Did they just get the memo?

   Posted by heidi08 On August - 3 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

This clip would be hyperbole if the article was based anywhere else but from Michigan, which along with it’s Wisconsin neighbor has been ripping up beaver dams to save trout (!) since the dawn of time and insisting the research telling them not to doesn’t apply to them because their streams are ‘special’. Maybe doing their own research will make a difference?

Outdoors: Beaver dams deserve second look by anglers

“Angler groups are under heavy impressions that beavers are the main causes for sediment contribution into the river channel,” said Huron Pines watershed coordinator John Bailey, who gets plenty of pressure from fishermen for beaver dam removal.

Still anglers persist in the quest for beaver dam removal. Finally, in an attempt to settle the question, the University of Michigan did a study on the west branch of the Maple River — a 16-mile tributary in Emmet County. A large population of naturally reproducing brook trout and local concern about beavers made it the perfect locale.

The scientists hypothesized that if beavers were causing excess sedimentation, it would affect both water quality and macroinvertebrate (aquatic insect) abundance.

To their surprise, water quality wasn’t significantly lower above dams nor was water temperature significantly greater above dams. Rather, dissolved oxygen levels and water temperature were stable above and below dams.

Dams did affect tasty trout treats such as mayflies, stone flies and trichos, though not in ways the researchers expected. There were more of these below the dams than above.

Stable water temperatures and dissolved oxygen levels meant that trout weren’t negatively affected. The shift in macroinvertebrate communities above and below dams did result in a change in available food sources for trout.

However, since trout have a highly variable diet, and they will generally consume any available food sources, the shift in community didn’t necessarily limit feeding.

In fact, hexagenia limbata — the large, burrowing mayfly larvae — prefers to dwell in the silt bottom that results from the damming process. (The hex hatch is an annual legendary fish phenomenon. Hex hunger generates more trout titillation and tourism than any other aquatic event.)

“Look for active dams with signs of use. If a beaver dam is large and old enough to have created a substantial pool of deep water, it just might be a brook trout bonanza.”

Michigan is shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, to learn that dissolved oxygen behaves in their state exactly like it does in every other state. Next thing you know someone will be suggesting that gravity works the same way too!!! In the mean time, they’ve contented themselves with the discovery that beaver dams actually improve invertebrate conditions and that this might be good news for the fish that eat them.

Ya think?

A Day of Wonders

   Posted by heidi08 On August - 2 - 20151 COMMENT

Yesterday was amazing, very crowded, very cheerful, very full of children and parents eager to learn. Just how eager? Mark Poulin’s adorable buttons were an astounding hit. Kids were thrilled to learn and EVEN take the post test. Here’s an idea of just how proud they were of their work. Honestly look at those faces and tell me they aren’t beaming.

festivalThe musical line-up was amazing, the solar panels beloved, and the help of sound wizard John Koss was invaluable. We had California visitors from San Francisco, Alameda, Auburn and Winters, as well as national visitors from Virginia and Georgia. I didn’t see a single impatient parent or crabby child this year. They were all remarkably helpful, appreciative, and glowing. Everyone said the activity was enormousjonly fun and educational. FRO’s art project was a huge success, and Martinez enjoyed the work of many new painters. Jon’s tours were well attended as always and his voice was thrilled with the assistance of his brand new personal amplifier.

Everyone said the children’s parade was the best organized ever. The Watershed Steward interns were amazing handling the buttons all day and the junior keepers from Safari West were uniformly helpful down to the last tattoo and tent removal. The silent auction was a huge hit and very well staffed, and membership enjoyed  the extra helpers as well. Honestly, we had our best helpers ever this year, with sometimes more hands then even WE could put to work!

And no beaver festival would ever be complete without the wildly creative inventions of Beaver devotee and Martinez resident Robert Rust, who this year, after the giant inflatable beaver of 2012, the tail slapping beaver of 2014 decided to blow our minds with a wattle and daub beaver, formed entirely on site of willow and mud – just like a real beaver would make. (If you need a science and history lesson reminder on this technique, look here:)

There were a million other surprises I am forgetting to mention, but suffice it to say it was our best festival yet, and I’m sure all our volunteers could sleep for weeks. Enjoy your quiet sunday and THANKS!


   Posted by heidi08 On August - 1 - 2015ADD COMMENTS



   Posted by heidi08 On July - 31 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

A little more Beaver recognition…

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 31 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

This has been a very BEAVERY week in the news. Yesterday the Gazette chimed in.

 At Home With Vivian: Vintage Beavers do Shakespeare

Yay for the Beaver Festival! The annual festival will feature live music, children’s activities, beaver tours and more than 40 ecological booths. Beavers in down town Martinez? Of course. Martinez has something for everyone.

