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.
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, doing 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.
Descending 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.
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.
There 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.