Monday, August 3, 2009

Pond Tower

I'm going to include pictures of some of the Beaver Boardwalk features in a series of blog posts. The first feature is the observation tower overlooking the main beaver pond, built in spring 2008. It was an instant hit with visitors. Lucky or patient folks were often rewarded with a bird's eye view of the beavers below them. Here's two examples from my personal observations:

Last June an adult beaver cut a willow branch and proceeded to eat the leaves, bark, and tender twigs right below the tower. In typical beaver fashion, it left a small uneaten portion for the next family member. Sure enough, within 10 minutes after the first beaver left another came to finish the meal. Then it went off to find a main course of its own.

Last September, two beavers spent more than an hour diving to the bottom and gathering armloads of mud to repair and armour their lodge for the winter. The beavers waddle up the lodge on their hind feet to plaster their load of mud. Always a breathing hole is left un-mudded near the top of the lodge. I'm sure the beavers must be able to sense the location of the hole, perhaps by smelling or feeling the warm air coming up from below.
The pond tower is a great place to spend some quality time. Take a pair of binoculars and some patience and you will soon be rewarded with amazing glimpses into the lives of the wildlife of the Beaver Boardwalk.

Maxwell Lake Ducklings

Good news! Last winter's break in the beaver dam that lowered Maxwell Lake about 50 cm and the very cool spring including a significant snowfall in early May didn't affect waterfowl reproduction in 2009. Right on cue in early July two ring-necked duck hens appeared with broods of ducklings. One hen had 6 little ones and the other had 3. A few weeks later two mallard hens also showed up with ducklings in tow. One mallard hen had 5 ducklings and the other had 4. The mallard ducklings were already fairly large when first seen, so they could have come down Happy Creek from the beaver ponds upstream.

Four broods of young ducks is about normal for Maxwell Lake, and ring-necked ducks and mallards are the species that usually nest there. Buffleheads are fairly common spring visitors, so in an effort to encourage these cavity-nesters to stay and raise a family I'm going to put up several nest boxes this fall. Other cavity nesting ducks such as goldeneyes might also use the boxes, and many other species will find them useful. More about those in a future post.