19 July 2009

Catching Up - Ito'tsisamssootaa

I Solstice (21Jun09)

0406 Haven't slept a wink. It's about an hour and a half before the solstice sunrise, the sky is dark with clouds, and it's raining

0734 Even cloudy and rainy, it was a fine morning on Sundial Butte. As we made our tobacco offerings, the endangered Sprague's Pipits began flying over, trilling from above. Had a good visit at the site, one of the best yet. Definitely going to have to schedule more overnight excursions

0923 I must have been delirious from wood-smoke inhalation or possessed by a spirit, cuz while just in the shower I had a flashback of having told one of my students (and her father) this morning that Sundial Cairn was dated five-million, five-hundred thousand years old. How my mind chose to add three zeros, I don't know

II Monsoon (22Jun09)

0847 Monsoons are upon us, so today I'm wearing all baggy black clothes and sandals, and pretending I'm the Viet Cong

1741 Geez, the wind gusts ripped the plastic tarp right off the hillbilly couch at some point today. That couch and all the bedding we had in the tent are soaked, soaked, soaked

2040 Just woke up from old people nap with Dani, missing the pond, but not about to go out in the wet and windy after my recent T-virus recovery

III Drive to Edmonton (23Jun09)

1536 Calgary - urban fugly

1640 Well, looks like we've entered the boreal forest

1654 Pulled over so Ki'naksaapo'p could get in a ten-minute siesta while I smoked. Walked across a field to visit some trees and chanced upon a nice redtail hawk nest

1854 Find myself once again checked-in at River Cree

IIII ) (24Jun09)

2001 Sspopiikimi - we start our hike counter-sunwise around the pond. At the north end, we find two of the mallard mother, the tweeked-wing with three ducklings, and the new mother with five.. There's also a coot here, lingering suspiciously close to the dense bulrush tufts

2007 Mid-pond, we find the gosling couple and their brood feeding in the wet meadows behind the main beaver lodge. Further back still, at the forest edge, the white-tail doe with her fawn

2013 At the south end, by the islands, we find the man coot far from his lady's nest. Across by the duck blind, we can see two male mallards, only one of whom has a female companion

2032 Out on the peninsula, we find the redwing nest full of alert begging hatchlings, their eyes just starting to open. Then, wading across the beaver canal to the spotted sandpiper nest, it seems all four eggs have now hatched and the little babies are apparently hiding here in the grass somewhere. Daddy sandpiper is right beside us as we slowly and carefully search

2043 We find one of the babies hidden perfectly still beside a log. Seeing it there like that is enough to remind us we shouldn't even be hazarding to move slow through the grass, for risk of stepping on others. We decide to cross back over the beaver canal. Just as we do, a goldfinch being chased by an eastern kingbird come zipping past us, making me wonder if the kingbird has a nest of its own nearby

2109 I'm messaged by Ki'naksaapo'p, who's filming toward the north end of the pond, but short on battery. So we hurry sunwise back in that direction to meet him before he leaves. Along the bank, there's buckbrush in bloom, and all of the seedheads on the awnless brome are draped with tiny yellow flowers

2139 We continued along sunwise through the forest on the east side of the pond without much event. The whitetail doe and fawn are holed-up in the dense bullberry in the middle of the wet meadow, and with the recent rains there's been quite a mosquito hatch. The boreal bluets who were here in the thousands just three days ago are now strangely absent

2158 As we hike back to the truck in the fading light, we can see that some of the cottonwoods have dropped most of their seeds, while others still have canopies white with fluff. The first crescent of misamsootaa, the long-rains moon, sits vertical in the western sky

IIII ) l Goldeneye Ducklings (25Jun09)

2017 Sspopiikimi for our regular dusk visit. At first, all looked to be much the same as yesterday. The alphalfa in purple bloom, the hoary cress going to seed. A mallard mother with five ducklings on the north end of the pond. Male coots floating sentry beside their concealed nesting partners in the bulrush turfts on either end of the water. The gosling couple feeding in the wet meadows

2022 Then we saw, by the main beaver lodge, something new. Another mother duck, this one with just two ducklings, and of a different species altogether - redhead. We'd been surprised just a week or two ago by the sudden return of a redhead couple after at least a month's absence. Now we're even more surprised to find that these birds have two new ducklings. Were they just hiding them before?