 According to my friend Wikipedia, “Now protected, the beaver have transformed Alhambra Creek from a trickle into multiple dams and beaver ponds, which in turn, led to the return of steelhead and North American river otter in 2008 and mink in 2009. The Martinez beavers probably originated from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta which once held the largest concentration of beaver in North America.”

Jeff and I enjoyed the Beaver Festival last year. There were lots of wildlife informational booths, many activities for children, and guided tours of the beaver habitat. It was a joyful place to be.

 So do something out of the ordinary. Come to the 8th annual Beaver Festival on Saturday, Aug. 1, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Beaver Park (corner of Marina Vista and Castro streets). First 150 children attending will be able to collect 19 wildlife pins designed by Oakland artist Mark Poulin. The charms were purchased with a grant from the CCC Wildlife Commission. According to the Worth a Dam website (MartinezBeavers.org) “The activity will highlight the new wildlife seen in Alhambra Creek since the beavers arrived, and emphasize their role as a Keystone Species.”

To be honest, nothing makes me happier than when folks use Wikipedia to write about our beavers. Since our great friend Rickipedia is the one who wrote it, and he tells the story the exact same way I would. It’s a long column about cool things to do in Martinez and of course the peddler’s fair gets top billing, but never mind. It’s been a GRAND media week.

This morning I got an inquiry from the Martinez Tribune. Tribune? Apparently they saw a beaver near a wooden palate at Ward Street and wonder if we gave it to them to eat. (!) (Obviously they’re going to be another prescient media source in the metropolis.)  Here’s the Tribune’s fun photo which is on their Facebook page this morning.

palateFinally a big article in the National Wildlife Federation this week about the science involved in beaver chewing trees. This has caused a little debate in the beaver world and I was waiting until there were clearer answers from the author. But in the meantime, you might as well enjoy the icing on the cake of a beaverly week.

 Beavers: Masters of Downfall

Beavers-AS15-1.ashxHow do beavers fell trees in a preferred direction? A 10-year study reveals the answer.

For the past 10 years, I have come here every summer with my research team from the University of Arizona to study the beaver’s most iconic yet poorly understood behavior: tree felling. Studies have shown that more than 70 percent of all large felled trees crash in the direction of the water where a beaver’s lodge is located, which is to the animal’s advantage. But the question I hoped to answer was: How do beavers make the complex calculations required for such accuracy? After a decade of study, hundreds of tree measurements and thousands of hours of direct observations and camera recordings, we now know the answer.

In beavers’ work, just as in human logging, the directionality of a tree fall is produced by the “hinge”—uneven cuts on opposite sides of the trunk. A tree with a cut on just one side, no matter how wide, can collapse in any direction. But an additional small cut on the opposite side will make the fall strongly directional, with the direction depending on whether the second cut is above or below the initial cut. If it’s above the first cut, the tree will fall in the direction of the initial cut; if below, the tree will fall the opposite way.

 Making that second cut uneven in height to produce the hinge depends on changes in the beaver’s posture (sitting or standing) and the slope on which the tree is growing. On a tree that grows uphill from the water, for example, if a beaver starts cutting on the uphill side then simply circles the tree without changing its posture, it will produce a second cut below the first one—and a directional fall of the tree towards the water. Likewise, if the beaver starts its work on the downhill side of the tree and maintains its posture as it circles the tree, the tree will also fall toward the water.

We discovered that nearly all large trees in the area, especially those farther from water, had circular cuts of uneven heights and depths or directional hinges. In flat areas, beavers typically started their work on the side closest to water, gradually widening the cut over consecutive nights. Notably, as they circled the tree, they would rise on their hind legs, producing a second cut on the opposite side that was higher than the initial one. In just a few days, such trees would crash directly towards the water.

So beavers use directional cutting like loggers. Which surprises us not at all. But sparked a debate on whether trees fall towards the water naturally because they lean towards the open light. It seems to me that some trees don’t lean at all, and the research takes that into account in noting that they had directional cutting. Also that trees on the slope did NOT have it,  because they didn’t need it to fall towards the water. It’s an interesting article, you should go read the whole thing.

And if you want to JOIN the National Wildlife Federation and maybe sign up for a subscription to Ranger Rick, you can do that tomorrow because Beth Pratt of the California chapter will be exhibiting there.

You’re coming tomorrow, right?

Martinez Beaver Festival promo 2015 from Tensegrity Productions on Vimeo.

Join us Saturday, August 1st, 2015 for the 8th annual Martinez Beaver Festival!

Celebrate Beaver Day

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 30 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

Is this what it looks like when you dominate the news cycle?

 Nature photographer chronicles Martinez’s urban beavers

Suzi at workMARTINEZ — The city’s renowned downtown family of beavers has caught the rapt eye of a nationally acclaimed wildlife photographer, who has been capturing their comings and goings for several weeks.

