Sunday, February 21, 2016

A cold night visit to the beavers and Burdock, Feb. 17

With a couple of nights of cold weather, I knew the beavers would likely be frozen into their small pond again, and without access to food, so I set out through the moonlit woods to make a delivery.

When I arrived, I did indeed find their holes frozen over.  They had been out during the recent warm rainy weather, and had chopped down a small (around 7 feet tall) spruce tree, and dragged it whole into the pond through a hole not much bigger than a beaver. They are strong and determined wrestlers of trees. While conifers are not a large part of the diet of these beavers, they do eat them—bark, mall twigs, and needles. I have seen them eat spruce, hemlock, and fir.
Stump of the little spruce.

Beech branches stuffed into the beaver's pond, spruce needles in foreground.
I smashed through the refrozen hole and added some beech branches to their larder, knowing the hole would freeze again quickly.

Nervous porcupine

Eating biscuit, quills raised
From the pond I cut up and over to the ledges where Burdock has been living. I find the little porcupine alone, and very nervous. He does not greet me, but hides in the far end of the den, rear end toward me and quills raised. I cannot persuade him that he is safe. He comes close enough to sniff my glove and take a biscuit, but then hustles back to his safe zone to eat it. Outside his den I see fresh coyote tracks. This must be what frightened Burdock, though I doubt the coyote posed much of a threat to the well armored porcupine.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A picnic with Burdock and Dangerous Dan

After several days of bitter cold, wonderfully wintry weather, we have had a day of very warm temperatures and rain. I set out at dusk expecting to find all of the porcupines at home in the north dens. To my surprise, I found no porcupines and no tracks at the first two sites I checked, suggesting they had been out all day in the rain.

Burdock, however, was home, and greeted me eagerly on his doorstep. Also home was the second porcupine, sleeping in the back of the cave and paying us no heed.

Dangerous Dan McGrew napping
 I have now persuaded myself that this is Dangerous Dan; when Burdock moved out of the Porcupines Club last week, I assumed he had been driven out by the other two residents, with whom he was a bit uppity. Now I find that Dangerous Dan has followed Burdock to his new den! This reinforces my notion that, while porcupines like to complain when anyone gets too close, they secretly like company. Sound like anyone you know?

I always carry apples and acorns when I look for porcupines, a small honorarium for their services as teachers. I put some of these out for Dan, who wakes up and waddles over to eat an apple. Burdock eats biscuits.
Dan eats an apple
Once he finishes an apple and an acorn, he approaches cautiously.
Burdock (left) leans off my lap and greets Dan with a hum (friendly) and a squawk (not friendly).   

Dangerous Dan eats a few more acorns, and then retires to a lower level, a room with a view, and goes back to sleep.
Burdock wants to play, so I let him climb around on me for a bit before I head home. As I head out into the rain, Burdock weaves back and forth on his stoop, whining, but will not follow me in this weather!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Burdock's new friend?

I set out to visit Burdock on this Friday night. I haven't been out since Tuesday morning, and with the first real cold temperatures of the winter coming, I am eager to see how he is faring and to make sure he is well nourished going into the night. I arrive at High Scenic with dusk looming. Burdock is at the upper cave. I give him a few biscuits and check the other dens. I see fresh tracks leading into the hemlocks, but find no other porcupines at home.
Burdock, left to his biscuits.
I return for some social time with the little porcupine. He climbs up into my lap and he enjoys biscuits while I enjoy the dusk and the view. Soon we hear the crunching of feet below us. Burdock scrambles off my lap and retreats to the rear of the cave.

Seconds later another porcupine hauls himself up over the ledge and into the cave. The poor fellow is rather startled to find me sitting right there, but does not retreat. Instead he takes a circuitous route to the rear of the den, where he encounters Burdock.

Burdock squawks a few times, and then turns his back on the newcomer and eats another biscuit. The stranger cowers in the back, unsure what to make of the situation.
The newcomer decides that if Burdock isn't nervous, he shouldn't be either, and comes a bit closer.
Burdock turns around and complains

I roll an apple to the new porcupine

Look at the belly on this guy! I think it is possible that this is Dangerous Dan, the color is similar.
Like Fretful, this porcupine peels his apples. A pile of peels and well-cleaned core remain.

While the new arrival eats his apple, Burdock resumes his post on my lap. It takes a porcupine a long time to eat a big apple. Even with a lap warmer, my fingers and toes are getting cold, but I can't leave yet, I must see what will happen next. I have a front row seat for observing porcupine interactions. Oh, make that, I am a front row seat.
Burdock eats. Why are my hands getting cold?

The new porcupine explores the cave

and then settles down to sleep in Burdock's favorite spot
Burdock finally climbs off my lap and waddles back to his napping corner. He is not pleased to find it occupied.

Shortly after this scene, Burdock returned to complain more vociferously, his face right against the backside of the visiting porcupine. I think both porcupines felt obliged to make a bit of a fuss, but there was no need for violence. Burdock ate an apple and I finally headed home.

Friday, February 12, 2016

A visit to see Willow on a snowy night

With the warm weather of the past week, I predicted that the beavers would be able to make it downstream to their food cache (if you have not read of their plight, here is the first post). I headed out on skis (just the second time this year) at 8 p.m. to see how they fared.

