28 April 2010

Cinnamon Teal, Yellow-Rumped Warblers, And Gander Battle

IIII ) lllllllllll Cinnamon Teal, Yellow-Rumped Warblers, And Gander Battle (27Apr10)

1829 Sspopiikimi – it’s been three sleeps since our last visit, which is too much. We know from experience that in this season a lot can change occur daily

1831 Walking in at midpond, we find the resident mallard couple, whose nest got eaten out, feeding just off-shore of the wet meadows. And with them is a new face, the first cinnamon teal to return to the pond

1842 We head north to check the oldest asparagus plant and find that it's sent up a lot of new shoots to replace those we collected. Some of this growth is probably also related to the fact that Mahoney generously cleared away all the tumbleweed stems from prior years

1848 Since we're moving in that direction anyway, we decide to hike a sunwise loop tonight. This brings us very quickly past the north end of the pond and up onto the steep cutbank overlooking Oldman River. Here we see that panicles of the cottonwood and poplar flowers have elongated, and that the chokecherry trees have raised their own flowering panicles from between their new leaves. I will have to watch for their pollinators over the next while

1853 The geese at the river island seem to be doing well, at least those on the two nests we can see from our shore. There should be two nests on the other side of the island as well, but I haven't dressed appropriately for wading out to check their status without making myself very uncomfortable for the next couple hours

1858 At the downstream end of the river island, where the flow spreads and shallows-out a bit, there's a congregation of twenty pelicans. They're not fishing at present, just sleeping and grooming, and looking as prehistoric as ever, but surely their presence is an indicator that the fish run which began last week is still on-going

1901 Standing beside the pelicans are two ring-billed gulls. Mahoney smartly points out that they're probably there to snag scraps of fish retrieved from the depths by the larger birds, although in that respect I’d be pretty surprised to learn that the pelicans ever spared much

1902 It feels warmer out here than we expected, so after surveying the river scene we turn around to make our circuit in the opposite direction again, bringing us back to midpond so we can stash our jackets in the truck. Though we've only been away a couple minutes, there are already additional faces. The first yellow-headed blackbird of the season is here, perched on a cattail, and our scabby redhead couple has just flown in. They paddle like an advanced guard in front of us as we head south, stopping for Scabby herself to dive for food in certain pools

1913 As we near the ksisskstakioyis, we overtake the redheads. Scabby is more interested in eating than she is in maintaining the distance between us. Her husband's not so sure, but there's nothing he can do... she's going to feast Right Now. At this point, we also pass a coot couple who are heading in the opposite direction

1920 With my head down, trying to keep up on these notes, I inadvertently pass right by two male yellow-rumped warblers who are sitting on a low branch of a cottonwood beside the trail. Mahoney is not so unaware though, and she’s able to take a nice picture to show me

1925 There’s no sign of the midpond aapsspini couple whose nest was recently destroyed, at least not in their territory. But when we get to the south-pond bench, we see both island nesters and their ganders, as well as the canal couple and sixth pair, the latter of whom are standing in the shallows. Also on this side we find the mallard pair of the peninsula, another coot couple and, surprisingly enough, a second redhead pair. One of the coots is giving its mating call, the kind of chuck-chuck-chuck that often incites an orgy

1937 Sitting on the bench, watching all the birds below, it seems the two island ganders are getting along pretty good, floating together in the space between their respective nests. The big island gander eventually drifts away, and the small island gander starts bathing. The splashing of the bathing bird is enough to upset the other, who flies back over. It looks like nothing is going to happen as it lands beside its neighbor, and I comment to Mahoney on how well they're getting along. Just then, almost as on cue, all hell breaks loose. The two go head to head, biting and locking on to one another's necks, clawing with their feet, and beating one another with their wings. It's the worst goose fight we've ever seen. The mama of the small island, nearest the fight, jumps off her nest to try and help her gander. Right away the couple of the shallows moves in to attempt a theft of the nesting site. But mama's too quick, she spots them and fights them off, continuing afterward to move between trying to help her husband and fending off the potential nest wreckers. The two ganders, for their part, remain locked. They wear each other down, their wing beats becoming very struggled. This has gone on too long, and I'm thinking that they're stuck and in danger of drowning. So while Mahoney continues to video-record the event, I dash off down the peninsula, prepared to hazard the muck and leaches to tear the suffering ganders apart. But I don't have to. When they see me coming, they break up on their own accord. Though I'm sure they're both hurt, the small island gander is definitely the victor. His opponent slinks off in the water, soon to be joined by its mate. Now both males are far apart from one another, tending their wounds. There’s a film of downy feathers floating on the water

