Beaver ponds are superb places to see and photograph wildlife, the ponds and the large rodents that build them have a soft place in this naturalist’s heart. I have a few favorite ponds that I visit regularly and each of them has provided rewards larger than their relatively small size.
One of the finest stands of red oak I’ve ever seen occupied a few acres surrounding a couple of spring seeps – until the tornado of May 1985 blew through and knocked down or broke off most of the trees. The spring seeps had drained through a culvert under a little-used road; shortly after the tornado struck beavers moved in and blocked the culvert in what became a ready-made dam. Over the years the culvert was replaced, and the beavers have come and gone several times, but the new culvert was higher than the old one and the pond has remained.
The few trees that survived the tornado were drowned in the pond, now after 38 years only a few snags and a handful of old stumps remain. Those snags are an important resource for the wildlife that uses the pond. Woodpeckers have excavated holes in which to nest, and there are decayed knotholes that serve the same function.
In spring tree swallows adopt the snags as places to rest between feeding forays over the pond and they nest in cavities in the snags.
Male tree swallows arrive before the females, find suitable habitat and nest cavities and defend them from other males –
At about the same time, a pair of Canada geese arrived at the pond –
And male red-winged blackbirds began to stake out territories in the narrow band of cattails along one side of the pond. They often call and display from the snags or stumps –
I sat beside the pond a male pileated woodpecker landed on a snag and
proceeded to explore the long-dead tree in search of a meal –
a treasure these beaver ponds are: for wildlife and naturalists.