31 May 2010

Redstart, Hermit Thrush, And Redhead Washout

IIII ) llllllllllllll Redstart And Hermit Thrush (29May10)

1803 Sspopiikimi – it’s been a busy day with graduation events, baby-sitting, and other social matters. But I feel out of touch with the coulees after traveling north all week, and I’m unwilling to wait any longer while daylight continues to pass. I’ve decided to head down to the pond alone. It won't be as enjoyable without Mahoney, but it's cold and wet anyway, so maybe it’s better that she stayed home

1807 Once again, I find the access road from our side of town closed by the city due to flooding and (possibly) landslide risk. But rather than parking on the coulee rim and hiking down, as I did last time this happened, I drive around to an alternate access point off Hwy 3

1819 Walking in at midpond, three aapsspini families are feeding on the west cutbank. They are the Triplets with Miracle, the Big Island family, and a single goose with one gosling whose identity I'm unsure of. The ksisskstaki are out already for their evening rounds, and I can hear a kingfisher chattering from north-pond

1832 Moving next to the bat tree, I find several interesting little birds, including the common yellow-throats and yellow warblers. I am surprised also to glimpse amidst these branches a hermit thrush. Then, in the waters below, the cinnamon teal couple is present, along with one mi'ksikatsi drake. I’ve heard the coots in their reeds, and on the opposite shore there's an aapsspini couple, though I can't tell if they have goslings

1842 I’m wearing my waders this evening, so that I might check on the status of some of the nests in the reeds, and how they're faring given the rising waters and overnight freezes. On my way toward the north-pond coot and yellow-headed blackbird reeds, in amongst the grass I see the yellow flowers of ponokaowahsin or elk-food (a.k.a. yellow puccoon) emerging

1857 Before I can get around to the reeds, I stop at the far end of north-pond, because there on the driftwood is another congregation of small birds, all picking at what I assume are small insects on the logs. Most of the birds feeding here are spotted sandpipers and yellow-rumped warblers, though there are also yellow warblers chasing one another around the area

1908 Also at north-pond, beneath the large western cottonwoods, I notice the new stems and leaves of clematis are emerging - simultaneously from both seedlings and new starts on old vines

1912 Scabby and her husband have just arrived to feed at this end of the pond, surprising considering its distance from her nest, and there's a female yellow-headed blackbird flying back and forth between the bulrushes and the driftwood, gathering wet plant material left on top by the muskrats for use in a nest she's constructing

1922 A blue-winged teal drakes arrives, just as I am preparing to wade in and inspect the first nests, and the rain suddenly picks up. No bother, I'm here to get wet anyway. The surface of the pond, though, has certainly risen a lot. There's several more inches than there was just last week

1938 I take my time moving along the edges of beaver canals through the high bulrushes of north-pond. I'm almost up to my chest in water, and I have to hold my camera aloft and just hope I don't slip. All goes well though, and I'm pleased to report four eggs so far in the now-finished north-pond coot nest, two yellow-headed blackbird eggs in their nest we saw being constructed last week, and of course none yet in the new yellow-head nest being woven today

1754 The heavy rain continues, and I walk up to check on the progress of the robin's nest at the north end of the forest. Looks as though the babies have fledged. They're no longer here. I also check on the old robin nest where I noticed new grass being added last week. Looks now like it’s going to be a mourning dove nest. The classic platform has been built, and there is a dove lingering nearby, but no eggs as yet

2012 Heading back down from the forest toward the midpond cattails, I stop in to check the redwing balloon nest. It has one egg. Then, out on the water, I spot a small black bird with brilliant orange breast and wing-bars. I don't know this species, and later in the evening struggle to identify it as an American redstart. This is the first time I’ve seen one at Sspopiikimi

2037 As I approach the midpond cattails, I have to pass the recently expanded beaver canal area, leading to what might easily become another subpond. When I'm at the edge of this area, I see a wake at the entrance of the canal. A beaver is coming in. I crouch down to get a good look, and I watch it move up the canal to a little island where it proceeds to noisily munch on a bulrush root. Then it notices me sitting there, not at all far away, and immediately dives, resurfacing only once back in the main pond

2042 There are lots of yellow warblers in the reeds midpond and throughout the wet-meadows. They must have food out here of some kind. Today the wet-meadows are truly living up to their name. Without waders this exercise would have been very wet indeed. As I walk, I see the new mint plants growing almost a foot underwater