2008 After the goose fight, I stroll into the bulrush thicket above the peninsula to check for more warblers. What I find instead are lots of the resident mountain cottontails. They’re eating grass and allowing me to come insanely close. After watching them a few minutes, I figure I'd better go get Mahoney. She wouldn't want to miss this

2016 Of course, when I get back to the bench, Mahoney has her own excitement underway. There's a muskrat cruising the shoreline just below her and a lone, male northern shoveler has just flown in

2020 The shoveler is feeding, and when the muskrat swims away we head back into the brush. The golden currants are flowering out now in yellow blooms, which will become the first berries we collect. This evokes another thought, why are the bulberry the first to bloom, but the last berries we gather? It takes them the entire summer season to produce the fruit we eat

2023 The cottontails are no longer being as careless in our presence. Though we spot a couple of them, they’re cowering in the dense buckbrush. Others we only hear move far into the bulberries

2030 With the entire coulee now in dusk's shadow, we start our walk back to the truck. Along the way, we see another two muskrats, each swimming independently along the shoreline, stopping to rub their bellies on all of the projecting rocks and logs. We also pass by the merganser couple, who are usually to be found only on the river. It's odd to see them here

2036 Directly across from the ksisskstakioyis, one of the residents is out on shore, eating absinthe greens. It casually returns to the water at our approach and swims back to the lodge. Then, a little further on, nearing midpond, two coot couples are engaged in an orgy. They move back and forth toward one another, heads low to the water, displaying the white spots on their bums. Occasionally one will make a dash toward a member of the opposite couple, sometimes mounting briefly. Then the couples separate and sing, and the whole routine starts over again

2040 The coots are such characters, we love watching them all summer - from these early orgy dances, to their nesting in the reeds, the dunking of defensive males by new mallard mothers, the eventual emergence of bald-headed babies, and the way the parents train them heavy-handedly to share food, and finally the period before they leave, when they're feeding the wigeons who pass through on their way south. Coot watching is never dull, and we're so glad the fun is just starting again

2131 The tick check pays off again, Mahoney got the one off the back of my leg tonight before it decided to sink in for a meal

26 April 2010

Black Widow And Owlets

IIII ) lllllllll Black Widow And Owlets (25Apr10)

1115 Might as well begin the countdown. The two main goose nests on the big river island each have 7-8 days left to hatching. The subpond and big island nests of Sspopiikimi both have 8-9 days, and the small island nest has 24-25. We could see goslings next Sunday!!

1235 Pitsiiksiinaikawaahko - off for my weekly visit to the coulee where the rivers conjoin. Not as much wind today, but still plenty cold and wet, the skies thick with dark cumulous clouds. Not likely to see any of my slithering friends above ground today, given the temperature, but I do hope to relocate the mystery ant nest that I failed to find last week

1241 When I walked out to the garage to climb in the truck, there was a sulphur-colored butterfly waiting on the concrete floor for me. No idea where it came from, or if it was just trying to avoid the chill, but I'm hoping it's the precursor of an eventful afternoon

1318 Starting my way down the coulee slope, I set myself a goal of digging at least twelve musineon roots. It's not a heck of a lot, but it's better than nothing, which is what I've come back with on my last two visits here, and I can't let the opportunity pass completely. At the same time, twelve roots could take me anywhere from forty minutes to an hour to acquire, using a small crowbar as a digging stick. It's not easy work

