Unexpected Fiscal Alliance

   Posted by heidi08 On April - 20 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

Dunlins, a type of migratory shorebird, use “pop up” wetlands created in California’s once-lush Central Valley by the BirdReturns program, the work of conservationists. Credit Drew Kelly/The Nature Conservancy

CaptureScience Paying Farmers to Welcome Birds

The program, called BirdReturns, starts with data from eBird, the pioneering citizen science project that asks birders to record sightings on a smartphone app and send the information to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in upstate New York.

The BirdReturns program, financed by the Nature Conservancy, then pays rice farmers in the birds’ flight path to keep their fields flooded with irrigation water from the Sacramento River as migrating flocks arrive. The prices are determined by reverse auction, in which farmers bid for leases and the lowest bidder wins.

I’m  sure you’ve seen it yourself when you drive along. Rows and rows of birds species using wetlands or furiously pecking for corn. I made this movie in 2009 after stumbling on a very strange assortment on highway 12.


But when I saw this article in the New York Times, all I could think of was beavers. What if the nature conservancy or the salmon fisheries were paying farmers to leave beavers on their land? What if there were incentives to letting beavers create wetlands, raise the water table, filter toxins, increase salmonids, augment the bird population, and enrich the riparian border?

Sound crazy? I’m hoping for another easter miracle.



   Posted by heidi08 On April - 19 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

Stop whatever you’re doing and close the door very quietly behind you. Are we alone? Good, because this kind of news isn’t for just any ears. Cheryl went to watch beavers last night, and reports that mom came out rather late and stood up by the primary dam and  – wait, are you sitting down? Swallow that coffee.

She showed healthy teats!

Healthy visible kit-sustaining teats! That almost certainly means we have kits! We have kits! Martinez has kits! For the seventh year running (no kits in 2011 after mom died) we have kits! Isn’t that wonderful? No photos because it was too dark, but here’s one from 2008 taken by Linda Meza to give you the idea of what she saw.

beaver breasts

You can bet we’ll be keeping an eye on how things develop. Maybe you should stop by at earth day to hear the latest. Thanks Cheryl!


I just watched this movie for the first time in years because someone asked about it. It was made for a library presentation in 2008. Gosh, these were magical days of just discovering our beavers! That’s still how I feel when we see a new kit for the first time.

Sign up for beaver school!

   Posted by heidi08 On April - 18 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

Next wednesday from, 1-2 Pacific Time Earth Guardians will be sponsoring a webinar on beaver effects on streams. You can bet I’ll be sitting in the first virtual row. Thanks Mary Obrien for send this my way!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

2:00pm (Mountain Time)

Register for the webinar here:

 Abstract – Beaver are known for their engineering abilities and their impact on water resources. Water is a valuable resource in the arid southwest, and the focus of this study was to evaluate the impact of beaver re-establishment on the water resources of the Jemez Watershed in New Mexico for future state-wide management planning. The Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool (BRAT) was used to evaluate the current capacity of the watershed based on vegetation, baseflow, and flood stream power. The model demonstrated that the watershed is capable of supporting a re-established beaver population and identified the suitable stream reaches for dam building activities. Using HEC-HMS, we captured the hydrologic response of the Jemez River to precipitation by calibrating it to historic hydrographs. Once calibrated, 42 reservoir elements representing beaver dams were added to the Rio de las Vacas region to simulate an initial re-established population of beavers. The results indicate an attenuation of 5-30% of peak flows and an increase in baseflow of 5-15%. Additionally, we calculated the increase of aquatic and riparian habitat from dam construction and pond formation. It was determined that 15 special-status species in the watershed could potentially benefit from beaver activity and habitat creation. The Rio Grande cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii viginalis; state-sensitive) could utilize ponds as habitat and take advantage of dams as barriers to non-native trout movements and the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius luteus; state-endangered, federally proposed) could utilize the increase in riparian habitat bordering ponds. It is possible that the re-establishment of beaver to the Jemez Watershed would allow theses species to expand into previously extirpated portions of their range, highlighting the positive impacts of beaver on water resources in this area of the arid southwest.

Who: Bryan Bird, Wild Places Program Director, WildEarth Guardians

Alexandre Caillat, Bren School Masters Candidate

Bret Callaway, Bren School Masters Candidate

Drake Hebert, Bren School Masters Candidate

Andrew Nguyen, Bren School Masters Candidate

Shelby Petro, Bren School Masters Candidate*

 Oh and guess what? Beaver Festival VII is officially  a reality. We’re approved!



Bill Gates Gives Money for Beavers?

   Posted by heidi08 On April - 17 - 20142 COMMENTS

Well, probably not for the beavers themselves, but for the students who are studying them. Program manager Erin Sams has just asked that I clarify  and say:

“We did not receive money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Gates Family Foundation is a Denver-based foundation that solely supports Colorado programs. I don’t want people to get the wrong idea.”

Close enough, I’m still impressed. And you will be too when you read about this awesome project.

CaptureBeaver Habitat and River Ecology Monitoring

We are teaming up with Chatfield State Park, the Audubon Society of Greater Denver, Colorado Gulf and Turf, University of Colorado Professor Dr. John Basey, View Into The Blue, and Ocean Classrooms to monitor beaver activity along the South Platte River in Chatfield State Park. The project would not be possible without generous funding provided by The Gates Frontier Fund and Ocean Classrooms.

 Beginning in December 2012, scientists and students surveyed the area to determine where the webcams would be installed and to begin preliminary observation of the beaver activity. Now, we are ready to begin work on the project! In late March 2013, we will begin installing an aboveground camera that will monitor several dams along a portion of the river to help us learn more about activity within this beaver community. We will also be installing a science node to collect data on water quality parameters, wireless radio and a solar powering system. We’re looking for lots of help from the Denver T4O community to make this project finally become a reality!

