beaver dam

Floating grass mounds

Floating grass mounds

Pine Swamp, West Cornwall, Connecticut.

These shots were up and downstream of the main beaver pond and lodge at Pine Swamp. This time of year the water is low enough so the grass mounds seem to be floating on top of the ice covered water.

This day the ice wasn’t thick enough to support us so we had to hop mound to mound to get across where the dam wouldn’t support us. It was hairy in places, falling in here would be no fun at all, very muddy and cold and 25F with wind chill. We carry extra clothes and there’s an Appalachian Mountain Club “hut” a quarter mile up a hill from here but still, best to be careful.

One of our party did break through and got her foot wet but she was fine and continued on like nothing had happened. Thank god for wool socks.

Floating grass mounds

Pine Swamp, early winter

Dave crossing an upstream beaver dam

Dave crossing an upstream beaver dam

West Cornwall, Connecticut. A hike up the Appalachian Trail to Pine Swamp is good any time of year but winter is the best. Yesterday was extremely cold but there wasn’t much wind so we were fine as long as we kept moving.

Another aspect of the Ricoh GR that I like is that its controls can be used with thin glover liners on. I suffer from Raynaud syndrome (cold hands) and so taking mittens or gloves off to use a camera in extreme cold can be a serious problem for me. Being able to use a camera’s controls with thin, neoprene glove liners keeps my hands covered all the time. I keep opened and hot chemical hand warmers in a pocket in case I need them but yesterday with the glove liners on I had no need and was able to pull my mittens off and take pictures at will.

I had a very tough time doing this with the Sony RX100 with its flush mounted controls and this is one of the reasons I don’t own that camera anymore.

It was a great day to be out hiking, the snow wasn’t so deep we needed snow shoes and there wasn’t enough ice to require micro-spikes. I only fell once on snow covered oak leaves. The ice on the pond wasn’t thick enough to walk on yet but if it was and we walked out to the beaver lodge my guess is we’d have heard the beaver family yacking it up inside.

Beaver dam downstream of main pond

Beaver dam downstream of main pond

Oak and clouds

Oak and clouds

Icicle and lichen (RAW)

Icicle and lichen (RAW)

Icicle and lichen (high contrast jpeg)

Icicle and lichen (high contrast jpeg)

More from Pine Swamp

Dave and Loren crossing beaver dam, Pine Swamp

Dave and Loren crossing beaver dam, Pine Swamp

West Cornwall, Connecticut. We did a short hike back up to the Pine Swamp beaver ecosystem yesterday in about 6″ of snow. Great fun. The water wasn’t frozen over enough to walk across so we had to carefully walk on the tops of a few of the beaver dams (there are at least 10 in this ecosystem).

This hike, while not all the long or tough remains one of our favorites because the destination is so interesting in any season.

I’m still digging the image quality of the Sony RX100 (less its ergonomics) and my solution to the metal body making my hands cold is a thin pair of SmartWool glove liners that I leave on under my mittens. I can turn it on/off and push the shutter button with the gloves on which really saves my hands.

Ice pattern

Lots of wonderful ice patterns in the frozen pieces of Pine Swamp and the extra resolution on the Sony RX100 reveals some great details.

Stick, swamp, ice, snow

It hasn’t been consistently cold enough for the entire swamp to freeze over so there are some nice spots with a mix of water, ice and snow which looked quite photogenic.

Broken ice with bubbles

Along the Pecoy Notch Trail in the Catskills

Kaaterskill High Peak from Dibble’s Quarry

Kaaterskill High Peak from Dibble’s Quarry

Along the Pecoy Notch Trail on the way to Pecoy Notch just east of Sugarloaf Mountain in the Catskills. Kaaterskill High Peak is on the skyline.

Dibble’s Quarry was mined for sidewalk slate used in New York City but over the years that it’s been part of a state park people have built a menagerie of cairns, chairs, tables, and fortresses out of the slate.

Beaver dam and pond below Pecoy Notch

Beaver dam and pond below Pecoy Notch

This beaver pond and dam sits next to the Pecoy Notch Trail. Behind the dam and pond you can see Pecoy Notch and Sugarloaf Mountain, one of the Catskills. The Devil’s Path runs along the skyline here, it’s a spectacular hike that Dave and I have done. Today we just went up to the notch using micro spikes.

This beaver pond is active and there are fresh tree stumps where the beavers have taken wood for the dam and for food.

Stream coming out of Pecoy Notch

Stream coming out of Pecoy Notch

This stream is part of the drainage from Twin and Sugarloaf Mountains and Pecoy Notch.

Pine swamp beaver pond

Pine Swamp through the trees

Pine Swamp through the trees

March 7, 2010. West Cornwall, Connecticut. Looking east. Approaching Pine Swamp from a hut on a blue side trail off the Appalachian Trail. From here it doesn’t look like much but generations of beavers have turned a stream and swamp into a pond with multiple dams, an enormous house/den, and enough food to last for dozens of generations if not forever.

The stream runs north to south, left frame to right and beavers have built multiple upper control dams, a main dam downstream of the den which is the width of the pond (it created the pond), and numerous dams downstream of it to control outflow for better movement in water for food hunting.

This beaver encampment has been worked on by many generations of beavers and no doubt will be around for a long time to come. The more we return to it the more evidence we see of the current beaver family’s master plan.

Note: these images are from multiple trips over the last few months to this special place.

Upstream control dam and chewed tree

Upstream control dam and chewed tree

March 7, 2010. Looking north. This is where the stream enters the pond and the dam in the back of this frame is one of many to control water entering the pond. In heavy rain or during snowmelt, these dams prevent flash flooding from damaging both the den and the main dam below the den. Like in a man-made dam system, these dams have to be maintained, both built up for protection and opened up as water is needed for the pond.

