Godot Beaver

   Posted by heidi08 On June - 17 - 2016Comments Off on Godot Beaver

Day four of “Project Habituation” and as predicted it was the most successful yet. Two beavers and several visits by dad working on the lodge. Even mom was seen (larger) shaking her head and feeding. Nothing while it was bright enough to film so mostly we were eagerly watching a bunch of this:

But still. Much better than the start and I’m sure if the project had days 5,6, and 7 we’d be happier still. Dream on! I’m just lucky I got Jon to ever agree to this brief insanity and won’t push my luck.


We were still thinking about our slow improvements and micro-curve of success when Rusty Cohn’s photos arrived from last night. Of course beavers, and of course beautiful. Talk about the grass being greener! Still scratching his mosquito bites and hunched from lack of sleep Jon cursed at the computer screen before grumbling back to bed.

“fuckingnapa fuckingtopia!

In addition to the enviable beaver photos, I particularly like that capture of the green heron doing his odd neck stretch. The birds are so twisted and stump-necked I never would have thought it possible if I hadn’t seen this a few years ago.  Apparently beaver ponds are the gift that keep on giving.

Proteins and prototypes

   Posted by heidi08 On June - 16 - 2016Comments Off on Proteins and prototypes
Methought I heard a voice cry, “Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep”.
Act II: Scene 2

Day three of operation habituation and we saw a beaver mud the dam and swim into his same ‘chewing thoughtfully’ spot for a munch – this time facing us. I have realized something important though. After careful analysis it is clear that the beavers aren’t habituating to ‘us’ so much as we are habituating to the fact that these are different beavers that play by different rules. Cautious and wary in every way, which I think is good for them. They require protection, and quiet – trains not withstanding.

I take comfort from the fact that we are still “In Beaver World” as Enos Mills would say – just a dam different beaver world!

Good news yesterday as we learned that the Alhambra Valley Band will still be playing the opening for the festival, and our grant was recommended by the city manger to receive 1000 dollars towards the mural. The council voted last night and I’m going to assume we’re good to go. (I had asked for two thousand but, hey I’m pretty happy to think that the city of Martinez will be paying for Mario Alfaro to paint beavers after forcing him to paint over them before.)

A final bit of beaver news this morning involves the successful protein analysis of the oldest giant beaver skull on record. Apparently this beaver ate his wheaties.
Previously, researchers studying ancient proteins rely on fossils that were dug up for that purpose. However, the new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, used a giant beaver skull that was collected in 1845 and has been housed at the New York State Museum.
For the study, researchers extracted proteins from the skull of the giant beaver belonging to the species Castoroides ohioensis. Using mass spectrometry analysis, the researchers search for proteins, chains of amino acids assembled from instructions encoded in DNA that perform a wide variety of functions in living organisms.

For the study, researchers extracted proteins from the skull of the giant beaver belonging to the species Castoroides ohioensis. Using mass spectrometry analysis, the researchers search for proteins, chains of amino acids assembled from instructions encoded in DNA that perform a wide variety of functions in living organisms.

The researchers then detected many samples of collagen 1 in the protein they extracted. Collagen 1 is the most common protein in bone. The researchers also found post-translational modifications, chemical changes on the surface of the protein that are not defined by DNA.

I think one of the reasons this study is making a splash is that it bolsters the arguments about why we need carefully maintain specimens. As science pushes forward. we are finding that old bones release new secrets and we need to be ready. I’m not really sure why collagen 1 was present in the beaver skulls, but it is the most common protein in the human body an if you want to read up on this you can go here and explain folding and secretion to me.
Not being an expert on the subject, I was mostly interested that the original skull had been ‘shellacked’ for preservation, and since the shellac contains proteins too, they did a sample from inside the nasal cavity of that skull where nothing was painted.

Silly specimen keepers! If they had ever watched the ‘antique road show’ they would have know that the original finish is always more valuable!

