09 August 2009

Night Heron

IIII ) lllllllllllll Muskrats Return (6Aug09)

1534 After three days absence, getting lonely for dusk at the pond

1921 Sspopiikimi - we're greeted at the trailhead to the pond by one of the sikohpoyitaipannikimmiksi, who's soaring and diving repeatedly into the tops of the poplars hunting what we can only imagine must be small birds

1929 There are no waterfowl midpond, or even in the southern reeds, though the gosling family is feeding up on the golf greens, and at least one of the ksisskstaki is up, hauling sprigs of rabbit willow to the lodge

1937 I hate to use insect repellant, but the mosquitoes are just vicious this evening, so Piipiiaakii and I take turns spraying each other down

1949 "Sspopiikimi" is our own made-up name for this place that's otherwise known as the Elizabeth Hall Wetlands. In Blackfoot, our name translates as "turtle waters". And just this moment, there happens to be a painted turtle poking its head up for a breath of air beside us. It was probably gazing at Dani, but then saw me and got scared. Now its ducked back under, lol

1955 It's strange to find a total absence of birds on the water, not even the scabby redhead, nor the coots have made an appearance. The kingfishers are out though, one of them perched just south of us, occasionally flying over the pond and chattering away

2008 Two of the ksisskstakiiksi come out of the lodge, watching us from across the water. They are too far away to see with any clarity at first. Then one paddles off to the subpond canal while the other, Lefty, comes near for a better take. He's not too welcoming tonight, swimming slowly up toward us, only to dive and slap his tail half-heartedly, then swim a good distance south before resurfacing to watch us

2017 Lefty seems to have become bored with the inspection, drifting toward the subpond. But just as he gets out of sight mi'sohpsski, the muskrat, comes our way along the shoreline. When eventually noticing us, it does one of the hardest dives we've seen a muskrat pull-off, nearly splashing us

2024 Finally we hear the clucking of one of the coots as it emerges from the midpond reeds. So they are here tonight after all. Is it just the overcast weather that's sent them into cover?

2031 It’s been a while since we've seen so much muskrat activity. A second one just followed a beaver into the ksisskstakioyis, while an older beaver, possibly one of the parents, swam past us along the shore. A second later, the muskrat re-emerges from the lodge and continues its route north

2037 A mama mallard with three ducklings has moved out of the bulrush tufts by the subpond canal, and crossed the pond to our side. Hopefully they'll come our way. Meanwhile, another muskrat is swimming our way from the south

2046 Now the big brood has moved out into the water from somewhere on the southwest bank, seemingly headed toward the same bulrush tufts the other mallard family recently vacated

2053 It's getting dark so much earlier now. The big brood is coming close to the ksisskstakioyis, just across the pond from us, but already it's too dark to see them well

IIII ) lllllllllllllll Night Heron (7Aug09)

0752 Some cool juvenile night-heron at Innokimi on the way to work

1950 Sspopiikimi - the ksisskstakiiksi and mi'sohpsskiiksi are already out and about. At the main lodge, we find the two orphaned coot chicks. They cringe every time there's a call from the swainson above, and quickly head toward the midpond reeds when we sit down

1955 On our walk in, we passed a pair of coot parents and the mother mallard with three ducklings, all feeding midpond. We also heard a new twitter and sourced it to a fledgling western kingbird. It was singing from a fencepost, while its sibling or parent returned the song from somewhere mid-way up a cottonwood tree

2006 While a number of the ksisskstakiiksi are moving around at a distance from us, one very dark-furred member of the family just swam leisurely past our feet. We've not named this one yet, because we haven't been able to note any mark to distinguish it from the other dark beavers

2011 The scabby redhead just passed by on her way north with both her surviving ducklings. The sunlight is just perfect, and it looks from their plumage as if the siblings are male and female

2019 Its turning out to be a very good evening at the pond. For the past ten minutes, we've been watching a caspian tern flying high over the water and diving for fish. This is only the second tern night we've had all season. Our visitor tonight seems to prefer hunting at either end of this long oxbow, rather than where we're sitting (toward the middle). But we can still watch its antics just fine from our position, and we've gotten some nice picks as it passes from end to end

2038 After the tern leaves, flying off upriver, the pond seems to become more quiet. The beavers and muskrats swim calmly about, going in and out of their lodges and burrows, and visiting different locations around the pond. There's a strange gathering of diving beetles just north of where we sit, but otherwise nothing we take much note of. Perhaps we're just not looking and listening closely enough to understand what the animals we're observing are doing. There's still big mystery for us in where the muskrats disappeared to all those weeks, and why now their sudden re-emergence

2100 Why do the kingfishers chatter as they do? One just flew over and landed on the beaver lodge perch. It chattered and seems to have been answered by another to the far south. The two of them sing back and forth, then I can hear one to the north as well, in the cottonwood trees