01 May 2010

Makoyisttsomo'ki Returns

IIII ) llllllllllll Makoyisttsomo'ki Returns (28Apr10)

0657 Monsoon rains and one very ouch pain of the finger

1531 Came home even earlier than planned, out of concern for the weather. Zzzz-ed on the new mattress for a half-hour that felt like several half-hours. Presently at Haig Clinic with Mahoney, next to the post office to ship some ants to Calgary, and then I guess I'll do some more marking, though even in this wet and cold I hear the pond calling

1752 Well, we tried to get down to the pond, but the damn city closed the access road because of a little flash flood :(

0016 Makoyisttsomo'ki returns with a vengeance. Guess we don't have to worry about getting up early tomorrow

IIII ) llllllllllllll Black-Crowned Night-Heron And The Miracle Gosling (30Apr10)

1614 Put on my going-to-the-pond clothes and soon felt something crawling around in my hair. Mahoney took a peek, and sure enough it was another TICK! That's like the fourth one she's found on me this season. Oh well, headed to Sspopiikimi to pick up some more. At least now I know the derivation of the word “tickle”

1646 Sspopiikimi - Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my extreme pleasure to announce the arrival of our first GOSLING!! Yes, it is an exciting start to my evening. I've just walked in at north-pond to find one of our goose couples (yet to be identified) here with a single gosling. But that's not all. Also present are the north-pond coot pair, a kingfisher, and someone entirely new, a black-crowned night-heron. In four years of practically daily visits, we've never seen this bird at Sspopiikimi, ever

1653 I am currently seated on the cutbank above north-pond on serious night-heron surveillance. This is totally amazing, and I wouldn't doubt if its arrival has coincided with the emergence of this year's turtle babies from their nests. I'm hoping to find out. But as I write this note, a jogger with a little mutt passes near and scares the bird into flight. Now add "pissed-off" to the other range of high-emotions I'm feeling initially here this evening

1705 As I wait here to see if the night-heron returns, I watch the north-pond coots nest-building. They’re dragging bulrush stems from one patch to another, and it looks as though it's going to be the very same hummock they put their successful nest in last year

1708 Patience pays off. The night-heron has returned. It just flew back in from the river and landed on the same log at the far north end. But as I write this note, AGAIN a jogger with a dog passes by and scares it off!! It might even be the same guy, I can't tell. All idiots look alike to me

1713 I desperately want to walk to south-pond so I can figure out which nest this new gosling was born from, but I'm forcing myself to wait. If the night-heron came back once, chances are it'll come back again. I use its absence as a means to get myself a seat on the cutbank a little closer to its perch for the next pass

1723 The coots are feeding now, and the night-heron has yet to return. I notice a male redwing blackbird shoot across the pond and dive into a bulrush tuft. As he does, out from the same reeds comes a female, the first I've seen this season. The two have switch positions, she’s now in the brush that the male had originally launched from. A little ways further north of the bulrush hummock now occupied by the male redwing, I've spotted something potentially disturbing. I can't be sure from this distance, but there appears to me to be a dead ksisskstaki near the shoreline below the levee walk. If the heron doesn't return soon, I’ll have to go check it out

1734 Two massive pelicans pass overhead, and just beside me I notice the glimmer of a few glass bottles eroding out of the side of the cutbank. This area, as far as I can tell, was once some kind of boardwalk along an oxbow of the river. I dig one of the bottles out and wipe the dirt away. It is an old 10 oz Webb's Stubby soda bottle, "A Jolly Good Mixor, Zip In Every Sip"

1744 My curiosity finally gets the best of me and I walk over to investigate the potentially dead beaver. It turns out to be a false alarm, just a fat little beaver-colored log, floating in the water

1748 Moving on, I round north-pond and go over the levee walk to the river, hoping to find the night-heron hunting the fish-run. I don't see it. But there are other important things happening here. First of all, as a result of the powerful storm that moved through over the last two days, the river has risen considerably and is brown with silt. It would be a fairly risky endeavor now to try and cross to the island, and I’ll have to wait for the water to recede before I check on the fishing kit I stashed along the shore. It looks like at least one of the geese on the near side of the island is still incubating, but I can't see the one who was nested by the log upstream. There's a small pelican congregation at the downstream end of the island, where the river widens and becomes more shallow. And on the cutbank where I stand, there are new flowers about to bloom on the leafy spurge, and also on a small, slender, flax-like plant I'm not familiar with. I'm taking photos and samples so that I can hopefully identify it later