Words with beaver friends

   Posted by heidi08 On June - 15 - 2016Comments Off on Words with beaver friends

I am nearly at the end of Moby Dick. Chapter 105 was a portentous reading about how whales would never become extinct because the ocean was really big so that meant we could kill all the whales we wanted to. Oy. This chapter was read by ecological giant David Attenbough which made  an awesome embedded message as we now know a lot more than to the author. Just in case you’re curious.

As the story gets more bleak, and Ahab becomes more vengeful and dangerous its actually seeming more relevant to modern life: especially when one thinks of a certain presidential candidate whose pretty unprepared for the voyage ahead, bitterly impaired, but still treated with reverence by the powers that should apply critical evaluation, and whose only problem-solving skill seems to be plotting revenge. Take for example this passage when the responsible officer comes to tell him the ship is dangerously leaking oil and they should turn back. Ahab says predictably it doesn’t matter, we are after ONE thing and I’m in charge. We’re not going back. Starbuck presses him in this passage, (to help make the point, I’ve replaced the word ‘owners‘ with the word ‘voters‘ so you can see what I mean.)

“What will the voters say, sir?”

“Let the voters stand on Nantucket beach and outyell the Typhoons. What cares Ahab? Voters, voters? Thou art always prating to me, Starbuck, about those miserly voters, as if the voters were my conscience. But look ye, the only real owner of anything is its commander; and hark ye, my conscience is in this ship’s keel. — [Get back] on deck!”

I’m pretty sure all of us has worked at one time or another with a supervisor that responded similarly to criticism. Take it from Melville, its best to get off that ship while you can. Each chapter is presented with an artists rendition of the content. One had a fantastic image of a whale made of words and I was instantly entranced  Of course I marched out and found how it was done. It’s called ‘Tagul‘ and its a free tool that allows you to upload your own shapes to create a word cloud – like this for instance! Note that when you roll over the word it changes color when you roll over it for emphasis!

Operation habituation was back at 4:45 this morning but no beavers were seen at all. Apparently they think they can outsmart us, the little rascals. We did see a raccoon, a hummingbird, and some ducks on the dam. There was fresh mud by their hole which might be a scent mound. Maybe they were reacting to the threat of our presence yesterday? Wait until they find out we’re still there tomorrow!

Rusty sent some truly remarkable photos from Tulocay beaver pond last night, which in addition to beavers featured two otters and a great blue heron! One otter was chowing down on a round flat fish I should be identifiable. I sent it to Dr. Peter Moyle at 4:30 this am and he wrote back a few minutes later. (Apparently fish have affected his sleep habits much like beavers ruined mine!)

Neat photos. The fish looks like a  bluegill sunfish, probably a male that was guarding a nest.

So one minute you’re watching out for your children an the next you’re being eaten by an otter! Life is hard, as we know. A recent final development based on Cindy Margulis suggestion came together yesterday. Don’t you want to be invite to the next cocktail party where these are feature?

silver setgold set

Dam Useful

   Posted by heidi08 On June - 14 - 2016Comments Off on Dam Useful

DSC_7102Two beavers this morning at 5:00, one noisily chewing near the hole and the other swimming across. When it was still not quite light he or she plunked down toward the edge of the water and munched something with their back turned to the intrusive humans. We are on day 1 of “Project habituation” where we are trying to get the beavers acclimatized to us by repetition. I’ll let you know how it goes.

The only thing I was able to capture in with enough light was this feral cat making his own particular use of the beaver dam. It makes you think about how many species were affected when the beavers left, not just fish and ducks, but raccoons and deer. Beavers and their dams make such a difference that I’m sure many creatures come to rely on them.

One idea that Jeanette Johnson suggested at the meeting was scrabble tile earrings, which I of course had to try right away. I amused myself a great deal with these.

red earringsIMG_1219


Hmmm do you think an etsy shop is in our future?

Very nice article from our friends in Devon, England that several folks sent my way. It deserves our only slightly divided attention. It doesn’t list the author, but its featured in the “rewildling britain” magazine.

Devon beavers are officially working their magic

As an ecologist, it’s clear to see how the beavers have had a huge impact within the enclosure. Habitat variety and structure are the first things that have changed – wet areas, ponds, deadwood, open grassland, scrub and trees and areas of sphagnum. Visually, there also seems to have been overall improvement in biodiversity.

