Beaver Pond, also known as Langsford Pond, is located on the outskirts of Cape Ann’s Dogtown. Exquisitely beautiful and peaceful, the pond is teeming with life, habitat largely created by the relatively new presence of the North American Beaver (Castor canadensis).
Beavers were absent from the Massachusetts landscape from 1750 to the early 1900s due to deforestation from agriculture and unregulated hunting and fur trapping. In the early 1900s forests began to recover as farmers abandoned their fields to work in cities. By 1928, a Beaver was found in Stockbridge. The public’s enthusiasm for the return of the beavers abounded and in 1932 three additional beavers from New York were introduced and released in Lennox. Today, Beavers have rebounded to the extent that some controlled hunting is permitted.
Beavers are ecosystem engineers and the ponds they create become wildlife magnets. Think about just this one example of the ecology of a beaver pond: woodpeckers make holes in the dead trees engineered by Beaver activity, Wood Ducks nest in the holes created by the woodpeckers, and raptors hunt the smaller birds.
More examples of how Beavers benefit other species of wildlife include favored nesting sites of both the Great Blue Herons and Osprey are the dead treetops of older trees in beaver swamps. Local species of turtles, the Snapping Turtle and the Eastern Painted Turtle, benefit from abundant vegetation created by beaver tree felling, which causes the forest to regenerate. Snapping and Eastern Painted Turtles prefer standing and slow moving water and hibernate under logs and lodges of Beavers. Painted Turtles also use floating logs to bask upon.
Like Niles Pond and Henry’s Pond, Langsford Pond is another superb example of a body of fresh water close to a saltwater cove where the combination of the two ecosystems provides shelter, nesting sites, and an abundance of food. While at Langsford Pond, I often see Great Blue Herons, swooping overhead, coming and going, between feeding grounds at the head of Lobster Cove and the shelter found in the vegetation surrounding the pond. Today, December 8th, a juvenile was seen on the far side of the pond, as were numerous Wood Ducks.
Since 1999, Langsford Pond has been protected by the Essex County Greenbelt Association. When I was filming there in October and November it was wonderfully overgrown and somewhat difficult to access. Recently, vegetation has been cut back, which makes walking to the pond’s edge much easier. Disease bearing ticks are present.
Some favorite Beaver food, ferns and American White Birch (Betula papyrifera).
Similar scenes as several in the film, only a month later without the vibrant fall foliage –“stick” season
Rat-a-tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat resonating through the tree tops. The little wild wood encircling Beaver Pond was alive with a veritable rhythm band. I must have arrived on the ideal day, for there were seemingly dozens of woodpecker excavations taking place. Not one, not two, but three different species of woodpeckers were drumming the forest canopy!
It is no mystery as to why the pond shore is a sanctuary for woodpeckers, surrounded as it is with trees in a wonder of varying stages of decay. Woodpeckers excavate dead and dying trees and limbs not only to create nest cavities and to forage for insect prey, but to also enlarge cavities used for winter shelter. During the fall, a woodpecker will spend about a week excavating winter roosting holes.
Woodpeckers mostly eat insects, in all stages, from egg to larvae to pupae to adult. During the winter their diet is comprised of seeds, nuts, fruits, and berries. The woodpecker’s tongue is quite extraordinary, being long and extendable, and also coated with bristly hairs. Woodpeckers use their tongues to spear and extract wood-boring insects, as a sticky trap for catching ants, and as a brush for licking up sap.
Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers look similar. Hairy Woodpeckers are about the size of an American Robin. Downies are smaller and their bills are more delicate in appearance. The outer edge of their tail feathers are white, barred with black, lending a spotted appearance. The outer edge of the tail feathers of Hairy Woodpeckers is pure white (see top photo above to compare).
Winter roosts created by woodpeckers may later provide shelter or nest sites for many other species of animals including owls, flying squirrels, bluebirds, nuthatches, and chickadees.
I’ve returned to Beaver Pond several time since the day the bonanza of woodpeckers was photographed but haven’t been treated to the rhythm band since. A few woodpeckers have been sighted, their calls noted, and only an occasional distant drumming heard. Perhaps they are tending other tasks in preparation of winter, collecting and caching food in their newly excavated holes.
There are a few moments after sunset when the light is still bright enough to photograph and to film. The Beaver Family makes their appearance just about then but none have ventured to the side of the pond where I am stationed since that one evening when a solitary beaver swam within arm’s reach. But I am patient.
Last winter Liv and Matt showed me a place on the outskirts of Dogtown where they go rock climbing. I filed it away under places to visit during warmer weather. With all things Piping Plovers and filming shorebirds I didn’t have a chance to revisit until this fall. The pond is somewhat difficult to explore, with no trails, lots of viney runners to trip you up, rocky uneven surfaces for falling flat on your face, and loaded with ticks but nonetheless, is exquisitely beautiful. Until its name is learned and for the time being, I’m calling it Beaver Pond because so far, I’ve counted FIVE beavers there!
The beavers appear to have one large lodge with multiple mini-dens strategically built around the perimeter of the pond.
Evidence of an active beaver pond with gnawed log
The Beaver Family is nocturnal and conducting most of its business on the far side of the pond. I have only been able to shoot a photo outside my camera’s range of quality photo.
There’s the beaver, on the far side of the pond, blending with the lily pads and fallen leaves
I did manage to take some fun footage, which I will be hopefully uploading in the next few days. One early evening, I sat as still as a stone, for at least half an hour, when one swam nearly right up to my feet!! I am usually filming and photographing simultaneously, but was afraid to make a move to switch to my still camera for fear that the slightest bit of motion would send the creature diving. Also on the furthest side of the pond were a family of the unbelievably beautiful Wood Ducks. That photo is also too far outside my camera’s quality photo range, but at least you can get an idea of their striking feather patterning. More information from Beaver Central to come!
Male and female Wood Ducks – notice the female’s large white eye patch and the way she blends perfectly with her surroundings.