As forecast, a Chinook blew into Interior Alaska this past weekend, driving temps in Fairbanks up into the 40’s. It was +44F at 8am in the valley on Sunday morning. The average high on Halloween is +18F. Also, as expected, our dusting of snow became a few patches of white.
Further south in Alaska: The NWS station in Girdwood at Alyeska recorded 9.5″ of rain in a 24 hour period. Nearby Porter Glacier Visitor Center recorded 10.34″ of rain on Saturday. It is the first 10+ inch precipitation event in 24 hours in Alaska since 2012. The storm total at Portage Glacier was 17.72″, as of Sunday evening. The epicenter for this event is Mount Baker, which is just 75 miles east of Anchorage, but 13,000 feet higher. The forecast for the slopes of Mount Baker “Snow could be heavy at times”. SATURDAY AFTERNOON: 29-35″; SATURDAY NIGHT-SUNDAY MORNING: 108-114″ Possible; SUNDAY AFTERNOON: 82-88″; SUNDAY NIGHT: 100% Chance of Snow, Heavy At Times.
The neighbor stopped me one night a week or two ago. The beavers had broke through the fencing around his yard. I asked if he had stopped up the breach, but he said he wasn’t concerned as freeze up was almost upon us. I did issue a warning about the damage a beaver can do in a short time, but I left it at that.
24 hours later, I received a call. Is there any way I can help plug up the beaver portal? I went over to the new clearing and counted ten new stumps. Not ten trees necessarily, as most were hauled off through the portal to the pantry. The bigger ones were left behind for the next night, and two were hung up, which obviously caused some beaver irritation, judging from the chaotic pattern of wood chips.
A pair of swans, who had been spending the summer on the Back Pond, recently moved up to The Pond. I was watching them one evening, when a second pair of swans crashed the party, and chaos ensued. The original pair did not take kindly to sharing The Pond. For an hour the original pair chased the interlopers across the usual still waters. I was stacking firewood, and I’d hear the Flap,Flap,Flap… of wings beating the water as they skimmed across from end to end. Pretty fascinating to watch, although I’m convinced the beaver just wanted the peace & quiet back.
When I took the video, things had calmed down some, but you can see one of the interlopers off to the side, testing the waters, as it were. Eventually, that lone swan crossed the red line, and chaos ensued once more. It was getting dark when the four swans finally paired off at opposite ends of The Pond.
An honest to goodness thunderstorm is rather rare in Alaska. We get lightning by the bolt load, but nothing like a midwestern U.S. hill shaker. We just do not have the humidity to drive impressive, tornado birthing, cells. Still, what developed just across the northern bank of the Yukon River near Beaver, AK actually brought out the official Severe Thunderstorm Warning call from the Fairbanks office of the National Weather Service on Wednesday evening.
It was noted that it has been over two years since the NWS from Anchorage or Juneau has issued such a warning. Who knew such competition existed within the NWS?
Definitely not a normal occurrence.
On another note: Last night was the final night of the year for a post midnight sunset in Fairbanks. Summer is going by so fast.
Ducks, geese, swans and cranes have all come back to the neighborhood. The back pond still has ice, although it’s looking more than a bit dodgy and should go out this weekend. The beaver is patrolling the edges, occasionally flushing a pair of mallards from the open water to the ice, where they stand patiently waiting for the open water to be beaver free. Even the gulls are back, swooping low over the pond’s edge looking for the perfect nesting spot.
This past weekend, a surprisingly large section of open water showed itself on The Pond. A steady stream of bubbles came up to the water’s surface. The bubbles were methane escaping the mud below.
The next morning, the temp at the cabin was -27F, so at ice level it was easily -30F. Much of the open area had frozen over, but a neat circular hole remained in the ice. From the hole, a trail led off across the pond’s snowy surface. One of the resident beavers had come out to explore the area. It followed all of the trails we made in the snow the previous day, and then it went off on its own, exploring at its leisure.
There were several times, where the trail dipped below the snow, and the beaver tunneled for quite a distance, before popping up again to the surface. I had never seen where a beaver had gone swimming in the snow. Most of these tunnels were near the cat tail stands, but not all.
The day after I followed the beaver trail, the open water had completely closed over. The methane is the clear culprit in the open water, especially such a large opening. As the bubbles rise to the surface, the ice thins due to the movement of the water. Most of the methane pocket locations are known, and those areas are avoided when anyone traverses The Pond. We are guessing that this opening was caused by a large, unknown pocket, that gave way. The bubbles that we watched coming up were in three distinct trails, but we wondered if the beaver had helped things along. Surely, the beaver knew about the location of the thinning ice, and kept one section open longer than the rest. Did their movement below, open up the large section we found? The beaver is an intriguing species of rodent.
Voyaguers Wolf Project placed a camera trap on one end of a beaver dam near Voyaguers National Park in Northern Minnesota. This six minute video shows the variety of wildlife that made use of the beaver’s bridge to cross the pond.
The lodge has grown some since last year, and this year’s collection of birch, aspen and willow branches is larger than the previous year. As far as I know, there are still three beavers in the lodge, although I have not seen the kit in several months.
The beavers really kick into food gathering gear in September. From that time on, there is seldom any time of the day, when one, if not both beavers, are collecting trees and branches. It becomes an evening event, to watch the large rodents swim across The Pond, with the tree branches in tow. When they reach their food pile, they dive underneath the pile, trapping the freshly collected branches at the bottom of the pile. The Pond and its ice will soon become a giant tupperware container.
The beavers have branched out, going further and further from the lodge to collect saplings. The yard, and I use that term loosely, was fenced when they first showed up. The beavers have now worked their way to the very edge of that fencing. For now, there is a reprieve. The Pond has iced over, and the beavers will cut back on their tree cutting. The ice should now be in place until spring, and the beavers will spend most of their time in the lodge, venturing out under water to their pantry for meals.