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Posts Tagged ‘beaver’

Why do I like to get up really early in the morning, striving to arrive at my destination just as the sun is rising? There is something special about the sights and sounds and even the smell of the early morning. At a time when many people are still snuggled in their warm beds, many wild creatures are already active.

It’s a real challenge, though, to pinpoint that activity and it is even harder to photograph it. Even when I am not able to get a shot, however, I am often filled with a sense of awe and reverence as I share the start of the day with all of these amazing creatures.

When things come together, it is truly magical, and I had one of those experiences this past weekend. I was seated on a fallen tree at the edge of a remote beaver pond at Huntley Meadows Park, my favorite spot in the park. I had been sitting there for a while, almost entranced by the reflections in the water, when I suddenly spotted the unmistakable wake of a swimming beaver.

This North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) appeared to be swimming laps in the middle of the pond. The beaver would head a certain direction for a little while and then would turn and swim back in the other direction, moving back and forth, in and out of the shadows and the reflections. Time seemed to slow down. I leaned forward slightly and tried to get as low as I could, but did not make any abrupt movements for fear of spooking the beaver.

It is really difficult to put into words what I was feeling as I observed the swimming beaver and I hope this image helps to convey a sense of the encounter. Eventually the beaver swam off and I continued on my way, filled with a sense of calm and inner peace.

Why do I like to get up early? The knowledge and the hope that special moments like this may await me are sufficient motivation for me.

beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What predators at Huntley Meadows Park are powerful enough to kill an adult beaver? Could this North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) have died of natural causes? Why was its body more than half a mile from the water?

The bright orange incisors and the large flat tail make identification of the body easy, but the cause of death is a mystery. A trail runner pointed out the carcass to me shortly after I spotted a Black Vulture this past weekend, which explains why the vulture was hanging around. (Check out my earlier posting Black Vulture in a tree to see photos of this somewhat creepy bird.)

It was interesting to see the reactions of different park visitors to these questions when I posted them to a community Facebook page. Some immediately assumed that coyotes, which have been spotted in the park, were responsibleand focused on the size and ferocity of these predators. Others spoke of disease or about the complex social structures of the beavers and how teenage beavers are kicked out of the lodge at a certain point in time and forced to fend for themselves.

Some readers simply used emojis, including one with tears. Somehow the loss of this industrious herbivore with human-like paws touches many of us deeply, reminding us of the fragility and preciousness of our own lives.

R.I.P., beautiful creature of God.

death of a beaver

death of a beaver

death of a beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The beavers at Huntley Meadows Park have been remarkably elusive this winter, so I was excited to see this one on Monday as it swam by in the beautiful early morning light.

There are several beaver lodges in the park where I have spotted North American Beavers (Castor canadensis) in the past, but it is hard to know for sure which ones are currently active. Occasionally I will come to the park really early or stay late, hoping to spot a beaver, but this is the first one that I have spotted in many months. With a little luck I will be able to see one a bit closer than this one, which quite a distance away when I photographed it.

beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Periodically I will arrive at Huntley Meadows Park early in the morning, hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the local beavers, but I haven’t seen one in quite some time. It’s very obvious, though, that North American beavers (Castor canadensis) are present and active, because their lodge, built in part on the boardwalk, keeps getting bigger every time that I see it.

Gradually the beavers are taking over more and more of a bench on the boardwalk. I noticed this morning, when I took this photo, that there is barely room now to sit down on the end of the bench. In the past, park employees have had to remove some mud when the lodge extended too far across the boardwalk and it looks like that has been the case this  year too.

I’m fully expecting to see one of these days that the bench has been totally engulfed by the beavers and incorporated into their architectural plans. At that moment I will know for certain that the beavers have taken over.

beaver lodge

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I wander about in Huntley Meadows Park, I see lots of signs that winter is on its way, including this tree that I encountered in what seemed to be the middle of the woods. Clearly the beavers have been as busy as, well, beavers. I am hoping to be able to capture them in action in the upcoming months.

If you read this blog frequently, you probably noticed that this image is quite different from my “normal” wildlife close-ups. When I stumbled upon this tree on which a beaver had been gnawing, I was struck by the interplay of light and shadows. As I framed this shot, which is uncropped here, I was trying to capture the almost monochromatic look of the scene in a very simple composition. I’m pretty pleased by the different textures that I was also able to capture in the shot.

North American Beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Early Friday morning I heard a gnawing sound coming from under the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park. I watched and waited and eventually the head of a North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) broke the surface of the water. The beaver chewed on sticks for a few minutes a short distance away from me and then disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared.

This encounter took place just before 7:00 in the morning when it was just getting light. Although I had my tripod with me, I figured that setting it up would require so much movement that I would scare away the beaver. Knowing I wanted to get as low an angle as I could, I slowly sat down on the boardwalk, which was elevated above the water by about two feet (61 cm), and rested my telephoto zoom lens on my camera bag for stability.

I checked the EXIF data for these shots and they were all taken with camera settings of about ISO 1600, f/7.1, 1/15 second, and a focal length of 552mm. Not surprisingly, when the beaver was actually moving, the shutter speeds were too slow to stop the motion, but I did manage to get some shots that were reasonably sharp.

North American Beaver

North American Beaver

North American Beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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A dark head broke the surface of the water just after sunrise yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park and the animal slowly and silently swam by me. Was it a beaver or a muskrat? It looks like a Norther American Beaver (Castor canadensis) to me, but I never got a look at its tail—the tail would have provided definitive proof of the animal’s identity.

The many gnawed off tree stumps testify to the presence of beavers in several lodges in the park, but the beavers themselves have remained remarkably elusive. Muskrats are active in the same areas and many park visitors have spotted them in action during the daylight hours.

Beaver or muskrat? What do you think?

North American Beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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