Beavers, bats and art
Apr21

Beavers, bats and art

The sun was heading towards the western horizon. It was late in the afternoon and shadows were lengthening and we were preparing for a canoe trip down the river.┬áBeing issued with head torches was a little unnerving as it meant we would be canoeing after dark; a completely new experience for most of the group.┬áThere would be rapids to negotiate and rocks and shallows to avoid; difficult enough in daylight. A group of us were heading out on a beaver safari along the River Tarn downstream from the village of St Enimie The beavers are most active when the sun is low enough for no direct sunlight to reach the foot of the gorge. That an early evening start. After a brief but comprehensive safety talk and some details about what to expect and how to best observe the beavers we launched the canoes. Before we saw any beavers we encountered our first rapids. The word rapids conjures up a maelstrom of water and foam but these “rapids” were little more than an increase in water flow as the current was forced through a narrow section of the gorge. Nevertheless care had to be taken to avoid the very real dangers of submerged rocks and no one wanted to capsize this early on. Although we spotted no beavers along this first part of the river as yet but we learned a great deal about them and how the European beaver (Castor fiber) differs from its North American cousin (Castor canadensis). They don’t build dams for a start. Along the banks there were plenty of signs of beaver activity. Stripped twigs and a few chewed branches showed where they had been eating. After paddling for a couple of kilometres and still no sign of the beavers we pulled onto a pebble beach. Grass grew from between rocks and the place was littered with the detritus of the seasonal floods. Beavers are shy creatures and will quickly disappear at the first sign of danger. Canoes and their occupants could conceivably be considered as danger so we spent a short while on the beach quietly watching the water down which we had just paddled. Our patience was rewarded as one and then another beaver put in an appearance along the distant bank. Armed with binoculars we could see two large rat like creatures in the water. I was, at this point, slightly disappointed as I had expected closer encounters than this. We were soon back in the canoes and negotiating a series of rapids. These were a little more exciting and required our full attention if we were not to end up...

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