04 August 2009


IIII ) lllllllll Patches and Lefty (2Aug09)

1942 Sspopiikimi - arriving to what seems a quiet pond this evening, taking our now well-worn seats opposite the main ksisskstakioyis. We pass the scabby redhead and her two ducklings enroute, the sikohpoyitaipannikimm at its nest begins a lazy alarm call

1950 At the ksisskstakioyis, there is a coot conglomerate - two adults with a chick, and a third individual adult. As we take our seats, the latter swims north, while what is probably either the original southern or midpond coot family feigns a move south, then turns back, pick for food around the shore-edge near the lodge, then head north themselves. At least one of the parent coots is still acting hostile toward the baby, turning on it to try and chase it away, provoking it to cry

1952 When the small coot family reached about midpond, a second coot chick emerged from the grass near the ksisskstakioyis, where it had apparently been hiding. Finding itself alone, the chick begins to cry and search around, even climbing up onto the roof of the lodge for a better view. It then climbed down and made its way north in a roundabout circuit through the reeds near shore

2001 My guess is that this lone coot chick is the same we found bonded to the other single chick a few nights ago, the two being abandoned by their respective parents of the southern and midpond families. Meanwhile, the northern parents still remain close with their four surviving chicks

2003 While I frantically type-out my coot observations, ksisskstaki activity gets underway, beginning with a dark-furred member exiting the lodge and paddling toward the subpond canal. A few minutes later, the yearling with light under-eye patches comes out and swims casually over to visit us. When it goes back in the lodge, another older beaver (perhaps a two-year old) come out of the south entrance to eat

2014 The two-year old is followed out of the lodge by two more. One of them, very dark of fur, swims past us heading, it appears, toward the alfalfa patches along the grassy north shore. The other joins its lodgemate in eating, and soon the two begin to mutually groom, cleaning the fur on one another's flanks

2018 Soon another two ksisskstakiiksi appear as well. The yearling with light under-eyes (who we've decided to call Patches) swims north, followed by an older beaver with light eyebrows. The other two move toward the subpond canal, but one of them quickly turns back and re-enters the lodge

2026 Piipiiaakii thinks there may be a new building project going on in the subpond, which we haven't went to visit lately. The last ksisskstaki to swim in that direction made a stop-off on our shore to gather some plant material (possibly prickly rose), and towed this up the canal

2031 The darker-furred ksisskstaki who'd first swam north returned just now and is walking ashore to the wet meadows. It stands on its hind legs to sniff the air then, hearing our camera shutters, looks back at us and makes a run to the lodge. A couple minutes later it re-emerges, swims just a little ways south, and walks confidently into the wet meadows without stopping to sniff. It disappears in the grass for less than a minute, then comes back with a nice piece of rabbit willow, which it carries with it into the lodge

2043 Out of nowhere there's a flury of wings. Two mourning doves pass overhead, flying toward the forest, and the immature spotted sandpiper, which lands on the ksisskstakioyis and then runs south along the shoreline

2048 Another round of ksisskstaki activity. The one with the light eyebrow returns from the north, and the two from the subpond come back as well. At the same time, one of the family members who was in the lodge emerges and swims to the north. It first stops in the wet meadows, but then returns to the water and crosses to our side of the pond, likely going for some alfalfa

2055 While the two who were at the subpond groom by the south entrance, the light eyebrow ksisskstaki swims switchbacks in front of us. We can see that only its left eyebrow is light, and so Piipiiaakii suggests we call it Lefty

2058 The goslings have come down to rest on their island. After fully inspecting us, Lefty swam toward the subpond and was followed by one of the groomers and another dark-furred family member who'd just returned from the north end. The other groomer remained at the lodge for a few minutes, rubbing its ears near the north entrance, then swam off in that direction, toward the grassy shore

2104 Now we're watching the simultaneous return of two ksisskstakiiksi, one from the subpond bearing a small piece of diamond willow, and Patches from the north wet meadows carrying a switch of rabbit willow. The two ksisskstakiiksi proceed to eat their fare near the entrances on either side of the lodge

