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