20 April 2010

Scabby Redhead Returns

IIII ) lll Scabby Redhead Returns (19Apr10)

1736 Sspopiikimi - the warmth continues, and tonight Mahoney and I are here to enjoy the evening in shorts and t-shirts. The first thing we notice coming in is the abundance of small, earth-toned apanii (moths or butterflies) flittering along in the grass of the west cutbank

1748 Surveying the length, we find all three incubating aapsspini mothers accounted for. Curiously though, none of their ganders are guarding them. In fact, we don't see their ganders at all, around the waters or on the neighboring golf course. The canal couple whose nest failed are still occupying their small territory. The fifth couple, who I might as well start calling the small island pair, are here in south-pond. The goose is picking around on their island, and it looks like she has set-up a platform of sneezeweed. Her gander is standing on one leg, watching her from the shallows

1754 We've seen just two mi'ksikatsi pairs, that of the big island and the peninsula pool. The midpond couple were not at their area, and we see none of the lone drakes, nor the blue-winged teal

1756 The painted turtles, sspopii, are basking on logs and bulrush flotillas. And the loudest presence yet tonight is that of the redwing blackbird males, calling and flashing their shoulder-bars from every cattail patch. We can see on the side of the cutbank the new green leaves of lens-podded hoary cress

1813 After a quick rest at the south bench, we walk down on the peninsula to check the turtle nests. None look as though they've dug out as yet. But while we're checking the area, Mahoney notices there's something on her shoe. It's the first big green stink bug of the season, very cool. Far more exciting though, for us, is the sudden appearance of a redhead couple in the shallows. One glance tells us that it is our familiar scabby redhead mama and her husband. She has an unmistakable patch of white plumage on the back of her noggin, and this was the only redhead pair to successfully nest here last year

1837 We move along the levee trail around south-pond toward the blind, hoping that when we get there our redhead couple will be near. On the way, we manage to net a couple of the small apanii for later identification. These ones don't sit still for pictures. Finally we cut down through the forest to the blind, but our redheads are nowhere in sight. There's only a mi'ksikatsi hen, camouflaged beside a tuft of bulrush. She gives four or five quack calls and her drake comes flying in to land beside her

1849 When we do spot the redheads again, they are all the way over by the south bench, where we had originally stopped. There, in one of the deeper pools, they are diving in the same fashion as we will expect of the coots, who should be arriving any day now

1853 As we watch our redheads, who have now finished diving and have moved on to preen by the big island goose nest, we hear the wing beats of a snipe in display overhead

1906 Leaving the ducks behind, we decide to hike out through the forest. There are female robins here now, which I hadn't noticed before. All around us we can see and hear flickers, starlings, redwing blackbirds, downy woodpeckers. The flower buds of the western cottonwoods are opening to reveal crimson panicles. The first saskatoon buds are opening as well. And Mahoney, with her good eyes, spots a tiny brown weevil at the end of a tall, dry grass stem, the kind that has most of its largest blades clustered toward the top

1944 Coming to the end of the forest, we climb back up on the levee walk to begin making our way to the truck. Mahoney points out small wolf spiders and red spider mites for me to take pictures of on the way. When we reach north-pond, I walk down the cutbank to check the asparagus. Low and behold there are half a dozen shoots coming up, each about three inches high. By the weekend, at least some of it should be ready to gather