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Keepin' busy at Beaver Meadow Audubon Center
It is not some random glacial leftover. Rather, the pond is the product of a thinking force.
by Scott Adamson
About 65 years ago beaver were released, appropriately, into Beaver Meadow Creek in Wyoming County. The plan was to put these animals back where they belonged and to flood a few beaver meadows. Beavers were nearly extinct in the state at the turn of this century. Now, they are thriving in many areas, including Beaver Meadow Audubon Center.
Although nature trails wind throughout the center's 324 acres of forest, field and wetland, the beaver pond is the sanctuary's dominant natural feature. (Some say the pond is actually a lake, but who am I to make such a boastful claim?)
The pond is pierced by old tree snags, which hint to its young age, at
least geologically speaking. It is not some random glacial leftover. Rather,
the pond is the product of a thinking force. Only when you visit the south
end of the lake-okay, maybe it is bigger than a pond-do you discover that
the dam there was engineered by the army corps' fur-bearing troops.
The dam's stick and mud construction is camouflaged, in places, by living vegetation. Two beaver lodges, also built of sticks and poles, are located near the dam. The homes are used by the beaver family to rest during the day as well as throughout much of the winter. I once was able to lie atop one of these frozen, snow-covered lodges and feel the warm, musky air of its inhabitants drift up to me through the home's chimney. It was an exhilarating experience.
Visitors to the nature center are encouraged to walk Beaver Pond Trail, which begins at the visitors' center and then parallels the pond's west shore. Along the way you can see signs of beaver, like the chiseled stumps of saplings and much larger trees girdled at their base. You might even see one of these aquatic mammals cruising the lake on a warm summer's evening, with only its head showing above the surface.
Remember, early morning and evening are good times to go beaver watching; they are for the most part nocturnal creatures. Nocturnal beaver watchers are welcome, too, although freshly cut stumps can prove hazardous in the dark.
If you go: Beaver Meadow Audubon Center, 1610 Welch Road, North Java. 716-457-3228. Open year-round, Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 1-5 p.m. Visitors' center, self-guiding tour booklet for Beaver Pond Trail, along with trail map, available; 8 miles of trails (always open), trailside exhibits, amphitheater, gardens, bird feeding stations, arboretum, sugar shanty, astronomical observatory.
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