1328 I pull just two roots by the time I reach the rattlesnake hibernaculum, although I pass by dozens. Another, very similar, plant has bloomed in the past week, which is also described as musineon in various field guides. The two plants grow side by side, both are very close to the ground and have similar flowers. But the leaves of one are much more finely divided and parsley-like, and that’s the one I’m familiar with eating, though apparently the other is useful as well. I guess the only way I’ll get to the bottom of the mystery of the “real” musineon is to consult Budd’s Flora

1336 At the hibernaculum, there are meadowlarks singing, and I see two more plants are coming into bloom. One is the tiny, edible yellow prairie violet that grows all over these slopes each summer. The other is a ground-hugging, white-blooming, cushion milkvetch

1352 Since I'm already here, I can't help but at least check on the rattlers. And it's a good thing I do, because to my surprise, one of them is out. It's a bit smaller than the snake I saw last week, but it's at the same den entrance. Like its relative, it had not come all the way out to bask. In order to see it, I had to look down into the den. And like last week, none of the snakes using the neighboring holes had emerged yet. However, at the farthest den entrance, which I know to be the long-time home of two fair-sized snakes and their babies, I was greeted by a beautiful, female black widow. She’s built her odd geometric webbing across part of the den opening, and is sitting out on the silk, displaying a classic red hour-glass on her abdomen. How intense to be kneeled down beside a rattlesnake den photographing a black widow! Maybe next week I'll be able to get snake and spider in the same shot

1413 So far, so good. Now I'm hoping the luck holds as I climb up the adjacent ridge to have a sit-down break before searching for my lost ant colony

1435 I don't have to look very fall at all to find the ants. After lifting about ten small rocks, almost all of which had black field crickets under them (oddly enough), I found the white slab I'd originally looked under weeks ago. And sure enough, there were the little ants - black abdomens with red legs and no obvious striping. That's what I was hoping for. I gathered about twenty of them up to ship to the specialist, and now I can move on down the ridge and into the forest to check on the kestrel and the owl nest

1512 My nest stop-off point is at the riverbank, where I get a brief glimpse of the kestrel flying above one of the coulee cliffs just upstream. The water is high today, owing to recent rains. Before I head into the woods, I'm going to take a brief walk along the cobbled shore. I didn't see any tiger beetles on the path on my way down, and I'm not sure where they go when the ground is so moist and the wind brings a chill. But I figure if I'm to see them anywhere today, it will be among or under these cobbles

1530 Unfortunately, the riverfront is exceedingly quiet today. I walk down the shore about a hundred meters, loop around and return, all under protest of a lone, resident killdeer. Along the way, I turn several cobbles with my boots. But there seem to be very, very few insects or arachnids around. The only encounter I have is with a tiny, sand-colored spider

1604 Leaving the river behind, I enter the forest and make a straight course for the owl nest. After so much waiting, I don't have my hopes up. But when I finally get within view, I'm pleasantly surprised. Mama kakanottsstookii is sitting on the nest, and right beside her are two fluffy, white owlets. Papa is here too, in a tree not far away. He’s slender and dignified

1610 In celebration of the owl nest success, I decide to throw a few new logs on the survival shelter I've been building at the edge of this meadow. What's the connection? I don't know, make-shift field station so that next year I can maybe spend more time watching the owl babies develop? Doesn't really matter, I feel strong enough to lift logs, and I do so. I notice that someone else has taken an interest in the shelter too, and that they've hung a deer skull as decor inside. I don't mind a bit, but it would be better if they contributed to finishing off the outer shell

1632 It's now time to start making my way back up the slope, but I figure I'll take a different route for my return today. I walk from the owl nest toward the downstream end of the forest, purposely winding through the trees in such a way that I'll eventually enter the old oxbow corridor where the large diamond willow clumps reside. There, I hope to possibly find the yellow-bellied sapsuckers who mark the willows each summer. But alas, they've still not returned. Those I do encounter are the usuals: flickers, chickadees, robins, and starlings. The latter are mixing some great hawk impressions with their other chatter, and they’re chasing one another in pairs around the canopy. Their mating rituals must be intensifying

