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15 February 2010 @ 11:03 pm
A Beaver at Hurdman  

The weather has been surprisingly mild lately, with temperatures reaching just below zero most days. We have received a few sprinkles of snow recently, enough to dust the ground but not bury it. Actually, it's been a while now since we had any significant snowfall, and the warmth of the sun has been slowly melting what snow we do have. I'm kind of hoping for one or two more major snowstorms before spring arrives for two reasons: first, it would be fun to get out on my snowshoes again, and second, we're not going to have any flooded fields to attract migrating waterfowl if we don't get any more snow. I won't deny, however, that it's nice to feel the barest hint of spring in the air. The sunshine feels warm on my skin again, buds are appearing on trees and shrubs, and House Finches and cardinals are singing in anticipation of the imminent breeding season.

Beaver (Castor canadensis)

I've managed to get out to Hurdman once in the last week to enjoy some of the mild weather. There is a large flock of House Finches here, and these were the ones I heard singing. This is also one of the places where I heard the cardinal singing, the other being Mud Lake.

There were no new birds to be seen in the Hurdman area, but the male Barrow's Goldeneye has returned. I saw him with a flock of Common Goldeneyes in the open water between the footbridge and the transitway bridge.

Barrow's and Common Goldeneyes

I walked past the bridge toward the 417 bridge and found the usual mallards and American Black Ducks congregating beneath it. I also saw a couple of crows standing beside the bike path in the sunshine. One of my goals this year is to take more photos of the common species of birds, and the sunlight shining on the crows provided the perfect opportunity.

American Crow

Another crow was down at the water's edge with the mallards.

American Crow

While walking along the bike path toward the bus station, I noticed a familiar shape down by the water's edge. It looked like a muskrat...but it was far too large. I took a quick look through my binoculars, and sure enough, it was a beaver! The sun was shining directly in my eyes, so I moved closer in order to take a picture. I was standing on the bank almost right above him when he sensed my presence, slapped his tail on the water, and disappeared beneath the surface. I waited for a minute or two to see if he would re-surface, checking the open water all along the shore. Because there were a number of trees blocking my line of sight, however, I decided to walk along to the footbridge to see if I could spot him from there. A minute or so later I was rewarded, for he reappeared in the exact same spot where he went under! Not only did I have great views of him from the bridge where he couldn't see me, the sun was also behind my back shining directly on him!

Beaver (Castor canadensis)

He was munching on the vegetation growing near the bank, seeming quite comfortable and unhurried. Only when the crows started flying overhead making a racket did he look up. After the crows had flown by and silence returned to the river he resumed eating his lunch.

I must have watched him for a good ten or fifteen minutes before he finally finished eating and decided to leave. He dove into the water and started swimming toward the footbridge. You can see his paws below the water's surface in this photo:

Going for a swim

He swam under the bridge, and after that I lost sight of him. There wasn't much open water on the other side, so perhaps he dove beneath the ice.

It was fantastic to be able to watch him for so long without him even noticing. I don't see beavers very often, and usually when I do they are quick to disappear as soon as they see me. Only once before have I come across a cooperative individual, in April 2007 when a beaver swam up to me while I was standing on the boardwalk at the Beaver Trail in Stony Swamp. That beaver actually looked at me for a long moment - almost as though it expected something from me - before diving under the water and swimming away. You can see a picture of that beaver in my Pbase gallery, although for some reason I didn't put it in my blog!

This one didn't know he was being observed, which made it all the more interesting to watch him. And with no winter finches or owls around this winter, it is always great to see something different!

Soul Diasporasoul_diaspora on February 23rd, 2010 10:26 pm (UTC)
I really like several of these, particularly the first beaver picture and the first crow picture. (Excellent lighting on the crow, showing off a bit of iridescence, and the backdrop works well.) In fact I think that's the most photogenic beaver I've ever seen!

You seem to have seen/heard a lot of the same things I did when I was out along the Rideau yesterday: singing House Finches at Hurdman, Barrow's, beaver (I glimpsed one swimming along, but couldn't find him after that). That wasn't you I was talking to at the feeders, was it? :-)

I heard from someone else I met at the feeders that a Great Grey Owl (!) had been there recently. It felt rather as if someone had said, "oh by the way, I found a million dollars lying on the ground here yesterday." I've never seen a Great Grey before and that's not the place I would expect to find one. I hope he comes back.
Gillian: Warbling Vireogillianm on February 23rd, 2010 11:36 pm (UTC)
Hahahaha, was that you I was asking about the hawk?! If so, it's nice to have met you! I visit Hurdman often during the week on my lunch break, especially in the spring/summer when the birds and insects are about.

A woman I work with says she saw what she believes to be an owl in a tree there a few weeks ago. She also commutes to the downtown area from Orleans, so I've asked her to keep an eye out for the large accipiter/falcon that's been reported there!
Soul Diasporasoul_diaspora on February 23rd, 2010 11:47 pm (UTC)
That was me :-)