Beavers on the Susquehanna

by Peter Shirk | Dec 1, 2023 | 0 comments

My Chosen Spot Contest Second Place Winner

beaver swimming
Beaver swimming. Photo © Mirage3|

Hopefully this week I’ll see a beaver, I thought as I sat by the Susquehanna River near a beaver lodge in the bank of an island. I had chosen the first week of September for my week of observation of the beavers, bugs, birds, and boaters.

On the first day, an unexpected boater came floating along in midstream, with a log for a boat and a turtle for a passenger. There also was a cormorant that came diving up the river and popped up right in front of me, and three immature Wood Ducks that came flying into the little bay, but no beaver.

The second day, I was one of the boaters. As I floated down the river, I spied a Great Egret on the far bank, which flew to the end of the island where the beavers lived. There were also Great Blue Herons squawking and carrying on. While canoeing back upstream, I spotted a Green Heron, but still no beaver.

Tuesday evening there was the normal rattle of the Belted Kingfishers and the “Thief, thief” cry of Blue Jays. As I headed home past the beaver den, I heard something rustling on the island. It turned out to be three cute, young raccoons.

The following days were a little slow. There were Spotted Sandpipers that would show up here and there, Carolina Wrens singing, deer on the island, but beavers nowhere in sight.

On the last day of my week, I decided to go before dawn, hoping to see a beaver. Sure enough, before long I saw a little something moving toward me—a beaver head. It swam up past me and on toward its den, slipping underwater almost without a sound or a ripple. Then a second beaver came past and slipped out of sight into its underwater entrance.

Later I went downriver where the beavers had come from and found where one had climbed out of the water onto the bank with its big flat tail dragging behind. While fighting the current back toward the beaver den, I noticed something out in the river creating a V of ripples—a third beaver.

Well, now that I got to see three beavers this morning, I was happy, and ready to boat up the river for the last time. Hearing something on the other side of the island, I boated around the end of the island, and there in front of my eyes were two river otters. They took no note of me and kept right on diving and eating until I got too close—which was about 20 feet (6 m)—then disappeared. I didn’t expect to see otters and also thought I might not even get to see a beaver, but was super happy I got to see them both.

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