Tuesday, 27 December 2011

On the 3rd of November Anne-Marie Macmaster from the Scottish Mink Initiative visited me and brought this walk through arrangement that would ensure that any mink would leave their footprints in the clay.

This photograph, taken on the 26th December shows no sign of mink so far.

I am relieved that this is the case (so far) because I have seen no mink here since 2002.

Friday, 23 December 2011

The Wet Wood aka the New Beaver Swamp and Pools

There has been a bit of a hiccough since the 13th December due to the complexities of the Festive Season. Here are a couple of photographs that I wished to present to my loyal followers.

A grey afternoon and the New Pool is seen from the west. 

Here is a section of the 100 yard dam.

Happy Christmas! (Old Style)

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Paw Marks in the Snow

Footsteps in the snow - the front paw of a beaver: 

A little snow fell in the early hours of the morning, leaving enough for a beaver to make clear marks.
The front paw marks are easily seen in these photographs, but the hind feet with their webs are not so obvious. 

Above the front foot in this photograph is a hind foot print.
The beaver whose tracks I have photographed does not seem to have been pulling a branch along behind it, otherwise the tracks would be less clear.

 This photograph of a feed cache was taken on the 4th December


I took this photo this morning. The beavers don't seem to have added anything to the cache since the day I took the preceding picture.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

First Snow at Bamff

The dams by the drive are looking splendid with their dusting of snow.

And the food cache in the downstream section of the Burnieshed Burn is growing, I think.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

A Breached Dam and its Repair

My last post showed a breach in the Long Dam in the Wet Wood. When I found it I wondered if a human had dug a gap in the dam, but I could see no sign of boot prints and there were no signs to show that a spade had been used to breach the dam. I think that the water level must have risen to a point where the beavers in the new lodge on the banks of the ditch upstream of this pool found that their living space was being flooded and so lowered the water level. 

As you see from the photograph above, taken at the place that I think was breached (and there is no other place along that dam that has been breached or has such obvious signs of recent structural work), the dam has been repaired.

Some may ask if beavers are really capable of such a capacity to resolve problems. The answer is 'Yes, they can.' 

Looking across the dam, this photo shows a substantial food cache that the beavers have been preparing for winter. 

After checking on the dam and finding that the gap had been repaired, I walked round the pool to its western side and took this photograph to show the increasing extent of the water. You may be able to make out the dam at the furthest away extent of the pool.

This is the new dam which, I think, may have been flooded by the recent rains and so encouraged the beavers to breach the dam about 30 metres to the east and then repair it once the lodge had been extended.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

On the 22nd of this month, taking advantage of a sunny day between the days of mist and rain, I walked out to the Wet Wood and found that the Long Dam had been breached.

Here is the breach

And here is the pool upstream of the dam. 

Today I visited the Wet Wood again. A heron lifted off as I approached and a flock of mallard rose noisily and flew away. I found that the breach had been fully repaired and the water level of the pool was as high as ever. Why had the beavers breached the dam?

I remember seeing a new lodge on the banks of the main ditch and think that the rainfall of some days and nights before the 22nd had flooded the new lodge. I guess that the beavers have now built a new chamber in their lodge, higher than the earlier one. This is just supposition. I must go out again and look for the lodge.

Here is a view of the pool from the downstream side of the dam.

The main canal has developed considerably. It is interesting to note the scouring out of channels. First, the bottoms of the canals and overflow channels are of mud. Then, the mud is scoured away and one sees a gravelly bed appearing.  

 The lodge has been cemented with mud, ready for the winter.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

At last, a couple of clips with the trail camera: in this one a beaver is caught dragging a branch of aspen away from the now cut over clump.

Here are some stumps from the reduced grove of trees.

And here is the small pond across which the trunks and branches of the aspen have been floated to be stored in the pond with the lodge downstream. Before they reach their destination the timber will have to be steered down the canal the beavers have dug between the little pond and the dammed pool that lies upstream of the Lodge Pond.

Returning to the Burnieshed Burn east of the drive, here are the makings of a cache of birch branches for the winter. At least, that is what it looks like to me.

