Nature: Beavers keep busy preparing for winter

On any warmer autumn days that come our way, be on the lookout for strange floating objects (or swarms) in local woods and fields. These swarms contain filmy white insects with blue bottoms! Some people affectionally call them blue-bottom bugs. To me, these ethereal creatures look like something Dr. Seuss created. They are really named woolly aphids and are well worth reading about on a computer site called Bug Facts. I’ve lived for many years and am always learning about natural things, but somehow these aphids escaped my attention until recently.

The adult woolly aphid moves about in a swarm of others of its kind. Theses swarms are looking for a host plant on which to place their eggs. Flocks of winter birds seek out these eggs in order to stay alive through the winter. Each part of the woolly aphid’s life is bizarre and interesting to read about and proves there is always something new under the sun to learn about. The woolly aphid is a prize.

Chickadees outside my bedroom window have been searching carefully for insect eggs. They are very busy at the project. From the first time I had a chickadee eat from my hand, it became my favorite small bird. The feeling of having this tiny wild bird grasping your finger with its small, delicate feet is unforgettable.

It takes time and trusting on their part to come sit on your finger, but it is an amazing experience and always remembered.

Here on MDI, it is the black-capped chickadee that is seen regularly.  Only occasionally do we get to see the brown-capped chickadee.

A friend hiking on a local mountain was surprised to find a garter snake out and about. To keep warm, most snakes disappear in groups down in the ground as days and nights get colder, except for the garter snake. It has more tolerance for the cold than the others, sort of like having built-in antifreeze. I have actually seen them in the snow on a sunny day.

We tend to think that the exodus of tropical bird visitors means that they return to beautiful tropical wonderlands pictured in travel ads. On my birding trips to Costa Rica, Mexico, Guatemala, Trinidad, Tobago and Peru, we found the best birding locations were at hotel dump sites. In spite of the trash accumulation, the plants and trees surrounding the dumps were the places to see birds. The hotels take the best scenic spots and cut a lot of the vegetation so the best sites for tropical birds are around the dump.

Our resident beavers are now busy preparing for winter. Their lodges are more visible as the leaves fall from the trees along the shore of their ponds. Beavers usually make a sizeable lodge, although, at times, an individual will prefer a tunnel in the bank. A beaver’s dam, lodge and canal are all remarkable accomplishments, and watching beavers at work is very fascinating,

These mammals need a deep pond to permit a good winter food pile and water that does not freeze to the bottom. Inside a beaver’s lodge, there is a dry platform for sleeping and an area for food to be dragged inside and eaten. Beaver canals can be long and are made to transport branches to the lodge. Autumn is a busy time for these creatures.

Beavers will mate during the winter and babies will be born three months later. Even though they are well developed at birth with fur and open eyes, these babies will stay in the lodge for a month. Man is their worst predator.

Send any questions or observations to fiddlerr[email protected].

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

Send any questions or observations to [email protected] or call 244-3742.

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