12 July 2010

Flycatcher Nest And Warbler Fledgling

II Mule Buck Gathering (10July10)

1838 Sspopiikimi - out for a stroll around the pond in the drizzling rain, checking in with the flowers, and birds, and berries on an eve that promises to be relatively mosquito-free

1849 We decide to do something we haven't now for a few weeks, that being to make our counter-sunwise course, starting with the length of the pond from north to south. Along the way, the bloomers I see include hairy yellow aster, showy milkweed, milfoil, Indian hemp, buckbrush, and yellow sweetclover. Some of the mustard seeds are ready for harvest, the pennycress and the lens-podded hoary cress. Many of the rose hips which should be green have turned a bright, hunter's orange, which I figure to be either a fungus or reaction to eggs laid by a midge, but don't really know

1855 There are robins foraging on the golf greens, and the Big Island aapsspini family are there as well when we first approach. No sign, however, of the Triplet or Log families. We pass a female mallard at midpond, hear a coot chucking from the cattails near the wet-meadows on the opposite shore. One of the hawks, probably a swainson, is gliding over the coulee rim

1904 We find the other aapsspini families in the pool behind what would normally be the peninsula. They are being joined by their relatives who were up on the greens. As we approach the south-bench, the mallard mother with three ducklings paddle away from our shore. I can hear magpies somewhere near, there are eastern kingbird males chasing their potential mates, and redwing families moving about. A redwing couple glides in near to us, the female disappearing into a tuft of grass while the male perches in view nearby, chipping

1915 While we sit on the bench to break, there are four large mule bucks making their way up the coulee slope behind us. The hawk seems to be lingering mostly above them, perhaps waiting to see if they'll scare up any rodents. I hear, but do not see, a belted kingfisher, somewhere near the peninsula. And there's a western kingbird sitting on a nearby fence, diving down into the grass on occasion, assumedly picking up insects

1931 We follow the voice of a magpie into the currant and bulberry thickets, and soon encounter a proliferation of mosquitoes. They swarm out of the grass and surround us in a needling cloud. There's nothing we can do about it, so we press on. The currants still aren't ripe, though plenty are turning now. When we get to the lone cottonwood, we find our magpie giving the staccato call we now know registers excitement or alarm. He is joined by a pair of what look to be fledgling flickers and the resident catbird of this corner

2005 Rounding south-pond, we find that the coot family here has left the nest. They are somewhere in the marsh, we can hear them, but they're out of sight. I can't resist going down into the forest to check the catbird nest. It's still empty, but there are several catbirds down here giving alarm calls. I suspect they have other nests hidden. I'm not about to thoroughly search though. The mosquitoes are launching a brutal campaign, and my clothes are getting soaked through, picking up water off the waist-high grasses

2021 I join Mahoney again on the levee-walk after checking on the catbirds. We're ready to head home, interested in whether the rain will bring up worms in our neighborhood, which we can collect for Derrick. As we pass by the north forest, we note again how much mud was deposited in the recent flood. For Mahoney, this event calls to question the findings of certain geo-cultural sciences. If an archaeologist in the future digs here, will he have any way of accurately knowing whether this deposit was formed in a single event, as it was, or will he believe it to have been the result of thousands of years? She's right, of course. As much as chemical analysis might supposedly reveal, in the end all the archaeologist has are stories constructed on meager evidence, which itself is also storied

IIII ) l Flycatcher Nest And Warbler Fledgling (12July10)

1334 Sspopiikimi - under overcast skies and heavy winds, I feel compelled - after reading student journals, and facing an overnight absence tomorrow - to come pass a few quality hours at the pond. Stripping down to my skivs in the parking lot, so that I can suit-up in chest waders, my mission for the afternoon is to survey the mud-flooded north and owl woods for tracks, to explore brush of the forest main for new nests, and to wade into the wet-meadows for a visit with the juvenile coots

1341 Entering at north-pond, I see the aapsspini families in the wet-meadows across from me and hear the chucking call of one of the coots there. I'm inclined to head straight over and enter the waters, but another voice reminds me that the north forest will be very muddy, and that I'd best visit there first, allowing the waters of Sspopiikimi to wash me off after

1354 Moving along the cutbank, I observe that most of the mustard plants of various species have gone to seed. Others - like the clematis, alfalfa, yellow sweetclover, hairy golden aster, and prairie coneflower - are only now in bloom. There's a small flock of about half a dozen waxwings on one of the snags over the water, a sure indicator that we've entered berry season

1408 Cutting over the levee-walk and down into the north wood, I'm surprised at how much moisture has been retained in the mud, weeks after the flooding. It's nearly impossible to walk through some sections, where I quickly sink down to about knee-level in a thick sediment that threatens to detach my waders from their gumboots

1426 I should have come to this woods prepared to hazard the muck a week ago. I can see that the floor, deeply fissured as it begins to dry, was absolutely covered with tracks of all kinds not long ago. Among them, I can make out white-tailed deer, coyote, domestic dog, ring-necked pheasant, duck, and a surprising array of the raccoons we never see by daylight. But there are many others here too, obscured already by weathering, some even have new sprouts emerging from them

1426 At one end of the woods, I hear a small bird chipping in alarm. My first thought is that it's a parent guarding a nest. I make my way very slowly toward the sound, until I'm sure it's right there in front of me. Searching around, I spot a brilliant white nest, very tiny, set up about ten feet high in a young cottonwood tree. The limbs are too fragile and small to support a climb, so I won't be able to see if there are eggs in there. I then begin searching again for the source of the alarm, still presumed to be a parent, but when I find it I'm pleasantly surprised. It's a yellow warbler fledgling, just at the point of development where it's able to take wing, but it doesn't want to stray far

1455 After spotting the fledgling, and perhaps because my eyes are now trained to the trees, I see in my peripheral vision two more nests, lower in the forest, and completely filled with flood mud. These are not warbler nests, but the classic cups of robins. I pull the mud out to learn if there were any eggs or hatchlings within. Luckily there weren't

1533 I stay a while with the warblers, long enough for the parents to return and to see that the white nest does not belong to them at all, there is a flycatcher up there. Climbing the levee again, my boots are heavy with mud. And though it's a cool day, I'm sweating. Now to get into the wet meadows and see what the coots are up to

1546 The amount of water still accrued in the wet-meadows blows my mind. I'm wading through hip-deep water, way back by the forest edge, at least fifty meters from the old shoreline. The area I'm passing through is all willows. I don't think I can even come close to the reeds without swimming, and I'm starting to sense that the likelihood of approaching anywhere near the juvenile coots is going to be unlikely

1555 As suspected, the coots are all spotting me long before I get to their position, and all it takes for them to avoid me is to casually slip into the deeper waters, dense with a wall of cattail and bulrush that is visually impenetrable. There are two mi'ksikatsi families employing the same strategy

1602 I'm almost to the subpond, wading through the pool that now surrounds the russian olive tree by the forest edge, peering down through the depths at the mint we would normally be gathering by now for our annual supply of tea, when Mahoney texts. We have to take a drive right away. So I'm cutting this visit off short, to return equally prepared for water and mud in two sleeps