1654 To ascend the coulee slope, I start off following a narrow drainage vein that passes between two badland cliffs. I know that these cliffs hold the fossils of alligators and turtles up above, and I'm always on the lookout for long-life iinisskimm, a certain ammonite-like shell, but smaller and more round. It doesn't take me long, as I make my way up, to start finding fossils. But what I see are small white snails with cone-shaped shells. Not what I'm looking for

1657 Soon I'm passing over the first ledge, about half-way to the coulee rim. Here, at the cut of the erosion that defines the drainage vein I've just climbed, there's a beautiful musineon plant. All I have to do to uproot it is pry an inch or two into the soft soil below the ledge. In the end, I come out with the longest root yet, about sixteen inches. It's a good reminder that long taproots are best collected at the edge of steep erosion

1729 The rest of my hike up is fairly uneventful. I gather more of the yellow violets and their greens as I climb. I notice the first yellow blooms of ponokaowahsin (elk-food), otherwise known as wooly gromwell. I see flickers scouring the slopes for ants, and meadowlarks singing from atop tufts of skunkbrush. At one point, I find a girl's insulated toque, right beside a hollow where someone has obviously collected a concretion. I take the hat up with me to the coulee rim and hang it on a fencepost by where visitors park, in case they return

25 April 2010

Midpond Nest Destroyed

IIII ) llllllll Midpond Nest Destroyed (24Apr10)

1035 On our way over the Whoop Up Bridge to breakfast, we see that the first pelicans are back. Add that to the return of kingfishers yesterday, and the bald eagle hunting the river last night, clearly there's a run of fish going through Sikoohkotoki. Might have to put a line in the water this weekend

1321 Sspopiikimi - a sunny but windy afternoon with passing thundershowers. Today Mahoney and I are scouring the wet meadows in search of mallard nests and whatever else we can find

1341 We start doing switchbacks across the area we want to survey, and I turn over pieces of lumber from what I figure must have been a boardwalk sometime back in the history of Sikoohkotoki. Under one of these boards, we find several chrysalii. They look completely alien, like butterfly chrysalii, but wrapped in cocoons of short brown hair, somehow glued together. Whatever transforms within, some have already hatched out. We do, however, find one that is completely intact, save for a small hole through the hairy outer cocoon. It could be that a wasp has put its larva inside to eat the butterfly. I decide to collect this one, to hatch it at home and see what emerges

1351 We've hardly covered a sixth of the wet meadow when the cold wind starts to really pick up and dark clouds loom overhead. Mahoney, with her arthritis, is ready to go home. Better safe than sorry. So we are heading back to the truck, and I will return on my own shortly

1500 Sspopiikimi - back again to continue surveying the wet meadows for mallard nests. This time, I've also brought a little fishing kit. If I have the opportunity, I'll toss a line in the hole where we saw them jumping last night, and try to find out exactly what it is that brings the kingfishers, eagles, and pelicans each year at this time

1512 Add ospreys to that list. As I walk in at the north end, there's one gliding low over the pond. It dives into the water somewhere by the ksisskstakioyis, but comes up empty. Then, seeing me there, fumbling with my pack to ready my camera, it returns to the river from which it most likely came

1526 Though the osprey was hunting our ubiquitous northern pike, seeing it makes me excited about learning who's passing through at the river. But I don't want to try fishing just yet. Not only is it the least likely time of day for them to be feeding (I assume), but were I to catch a fish, it would deter me from continuing my survey of the wet meadows, a phenological interest just as pressing. So I quickly stash the little kit I've brought in a rock-covered hole by the river and cut over the levee to the pond

1545 Back and forth, back and forth across the wet meadows I roam, making my way slowly toward the south. At one of the beaver canals, I see that not only is the green algae starting to form on the water surface (as noted yesterday), but that there are also sizeable algae bubbles, blob-like and white, forming down below

1552 The midpond mallard couple is here, which makes me suspect that the ruined nest Mahoney found the other day was theirs. Also, the midpond aapsspini couple are here, watching me from the water, not a good sign. Indeed, when I reach their nest, which had such a nice clutch, I find that like practically every time these birds nest on the main shore, it’s been raided and ruined. The victim of some kind of predation. It must have happened recently, within the last day or two, because the couple is still staying very close, only a meter or two from me as I look over their loss

