Archive for the ‘Friends of Martinez Beavers’ Category

Nothing succeeds like Beaver Success!

Posted by heidi08 On March - 31 - 2016Comments Off on Nothing succeeds like Beaver Success!

Excellent news from the great Beaver Beyond, where Sarah Koenisberg has been working hard putting the finishing touches on her Beaver Believer Film. I can barely remember years ago when she came to the the festival and filmed the long interview in my backyard. She’s been working nonstop ever since. And supposedly the film is ready to be released on the film festival circuit.

Beyond the Pelt

Washington-based filmmaker Sarah Koenigsberg was getting tired of all the apocalyptic doom-and-gloom climate change stories floating around the media circuit when she happened upon an unlikely glimmer of hope: beavers. After filming these ecosystem engineers for her own feature-length documentary, “The Beaver Believers,” she helped the Trust produce a short film showcasing three success stories of how the return of beavers has transformed public lands across the West. Here, we talk to Sarah about beavers, activism, and catching the slippery critters on camera.

Most people know beavers build dams, but how do they help address climate change?

Beaver dams create ponds and wetlands that collect precipitation, letting it sink slowly into the ground instead of rushing straight out to the ocean. In the arid Southwest, this water storage is incredibly valuable, as it recharges the aquifer and holds water underground until it can slowly trickle back into our streams. Local wildlife, spawning fish, and migrating birds also thrive in the pockets of diverse habitat that beavers help build. The list goes on!

What is next in the queue?

I’m in the final stages of post-production on my film “The Beaver Believers,” which is really exciting. I had something like 70 hours of footage shot over two years for this 50-minute film. You can learn more about that project and watch our trailer at We’ll begin entering it into film festivals this spring!

Martinefilmingz is part of those 70 hours and I’m hoping something of us made it past the cutting room floor!  I know that she included part of Mark Comstock’s beaver ballad because she wrote once that she had gotten it stuck in her head after editing footage with it again and again. Gosh, that seems like a long time ago. In 2013 we had three kits and one yearling from our new mom who had been around just over a year.

I remember that thursdmore filming - Copyay, they drove here after filming Suzanne Fouty  and Carole Evans in Nevada. I spoke at Kiwanis that day and came home to be interviewed Heidi Interviewfor another 7 hours before having them to dinner. Friday was the usual insane packing for the festival and I barely saw anyone at the event because we were all working so hard. They headed off in their movie-making horse trailer that evening. To hit the next target for inclusion.

And now the film is getting finishing touches and then shipping out. Go read the whole thing and learn how and why Sarah does what she does. I wonder if it is headed for the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Nevada where Ian’s went. It would be fun to have them close to home and start a whole beaver genre to that event!

The Beaver Believers Kickstarter Trailer from Tensegrity Productions on Vimeo.

Yesterday, we heard the exciting news that Jeremy Fish’s amazing artwork was finished after being temporarily matted by founding member of the Martinez Arts Association  Cathy Riggs of “I’ve been Framed” downtown. She didn’t charge us a penny but clearly spent hours on it, using contrasting mats to pick up the colors.  I sent the photo to Mr. Fish who was very impressed. I know it will be a hot item at the auction, and you’ll probably want to come bid on it yourself. Thanks so much Cathy!


Good news for beavers (East Coast version)

Posted by heidi08 On March - 22 - 2016Comments Off on Good news for beavers (East Coast version)

The East Coast is ahead of us in impressive academia and sunrise timing, but it other than inventing Mike Callahan and Skip Lisle it sadly isn’t often they win the beaver IQ contest. Looks like several new steps are getting made at once. Starting with Connecticut, which has recently needed more than its share of beaver guidance.

New Hartford Land Trust eyes resurgent beaver population

NEW HARTFORD — Connecticut has become a virtual “Field of Dreams” for a burgeoning beaver population, a fan of the species told conservationists here last week.

New Hartford Land Trust members explored the nature of the beaver and solutions to the problems their instinctual behaviors cause during the land trust’s annual meeting this week. Presenting the program was Michael Callahan, owner of Beaver Solutions of Southampton, Mass.

“Beavers are second only to people as animals that change the environment,” Callahan said. “Biologists call them a keystone species because they help hold an ecosystem together.”

