Beaver by moonlight (part 1)
May I just suggest the above title as it’s great fun. Over the past few years as most of you that know me will contend, I’ve done this on more than a few occasions. There have been a few memorable experiences and I’ll share a few on this and future posts.
3 years ago, mid January -6 and me on the banks of the Isla. Imagine the scene, I park the car at Crathie brig, and walk down the fresh snow that had fallen on the bank leading to the Isla. I’ve got my head torch strapped to the head and a hand held torch in my hand, both switched off. I sneak down towards the river making little or no noise towards a known feeding station. As I get to the the river, I crouch down on my hunkers, get myself comfy and switch on my torches. I’m acutely aware of something only a few feet from me and turn the hand held torch and my head to check it out and there, literally 2 ft from me is a young beaver sitting on the bank with a stick in it’s hands looking totally shell-shocked at this numpty sitting beside him by the banks of the river. Now, what amazed me more than the fact I managed to get so close, was the point that this particular animal just put down his repast, gave me a totally ticked off look and walked in a total huff back into the river as if it was something that happened everyday and slipped quietly back into the river. Totally surreal to be honest. Anyway, I decided to walk along the Isla towards the lodge, which is a huge construction by the way, measuring 9.5m x 4.5m externally with a height around 4ft at it’s highest point. So, off I did trot and spotted a couple of animals in the river but they quickly disappeared as the wind was totally in the wrong direction. I walked to the lodge without seeing anything more but on my return I came across a kit sitting on the floodbanks chomping away quite happily on a branch. He was pretty non-plussed as I approached but decided once I got within 10ft it was time to bail out. As I walked back with the freezing air ripping shreds out of my lovely complexion (lol), it became clear there were other wonders to be witnessed as the beavers weren’t seeing or hearing me, but more importantly, weren’t smelling me (NO comments please). As I got to the east side of the brig, I was getting regular sightings of a beaver tracking me up the river. Now, I’d done a wee reccy of the area the day previous in daylight and had spotted on the opposite bank, a sycamore that had been half chewed and some willow that was an obvious hot-spot for feeding. As I approached this point with the watchdog beaver in tow, I could hear the chewing and nibbling of our furry pals. And sure enough, there on the banking not 30ft from me were 2 animals lit up by the moonlight. My joy at seeing them was short lived however as my little tag decided to warn the others of me being very close to them. I’ll tell you this, when you are not expecting it, a tail-splash by a beaver is a pretty heart-stopping, adrenaline inducing affair. Now, multiply that by 3 as the other 2 beavers followed their family member by hitting the water at various exit points left and right of me, it was loud and it was dark. Scary and totally exhilarating at the same time, a quality experience.
However, that wasn’t the end of it. Thinking the beavers had probably disappeared, I thought I’d head up to the next wee lodge and see what was what. I sat down opposite the lodge and got myself settled in a nice wee spot downwind from the lodge. As alluded to earlier, it was -6 going by the car thermometer, but sitting by the river bank it was a good deal cooler and it wasn’t long before I started to think to myself “wtf are you like Bob? A total dumpling”. So yeah, I did have a wee giggle at my own expense, but so what? Take yourself too seriously and there’s no hope for you. So, here’s me sitting like a right muppet by a river bank, mid-January and sub-zero temperatures with a full moon and having a brilliant night, fantastic lol. Now, where I was sitting, the river is only 15-20ft wide but heavily wooded by willows. The close knitted willows offered a lot of cover and I felt really safe and secure in the knowledge that the beavers wouldn’t see me, certainly wouldn’t hear me and the wind was generally in the wrong direction for them to smell me, sorted me-thinks! As I’m sitting, I start hearing the tell-tale nibble of a beaver, VERY close to me. “Chomp, chomp, gnaw, gnaw” then a break, then “chomp, gnaw, chomp, chomp, gnaw” again. Totally and utterly transfixed I sat there, just hoping for a sighting but in reality just loving the experience until……………….” Creak” “Groan” “Creak””Splash” “Crack” “CRASH” !!!!!!!!!!! The beavers had felled the tree, and as it started to fall, the beaver jumped into the river with a splash but the bloody tree, instead of falling into the river, careered eastward parallel with the river and landed about 5ft from me!!! To say my heart was beating a tad faster would be a bit of an understatement and I decided to call it a night. But, the beavers had other thoughts as far as my evening of entertainment was concerned. I, now upwind of the colony, was greeted on my way back to the car, with tail-splashes, hisses, and just really rude behaviour to be honest lol. At the end of the evening, I looked back on my exploits and I truly must admit it was an evening I’ll never forget and one that I really enjoyed.