 Suzi Eszterhas, who has followed elephants in the African wild and penguins in Antarctica, has turned her lens to the lodge the beavers have built in Alhambra Creek — her first time photographing wild animals in an urban setting.

Capturing the Martinez colony’s quirky behaviors, distinct personalities and ingenuity has been a creative cornerstone for Eszterhas.

 ”It’s a lot easier to photograph lions in Kenya,” she said, referring to the beavers’ inherent illusiveness and shyness.

Yet they performing their nocturnal activities next to a busy bar and eatery, with motorcycles vrooming by, and the public viewing them from several bridges over the creek.

“These beavers are coming back to their home and tolerating us being here,” said Eszterhas, a Petaluma resident. “We have this unique window to see into the lives of these creatures … There’s this oasis of peace in the midst of chaos. Not all species can do that.”

 Eszterhas, whose images of the Martinez beavers will be published in an upcoming issue of Ranger Rick, a children’s nature magazine, has donated one of her wildlife photographs to this year’s silent auction at the eighth annual New festivalWorth a Dam Beaver Festival on Saturday, Aug. 1.

The annual festival — started as a way to “throw a party for (local beavers) to make it harder to kill them,” says Worth a Dam’s executive director Heidi Perryman — has become a nexus for wildlife advocates and artists to congregate and network.

Thanks Jennifer Shaw! The article shied away from using these excellent photos, but did talk to artist Mark Poulin and promote the festival nicely. All in all we can’t complain about media coverage this year. I’m hoping that will translate into abundant attendance potential. And that folks will think of beavers differently for a while.

Here’s a wonderful story about a smart man whose mind doesn’t NEED changing one bit.

Beaver tales: Alberta homeowner enlists local wildlife to engineer a dam

Pierre Bolduc’s background as an aeronautical engineer and Hercules C-130 pilot wasn’t enough of a resume to prepare him for the task of constructing a pond next to his Alberta property.

He’d made a few attempts to build a dam over several years, but after a downpour washed out his latest earthen structure he turned to nature’s expert dam builders, a family of local beavers, to do the job right.

 ”There were beavers living further down the valley that had been building dams at a culvert running underneath a dirt road,” says Bolduc, who lives on an expansive property near Bragg Creek, about 50 kilometres southwest of Calgary.

Bolduc reckoned that the gentle lilt of running water played from an outdoor sound system placed above the intended site would attract the animals to the location where he wanted to build the dam. His neighbour, a sound engineer, offered to mix a CD featuring an appropriate aquatic aria.

“I don’t know what the sound of rushing water does to the psyche of a beaver, but based on the results I witnessed, I think it could inspire them to build a dam right in the middle of a sandbox,” he says.

“They went straight to work.”

How much do we love this story! And Pierre for that matter? I’m not as convinced that the sound brought beavers (otherwise every waterfall would be cluttered with failed dams) so much as his own failed dam gave them a good base to work from. But, never mind, I am crazy about this way of thinking and it provides a nice way to show what beavers are good for.

Since labour was being provided at no cost, Bolduc provided them with plenty of free food and construction material. He cleared poplars located on his property that might eventually grow to interfere with power lines. He then placed the cut logs to float in the rising water around the dam construction site.

 ”I gave them so much wood that they soon developed a 20-beaver condo,” he says. “They built an absolutely huge mansion and a powerful dam.”

The dam was completed in the summer of 2014 and Bolduc’s pond slowly expanded to a body of water measuring about 175 metres by 200 metres. The pond has since become home to numerous trout and the water has attracted muskrats, nesting loons and moose to the property.

This article makes me insanely happy. I already heard from several beaver folk that are deeply jealous they can’t let beavers build a pond where they live. Let’s hope Pierre starts a fad among land-owning engineers. He might,  just look at his next goals:

While he’s satisfied with the pond, Bolduc is breaking out his rushing water CD and outdoor speakers for another construction project, courtesy of Castor Canadensis (the North American beaver).

“There are new neighbours along the valley and when I want to visit them, I pretty much have to drive the distance to their place,” he says. “If I place those speakers just right, by next year I should be able to canoe to the neighbour’s house.”


Beaver Stewards

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 29 - 2015Comments Off

That lovely article is in the Santa Cruz sentinel this morning, and debuted on the front page of the Contra Costa Times yesterday, which was fun. Especially when I think about the still-unhappy beaver grumblers who do things in Martinez like tell public works to rip out willow shoots before they grow or paint over beavers in a popular mural. Ahh memories!

I thought you’d want to see this fun morning of kit wrestling from Rusty Cohn in Napa.

We’ve only seen yearlings do this, so this is fun to find.  And  you deserved to read this poem from Deidre’s friend Marcy Beck who works with Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods. (I’m thinking they need to exhibit at the beaver festival next year, by the way). Try reading it aloud because it has great sounds.

CaptureMarcy Beck