Since writing a column on wetlands, a question has come up for me—is a beaver pond considered a wetland? Wetland, as a term, defines four categories, including bog, marsh, swamp and fern. Singularly a beaver pond is neither, yet, in reality, it is all of these in one. Well then, is it natural? Actually no, as it is a constructed obstruction in a waterway, generally a flowing creek. But then a beaver is an animal of nature, is it not? The more I dig into the subject, the more confused I become, so let’s just say that a beaver pond is a unique ecosystem within itself and leave it at that.
Actually I have learned more from working with beavers and their ecosystem than I have from books. If you want to get into wildlife photography, there is no better schooling than setting yourself up in close approximation to beaver ponds. Take along some camouflage netting, make yourself a little tent and sit there patiently for some first-hand education.
The beaver is one of the most important animals to all wildlife. Actually, of all the animals in North America, the beaver is the only species that can adapt the land to fit its needs. Of course, this is done by building beaver dams and flooding nearby land to form the ponds in which they live.
I had such a beaver pond on my rural property back in north central Ontario. It was a small coldwater creek, but the beaver saw possibilities and built a tiny dam, flooding a pond about 100 yards long and 50 yards wide. It was deep enough to maintain speckled trout. In the middle of the pond were two natural goose nests. Some old dead trees, hollowed out over the decades, were occupied by wood ducks.
Along the shallow shoreline, cattails, bulrushes and ferns grew. There were weeded areas where other ducks made their nests. The small beaver pond also held a couple muskrat houses where two families of muskrats made their home. Often, in early morning we could see a half dozen deer getting a drink of water, thanks to the beavers and their pond.
On the upper end of the beaver pond, where the waters were extremely shallow, more cattails were prominent. In the early morning we could hear the chirping of the red-winged blackbird and other such birds that were after the small insects inhabiting the fern area. It was not uncommon to see a hawk perched up in one of the aspen trees, searching the waters of the beaver pond for a frog or other small aquatic species. Soon, berry bushes made an appearance on the upper side of the pond and the music of the robins and additional songbirds graced us daily.
Although I’m still not sure if a beaver pond can be satisfactorily classified as a wetland, there is no doubt a number one dynamic ecosystem within nature’s paradise. It creates a school yard for the amateur and professional photographer, and offers peace and security in the Canadian wilderness.
I leave you with this thought: “We would do well to review our record on the environment and to ponder what we will leave the true owners of all this, the generation yet to be born!”