BEAVER MARSH COMES ALIVE—EVEN IN NOVEMBER
– Guest post by Jennie Vasarhelyi, National Park Service –
Throughout the year, the Beaver Marsh in Cuyahoga Valley National Park teems with life. Depending on the month, you may be serenaded by frogs, watch turtles swim among lily pads, glimpse a beaver nibbling on a willow branch, or hear northern cardinals call from snowy trees.
Let the opportunities to make new discoveries lure you back to the Beaver Marsh each month. November should not be an exception.
Beavers in Late Fall
November is an active month for beavers as they prepare for winter. They are primarily nocturnal but are frequently observed at dawn or dusk.
You may see them collecting softwood branches, such as willow and aspen, which they store in under-water caches in front of their lodge as a winter food supply. You can also view one of their lodges from a pullout along the boardwalk. This gives them a wider area to swim and minimizes dangers from predators on land.
Once the marsh freezes, their world becomes constricted. They no longer have open water to swim easily around their marsh. They will spend more time in their lodge, using the underwater entrance and exit to access their stored food cache.
To delay freezing, beavers will break up the ice. Look for spots where beavers have used their heads to break up ice from below its surface.
November Birding at Beaver Marsh
The Audubon Society of Ohio has named the Beaver Marsh as an Important Bird Area. November bird sightings helped earn this designation. Some of these sightings are rare, so consider return trips throughout the month to look for new sightings.
Insect populations, which have diminished in the surrounding uplands, linger into November. Birds that feed on insects are drawn to the marsh. Search for eastern bluebirds and cedar waxwings, two of the more beautiful valley species.
Eastern bluebirds have a vivid blue color that contrasts with their rusty breast.
Cedar waxwings are a blend of brown, gray, and yellow that contrasts with their black mask. Cedar waxwings travel in groups; the group chatter can help you find them. Their numbers start to peak in late October and continue into November.
While wood ducks are summer residents, their numbers increase during fall migration. Sometimes you can spot more than 20 wood ducks within the marsh. Males are ornate, with a glossy green head and back, brown breast, and tan sides—all highlighted with white striping. These graceful ducks are easy to identify by their chocolate head with a white marking up the back of their necks.
Tundra swans may also stop by. This native swan has a predominately black bill, unlike the red bill of the non-native mute swan.
Some year-round residents may also make surprise appearances at the Beaver Marsh in November. A visit to the marsh near dawn may be rewarded with the sounds of great horned owls calling from nearby woodlands. On warmer days, you still may see turtles sunning themselves on logs.
Abundant nature viewing opportunities occur because the Beaver Marsh is among the most diverse natural communities in the park. It is also one of the valley’s most inspiring places.
Scientists believe that a wetland existed in the area before settlement. Starting in the 19th century, land development drained this original wetland. By the time the National Park Service purchased the land, it had become home for an auto repair shop.
Efforts by humans and beavers transformed this site back into a wetland. In 1984, the Portage Trail Group of the Sierra Club organized a site clean-up. Around the same time, beavers started returning to the valley after over a century absence. By flooding the area, beavers awakened long-dormant seeds of wetland plants.
The 70-acre Beaver Marsh is significant because of its size, rich seedbed, complex water chemistry, and plant diversity. This plant diversity, in turn, meets the habitat needs of a diverse wildlife. This salvage-yard-turned-magnificent wetland shows the potential for nature to recover when we give it a chance.
The Conservancy for CVNP partners with the National Park Service to bring you stories of Ohio’s national park and opportunities to experience its wonders. The Beaver Marsh and many other of CVNP’s most treasured locations benefit throughout the year from the park’s award-winning volunteer program, which is co-managed by the Conservancy and the National Park Service. Learn more and get involved >
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