03 April 2010

Merganser And Tiger Beetle

IIII ) lllllllllllllllll Merganser and Tiger Beetle (3Apr10)

0759 Awake and hardly able to express the joy I feel, knowing that I still have three full days to visit the coulee and pond before it's back to work. We should have four day leaves more often

1005 Last year this time, seventeen sleeps into Sa'aiki'somm was two days after Easter. The coots had returned to Sspopiikimi, the ticks had hatched, the honeybees were feeding at flowering bulberries, we were seeing ring-necked ducks, lesser scaups, and shovelers from the road, chorus frogs had begun singing, and there were two aapsspini nests at the pond and seven on Goose Island

1116 Sspopiikimi - there's a cold wind coming from the mountains today, hitting the pond with freezing gusts that taste like snow. We're still waiting for the wolf cap, uncertain as to whether the brief snow closer to the mountains earlier in this moon was the end of it. In any case, it's not a comfortable afternoon, for either ourselves or the waterfowl

1121 Walking the length of the pond along the west cutbank, we see the midpond couple have stationed themselves apart, with the goose in the water amidst the bulrushes, near the muskrat lodge, and the gander at the other end of their territory, standing atop the ksisskstakioyis. The canal couple is feeding on the cutbank, and the subpond pair is out on the golf course. The big island goose is settled down on her nest platform, which was empty of eggs just a few sleeps ago, her gander moving about nearby on the shore of the wet meadow

1130 All of the resident mi'ksikatsi are congregated on the wide south pool, which I attribute to effects of the cold wind. This pool is closest to the shelter of the coulee cliff, and I can see from the water surface that all of the pond further north receives stronger gusts. There are at least nine mi'ksikatsi, more than we previously knew to be staying here. This does not surprise me though, as we always find that more families emerge once that ducklings hatch

1157 Having preliminarily surveyed the pond, we cut down into the owl forest, noting on the way that one of our favorite golden currant bushes is leafing out. Just as we enter the forest, we stop at a poplar snag to pull off some of its remaining bark in search of cucujus. What we found instead was a hibernating two-spot lady beetle and a pristine red currant that must have been stashed by a bird last summer

1217 There's no sign of the kakanottsstookii as we make our way through the forest. Along the way, we can hear a ring-necked pheasant calling from the coulee slope, not too far above us. The coyotes have continued feeding at their deer carcass, and the magpies are still picking from it today. All that remains is the hide, head, ribcage and lower legs

1224 We walk the length of the forest and come out at the high-level bridge. The number of aapsspini volleying to nest on the concrete anchors is amazing. There are twenty-seven geese, which is one couple too many if they nested on all twelve anchors. Unfortunately, the hard, cold concrete and passing trains overhead do not make these stations conducive to successful nests. Of the geese who try here each year, only one or two clutches ever make it to term

1237 Just upstream from the bridge, we caught a glimpse of the first butterfly of the season. Though we took out the catch-net, we never even got close enough to see what kind it was. Every time it flew, the wind sped it along, a butterfly tumbling away through the air, out of control

1250 It's starting to warm up, in spite of the wind. Mahoney and I walk back to the bench above the south pool, this time following a trail above the tree-line of the bridge forest. She stays back at the bench while I hike back to the truck to fetch some sandwiches we've brought for lunch

1307 When I get back to the bench with our grub, the big island goose has left her nest to feed on the wet meadow shore. She is not behaving as incubating mothers usually do. When they leave their nests to feed, they run and eat hurriedly, grabbing as much as they can in a few short minutes. This one is leisurely making her way from one spot of grass to another. We hypothesize that she was on her nest, hopefully, to deposit either her first or second egg. I will need to wade out there to be sure

1328 After lunch, I walk down the cubank just below the bench to look at the young manitoba maple tree. It was only last year that we learned of this tree's presence here, and there are very few of them to be found along this stretch of the Oldman. Since it's so young, I'm thinking it might be fun to chart its growth and events in its life over the coming years. Presently, it is in good condition. There are no signs of infestations or diseases. A couple of its stems and branches have been damaged, broken off by people using it as a handhold when descending the steep cutbank to the water, but this damage is minimal. It's trunk rises no more than about sixteen inches off the ground before dividing into three vertical branches. One of these has itself developed a sub-branch, also verticle. This sub-branch has seven branchlets, and the stems coming off these branchlets have no more than two substems and sixteen buds (including the terminal buds that I assume will have both leaves and flowers). The main branch that is this sub-branch has sixteen branchlets. Then, the second verticle branch, which has no sub-branch, has nineteen branchlets, and the last verticle branch has twenty-three. The most stems on any one branchlet, by my count, is six, not including the terminal budding tip of the branchlet itself. I'll check back on this tree periodically to see how things develop from here

1357 Eventually, we decide to move around to the duck blind at the edge of the main forest and wet meadows, on other side of the pond. As we walk, the cold wind kicks back up. Mahoney, waving the catch-net through the air for fun as we hike, inadvertently snares a micro-moth just as we enter the duck blind. It is another first of the season for us

1433 Leaving the duck blind and walking through the forest main, we began peeling rotten bark and turning logs in search of cucujus. He did not appear, though we did come across another kind of beetle. We also found a geo-cache box hidden under a heavy log. This is a little box of goodies that's part of an international treasure-hunt game for gps users. It's the second geo-cache site we've stumbled onto by accident in the last few years

1444 Coming out of the forest, we cross the levee walk to have a peek at goings-on of the big river island. There are at least three aapsspini couples established here. None are sitting nests, though they may be caching eggs. While we scout out these geese, a lone male miisa'ai or common merganser floats nervously past

1421 Once the merganser passed, we strolled down onto the rocky riverbank. There we saw, but again couldn't keep up with, another butterfly. There are red stonecrops and the first shoots of silverweed creeping out of the gravel. And we encountered a red-wing clickhopper and a claybank tiger beetle

1530 Climbing back up onto the sandy cutbank at the border of the forest, we noticed also that the first heads of otsiikini, or golden-bean are emerging

1556 The wind is unceasing, relentless. We decide it's time to pack it in and head home. A lot of questions are raised by these first of the season plants and animals, of why they emerge, hatch, open buds, or nest when they do, and what relationships these behaviors and appearances have to one another

1623 It's not difficult to read between the lines and find indigenous knowledge eclipsed by the mythologies of mainstream holidays. Easter is the time of the equinox, when daylight hours in the northern hemisphere first match and then overtake the dark period of night and winter. The sun dies for four days when it rises in the same position during the winter solstice, and then truly overcomes that darkness and death, being resurrected now, at the equal nights, as winter shifts to summer. Combine this annual solar event with the re-emergence of so many plants, insects, and mammals, the return of the migratory birds, and the appearance of the season's first bird nests with eggs, and clearly we have logical cause for celebration