Archive for the ‘Beavers and Birds’ Category

SNF: Every Beaver Everywhere

Posted by heidi08 On July - 8 - 2017Comments Off on SNF: Every Beaver Everywhere

I try to stay beaver-centric on this website, but once in a great while an article about general ecology grabs and holds my attention so much that I can’t entirely escape. Besides, this entire article might as be about beavers anyway. Every Single Beaver Everywhere.

beaver phys

The big ecological roles of small natural features

Ecologists and conservationists have long recognized that keystone species have major ecological importance disproportionate to their abundance or size. Think beavers, sea stars and prairie dogs—species that >Similarly across landscapes, the keystone concept of disproportionate importance extends to other ecological elements, such as salt marshes in estuaries. Now an international group of researchers is exploring the disproportionate ecological importance of small natural features—unique environmental elements that provide significant ecological and economic impacts.

Desert springs. Caves harboring bat colonies. Rocky outcrops. Strips of natural vegetation edging agricultural fields. Riparian zones. Small coral heads. Tiny islands. Large old trees.

These small natural features are often overlooked, relatively vulnerable yet environmentally mighty in their ecosystem. They also are at the opposite end of the spatial scale from the Earth’s large conservation superstars—the Serengeti, Yellowstone and the Great Barrier Reef.

Or hey, maybe an unexpected beaver pond in an city stream?  Sustaining unique habitat even  in the middle of town?

Small natural features have big ecological roles, according to the 37 researchers from 11 countries writing in a Special Issue of “Biological Conservation.” Sometimes they can provide resources that limit key populations or processes that influence a much larger area. Sometimes they support unusual diversity, abundance or productivity.

They also are small enough to efficiently maintain or restore, while traditional land-use activities continue in close proximity, such as forestry, fishing and grazing.

“Small natural features are an example of what can be termed ‘The Frodo Effect,'” writes Malcolm Hunter, University of Maine professor of wildlife resources and Libra Professor of Conservation Biology, in the journal introduction.

“In the ‘Lord of the Rings,’ the small and unassuming hobbit Frodo has more strength than any of his larger peers and saves Middle Earth with his brave actions,” says Hunter. “Gandalf and the rest of the fellowship of the ring go to great ends to protect him, because they know this.”

And you thought that only techs could be geeks. Apparently what Star Wars is to silicon valley, Tolkein is to biologists. They love thems some Frodo. We’ll let them have their fun, but that’s silly, because it’s not even the passage I would have chosen for this significant contribution played by very small things.

“For you little gardener and lover of trees,’ she said to Sam, ‘I have only a small gift.’ She put into his hand a little box of plain grey wood, unadorned save for a single silver rune upon the lid… ‘In this box there is earth from my orchard, and such blessing as Galadriel has still to bestow is upon it. It will not keep you on your road, nor defend you against any peril; but if you keep it and see your home again at last, then perhaps it may reward you. Though you should find all barren and laid waste, there will be few gardens in Middle-earth that will bloom like your garden, if you sprinkle this earth there. Then you may remember Galadriel, and catch a glimpse far off of Lórien….”

Isn’t that much better? Now let’s get back to the subject of this article. Small natural features (SNF) like a big oak tree, or a small rock outcropping, or even a drowned stump in the river, are often the nexus around which a  collection of wildlife is gathered. And if it wasn’t there, the collection wouldn’t be either. More than this, the researchers argue that actually saving that frog pond or small stand of trees beside the field might have as important an impact as a large scale restoration project that costs hundreds of thousands more dollars.

Will someone PLEASE argue this case in court to save a beaver pond in the next 6 months?

Every time an individual city or landowner makes the decision NOT to rip out a beaver dam, they are allowing one of these important SNF’s to exist. And every time they trap a beaver they are destroying one. Don’t believe me? Here’s some of the biodiversity our friend Rusty Cohn photographed at the tulocay beaver pond between a hotel and a car dealership in downtown Napa  last week.



Gem state beaver gems

Posted by heidi08 On July - 7 - 2017Comments Off on Gem state beaver gems

Idaho is a mixed bag ecologically speaking. It is filled to the gills with hunters and trappers and folks who visit the state just because they want to hunt and trap, but it has  more than its fair share of really study beaver advocates like Mike Settel brave enough to host an overnight beaver festival with camping and beer in the Beaver dam jam!

Then there are unexpected treasures like this, that seem to pop out of the rich Idaho soil like yellow flowers in the sidewalk.

Beaver ecology to be featured at Southwestern Idaho Birders Association meeting

CaptureNAMPA — Dirk Anderson will be featured at the Southwestern Idaho Birders Association’s July meeting to talk about the role of the North American beaver in western ecology.The presentation will look at beaver ecology through the lens of Anderson’s childhood. Growing up in Idaho City, he saw first-hand how beavers influenced the ecology of his back yard. 

 Anderson will also discuss the history of beavers in North America and how they were the driving force behind western exploration. The presentation will wrap up talking about restoration, conservation and beaver-related issues.

