Wren and I took a spring walk on the Bloomingdale Bog Trail the other day under a beautiful clear sky. The day was rapidly cooling as the shadows spread across the trail, but it was great weather for walking. Patches of snow and ice still remained in the woods, but the trail was mostly dry, with a few soft places and a few puddles courtesy of the work of the resident beavers.
The marsh at the south end of the trail is always productive, and almost immediately after stepping outside of the car I heard an American bittern pumping. I stopped to listen to it advertise for a mate amidst the din of calling red-winged blackbirds in the marsh. Happy with hearing my first bittern of the year, I moved on and found a pair of hooded mergansers sliding quietly across an opening in the marsh. Hooded mergansers prefer such small tucked away water bodies for nesting, and they almost always make their nest in a tree cavity along the shore. A few friends of mine record birds, and there is a very limited window – right about now – when they can get a recording of the low, frog-like growly call of the hooded merganser as the members of these pairs communicate.
The merganser pair slid back behind some cattails and we moved on to find a beaver swimming quite close to the trail. Surprisingly it didn't slap its tail at us, seeming to realize that we posed no threat.
We walked on through the woods finding black-capped chickadees, and golden-crowned and ruby-crowned kinglets before reaching the open areas of the trail along the bog itself. A small string of beaver dams and lodges lines that portion of the trail, and their industrious creators work the canal which flanks the trail.
While we may have only encountered one beaver while hiking there, it was clearly disturbed by our presence and slapped its tail several times, arousing Wren's curiosity as she smelled excitedly along the banks. Wren always enjoys exploring around beaver lodges because of the secretions which beavers use to communicate from their castor and anal glands – creating a series of intriguing smells to a dog. She excitedly picked up sticks which the beavers had chewed and raced along the trail in her exuberance.
We eventually turned to return to the car as the shadows lengthened, and the beaver once again slapped its annoyance as we left. From that point on, the trail was largely quiet until we reached the marsh again where this time the beaver (it could have been a different individual, but it is difficult to say) also slapped its tail in warning, and Wren jumped into the water hoping I would throw a stick, not caring that the beaver would disapprove. The American bittern was still pumping from the far side of the marsh as red-winged blackbirds continued to sing. The hooded mergansers were also there, gliding through the water and a muskrat swam across the marsh, making a series of smooth ripples in the water, capping off our walk. Neither Wren nor I were ready to end our time out, but dinner was calling and we headed home.