18 March 2010

Game On

II Game On (15Mar10)

1650 Sspopiikimi - A bit distressed to be here on my own this evening, with Mahoney at home resting her legs. We had a good walk around the pond yesterday, but as we enter sa'aiki'somm a lot can change from day to day. I'm feeling compelled to visit already again, if only for a short round

1711 There's more open water here this evening, the two largest pools in front of the ksisskstakioyiistsi (even the one on the north bank that's only being occupied by muskrats). Moreover, there's a goldeneye couple feeding near the main lodge, and the bulrush flotilla, the island remains of the ksisskstaki food cache, has floated off toward the shoreline. This didn't occur last year until an aapsspini couple were already nested on the flotilla, and their brood failed as a result. So perhaps it's good that the flotilla moved earlier this time around

1729 There are four established aapsspini couples here this evening - one on last year's successful nesting island, another by the subpond canal, one just north of the ksisskstakioyis, and the last pair in the subpond itself

1747 I stroll down to the peninsula, where I find little to no open water yet, then return to take a seat on the bank opposite the main ksisskstakioyis. The subpond canal aapsspini couple are here, the male standing watch while his woman feeds in the wet-meadows. I can see the goldeneyes diving midpond, and hear flickers and chickadees laughing and singing in the forest. The Sun is soon to pass behind the coulee rim, and I'm hoping the beavers will emerge

1815 While awaiting a beaver presence, I witness some squabbling back and forth between the subpond aapsspini and those at the entry to the canal. After much honking back and forth and head-bobbing, the latter swim north past the ksisskstakioyis. At that point, the goose went ashore in the wet-meadows behind the bulrush flotilla, while the gander kept an eye on me from midway out in the pond. The goose seemed to be poking at something in the grass there, not feeding, and it makes me wonder if perhaps she's set down the first of her eggs. When I'd look directly at her, she'd become anxious, and feign a disinterest in whatever is on the shore there, while the gander, for his part, would move a little more in my direction

1821 Then the beavers emerged, a dark adult and the whimpering, pale yearling. When they noticed me, across the pond, the yearling was sent immediately back into the lodge. The dark adult then swam north, passing in front of me, then switched-back once and crossed closer before finally feigning a southbound dive under the ice (actually turning around underwater and swimming back to the lodge itself)

1838 Meanwhile, the aapsspini couple crossed the pond and went ashore beside me. The gander led, and hiked up to the top of the cutbank before giving some unseen "all clear" signal to his lady. The goose then came part-way up the cutbank and fed hungrily on new green grass shoots. Twice, while this feeding was underway, there were verbal and head-bobbing exchanges with the wet-meadow couple. The second time was enough for the gander. Honking and sticking out his tongue, he flew directly over my head and toward the wet-meadow couple. His goose walked back down the cutbank, got into the water, and paddled after him, shaking her head. The two met at the entrance of the canal and walking honking onto the wet-meadows a short distance. The subpond couple, who had also been ashore, retreated back to their waters

1858 As the goose commotion begins to settle, two of the adult ksisskstaki come out to see what I'm about. They swim switch-backs in front of me and occasionally slap their tails. Like each new open-water season, they seem not to remember me. But only a few minutes of this pass before they're on to other business. The two swim out to their drifted flotilla, press on its edges and dive underneath. One of them then goes ashore on the wet-meadows, and this incites the gander to fly over from the canal and splash down in the water beside the flotilla. The ksisskstaki apparently gets the message and returns to the water to head further north

1912 Meanwhile, the second ksisskstaki heads to the lodge. Just as it dives underwater, the gander seemingly purposefully runs on the surface right overtop of where the beaver has dived. Then, to the dismay of the goose, the gander flies a wide arch around the south end of the pond before returning again to land in front of the ksisskstakioyis. His goose paddles immediately out to meet him. But his display seems to have provoked something in the subpond couple. They now take flight and make a wide circle over the pond. When they try to land again in the subpond, the goose and gander begin honking like crazy, and the flying couple decides to take another round. This time, they move again toward the subpond, but without as much commitment, then turn and round the forest to land instead somewhere at the river

1919 A few minutes after the subpond couple have left, goose and gander climb to the top of the ksisskstakioyis. There is now a beaver out as well, and it swims toward the canal. Then the goose alone climbs back in the water, swims with her head low over to my shore, the same place they had gone up the cutbank before. When it has waddled to the top, the gander - back at the beaver lodge - takes off in flight again. The goose immediately returns to the water, and I'm expecting another arch around the south pool. But no, while the goose calls somewhat sorrowfully, the gander makes his round out toward the river and disappears. What has happened. The goose is totally alone. She paddles to the wet-meadow show beside the ksisskstakioyis and waits