2040 At the southern coot nest, Ninna (the male) made the mistake of getting territorial when a mother mallard and her two ducklings came floating by. He made a charge at the ducklings and was instantly set upon by mama, who seemed to basically dunk the coot and hold him for a time underwater. When the angry duck finally let up, Ninna went into hiding behind some reeds while the mallard preened and recomposed herself before swimming calmly away

2048 Over by the peninsula, we find a cedar waxwing couple who've plucked the first ripe-red golden current. The two pass the berry back and forth a couple times, then one of them swallows it whole

2101 We decide it's time to check on the harrier nest again. I'm wearing a cap, and put my neoprine hood up for extra protection, before descending off the ridge and into the reeds. Piipiiaakii films from a safe distance above. Slowly I walk toward the nest, until I can get a glimpse, enough to see that the harrier's not sitting there. I glance around above me, then move in to see if I can find hawklings. There are none. The nest is an empty grass pad, not even a hint of shell remaining. This blows my mind. Clearly this harrier couple had raised a full brood to fledge without ever giving us a look at even one of their young

2132 After checking the harrier nest, we cut down into the wet meadows by the subpond, hoping to get a glimpse of the southern coot nest from this opposite angle. All we see, however, is a dark spot in a bulrush tuft that may or may not be a female coot hunkered down. The nest is so well concealed, it's impossible to be certain of what we think we're seeing without putting on waders and trudging into the pond

2137 I'm considering introducing sweetgrass to these wet meadows, as there is none here already, but the environment is perfect, and it would be a nice convenience to have it growing here close to home. What there is in the wet meadows are a lot of mint, nebraska sedge, scouring rush, bulrush, cattail, rabbit willow and hemp

IIII ) ll Coot Chicks (26Jun09)

2036 Sspopiikimi, alone tonight. Sitting across from the coot nest, trying to figure out what's happening. Ninna, the male, keeps swimming out into the pond, gathering something from below the surface, then returning to his lady. Sometimes she calls to him, to prompt his visits. I catch faint glimpses of her moving about in the reeds

2058 As I sit here watching, Ninna gets a mouthful of some aquatic plant and instead of carrying it all the way into the nest, he deposits it in the water right beside. Immediately, a little orange creature emerges. It is the first baby coot. Ninna brings it more to eat. With each coming and going of the male, the baby strays further from the nest

2110 Ninna seems to have tired-out. He's gone to preen himself on the gosling couple's old nesting island. The hungry baby who was waiting for another mouth-ful beside a patch of reeds returned to the nest, and has been tucked away by the lady

2117 Obviously done with his feeding duties for the time being, Ninna has swam off to the far south end of the pond and seems to be filling his own stomach. There are absynthe leaves in the water by my feet, left I assume by the beavers. And I can here an oriole in the forest across the way singing its looky-looky-looky-looky-lew song

2125 My attention is diverted as one of the yearling beavers swims past enroute to the south end of the pond. The lady coot is now chirping every few minutes, calling to a husband who has become little more than a black speck on the pond's horizon

2133 One of the muskrats, swimming along the shoreline, inspecting the poop mounds on the rocks, came right up beside me before noticing I was there. Then it sniffed the air and dove, resurfacing mid-way out into the pond

2141 A kingfisher flies chattering past, pulling out all its best evasive maneuvers to avoid a pusuing redwing. And as Ninna comes skulking back to the nest, gathering a few pondweeds on the way for an offering, a second yearling beaver passes by on its way south. This one is more cautious of me, and gives a tail-slap once it has safely moved by

2147 A third beaver, darker and older, swims south on the opposite side of the pond. As it passes the coot nest, it dives, resurfacing again right beside Ninna. The latter is so surprised, he begins literally running on water to escape

2152 This third beaver doesn't continue to the far end of the pond, as the other two did. Instead, it stops near one of the islands and begins bobbing for watermilfoil. An urge to cough came over me, and when I let it go the beaver was shocked. Apparently, it hadn't noticed me sitting here. It whacked its tail on the water, then swam over to me, making three circuits past, each one closer than the next. Each time it passed, it lifted its nose high in the air to catch my scent, and it slapped the water a couple more times before it went back out into the middle of the pond to continue eating

2209 With darkness settling in, I make my way back to the truck. Last thing I noticed before walking away from the pond was an absence of frog song, and I wonder how long its been since we last heard them

IIII ) llll Spotting (28Jun09)

1938 Sspopiikimi - lots a-happening on the north end of the pond tonight. As soon as we walk in we encounter two beavers eating watermilfoil, a third swimming out of a canal, a coot family with three chicks, two mallard couples, and two mallard mothers (the first with two ducklings, the second with four)

