The recording features Barred Owls hooting and American Beaver scraping, chewing and moaning at night in the Shindagin Hollow wetland (recorded at 2am in late September 2020). The photo shows the effects of the drought. Resident beaver have shoved mud onto the banks in order to deepen the channel. Media © Lang Elliott.
Note: The recording featured here is a “3D binaural soundscape”. Please wear headphones for a profound listening experience that will make you think you’re actually out there, immersed in the natural world!
Early last autumn, I decided to focus on a beaver colony that had taken up residence in the hollow. The colony appeared to be doing quite well, but by late September, a drought had nearly dried up the wetland, forcing the colony to move upstream to the last remaining section with water. In what appeared to be a frantic bid to avoid catastrophe, the beaver quickly built a new dam, constructed a new den, and then began deepening the channel by shoving large amounts of mud on to the banks … clearly a “last-ditch effort” to preserve their aquatic environment.
A closer view of the beaver dredging activities (click to enlarge). Note abundant beaver footprints in the mud. I wonder how they haul the mud out of the water … perhaps they shove it with their noses and feet? Or do they pull it up with their forelegs, or push it up with their hind legs, while moving backwards? Has anyone observed this behavior?
It was a depressing scene, for sure, but there were also abundant signs of feeding, and the beaver had piled a large number of small limbs in the deepest portion of the channel, to act as a winter food source. So, at dusk, I placed my mic setup near the food-bed and left it there to record through the night.
The results speak for themselves! Be sure to listen to the above 8-minute recording in its entirety. Not only did I capture the sounds of beaver scraping and chewing bark in the darkness, I also documented the animated moans or whines of young of the year, begging calls given as their parents feed … what a surprising and unusual sound! And not only that, Barred Owls showed up on several occasions, their resonant hoots echoing across the landscape.
Needless to say, I was (and still am) quite pleased with the outcome of my effort!
Over the next few days, the water level receded even more. I became very concerned because the nearest wet area that I was able to locate was over two miles downstream, and that spot appeared to be inhabited by another colony. I wondered what would happen if the water evaporated entirely? Would the beaver simply stay put, trusting that nature would send rain in time? Or would they disperse overland, perhaps individually, in what might be a hopeless search for better habitat?
Fortunately, rain arrived just five days after I made my recording. And to my delight, the wetland quickly filled with water, reviving the beaver’s aquatic environment, with plenty of water for all.
I well remember when the rain began. It was late afternoon. I was at my home on the edge of town, but I quickly mobilized and headed to the hollow where I remained until dark, watching with pleasure as the pools began to fill. With heavy rain falling all around, I smiled to myself and felt a great sense of relief, knowing that the beaver would once again be in their element, happily preparing for the long winter ahead.
For more information about the biology and behavior of the beaver, check out this informative article published by the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.
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