23 April 2010

Spontaneous Appearance Of Fish Eaters

IIII ) lllllll Spontaneous Appearance Of Fish Eaters (23Apr10)

1816 Sspopiikimi - with just a couple hours of light left to work with, after a day stacked with meetings, we make our way out here, where we find the first aiksikksksisi (white nose or american coot) has returned to midpond

1830 There was rain last night, and a bit of a temperature drop, and this seems connected to a very conspicuous absence this evening. For two days before the rain, the trail along the west length of the pond was occupied by dozens, if not hundreds, of variegated meadowhawks. Today, we've walked the distance and not seen a one

1834 The water in the pond has risen a bit, but the island aapsspini mamas are still quite safe. All four active nests seem to be doing well, though we won't be able to really confirm the midpond nest until tomorrow, when we can get out on the wet meadows

1837 As for the remainder of the waterfowl count, there are six geese on the neighboring golf greens (four of which are likely husband ganders), and four in the south shallows below the blind. There is a mi'ksikatsi couple sitting beside the ksisskstakioyis, and the scabby redhead couple are here in the south pools. We're sure the visual absence of mallards is an indication of the nesting that is underway, and again we're hoping to locate at least some of these on the wet meadows over the next couple days

1904 We waste no time moving down onto the peninsula, then through the bulberry brush and around the south pool, staying low instead of hiking the levee trail. In the process, we scare up another mi'ksikatsi pair who are resting on shore beside the cattail marsh. Within the marsh itself there is a second chuck-chucking coot. We notice that the wetness and/or cold has had a similar effect on all the pollinators that it has on the dragonflies. They're absent. All we see are tiny gnats and clover loopers (the moth that's been out for a few weeks now)

1911 Soon we are at the blind and picking asparagus. We've been neglecting our responsibility to gather some of the first of the season plants: the asperagus, musineon root, the young leaves of lens-podded hoary cress. If we don't get to work on these, we'll miss the opportunity entirely

1915 Mahoney notices something I've missed entirely. There are fair-sized clumps of green algae starting to form in the shallows. Every year, as things warm up, the pond goes through a cycle that Mahoney compares to a yeast infection. Soon enough there will be algae covering most of the pond, a massive flare-up that reveals the most used beaver trails. Just as soon afterward though, most of the algae clears again

1949 After picking around by the blind for a bit, we walk the transition zone between the forest and wet meadow, looking for more asparagus. It seems to grow best in these areas, amidst patches of buckbrush and prickly rose, on slopes near water. All in all we get only a handful of shoots

1957 Coming back up through the forest at its north end, and crossing the levee to the cutbank overlooking Oldman River and the big island which houses several more goose nests, we notice fish jumping in one of the calm, deep pools. Then Mahoney looks upriver and says excitedly, "Who's that?" There is a massive, second-year bald eagle perched in a snag poplar not more than sixty or seventy meters from us. We sit down right here to watch

2006 The eagle's not the only one hunting these waters tonight. As we sit and wait, the first belted kingfisher of the season comes winging and chattering past, flying low over the surface below us

2021 We wait while the eagle scans the water below him. We wait while he preens. We wait while the first bank swallows of the season reveal themselves, darting in and out of a burrow in the cutbank, swooping over the river. We wait while the eagle shits, then stretches its wing, then shits again. We wait while a beaver swims closer and closer from upriver, stepping out on the bank to pull roots here and there, probably unaware of the enormous and dangerous bird perched above. And finally, after all the waiting, the eagle hops, pumps its giant wings, lifts, passes over us, and disappears downriver

2053 With the eagle gone and the chill of night sinking in, we round north pond, moving toward the truck. But before we go, we want to make one last stop at one of the older asparagus plants. As we move through the absinthe toward it, on the edge of the cutbank above north pond, I see there are several thick shoots ready for harvesting. They're so nice, when I spot them I say, "Wow!" This exclamation provokes an even bigger surprise. One of the older members of the ksisskstaki family is right there at our feet. We hadn't even noticed. It ran a few steps, then stopped and went back to eating absinthe greens. It didn't mind at all that we were there beside it. We videotaped and photographed it until the beaver had its fill and moved back down the cutbank into the water. What a great way to conclude what I originally thought would be an uneventful evening walk