Peak Foliage

Peak Foliage
October on Preston Pond

Brief History of Preston Pond

Born from glaciers about 13,500 years ago, the original pond was only what is now the wider north end. Probably about 10,000 years ago, as the modern forest started to take root, beavers colonized the pond and expanded it (old dams are under the water surface).

With the arrival of Europeans in New York and coastal New England, a vigorous fur trade grew in the 17th Century. Beavers are particularly vulnerable to trapping since they are easy to find and they were wiped out by the 18th Century. With no beavers to maintain the dams, Preston Pond drained and appears on 18th and 19th Century maps as only the smaller original glacial north end.

Reintroduction in the 1920's and 1930's led to beavers recolonizing Preston Pond. By chance, they arrived the same year my grandfather bought the property in 1946. Ever since then, beavers have lived unmolested (by humans) on Preston Pond - until February 2016. They have never caused flooding problems or over-eaten the surrounding forest stand to the point that they abandoned the pond. Their population has doubtlessly had its ups and downs, but they have managed their affairs here for the last 70 years as beavers did for millions of years: on their own, despite some of their top predators having been exterminated by humans.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Flying Fish and (returning) Fleeing Beavers (changed during writing)

Ever since I'd seen the one beaver on Preston Pond as the ice opened, I've been trying to determine if it was the only one left (for anyone who missed it: in February, for the first time since beavers were trapped out in the 18th Century and subsequently returned in 1946, the Bolton Select Board approved trapping in Preston Pond - two dead - the Upper Pond - one or two dead - and along the hiking trails - not done as far as I know). That effort continued of course after videoing it farting as it climbed the shore with a load of greenery (previous post if you are juvenile enough to want to see it: I filmed it and posted it, so join the club:-). Around April 1st, it dawned on me that far from seeing a second beaver, I had not seen the one in several days. That was unusual. I checked the satellite ponds like the Pudding Stone Pond here. 

I didn't find any sign of beavers, but I did see this Flying Fish leaping out of the slushy ice during a snow squall. These ponds have all been abandoned for a couple years at least, but I had seen some possible sign of a visiting beaver a couple weeks before (though it could have been any similarly sized animal swimming or walking through the thin ice) and hoped that our survivor had gone exploring. No such luck.
I don't know if it is in common usage with anyone else, but the name "Pudding Stone" comes from this enormous boulder - possibly a "local" erratic that overlooks the pond and is studded with magnetite crystals. My grandfather dubbed it the Pudding Stone before I was born, though as my wife Bonnie points out, pudding is supposed to be smooth. I'd never thought of that before. Possibly my great grandmother wasn't a great cook - or there is some Irish pudding with dark chunks in it. 
I had checked the pond on the LT a few weeks ago and it has been abandoned for a couple years. None of the satellite ponds associated with Preston Pond, apart from the Upper Pond on the VAST trail have any beavers in them. 
April has had as much snow as most of the winter (which isn't saying much), and it had gotten a bit cold after it had been missing for a week or so. I have been hoping that the beaver had holed up somewhere during the chill snap. Beautiful nonetheless.
With wondrous marvels almost anywhere.
And even delicacies to eat if you work up an appetite (interesting to speculate on why this was left opened, but uneaten: could raccoons really be that fussy?
However, despite 2-3 circuits of the ponds every day and 24/7 coverage of the lodge with a trail cam, no beaver. Plenty of ducks though.
And geese. While there are still some pairing competitions being settled, between the two ponds I've seen male/female pairs of Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Wood Ducks, Mallards, and Canada Geese. The Hoodies may have moved on, but all of the rest look to be setting up house. I'm not getting much for photos since I'm leaving them be up at the north end. The geese, however, are quite tolerant and actually followed us along shore and hung around nearby while we had a get together with almost a dozen people on Sunday. But no beavers. For 18 days.

Right up to this afternoon: nada. The trail cam at the lodge only had the test shot on it.

Then when Bonnie and I went out at 5:30 this evening I saw a third merganser up at the north end. Glassing it (a second male has shown up) I noticed a fourth duck: an oddly brown one. It is a quarter mile away and at a low angle and the hand held binocs are not that steady, but there was something oddly familiar about that "duck." I was 99% sure it was a beaver. Nainette and I went back out after dinner and did a fast circuit. Confirmed: along with the Common Mergs, Canadas, and a Great Blue Heron (in the area of the goose nest), up at the north end I again spotted the "brown duck" from high up on the west shore trail. It worked along in close to the shore swimming with a big stick. A lone beaver (at least) has returned to the pond. By then it was too dark for good shots.

I went to the Upper Pond where I'd seen positive beaver sign for quite a while to try to confirm it was definitely at least a second beaver. While I had seen sign (and possibly heard a slap a week ago), I had not seen a beaver there either, though I was pretty sure they were around. Sure enough - one beaver was on patrol on the Upper Pond too. I went back around to reload the trail cam and the Preston Pond beaver cruised offshore watching. So, whether it had gone to bed to wait out the cold, gone on a walkabout and returned, or this is an entirely different beaver, we at least have one back. The dam is still gushing water, and it is a lot to do for one beaver, but it was a joy to see one back where they belong. Will keep an eye out for more and get some close-ups from which I can probably determine if it is the same one that was here almost three weeks ago.

 with a load of greenery

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