29 June 2010

Aiksikksksisiikoaiksi ki Ksiwawakaasiiksi

IIII ) llllllllll Coot Hatchlings (23June10)

1810 Sspopiikimi - with the floodwaters now receding, a whole new wave of life is on at the pond. We're here to do our evening round, Mahoney and I, and the very first thing I notice, just pulling into the parking lot, is that we're getting our summer snow. The cottonwoods are dropping their seeds, and they're accumulating all along the edges of the paths and the banks of the water

1814 I'm very curious as to whether any of the aiksikksksisi eggs have hatched yet. We decide to check the north nest first, and work our way along the cutbank south. The crested wheatgrass still hasn't flowered, but there is another grass species presently with small yellow blooms. When I brush the stems, pollen fills the air

1819 The kingbirds are nabbing insects off the water surface, while the kingfishers dive under for minnow pike. Three large garter snakes greet us at the cutbank by the bat tree, and we are not certain yet, but it appears the north coot nest does have hatchlings

1825 Confirmation… there are two orange cootling noggins poking up on this side of mama, and likely a lot more beneath her. They are tiny, tiny just yet. We're surprised that papa's not busy bringing them milfoil, but no doubt that will change. I see him making his way over now

1833 Papa coot returned with some food, which he passed off to mama. She fed each of the chicks, at least four of them now. Papa waited while she completed the feeding then got off the nest, which he took over tending while she paddles away. He's chuck-chucking for her return at the moment

1853 Moving over to midpond, we find that while the short crested wheatgrass is not flowering yet, the taller, duller green variety does have its purple blossoms. Here too we find yellow sweetclover in flower

1903 The midpond coot situation is more difficult to figure. There are two couples here now, along with a drake cinnamon teal and a drake mallard. One of the coot couples, that which we knew to have eggs even before the north-pond nest was set up, is acting defensive, chucking at others and showing their white bum patches. But watching them return to their nest and glassing the whole event, we cannot confirm hatchlings. It may be that their nest was damaged by the flood waters

1912 The ksisskstakioyis appears tiny compared to its former glory when the pond was lower. The three gosling families are looking more and more like a flock of geese. Crossing paths with another large garter, I follow it down the cutbank until it dives underwater and hides amidst the aquatic plants below. This is their strategy for avoiding danger here I suppose, which is why all the ones we see move quickly down the steep banks

1921 South-pond is just an entirely different scene now. With all of the islands and reeds sunk, it's more quiet here than we've ever experienced in summer. Though there are still the sounds of redwing blackbirds, they’re calling from the forests and brush. The yellowheads, it seems, have gone altogether. Sitting on the bench that used to overlook the peninsula, a mayfly has just molted into its adult form on my leg. Unfortunately though, predicting the same heavy mosquitoes of our last visit, we sprayed down with repellent, and the mayfly passed away immediately from its effects

1938 Add to the list of flowers in bloom the prairie and prickly roses. We are going to have a bumper crop of berries this year. The golden currants and saskatoons are well on their way

1943 Along the levee-walk of south-pond, we see the water in the owl wood has gone down more than expected. There's still a significant pool here though, and there's still a young ksisskstaki patrolling this end of the pond. Scabby is not on her nest, and I'm totally convinced now that she abandoned. The south coot couple are here, and the mama on this end is still incubating

1949 When we get to the Oldman, it appears to be almost back to the same level it had been at before the big flood. There are a lot of mosquitoes buzzing us, and crickets chirping along its banks. The sound of the crickets draws my attention to an absence I hadn't otherwise noticed... the chorus frogs are silent, their mating must finally be complete

2002 Cutting down through the main forest to check on some of the nests, our first stop is at the flicker cavity. Here we find mama flicker bringing food for her baby who looks about ready to make a first flight. This is the first time we've seen a fledgling flicker and watched a nest succeed here

2025 Our next stop is the tiny yellow warbler's nest. There must be several of them in the forest, but this is the only one we've found so far. And I'm sorry to report that the single egg that had been here last week is now broken in half on the ground below, our hopes of watching the warbler hatchling cycle at this nest dashed with it

2029 We've yet to find any catbird or kingbird nests here yet, though by the latter's recent behavior, I suspect it is not far to come. At the log where we usually sit to break on the north end of the forest, there’s a new fungus growing. It's something I don't recall having ever seen before, a neon-yellow growth flat against the log, almost lichen in appearance

