05 January 2010

Feeding Eagles

IIII ) llllllllllllll Little Thaw (1Jan10)

0840 Here's your morning report from Heavy Head weather station on planet Hoth: temperature -16C and rising, with sixty-seven percent humidity, wind at 5kph with gusts to 9kph, and a forecast of more snow to come

1049 Trying unsuccessfully not to dwell on how my break is almost over. What bugs me about holy-days like sundance, winter solstice (xmas), and the egg harvest (easter) are that they give a cruel glimpse at what life could be like if we were smart enough to make it so. Hiking and hunting, crafting and cooking, visiting and eating with family, and enjoying Mahoney's company the whole time, that's my idea of the good life. I'm fortunate that I get a lot of it, but I wouldn't mind having it be every day

1355 Lazy day... just been watching movies and tinking around on the computer. Thinking it's time we get outside for a couple hours before the sunshine runs out. Maybe throw a bison roast in the slow cooker and head down to the pond

1500 Sspopiikimi - new snow on the pond means fresh tracks to check out

1504 Mahoney and I make our way straight to the mi'sohpsski complex, their lodges and push-ups in the midpond bulrushes, but none of the little guys have been out. There are several new sets of coyote and deer tracks in and around the rushes though

1513 Moving over to the ksisskstakioyis, we find that a significant pool has melted and refroze on the north side of the lodge. This is quite a mystery for us, because it was not so only a few days ago, it has been ten or more degrees below zero ever since, and the thaw was in the lodge’s shadow. Mahoney says it looks like a beaver skating rink

1522 The subpond has also experienced some thaw, and has significant areas of slush, though no refreeze. Even our footprints on the seemingly iced areas leave a slush trail. It then dawns on me that the new snow has acted as insulation, just as it does on land to create the subnivian zone inhabited by voles and mice

1537 When we get to the blind at the far south end, Mahoney sits down to rest her legs while I pick rose hips. The flesh of some of these berries is soft. They too have been thawing. It must be that temperatures here at the pond have been quite a bit warmer than up above the coulee rim

1553 Soon we enter the forest and both gather rose hips as we walk along, having in mind the notion of boiling it as a tea, high in vitamin C, to boost immunity over the next few days before contact with the dreaded first-of-semester germs at the college

1613 Aside from the appearance of a magpie, who tried to tell us something we couldn't comprehend, the rest of our walk through the forest was uneventful. Although we know there's much going on under the snow, above it there's seemingly very little. We kept an eye out for signs of porcupine presence, but found none. What tracks we saw were those of the white-tails and coyotes

IIII ) lllllllllllllll Aapsspini Assembly (2Jan10)

1820 Just got back from watching the geese assemble at their night-roost on the river, one of the most awesome events to witness in winter. Had a good time sitting on the ice with my Mahoney. We’ve now located three local goose roosts. The one we visited tonight is, like last year, located in Paradise Canyon, a second is upstream from the Wilderness Park, and the third is by Bingo Bridge on the Reserve. There are several other open water crags these birds could be utilizing, but it seems they have chosen areas most frequented by human traffic, I suspect because of the protection it affords them from coyote and eagle presence

IIII ) llllllllllllllll Feeding Eagles (3Jan10)

0719 Dottie Dog got me up at the appropriate hour, as requested, but it feels sooo early. All the same, I need to go down to the coulee now, or I won't have another opportunity today. This morning's weather reading: -17C, 66% humidity, no wind, sunny forecast. Big snow tomorrow, I hope

0824 Well, here I am beneath tangerine skies of dawn, looking out over the floodplain on one of my favorite bends in the river, very aware that the frequency of my five-hour hikes through here is about to take a drastic cut with the close of winter break. There are two mule deer down below me, grazing on one of the ridges of the coulee slope. They get to spend their whole life out here and I'm jealous

0851 This morning, reluctantly, I am removing most of my rabbit snares. I have dispersed them far too widely throughout the forest and coulee slopes, which may very well account for their ineffectiveness to date. But in either case, I won't have the opportunity to walk that entire range every day now that the new semester is beginning. So I intend to gather most of them up, and consolidate the remainder in a single patch of sandbar willow that I think I can hike out to check in under an hour, day or night

0915 Whoever said that all flickers, with the exception of a few urban dwellers, migrate from Alberta in winter is crazy. After pulling what I had from the chokecherry brush on the sagebrush flats, and proceeding to walk the woodline downstream toward the willows, I've seen at least three flickers perched high in the poplar canopy or gliding through the forest. I say "at least" three, because those I observed simultaneously. But I've also had perhaps eight or nine individual sightings as well. The kakanottsstookii couple, on the other hand, are not at the roost where I observed them during my last visit

1032 At the willows, I learned that one of my rabbit snares had finally been successful. I had caught a mountain cottontail. And perhaps if I had come out here yesterday morning as intended, instead of sleeping-in, we'd be eating mountain cottontail. But in my absence, the other animals had already taken a share, eating out the rear end, including the meat on the thighs. I'm sure the foreshanks would still be edible, but I'm not certain how Mahoney would take to me bringing her just half a rabbit. So I detached it from the snare and tossed it out onto the river ice, where what remains of it should soon feed the coyotes, magpies, or eagles. I then reset my willow snares and started my hike upstream to the flotsam

1135 All the way back along the river, into the flotsam, through the forest, and in the hawthorns, none of my snares had been touched. I collected and pocketed each one as I walked. When I reached the site of my porcupine kill from the other day, it was heavily trodden with magpie tracks. They had definitely enjoyed the guts I left behind. With the sun now shining bright and warm in the coulee, I begin my ascent back to the truck

1150 Just before I reach the coulee rim, a large shadow passes overhead. I search the skies and see an eagle winging downriver. When it passes over where I'd left the rabbit, it circles around, and as I leave the coulee it is with confidence that I've at least fed an eagle today

1223 Aah, thought I'd get through this winter without losing a glove in the coulee... I thought wrong

IIII ) lllllllllllllllll Back To Work (4Jan10)

0645 -12C, 66% humidity, weather station wrongly predicts a sunny forecast, and why oh why am I awake so early? whimper

0847 From my door, across the fields of fleeing coyotes, down the coulee slope, past a dozen sleeping geese at the open water crag, over the river ice beneath the cliffs, into the willow thickets behind the old beaver lodge with black-rabbits abound, and all the way back home again - 1hr 20min. Got my quick coulee fix for the morning, now time to head to work

0140 Snow, snow, snow... I have no objections