Callahan said “nature likes change” and beavers are agents of that change. As they cut trees to create dams, woodlands are flooded and natural succession occurs. Beavers eventually create an open grassy habitat called a “beaver meadow,” attracting waterfowl.

As aquatic vegetation grows, invertebrates become common, which attracts insect-eating wildlife such as tree swallows, eastern kingbirds and bats. Fish populations change from cool-water to warm-water species. Mink and otter move in and the wetland becomes attractive to muskrats, mallards, Canada geese, black ducks and least bitterns. Nature is on the move.

If beavers remain in an area, they typically exhaust the food supply and the animals move on to a new territory. The old dams break down and mud flats develop that morph into grasslands supporting birds. Eventually trees grow back and the cycle is complete.

“Beavers can cause us problems, but the benefits put it in perspective,” Callahan said. “Overall, they create a vibrant ecology comparable to the biodiversity of coral reefs.”

Heyyy we recognize that man! It’s Mike Callahan  the very good friend of beavers and Worth A Dam. So happy he is preaching the beaver gospel in CT. I dropped the breadcrumbs in a very neat line and hoped for the best. But you never know. I can’t help noticing a rather large shamrock in the corner of that photo, so I’m going to have to say his luck of the irish had something to do with it.
Given his name sake and appreciation of what no one yet understands I can’t help thinking of this long-lost commercial. I can’t help posting it.

Roosevelt Forest Commission to revisit beaver trapping issue

STRATFORD — The Roosevelt Forest Commission is expected on Wednesday to revisit its decision to allow lethal beaver traps to be deployed in Roosevelt Forest, a 400-acre woodland that’s home to scores of forest creatures.

A colony of beavers has set up shop near the dead end of Pumpkin Ground Road, where there’s a trailhead that leads into the forest. Beavers build dams, and the dam that’s they’ve built is backing up a tributary to Pumpkin Ground Brook is causing a stir throughout the region.

 The Roosevelt Forest Commission will meet in Town Council chambers in Town Hall. The meeting will begin Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Of course revisiting doesn’t mean they’ll be any kinder on the second round, but thinking twice is certainly preferable to not thinking at all. There have been a few protests and flurries about the inhumanity of trapping, so I’m going to fantasize that some Hartford trust member is best friends with some Roosevelt forest member and says at poker night something like, you know we had this fantastic presentation by Mike Callahan. Maybe you should call him?
Okay, these stories are both about a state as big as a postage stamp. Where do I get off referring to the whole “East Coast”? I’ll tell you where, because  yesterday I was sent an email by Dave Penrose of North Carolina, looking for a beaver expert to present at the upcoming 3 day conference on stream restoration. Because he thinks that a stream restoration conference needs a beaver presence. Think about that!
Capture1I promptly introduced him to some nearby beaver voices in the land, including the good folks at the Blue Heron Nature Preserve. I also sent it to John Hadidian in case HSUS could get Stephanie Boyle involved from Virginia. The conference is three days in August so I said I was absolutely preoccupied and couldn’t help  because of the beaver festival. He said, “That’s intriguing. What’s a beaver festival?”.
Something your state needs, I answered.

Martinez Beaver Festival promo 2015 from Tensegrity Productions on Vimeo.

People saving beavers

Posted by heidi08 On March - 14 - 2016Comments Off on People saving beavers


Friends saving beavers! I watched this video public comment yesterday and it gave me total PTSD flashbacks of our November meeting, lo those many years go. Caitlin does a great job starting the conversation AND rallying the troops, despite the fairly dickish admonishment to “Talk to staff, not us”. I love the sleeper cell confrontation in the last speaker who points to an article two years ago and says “If its such a terrible problem why haven’t you done anything yet?”

Now there’s a man after my own heart.

I fiddled a bit more with Elizabeth Saunders lovely illustration and was very happy indeed, until Bruce Thompson of Wyoming suggested there was an unfortunate urinary tract association. Sheesh. There’s always a critic. Still, when I got over the giggles, I was still this.

water glass statsArtist Mario Alfaro came by yesterday with his latest additions and Ron Bruno came down to do a lovely panoramic so the city could see the final product. Note the fish in the mouth of the egret and the lurking frog in the corner! Click to see larger.