1931 When it doesn't look as though the gander will return soon, I decide it's time for me to go as well. My fingers are numb, and Mahoney is waiting for me to bring her dinner

III Pintails (16Mar10)

0834 Northern pintails have returned to the puddles surrounding Innokimi

1755 Sspopiikimi - Mahoney and I arrive to pass another evening with the aapsspiniiksi and ksisskstakiiksi. There are only two couples of the former on the pond tonight, those near the ksisskstakioyis and a second pair in the wide southern pool. A third couple departed from midpond when we walked in. The goldeneye pair from yesterday are here too

1801 While Mahoney holds our seats across from the beaver lodge, I walk down to the south end to make quick use of the concealment offered by the bulberry thickets. From there, I can see several mallards foraging in shallows between the dense cattail stands. On my way back, I notice there's another aapsspini couple feeding out on the neighboring golf course. Perhaps this is the subpond couple

1813 Sitting, waiting, I tell Mahoney all about what I witnessed here yesterday. We can see the subpond couple now. They are hidden in the tall reeds back there. We are pretty sure these aapsspiniiksi by the ksisskstakioyis are not the successful parents of last year. First of all, the gander we know would not fly away from his goose like this one did last night. Secondly, they're missing some of the facial marks we could identify them with. We think the aapsspini pair in the south pool are our old familiars. In fact, they're standing right now on their successful nesting island of last summer

1824 Just like last night, this beaver lodge aapsspini couple have ventured out to feed on the cutbank north of us. This time, they walked all the way to the top together. Once there, the gander took off and flew some large circles around this part of the pond. It didn't look like he was going to return, but then the midpond couple came back in and immediately the gander arrived. His goose went out to meet him, and after a little verbal exchange with the midpond pair everything settled right down

1834 Mi'sohpsskii just made his first appearance of the season. It looks like he came out of the ksisskstakioyis, followed the same route the beavers do (no doubt with a canal beneath), and dove under the remaining ice, disappearing

1846 Visit cut short, just when things were getting interesting. Forgot it's Sheen's piano night

IIII ) Aapsspini Whistle (17Mar10)

1825 Sspopiikimi - a windy evening to close a windy day. All four aapsspini couples are here: midpond, south pond, ksisskstakioyis, and subpond. The golden eyes are diving along the only remaining ice, beside the cutbank, where it rounds to meet the peninsula

1834 Mi'sohpsski makes an appearance, swimming toward us along the west bank from the drainage pipe, then diving toward the ksisskstakioyis. A sudden gust of wind hits the water, and right afterward a fight erupts by the subpond. The south pond couple are chased further into their territory, settling on the big island, while their pursuers, the subpond couple disappear toward the river. There's a fifth couple far south by the peninsula as well

1847 The lodge couple slowly drift over to our side, and have climbed half-way up the cutbank to graze when the subpond pair return from the river. The latter come high over the forest and struggle in the strong winds to come down on target, honking as they arrive. Their honks are returned by vocalizations of the other aapsspiniiksi around the pond

1857 The midpond couple drifted on the water far to the north end, then took of in a flight that brought them around the entire pond twice, then over by the high-level bridge, and eventually up beyone the coulee rim and out of sight. I wonder if they check on their relatives

1923 Mahoney walked back to the truck to warm up, and as she was leaving I went to relieve myself. When I got back, the lodge couple gander was gone and his goose was in distress. For twenty minutes she paddled around this area of the pond calling for him. She used a long, drawn out honk, holding her head near the water and rotating to face all directions. While she was thus occupied, several members of the ksisskstaki family emerged, or at least two of them (as that was all I saw at any one time). They swam to various shores and fed crunchily on roots. Finally, I spotted a long goose in the distant sky and kept my eye on it until it landed beside its upset mate. The returning gander made a high-pitched whistling kind of sound as a greeting once in the water, a sound I don't recall ever hearing before

1943 We get a brief glimpse of the yearling ksisskstaki floating by the lodge. Meanwhile, one of its older relatives climbed the cutbank south of us, crossed into the golf course, then came back down to eat at the water's edge. It's too far away to see what it's eating. Another of the adults, at the same time, walks on two legs up the side of the lodge to set some mud-stucco in place

2000 With darkness closing, the aapsspini quieting toward sleep, and the ksisskstaki dispersed in feeding, Mahoney and I walk out under the first crescent of sa'aiki'somm, its tips turned up, cupping the sky