Monday, August 25, 2008

Castor canadensis

I spent a little time watching the beavers this morning. (No snickering. If you can't keep your mind out of the gutter, go to the other blog.) There's a good-sized lodge in the shallow end of the lake that I've passed by many times, but the inhabitants have always been hidden away. This morning they were out--or rather, one of them was out, cruising around the lake and climbing up on his house to give me a suspicious stare. The other was inside the lodge. I could hear her in there, scratching around furiously and making querulous beaver noises. She sounded a lot like my mother in housework mode. Mr. Beaver appeared to be offering no domestic assistance at all. He was just enjoying a nice swim, and occasionally paddling over to irritate a lone Canada goose.

When I was a kid we had a family friend who trapped beavers to sell the pelts. I guess there's still a market for wild beaver fur, or at least there was then. I remember him driving by the house one day to show my dad a particularly large one he'd just caught. He lifted it up by the leathery tail and I touched the fur, which was incredibly soft and smooth. I was in my first hardcore vegetarian phase, so I was appalled that he was trapping (actually, it would appall me now)--still, I couldn't resist the touch of that fur. It wasn't just the sensual pleasure of feeling it. There was also a faint atavistic thrill of admiring the kill. I always think of that moment whenever I see a beaver or one of its construction projects.

The beavers weren't the only ones out and about this morning. A little ringneck snake--pretty and utterly harmless--slithered by my foot on its way to the water's edge. I saw a great blue heron take off just as I got to the lake, and there were a couple of very noisy turkeys playing some sort of game in the trees. They were perched maybe 12 feet up on different trees, and they'd alternate choppering down to the ground, then quickly swooping back up. The whirring of their wings was very loud, and they were taking down the maximum amount of foliage on their descents. All this was punctuated with brief outbursts of turkey chuckling. They kept at it longer than I was willing to stand there and watch. If they'd been humans I would have sworn they were high.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons


Bozo said...

Very nice post. As destructive as they are, I still love beavers.

The blue heron seems to be making a comeback around here. We see a few more every year. I'm told there's a rookery nearby; I plan to explore it in the spring.

BitterGrace said...

I think the little guys get a bad rap. They were a very successful species before so many Euro-humans started crowding the neighborhood, so they must be doing something right.

I think you are probably right about the GBH. There seem to be a lot more of them than there once were. They are such a joy to watch. I saw another one this morning.

Mary said...

C.S. Lewis made me love beavers (albeit talking ones) in the Narnia books. But seriously, amazing creatures.