1942 The coot mother immediately directs her chicks into a stand of cattails, and for a moment hides in there with them. Then she chatter-calls to her husband, who is not too far away, and swims out to meet him nose-to-nose when he arrives. The two of them together then usher the three chicks further along the shoreline, eating

1946 The gosling couple are up on the wet meadow, the goose and her brood of three laying down in the grass, while the gander stands alert guard

1950 The south end of the pond, at least on first appearances, seems more quiet. No beavers in sight. A mallard with one duckling. A drake with two females sitting on the edge of the central island, and a pair of drakes together (all five of which fly toward the north end when we sit down to observe). Of course there are also bank swallows, redwing blackbirds, a couple eastern kingbirds and catbirds as well

2017 On the peninsula we find that the fledglings in the redwing nest here have moved away, along with their parents. The male spotted sandpiper is, however, still raising alarm at our proximity to his young. Nearby, in a poplar surrounded by bullberry, there are cedar waxwings, house finches, and house wrens. We're moving quickly, and I wonder what we're missing by not sitting still. I hope our trips here are not becoming more about spotting than watching. There needs to be a balance

2037 At the duck blind, there is a mallard mother with four ducklings, as well as a mallard couple. In the new redwing nest below, there is one tiny hatchling beside an unbroken egg. And the pea-tasting berries of the asperagus are plump and green

2124 Walked through the forest without much to report, aside from the singing of catbirds. Came out on the north side of the pond, where a mother mallard and her six ducklings were feeding beside a small muskrat. There's also another male coot standing sentry over a bulrush tuft on this side. When we stopped to watch, the mother goldeneye with her chicks swam in and approached the bulrushes, at which the coot made a few chucking noises. Then the goldeneye positioned her ducklings behind her and made several purposeful movements toward the coot, spaced a few minutes apart. The coot merely held his ground, becoming more alert when she approached, then returning to grooming when she retreated

IIII ) lllll Mallard Orphans (29Jun09)

1933 Sspopiikimi, tonight with ground chairs. We stop first near the north end, just as we get to the water, where one of the coot couples are feeding their chicks, and the scabby-head mallard mama is herding her six ducklings along near the shoreline

1948 We decide to move a little further north still, to position ourselves above the beaver shore-lodge and across from a large bulrush patch. One the way over, we encounter three garter snakes of varying size - from a fat one obviously gorged on baby rodents, to a baby that couldn't be more than a few months old. To avoid us, all three slither into separate holes on the bank

2005 On this far end, there is another mallard mother with six ducklings, somewhat younger than the scabby-head mama. At least two beavers are feeding in the bulrush stand across from us, though it's so thick we only catch brief glimpses of them crossing one of their canals. There is a second coot couple over here. We saw the male standing sentry on a rock beside the reeds last night. Now they are chucking from somewhere hidden in the bulrush, and we wait to see if they've had chicks as well

2019 All the sudden, out from the bulrushes pops the scabby-head mama with her six ducklings (having made her way in there ahead of us, without our full notice). They are followed immediately by a yearling beaver, perhaps the source of their panic, who proceeds to swim along one of the underwater trenches to its lodge. The beaver, in turn is followed out of the reeds by a coot, who goes to preen almost completely hidden at the edge of the rushes

2039 Scabby-head mama brings her ducklings to feed right along the shore where we're sitting, allowing us to take some close-up pics. Meanwhile, the coot who was preening swims out to feed along the opposite shore. And the yearling beaver emerges again from its lodge, eats some watermilfoil just south of us, returns to its lodge, then emerges again and follow one of its channels north, where it again floats in the middle of the pond pulling and eating milfoil. Every once in a while, a second (female?) coot gives a few chucks from the reeds

2056 We're watching three muskrats make circuits back and forth from the shore beaver lodge to several othe points around us. As they move about, four cedar waxwings land on a diamond willow snag not far from us. They seem to pick around on the wood there, then two fly over to an old post even nearer to us. One lands midway down the post and begins making their cricket-like sound. The other lands right on top of the post, stretches its head up, as if trying to improve its posture, then hops up and down in a kind of display dance. These two are then joined by a third, and all three chase one another away to the poplar trees

2112 One of the muskrats swims out to the south and returns carrying a long bulrush stem. When it reaches the beaver lodge, it dives down into one of the entrances, carrying the bulrush stem in with it