Upstream control dam

Upstream control dam

March 7, 2010. Looking south. This dam is the last one before the actual main pond and it has created a mini-pond here. Note the water level difference between this smaller pond and the main pond past it (out of sight in the right of the frame).

Upstream control dam

Upstream control dam

March 7, 2010. Looking north. This is another view of the last upstream control dam before the main beaver pond. Note the water level difference between the small pond behind the dam and the main pond on this side of it.

Dave shooting upstream control dam

Dave shooting upstream control dam

January 10, 2010. Looking south. Dave is shooting the upstream control dam which is to my right. You can see the main pond and beaver den to his right. In back of the den, at the lower end of the pond is a large dam that spans the pond, it’s the main dam that maintains this habitat and it’s impressive.

Chewed stump

Chewed stump

January 10, 2010. All around this beaver pond there is evidence of beavers chewing on small trees for food (they eat bark) and larger trees to bring them down into the pond for both building materials and food. They are incredible landscape architects, bringing only enough trees down to do the work they need to do and not felling too many trees directly into the main pond to keep it clear for swimming and to protect their den from other animals that might walk out on a downed tree.

Dave photographing a chewed tree

Dave photographing a chewed tree

January 31, 2010. Looking north. This tree is one of many that’s started on the west side of the pond.

Chewed tree with beaver den behind

Chewed tree with beaver den behind

January 31, 2010. Looking east. As you start to get a handle on how this relatively small animal plans out food and building materials and protecting his den, it’s mind blowing.

Lower dam, pond and den

Main dam, pond and den

March 7, 2010. Looking west. The melted space in the pond shows where the stream used to run before the dam on the left was built turning this area into a pond. The den is over 7′ tall off the water (big for a den) and the main dam is hundreds of feet across and shaped like an "S" for strength in a flood.

If we climbed out on the den (impossible at this point) we’d probably hear the yipping of a family of beaver pups inside.

Main dam and den

Main dam and den

March 7, 2010. Looking west. You can see the main beaver dam that makes the pond in its "S" shape, and the den. Note the level of the pond relative to the area on the left of the dam. This offset will be accentuated a month after this image was taken by a breach in the next dam downstream.

Dave on the main dam

Dave on the main dam

March 7, 2010. Looking north. The best way across the pond is to walk across the main dam. It’s treacherous in places but in winter things are frozen in place and with care one can get across.

Dave and Nora on the main dam

Dave and Nora on the main dam

March 15, 2010. Looking north. The same view on another trip. The dam is thawing and is a bit tougher to walk on. It was raining on this day.

Main dam, den, pond

Main dam, den, pond

March 15, 2010. Looking west. As the ice thaws one can better see the pond and how big the den is relative to it (huge).

Recent chewing

Recent chewing

March 15, 2010. Looking south. On this trip we saw more "current" evidence that the beavers are out and about, this tree is currently being worked on. You can’t see it but there’s a breach in a lower dam behind this tree (from all the rain we’ve been having here) and all current tree chewing is aiming at felling trees in that direction to get building material to fix the breach.

Main pond and den from the dam

Main pond and den from the dam

March 20, 2010. Looking north. This is our latest trip and on this day the weather was perfect. The pond was smooth, there was a lot of evidence of beavers working on this dam and the lower control dam.

Dave, Bonnie, Erin, and Anne on the dam

Dave, Bonnie, Erin, and Anne on the dam

March 20, 2010. Looking east. We brought my wife Anne, her daughter Bonnie and Bonnie’s daughter Erin on this trip thinking it would be a fun adventure for Erin. She did very well on the 1.5 steep hike in and loved the "danger" of walking across this now loose beaver dam.

Dave and I showed them evidence that beavers had been at work recently but they seemed somehow unimpressed.

Note, there were two geese nesting on the pond and in walking across the dam I made some geese noises and scared them away. They made a ruckus and flew off. Little did I know that this was actually an alarm.

Beaver comes out

Beaver swimming

March 20, 2010. Looking west. As we were eating lunch on the east shore of the pond, a beaver popped up near the den, no doubt because I’d set off his "goose alarm." All of us froze to watch him swim which he did for about ten minutes, checking us out and wondering if he needed to evacuate his family.

When beavers are alarmed they slap their tails on the water. This beaver checked us out and never slapped his tail.

Beaver swimming

Beaver swimming

Looking west. The beaver continued to swim back and forth in front of the den, at times coming within ten feet of us (seriously). Dave and I were furiously taking pictures and Erin, who is 9, got as close to the edge as she could, unafraid of this wild animal. It was amazing.

Beaver swimming

Beaver swimming

March 20, 2010. Looking west. The beaver continued to swim and as he got close he’d lift his head up out of the water to smell the air, hoping to identify us so he could either evacuate or relax.

Still no tail slapping.

Beaver swimming

Beaver swimming

March 20, 2010. Looking west. This was his last pass close to us and as you can see, this beaver is a spectacularly beautiful and healthy animal with a nice coat.

Consider this: this entire ecosystem: the dams, the den, the trees being worked on for building materials and food are all being worked out in that little brain inside his head. Beavers are peaceful creatures who don’t attack other animals including humans and about all we have to fear about beavers is that they don’t want to turn our backyards into beaver ponds.

Right after this picture was taken this beaver swam to the other side of the pond, got out of the water and disappeared into the woods, no doubt relieved that he could leave us near his den without worry that we’d bother his new family inside.

Wow.