But not everyone is an ecologist and sometimes we take it for granted that everyone sees what we do. Others may just see an electric fence, or a flooded area, or not really see it at all. So how can we influence political and economic decisions if we can’t relay this message to those who don’t appreciate or see nature and wildlife in the same way? How can we say for sure that biodiversity has been improved? Based on our experience, we would expect this to be the case, but in what way has change occurred? And how does this relate to other disciplines such as hydrology?

Beavers and biodiversity

We picked the most relevant indicator groups related to change associated with the beavers: bryophytes, bats and aquatic invertebrates

Ecosulis, driven by its shared vision of rewilding Britain, uses a Biodiversity Quality Calculator, developed by Dr Alan Feest, which measures change in biodiversity quality. 

The bespoke calculator has been used in many ways to measure change as a result of management prescriptions and to gauge the effectiveness of biodiversity off-setting schemes. More recently, it was used to measure the change in biodiversity quality, using a range of indices, as a result of the beaver reintroduction at the experimental site in Devon. 

Particular focus was given to finding out if the beavers could help maintain the open grasslands in the face of encroaching scrub species. This could allow us to see how biodiversity changes over time and could also be linked to other environmental changes, such as nitrogen or hydrology. This could then also be used to influence decisions on whether reintroductions should be undertaken on a wider scale or if management plans and prescriptions should be modified.

To do this we picked what we agreed to be the most relevant indicator groups related to change associated with the beavers: bryophytes, bats and aquatic invertebrates. One of the key benefits of the calculator is that historical as well as current data can be analysed, allowing for trends to be determined. We measured the changes in biodiversity quality between 2012 (one year after beaver introduction) and 2015 data collected by Ecosulis for bats and bryophytes (invertebrate data yet to be assessed). The data revealed some very interesting trends:


  • + Increase in species richness
  • Increase in species evenness, indicating less dominance of common species
  • – Decrease in species dominance
  • Increase in species rarity scores on the site, including rare grey long-eared and barbastelle bats
  • + Increase in biomass, indicating an increase in invertebrate prey species on the site (and number of bats)


  • + Increase in species richness
  • + Increase in species evenness, indicating less dominance of common species
  •  Decrease in species dominance
  • + Increase in biomass
  • + Increase in nitrogen intolerant species (indicating lower nitrogen levels)
  • + Increase in species associated with well-lit areas, and species associated with acidic soils


  • + Increase in species richness
  • + Increase in species evenness
  •  Decrease in species dominance of any one species
  • + Increase in population density
  •  Slight decrease in species rarity\

Rewilding – right here, right now

After an absence of 400 years, beavers are back in England and, within a few short years, are having an amazing effect

The scale and direction of the changes have been compelling. By taking a relatively simple, cost-effective and standardised approach to collecting biological records, a clear picture of biodiversity change has been recorded at the Okehampton site. The increase in indices such as biomass and species rarity reveals that habitat structure and the carrying capacity of the site have increased. A rise in biomass for bats indicates higher levels of invertebrate prey, which in turn benefits other species including birds. 

The beaver have turned what was an area of dense scrub and simple channel into a mosaic of scrub, pools, dead wood, banks, culm grassland and habitat piles. After an absence of 400 years, beavers are back in England and, within a few short years, are having an amazing effect. Associated species are now diversifying and thriving, instead of declining – this is rewilding in action!

The full results are due to be published in the next Devon wildlife Trust Beaver Project update.

Beavers build nitrogen sinks

One unexpected consequence of the beaver was a potential reduction of nitrogen levels at the site, as indicated by the bryophyte assemblage recorded. By linking bryophytes with their nitrogen sensitivity we discovered that our data supports recent research that indicates beavers produce nitrogen sinks (Geographical. October 2015). This could be a handy additional tool in the argument favouring the reintroducing of beaver to Britain.

