High Summer in the Troll Woods

It’s day two of sun. Tomorrow they forecast rain so Aki are crossing through the troll woods with plans to skirt around the flooded beaver lands while they are still in high summer.

A sad and desperate call dominates the woods when we pass beyond reach of the road noise. The simple song could be sung by a loon but it lacks the erie complexity of their music. Again and again the bird calls out as if keening his dead — a jarring contrast to warming sun on my face and the happy work songs of their other birds.

There is no one to ask about the sorrowful bird song. We are alone on this windless morning. Something crashes out of the water just as we reach the shore of one of the moraine lakes. It’s the noisy beaver we watched cruise back and forth across the lake a few weeks ago. There is a small causeway, maybe half a meter across, that we must cross to get to the main trail. It separates the lake from a small outlet stream. The beaver stops on the causeway long enough for me to realize he is small and maybe only a year old. Then he slips into the water to begin his swim back and forth across the narrow foot of the lake. Like the last time on each lap he slaps his tail and dives just before reaching the lake shore. 

After watching the beaver for a bit Aki and return to the causeway to figure out the deal. The beaver has been busy hauling mud from the lake to a small dam he has started on the outlet stream. The dam is not needed to maintain the lake level. Maybe the beaver doesn’t know that. Maybe he needs the damn to mark this as his territory.  That would explain all the overt swimming and tail slapping behavior, which could be designed to keep away other beavers looking for territory. Whatever the reason, the beaver’s dam building is a dangerous activity for this section of the trail gets heavy use by dog walkers, some accompanied by beasts big enough to do in the beaver.

Not wishing to cause the beaver more stress we move down trail to where an old beaver dam offers access to high ground surrounding Norton Lake. It’s our only option as beavers have flooded out the main trail. Here we find newly hatched dragon flies glittering in the sun. I love the electric blue ones that some call darning needles. Mine might be the last generation to know what inspired the nickname. Out of the lake ducks drift without much effort. I find an oddly passive huddle of ducks in some nearby reeds. 

At first I think the stationary ducks are someone’s decoys that ended up tangled together in the reeds. Then I noticed that they were covered with tuffs of white down, which along with the piercing gaze of one of the ducks suggests they are alive but molting. Later I checked some reference books and realized that they must be escaped decoys.

After circumnavigating the lake on the beaver’s logging trails we return to the Troll  Woods for the trip home. The wind is up now, erasing all the beautiful reflections I enjoyed on the Troll Wood lakes. We pass a little pocket lake — the one where I can only find one drake duck. We saw him this morning and I wondered if he sang the keening song we heard at the beginning of the hike.  On this return trip we find he has no cause to cry. A hen with 7 or 8 chicks swims on his lake. 

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