Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Beaver Photographers

The Beaver Boardwalk is starting to attract the attention of some pretty serious photographers. Last fall renowned Vancouver wildlife photographer Norman Rich (check out his amazing photos here) came for a visit, and I hear he plans to return sometime this summer. This evening 3 photographers from Jasper with some impressive camera equipment were here taking beaver photos. Our beavers are so used to a human audience they go about their business at close range and often in broad daylight. And the boardwalk gives great access to their living space. There probably aren't too many better places to get great photos of wild beavers in their natural habitat than right here at the Beaver Boardwalk.

Beaver Balancing

That amazing beaver tail serves many purposes. When a beaver wants to eat while floating it has to raise it's head a little higher than normal so it doesn't get a mouthful of water with it's food. That tends to sink the middle of the body. To remain floating neutral and balanced, the beaver arches it's back and raises it's tail. An adult like the animal in this photo only needs to raise the tail to the water surface. Smaller beavers will actually raise their tail right out of the water. It's a somewhat comical sight. I'm sure the beavers don't care - floating with no effort while dining is what they are after, and that amazing tail makes it easy to do.

Summer feeding

Just for fun I hauled a couple of loads of fresh aspen branches to Maxwell Lake in July. The beavers didn't take long to find them, and even though it's still a month from food cache building time, they took advantage of the free feast. The photo shows 3 beavers happily munching. The animal in the lower left is an adult, and the other two are yearlings (born in 2009). I haven't seen any young born in 2010 yet but I'm sure they've been out for at least short periods around the lodge already. I still see beavers taking green branches into the lodge so I'm assuming that meals are still being served in the dark and cozy kit nursery.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Dam Maintenance

The beavers have started repairing their dams with a fresh coat of mud, perhaps in response to the recent rains and higher water levels. This evening about a dozen people watched at very close range as an adult repeatedly dove for arm fulls of mud to place on the dam. A boil of bubbles marked the location of the underwater beaver's excavation, and then a line of bubbles marked underwater progress toward the dam. The beaver surfaced just before the dam, with it's head pretty low in the water. That top-heavy load of mud must be pretty hard to swim with!

I noticed that the beaver often closed it's eyes while carrying and placing the mud - perhaps to protect against debris. The technique was pretty simple - the beaver simply pushed up on the dam, using it's chest to bulldoze the mud, and then it's front paws to distribute the load to it's satisfaction.

The first photo shows the load of mud, and the second shows the load being pushed up by the beaver's chest.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Construction Completion

On July 1, 2010 I put up the last 3 Welcome signs and the last 5 You Are Here signs. That brings to completion all of the construction work for the Beaver Boardwalk. I don't have anything left to do that I wanted to do. Guess it's fitting to finish it on Canada Day, 4 1/2 years since the start. I sure didn't think it would go on that long when I got the original idea, nor did I think it would get to be such a big project. The reward was just as much in the work as it was in the achievement. It gave me something to focus on, and I met a lot of great people who volunteered their time to help.

The best reward though is seeing people using the Beaver Boardwalk and enjoying themselves. While I was putting up the last sign at the east end of Maxwell Lake I met a couple visiting from somewhere non-local (I forgot to ask where). It was mid-morning so they hadn't seen any beavers and were a little disappointed. As I was installing the sign they walked the lower path to the lake tower. I could hear an upset sora over there. When they came back they asked if I knew what that small bird with the bright yellow bill was - a sora had walked out right in front of them at very close range. They were thrilled. For those who don't know the sora, it's a small very secretive bird of freshwater wetlands. Although it's the most widely-distributed member of the rail family in North America, it's much more often heard then seen. There's always special moments on the Beaver Boardwalk!