Clearly one of the fundamental principles of rewilding projects is that there is no ultimate destination. Rewilding is a journey and one that is to be shared both by people and wildlife. Like any journey, it makes sense to have a reference point to determine whether you’re heading in the right direction and are not back in the same place you started.

Our assessment measures the changes in biodiversity quality without the added value judgement of one species being more important than another. Instead, it tells you whether you have a dominance of any particular species, if you’ve recorded all the expected species present, what the spread and biomass of the species are and how this can be interpolated against the expected outcomes.

Once this quantitative assessment has been made, it can be incorporated into biodiversity and rewilding decision-making related to issues such as the location of rewilding projects, appropriate management regimes and the effects of externalities.

The next steps for the method are to help inform the debate regarding the decision to reintroduce beavers more widely back to Britain. We can also consider if this method might be applicable to other potential reintroductions such as those for pine martens or even lynx.

How’s that for a thorough recap of beaver benefits? Honestly I almost hope the United Kingdom never approves beaver reintroduction because it make for such fantastic efforts by the media to convince them – which benefit everyone! Go read the whole fabulous article, and share it with your friends or nonbelievers.

Captur1eThe city of Vallejo had such success with their Nature celebration last year for the anniversary of the State parks that they are working with USFS and FWS to do it again, specifically celebrating”Wild in the City”. Steve Dunsky has already asked me to give a Martinez Beaver intro and yesterday the project put out the plea for corporate sponsors. Uh oh. Check out their photo for the ‘Beaver sponsors’.

CaptureYou would think that a team of scientists would know better than this, but you’d be wrong. Because I was three feet away from Dr. Michael Pollock of NOAA fisheries when he proudly displayed a photo of a nutria in is beaver talk. I of course wrote them they might want to make a correction, and supposedly they will. In the mean time their mass email asked us to share it on social media and I see no reason not to oblige.



Hold Onto Your Hats!

   Posted by heidi08 On June - 13 - 2016Comments Off on Hold Onto Your Hats!

The morning I left for Portland I received word from Linda Meza that Moses Silva had filmed the beavers mating the night before. After careful consideration he agreed to share it with us, and so you have a 9 year first: Footage of our own beavers making a new generation. Since beaver gestation is 107 days, we should be expecting kits in early September, which means we’ll likely first see them in October. That’s starting a family late for beavers, but our beavers did a lot of adjusting this year and they’re late to the party.

As near as we can tell we are seeing the same mom and a new, smaller Dad. We think our original Dad died in the interim. Maybe of old age as he would have been pushing 15. This newly eager beau apparently wanted to make sure his efforts did the trick, because he tried it again soon after.

Now THAT’s what I call an ‘eager beaver’!

It’s hard to believe we’re getting kits again. I had braced myself for the bleak future of a life without beavers, and now everything has to be reconsidered. We’re still unsure why our kits died, and unsure whether conditions are safe again. At least we won’t need to worry about them this fourth of July, because their late birthday will protect them from fireworks. In fact, there may be rain by the time they’re born, so no late summer salty high tides. Fingers crossed!

We had a very positive beaver festival planning meeting yesterday. We had unprecedented levels of helpers, with passionate beaver-defenders from a Auburn, Mountain House, Alameda and Napa! (A 200 mile radius of beaver defense!) In addition to our stalwart regulars agreeing to continue their wonderful work, Leslie bravely volunteered to co-coordinate the auction, Susan agreed to help with the tent painting, and Jeanette took on Membership and is going to use a roulette wheel to generate interest!

I must say this every year, but I really think it’s going to be the best festival ever!

Now it’s time for some wonderful news from the Beaver State, where they’re worried vandals might ruin their beloved beaver dams. No, seriously.

Eugene officials: Please let beaver dams be at Delta Ponds

At the ponds in north Eugene last month, Holts encountered two young men pulling sticks from a beaver dam near an old boat ramp off Good​pasture Island Road. About a week later, a visitor to the same portion of the 150-acre waterway area came across two young men with fishing poles taking apart a beaver dam.

