Archive for the ‘Beavers and Birds’ Category

Guardian Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On September - 17 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

Time for some UK praise of beaver gifts. I’ll be so wistful when they finally make the right decision. It’s wonderful to see articles like this in the Guardian.

Meet the latest recruit to the UK flood defence team: the beaver

Beavers could be put to work building dams to stop a village from flooding in the Forest of Dean, in what would be the first such scheme on government land.

The Forestry Commission has been an enthusiastic advocate for the release of a family of beavers into a large fenced area surrounding Greathough brook above the village of Lydbrook, on land owned by the commission.

Experts predict that the beavers will rapidly create dams, canals and ponds, slowing the stream’s flow and potentially holding back 6,000 cubic metres of water to prevent huge floods inundating Lydbrook, a village that suffered badly from flooding in 2012.

Villagers are mostly supportive, hoping the scheme will not only protect the village but boost local wildlife and tourism. “It’s a brilliant idea,” said Stuart Aken. “There were about 100 people in the village hall when they made the announcement and there wasn’t a single dissenting voice. People are in favour because of the potential to help against flooding and most are interested in the increase in wildlife that it will bring to the area.”

Everyone seems excited about the day, what’s the hold up?

But despite the beaver scheme not costing the taxpayer a penny – it would be funded by landfill taxes – it was abruptly postponed last month. A source close to the project said it had been blocked by a minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – and the Forestry Commission was “hopping mad”.

A spokesperson for Defra denied that the scheme had been blocked by a government minister and said that the Forestry Commission would announce the next steps in the coming weeks.

Derek Gow, a beaver expert who has worked on reintroductions in Scotland and England, said: “This is a tremendous opportunity. The science suggests these animals will hold back 6,000 cubic metres of water.

“This has the potential to prevent a once-in-30-years flood event. These animals will also open the forest canopy to light and create a biodiversity jewel in this forest.

 This “natural” flood defence works only in small streams in upland areas. In deeper rivers, beavers do not need to rapidly create dams. In lowland areas, beaver activity can also cause flooding.

But those in favour of their reintroduction to England and Wales say beavers can be returned to western river systems and will not spread to low-lying eastern areas, such as the Fens, where their activity could cause valuable agricultural land to flood.

Ahhh what a fine article! Where to begin? You have such great beaver advocates in the UK. But did someone really say that beavers would not spread and populate themselves into low-lying areas? I hate to break it to you but (ahem) beavers are very good at finding their way into new territory. It’s what they do. Their raison d’être , so to speak. I just don’t think it’s a great idea to tuck in the unsuspecting British population with cozy dreams of beavers who always stay where you put them. I agree about flooding. And I agree 100% with the lovely statement that “they’ll make a biodiversity jewel in the forest”.

But I wouldn’t say they won’t relocate. Never make promises beavers can’t keep.

I’m sure whoever said that it wasn’t Derek Gow, who is as fine an advocate as beavers could ever hope for. Looks like he’s giving a talk soon to spread the beaver gospel even farther.

Cheshire Wildlife Trust to stage beaver talk at Bickley Hall Farm

National beaver expert Derek Gow will be in Cheshire to give a talk on the how the animal’s re-introduction could impact the countryside. Cheshire Wildlife Trust is hosting the one-off talk at its headquarters at Bickley Hall Farm, between Malpas and Nantwich.

Several reintroductions of beavers are now either underway or being researched across the UK including in Scotland, Dorset and Wales.

A growing body of evidence suggests beavers have a key role to play in restoring nature in our countryside. They are a native species, which was hunted to extinction in the UK 400 years ago. They are a keystone wetland species, known for their dam building and tree-felling activity. This not only creates their home, but also provides the ideal habitat for many other plant and animal species and can play a role in flood prevention.

Derek Gow is at the forefront of beaver re-introduction and will be joining us to tell the story of the beaver comeback in the UK, sharing his experiences of the projects he has worked on along the way. His talk ‘The Return of the Beaver to the UK’ will be held at 7.30pm on Thursday September 28 at Bickley Hall Farm, Malpas, Cheshire, SY14 8EF.

Don’t you wish you could be there? I sure do! Derek is as fine a spokesmen as beavers could ask for and I know they have ever confidence in his work. Why just yesterday I found an awesome wetland illustration and was confused by one creature in the bottom right hand corner. He clarified helpfully that it was a water vole, and very common in England. Oh, and of course you know he came to Martinez after the beaver conference right? Because it turns out we are a kind of beaver Mecca too.

do wetlands matter

Sticking Place

Posted by heidi08 On September - 14 - 2017Comments Off on Sticking Place

Lovely letter this morning from Caitlin Adair of Vermont about how property owners can help save water and mitigate storm damage. When I looked her up I saw that she was friend and neighbor of Patti Smith, which makes a lot of sense. (Patti is the wonderful artist and writer behind ‘the beavers of popple’s pond.) Caitlin’s letter is full of great suggestions that you should read and implement, but obviously the last one is my favorite.

