Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Resumption Of Activity

After a silence of more than a year here I am again, at last. I thought I would post my most recent contribution to the 'Alyth Voice'. Why not? And some photos of the Burnieshead area and Wet Wood at Bamff.

An Afternoon Walk in the Wet Wood

'A beautiful afternoon and time to visit the Wet Wood, I thought, so putting on my coat and boots, binoculars, and carrying my camera, I set off into the afternoon sunlight. 

Middle to the second half of January: most ewes should be pregnant by now and many will be bearing twins. I reach the end of the field and prepare to cross the fence. Placing my right hand on the top of a fence post, I raise my left leg to place my boot on the top wire and, drawing my right leg up to join the left leg, push up. My left hand swings over and places my stick on the other side, ready for landing. Over I go. With a light leap I touch down safely and climb the embankment onto the farm road and set off for the Quarry Wood. The path through it is clear since the Wild Sparks started, but there is no one about today: no sounds of children busy in the woodland. I cross another fence and make my way towards the wetland. A woodcock flies out from the undergrowth near me. The afternoon sun is still above the horizon and the landscape around me glows. Turning left I make my way towards the long dam. Usually I walk along the crest, but today I do not: the beavers have taken advantage of the open weather and have spent much time repairing it and raising its height. Mud has been dredged from the floor of the pool and slapped onto the dam wall. They have added sticks, mostly brushwood, and in some places small branches along the top. To tread on this structure would be to risk damaging it.

A pair of mallards flies up, interrupting my concentration for a moment as I make my way through the rushes. This demands some care because there are hidden channels up to a couple of feet deep.  

I walk on and note that the beavers have diverted one of their canals to create new pools. Another woodcock sweeps off. As I pause to look around a red squirrel appears: it has probably been eating alder seeds. Ravens croak and I look up to see a couple of the birds flying over. I walk on and another pair of mallards irrupts into the sky, quacking their warning to the world. By this time I have more or less completed my customary circuit and am crossing a dam. ‘Plop!’ What was that? Too small for a beaver: I look at the disturbed surface of the pool and wait. Moments pass: a beast raises its head from the water some yards away. It looks about, submerges and swims off: it is a water vole. I wait on, hoping to see the animal again. There are some ripples in the water and a sound of gnawing somewhere else, but the creature has gone. It has been a long time since I last saw a water vole and I am glad to see one about.'

This photograph shows huge bubbles in the foam that aquatic hyphomycetes produce during their breaking down of leaf litter in the Burnieshead Burn. I first learned about these fungi when attending a meeting of the Scottish Freshwater Group at Stirling University many years ago. 

Developments at the Burnieshead have been remarkable over the past year.

This is one of the new dams next to the drive to Bamff House.

The beavers in the Wet Wood have been active in repairs and alteration of their long dam, now more than 100 metres long.

The beavers have used a lot of brushwood gained from felling grey alders.

Further on in my walk I came across this place where beavers have diverted one of their canals to create new pools.

Here is a wide angle view, looking east through the wetland that resulted from the presence of beavers over the last 15 years.

A bit further east than the last photo in among some mainly grey alder woodland. 

December 2016 was a dry month, so it is interesting to see how the beavers have maintained and even raised the water level here this past autumn. 

Last winter I read John Pastor's wonderful book 'What Should A Clever Moose Eat?' Professor Pastor has a web site at http://www.theclevermoose.com. What more can I say?

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