Montpelier Wild No. 2: The Beavers of Spring Street

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A hint of spring drifted on broad wings with a bald head over Montpelier Sunday afternoon. Only days after the Vernal Equinox came our first Turkey Vulture.

This vulture counts as an actual spring migrant, unlike those American Robins you’ve been seeing, many of which over-winter in Vermont or even farther north. We won’t see a big wave of robins from the south until the sap starts gushing.

beaver-550x462But the major nature news in Montpelier are the Beavers of Spring Street. They’re logging trees along the North Branch of the Winooski River in full view from your balcony on the Spring Street Bridge.

I’m a bit conflicted about their work on the river. As it runs through the city, the North Branch and its riparian zone don’t constitute a pristine waterway. It’s hard enough to get trees to grow along the North Branch. So it tough to see them fall as well.

I’ll confess to knowing little about North America’s largest rodent. I can’t think offhand of where these beavers have been lodging all winter. But on rivers the North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) will sometimes dig dens into the bank. Most of what we’ve been seeing from Spring Street is feeding — it’s easy to see the munch marks on the fallen trees. You won’t see any dams on the North Branch below Wrightsville Dam anytime soon. And among beavers, you’re missing the real action – rodent romance.

Beavers generally breed in January and February across their range. And, yeah, they do it under water or in lodges during winter. Gestation is about 100 days. Litters average three or four kits. I’ll try to keep everyone posted on these beavers.

In the meantime, walk out the door to a dawn chorus in the city. Here’s what’s singing like spring:

  • Blue Jay
  • American Crow
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • European Starling
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Norther Cardinal
  • House Finch
  • American Goldfinch
  • House Sparrow

Red-winged Blackbirds are due any day. And here’s more on vultures and other early spring migrants.

By the way, I’m still searching for a title for these occasional dispatches from Montpelier. I had first called the feature “Montpelier Nature Now.” My revised choice is Montpelier Wild. I’ll take comments and suggestions below. Be cruel. Thanks!

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