05 May 2010

Poplars In Leaf

IIII ) llllllllllllllllll Poplars In Leaf (4May10)

1649 Sspopiikimi - the city has closed the access road once again, but this time I refuse to abide (sort of). I've parked at the barracade up on the coulee rim, and I'll hike down

1713 It takes me twenty-five minutes to descend from the rim, following the easy grade of the closed road. At the base of the coulee slope, there's a construction crew from the city and two Telus vans, working with a backhoe and shovels to do something that involves rerouting the floodwaters and their impact on the phone cables

1720 Shortly after passing the construction, I’m walking in at north-pond, and I see no sign of the coot couple who are resident to this end. The only one here at first is a lone kingfisher. But before I can even move away, the triplet aapsspini family paddles in, and an osprey sweeps over from the river, hovers, then dives to successfully nab a pike. The osprey has gone to feed on a perch at midpond, and I'm making my way toward it

1739 Though I take my time going south, and try to project a non-threatening demeanor, I notice the osprey lean forward and evacuate, sending a white stream out behind it. I know then that it's not going to stay here. Indeed, after I take a few more steps, it wings away with its catch to the river

1742 The osprey's not the only bird acting overly shy this evening. There are also two aapsspini couples, the Miracle gosling, and a pair of mi'ksikatsi sitting on the midpond shore. All of them get up and enter the water as they see me coming, and the geese in particular keep ahead of me as I move south, though practicing the caution of lowering their head in respect as they pass the nesting canal mother. Her gander is standing threateningly above, on the golf green, and doesn't give an inch when I walk by him

1751 At south-pond, I find both island mamas still sitting on their nests. This was something I didn't expect, and the major compelling factor in bringing me out in this weather. It is currently the thirty-first day since incubation of the big island nest began. There should almost definitely be goslings now. I can't see any from my position, which doesn't mean they're not there. I'll have to go around to the wet meadow shore, which is closer to her nest, and get a look from there. In this sleet, the goslings - who lack the large feathers that serve also as rain shields - may be hunkered under her

1756 Also at south-pond, I can see one of the redhead couples feeding with shallow dives near my shore. There are other ducks in the shallows below the blind, but again I'll have to hike over there to get a better look at who. And the two male mergansers are resting beside the small island goose nest. These mergansers are becoming regulars here at the pond. I figure it's either because the river is now so high and muddy, or because they have mates nested along the river nearby, or both

1815 As I hike around to the other side of south-pond and drop down into the forest, moving toward the blind, I notice that several young poplars in one tight location have leafed-out. Not far from them, there are also three mature poplars in leaf. These I figure for the parent trees. Looking down the length of the forest though, I don't see any other poplars or cottonwoods who have dared this, when we are still at risk of heavy, wet snowpacks

1821 Once at the blind, I get to look out over the shallows. Here I find both ganders of the island nests, as well as two male blue-wing teals and a pair of shovelers. The notable absence so far today has been aiksikksisiiksi. I suspect they're just huddled out of sight somewhere in the bulrushes

1835 Leaving the blind, I walk down into the wet meadows and approach the big island nest. There I find father drake of the nearby mallard nest; I hadn't noticed him from the other side. I squat on the shoreline closest to the island. Mama goose is acting in her typical fashion, hugging the ground as close as possible so that perhaps I won't see her. No presence of goslings is evident, at least not a firm confirmation. But it does seem to me that mama has her wings held farther out from her body than usual, and this could be their umbrella

1840 Walking back to the forest, I can hear the mechanical, wing-beat rhythm of a snipe in display overhead. I'm careful not to scare up the female who's sitting the snipe nest nearby. I don't want her eggs exposed to this damp cold. But I do go close enough to where I figure she won't scare, just to see if I can spot her... I can't. Even from five or six meters away, and knowing pretty precisely where the nest is, she's too camouflaged

1859 The last place I want to stop, for monitoring purposes, is at the cutbank lookout over the river island. To get there, I hike through the forest, where I discover more of the young poplars in leaf. Then, climbing up over the levee, I come to the lookout. Below I can see that all three aapsspini nests visible from this side are still occupied. Two of these are now at day thirty-two of incubation, according to my count, and should be hatched out

1904 Now I'm ready to start my trek back up the coulee slope. As I move around north-pond toward the trail that will take me to the road, there's a lone goose on my path giving alarm calls. When I approach, it flies down to land in the water, but is quickly set upon by the triplet gander, who doesn't appreciate the obnoxious, noisy behavior so close to his newborns. The loner then takes wing again and flies off to south-pond

1908 Finally, just before I walk away from the pond, I catch sight of the resident coot couple of this end. They had been in the reeds, just as I suspected. One of them is now feeding on the open water, while the other stays back in the hummocks. I'm going to need to come down here in my waders very soon to see if they have eggs yet

1944 It takes me almost forty minutes to trek back up the now-open road to the coulee rim. The workers are gone. They've sandbagged a canal to route the water streaming down the slope into a large storm pipe, probably the same one that drains into the pond. I've had my exercise for the day, and accomplished what I needed to despite the obstacles. Homeward bound