1813 While down on the ground to collect a sample of the one unidentified plant, which is blooming with tiny, white, drooping flowers, I start noticing some of the new green of other plants emerging as well. The first leaves of the canada goldenrod have burst from the soil, and there are two other recent greens as well. One has lance shaped leaves that remind me of plantain, or sneezeweed, or prairie sunflower… I’ll have to observe its development to find out what it is. The second plant is something from the pea family, but I’m not sure the species. It looks like a stunted version of the kind of peas you’d grow in your garden, but the longest stems so far are only about five inches high. It appears as though it’s getting ready to flower soon, so it’ll be another one I keep an eye on

1822 Then there are the flowering trees - the poplars, and cottonwoods, and chokecherries. By the time I'm moving on to go check the goose nests of the pond, the pocket-sized plant press I've brought is absolutely bursting. And I haven't even begun with the grasses yet, something I want to start attending to this weekend. I’m actually looking forward to seeing the purple blooms along the flowerheads of the crested wheatgrass again, a subtle beauty I only started noticing last year

1840 I take my time hiking through the woods toward the subpond nest in the hawk tree. With its new leaves, the patches of buckbrush seem somehow more formidable. When I eventually arrive at the tree, I observe right away that the nest has been almost completely obliterated by the high winds and heavy, wet snow of the recent storm. What little remains is hanging in tatters from the forked branch on which it was set. And in the grass below, I find shell fragments of two eggs. Both have been cleaned right out, such that there's no sign of their previous content. I search deep in the grass around them, expecting to find nearly-developed gosling remains, as these eggs were only a couple days away from when I expected them to hatch, but there is nothing

1847 Standing below the obliterated tree nest, looking out over the pond, I can see that both of the island mamas are still sitting their eggs. This is good news, because not only does it mean that their nests made it through the rough storm, but also it also indicates that the single gosling with parents I saw at north-pond almost certainly have to be the subpond geese. One miracle gosling must have been forced to hatch a day early by the fall from the tree. What a dramatic entrance to this life

1910 Picking up to leave the hawk tree, I have a brief scare when I swing my bag pack over my shoulder and feel the weight drop out of it. Seems I failed to zip it up after taking pictures of the nest scene, and all my camera lenses fell out. One of them, an expensive tilt-shift, rolled a ways under some brush and proved considerably difficult to find

1913 Once I've got all my lenses back in order, I head to the blind above the south shallows. Here I find that a female has joined the blue-winged teal drake. One of the redhead couples is present as well, but I can’t make out if it’s Scabby because of the intense glare of sundown. There are more asparagus shoots on the rise. Some have shot up practically overnight and are already starting to branch out. Others are just starting to poke their pointed, purplish heads out of the ground

1928 Coming up through the forest again, onto the levee-walk so I can round south-pond, I find that the saskatoons have now joined the ranks of flowering and leafing trees. Very soon the forest canopy will unfold with green again and the robin and mourning dove nests will be built, if they’re not already

1748 As I come to the cutbank along the west length of the pond, I see that the ksisskstaki family is on the water, beginning their evening round. There are ten aapsspini lingering at south-pond: the two island nesters, the small island gander, and seven others feeding on the golf greens. None of these, from what I can see, are the new gosling pair. But that makes sense, the parents have moved their baby to north-pond, where I saw them, clear of the combat zone

2002 By my count then, all of the regulars would seem to be accounted for. But there is something else going on here. Off by the ksisskstakioyis, I spot another goose sitting hidden in the tall grass of the shoreline. I could be wrong, and tomorrow I'll find out for sure, but my suspicion is that it’s our favorite mama, the goose of the canal couple, incubating her second nest of the season

2009 Just as I pass the ksisskstakioyis and the revitalized canal nest, I see two male mergansers approaching. I sit down and wait for them. They're hunting partners. They swim along with their heads just below the surface, searching for fish. When one of them spots something and dives, the other one usually dives after it as well. And when one of them comes up with a beak full of pike (almost as long as its own body), the two birds run on the water, the one who missed the catch trying to steal the fish from the other before it swallows its squirming meal whole

2018 Returning to midpond, I again find the new goose parents with their single gosling. After looking at all the evidence, my best guess is that this is the subpond couple of the hawk tree, and that they are lucky to have this single, surviving, miracle child

2020 I check one last time for the night-heron at north-pond before I leave. But failing to find it, I have to concede that we probably will not see it at Sspopiikimi again any time soon