2127 A number of things are unfolding at once. The yearling beaver returned to its lodge, and now two have emerged and are swimming south. The cedar waxwings continue to flitter back and forth between the poplars and the snags at the edge of the pond. We hear some goose calls from somewhere down by the main beaver lodge, and this is followed by a duck migration to this side of the pond. Arriving are scabby-head mama with her six, another mallard mother (possibly the one who had crooked wing feathers before) with two older ducklings, a drake with two females, and a lone female. As these ducks swim over, the lady coot in the reeds starts chucking, and out pop six tiny mallard ducklings, who proceed to swim out into the pond, then all the way around to the other side of the bulrush stand, with no mama duck in sight

2143 The six lone ducklings return again from the reeds and this time swim all the way across to our side of the pond, feeding, then back across again to the other side. All of this without a mama, and these are young mallard ducklings. We are now entertaining the notion that these are orphans, and we're planning to come back to watch for them some more. The last duck to arrive on this north end of the pond before we leave is the goldeneye with her two chicks

2224 At home, I went through some field guides, suspicious that scabby-head mama is not a mallard. Sure enough, she's a female redhead. So now at the pond we have three goslings, two (?) groups of six mallard ducklings (one of which may be orphaned), the bent-feather mama's two mallard ducklings, a pair of goldeneye ducklings, the six redhead ducklings, a set of three coot chicks, and a second coot nest not yet hatched

IIII ) llllll Ducklings Galore (30Jun09)

2018 Sspopiikimi, taking seats again on the bank above the north-shore beaver lodge. Across the way, we can see that the second coot nest has come to fruition. There are seven downy-orange chicks. When we arrive, their mother ushers them back to her nest, and the father takes his rock-top sentry position

2023 On our way to the north-end, we passed by both the redhead with her six ducklings and the golden-eye with her two. The latter were undertaking diving lessons, with mama leading by example

2035 So far, we've been able to note at least three beavers and several muskrats living together in this shore lodge. No sign of the possibly orphaned ducklings, but the bent-wing mallard with her two older ducklings is milling around in the reeds that house the coot nest. We heard raucous at one point from within that led us to believe there was a skirmish, and the father coot had just before that followed her in. But minutes later they re-emerged, and bent-wing brought her babies right up to the coot nest while the father went to hide a little ways off. Perhaps, as we saw with the southern coot, the mallard had won their fight

2048 Two of the beavers are munching watermilfoil together midpond. And two mother ducks just joined us - the scabby redhead with her six, and a mallard with five. We wonder if this is not the same mallard who, just yesterday, had six. As all these ducklings swim in to feed at this end, the bent-wing takes her two and heads south

2059 One of the belted kingfishers hunts from atop an old post roost here. It flies in every twenty minutes or so, watches the water for a few moments, then dives in to take its prey. Whether it succeeds or fails in its catch, the kingfisher may return once-more to the post (but doesn't always choose to do so). Never have we seen it take more than two dives from the same position before moving off to other hunting roosts up and down the pond. This is the same pattern we've observed with the kingfisher who hunts on the far south end

2114 The mama mallard with her five have gone south a ways, along the opposite shore, and now seem to be making their way back. Meanwhile the coot and her chicks remains hidden in the nest, and the scabby redhead has brought her six to feed right below us. Both the mallard and the redhead seem to have a common strategy. They surface feed, with the ducklings out in front and the mother swimming behind. The ducklings are often fanned out in a line or arch, but then dart in to huddle together whenever there is sign of danger. We can't tell if the mothers are putting much effort into directing the movement of their broods. They may be loosely herding them. On the other hand, we have seen them chase their ducklings into reed tufts to hide. In these instances, the mother may swim away and feign to be alone while her ducklings wait mindfully hidden. We also see that when the mothers want to pull the group in a certain direction, they can certainly do so. What it is exactly they do to cue the ducklings, we haven't been able to tell. From what we see, they merely shift their own direction and the ducklings, previously out in front, hurry to follow, first bunched up, and then fanning out when they again get ahead

2143 Apparently, golden-eye diving training is over for the night. Mama golden-eye brought her two ducklings this way almost a half-hour ago, and the three have taken a seat atop coot rock. Of course the father coot came out to investigate, swimming up fairly close and chucking a bit. But when the golden-eye stood its ground, the coot turned around and headed back into the reeds

