Photographing a Canadian icon

They remain elusive until the sun begins its quiet descent behind a stand of trees.

They remain elusive until the sun begins its quiet descent behind a stand of trees. It’s nearing 5 p.m.; air bubbles appear in the still waters and move in the direction of the lodge. I’m anticipating some great photography as I sit motionless on the banks of the pond. My camera’s mounted on a tripod and ready to shoot. Suddenly, head, eyes, ears and nose peek out from the chilly depths. I’m about to photograph a true Canadian icon—the North American beaver.

The light’s perfect for photography at this time of day and I spend 20 minutes enjoying the beavers as they go about their business weaving and jamming branches into strategic places throughout the dam or on the lodge.

Tranquille Creek, located just outside of Kamloops near the Tranquille Wildlife Management area is a birder’s paradise, day hikers dream and for me, a beaver watcher’s extravaganza. If you’re looking to get in touch with nature and spend some time exercising your photography skills, Tranquille Creek’s the place. I’ve often walked the trails in the area and always enjoyed the antics of the beavers. It didn’t take long to realize that this was the spot for early morning and late evening beaver watching.

Beavers influence lakes and rivers to meet their own needs. If an agreeable pond isn’t available, they’ll make one. Trees are cut, dragged to the water and pushed into place. Gaps and holes are filled with mud and stone. Only when the water level has risen to the height desired is a lodge built. Living space is made above water level and emergency, or escape, holes are made under. Occasionally, beavers will forgo the lodge and simply dig holes in pond or stream banks.

In autumn, the beavers begin the harvest to get them through colder winters with an adequate food supply. They anchor bits of tree in underwater channels, leaving them jammed into the mud until needed.

I’ve experienced some amazing feats by the resident beavers at Tranquille Creek, but one stands out clearly in my mind. One of the larger beavers studied a towering tree and a regular trail it used to get back and forth to the water. It then proceeded to cut the tree down. To my amazement, the top of the tree fell exactly on the beaten path made by the beavers. Could this be skill or just luck? Well, I’ll leave that to be answered by the experts, but I must say it was quite the spectacle.

During my beaver watching, I need to be still and quiet as these Canadian icons spook easily. It is however, a true joy to watch them. I highly recommend that you visit this area, take a few photos and watch for beaver signs along the trail.

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