the first casualty & my bioblitz wrap-up

The first casualty of the beaver was spotted yesterday when Sabrina and I went out for our morning walk. There was no sign of the beaver — just a poplar tree felled next to the water. I won’t grieve much over the tree as poplar grow like weeds around our place. In fact, it’s too bad the beaver wouldn’t amble up the lane and cut down a few of the poplars shading our vegetable garden. However, with my kind of luck, it would take out the Butternut tree instead — so better it stays down at the back of the field.

Anyhow, as mentioned in the replies to comments left on this post a couple of days ago, we’ve decided to just let the beaver stay, at least for the next while. In case you didn’t catch any of the discussion, we weighed the pros and cons and decided that it would be nice to have the old drainage ditch hold some water again. In recent years, it totally dries out by July and we have noticed a drop in frog populations. Also, we no longer get the Bitterns and Mallard Ducks that used to nest in the cattails. There’s literally no danger of the beaver causing flooding problems as the ditch only drains a field and is not a true creek, although I casually refer to it as one as it’s about 10 or so feet wide and about 1,200 feet long. The downstream end of it flows through a neighbour’s field and out into a larger municipal drainage creek. The only true “danger”, if you want to call it that, is that the beaver might cut down some trees. I did a bit of reading up on beaver last night, and it seems that a small family group of about 5 will cut down about 2 acres of poplar before exhausting the supply in about 3 years — or that’s what one website said. Unfortunately, I forgot to bookmark the reference, but that sounds about right, I think. Also, this site discusses studies on tree preference and states that poplar and salix (willow) are the trees favoured by beaver. We have a lot of both of those, so I’m not concerned if the beaver harvest some of them. I have noticed that they seem to like Ash trees though, so we’ll put some protection around a couple that grow near the ditch, as well as around the birch trees.

In any case, I’ll be watching to see what goes on back at the little beaver dam over the next while. My guess is that the beaver will move on by midsummer as the water level drops off. People around here refer to beaver that build dams in seasonal ditches “land-locked beaver” and they are usually just temporary residents. When the weather gets too hot and dry, they wander off looking for a more substantial pond or stream.

In other developments, I checked on the Robin and Mourning Dove nests yesterday. The Dove has now been on her nest for about 7 days. The Robin now has 2 eggs in her nest (see below).

Last item — I just finished filling in and sending off the Blogger BioBlitz data sheet for the last of the 4 sites that we surveyed between April 21 and 28. As mentioned before, I posted all of the photos from the farm part of the survey here in my Pbase galleries. Most of the photos are now captioned with IDs. I also put an “abbreviated” version of the species list from the data sheet up online for those who might be interested in seeing how things turned out. I think there were about 121 or 122 species of flora and fauna pretty much identified to species, give or take a few that I couldn’t take beyond genus. Considering the time of year, it wasn’t a bad number of species. The plant section is quite pathetic, but the insects were okay. All in all, I’m pleased with the surveys that we did here and at the other sites that we visited while hiking on April 21st and 22nd. I think it the whole project of the Blogger BioBlitz exceeded my own expectations. Quite a number of bloggers spent some serious time outdoors taking a good look at habitat in their area. I haven’t yet had time to get around to visit all of the different blogs that have posted their reports, but I have read a few and they were quite enjoyable. I’ll post links to some of the reports after everyone gets caught up posting their summaries. In the meantime, you might enjoy reading the views of another blogger from my region who took part in the blitz. I particularly liked the last part about the cook-out. So true.

Well, with all of the IDing of flora and fauna out of the way, I’m off to check on the latest developments back at the beaver dam.

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7 Responses to “the first casualty & my bioblitz wrap-up”

  1. Celeste Says:

    HI! I went to see your pictures, and read your list ;0) Ah-ha! You included 2 humans, one dog on your list…I was wondering about including those too on mine.

    Just wanted to add that beaver presence adds fire suppression. Making beavers into hats is one factor in making the west a tinderbox. We have them here, and down in the valley they are busy helpers in restoring the historical wetland prairies.

  2. Wayne Says:

    Celeste is right about the fire suppression aspect, plus I like the idea of creating a bit of a wetland, even if it’s not fed by a permanent stream. The gray tree frogs, bullfrogs, and toads have just started calling and I love hearing the cacophany and how it changes throughout the warm season.

    My plant results were good, but the animals were spotty – just the opposite of yours.

  3. burning silo Says:

    Celeste – Yes, I decided to include all three of us in the count as we make up part of the biodiversity of the farm — and have about the greatest impact on all of the other organisms, no doubt!
    Yes, very true about beavers and fire suppression. I was musing over that yesterday when looking at the ditch full of water. The cattails should stay nice and green for most of the summer and won’t soon become something more akin to ready-made fire torches! One more reason to let the beaver stick around.

    Wayne – I like the idea of the wetland too. It actually used to be a nice little tract of wetland at one time — not that significant in size, but a little strip like this can contain a remarkable number of frogs if it is able to retain water most of the spring-thru-fall season. I do enjoy hearing the frog and toad calls too.

  4. Jimmy Says:

    I agree wit the others…I enjoywatching beaver. There is a creek not far from my house. The beaver damed it up on privet land and now there is no water down stream. It ruined a great little brook trout stream. The owners won’t do anything about it and the state won’t either. We have lots of them here in Michigan.

  5. robin andrea Says:

    I’m glad you decided to let the beavers stay. It will be nice to see the habitat they create with the dam they build. As long as they only take down the poplars, it will be okay. Love those blue robin eggs. Reminds me of a few lines from Joan Baez’s song Diamonds and Rust, she wrote for Bob Dylan:
    As I remember your eyes
    Were bluer than robin’s eggs
    My poetry was lousy you said
    Where are you calling from?
    A booth in the midwest…

  6. Cathy Says:

    I found this in that link above: “Many trees cut down by beaver sprout again from the roots or stump and begin growing once more. To protect themselves against further cutting by the beaver, these re-sprouting trees produce higher concentrations of protective chemicals in their bark than they did before the beaver cut them. These chemicals deter future beaver attacks because they are toxic to beaver. ” Wow. That must indicate that this has been an on-going battle for millenia. How cool.

  7. burning silo Says:

    Jimmy – Well, there’s no danger of this beaver bothering trout. I think the only ones close by are at a trout farm. This beaver will probably just improve the habitat for frogs and birds. I agree with you – beaver are really quite fun to watch!

    robin – I think the beaver will be okay, I will write about later today, we discovered that it or some close relatives, have been doing some tree cutting at my nextdoor neighbour’s farm. She probably doesn’t mind either as she is a naturalist too. I like the lines about the blue robin eggs. I thought of what you wrote when I checked the nest and found that there are now three eggs.

    Cathy – Yes, I was interesting in the whole thing about the protective responses of certain trees. This is stuff that I’ll have to read more about. Surely there’s something to all of this as I’ve noticed that beaver choose certain trees and walk right past others without nibbling.