Sure enough, there is just a thin skim of ice over the hole inside the cache.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Burdock moves again

Burdock at the door of his new den
Fresh snow today! I set out in the late afternoon to check on Burdock and the other porcupines. When I arrived at the High Scenic dens, I saw porcupine tracks leading to a den that had been vacant on previous visits this winter. When I sat down by the entrance, I heard Burdock greeting me from inside. This den is more smaller than the one I found him in last night, but has been in regular use by porcupines for years, so I assume it offers better shelter.

Burdock has a biscuit
While Burdock nibbled on biscuits, I went to leave a few acorns at the doorways of the other two occupied dens in this complex. When I scrambled back down to Burdock's new apartment, he came out the upper exit. I was dismayed to see that he still doesn't like walking on snow. I can only assume that he will figure it out eventually, and will become as adept a snow traveler as Fretful.

I left Burdock and went on to check on a few other den sites. The only other porcupine I found at home was Dangerous Dan at the Porcupines' Club. I didn't plan to stay, but only to offer an apple and a few acorns, an offering I hope will make up up for dropping by unannounced. When I pack up to go, I hear him chattering his teeth, a sound I find porcupines often make as a warning when they are preparing to move. Sure enough, when I shone my headlamp into his nook, I found he had turned to face me. I decided to sit for a few minutes to see what he would do. Within a few minutes, he had wandered out into the antechamber where I had left the apple. The apple was large, and porcupines are slow eaters. I got cold before he finished. I got up and clambered out of the cave, right past the contentedly munching porcupine.
Dangerous Dan eats an apple

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Burdock evicted?

Dangerous Dan ignoring me
When I stopped by The Porcupines' Club to visit Burdock Tuesday evening, no one was in. I hoped that Burdock was up in a tree near the other two porcupines, eating the sorts of things porcupines are supposed to eat. On Wednesday, however, when I stopped by the Club to see if anyone was in, Dangerous Dan was down in the nook most recently occupied by Burdock, and the black porcupine was leaving by the second floor exit.

The day had been miserably warm and rainy, a good day for porcupines to be holed up. Where was Burdock? The hillside snow was reduced to a mix of solid snow and ice. I am just as glad that not even the porcupines were out to witness my undignified approach across the steep, slick slope. 

Tonight, Thursday, I set off again, this time wearing a very fancy set of jury-rigged ice grippers on my boots, hoping to visit several local dens in my quest for Burdock. Dan and the black porcupine were both napping in The Club, and both pretended to ignore me. I left them apples and acorns and climbed up to the N1 dens, where I found no porcupines, but did notice that the sunset display was especially fine.

I found no sign of porcupines at 2N, but at High scenic I found a porcupine at home in the uppermost den. She acted like the  2014/15 resident. The sunset had peaked at this point and was beginning to fade. Feeling discouraged and worried about Burdock, I resolved to look for him farther afield tomorrow. The easiest descent from High Scenic led to the south end of the ledges, a place where I had seen a porcupine denned up once, so I thought I might as well just check. . . I climbed up to peek in, and heard the humming greeting of a hungry little porcupine. Burdock!

The Burd was alone in this spacious den. Did he leave The Club out of a desire to explore, or did the two adults finally tired of his bossy behavior and evict him?

It is now dark.Burdock he climbs up on my lap to eat his biscuits. My lantern flashlight creates a fire-like ambiance in the little cave. When the biscuits are done, there is time for some play.

As I set off for home, I see Burdock perched on his deck. Where will I find him next?

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Beaver resupply mission on the first of February

This afternoon, Margaretta and Isabelle arrived to help the stranded beavers with an offering of poplar boughs from their home in Dummerston. The weather on this first of February is  most unseasonably warm, with temperatures in the high 40°s threatening our skimpy snowcover and melting the ice on the stream.
Heading out with Margaretta's offering

Across the second bridge and into the hemlock forest
On the shores of the former pond

Once at the pond, I call to Willow and then we all sit quietly on the upside-down sled hoping that Willow won't think it too early to come out to visit. No need for an axe today, there are a few beaver-sized openings in the ice. After a few minutes, David, the lucky dad of these two great girls, spots Willow hauling herself onto the ice at one of the upstream holes.
Willow on February 1

Thank you Isabelle and Margaretta!

A Nightime Visit to Burdock

Burdock was on his own when I stopped by the cave on the last night in January. I could see by the set of small porcupine tracks sliding down the steep slope outside the den, that he had been out foraging, and saw a place where he had been feeding on hemlocks. Still, he seemed very happy to see me, and happy to sit on my lap and have some biscuits.

A Nightime Visit to Burdock

Burdock was on his own when I stopped by the cave on the last night in January. I could see by the set of small porcupine tracks sliding down the steep slope outside the den, that he had been out foraging, and saw a place where he had been feeding on hemlocks. Still, he seemed very happy to see me, and happy to sit on my lap and have some biscuits.

Winter light at the Beaver Pond

I visited Willow and her beau several times over the past week, a week of seasonably cold weather. Here are some snapshots from consecutive mornings:  January 28, cold, bright and beautiful; and January 30, flurries.  I saw no beavers, but they had cleaned up all of the branches I had placed in the small hole in the ice by the dam.

January 28, looking downstream
Looking upstream
January 29, offering
January 29 looking upstream