2149 There's an adult muskrat living in this beaver lodge who has clearly distinguishable markings - a white nose and a patch of white above its right eye. As a couple of the beavers swam along their canal south to a different bulrush stand, this muskrat came in and entered the lodge. Just minutes later, a different adult comes out with a baby. The two swim side by side, the baby just riding the other's hip, to the middle of the pond, where make a little leaping dive and come up again a few feet apart to feed. Just then, we hear thunder and look northwest to find giant clouds closing on us. We take this as our sign to head home

IIII ) lllllll (1Jul09)

2009 Sspopiikimi, back at our bank by the north end. On our walk over, we passed two fat garter snakes. On this side of the pond this evening, all presently feeding, are the redhead (5), mallard (5), and north-end coot (7) broods. Unfortunately, the scabby redhead seems to have lost a duckling since last night

2024 The coot parents are still feeding their chicks, although some of these little guys are starting to poke around for themselves too. We've set up the video camera near the old post just south of us, in hopes of catching a kingfisher diving for minnows there. It'll take patience

2035 The coots have now ushered their chicks back to the nest, where the mama (presumably) sits with them. The father coot stood briefly at his sentry rock, but is now swimming around feeding himself. Like last night, there are dark clouds approaching slowly from the west

2051 The mothers mallard and redhead happen to get a little too close to each other on the farthest north end. We don't see exactly what happens, because we weren't looking there at the moment. But whatever occurred, it ended in a fight. The two chased each other back and forth a couple times, and when they'd created sufficient distance between their respective ducklings, they performed individual wing-beating displays and swam off, each in their own direction

2100 Of course the kingfisher's favoring an entirely different post this evening

2118 Massive near-funnel cloud passing to the south of us, just a huge mushrooming lens that has all our attention

2127 Well, the big rain-drops and hail-stones have chased us back to the truck. Going home

IIII ) llllllll The Snake Eats (2Jul09)

0905 Sspopiikimi, seated again above the north shore ksisskstakioyis, tripod and video camera arranged such that I might (hopefully) get the kingfisher footage I'm looking for

0910 While some of the songbirds are up and about, singing from the poplar trees, the water is exceptionally quiet, nothing like our evenings. I've not seen a beaver, muskrat, or mother duck of any sort yet this morning. When I arrived, there was a mallard drake with two ducks near the reeds on this end, but they flew immediately to the south end of the pond

0922 The kingfisher has arrived, but decides to land on the small poplar beside the post that we've seen it use most often. Still, there is a chance the camera will catch at least its dive

0925 Nope, definitely did not catch the first dive. Now, however, the kingbird has repositioned right to the post I've been waiting for it to use. Hopefully it will hunt from there. In the meantime, I'm watching the blackbirds, who're flying over to this shore and picking along the mud-bank for whatever insects they favor. There have also been easter kingbirds visiting, and a tiny baby muskrat surfaced briefly from the beaver lodge

0932 Pretty lonely here without my girl

0937 Looked over at the post again to find the kingfisher has disappeared. Don't know if it's in the small poplar again, or where it may have gone. I'll give it another half-hour or so

0955 Just caught a glimpse of coot out of the corner of my eye on the far north end. Walking over, I came upon a garter snake constricting and preparing to eat a small rodent. Repositioning the camera now to get some footage

1004 I leave the camera to record the snake eating breakfast and make my way over to the coots. Both parents and all seven chicks are here, at very close range. Like last night, the parents are feeding them, but some of the chicks are starting to pick around for themselves

1011 This coot mama's a little rough. I just watched her chase after one of the chicks, biting it on the back of the neck to bring it back to where she wanted it to be, the little guy crying the whole time

1018 Back to check on the progress of the garter snake. It's almost got the rodent down its throat now

1029 Just watched another coot baby getting physically punished, and this time I think I know why. The parents are dunking beneath a log pile, coming out with little tufts of aquatic plants. These little tufts they share among two or three of their babies, each one taking just a few bites. But I just observed a baby rip the entire plant out of the parent's mouth and make a run for it. The parent then chased it down, biting it on the neck, took the plant from the chick's mouth, and walked over to offer it to another chick. So there's consequences for being greedy when you have six siblings that're just as hungry

1051 Went back to check on the snake one last time. It was still eating, and my prensence prompted it to withdraw into some thicker foliage, where my camera would be no use. So I moved over to take just a little footage of the coots feeding their babies, and then packed up

1939 Sspopiikimi - tonight we walk, surveying the whole of the pond, to what extent we can, given the limited hours of dusk. We head counter-sunwise, our first interesting encounter occurring by the main beaver lodge, where a pair of muskrats is engrossed in love-making, swimming circles all the while

