Beavers are horrifically efficient. They start gnawing at a the base of a tree, 20, 30, 40 feet high, soon felling it for the prize they’re after, tender shoots near the top, food for their young. Other bits build the lodge. The first year we noticed the beavers, they had already taken down 20+ trees above the Esopus. We called Michael, the forester, also a trapper. He located the lodge and one adult he caught looked like a cartoon–a paddle-shaped tail that was almost rubber and two prominent front teeth, flat and yellow as the keys on a rotting piano. But what made me sad was what beavers are prized for–fur so soft that Leo and Ryder’s, by comparison, feels like sandpaper.
We read that stirring sand into paint and applying the mixture thickly to the area of destruction short circuits the manic chewing–beavers apparently don’t like the crunch any more than I like getting sand in my mouth from inadequately soaked steamers. And although the trees initially look funny with two-toned bark–but you really have to know to notice (forest for the trees, or maybe it’s the reverse)–the color soon blends.
But although we saved the big hemlock (and a smaller oak), the furry beasts weren’t done and last week clear-cut a resurgent stand of about a dozen five-foot-tall hemlocks, that had battled back from wooly adelgid attack. I’ll take some of the boughs the beavers left and deck the halls. And call the trapper.
(File all of the above under “it’s stressful in the country too.”)
But had it not been for the chomped hemlock, I might not have seen the nearby fishbone still life left by (I’m all-but-certain) an eagle. We spot eagles all along the creek, there’s a nest on DEP land across the water and several at the Reservoir.
A few years ago as I walked to the Esopus I thought a deer was galloping behind me from out of the woods, but it was an eagle flapping its magnificent wings, and when it reached me, thrillingly flying fewer than 10 feet up. It was enormous, with a gorgeous white head. And I thought of birdmeister Sean (expert in all things avian) telling Babette how to distinguish a juvenile (before it has a white head) from other raptors, “If it’s an eagle, it’s like there’s a Buick sitting in your tree.”