a pineapple.
And tada, I was actually wrong. Though they look sorta similar, this is what Susan shared: “Your squawroot looks to me to be the favorite food of those beaver.
Bullhead Lily or Spadderdock Root. Squawroot is later in the summer. There is rarely any residual after the winter; maybe a clump of twiggy dried stems. The Lily root is much more substantial tissue than squawroot. It is carbon loading for the beaver.”
I had never seen the roots of Spadderdock before. I learn something knew every day–thankfully.
We continued to circle the bog, and on the northwestern side I gave thanks that Connie had packed her snowshoes, for she packed the trail while I followed. We did try to figure out why it was called Horseshoe Bog. The shape didn’t speak to the name, but perhaps someone once found a horseshoe in the area–or so we wondered.
We weren’t the only ones wondering. A snow creature posed over the space with many a question about the future on its mind.
As we circled, the skyview changed and we finally began to feel the warmth of the day.
We also noted at least three other lodges that had provided warm spaces in previous winters.
The one noted in the last photo showed no signs of mud when we took a closer look so we knew it wasn’t active this year. If they had intended to stay, the beavers would have worked hard to interlock the sticks and then add plenty of mud like we add insulation and siding to our homes.
After three hours, we’d completed our journey–traveling maybe a mile in all that time. But we rejoiced for we’d spent time with the mallards and beavers and squawroot. Mallards, Beavers, and Squawroot, Oh My!