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Beavers are fairly common in parts of Poland, and on a recent recce visit (report here) there I was lucky enough to be taken to see a beaver and to see evidence of where they are active.

Beavers get going at dusk, which is why the picture to the right isn't that clear, but the evidence of their activities was. It was a pond near a farm, with a small viewing screen to reduce disturbance to the beavers, which were plainly encouraged.

To see a beaver was terrific, but an equally fascinating experience was to see an area of flooded woodland in the celebrated primeval forest at Białowieża (below).

flooded forest

We couldn't see beavers: it was daytime, after all, but there was plenty of evidence. A beaver dam here - you couldn't get near it - has raised water levels, creating a sequence of pools and killing many trees. We found a footprint. But the pictures below and bottom right show the most obvious signs of their presence.

Dead timber - standing or fallen - is well-known for its value to wildlife so there's no doubt in my mind that the beavers here have created a network of valuable micro-habitats. We chanced across a wild boar piglet drinking. Dozens of ruddy darter dragonflies buzzed around: this one settled.

ruddy darter
Ruddy darter

There are more pictures of Białowieża forest here.

There is also a chance to see beavers on our Cévennes holiday, where there is a reintroduction project on the river Dourbie.

Should beavers be reintroduced to the UK? Sure!

Chris Durdin, October 2009

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A beaver in the Biebzra marshes. It's slightly left of centre towards the top of the twig reflections.

beaver damage

Some trees had been wrapped with plastic to protect them, others left: this one (above) was only partly protected.

beaver dam

The dam is tricky to see: it's just behind the fallen tree trunk. Year-round deep water keeps the underground entrances to the lodge submerged. It's also a beaver fridge: keeping a food supply for the long winter. The cold water preserves the nutritional value of the stored bark and twigs.

knawn by beavers

No protection for this tree in the flooded forest.

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