02 August 2009


IIII ) lllllll Pisttooiksi (31Jul09)

1908 Sspopiikimi - we take our regular seat on the grassy bank directly across from the main ksisskstakioyis (beaver lodge). One of the swainson's, further back at the treeline, cries from its nest, perhaps alarmed by our arrival. And a darker furred ksisskstaki swims in from the subpond, towing a large bundle of rabbit willow, which it takes beneath the water and into the south entrance

1931 There's several new happenings to note tonight. Walking in, my awareness was drawn to the wheatgrass, how dry it's becoming, all of its seedheads open. Sadly, this reminds me that some of the cycles of summer are already played out

1941 There's also a shore-feeder who at first strikes us as a new arrival. A little peep who'd been here a week or more, feeding by the ksisskstakioyis. We'd heard it on several recent visits, and just assumed that it was a spotted sandpiper. But when we arrived tonight, it was standing out in the open, and we were able to get a good look. It didn't have the same coloration as the spotted sandpipers we'd known from earlier in the season. It didn't even have the spots associated with their name. Yet the body was the same, and so was the white rump bobbing up and down, as if it were constantly trying to get balance. We took photos and later, back at the house, learned that it was not a different bird altogether, but merely wearing its immature plumage. It might even be the same spotted sandpiper we'd found newly hatched a couple months previous

1946 There's another bird we don't recognize flying high above the pond, sometimes with a partner, sometimes alone, giving a throaty single call. It has a kite-shaped body, with a white stripe near the tip of each underwing, its tail, and throat. Though we hadn't seen them here before, my first intuition was that they were pisttooiksi, or common nighthawks, the birds who'd once helped the fabled trickster Naapi escape a pursuing rock by deficating on it and breaking pieces off. I'd occasionally seen a pisttoo swoop down out of the Belly Buttes on my drives to and from work, but never here. Again though, photo confirmation prooved that's what they were indeed

1946 There's a woodpecker hammering nearby, something we haven't heard too often here this summer. The kingfisher activity seems to have slowed down tonight from what it has been recently. But most curiously, we keep hearing a grunting sound, every few minutes, coming from the forest. It's a sound we've never heard here, and it's moving. To both Piipiiaakii and myself, it sounds very much like a bear, though I wonder also if it could be a porcupine

2000 I'm still trying to get to where I can recognize each of the six-member ksisskstaki family as individuals. They have been coming and going, swimming both north and south from the lodge. The darker, older one just brought another batch of rabbit willow from the subpond. Before that, a small yearling with light eye patches swam close by to inspect us before continuing along the north bank

2004 The southern parent coot couple just passed by, without their single remaining chick (who I noticed standing alone beside the midpond reeds on the way in). Meanwhile, the gosling family has paddled out to their island, and I'm waiting to see if they'll have another flight lesson this evening

2012 The bear-like grunts from the forest have moved upriver, out of earshot, but now we have to suffer the canon-fire noise of mock battle eminating from Fort Whoop-Up. The animals seem undaunted. A goldfinch flies near to us and picks at the thistle-seeds of knapweed

2022 Now two fledgling coots have arrived parentless together beside the ksisskstakioyis. Are they siblings from the north-end family? Or have the single orphans from the southern and midpond families found one another? Either way, it's very clear that parental duties for the coots are over, and short-lived. It seems so recently these chicks were born

2038 We watch as two beavers groom one another by the north entrance to the lodge. When the canons fire from the fort, they lift their heads, but return again to grooming. A third beaver comes, trying to get in on the mutual groom, but when it finds no reciprocation it swims to us and slaps its tail. This breaks things up. The two who were grooming separate at once and swim as individuals toward the north end of the pond

2042 Just as the beavers move out, there's honking goose noise from the gosling island. I look over just in time to see a crash of goose-body in the water by the shoreline. It's two of the goslings. Piipiiaakii had looked over a second earlier and noted that the third sibling made its flight with mama and papa up over the bank, the first to successfully do so