Great day, with an emphasis on beavers
July 30, 2010
Earlier this week I had a great outing in Huntley Meadows Park. Among the highlights were another green heron, adorable beavers and un-photographed raccoons/fox.
Recent rains have replenished the water supply in the park and the boardwalk area was active with a variety of life.
Along the boardwalk was the soft hum of chewing animals. Some were beavers and others muskrats.
The muskrats were not as plentiful as they’ve been in the past, but there was still a decent presence.
The Canada Geese were milling around the front end of the boardwalk and I found a few nice moments with one foraging through the low grasses.
Winding through the looped section of the boardwalk, I felt as if I was being watched but couldn’t tell why. As I scanned the reeds in the distance, I found a small yellow eye staring back. After a few minutes it moved into a more direct line of sight and I found the green heron I mentioned earlier.
I enjoy this species, but didn’t have as much time to shoot it as my last experience earlier this month.
Then I met him. I’ll call him Thumper.
While these photos probably won’t do it justice, this MASSIVE beaver came around the corner and turned to face me.
As it approached and swam under me, I saw its girth. The beaver is obviously very well fed. I’m not a weight expert, but I’d guess it’s upwards of 50 or 60 pounds.
A few minutes later, another beaver caught my attention as it jumped onto a small mud bank behind an area of reeds.
And then the cuteness began. As the beaver began to clean its hair and tail, rubbing itself with its tiny paws, I saw over its shoulder another beaver.
This small beaver was sleeping and twitching, much like a dreaming pet. I grew up with dogs, so the behavior was very similar.
For the next few minutes my attention bounced between the two animals. It’s difficult to capture an experience such as a beaver behind reeds cleaning itself in still photographs, but I was able to make a short video clip as well. Maybe this will give you some idea of the behavior.
In the past I’ve seen plenty of beavers but have rarely seen their feet. This was one of those rare opportunities so I focused on the chance to document them.
After some time, the beaver that had cleaned itself slipped off into the water, and I got a clearer shot of the sleeper.
As icing on the cake, the beaver began an awesome sequence. Have you ever had a dog that runs in its sleep? Well, this beaver did the same process. It would flail its back legs and stop. Then do it again. Every so often it would mix in a chewing motion.
I’d like to think that he was running from branch to branch, happily chewing in his dreams.
As I left the park, I found two more great things.
The first thing:
Following sunset, I was on the trail to leave the park and a scurry of motion happened yards ahead of me. When I realized what was happening, I found that a mother raccoon had hustled two of her young up two trees, and she had run off into the distance.
The two youngsters were in the perfect position for photography, but it was a total loss without a flash.
It was a shame, because it was a perfect opportunity. In the future, I may keep a flash on my waist.
The second (and final) thing:
A fox was next to my car! As I exited the trail, it booked. I never had a chance.