29 March 2010

Aapsspini Owai

IIII ) lllllllllll Aapsspini Owai (28Mar10)

0911 up, uP... waiting for my coffee to kick in. The geese and mallards have been mating, today we need to check for eggs

1016 Sspopiikimi - we've brought our pipe this morning, prepared to offer a smoke to the soyiitapiiksi, and to learn whether any of the aapsspini or mi'ksikatsi have eggs yet

1022 Walking in, there was a fleet of wood ants crossing our trail and moving down the cutbank. Their hive was off in the field on the opposite side. They must have been going to collect something, but we didn't stop to investigate, wanting first to take care of what we came here for. If they are still at it during our return, we will try to learn what they're up to

1043 The midpond and lodge aapsspini couples are here, probably others as well that we can't see yet from our position. There are also two mallard pairs near the cattail canal at midpond

1045 We offer nawaahko'tsis to the soyiitapi from our favorite seat in front of the ksisskstakioyis. There are house finches singing from the poplar canopy behind us. While nitawaatsimoyihkaa, the midpond gander flies past and comes to land on the lodge goose who is prone on the water. She dives to escape, while her gander flies down from the cutbank to chase away the intruder. Clearly, the mating is still underway

1058 When we finish what we'd come to do, Mahoney tells me she needs to go home. She can only do brief visits in her state. So we pack up and walk back to the truck. All along the route, flickers seem to follow us. There were now only a few ants on the trail as we passed near their hive. Whatever they'd gone after must have been secured

1129 At home, I change into my waders. It's time to visit Aapsspini Mini, a small island in an isolated oxbow of the Oldman River where many geese return to nest each year

1201 In order to get to the oxbow and island, I have to cross a large corn field in the floodplain. I can hear, but haven't seen, the killdeer around me. This is "private land" and I don't know the farmer who owns it. If it was on the reserve side of the river, some measures could be taken to protect the nesting grounds from development. It could be GPSed and registered with the Lands Department as an area of traditional use. But really, even then, I don't know that I agree with the approach. It assumes that plants, animals, rivers and the like do not move, that what we see now can be preserved in its present location, static. If we really want to ensure our traditional relationship to the waterfowl long-term, mapping areas in need of protection becomes very simple - all waters and their surrounding lands for perhaps a kilometer or more should be off-limits to agricultural and hydraulic development

1226 When I reach the little bit of old grassland adjacent to the water of the oxbow, I spot a black caterpillar on a bit of dry cow dung. I stop to get out my macro lens for a photo, and that's when I hear something completely unexpected. High up above, there's sprague's pipit, hovering and singing. Not only is this the first pipit I've seen this season, but it's in a very unlikely location, just a narrow stretch of native grass, perhaps a hundred meters wide, sandwiched between the oxbow and a corn field and, on the other side of the water, a massive area being mined for gravel

1241 My next stop is at a bulberry bush where I've just seen and heard my first meadowlark of the season. This bird wings away as soon as I approach, but there's also a large magpie nest in the bush worth checking on. The last time I stopped at this bush, during last year's egg gathering, it had just gone to flower and the first honeybees were swarming it. Today its flower-buds are still closed, and the magpie nest is empty

1256 I now follow along the water's edge, passing by other patches of bulberry brush bearing more empty magpie nests. My presence scares-off more than a dozen goldeneyes, mostly male, and three whitetail deer. Very soon I will reach the island

1305 I stop off at a little cattail marsh to gather the fluff of their downy seeds, packing this into the bottom of my bag to use as a cushion for any eggs I happen to gather. And as I round the next turn, the island comes into view, and I can already see the geese bedding down on it

1327 As I enter the water to wade out onto the island, the geese begin to cry and soon fly out to the deeper waters. I don't count them, but I would say there were a dozen pairs. From a safe distance they watch me as I climb out of the water and into their nesting grounds. Walking around, I can see there are several nests being roughed-out. One of them is set within an old wood ant hive. I'm early. By next week there will no doubt be several nests with eggs. Just when I've almost scanned the entire island, I come across the first nest with eggs. There are four, cold but not too cold to the touch. I'm betting their incubation hasn't begun, or if it has that its only been a day or so. I take two of the four and leave an offering and explaining why I've done this. Hopefully, when I return again (as I must), I'll find that the mother goose has produced more to compensate. I will collect no further from this nest, and be more sparing with the others. Only now can I fully appreciate the impact of their loss and identify closely with the purpose of their sacrifice

1414 My hike back to the truck is quiet, uneventful. Maybe I've shut my senses down. I'm concerned only with leaving before some farmer or land-owner detects my presence. This fear is always present when I visit this place, which is why I try to come here only once a year. But this season, I will have to make a second visit

1434 Why is Thunder Chief's always out of cigarettes now?

1755 Sheen has kidnapped herself. I just negotiated a ransom by offering to treat her and Des to a dinner of nasty Lethridge cooking. There are about three good restaurants here in town, judging on a scale of how violently they affect the bowels. We're not going to any of them

2125 Grossly full of over-priced pizza and spaghetti

2312 Killdeer galore. One just flew noisily over my house, here a half hour till midnight. I have to retract the early pipit announcement, the zoom photo clearly shows a horned lark who just happened to be acting pipit-ish (must be a mating thing). Now I really just want to get my soak over with so I can lay down with my lady

0023 Whispers again... another wave of sadness, different but the same. It's hard to accept that things couldn't have been otherwise