Friday, January 30, 2015

MD: Doing Push-Ups on the Pond - Swan Harbor Farm County Park

Wetlands in June.

Checking on our resident muskrats today I found the wetlands stark and devoid of anything green but the muskrats were nonetheless very busy! Were it not for the 'rats cruising under the ice to open leads and breathing holes, the whole pond might have been solid. But there they were - kerplopping down as I approached. Muskrats are active all year and do not hibernate, nor do they store food like beavers do. Instead they are active, mostly at night, foraging for plant roots and tubers in the mud below.

Wetlands at the end of January.

The lodges, called push-ups, are high, conical, and piled thickly with cattail stalks, much higher than they were in summer! Inside, well above the water line, their winter rooms are snug and warm. They add more material almost every day so that the lodges appear to be rising from the pond as winter continues.

A lead or water trail is kept ice-free by foraging 'rats.

I am always impressed by animal builders.Their resourcefulness and manipulation of materials could teach us a thing or two about efficiency and design! The muskrats here are also aware of potential predators - we have a coyote who hunts around the pond. Leads are kept open like moats around the push-ups. Few lodges are close to the bank.

Cattail is food and shelter material.

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