2109 The one with the diamond willow finishes first and heads immediately back out toward the subpond. Patches still works on the rabbit willow. And now one of the nighthawks is flying high above, repeating its throaty, single call

2114 The almost-full moon is climbing. Already our equipment is getting damp with dew. We decide it's time to pack up and head home

IIII ) llllllllll Subpond (3Aug09)

1356 Sspopiikimi - all morning long, my thoughts kept returning to the subpond mystery. Why were the ksisskstakiiksi heard splashing in that area a few nights ago? And what to make of yesterday's observation of the one who hauled vegetation from the west bank up the subpond canal? Were they building something there? I had to come find out

1411 I might have come out earlier, when it was completely overcast and misting. Now the clouds had broken and the sun's shining hot. Still, there's a cool breeze, so it's fairly comfortable

1414 Arriving, I set out counter-sunwise to get around to the subpond. The distance would be about the same if I walked sunwise, but going the way I have allows me a better view of the pond for survey on my way in

1419 There's a few people here today. Two young photographers, an older gentleman with binoculars who's watching the ducks and taking notes, and a round middle-aged man who just seems to be out for a walk

1420 I'm surprised to find no waterfowl midpond, not even the redhead. But as I pass by the opening of the subpond canal, I see the southern coot parents still with their one chick (who'd reconnected last night). The big brood mallard and her four ducklings are dabling in the reeds nearby, the gosling family are resting on their island, there's a trio of mallard females grooming on a neighboring island, and the painted turtles are out on their logs, basking in the sun

1425 Passing the berry thickets, I hear and see the usual waxwings and catbirds. Then, just beyond that area, on the levy-walk leading to the east side of the pond, I notice a new infestation of black blister beetles feeding on several varieties of plant - goldenrod, alfalfa, and the small yellow asters

1432 The beetles are very localized, both feeding and mating in an area of maybe two meters diameter. I don't see any other infestations the rest of the way across the walk

1501 Arriving at the subpond, I find nothing as unexpected as I'd imagined. The construction going on here's merely the continuation of a canal project we'd seen earlier in the season. The walls are much higher now, and becoming grown-over with plants everywhere except those areas that have been recently plastered. About half of what was shallow subpond has now been taken-up by this creation of deeper, winding avenues

1520 The swainson parents were none too pleased at my presence by the subpond, so near their nest. As I took pictures of the canals that I could instant message to Piipiiaakii back home, the two hawks took turns screaming and swooping at me. If it wasn't for the kingbirds mobbing them in return, I may have had a too-close encounter

1525 I decide to get myself under the cover of forest, and do so by taking a well-worn, yet dry beaver canal. It led out of the subpond and its walls were grown-over with tall licorice plants that concealed all but my upper torso. In this trench, it would've been a cinch to duck down and avoid a hawk swoop. This canal took me to the treeline, right at a couple bulberry bushes, which are already filling up with red berries

1541 Walking back to the truck, I focus on insects, and take pictures of several species – European skippers, cherry-faced meadowhawks, red-winged clickhoppers, and wood ants among them

1846 Sspopiikimi - could be short-lived tonight. A lightning storm's closing in from the northwest. For now, we sit before the main ksisskstakioyis. The only waterfowl in sight, two coot fledglings. We figure it's those of the south and midpond families, reunited

1859 One of the ksisskstakiiksi just swam out of the subpond canal with a sprig of rabbit willow, which it carried into the lodge. A couple mourning doves flew in and landed on shore near the lodge. And the thunder and lightning move ever closer

1917 It's become too scary, the fingers of lightning striking the earth and the ominous rumble of thunder. We pack up and return to the truck. On the way, we encounter the gosling family coming down out of the absynthe field. This is the second time we've found them there in under a week. It's quite a distance from their normal feeding grounds on the south banks and wet meadows