2047 Finally I reach the midpond coot nest. All is well here. The rising waters have not submersed it, and it appears perhaps that the coots have been adding material to insure this. All eight eggs are high and dry. On the other hand, I myself am now thoroughly soaked by the rain. And that would not be problematic, were it not for the fact that I'm carrying several thousand dollars worth of electronic gear on my back. Since I can't afford to replace it, I concede that it's time to abort. I'll have to return tomorrow to check the sub- and south-pond

IIII ) lllllllllllllll Redhead Washout (30May10)

1924 Sspopiikimi - the rain, at least temporarily, has stopped, the clouds having very recently broken. But not trusting it to stay gone long, Mahoney and I have come down with minimal equipment, no more than we can fit in the pockets of our rain jackets

1929 I've worn my waders again, and tonight we are heading to check the nests at south-pond, and whether they have been affected by the rising water-level of the pond. With no wind, the water is glassy tonight, reflecting the lush green of the forest and the grey clouds of the sky. A ksisskstaki is following us as we move along the west cutbank. It carries an old log up to the top of the ksisskstakioyis as we pass midpond, then comes down the opposite side of the lodge and continues to follow us until we reach the entrance to the subpond canal, into which it turns

1937 There are three aapsspini families at midpond this evening - the Triplets, the Big Islands, and a pair with two goslings, who could either be the Small Islands or Logs. The bank and tree swallows are skimming dinner off the surface of the pond tonight, flying just inches above the water and dipping their beaks in when they spot a catch

2000 When we sit at the south bench for a few minutes to take-in our surroundings, I notice what I think is a new mound of earth beneath one of the currant bushes on the cutbank. I'm imagining a den of some kind, possibly a coyote, badger, or fox. But when I climb down to investigate, it's only the old stems of the currant bush. They do, however, conceal the entrance to a muskrat den. In the water outside the entrance are the remains of bulrush stems and lens-podded hoary cress they've been eating

2005 Mahoney for her part has been watching a yellow warbler search the logs below the bench for food. And as she looks out on the pond's surface, she notes that most of the islands are now underwater, including even that which we call Big Island. The peninsula too is almost gone

2010 Leaving the bench and heading toward the south marsh, we walk through the bulberry and currant brush, confident that there will be no ticks around tonight. In addition to the yellow-rumped warblers and robins who are abundant in this brush, we encount a grey catbird working through its repertoire of mimicked chatter

2040 Making my way out into the marsh, I am sorry to find that both of the redhead nests I'd located last week are now abandoned. This is what I feared. The water has risen too high. While it has yet to sink the coot nests, or rise up to meet any of the blackbird nests at north-pond, at this south end there has been damage. All of the redwing nests I find have become water-logged, fortunately before there were eggs. The redheads were not so lucky. The nest with eight eggs is completely submerged. Scabby's nest, which I now see has ten eggs, is just barely above water, but abandoned none-the-less. And the redheads themselves, the three pairs who've been residents here, are nowhere to be found

2051 I meet back up with Mahoney at the blind and tell her about what I learned. As we sit up on the cutbank in plain view, a ksisskstaki swims by and stops at three places along our shore to bring up mud from the bottom and deposit scent mounds. We don't know if this is because its other mounds got submersed, or if it's concerned that more beavers might come into the pond with the rising waters, or if something else entirely is going on

2055 Still at the blind, a large (for this season) clan of aapsspini fly over, three groups of five all moving together, throwing the geese at our pond into an absolute uproar that continues long after this flock has passed. Then, just when the noise dies down, a caspian tern comes winging over the south pool. Apparently finding nothing, it continues on to north-pond, then out to the river

2123 Perhaps reminded that the river is now too muddy and raging, the tern soon returns and continues making sweeps along the length of the pond. At the same time, I notice that the beaver who made the scent mounds is now hauling a large willow or young poplar tree back to the ksisskstakioyis. I follow it all the way to the lodge, where it brings its leafy bush above the north entrance and proceeds to munch on its bark. When this beaver finally notices me beside it, she dives out in the pond and is quickly joined by two other family members to swim back and forth in agitation until I agree to leave

2133 It's getting dark now, but we still have a ways to go crossing the wet-meadows, moving through the forest, and around north-pond to get to the truck. Mahoney's in need of a break. So we walk to the edge of the forest and there find a soggy, rotten log to park on. We sit there for a while just listening to the birds sing

2154 Finally climbing out of the forest, onto the levee-walk, we stop to look out over the river. It's flooded and moving fast. The shore-line beaver lodge here is completely submersed, and the only visible evidence of the large island where the geese nested earlier is a narrow strip of sandbar willow. Everywhere the waters are up. Although the moons have not changed yet, it seems safe to say we're already in misamsootaa, the long-rains