Monday after school we grabbed a quick snack, out gear and headed right down to the Whitemud Ravine. After a weekend of birding out of town we were antsy to check in on our Great-horned Owl couple. The female is in a large tree cavity sitting on eggs while the male is always on guard in a nearby tree. The eggs are predicted to hatch any day now. Well, they were still there. Nothing new and no indications that the eggs have hatched. Other than mom and pops owl, there was not much bird action along the creek. The lack of birds was, however, more than made up by beaver action. There were beavers everywhere. Swimming in the creek, sitting on the banks and waddling along the shore. We stopped counting at ten beavers and instead focused on trying to shoot pictures instead. Unfortunately it was an overcast day and the sun was getting low so our bridge camera had trouble with the low light. The photos turned out blurry no matter how we sliced it. Either the shutter speed was to slow or the ISO was to high. Even without the pictures though it was quite a show. Some of the beavers were “muzzle wrestling”, they swam up towards each other, their muzzles side by side and then they pushed each other around in the water. The interaction was not overly aggressive so I am not sure if these were hostile or friendly encounters. On our way back to the car we managed to track down a rumoured porcupine sitting high in a pine tree. We have heard stories of this fella from other birders but we have never managed to track him/her down…, until today. Clearly the porcupine did not want to be disturbed so we took a few grainy pictures of his spiky derrière and called it a day.
A few weeks ago, as the ice on the creek still was breaking up, we came across this fuzzy Muskrat sitting on a muddy back grooming himself. I imagine it must have just woken up from the long winter hibernation and was doing his “spring cleaning” of the fur. Muskrats are often found in association with beavers, and indeed, further down on the same muddy bank there were two adult beavers Also busy grooming themselves. While both Muskrats and beavers are rodents, they are not particularly closely related. Contrary to what the name suggests, Muskrats are not a species of rat. It’s closest relative are mice, voles and lemmings. It is basically a large field mouse adapted to an aquatic life. I was on the opposite side of the creek when I spotted it. Over the next few minutes I managed to slowly sneak through the vegetation until I was at the water’s edge right across from it, no more than 10 m away. While the both the Muskrat and the beavers must have known I was there, they completely ignored me and just minded their own business. While I have seen Muskrats before, this was the first time I have been able to study one this closely for an extended period.
May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling). Copyright Mario Pineda.
Today is the first day of spring and all the signs are here; the creeks and rivers are largely ice-free, the beavers at the Whitemud Creek have awoken from their winter hibernation and the buds are bursting.
During my nature walk along the Whitemud Creek the other day the beavers were out in full force, swimming around in the slurry waters, breaking through ice floes like fury little ice breakers and chilling on the banks with their friend, the muskrat. The onset of the seasonal changes is sudden and things are changing fast. Just a week ago my son and I walked on the frozen creek, meeting people on skis and walking their dogs. Today the creek is virtually ice free. I am super-excited about the upcoming return of the migratory birds, but a bit sad that I have to bid farewell to the Snowy Owls.
Officially Spring arrives at 3:58pm today (Spring Equinox). It is a sunny day, not a cloud in the sky and +11 °C. What better way to greet spring and all the the excitement it will bring about in nature than heading down to the creek. We will head down for a first spring nature walk as soon as work and school is out.
May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling).