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