Individuals can help make area more flood-resistant

What can we do, as individuals, to turn all the rain that a big storm brings into an asset rather than a disaster? You can look at your property or backyard and see what you might do to stop or slow the flow of water into nearby rivers. A few sandbags placed along a natural pathway for water runoff could prevent erosion and slow flooding. A more permanent solution might include building earth berms in these places or directing roof or driveway runoff into a rain garden.

Finally, beaver dams and beaver ponds also help rainwater to stay where it falls, soak in slowly, and restore aquifers. Beavers are the original wetlands engineers. Let’s support their work for the benefit of all.

Well said, Caitlin! And a great time to say it when folks are thinking about the effect of storms. From now on you are officially a friend of Worth A Dam.

Yesterday I was asked by Michael Howie of Fur Bearer Defenders to do a webinar presentation of our story for their Compassionate Conservation Week at the end of next month.

This unique event replaced our traditional Living With Wildlife conference by utilizing webinar technology that can bring together speakers from around the world, with audiences from around the world. Anyone with a computer and an internet connection can attend or participate as a speaker (though speakers will need a microphone, which is quite inexpensive). Each day we will showcase two to three webinars from a variety of speakers, all of which help wildlife advocates, researchers, students, and animal lovers get their communities on track with the concept of compassionate conservation.

We talked about my doing it last year but the timing was a problem. This year things look better so I agreed. I haven’t done a powerpoint presentation since my early days on the subcommittee, so I will need to do a little work to get ready, but I’m happy to help. We are heading for a vacation at the coast next week and I’m hopeful that some ideas can come together along the way. If it all works out, I’ll give you the specifics so you can attend or listen later. Stay tuned!

Every now and then some new gadget or technology catches my eye and I can just see how this could be incorporated into a wonderful activity. Two weeks ago it was the sticker books from Moo printing, which I must have seen on another website looking for information about children’s crafts. Each book contains 90 stickers printed according to your instructions. Everyone could be different if you like. And the entire set costs just 10 dollars.

I thought I’d try one out just to see if I liked it.

How  remarkably cute is this little book? The stickers are the size of postage stamps. I know what you’re thinking. How does this relate to beaver education? I’ll tell you how. Suppose each sticker book is a different species, birds, fish, dragonflies, frogs etc. And suppose kids had to ‘earn’ each sticker from the exhibitors by learning how beavers helped that animal. And suppose kids were given a card printed with an inviting keystone image on which to place their gathered stickers. A ‘Keystone Keepsake’ let’s call it. Like this for instance.

The physicality of placing that sticker on the card does a lot to really make the ecosystem connection. As you can see the possibilities are practically endless. I talked with Mark Poulin last week about reusing his very fun images he did as buttons one year. He gave permission and thought it was a great idea. Then I pulled together a keystone image with the fun illustration of Jane Grant Tentas, and it all came together. We could do 15 species for 150 dollars for 90 children, and I bet if I poke Moo a little bit I might get a bit of a donation because look how I’m plugging their adorable product!


Riparian Ripple Effects

Posted by heidi08 On August - 14 - 2017Comments Off on Riparian Ripple Effects

There’s a nice article out of the Michigan Fishing Wire that I know you’ll enjoy. It’s all about the Riparian and why it matters. The term riparian is from the latin riparius meaning river bank and first use in 1849. But it also relates to the old norse term meaning ‘rip’ as the bank is cut away from the land by water. Now Michigan got really excited about beavers coming back to the Detroit River, but they don’t exactly love them if you know what I mean.

Riparian Areas–Valuable for Fish, People and Wildlife

The thousands of rivers, lakes and streams in Michigan are beautiful, special places, not only to a wide range of people, including anglers, boaters and campers, but numerous plant and animal species. Those areas between the water and the uplands are called riparian areas or riparian zones. A riparian management zone is “an area designated and consciously managed to protect functions and values of riparian areas.”

Within a watershed — the area drained by a river or stream system — the lands next to streams and rivers are particularly important to the health of those waterways. “Because of the unique conditions adjacent to lakes, streams and open-water wetlands, riparian areas harbor a high diversity of plants and wildlife,” Michigan Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologists said in a report on “Riparian Zone Management and Trout Streams: 21st Century and Beyond.” “Life is simply richer along rivers and streams.

