Saturday, November 19, 2016

Beavers in the snow

Cold, blustery night, and a change of season. The aged beaver Willow (right) and her young beau enjoy a Thanksgiving Week feast.
From their pond I continue over the ridge to Jenny Lake, where I find. . .
Willow's daughter Dew and the kit. I stay for a picnic, bundled up against blustery wind and blowing snow. A mouse that has taken up residence in the beavers' lodge comes out to sample sunflower seeds.
Charlie, the kit.

Charlie ashore!

I have had a hard time photographing the new kit. I always get to the pond after dark, and Charlie is a skittish little thing (which is good), so he doesn't come ashore near me, and always dunks back into the lodge as soon as he grabs an apple. On my last two visits though, he has floated just at the shoreline when I arrived, and clearly anticipated apples as I unpacked. Tonight he finally came ashore to grab an apple. Very cute. You can read his whole story here.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Beaver Deceiver in action!

I joined Skip Lisle today to protect the overflow pipe on Patricia Greenwood's backyard pond. Skip did some amazing problem solving, installing a flow device in deep water so that Splash the beaver can remain in his new home and finish preparing for winter.

Beaver kit squeaks

The very late-in-the year beaver kit, comes out at dusk and talks with her mother, Dew, who is eating an apple. Read the story of Dew and her kit here.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Thistle's nightly visit

While I was feeding Sylvia at 8 pm, Thistle arrived at the enclosure. He was very interested in Sylvia and snuffled and hummed pleasant greetings. She ignored him. He had a couple of small quills stuck in his nose, which I managed to pull out—evidence that he has been interacting with the neighborhood porcupines.  He came up from the woods to the west, and when I went up to the house, he came too, but by his own route through thick vegetation. He drank his milk and waddled off.

Got milk?

Saturday, September 24, 2016


On September 18, I drove to Springfield to pick up a porcupine who had been hit by a car.
The poor porcupine survived the first night, and managed to sit up the next day. She has been recovering steadily over the past week, but needs help eating because one of her front legs is injured. She is a very trusting creature.
Sylvia eating some apple

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Thistle-July 21

This little porcupine had been seen for four days by the side of the road with no evidence of a visiting adult. He also had a terrible case of fleas, so I brought him in for treatment and evaluation.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Baby cottontails

Three baby cottontails came in after their nest (and one bunny) was destroyed by a tiller, and a neighborhood dog was on their trail. They have been thriving, and eating mountains of fresh grass. I have had them for a couple of weeks and they will soon be ready for release.

Strange Littermates

This spring I have a bunch of late season single babies, all at the same stage of development, so I put them all together and they all snuggle and play: two red squirrels, a gray squirrel, and a chipmunk.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Willow in spring

Willow, my old friend, survived the trials of her winter dam break, and has now moved upstream to the restore the pond I call the Balsams. She looks like she is doing well, and there is a young male with her. I do not know if this is the same male she was with last year, since I have not seen another beaver with her since late fall last year.
It is a noisy time of year. Spring peepers raise a din. A pair of geese hunkers down in the sedges nearby.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A straggler, April 23

I found no porcupines at High Scenic on this beautiful night, but the squirrel and a vole were happy to see me.

We enjoy the evening light, and eventually hear footsteps. Quirinus arrives. I suspect he is hoping to find Little Fuzzy, but she has finally departed.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Porcupine Season Finale

Spring arrived all of a sudden this week. At High Scenic at sunset I found elderberry flower buds about to burst and Canada mayflower leaves unfurling from the earth. A pair of hermit thrushes claimed High Scenic and took a great interest in my sing-song conversations with them. The evening air resonated with drumming woodpeckers and chattering chickadees. Geese honked in the valley, and the spring peepers warmed up for the night's performance. On my last few visits I had seen only two porcupines each time, so expected, when I headed up on this golden evening, that I might be alone.

But no! Dangerous Dan, Little Fuzzy and Wee were all there. 
Dangerous Dan

A handsome fellow
Little Fuzzy thinking about getting up

Up, but not quite at 'em

And then Wee crawled out of his den:
 Poor little Wee! He has finally figured out that acorns are edible, but has not developed much skill in acorn handling yet. When he went over to get some advice from Dangerous Dan, he was rebuffed. Little Fuzzy gave him much the same treatment.

Little Fuzzy, Wee and Dan in the sunset light
Wee wandered off to amuse himself, and Dangerous Dan came over to visit me. He was not interested in the acorns on the ground, so I held out a handful. He snuffled them, then settled back on his haunches, placed his paw beneath my hand to support it, and picked up an acorn in his teeth, the first time a porcupine has done this since the days of Fretful.

As the light faded, Quirinus arrived from the woods to the north. He settled down near me for a snack.
Wee came over to inspect Quirinus' activities. The big porcupine ignored him, but Wee did not press his luck. Instead, he wandered over to me, and on a whim I held out a biscuit to him. Aha! A crunchy little biscuit. Wee took it and munched triumphantly! I cut him off at four, but he was eager for more. 

