21 April 2010

Snipes Mating

IIII ) llll Snipes Mating (20Apr10)

1621 Sspopiikimi - we are now at the edge of that massive explosion of new and renewed life at the pond where it's going to start getting very difficult to keep up phenologically. Presently, Mahoney and I are at the south-pond bench, and we've seen so much already, it took forty minutes just to walk in, with no possibility of a break for note-taking

1625 I will try to record what we've encountered so far. First of all, we'd hardly shut the door of the truck when we witnessed two common thatching ants hauling a small caterpillar across our trail. After photographing the ants with their catch, we walked up to the look-out over midpond. There we saw the local drake, still without his hen, as he has been for a few days now. She must be sitting a nest

1632 Starting our survey of the length of the pond, moving south, we quickly noticed the presence of red dragonflies, possibly cherry-faced meadowhawks. They captured our attention for a bit. They're extremely skittish, difficult to get a photo of, and even more difficult to try and catch in a net. We didn’t really succeed in either. We saw dozens of them on the trail, which leads me to guess that they're after something like ants. However, they could be after mayflies, because far before we'd given up on the dragonflies, we started noticing how many of these tiny insects were flying around. They are a larger, darker species than the tiny green ones we remember molting on us last year. Indeed, these ones appear to have already molted

1642 All five aapsspini couples are present and accounted for, each in their respective territories. The small island couple may have an egg cache, but they're not sitting them yet. And I still have hope that the canal couple will try again

1645 On the cutbank running the west length of the pond, the buckbrush is leafing-out. This is a change from yesterday. Also, the manitoba maple buds look ready to pop

1646 About half-way to the bench, we were happy to see the harrier couple have returned. They flew low over the wet meadows, hunting, then off toward the river. We can't be sure that they're the same pair who nested in the marsh here last year, but it's our suspicion

1648 Sitting now above south-pond, the scabby redhead couple is feeding in a deep pool right below us, taking short dives. There is also the mi'ksikatsi couple of the shallows and the one lone drake still harassing them. And from somewhere in the shallows we just heard the calls of what we thought at first was a spotted sandpiper. But as we walk down to the peninsula looking for the source of the call, we find that it belongs to the snipes. It is their mating call. There’s a pair here on shore with their tails held high, the male fanning his, then mounting his mate. We can also hear another pair involved in similar activity somewhere by the wet meadows

1718 The snipes aren't the only ones coupling this afternoon. Sitting briefly on the gravel bank that holds the turtle nests, we find that the red dragonflies are also busy connecting to one another in flight, over the water. Other news from the peninsula - someone's been eating the dandelion blooms and pulling up stems of the nebraska sedge... and not necessarily the same culprit in both. I suspect geese for the former and beavers for the latter

1729 Of course there's also the possibility that it’s one of the muskrats from the marsh who's actually responsible for uprooting the sedge. Even as we sit here, one has swum across the pool in front of us, then sat to eat something in a bulrush tuft before diving back in

1743 Just as I'm considering this muskrat as a prime candidate for sedge-eating, he more or less confirms it. We watch as the muskrat swims very close to us and enters another bulrush tuft. It munches on something for a minute or so before coming back into view. It then floats just off-shore watching us, dives splashingly, and swims back through a canal returning to the marsh. Peeking into the bulrush he’d just visited, I can see there are a few blades of sedge left floating

1833 After all the action along the west length of the pond, the east side seems quiet. We have made our way around to the blind overlooking the shallows, noting little more along the route than that the leafing-out of the chokecherries has begun

1838 While Mahoney rests and works her crochet for a few minutes in the blind, I survey some of the asparagus plants in the vicinity. A few have sent up shoots, and I gather about half a dozen of those that are tall enough. It's not much, but it's a start. Most of the established plants still haven't sent up any

1841 As I wander around, a pair of mallards come rushing down to the subpond from the tree-line. My figuring is that they're caching eggs. They've already seen me, so I don't want to just go crunching around in search of their cache-site. Better to come back this way in a day or so and keep my eyes trained on the tree-line as I approach. Then I should be able to see right where the hen emerges from

1845 As I'm picking up my pack to leave the blind, I spot a bumblebee on the wood by one of my straps. And on the way out through the forest, Mahoney notices that the prickly roses are leafing out as well. Very soon everything will be green here