1555 We are now down to just three goose nests at Sspopiikimi, out of an original five, with still two weeks of incubation to go. Yet, if just two of these three succeed, they will have doubled the success of last summer

1604 The loss of the midpond goose nest has really sunk my spirits. I know it’s part of goose experience, and we see it every year. Very few nests escape the combined pressures of the coyotes, magpies and gulls. But it still brings me down each time. And I really hope this is not the result of the youth "clean-up the park party" of two nights ago, whether directly or indirectly

1615 Having covered almost half the wet meadows now fairly thoroughly, I'm sitting down for a break. Something I've noticed... within most of the buckbrush patches, which are positioned on little burms in the meadows, there are small clearings being used as poop stations by some kind of animal between the size of maybe a muskrat and a duck. I would assume muskrat, except that they are pretty far from the edge of the pond. I might then suspect the ducks, but I haven't found any nests near them. My next guess would probably be something from the weasel family, which actually makes quite a bit of sense, since I know that at least some of them keep such stations

1655 I take my next break along the edge of the subpond canal. The aapsspini mama here is still sitting diligently in her hawk nest in the forest canopy. I hope we can be here when her goslings make the difficult leap to the forest floor. There are no turtles out today, too windy, too cold. My own gusto is still reeling from the blow of the failed midpond nest, and the weather is not helping. I'm hoping to find something exciting to lock onto out here this afternoon, to raise my spirits

1709 The big rain clouds are coming. I see them and they see me. It may be a good time to go drop that fishing line in the river. Besides, Mahoney and I have checked this south end of the wet meadows beyond the subpond pretty thoroughly already. I'm now convinced that the mallards must either be in the forest or, perhaps more likely, amongst the brush of the coulee slope. Once again, it seems they have completely eluded us

1742 I move on to the river, retrieve my fishing kit, turn over a few rocks to find some bait, string it on and toss it in. The kingfisher of yesterday is here, chattering away down the cutbank. It seems to be using the same hole as the few bank swallows that have returned

1806 When twenty minutes have passed without a nibble on my irresistible bait, I figure the fish aren't eating right now. With the most ominous clouds pressing ever closer, I decide I might as well pack it in for the day. Besides, I’ve made one of the ganders of the river island aapsspini nervous enough, standing directly across from his goose’s nest all this time

23 April 2010

Spontaneous Appearance Of Fish Eaters

IIII ) lllllll Spontaneous Appearance Of Fish Eaters (23Apr10)

1816 Sspopiikimi - with just a couple hours of light left to work with, after a day stacked with meetings, we make our way out here, where we find the first aiksikksksisi (white nose or american coot) has returned to midpond

1830 There was rain last night, and a bit of a temperature drop, and this seems connected to a very conspicuous absence this evening. For two days before the rain, the trail along the west length of the pond was occupied by dozens, if not hundreds, of variegated meadowhawks. Today, we've walked the distance and not seen a one

1834 The water in the pond has risen a bit, but the island aapsspini mamas are still quite safe. All four active nests seem to be doing well, though we won't be able to really confirm the midpond nest until tomorrow, when we can get out on the wet meadows

1837 As for the remainder of the waterfowl count, there are six geese on the neighboring golf greens (four of which are likely husband ganders), and four in the south shallows below the blind. There is a mi'ksikatsi couple sitting beside the ksisskstakioyis, and the scabby redhead couple are here in the south pools. We're sure the visual absence of mallards is an indication of the nesting that is underway, and again we're hoping to locate at least some of these on the wet meadows over the next couple days

1904 We waste no time moving down onto the peninsula, then through the bulberry brush and around the south pool, staying low instead of hiking the levee trail. In the process, we scare up another mi'ksikatsi pair who are resting on shore beside the cattail marsh. Within the marsh itself there is a second chuck-chucking coot. We notice that the wetness and/or cold has had a similar effect on all the pollinators that it has on the dragonflies. They're absent. All we see are tiny gnats and clover loopers (the moth that's been out for a few weeks now)

