[Thursday November 26th 2020 is American Thanksgiving, and I wanted this post to arrive in time for the day, which is why it is coming so fast on the heels of my last one.]
My lockdown preparations include filling the freezer, but obviously I didn’t have to design and manufacture my own freezer. Beavers basically do. In the summer, they eat fresh green plants, but these don’t store well. However, their digestive systems allow them to eat the nutritious cambium layer of woody plants and trees, which can be stored just fine; these two photos show an oak tree recently cut by a beaver, and the cut surfaces of the tree were oozing sap on an unexpectedly warm day:
So how do they store them? The pond will be frozen soon, and it won’t thaw till the spring unless global warming intervenes. The beavers prefer not to emerge to forage on land, where they are vulnerable, so they lay down a stash of small and smallish twigs and branches, in a sort of floating raft, which they gradually weight down with larger branches. When the ice forms, this larder will be accessible from under the ice, and should keep them going through the winter months. In this photo, you can see the growing food pantry stretching off to the right of the lodge:
and a slightly closer shot here:
If you look carefully, in the right foreground there are larger branches sticking up out of the water. Their bottom ends have been rammed into the muddy bottom to help hold the cache in place. A couple of days later I took another look. They had added some larger stuff on top, to help weight it down so that their favorite foods stay sunk beneath the ice.
All of this is done at night, so all year I have not seen them at work. On November 15th this one was swimming languidly around one lodge, admiring his work (the beaver is what looks like a floating log on the right!).
A good thing too, since overnight on November 18th the whole pond froze, and in places the ice was thick enough to bear my weight. And today, November 25th, it snowed a little, transforming the perfect cone of the lodge into a miniature Mt Fuji:
Winter is here, and it is time for Thanksgiving, and to remember how lucky those of us are who have food in our freezers, and are still well and alive in this wondrous world, in this time of Covid.
PS There are actually three lodges on my pond, all fairly near each other, and all seem to be under renovation, but only two have visible food stashes. I don’t know if this is one family that has decided they’d like separate bedrooms, or if they are unrelated but willing to tolerate neighbours. You can see all three in this photo, though one is far in the distance, between the other two:
PPS The dam needs regular maintenance too, but this one is in good shape, so they haven’t done much to it this year.