Final panoramaThe only other thing we would like for him to incorporate is the top of the filter sticking out upstream. I gave him this photo yesterday and we’ll hope its possible.

green Heron filterFinal news. Nearly month after a resident reported a beaver tailslap and sighting in the area next to the creek monkey, Linda Kozlowski sent this right before daylight savings:

hey! this is probably old news to you but…at about 5:45 (just now…still light out) was standing on north side if escobar and saw a b.a.b. (big ass beaver) come part way up on the bank just a bit north of the old lodge and forcefully pry a stick out of the mud and swim across with it to the other side….for sure went no further downstream. not as big as old dad but pretty big. cheers!

It’s the kind of news that’s almost too hope-inducing to bear, but we’ll head down tonight and check it out. The part that made me chuckle was realizing that BIG STICK he was trying to pry out of the ground was one of the cotton wood stakes we planted this November. Funny thing is, I almost couldn’t bear to go thru with the planting because the city was being so horrible and the beavers were gone. Then I thought, well if I was a returning beaver checking to see what was if there was anything worth coming back for, some fresh tasty trees might convince me.

Hahaha. Stay tuned.


Good News for Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On March - 5 - 2016Comments Off on Good News for Beavers

Great News! We have a date! The beaver mural is finally on the city council agenda for 7:00 April 6! That means that only 6 months after I originally met with the artist and proposed the idea we can find out if its possible! Any and all supporters who want to come should attend because it would help to show public interest in the project. Mario’s coming by next week with his latest edits of a fish and a frog in the two birds mouth, and I’m starting to feel like this can actually happen.

More great news! Another beautiful article from naturalist Patti Smith in the Battleboro reformer. You may remember her as the author of “The Beavers of Popples Pond“. Her writing style is so calmly affirming I love to read about her beaver visits. They are nothing like the train-whistle blowing, swearing homeless-drinking visits we enjoyed in Martinez. But ohhh they’re nice to read.

The Beavers of Poppels Pond: Patti Smith

The View from Heifer Hill: A tough break for the beavers

In the middle of January I gave up on waiting for snow and set out on foot to check on the beavers. I had not been to the pond since late November, but felt optimistic that the old one-eyed Willow and her new mate would be doing well; on my last visit I found that the two had built a small lodge and had quite a fine cache of branches piled up outside their door in the pond — their food supply for the winter. Their lodge still needed some work, but they had plenty of warm weather and open water in December to finish sealing things up.

Willow and her suitor had moved to this downstream location last summer and patched up the large hole Tropical Storm Irene had blasted through an old dam. Behind their repairs arose a fine pond, perfectly acceptable habitat for a pair of beavers. I arrived on that January day expecting to find the beavers tucked into their lodge and living beneath the ice, instead I found their pond was gone — the dam had broken in one of the heavy rain events of this weird winter.

Woebegone, I walked upstream to the lodge. The entrance was well above water, fully accessible to predators and therefore no longer suitable for beavers. Their food supply sat like an untidy haystack in the middle of the brook, most of it above the level of the water. Beavers prepare for such emergencies by making bank lodges, simple burrows dug into the bank of a pond. I suspected these beavers had moved into a bank lodge in a small pond just upstream. I could see a few openings in the ice above the intact dam of this pond, and from one of these a slide led down the face of the dam into a plunge hole in the ice at the base. Dusk settled — time for the beavers to become active. Sure enough, a beaver’s head appeared in the water above the dam. I said hello to Willow. She climbed onto the dam and slid down into the beaver-sized hole below. She reappeared downstream at the old food cache and came up through the ice for an apple. She appeared as calm and unruffled as usual. She had not seen the weather forecast — a deep cold would seal the ice on their pond within a few days. She and her mate would have no longer have access to their food supply.

Oh NO! A destroyed dam, exposed lodge and a food supply gone to waste! Poor Willow! How will she manage all winter long without food?

Since then, I have been keeping an eye on the weather for her. Whenever the beavers exit holes freeze, friends and I have hauled a sled load of poplar and beech to the pond, whacked a hole in the ice with a maul, and shoved the beaver food into the water. Our altruism has been doubly rewarded; not only do we suspect how welcome our deliveries are to the hungry beavers, but this wild stream valley is especially beautiful in winter. We have never seen the beavers on these delivery missions, but our offerings always disappear within a few days.

smile-again-1I wish that everywhere there was a beaver there was a Patti Smith to look out for it. This article gives me immense joy and the ending of it is worth reading. I won’t tell you what happens because you should go read it for yourself here. Robert Browning’s Pippa Passes offers a clue.

