It was yet another gorgeous morning in Estabrook Park; cool, still, and pretty dry; and I saw several of the regulars during my usual rounds. A deer was grazing at the edge of the soccer field, the cormorant was fishing in the pond, and a pair of wood ducks were dabbling on the river.
The big news, however, is that I finally managed to spot another good-sized mammal, of which I’ve been seeing signs all summer, but never an actual glimpse until now. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, friends and countrymen, children of all ages, give a warm Wisconsin welcome to our very own North American beaver (Castor canadensis), right here on the Milwaukee River and contentedly munching on a strip of cottonwood (probably Populus deltoides) bark that it had just peeled off that branch you can see in the background.
When I first came around the corner, it was pulling on the strip of bark, and in the dim light, the first interpretation that popped into my head of the image I was seeing was of a duck tangled in fishing line, and my heart sank into my shoes. Happily for us, however, also the beaver, and even the duck I had imagined, my initial impression turned out not to be the case. Instead, it was a honest-to-goodness beaver, it got about a foot-long section of bark loose, and you can see it begin to munch on it in the picture above. It seemed quite undisturbed by me, and I took about 50 pictures as it proceeded to ingest the entire strip. Here’s a close up showing its nearly unbearably cute little paws clasping the bark.
After a while, it slowly swam away while it finished off the strip of bark, and a second beaver swam up. That’s right, a second one! In all the excitement, I failed to capture an image showing both of them at the same time, so you’ll just have to take my word on that. The second beaver calmly pulled off its own bark strip and started to munch on it in exactly the same way as the first one. Here’s a picture of that.
I think you can clearly see that they are two completely different individuals, right? Anyway, I thought I felt a mosquito on my leg, I waved at it, this second beaver took exception to that, and it took off with a big splash of its tail. The show was over, but what a show it was, eh?
Let me leave you with a not-too-bad and nicely-soothing picture of the wood duck pair amongst the lily pads on the river.