The Birds and The Beavers (Stillwater Diary)

Stone Ridge, NY, 11/14

Stone Ridge, NY, 11/14

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.”

Stone Ridge, NY, left to right, 11/14 and 12/14

Stone Ridge, NY, left to right, 11/14 and 12/14

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4 Responses to The Birds and The Beavers (Stillwater Diary)

  1. Joyce says:

    Robin, I really enjoyed this. Learned a great deal about beavers and shall keep this in my gardening file as we plan to put in a pond at our house in the south. There are lots of little critters in the southern alps and this will help if any of them turn out to be beavers. You can tell I am a city kid, I had no idea that they took down the entire tree. Babette sent me a photo of her Buick in her tree, it makes me laugh every time I think of that description. I love reading about your life in the country.

  2. Thanks, Joyce, so nice to hear from you.
    We’ve only been attacked on one front by the beavers. Luckily the Esopus where we are is too wide to dam.
    When you put in your pond, I’d really like to see it. Please send photos.
    Happy holidays.

  3. Priscilla says:

    Love love love this post!! In the early years of living in the country, we had two Springer Spaniel puppies, a Welsh and an English one. We’d had a sweet male English Springer who was broadsided by a car at the age of two which nearly killed me as well from grief at the time. But these puppies re-filled my heart and while hiking along the Coxing Kill below our house we came to a large area where the beavers had been hard at work, cutting dozens and dozens of spear-sized trees to about 18” above the ground. So there were my two sweet new puppies springing through this field of punji sticks, about to be impaled at any moment through their tender little tummies. I quickly caught them each in my arms and made a run for it, away from the creek’s edge back up the hill home. I don’t wish the beavers ill but don’t want them in my neighborhood either!

    • Such an amazing and visual story, Priscilla, and the image I see in my head of your two beautiful baby Springers bounding though the spears is as if it’s one of your paintings.

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