1911 Soon we are at the blind and picking asparagus. We've been neglecting our responsibility to gather some of the first of the season plants: the asperagus, musineon root, the young leaves of lens-podded hoary cress. If we don't get to work on these, we'll miss the opportunity entirely

1915 Mahoney notices something I've missed entirely. There are fair-sized clumps of green algae starting to form in the shallows. Every year, as things warm up, the pond goes through a cycle that Mahoney compares to a yeast infection. Soon enough there will be algae covering most of the pond, a massive flare-up that reveals the most used beaver trails. Just as soon afterward though, most of the algae clears again

1949 After picking around by the blind for a bit, we walk the transition zone between the forest and wet meadow, looking for more asparagus. It seems to grow best in these areas, amidst patches of buckbrush and prickly rose, on slopes near water. All in all we get only a handful of shoots

1957 Coming back up through the forest at its north end, and crossing the levee to the cutbank overlooking Oldman River and the big island which houses several more goose nests, we notice fish jumping in one of the calm, deep pools. Then Mahoney looks upriver and says excitedly, "Who's that?" There is a massive, second-year bald eagle perched in a snag poplar not more than sixty or seventy meters from us. We sit down right here to watch

2006 The eagle's not the only one hunting these waters tonight. As we sit and wait, the first belted kingfisher of the season comes winging and chattering past, flying low over the surface below us

2021 We wait while the eagle scans the water below him. We wait while he preens. We wait while the first bank swallows of the season reveal themselves, darting in and out of a burrow in the cutbank, swooping over the river. We wait while the eagle shits, then stretches its wing, then shits again. We wait while a beaver swims closer and closer from upriver, stepping out on the bank to pull roots here and there, probably unaware of the enormous and dangerous bird perched above. And finally, after all the waiting, the eagle hops, pumps its giant wings, lifts, passes over us, and disappears downriver

2053 With the eagle gone and the chill of night sinking in, we round north pond, moving toward the truck. But before we go, we want to make one last stop at one of the older asparagus plants. As we move through the absinthe toward it, on the edge of the cutbank above north pond, I see there are several thick shoots ready for harvesting. They're so nice, when I spot them I say, "Wow!" This exclamation provokes an even bigger surprise. One of the older members of the ksisskstaki family is right there at our feet. We hadn't even noticed. It ran a few steps, then stopped and went back to eating absinthe greens. It didn't mind at all that we were there beside it. We videotaped and photographed it until the beaver had its fill and moved back down the cutbank into the water. What a great way to conclude what I originally thought would be an uneventful evening walk

22 April 2010

Looking At Pollinators

IIII ) lllll Looking At Pollinators (21Apr10)

1711 Sspopiikimi - what would be a super hot day is kindly punctuated by bursts of a light breeze, which makes it entirely tolerable

1713 We've been on site nearly an hour now, with all our concentration focused on one thing... nabbing one of these first of the season dragonflies. Mahoney and I were taking turns with the catch net, and we must have taken a hundred swipes each as we moved from north to south along the length of the pond. Finally, near the bench, I got one. It is, I believe, a variegated meadowhawk. And I hate to be so consumed with the capture, the collection, but it assists considerably with accurate identification and hopefully phenologic memory. The difficult act of trying to catch one of these dragonflies also carried a potential behavioral lesson. We've noticed that many of them select the path around the pond as a place to perch. This path is constructed of red gravel, mined from the coulee rim just above. More than once these variegated meadowhawks disappeared right before my eyes, their coloration so close to that of the path itself. It seems to me likely that this is why they so often select it as a site to perch

1720 Now, sitting on the bench, Mahoney and I can relax a bit and take in the sights. Of course we didn't fail to note the presence of a mi'ksikatsi pair along with the lone drake at midpond. Is this pair the midpond pair? My intuition tells me it's not, but that the drake is one half of the pair nesting nearby, those we've been watching all along

1723 We have taken for granted that the midpond goose is still sitting her nest, though we can't see her from this side of the pond, and we haven't been out that way on the wet meadows for a few days

