Plenty of Destruction from Beaver, But Is It Pointless?

I got to see my first wild beaver in the U.S. last month outside Columbus. My family was in town for a sad occasion, the tragic hospitalization and ultimately funeral of my sister, Ellen Grubbs, who died of the flu and asthma. We spent a lot of time at the Best Western in Pickerington, waiting for good news that never came. My mountain man big brother Tom, who would get up and dawn and hike, first saw a beaver in the creek between the hotel and the Tucker Nature Preserve.

We had nothing to do but worry, so suddenly we all wanted to go see the beaver. Tom described the area as having bike paths and joggers, so I pictured it being a little too manicured. Far from it. Ellen would have thought it hysterical if she had seen us scrambling up a brush covered ledge. We kept trying to see the beaver–though not trying hard enough to get up at dawn, when you really need to be there.

For the first week all we got to see was the beaver work–huge trees knocked over and gnawed. Amazing destruction. But I’d point out in the beaver’s defense, it was nothing compared to the lots cleared of trees nearby for, say, our new favorite hotel, the Target or just to look more attractive for a store. And the beaver has a way of keeping the forest fresh. Lots of animals can move into the new marshes they make. Moose–not

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Only 9 Eagles Show for Chicago’s Closest Eagle Watch

eagle tree

Only about nine eagles were on hand for the 3,000 visitors who showed up for the closest eagle watch to Chicago, Eagle Watch Weekend at Starved Rock. Last year, 50 were there for the weekend and 115 spotted on the peak February day.

“I think most people got to see at least one eagle in the wild, which is better than seeing one on TV,” said Kevin Eubank, the head ranger at the dam where you do most eagle viewing. Plus, they had a live bird of prey demonstration, so people got to see one up close, too. Edna Daugherty, who was driving the trolley for Starved Rock Lodge, said that eagles were out off and on all day.

The northern states have had slim eagle viewing this year. In 2009 the mid-winter Illinois eagle survey showed lousy results. First the cold weather seemed to drive birds further south. Now some rivers aren’t frozen at all, meaning the raptors don’t have to concentrate in one spot. The fish they like are in slim supply this year. And, on top of everything else, it’s foggy. The local paper The News Tribune says presciently that eagle-watching has “never been much of an activity for serious birders.” Maybe that’s why it’s so fun: It’s relatively easy these days because eagle populations have recovered and the birds are big, obvious, and thrilling to watch. Six states have eagle watches this weekend: AL, IL, WA, MO, OK and TN.

If anything, I feel even

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Hamburg’s Swan Boats Escort Birds to Warm Winter Pond

Every winter since 1674, Hamburg’s full-time “swan father” has taken care of its flock of 120 mute swans (Cygnus olor). The current swan father, Olaf Nieß, uses blue motorboats loaded with hay to ferry the flock to a pond that’s kept free of ice. The city also gives the Hamburg Schwanenwesen winter food and even their own website, too. The idea goes back to a myth that as long as one swan lived in Hamburg the city would prosper.Olaf Nieß, who inherited the job from his father, learned that he only has to move the young, difficult swans. The rest know the routine. When he shows up with his blue boats labelled in emergency services type lettering ” Schwan” (swan) on Schwanenvesen (Swan Boat), they go to their winter place. He catches the unccoperative swan over two or three days, tying their feet with a velcro strap and laying them gently on the straw. The swans stay in Eppendorfer Mill Pond, which the city keeps from freezing over by pumping the warmer water from the bottom to the top. Other migrating geese stop by, too. They forage a little for themselves, but the city makes sure they have grain. Then in March, when the main water area is ice free again. Olaf Nieß told the Hamburg Morgen Post that the flock stays at about 120 because some chicks naturally die off. Some swans do get removed–but just to be sent as goodwill gifts around the world. The only real trouble the swans face is flying

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Beaver Near UN

Fox News reported yesterday that NYPD pulled a beaver out of the East River near the UN during a security search for the pope’s visit. I wonder if this is Jose from near the Bronx zoo? How many beavers could there be within range of the UN? If it’s not Jose, that means New York City got its second beaver in 100 years.

Where to See Wildlife Around NYC

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