Anderson is the AmeriCorps environmental education instructor at the Boise Urban Garden School. He is a graduate of McCall Outdoor Science School where he received a Master’s of Science in Natural Resources with honors. He also has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Montana Tech of the University of Montana where he played basketball. Anderson is a modern day mountain man, raised in Idaho City, with a passion for the outdoors, art and music.

Mike Settell was stunned to learn about this, because it’s a big, long state and all the beaver players don’t always know what each other is doing.  Hopefully he’ll find a way to get a friend to attend Anderson’s lecture, because I would love to know what he has to say. There are pockets of beaver advocacy all the way from Coeure d’Alene to Pocatello and lots of places in between. I just found out about another surprise in the state involving Trumpeter Swans. Seems some lovers of swans have decided that where they nest is so important there should be MORE of it, not less.

Guess where they nest. Go ahead. Guess.

Cygnus buccinator is our largest bird in North Americaso heavy it needs a wide open stretch of water to take off. It is ungainly on land and has short legs like its landlord. These swans nest on beaver (or muskrat lodges) and feed primarily on the rich aquatic plants that surround them. Since it’s the biggest bird we have, it wants the very  best place to raise a family and is equipped to defend it handily. (I imagine every type of waterfowl would love to nest on the island of a beaver lodge. No predators to sneak up behind you, no neighbors during the day. But it can fight off anyone else who might want to share.) It’s prime reale state assures that year after year it’s children grow up safe.

Due to it’s size and fortune, it was avidly hunted in the last 200 years, and for a period of time believed to be extinct. Now it’s population has recovered but has suffered because of the damage to wetlands and all those important beavers that maintain them. Especially in Idaho. Swan people are beaver people, and want some wet places that beavers can be safe so that swans will be safe. There has even been a plan to reintroduce beaver so that the swan population could recover, which in a state like Idaho is fairly remarkable.

CaptureTrumpeter Swans continue to face a number of threats. In Teton Valley and across the globe, many wetlands have been drained or filled, negatively impacting countless wildlife species, including Trumpeters. In addition, declining beaver populations throughout the Greater Yellowstone region have furthered wetland resource losses. Currently, the Greater Yellowstone Trumpeter Swan nesting population is struggling due to lack of habitat. Biologists are seeing fewer nesting trumpeter swan pairs in our region and even fewer successful nests.

Teton Regional Land Trust has worked with families and other conservation groups over the past 25 years to conserve over 33,000 acres in East Idaho, including 11,000 acres in Teton Valley. The successes of our wetland protection and restoration program, combined with Teton Basin’s strategic location, have created a unique opportunity to reestablish Trumpeter Swan nesting in Teton Valley, and enhance Trumpeter nesting throughout the Greater Yellowstone region.

It’s wonderful to read about good works being done in other places, and fun to find beaver fans where you never even thought to look. You would think, that between the swan people, the frog people, and the salmon people beavers would stand a chance in this crazy concrete-driven world. But the deck is pretty much stacked against them. Turns out we really, really like culverts.

And we really hate the things that plug them. Go figure.

blocked culvert

Beaver credit where credit is due

Posted by heidi08 On June - 30 - 2017Comments Off on Beaver credit where credit is due

Ask and ye shall receive, that’s the way it works here at Beaver Central. Yesterday I posted the confusing photo of what appeared to be a beaver with two colors of teeth and friend Lisa Hodge, a wildlife rehabber who has raised beavers, commented that the white wasn’t teeth but a tongue (as Jon believed). She notes if you zoom in you can see a faint hint of orange upper teeth above that.

So mystery solved I guess, although why that particular beaver was sticking out his tongue will remain a question!

Maybe calling ourselves beaver central gives the wrong impression. On Wednesday I got an email from a magazine author in Canada bemoaning the allegations of beaver population explosion the region of Manitoba and wondering if I might I know any local experts to consult? So I spent an hour introducing her to the major players in her home country. And then I received a query from the Quebec Zoo saying they had just received an orphan beaver and how should they care for it?

Do you people do ANY of your own work, I thought?

Of course I sent our orphan care page with plenty of links. And made sure to mention that if they didn’t want more orphans they should stop killing the parents. But my words are a drop in the bucket, I’m sure.

Meanwhile we’ve been busily getting ready for all things festival. I finally have the map in place and I updated the festival page so it links to every exhibitor. Youcan check it out by clicking on the flyer on either margin.

2017 map

We’ve also been finalizing the magnetic beaver pond, which kids can arrange however they like. We got the idea from the fun board at an International Bird Rescue display where we saw many children happily rearranging the magnets again and again.  IBR used a flat metal display but I thought, hey we have that extra metal beaver made for us by Paul Craig when mom beaver died, why not use her? Hopefully it will work as a fun activity for kids to learn about the inhabitants of a beaver pond.

magnet beaverSpeaking of inhabitants, there’s a nice little article about beaver and wood ducks from Seaside Oregon where the beaver tales very successful art exhibit has concluded.

I didn’t find Neal Maine on youtube, but I did find this recently uploaded. It’s a fun watch with lots of pointed credit for  beavers.