God’s in His heaven
    All’s right with the world!

The Path to Inevitability…

Posted by heidi08 On March - 4 - 2016Comments Off on The Path to Inevitability…

Nice article in the Gazette might help nudge the mural forward….

Questions surround beavers as upcoming mural celebrates legacy

Although an alleged recent sighting of a lone beaver in Martinez might bring some hope for their return, it still seems no answers have been forthcoming regarding the sudden disappearance of the Alhambra Creek beaver colony late last year.

According to Heidi Perryman of Worth a Dam, a beaver was spotted near Creek Monkey Taphouse on February 18 by a Martinez resident. The sighting is the first reported since September of last year, around the time when several young beavers suddenly and inexplicably died in the Alhambra Creek. During that time several adult beavers also disappeared, leaving the creek void of beavers for months.

Perryman says the lone beaver is likely what is known as a “disperser,” a young beaver seeking territory to mark as his or her own. She explained that currently there is no evidence that the beaver decided to stay in the creek.

Months ago, the California Department of Fish and Game oversaw the necropsy performed on a young beaver at UC Davis, however tests were inconclusive. Disease, toxins, and some poisons were all ruled out as well.

new pano

While it seems no answers or progress have been made on determining the cause of the beaver deaths, Perryman and Worth a Dam are hoping to honor their legacy in Martinez.

Worth a Dam has been working with the city on a wildlife and beaver mural to adorn the cement surface of Marina Vista Bridge Wall. Back in November Perryman pitched the idea to the PRMCC of a mural located on the south facing side of the Marina Vista Bridge at Alhambra Creek.

“The beavers made a real impact on Martinez, and that’s something we want to capture with this mural,” said Perryman. She hopes the mural reminds people of the “living creek” that runs through the center of downtown Martinez.

The artist for the mural is Mario Alfaro, who has also worked on the Joe DiMaggio mural on the Main Street Plaza Bridge. The cost of the mural will be covered by Worth a Dam for a total of $6,000. The organization hopes to cover the cost with grants.

The art committee of the PRMCC approved the mural design, so the next steps come with the city council. Perryman noted that, because the city council meeting agenda is fully booked for the month of March, the project likely won’t be on the council agenda until April.

I’m always happy when accurate and positive information about the beavers and Worth A Dam is printed. Thanks, Joseph Bustos. You made the mural even more inevitable by linking it in the press to the loss of the beavers. Hopefully it will help nudge us a little farther along queue for getting on the Agenda for city council! Fingers crossed.

Imagine how surprised I was to come across this yesterday with the help of a friend. I don’t know how I missed it in the flurry of the holidays and retirement. But imagine how especially surprised I was to read the bold sentence from Dr. Michael Pollock himself;

Manmade Beaver Dams Save Fish

At Wenas Creek, they are putting in manmade beaver-dam analogues by pounding posts into the streambed and then weaving branches among them. A few workers can run a post pounder with biodegradable hydraulic fluid and achieve hydrological results similar to those of an imported-beaver colony. The result, says Tobin, is that, “fish and farms coexist in the same reach.”

The natural solution: beavers. In the past, “problem” beavers have been relocated to streams in need. Their dams back up the water, raising streambeds while still allowing passage for salmonids. The downside is that it costs money to trap beavers and house them prior to relocation, and despite the offer of seemingly ideal habitat, they sometimes leave. Besides, says Tobin, manager of the North Yakima Conservation District, “you can’t control where they’re backing up water.”

Enter Michael Pollock of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who pioneered the idea of reinforcing blown-out beaver dams with posts. “That’s the best strategy, because they’ve already done all the work,” says Pollock. “We’re just reducing the dams’ failure rate.”

Pollock suggested dispensing with beavers altogether.

surprised-child-skippy-jonSurprised Girl

SACRILEGE! Some one hand me the smelling salts, I’m feeling faint. And tell me, how are repairs going to be made on those dams once injury occurs? Will a team of humans be living on sight just in case? Will they also dig in the mud to encourage invertebrates? And how will the trees coppice with no one to chew them?