 The installation is going to be accompanied by a workshop to teach students and the public about the American beaver’s influence on riparian ecosystems, macroinvertebrate biodiversity, impacts on water quality, and important resource management practices that can benefit both the environment as well as people’s livelihoods.


Colorado has so much to teach about beavers! I’m thinking these teens need to sponsor a beaver festival to really show off their work! And I know just who to invite to come lead the parade. Sherri Tippie is just down the road. I expect this to be a very exciting product that changes how we see beavers for years to come!

sherri worth a dam

* I’m not going to mention that certain regular people can observe beavers without expensive grants or fancy camera installations and said people have been doing so for seven years running – because that would just be….unnecessary.

The ultimate one has finally arrived.



Who’s talking about us now?

   Posted by heidi08 On April - 15 - 2014Comments Off

That would be Ghostbearphotography in Toronto. Just look at what’s featured on their site today?

That dam beaver chase…

Simon has told you all about his ‘curse of the beaver’, the chase for this surprisingly elusive creature. Well, maybe just elusive to Simon and me.

From his first post introducing the trials and tribulations we went through to find a beaver; to the story of the urban beaver that we discovered in Toronto one harsh winter day; to learning that you don’t want to get on a beaver’s bad side after we unknowingly got in the way of one: each post sparked some laughter from our readers.

It also sparked a wonderful new connection from a beaver advocate located in California.

Heyyyyyyyyy! I know that site! And you do too! Thanks Jill and Simon for recognizing how worthwhile beavers are! And plugging the work of Worth A Dam. They reprinted my letter explaining what we do and asking for a donation for the festival, which apparently got them interested enough to help out and spread the word. I’m waiting for the print to arrive as we speak. I especially like that they had their own “beaver-muskrat” mystery and thought our video was helpful.

FYI: Simon would really REALLY have benefitted from watching this clip from their website:

Ahhh, I always was fond of that film, my third effort ever. I had just learned to use iMovie and the world felt like my videography oyster! It remains one of my favorites of all times. All the footage is from 2007, and that tail slap at the end isn’t from mom or dad – and there were no kits yet. I filmed it before the time our first kits were seen. It was so long ago that when I walked to the lodge and saw a huge otter sitting on top of it I wondered if it was a beaver! Then that beaver swam out and did 19 tail slaps until the otter hi-tailed it away. I missed filming 18 others and finally got the last one, which accounts for my exclamation.

The reason this is interesting is because I think it means that Mom and Dad had a yearling already when they moved in to Martinez. The first woman who told me about the beavers in Martinez said she had seen three, but I never knew how much to believe her. The idea of their being a yearling comforts me because it means Mom was a little older when she died than we understood. I hate to think of her life being cut short. But if she had a yearling when she came that means she was at least 6 or 7 when she started her life in Martinez, which puts her closer to 10 when she died, and that’s about average I think for a beaver in the wild.

Anyway thank you, Jill and Simon for your support of beavers and Worth A Dam! And Planetsave is featuring that beaver lodge building from Canada film today, with excellent quote from Beavers: Wetlands & Wildlife on why beavers matter:

Busy Beavers—You Bet! (Video)

“Beavers reliably and economically maintain wetlands that sponge up floodwaters, alleviate droughts and floods (because their dams keep water on the land longer), lessen erosion, raise the water table, and act as the “earth’s kidneys” to purify water…. Several feet of silt collect upstream of older beaver dams, and toxics, such as pesticides, are broken down by microbes in the wetlands that beavers create. Thus, water downstream of dams is cleaner and requires less treatment for human use.

Nicely said, and very true. Thanks BWW and PlanetSave for reminding us!


There really are beavers in Martinez!

   Posted by heidi08 On April - 14 - 20141 COMMENT

I haven’t had the good luck of seeing a beaver since the Sunday before I went in the hospital. So it’s been nine whole weeks since I saw them in person. The longest absence ever. And the last couple of times I went down it was a ghost town with narry a beaver in sight. I started to think sad thoughts about them being gone, or using another habitat, or not feeling like Alhambra Creek was hospitable to beavers any more. My only consoling observation was that the primary dam has been lovingly maintained and was looking very tight.

april 015

Primary dam 2014

But last night  we saw 5 beavers!

They are definitely all living above the primary. When we got there one adult was working on the dam. Then two fast moving (barely yearlings) dashed over the primary and down to the secondary where they fished around for goodies, argued over who got what with audible whining, and did a little haphazard work.

This rough housing on the dam must have got mom’s attention, because she showed up next, taking a mouthful of branches to the gap, then sitting right next to the selfish one and daring him to try that with her. Which he didn’t. They touched noses and then she swam off with him following right behind. Only to each return with huge balls of mud which they carefully pushed onto the dam in tandem. This modeling sparked about four more trips to the dam with mud, even without mom to supervise. Still, like most young teenagers on the job, they were easily distracted by anything shiny.

Their somewhat more haphazard dam shows a little work has been done since the last rain. Obviously all those branches that wash down the creek in flooding get put to good use. Watching mom and our new yearlings work last night we realized how fast this could all happen.

april 003

Secondary dam April 2014

I can’t tell you how normal and cheerful it felt to them, and how utterly reassuring it was to see mom in loving attendance. I realized the three toddlers we watched emerge last year are now safely in their tweens and well on their way to adulthood. That’s 19 more beavers in the world because of US. And probably more born right now tucked away in the lodge that we just can’t count until they emerge.

In case you can’t tell, I was inspired. You just have to watch this.