Removing beaver dams harms habitat for beavers and other animals, she said

“Beavers are playing an important role in our waterways and can do good things,” city ecologist Lauri Holts said.  Busy beavers work hard to build dams, which create better homes for fish, birds and turtles. So, please, do not dismantle the dams, Eugene officials say.

If they had taken that (dam) out it would have drained this whole pond and (left) turtles and fish exposed,” Holts said during a recent visit to the ponds.

In response, Eugene Parks and Open Space this week posted a message on Facebook: “Beavers are loving Delta Ponds. Unfortunately we’ve had a bit of vandalism of these dams they work their tails off to create. If you’re in the area please keep an eye out.”


5/7 – Lauri Holts, ecologist for the city of Eugene, stands Thursday by a beaver dam at Delta Ponds. She found two young men dismantling the dam last month and has since put up a sign advising people not to remove beaver dams. (Dylan Darling/The Register-Guard)

Now that’s refreshing. People protecting beaver dams for a change. Can’t you just imagine the city of Martinez putting up signs to protect the beaver dams?

Heh Heh.

Bipolar Event Planning, Inc.

   Posted by heidi08 On June - 12 - 2016Comments Off on Bipolar Event Planning, Inc.

All festivals

Does this happen every June where it seems like everything is starting to come together for the festival and then suddenly something goes very wrong and everything falls apart? I try hard to take it all in stride and to not take every single bit of good and bad news personally. I know that its not about me and that the big picture is about beavers and raising awareness. But lets face it, I take do it personally. I probably wouldn’t bother if I didn’t. I can’t help it. Good news means I’m doing an okay job, and bad news means I’m a miserable failure, and that’s just the way it is. It’s been that way for eight years and the ninth isn’t likely to be any different.

Yesterday the sine waves were so dramatic I might as well have been an 11 year old girl feeling elated and rejected by a misunderstood invitation to a birthday party. Allow me to explain by illustrating a single 24 hours.

In the morning I was happy to learn that Brock Dolman  of the OAEC would be coming this year and was willing to don his ‘Buster Beaver’ costume and give his beloved beaver benefit speech on stage this year! That would be an awesome way to remind people why beavers were worth celebrating and a great new development for the festival.

Hours later I was very disappointed to hear that belts were tightening at Safari West and they would only be donating a jeep tour this year for the auction. The overnight package has always been our best seller and we really needed to make up funds after the mural expense. The package would be sorely missed. I could not prevent the sudden flurry of dark, negative thoughts, that I wasn’t doing a good enough job, that I didn’t ask nicely enough, or often enough, that I didn’t make people feel appreciated enough, that no one cared about beavers anymore – you name it, I thought it. I was slightly cheered to learn that we might still have the Junior Keepers come down to help out at the event because those kids were a real godsend. Yeah!

Keep calm on and carry on. I still had two key phone calls that day I needed to make for the event: Folkmanis and the sound guy. They hadn’t responded to emails which are SO much easier to end than  actually asking aloud. I was reminded of dreadful days working on the research part for the dissertation where I had to visit key important people and ask for very important things – a most wretched chore. One particular hospital administrator was always so busy adding profit margins or firing doctors that his guard dog secretary would coldly tell me he had “no time in his schedule today” and to try again tomorrow.  It always made me think of the Wizard of Oz.

It only was by sheer disembodied will I eventually managed to get past that secretary and talk the hospital head into letting me do my research project at that hospital. And you know the rest. I thought of that encouragement while I managed to call Folkmanis. Contrary to my gloomy expectations Elaine the marketing director was so nice and cheerful when I finally reached her that I was filled with joy and  hope. They would make a lovely puppet donation for the auction. Of course anyone would be happy to help the beavers! Maybe I was doing an okay job after all having nursed these relationships in such positive ways over the years that folks were happy to help! Everything would be okay even without a big donation and stop worrying.

Later in the day I heard from one of our regulars, Tom Rusert at Sonoma Birding, that they wouldn’t be coming this year and I was very disappointed. Tom and Darren had been with us nearly since the beginning. They were among our strongest supporters. And it was winning Tom’s support initially that really made a difference on our visibility. What if nobody came this year?