1957 As we pass by the southern coot nest, where the male swims around feeding (while the female and young presumably rest in the reeds), we come across the gosling couple. Their three are looking more goosy every day. They are smaller and a bit more downy than their parents still, but are taking on their adult feather coloration

2011 On the south side of the pond there were several mallards - a mother with one duckling, another with five, a group of two males and three females who flew off as soon as we approached, and a group of four males in various stages of adult plumage. The latter group were resting on an island, but stood and flew off when we started taking pictures. The spotted sandpiper father is still giving ceaseless alarm calls when we near his island. His chicks must still be nearby as well

2040 There are redwing fledglings all over in the reeds, and along the shorelines. There are also great clouds of tiny little gnats and, not to surprisingly, a lot of fish jumping in the Old Man River to feed off the drowned. Some of the yellow salsify have now gone to seed, and the saskatoons are beginning to turn red (though nowhere near ripe)

2056 Down by the duck blind, we find another muskrat swimming near shore, eating white flowers off the top of some aquatic plant. After the muskrat left, I grabbed a sample, and it looks to be more of the watermilfoil the beavers have been eating, only now they are starting to flower

2107 Passing through the forest on our way north again, we stop to watch a downy woodpecker, poke-poke-poking away at the top of an old poplar snag

2120 On the far north end of the pond, where the coot family had been eating breakfast this morning, our paths cross for the second time with the mallard ducklings we previously thought to be orphans. At first it appears as though they are without parental supervision, but we follow them along the shoreline and they eventually lead us to their mother. So now we know that the mallards will allow their wee ones to swim off and feed alone. In contrast, the scabby redhead mother is here as well, and her (now only four) ducklings are swimming in an arch in front of her, as usual

IIII ) lllllllll Outbound Journey To Victoria (3Jul09)

IIII ) llllllllllllllllll Return Home (13Jul09)

2227 Very sad news :-( savannah sparrow has died in our absence. His regular water bowl dried up, and although we got him a water tube before we left, and it still has lots in it, he didn't use it. Climbed into his little house (for the first time) and never came back out

2322 Man, feeling pretty bad about sparrow. Thought he'd have been okay just ten days, with plenty food and water. Little guy must have thought we weren't gonna return. Pitiful to see him laying on his side in that little basket house. We'll take him just like that to the pond tomorrow, tie his house in the short brush out there

IIII ) lllllllllllllllllll Rings (14Jul09)

1948 After dinner and a nap, we go to Sspopiikimi. Its been so long. Walking counter-sunwise, before the main beaver lodge, we pass the redhead mama with three ducklings, the southern coot couple with two, a mallard duck with four, and a child-less mallard couple

1955 Ksisskstakiiksi are awake by the main lodge. One of them was doing something in the wet-meadows and made a run for the water as we approached. The tops of the hoary cress are a bleached yellow now, and there are little cottonwood branches all over the ground, evidence of the recent storms

2000 On the south end of the pond, almost to the peninsula, we find the gosling couple. Their three young have really come into their goosly colors now, looking like smaller versions of their parents. They are eating the white sweetclover, which has bloomed in our absence

2027 We sit near the peninsula and watch four of the beavers from the main lodge as they feed on the roots and lower stems of buffalo grass (nebraska sedge), leaving the uneaten ends to float on the pond. A kingfisher is hunting nearby, and cedar waxwings are eating the many now-ripe golden currants

2038 We hang sparrow's house deep within the golden currant brush overlooking the pond. The berries, some of which are splitting from ripeness, others with still a ways to go, are absolutely delicious. We'll have to start picking within the next few days

2045 There's a second kind of berry that has ripened in our absence. I don't know it. It's bright red and grows in pairs from trees with leaves as dark-green as that of the poplars

2058 The saskatoons are still red, probably three weeks away from ripe, and the solomon seal berries are just green and red-striped yet. The clematis has flowered white like oceanspray over the bushes and trees it uses for support

2103 There are also red ripe currants, tasty, tasty. We're going to have to harvest for jelly and syrup

2114 In the forest, maanikapi (wild bergamot) is in purple bloom, and most all of the showy milkweed have opened in white flower

2134 Aha, the red double-berries are what have come from the blossoms of the tartarian honeysuckle, a tree we learned just earlier this season. We realize this as we round the north end of the pond, where there's one of the honeysuckle trees we first came to recognize