Of course a sentence like that could NOT go unchallenged. So I sent him this last night:

With the exception of this aberrant infraction, he’s still mostly a good guy and at his heart a beaver believer. He quickly wrote back:

You are having way too much fun with your new found skills. :-)

Which I confess, is wholly true. That was the most fun I had all week.

The results of a Trickledown Economy that works!

Posted by heidi08 On March - 3 - 2016Comments Off on The results of a Trickledown Economy that works!

More great coverage of the otter recovery out of Sonoma. Humans are happily taking credit for restoring the streams and improving their fish, but I’m guessing they had some other flat-tailed helpers along the way. Great photo from beaver friend Tom Reynolds too.

Photo by Tom Reynolds

River otters coming back to Sonoma County

Winter rains have swollen streams and rivers, recharging groundwater, filling ponds and lakes, and making more visible the network of waterways that traverse Sonoma County. One species that makes good use of this aquatic web is the river otter. Have you seen a river otter recently? If so, you’re one of a growing number because river otters are on the comeback.

The Bay Area is seeing a rebound in river otter populations. Experts speculate that this is a testimony to many overlapping efforts to improve water quality and restore habitat. Megan Isadore of the River Otter Ecology Project says, “The most amazing thing about the otters’ return is they have done it completely on their own. There have been no efforts to reintroduce otters. What we are seeing is the response of the species to improved conditions.”

This time of year, female otters are denning and having pups. Maternal dens can be under large fallen trees or even inside old beaver dams. Each female gives birth to between one and four pups and then, shortly after, will breed with a male in preparation for the following winter. One amazing fact is that females experience “delayed implantation,” harboring fertilized eggs and then keeping the pregnancy dormant for up to 10 months.

Most young otters live with their moms for at least a year, with females often staying to act as helpers with the new pups. Young adult males leave after a year and strike out on their own to find and establish their own territory. Otter observations are often made during the February through March time frame as these disbursing juveniles take chances crossing subdivisions, ridges, roads and farm fields in search of a new and abundant source of fish.

Otters have benefited from on-the-ground habitat improvements and from the evolution of environmental policy. In 1961, California outlawed commercial otter trapping. Otters were trapped for two reasons: to sell their rich, thick pelts to the garment industry and sometimes to protect localized fish populations. Otters have large home ranges and are constantly on the move, so large scale fish populations remain intact even if individual fishing holes get temporarily depleted.

Another policy assist came from the 1972 passage of the Clean Water Act. This ushered in a generation of investments in cleaning the bay and eliminating many sources of industrial and agricultural pollution. Like bald eagles and peregrine falcons, otters illustrate that policy decisions do matter, and that we can repair degraded environments. As recently as 1995, state maps did not even show Marin and Sonoma counties as part of the river otter’s range. Today, scientists confirm that otters occupy much of their former Bay Area territory.

We’ve all benefited from the evolution of environmental policy, that’s for sure. But I’m also thinking that the recovery of another mammal who actually happens to make the water cleaner and increase the fish population might have helped a little too. (Ahem). Congratulations to Meghan Isadore and her merry band of Otter Spotters at the River Otter Ecology Project. We’re always happy when creeks draw human eyes!

Here’s a lovely promotional message from an otter himself demonstrating who he believes has helped his survival. Just look at the shapes he is posing under for a clue about who he thinks helped him most. This video by Moses Silva on Valentine’s day a few years ago shows an otter grooming atop the old beaver lodge.

Although, if otter trapping has really been outlawed 55 years in this state I’d be cautious about how much promotion of their “healthy recovery” I’d want to do in the media. Just sayin’. The nearly extinguished beaver population was protected for all of around 11 years and they decided the population had rebounded enough to restore trapping. River otters have been spared in California for more than half a century!

Ixnay on the opulation-pay evovery-ray is my advice.

Invoking the past to change the future

Posted by heidi08 On March - 1 - 2016Comments Off on Invoking the past to change the future

Leave it to Louise Ramsay of Scotland to tie it all together. Beautiful, writing that echoes with history and foreshadow.

Beavers and the conflict in the Scottish countryside

Last July, Alyth flooded badly and a young farmer started a rumour that the beavers on our land had exacerbated the flood. He tweeted his theory to the media and the story spread like wildfire, though very few locals believed it: apart from anything else, it was clear that upstream beaver dams had all held firm.

