Wild Neighborhood

Beavers have moved into the neighborhood. Although increasingly common on many



eastern waterways, the great rodents haven’t been seen much on the stream near our house, until recently. As I once reported here, on Brook Trout and Beaver Dams, the presence of earthen barriers on trout streams already marginalized by human activity can be detrimental to the health of cold water fishes. At home on Bootleg Hollow Creek, however, where native trout have been absent now for forty years or more, I don’t mind the beaver’s presence. With some luck, their engineering might even enhance the habitat. A newly formed pond on the creek has encouraged a kingfisher to take up residence, and a green heron has arrived as well.

wild leeks, flower/bulb

wild leeks, flower/bulb

After photographing the industrious beaver the other evening, I climbed the South Ridge just beyond the creek. I hadn’t visited the old hemlock grove in several years and was hoping its hermit thrushes were in vocal mood. They were. I love standing in forest solitude when these thrushes pipe their territorial songs. I can’t describe what’s heard, but I know these songs add mystery and enchantment to the woods.

Like the beaver and a multitude of upland creatures, the hermit is home-keeping, doingOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA what it must in order for its kind to survive. And coming to think of it, I, like many other earth-bound souls, do something similar. With more than three decades of living in this place, I still try to stake my ground and work on the meaning of “home.” I’d say that home is an area where your life feels right. It’s a framework that extends beyond the human body and gives meaning to the heart of one. It can be a place as small as an apartment or as large as the globe. It’s a place worthy of our songs and praises. It’s organic and ever-changing. It’s a place that a thrush will sing of in the hemlock trees, a place that I will try to write of in an essay or a poem.

DSCN0267Descending into the valley I recrossed the creek and thought about a different stream not far away. This other trout stream forms a rivertop beyond a ridge near home. Lately I’ve been fly-fishing there and have found its native trout to be doing very well. The brook trout has risen from a low point in recent years, from an ebb apparently due to a rapid growth of the competitive brown, an introduced species. Today, for some unspecified reason, the brook trout has the upper hand again. The stream changes dramatically year by year, sometimes due to man’s activity, sometimes due to the stream itself and its response to weather.DSCN0271

The trout stream has enough environmental issues, largely stemming from land abuse and invasive species. It doesn’t need an influx of beaver right now, a mammal whose controlling predators we humans have pretty much eliminated, an animal that could negatively impact the habitat of cold water fish.

DSCN0294There are no guarantees for what tomorrow brings, of course, but for now, I say, let the beaver make its home where I make my home. The animal is amazing, and it’s welcome here if it leaves the other stream alone. In the greater picture, considering the web of life, the beaver probably has seniority. It may even have more “right” to this place than I do. It’s possible that we just might get along.DSCN0326DSCN0330DSCN0331

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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6 Responses to Wild Neighborhood

  1. Junior says:

    I’m impressed, by the close-up pictures AND by the fact that the beavers are back, and so close to the house. I’ll be looking forward to seeing them, and the changes to the creek, when I get up there in August!

    • Junior, We’ll leave the light on for you, and the ripples flowing!


      • Bob Stanton says:

        Those dam builders are a mixed blessing, that’s for sure. Earlier this season I visited one of my favorite small streams, one I hadn’t been to in a while. Evidence of beaver activity is ample on this stream, and has been ever since I began fishing it. This year, however, the lower end of the run, and most of the best holes, are inundated with pond after pond, most of them silted up pretty well. Generally not a big deal, as beavers and trout have coexisted for eons, but the downside is that the riparian cover, which was scarce here to begin with, is either gone for food or is dead standing timber from being flooded. I expect some pretty lean years in the future. On the other hand, some of the biggest wild trout I’ve caught have come out of relatively new ponds. I don’t have a solution other than to take some of my grandfather’s old traps and start my own line of dry fly beaver dubbing.

      • Stanton’s Dry Fly Beaver Dubbing… Brilliant! Hey, I’d support your business… Yeah, that’s the trouble when there’s no natural control… Riparian cover disappears; water warms and silt collects. Wild trout fishing can be good at a beaver pond, but usually only while the pond is young. I like the animal best when they’re not rampant (the way I like people, too), when there’s a relative balance among most species in an ecosystem.


  2. Jed says:

    Great photos.

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