Saturday, September 8, 2007
I was at Lake Tisza in NE Hungary briefly, guiding a chap from the UK. We had a surprise day-time observation of a European beaver Castor fiber. It was swimming along a backwater and then climbed out briefly onto a bank. The European beaver is the continent's largest rodent, a stocky, robust mammal with short legs, webbed hind feet, a round head, long yellow teeth and, of course, a large flat tail. The tail is used as a horizontal rudder. Besides being mainly nocturnal, these aquatic rodents swim very low in the water, with the tail often submerged. There are not over common in Hungary but are increasing, especially on rivers in the NE and NW and SW. There have also been a few reintroductions as part of a WWF project. Beavers live in families of up to six individuals led by a pair of adults. Territories may be linear, along a stretch of river or channel, or based around a pond or lake. In some areas of Europe beavers have even colonised wetlands in urban areas. European beavers are now fairly common in the Baltic States and Poland in wooded lake-districts and wide river flood-plains lined with softwood trees like birch, willow and poplar. Further south they are not as widespread, inhabiting quieter rivers such as tributaries of the Danube in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Croatia. I am running a trip to Poland next year (see post below this one) and it is almost certain that we will see beavers on that trip.