Here are three newish dams. The nearest one dates from late summer, I think. The next dam above began to be built early this autumn and the one furthest upstream in the photograph, and visible only as a white splash, was started about a month ago.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Trout or Salmon?

Walking back along the burn after an unsuccessful search for a lost knife, I saw a fish jumping about on the bank, just below the Third Dam. I closed with it and managed to take a photograph, the second lower down. I tried to get a hold of the fish, but eventually it slid out of my hands and escaped into the meshwork of the dam, to find its way into the water downstream.

Here is that first fish.

As I grappled with the fish, which I took to be a young trout of a fair size, I realised that it was not alone. There seemed to be three others lying in the shallow water that ran dry just beyond where they lay.

Beyond the group of three there lay a dead fish. This is it with my Leatherman Utility Tool to give an idea of scale (about 20 cm/ 8 inches). The first fish I photographed was considerably longer.

Later, when I looked at pictures in Peter Maitland and Keith Linsell's 'Guide to Freshwater Fish of Britain and Europe' I wondered if this was a salmon parr that was undergoing smoltification.

As I had left the dead fish on the bank of the burn I hurried back to find it and put it in our deepfreeze so that it could be examined. At the dam, I found another live fish and photographed it.

Here it is again. Trout or salmon parr?

The fish were lying in the water just to the left of the dead fish and the Leatherman tool. They seem to have swum from the pool upstream, over the overflow in the dam towards the top of the picture and got stuck when they ran out of water. If they had tried the other two overflows they would have found their way downstream safely.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Climbing beavers

Continuing with the theme of the athletic beaver, here are some photos I took recently of a fallen sycamore that had been ringed by beavers and had then fallen to a winter wind- note the bottom right hand corner of the picture. The tree fell last winter, I think and is held up against another sycamore that beavers have ringed, but which has not fallen yet. The fallen tree has been barked for a certain distance along its trunk, so you may imagine my surprise when I saw that beavers were still interested in it. 

Has a beaver mounted the trunk from the bank?

I think it must have and has then padded up the trunk of the tree.

But what has it won in the way of nutrition?

Lichens here, but what about the lower parts of the trunk that have been gnawed?

Perhaps slightly acidic water gives a vinegary taste? Do slime moulds have a flavour?

Friday, 14 October 2011

Beavers are full of surprises. Having felled this birch, a beaver has walked along the trunk, gnawed off the bark and jumped down onto the bank on the other side of the burn. At least that is what I suppose happened.

Beavers use stones a good deal in the course of building dams, but usually they are scattered around the structure. Here, in this small dam, you can see some stonework, which I thought unusual.

Fiona McLean of Stirling University has produced some interesting results from her sampling of the water in the Burnieshed Burn, but more of that for next time.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

A Visit to the Wet Wood

Since I last posted the beavers have been busy with the aspen. When Kevin Jones was working on his PhD thesis he counted about 75 stems of aspen, the suckers of the original 12 trees that were planted in 1992. 

All but 18 had been cut when I took these photographs on the 26th September 2011.

For the most part the stems had been dragged away, but a few had been left.

This is the path that leads from the aspen clump to the western pond in the Wet Wood. It is along this path that the beavers have dragged the felled aspen stems to the pond. One stem has been discarded.

Debouching from the small pond is a canal which is punctuated by, a series of little dams that serve as locks. This dam, however, has been extended to make a pool.

Here, you see the canal as it flows towards the pond that lies next to the pond excavated by John Lister-Kaye in September 2001.

This photograph shows the newly extended northern end of what we may call the Long Pond. With its new extension this dam is around 110 metres long. Is this a record for the British Isles?

New coppice growth from grey willow in the Wet Wood.

Here is a reminder of the vigorous activity of the beavers of the Wet Wood

And here we are back at the aspen grove. Let us look forward to the suckering next spring!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

I forgot to mention that the beavers have returned to fell the aspen clones they last (and first) felled in the autumn of 2002. No aspen were touched by beavers during the last nine years, but now they are back, cutting, dragging away and consuming.

Presumably the quantities of bitter chemicals in the bark that deterred felling and browsing have declined and aspen bark and leaves are good to eat again.

Cut stems in the group.

The path from the aspen clump to the little pond in the Wet Wood.

More of the path.