“Riparian areas are ecologically and socially significant in their effects on water quality and quantity, as well as aesthetics, habitat, bank stability, timber production, and their contribution to overall biodiversity.” Plant habitat along rivers and streams is called riparian vegetation. The plants that grow there have an affinity for water.

“Vegetative cover refers to overhanging or submerged tree limbs, shrubs and other plants growing along the shore of the waterbody,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website states. “Rivers, streams and lakes can be buffered from the effects of human disturbance in the watershed by varied, multi-layered vegetation in the land corridor that surrounds them.

“Healthy, intact vegetative cover in these riparian areas can help reduce nutrient and sediment runoff from the surrounding landscape, prevent bank erosion and provide shade to reduce water temperature. Vegetative cover can also provide leaf litter and large wood (such as branches and logs) to serve as food, shelter and habitat for aquatic organisms.”

In Michigan, large woody debris from mature trees growing along streambanks controls how streams look and function.

“Large woody debris provides cover for salmonids (trout and salmon), habitat and food for aquatic invertebrates, adds nutrients, traps smaller debris, provides feeding and resting sites for a wide variety of wildlife, and has other beneficial effects,” the DNR fisheries biologists said. “When leaves, twigs, sticks and even entire trees fall into streams, they provide both food and shelter for aquatic insects, and habitat for reptiles, amphibians, fish, mammals and birds.”

“These include larval and/or adult water bugs, water beetles, caddisflies, stoneflies, dragonflies/damselflies, mayflies, fish flies/alderflies, true flies, riffle beetles, aquatic earthworms, scuds, leeches, snails and limpets, and crayfish,” the park’s website said. “The presence of caddisfly, stonefly and May fly larvae indicate that streams here are of high quality and are in good ecological health.”

The DNR fisheries biologists said the agency and its partners spend many thousands of dollars each year to introduce additional large woody debris into our river systems, debris that has been lost artificially over time due to a variety of circumstances.

Do you think this article, focused on the benefit of the riparian and emphasizing the thousands of dollars spent every year to get woody debris into it, might mention the importance of the hardworking animal who does it for free? Well only in the briefest nonspecific way, of course.

Tree frogs, wood turtles, salamanders, and many other reptiles and amphibians, use the water for laying eggs and breeding each spring. Ospreys, eagles and herons are among the bird species that rely on streams, lakes and rivers for food and nest in large trees nearby.

The endangered piping plover nests and feeds on the sandy and rocky beaches of Lakes Michigan, Huron and Superior. Terns and gulls nest on rocky shoals and island shorelines. Ducks, geese and swans nest on coastal marshes.

“Mink, otters, muskrats and beavers can be found feeding and denning along river shorelines,” Vaughn said. “A handful of unique tree species also grow on the banks of Michigan’s rivers. Paw-paw, blue beech or musclewood, and sycamore trees thrive in the wet, periodically flooded soils along rivers.”

That’s all the mention they get, but it’s still a pretty nice article. And hey, I just realized you could easily replace the word ‘RIPARIAN’ with the words ‘BEAVER”  and have yourself a very nice article.

  • Riparian Beaver areas help control non-point source pollution by holding and using nutrients and reducing sediment.
  • Riparian Beaver areas are often important for the recreation and scenic values. However, because riparian areas are relatively small and occur in conjunction with watercourses, they are vulnerable to severe alteration and damages caused by people.
  • Riparian Beaver areas supply food, cover, and water for a large diversity of animals and serve as migration routes and stopping points between habitats for a variety of wildlife.
  • Trees and grasses in riparian beaver areas stabilize stream banks and reduce floodwater velocity, resulting in reduced downstream flood peaks.
  • Alluvial aquifers help maintain the base flow in many rivers in humid areas because of high water tables. In drier climates, streams lose water that can help build up the water table deep beneath the stream.

Tadaa! Much better!  The article mentions a group called ‘River Partners’ based in California. Which makes me wonder how those feel about the flat tailed partner in general? Maybe they get a letter.

Speaking of the valuable things that come out of Riparian Zones, look what Moses filmed yesterday morning along Alhambra Creek. Looks like that little dam is cousin to a slightly more established one upstream which is the front yard of at least TWO beavers. The smaller one looks young (check out that tail length) and could easily be the youngster that was born in the creek last October (ten months old?). Which would suggest that there are actually more of them than this film shows. But who really knows, they could be a totally new family just settling.

That particular RIPARIAN is very very deeply incised, so I can’t imagine a dam will stand any chance at all once it starts raining. And every foot is lined with houses, so operation ‘educate and pacify the neighbors’ will have to be in full swing! I’m just happy they’re here. And so, obviously is that little skunk who finally has a way to get across the creek.