SNH then commissioned a study that showed the beavers were not to blame. But this month things got even better when research that has been done on our land over the last 13 years by Stirling University was published and the beavers were not just exonerated, but shown to actually slow floodwaters and thus reduce the impact of flooding, as well as increasing biodiversity & soil retention and stripping out pollutants.

Of course, for these farmers the presence of beavers is something real in a way that for the majority of people it isn’t. They have to deal with beavers busily trying to re-wild their land, to slow the flow of water in their ditches which are meant to hurry water off the fields as fast as possible. They have to confront the beavers’ desire to create wildlife rich, bee loud, water purifying wetland habitat by backing water up into the edges and hollows of their valuable arable fields, and they are not over the moon about it.

Lets pause a minute just to savor the delicious word choice at work here. The innocuous and unassuming phrase “bee loud” just appears to be an oddly phrased reference to noisy insects, unless you are familiar with arguably the most famous poem describing longing for rural life in the context of the city that was ever written. You may know it as the Lake at Innisfree. Do not think, for one moment, that it was by accident Louise evoked that hymnal of longing for a wild life. She wants the reader to remember their own longing clover and clear water. Here’s Mr. Yeats himself singing his words.

People remember more farmland birds in the past, more butterflies, more flowers, more bees. Now they see farming methods which use artificial fertilisers produced by the use of large amounts of fossil fuels, raided from the earth, set alight and polluting the sky. They see huge tractors with deep ploughs churning the earth, and they see brown water flowing off the land in times of flood and brown dust blowing in the air in dry summers. They worry that the very soil on which our food security depends, is in danger of impoverishment, and of being blown away or washed out to sea. They worry rightly. This kind of farming which has been the prevalent kind for the last 50 years, is extractive not regenerative. According to a Sheffield University study published in the Farmers Weekly it has left us with soils that in many cases just have 100 harvests left.

Meanwhile uphill, on the sheep farms, we landowners are also under scrutiny from the progressively larger sector of the public that is getting its head round the thorny questions of flood prevention and biodiversity loss in the uplands. Sheep farming has been carried out in some of our hills for hundreds of years, often responsibly and with great dedication, and some sheep farmers are not surprisingly upset to be told they are ‘sheepwrecking’ the countryside. But as globalization hits the price the farmer gets for lamb it becomes difficult to justify economically such a highly subsidized traditional activity, and as climate change progresses it becomes harder to defend environmentally, especially in our highest and most vulnerable landscapes.

As organisations like Nourish Scotland know all too well, we need to take a long hard look at agriculture and try and be more rational and less traditional in our approach. We need to look back, but also forward to new kinds of farming being tried around the world. We need to consider the true costs of various kinds of farming and see whether they can really justify the impacts they have by the food security they offer us. Ask again whether its true that higher productivity of industrial farming really gives it the edge over organic farming. Look at the possibilities for influencing what people eat and steer them towards food grown in the least extractive, most regenerative ways.

With climate change, its causes and its effects, fossil fuels and flooding, or drought or storms, everything has to change. We can’t go on as we are just watching it get worse and we farmers and landowners, who after all have a far bigger impact than most people, a far greater chance to make a difference for good or bad, really need to start listening to what the rest of the population are saying and change our ways before things get any worse. Just for a small but symbolic start let’s hope by the time you are reading this beavers will be legally protected in Scotland and the farmers will be applying their pragmatic minds to the question of mitigation rather than getting their guns out of the locked cupboard and heading for the waters edge at dusk.

Beautiful summing up Louise! You have embroidered the separate threads of beavers, food politics, climate change and biodiversity into a delicate and powerful coat of arms for supporters to brandish in united sensibility. This was a well done piece of inspiration and perspiration and we here in Martinez could not be more impressed! I hope this finely crafted article gets all the audience it deserves!


Yesterday was cheerfully blessed with a couple more donations. The first this charming print by Shirley Harvey of Montreal Canada. I know several bass players who will start a bidding war for this.


Shirley Harvey Art

And some striking prints from Amy Calderwood’s Vavooxi of Kansas. Isn’t this beautiful?

Vavooxi: Amy Calderwell