We've had more rain than I've ever recalled as falling in December, so Mud Pond is filling with water again. Warm weather together with all that rain have melted much of the ice on the pond. I was surprised to note that the beaver lodge that used to lie close to the western shore of the pond was mostly destroyed.
A second lodge, near the opposite shore, has been rebuilt this year, or so it appeared from this vantage point. The beavers used to keep a channel across the pond open through the ice all winter, connecting both of the lodges. No sign of any pond-crossing beaver traffic this year.
Here was another sign of abundant rainfall this year -- a stream full of rushing water. The bridge that used to cross this stream fell apart a couple of years ago, and because this streambed has rarely filled with water in recent years, the park maintenance staff never rebuilt it. Not to worry, though. There are still spots along the stream's course that are narrow enough to just leap across.
One of the best things about snow in the woods is that we can see the tracks of many animals we will never actually lay eyes on. The only fisher I've ever seen here was a dead one washed up on shore, but I can tell by their tracks that they are regular travelers here. To judge by this trail, some fisher ran across the snowy ice to leap up on the limb that carried it up to continue along the trunk of the fallen tree. That would have been fun to see!
As for plants, I could still find evidence of some poking up through the snow. This was a remnant of Striped Wintergreen, but I could also find Pipsissewa leaves and flower stems, as well as many evergreen ferns and mosses.
A whole bank along the back by of the pond was adorned with abundant carpets of these fruticose lichens, a species of Cladonia with the common name of Pixie Cups.
Here was a tree trunk decorated with a crustose fungus with the very apt name of Giraffe Spots (Peniophora albobadia). Yes, it does look a bit like giraffe spots, but it also reminded me of the beautiful markings on some tropical snakes. (Thanks for this ID go to Tom Walker, administrator of a Facebook page called "Lichens, Mosses, Ferns, and Fungi.")
As I rounded the eastern shore of the pond, I thought I detected some animal activity down near the shore. Was that dark beachball shape a beaver? Or just a stump?
Oho! It WAS a beaver! And soon it took off swimming toward the lodge.
As the first beaver approached the lodge, I detected at least two other beavers swimming about in the open water.
That was a nice treat for me. Since beavers usually are most active at night, I rarely see them in action. Now I was really glad I ventured out. When I woke up today (Saturday) it was pouring freezing rain!