2041 While I check around in the brush a bit, Mahoney climbs back up on the levee-walk and there finds the juvenile kakanottsstookii. Oddly enough, it's picking at insects on the trail. I climb up just in time to see it take wing and fly off into the forest

2055 With the setting Sun in our eyes, we round north-pond and move back to the truck, already looking forward to our next visit

IIII ) llllllllllll Redwing Hatchlings (25June10)

1925 Sspopiikimi - it's so nice to see the garter snakes returned to the cutbank of north-pond. Tonight, as we walk in, at least eight large snakes go slithering out of our way. One who doesn't move has the bulge of a recently eaten mouse in his belly

1930 All of the grasses are in their fertile glory... tall, green and limber, dancing at our thighs. The coot family is off their nest now. They've moved their bright orange hatchlings deeper into the reeds, where we hear them chuck-chucking at our approach

1938 It’s a deceit. The father coot is the one who was chuck-chucking from the reeds, calling our attention. The mother and her hatchlings are still in the nest after all, laying very low, out of sight except when she peeks up to either inspect us or search for her mate. She makes a single, hushed chuck, and he immediately answers with his own, a bit louder

1943 The muskrat residents of this shore are hauling heavy loads of milfoil to their den. They are pulling so much at a time that their movement is exceedingly slow. They might easily be mistaken for drift-logs it we hadn't seen them up close. I can't tell if it is one muskrat making several rounds, or if the pair is working at this project

2011 We pick up and move around the end of north-pond, climb the levee-walk, and drop down into the forest main. With the yellow warbler's nest we'd previously located now defunct, I want to search the brush for others. It is perfect weather this evening. Warm, but not too much so in the shade of the forest, a light breeze in the air

2017 The first area I check, on the north end of the wet-meadow swamp, is empty of brush nests. There are robins singing here though, and catbirds mewing. Three pairs of mi'ksikatsi look up from the waters below, surprised to see me and unsure if they should take flight. I depart from view before they can decide

2023 We don't have to move far into the forest before coming across the fledgling kakanottsstookii and one of its parents. The huge birds swoop between the trees ahead of us, the young one landing awkwardly on a medium canopy branch, and from there bobbing and swaying to watch us while pleading for its mother

2047 I continue to weave through the brush as we advance south, but all I find are old and recently abandoned robins' nests and many sticky spiders' webs. At one point, I scare up a lone white-tail deer, who bounds off toward the wet-meadows without a second glance

2100 Coming to the blind at south-pond, now fairly deserted of waterfowl, we see a swainson’s hawk gliding over the forest, with a redwing blackbird in pursuit. There's an eastern kingbird climbing and dropping in display above the pond, and it soon moves to an exposed perch high in a cottonwood at the edge. Out on the water, the muskrats have constructed a new flotilla of green reeds, a platform where they can take their meals

2115 Moving through the turtle nursery toward the south levee-walk, we see evidence of many pits where the reptiles have recently deposited their leathery eggs. We also observe that at least a couple of these caches have been dug up, and at one such site a canine paw print testifies to just who the culprit egg-eater is

2127 Coming out of the turtle nursery, a redwing male begins to swoop and issue his high-pitched alarm. Mahoney and I split up in search of the nest, but when I don't find it immediately, my attention is drawn instead to a saskatoon bush bearing lots of nearly-ripe berries. I quickly pluck and eat a few of the berries, and as I do the redwing swoops especially low in panic. I have inadvertently found the nest. Parting the thick brush and peering down into it, I find three tiny mouths on outstretched necks, awaiting drops of food. A fourth hatchling is half out of its egg, they have only just been born

2138 Tonight I have avoided using mosquito repellant, opting to donate blood instead. Yet stopping to rest on the south bench, amidst the mayfly swarms, it is Mahoney they land on to shed their skins

2150 Just before we leave, a single mayfly lands on my arm and drags itself from the sleeve of its old exoskeleton. There has been no sighting of the aapsspini families tonight. We suspect they've found a little island of grass somewhere out in the wet-meadows

IIII ) llllllllllllll Pisttoo (27June10)

2030 Sspopiikimi - just out for a dusk visit, sitting this evening on the cutbank above north-pond, where mama coot continues to keep her hatchlings on their nest

2039 Surprisingly, we received no garter snake greeting when walking in past the bat tree. Usually we arrive an hour or two earlier, and this may have something to do with their absence