IIII ) llllllllllllllllllll Catbird Alarm (15Jul09)

1953 Sspopiikimi - tonight we bring our ground chairs and sit on the high bank above the shore beaver lodge on the north end. This is a wandering garter snake area. On just the short walk over, thirty meters or so, we see five fat adult snakes. There's evidence that the ksisskstakiiksi on this end are eating narrow-leaved bur-reed, just like in the south. And the coot family over here are out. The seven cootlings have lost their orange tufts (though their beaks retain some of that color), and they are now more a grey hue

2000 Two of the coot behaviors observed before we left for our holiday are still ongoing. The parents are still feeding their chicks, and those that are too greedy, taking too large a portion from mom or dad's mouth, are still being chased down and bitten on the head

2004 The coot parents have now ushered all the chicks back to the safety of their nest within the reeds. There's a grey catbird who'd been giving alarm calls beside us since we arrived, and only just now is starting to let up. We wonder if there's a nest nearby

2029 The catbird continues to give its alarm calls. Two muskrats, one and then the other, swim over to this beaver lodge, each carrying what appears to be a cattail stem with a bit of root attached. They dive with these stems into the lodge

2033 The scabby redhead mama has just arrived. She has only three ducklings left to her brood. When we first noticed her, a couple weeks before our holiday, she had six. One of the (same?) muskrats has emerged from the beaver lodge and is swimming south along the opposite shore toward the mid-pond bulrush and cattail stands

2048 A second muskrat has (re)emerged from the beaver lodge and, following the same pattern, swims diagonally across to the mid-pond reeds. Strangely, we haven't seen any of the beavers from this lodge tonight

2105 I finally go climbing around in the brush along the steep embankment to see if I can find this catbird nest. In one bush nearby I find two robin-like nest bowls, both of them too out of reach and covered in clematis to see into

IIII ) llllllllllllllllllllll Vole Marked (17Jul09)

1953 Sspopiikimi - today we take our ground-chairs mid-pond, to a spot we've never sat before, just lush with cattail, bulrush, and bur-reed. We sit on the bank beside a patch of bright-yellow prairie coneflowers. Feeding nearby are two beavers, the redhead with her three ducklings, and a mallard with one

2008 A line of four mallards just swam past, immature males coming into their plumage, the barest hint of green on their heads. At the same time, out of the reeds in two different places, come a mallard mother with four ducklings and a lone coot. Canon-fire is resounding from the fort, across the river. Some kind our mountee re-enactment no doubt

2017 Piipiiaakii made a good observation. She noticed how the redhead and mallard chicks are now bobbing the top of their bodies underwater for food, whereas before we left for holidays they were just skimming off the top of the pond surface. The lone coot has just climbed back into a thick island of bulrush. I wonder if there's a third coot nest in there

2037 When most of the feeding animals decide to clear out, we pick up and move ourselves to the grassy slope right across from the southern coot nest. We can see some members of that family sitting hidden in the reeds. And the gosling couple are here with their maturing brood. When we arrive, they swim to the opposite side, to feed in the wet meadows

2054 All seems very quiet, then there is a splash beside us, as a kingfisher drops from somewhere above us, plunging into the pond. A few minutes later, another kingfisher comes, this one chattering as it passes over the water surface like a swallow, then hovers in place ever briefly, and dives. There are several kingfishers here tonight. We can hear their chatter

2100 No longer do we hear the courtship display calls of redwing and yellow-headed blackbirds, only the occasional alarm. It's wild to consider what all we may miss as human observers. A couple nights ago, there were no beavers out. Tonight, there are no muskrats. Why?

2105 Meadow voles scurried past our feet unseen, the only sign of them a sound of grass blades sliding over one another. Now the voles are beside us, having a conversation of squeeks. I wonder what they're saying

2115 One of the beavers just swam along the bank, then quietly dove and moved underwater until right in front of us, where it surfaced, stared at Dani for about half a minute, then turned and continued moving south near the shoreline

2120 Another kingfisher hunts on the wing, flying almost the entire length of the pond

2129 We just watched a group of redwing males mob and chase a swainson's hawk across the pond. The hawk ultimately landed in the old nest in the forest, and although dark and quite distant I snapped a couple shots. To our amazement, there are white hawk chicks up there... and we thought they'd abandoned that nest

2141 Dani has caught sight of a vole and is attempting to get video footage. Meanwhile, the gosling couple have come out of the wet meadows, back onto the pond, and are considering walking ashore somewhere on our side