I tried not to think about it and mechanically dialed John Koss, audio wonderman. To my delight he said he’d be willing to volunteer his invaluable time and equipment again and run the stage. I was over joyed. We had sound! It was going to work out. He was just finishing a long running show for Theatreworks the week before but it should work out for him to be there. He’d come at 8 that morning and start hooking up to the solar panel.

Hurray! Maybe I was doing a good job after all! Now that we had the audio power all we needed was our usual musical wonders and everything would be perfect!

Then I heard from Lynn Quinones of the Alhambra Valley Bluegrass band that had played every SINGLE festival since we started in 2008. They had bravely played when we had no stage AND no audio. Then had been thrilled when conditions improved. Lynn had nominated us for the John Muir Education award. She loved the beavers and I never every doubted that their great music would start the day again for us.

We may not be able to play this year“, she said sadly.

I think I need to go lie down now. And watch this over and over.

Inching Towards Reasonable

   Posted by heidi08 On June - 11 - 2016Comments Off on Inching Towards Reasonable

I guess before things get better anywhere they start by getting very slightly less bad. Nova Scotia isn’t famous for their progressive views on beaver, or their deep understanding of flow devices, but at least one property owner didn’t want them trapped – and that’s something.

Beaver killing over home flooding prompts complaint

Neighbours in a small Annapolis Valley community are at odds over the provincial government killing a beaver.

The beaver had built a dam that, for six weeks, caused one homeowner’s well water to be undrinkable, and blocked the drain pipe, making it impossible to use water without flooding the basement.

“It’s nice to see the wildlife, but they’ve really hindered my lifestyle by interfering with my water supply, my septic drainage and my sink drainage,” Brenda Potter said Thursday.

Her neighbour Karen Enright says she owns the land surrounding a brook, in which a beaver had built a dam. Enright says she explicitly forbid the Department of Natural Resources to set foot on her land.

A man with permits from the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources set traps earlier this week to kill the beaver — and it worked.

“We were so angry, on many different levels, mostly that we had given explicit instructions that they did not have our consent to cross our property,” Enright told CBC’s Maritime Noon.

“They did not have our consent to set kill traps — and they did it anyway.”

Tuesday morning, her husband found the beaver dead in a trap in their marsh, she said. Enright said she’s been disappointed by the government’s responses to her complaints — despite being clear with her wishes.

“We understand there was an issue with the beaver building a dam. It was causing some property damage to the road and whatnot, but we asked for other solutions,” Enright said.

According to a staffer at the local DNR office, the couple could pay to relocate the animal live, she said, but he indicated it could be difficult due to a surplus of beavers. Enright said he could not provide a report showing the over population.

“Live trapping is a difficult, time-consuming and costly process,” a department website on beaver control says. “Due to high beaver populations and limited free habitat into which trapped animals may be released, it is seldom justified in Nova Scotia.”

The site also suggests culvert guards, protectors and cleaners, and pipes and electric fences to control water levels against beaver dam damage.

Well, I’m going to describe this as an “at least” article.

At least there was single woman in a particularly grim region of a 100,000 that didn’t want beavers killed. And ‘at least‘ the Ministry of “earth things we can exploit” mentioned flow devices  when she asked for solutions. I’m sure the information they sent her wasn’t cutting edge by any means, and I’m sure it made them sound highly unlikely to succeed, but at least, (and I’m using ‘least’ in the literal sense here), that’s something. Maybe someday soon there will be a handful of people who don’t want beavers killed, and maybe Nova Scotia will install an actual flow Device that works. And maybe people will notice that beaver dams actually make things better.

A girl can dream, can’t she?

Meeting tomorrow for Beaver Festival IX. And we’re starting to get most of our ducks in the stadium, if not yet  ‘in a row’. We have made about 5 each of every tile and had this sign made so folks could choose which one they wanted. I think along with the kids tshirts and the silent auction we should be able to generate some funds for the mural, don’t you? Click twice on the descriptions to enlarge.

about tiles corrected

I actually love them all so much I think I want to make a quilt.

every tile