2042 As we get our chairs set in place, I notice a line of bubbles go streaming away from our shore. When about half-way across the pond, a ksisskstaki surfaces and continues without a second glance into the wet meadows. It could be the one we've seen over here several times recently, and it's possible he's established a new shore lodge

2047 With the water in the wet-meadows receding, we are finally getting our first look at the cinnamon teal family reported by Cynthia a few weeks ago. There are eight fairly developed ducklings traveling with their mother. They move in single file with mama up front. This family paddles in from midpond and disappears behind the cattail and bulrush stand, but then soon come hustling back out, almost running on the water, and this time with the ducklings in the lead

2053 It may have been mi'sohpsski who frightened the teal family, because no sooner do they come rushing out than the muskrat too emerges from the reeds, hauling a mouthful of milfoil

2055 High above the pond, we hear the call of a bird less familiar. It is pisttoo, a nighthawk, someone we haven't seen here since about this time last summer. Soon it is joined by two others, circling well above and giving their chirping calls. Perhaps it is a family, parents out teaching their fledgling to hunt

2059 Another rare sight, a foot-long pike just hopped up on a log beneath us and sat there for a minute or two before kicking back out into the water. Meanwhile, the coot parents have switched out watching their babies

2120 Almost all of the old, dead seed-heads of last year's absinthe are now covered with some kind of cocoon-like, cottony webbing. I pluck a few to pry them apart, expecting to find a moth larva of some kind. What I encounter instead is a tiny, black spider, with a single, white stripe down its back. Two of the three samples I pluck have these spiders in them, which means there are absolutely thousands of them making use of the absinthe field behind us

2126 While I'm learning about these spiders, a blue-wing teal drake flies in to land at the wet-meadows across from us, and a pair of goldfinch sing from a nearby willow on the cutbank. The mosquitoes are swarming, but I'm resisting the use of repellant. I don't want my skin to be poisoned when I'm handling Derrick, our magpie, this evening. As I sit back down beside Mahoney, mi'sohpsski swims past with another mouthful. This time, he's carrying a whole dandelion plant, root and leaves

2141 Though we've not been out long, Mahoney and I feel we've donated enough blood for one evening. We're packing up and heading home. Tomorrow we'll wear more mosquito-resistant clothes

IIII ) lllllllllllllll Clematis Galls (28June10)

2045 Sspopiikimi - we've arrived even later this evening, after what has been a very long day. More than anything else, tonight I need the pond just to clear my head

2049 We're set up at the north end again, where so much of the action seems to be these days. The aapsspini families are feeding across from us in the wet meadows, and there are a few mi'ksikatsi there as well. Mi'sohpsski is coming and going from the shore den below us, the aiksikksksisi parents are still keeping their hatchlings to the nest, and there are pairs of aapohkinniyi chasing one another around in chatter

2057 One of the ksisskstaki is headed our way from midpond, but it remains to be seen whether it will make it all the way over. The water level has dropped low enough that the milfoil flowers are once again on the surface, and the ksisskstaki is floating amidst stands of it, eating mouthfuls as it goes

2106 The ksisskstaki has come all the way over now, and after pausing to munch more milfoil in front of us, it went behind the reeds where the aiksikksksisi are nesting. We're also getting a better look at the sa'ai mama with her eight ducklings. They are not, as suggested yesterday, cinnamon teals. They are mi'ksikatsi

2113 The relentlessness of the ksisohksisiiksi has pushed us too far already this evening. Now the gloves are off and the repellant applied on our persons. From our seat, we can see an introduced species out by the russian olive tree behind the wet-meadows. It is Dr. Cynthia Chambers, one of the phenology participants this summer

2140 The ksisohksisiiksi must send out some kind of signal to their sisters in arms when they identify easy prey. They were absolutely swarming us earlier, but now that we've sprayed down, there's not a one

2142 I've noticed that many of the clematis vines have something going on at the base of their leaf stems. They seem to be forming a kind of gall, and outside of this gall the flesh of the vine is covered in tiny orange objects, possibly insect eggs, except I wonder because they don't wipe off at the touch. I pick one of the galls and break it open to see if it's housing a larva, and it doesn't seem so, but maybe I just happened on a dud

2208 The aapsspiniiksi and mi'ksikatsiiksi have paddled off toward midpond. With the north end now fairly quiet and the darkness closing, we decide to pack up