2143 We're already getting wet with dew, although it's only just darkening

2153 Now it's getting pretty dark, and as we pack up to go, I find that the jacket I'd set on the ground was marked by one of the voles

IIII ) lllllllllllllllllllllll Sandpiper Departs (18Jul09)

1939 Sspopiikimi - tonight we walk, to gather photographs of any flowering plants and insects for the phenology class

1943 Along the trail from the parking lot, there are still many bluet damselflies amidst the grass. And where the trail opens to the water, mid-pond, we find the scabby redhead with her three surviving ducklings. Here I get pictures of the white sweetclover, purple alfalpha flowers, and the dried seed-heads of hoary cress

1952 Walking south along the shore, we come across one of the beavers eating a stolen cottonwood branch from the golf course's recent pruning. When it sees us, the beaver takes its branch and swims across the pond to the main lodge, where it pushes the near-log up against the mud wall and proceeds to chew off bark. There is a second, smaller and more blonde beaver on the opposite side of the house, stripping bark from a long and skinny cottonwood branch, tipped with leaves. And now a third beaver, this one dark of coat, has come out of the lodge. It swims over to our side of the pond to inspect the human visitors, keeping an eye on us until we begin walking away again

2006 Next we come across the gosling couple. The three young are getting so mature, if we hadn't been visiting them all season, we might very well not recognize that they are fledglings. The family is up on the grassy shore feeding, but moves to the water when we approach (as they always do). Mama and Papa still take up at either end of their line, with Papa in the lead. There's some evidence of molting here, a few larger goose feathers on the trail

2014 Near the peninsula, there's some kind of insect apparently swarming in patches over or under the pond. At the surface, it creates the illusion of raindrops on the water. Here I stop to photograph the flowering buckbrush and snowberry, several mustard varieties, and the berries of currants and honeysuckle

2033 Out on the peninsula, we find one of the mallard mothers with three young ducklings. We also watch a variable darner dragonfly laying eggs in several places near shore. Here I photograph wapato, wild licorice, and the dry seed casings of leafy spurge

2040 The flowers of the white sweetclover, which tasted like grass a week ago, are now living up to their name. It's of interest to note that the spotted sandpiper family has finally fledged and moved off, and that the sociality of the belted kingfishers has drastically increased. Is it mating time for them? We should check the cutbanks by the river to find out

2047 Proceeding through the bullberry patch, a number of clay-colored sparrows and a few goldfinch zooming about. There was also an alarmed catbird (possibly with nest), and we witnessed a brown thrasher mimicing the chatter of a kingfisher

2059 Walking the ridge to the east side of the pond, I get nice close-ups of the leaf variations of western cottonwood, narrow-leaf cottonwood, and balsam poplar. There is a small yellow aster coming into bloom here. The chokecherries are green, while some (though few) saskatoons are now ripe. Most of the showy milkweed blossoms have played-out

2116 Moving through the forest toward the duck blind, there is bergamot and spotted knapweed, both in purple bloom. At the blind, a few adult mallards mingle about. The shiny-blue dogbane beetles are eating the leaves off a young diamond willow, and we get shots of a wood nymph butterfly sitting on the red stem of an Indian hemp plant

2133 Walking north along the bank between the forest and wet meadows, we pass the swainson nest. One of the parents is perched, but none of the hatchlings can be seen. We also cross a beaver trail and find evidence that they're now eating diamond willow, and not only theiving the pruned cottonwood branches from the golf course

2138 It is very mosquitoey by the wet meadows, as might be expected

2143 The white-tail deer and her doe, who were around before we took holiday, seem to have moved on

2145 Now it's getting fairly dark, and we're rounding the north end of the pond, headed back to the truck

IIII ) llllllllllllllllllllllll Taco Salad (19Jul09)

1914 Sspopiikimi - tonight we come prepared to harvest some currants

1916 On the north end of the pond there are two coot families feeding. One of the couples (those that nested on this end) have five chicks remaining, the other has only one. The mallard mother with the big brood is here too. Her ducklings are now numbering four

1931 Walking south, we cross the drag-trail that the main-lodge beavers have been using to haul pruned cottonwood branches off the golf course. We also pass the gosling family, swimming in a line, papa in front and mama behind

2026 The wind is kinda chilly this evening, and we're dressed light for a summer heat. So we pick for a bit and are now making our way around the pond for an early return home

2043 It's gonna be yummy taco salad night at our house