One of the many quirks of Fairbanks is the temperature inversions that takes place in the Tanana Valley and the surrounding hills. The temperature difference, as the map shows, can be quite substantial. Those living up in the hills, will leave relatively moderate temps, and drive down into increasingly chilling temps and the growing murk of ice fog.
It was -36F at the cabin on Monday morning, which does add to the motivation to return to life in the hills. But the firewood bin is full, the stack robber cleaned and throwing out heat of its own, and overall, life is just fine.
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.
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.
I recently pulled the SD card from the trail camera that I have looking out over the beaver lodge. It had 747 images on it.
741 of the images were of ducks. Sometimes in pairs, sometimes solo, sometimes the ducks had a large party and ignored all social distancing. I have ducks swimming, ducks scratching an itch (like above), ducks taking off in flight, and ducks preening for the camera.
There are four images that contain at least one duck and one beaver. The beavers are quite active, but have not been overwhelmed by the urge to cut down any trees. They seem to continue to eat on the supply they cut down late last summer and early autumn.
There are only two images of a beaver without the photobombing ducks. Personally, I think the Beaver Cam has gone to the beavers’ heads. Now they just slap their tail in order to get attention. Once you start to ignore their swimming about, the aggrieved beaver fires off a tail slap. Who knew beavers to be such prima donnas?
The big male seems to have grown quite a bit since he last showed himself. The female remains in shape; she’s quite svelte in appearance. There is at least one kit, that I have seen. There certainly could be two, but only one has shown itself at a time.