1724 Certainly the subpond mama is still sitting her eggs up in the hawk tree, and the big island nester is being diligent as well. The big news for today is that the small island goose is finally sitting her nest, so my suspicion that she was caching eggs in what appeared to be a sneezeweed platform was correct

1729 It's very hard to say who the husbands of the nesters are today. There's lots of aapsspini around. There are seven presently feeding and resting on the cool grass of the golf greens, and there appear to be five standing idle on the peninsula. My figuring is that at least two of these latter group are the husbands of the geese nesting on the two islands, because they are within sight. The others might be the sixth couple and the loner that arrived over the weekend

1733 Just like yesterday afternoon, the scabby redhead couple has come to dive and feed in the deeper pool right below the bench where we're sitting. I notice that Scabby herself stays under longer than her drake

1737 The mallard situation on this end is telling. There are two couples, and only the drakes can be seen, but the hens are occasionally heard. I strongly suspect one of them is nesting in the wet meadows near the big island. The other flew into the shallows behind the marsh and out of sight. And that leaves another three mallard couples unaccounted for, and likely nesting as well

1743 We just learned that there is another mallard couple in the subpond and that two of the geese on the golf course are the canal couple (they just flew back to the pond). I think the canal couple might try to put down a new nest on the tiny island where they succeeded last year, because for the second day in a row I can see that the goose is interested in it

1747 The small island goose is presently standing, turning her eggs. There's a chorus frog or two singing from the marsh, the first I've personally heard at the pond this season, though Mahoney heard one the other day. Eye-balling the configuration of the geese on the peninsula, I would not be surprised if the sixth couple are planning to nest here. We may very well have a huge gosling population this summer, which would be fantastic

1752 I've got to say, some guys really enjoy getting out there and seeing as many different bird species as possible each year. For us, it's very nice getting to know the residents here not only as representatives of a population, but as individuals, whose lives we are connected with, and whose experiences in prior seasons we remember

1802 Okay, so I was wrong about any of the peninsula geese being the ganders of the island nesters. Both the big and small island geese covered their nests and their husbands came down from the golf course to accompany them to eat. As usual, when they left the nest it was with much honking. I wonder if the geese and their ganders raise such a fuss at these moments as a means of distracting all the other geese from the fact that there is a nesting island unattended

1822 When the shadow of the coulee rim moves over our bench, we pick up to hike the levee over to the east side of the pond, the duck blind and forest. Along the route, we see a blue-grey dragonfly, different from the others, and a minute beetle, which I photographed on Mahoney's thumb before it spread wings and flew away

1829 Of note with the plants, the saskatoons have now opened their buds, and the green flower panicles of the poplars have sprung forth, to contrast with the red of the cottonwood in the forest canopy

1855 When we get to the blind, Mahoney sets to work watching the geese from this side and teaching herself an antique crochet stitch. I decide to go check out one of the neighboring patches of bulberry. Exposure therapy with the bees is helping, and I want to see who else might be pollinating these yellow flowers. Over just fifteen minutes or so I see many seven- and two-spot ladybugs entering the flowers, as well as two different species of bee-mimicking fly, the honeybees themselves, a yellow jacket, and something that looks like a crane fly or very small dragonfly

1901 Now I have a new mission toward gaining a better understanding of the systematics and relationships at play here. I will start making it a habit to give some of my attention to the pollinators of each flowering plant in their sequence, those we owe the berries to, as well as the predators - insect and bird - who feast on these pollinators

1916 Leaving the blind and walking along the forest trail, occasionally past other bulberry plants, we see in addition to those of the previous list a small white apanii (moth or butterfly) landing on the flowers. We also find still another kind of brush that has opened its blooms, the red osier. And finally, before leaving the forest, we stop to lift the fallen branch beneath which we found a hibernating yellow jacket queen a couple weeks ago, and sure enough she is gone

1931 As we round north-pond to start back to the truck, there are large groups of parents and children arriving, all carrying orange plastic bags. A woman stops us to say that they are cleaning up litter tonight. With all the anxiety they will cause the birds and beavers this evening, it looks like we're getting out of here just in time