At last, in the gloaming, I heard a familiar humming—Burdock approaching from the northeast. I shone my headlamp and saw that Wee followed on his tail. When Burdock is almost to my seat, he turned to find Wee. As Burdock reared over him, I expected the little fellow to be repelled once again. To my astonishment, the rear turned into a lunge, and the two were engaged in porcupine play! The play was mostly silent, with just a few little whines. How I wished it were light enough to get some film footage, for whether or not porcupettes play with each other is a question that has interested me. Certainly, baby porcupines are very playful, but as solitary babies, do they have opportunities to play with other porcupines? Do they wrestle with their mothers?

Wee and Burdock romped and tumbled up and down the hillside and up and down a little hemlock tree. After fifteen minutes things deteriorated into squawks of complaint, as usually happens when kids play rough. I found them both in the hemlock tree, and Burdock was ready to climb down and come over for some biscuits.

This video of Burdock wrestling with his puppet friend will give some idea of what happened between Wee and Burdock on that dark night:

It was after 9 by then, so I packed up to head home. As I did, I saw a big porcupine ambling across the ledge above me—Big East. My first six porcupine night! This was an evening of many firsts, but would also prove to be the last porcupine night of the 2016 season. The next night, Little Fuzzy, whom I expect is the sole female of the group, had moved out. Dangerous Dan was there. The next night, no porcupines were there at all, though Quirinus wandered over later to see if I had any acorns for him. Now the High Scenic porcupines will spend the growing seasons out foraging in the forest, and I will see them only by lucky chance.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Flat Fuzzy

Another beautiful sunlit evening at High Scenic. Little Fuzzy sprawled on a flat rock, and didn't stir when I arrived.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Fickle Burdock

While I celebrated Burdock's demonstration of independence last night, I did feel a pang of loss. On this beautiful evening, I found Wee(!) the only porcupine at home, but soon heard humming, and there was Burdock, waddling eagerly down from the northeast. He paused to say hello to Wee, but then came right over, climbed in my lap, and ate a few more biscuits than he deserved.

So what is with this fickle behavior? Giving me the brush-off last night and running off with a friend, only to come back for a cuddle tonight? Ah, adolescents.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Burdock loves Dangerous Dan

I hadn't seen Burdock at High Scenic in 12 days. When I arrive tonight, I find Burdock and three others out enjoying the late afternoon sun-warmed rocks:

Dangerous Dan
Little Fuzzy
Red Squirrel
Burdock was very independent. It was a cold evening, so I thought a porcupine lap warmer would be a nice thing, but he would have none of it. He ate just a few biscuits and then waddled off to amuse himself:

Dangerous Dan came over and took a nap nearby:

As darkness grew, Dan fell asleep on a rock facing me, while Burdock waddled off into the woods and climbed up a little hemlock. 
Half an hour later I heard a porcupine's humming greeting coming from the darkness, and hoped that maybe Wee was arriving. The humming continued, and I realized it was coming from Burdock. Dan got up and wandered in the direction of the greeting hums, and I heard Burdock climb out of the tree. I went over to see which of us, Dan or me, the greeting (summons?) was intended for. Burdock waddled over to Dan! They really are friends.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Internet connectivity at High Scenic

With cold nights and mild days, the porcupines have been staying near their dens, but emerge for late afternoon sun. This site offers good internet connection, so I bring my hotspot and computer and set up my office. When I arrived on April 13, Little Fuzzy was just peering from a nook in the rocks, but Big had emerged from the throne room and was sunning himself. I went up to take a portrait.
Little Fuzzy's lair

Porcupine in the sun
When I returned to my seat, I found Quirinus had arrived and, as is the way of porcupines, found the most precarious seat in the house:
Sitting on my hotspot, which is balanced on my iPod, which is sitting on Julia's book. Note: the opening in the rocks behind the big Q is a steep drop-off that ends somewhere in Middle Earth,

and that is where my hotspot went when Quirinus reached for his next apple. Dang! Good thing I have a LifeProof case for my iPod?

Fortunately, with the aid of a long stick and some bad language I was able to retrieve it.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Winter at last!

After the deepest snowfall of the winter, maybe seven inches, I made it up to High Scenic just in time for sunset. Burdock was there to greet me and have a few snowy portraits taken.
Here you see his distinctive skirt of long white quills against his fuzzy blackness.
Notice his porcupine perch here.
He then went into his den to nap and digest, as porcupines will do after a feed. Little Fuzzy came out and ate on the upper level. I then heard what sounded like humming coming from inside the rock in front of me, and thought that Burdock had a corridor from his lower den up to this place. When Dangerous Dan came up around the corner from behind the rock, I realized that he was the one who had been humming, a charming porcupine greeting.

Little Fuzzy retreated to her den when Dan approached, but soon came out, and started inching toward Dan, nose extended.
The two were soon nose to nose, making not very serious squawks. When they heard the footsteps of a human crunching quickly past on the trail in the valley, both porcupines retreated to their dens in alarm. I was pleased to see that my presence here has not made them less wary of possible danger.
Dan soon came out again, and this time came over to eat the acorns in front of me. He was soon joined by Big East, and the two were reasonably companionable.
Big on left, Dan on right