05 July 2010

Okonoki Ripen

IIII ) lllllllllllllllllll Okonoki Ripen (2July10)

2029 Sspopiikimi - it's been too long since our last visit, four sleeps, and I'm sure there's much change we've missed. Hiking directly to set up our chairs at north-pond, past a recently shed garter snake skin, it feels a bit lonely. The snakes have gone under, if they were above at all today in the rain and cool wind. There are no sa'aiksi on our end at all yet this evening. The aiksikksksisiiksi have left their nest and must be near, though not in sight. And I'm pretty sure I spotted the aapsspini families in the south as we were coming in. Only the north ksisskstaki bachelor greets us as we settle down for dusk, and he too quickly leaves the milfoil patch and disappears

2043 We're watching what I suspect is an osprey, way out in the distance over the river, when there's a splashing sound near the reeds across from us. We look down to see a female mi'ksikatsi appear, as if she just popped out of the water. A drake then paddles in from midpond and we assume they are a couple, talking back and forth and edging toward one another. But then the lady moves to avoid him, swimming further back in the meadow waters. From out of the willows and grass far back there, four subadult ducklings emerge to greet her. The drake, for his part, returns midpond, and there we can see the other mallard mama with her eight ducklings feeding in some milfoil

2057 The osprey or hawk (I can't make it out) appears briefly again above the tree-line, and we hear a couple aiksikksksisi chucks from the reeds. She may be hunkered down with her hatchlings in the nest after-all, which would make sense. But we still can't see her. The bachelor ksisskstaki has also reappeared, rising out of the water in an attempt to clip low, leafy twigs off the overhanging bat tree. A pair of waxwings pass by overhead, and an eastern kingbird is hunting in the tall grass just beside us. Before it gets too dark, I think I'll take a little stroll

2106 Just as I'm preparing to get up, the elusive raptor comes into view again. This time she is as determined to get a fix on us as we are on her. It is sikohpiitaipannikimm, a swainson's hawk. She soars until she's directly above us, head hung low, glaring down, then arches and glides back toward the river

2118 When I get up on the levee-walk, I confirm that the aiksikksksisi is not on her nest, but that she has moved her little ones further back in the reeds, upon another pile of flotsom. I also see that the forest on the opposite side of the levee is still saturated from the flood, with large pools of standing water and significant expanses of quicksand. If I had more time, I would like to search the area for mammal prints. Perhaps over the weekend I'll do so

2128 If we were living proper today, I would be making good use of the roots along the river cutbank, where the flood produced so much new exposure. Along our little bend of the Oldman, much has changed. Gone are the bank swallows and the shoreline ksisskstakioyis. The kingfishers remain, but where they're nesting now I've no idea

2146 I move swiftly to the far south end of the pond, frightening a pair of white-tailed deer as I go. My aim is to find out how the okonoki are doing, particularly in the brush where the redwings are nested, as that plant seems the earliest this year to have berries. The redwings definitely remember me from our last visit to this end. Both parents are swooping in alarm long before I get to their nest. But ignoring them, I continue on and find to my delight a bush thick with ripened okonoki. What a sight. We rarely get many of these berries coming to fruit at Sspopiikimi, but this year the crop is beautiful. I pick a handful quickly with full intent of returning over the weekend, then start my way back through the forest to Mahoney

2159 I pass the same pair of awatoyi on my route through the trees. This time they are very upset and blowing loudly at me. Catbirds shoot up from the underbrush as I pass, making me wonder as to whether they are keeping low nests here. But it's far too dark to go searching. Naato'si passed out of view beyond the coulee rim an hour ago

2231 When I get back to Mahoney, she's visiting with Cynthia, who's making her rounds this evening as well. The aapsspini families have paddled their way to the north end now, and we sit for a few minutes comparing notes on these geese, the ksisskstaki and mi'sohpsski relationships, and other pond residents before packing up and giving way to the dark

IIII ) llllllllllllllllllll Erebid Moth (4July10)

1109 Sspopiikimi - today I'm hoping to conduct a more thorough survey, which is something we haven't really done since before the flood, concentrating instead primarily on dusk activities on the north end

1119 Though it's warm there's a good wind today, tossing the tall grass of north-pond as we walk in, the grass who's yellow flower has already played-out. Surprisingly, we're seeing no garter snakes. But there are plants in bloom that I haven't introduced to the class, alfalfa and prairie coneflower so far

1143 One of my interests for the day is to capture some six-legged food for Derrick. To this effect, I turn over several logs from the fallen trees of north-pond, but there's really not too much going on beneath. A few soil centipedes and the occasional ant colony. Most of the crawlers must be concentrated on their food plants now

1153 Climbing onto the levee-walk, I scan the pond below for the aiksikksksisi family. I'm able to spot one of the parents moving through the reeds, but not the other, and certainly not the chicks. I hope we're able to watch them eventually, before they're too far developed. We're missing the child-rearing rituals

1156 Sspopiiksi, by contrast, are not hidden at all. There are dozens of them exposed at north-pond today, basking in the sun. And when we reach the overlook above Oldman, we find first a shed garter skin, then the glossy snake himself, large and fast, slithering quickly through the grass

1210 There are several types of sage or sage-like plants here that I have to relearn each summer. I know fringed sage (aakiika'ksimi or women's sage), prairie sagewort (ninnaika'ksimo or men's sage), and sagebrush (aapatoyi or grass old man). But there are others. One of these, leafy sage, is currently host to a hatching some kind of aphid, on certain plants and certain leaves anyway, and these in turn are attracting ants, who must either be feeding on the aphids themselves or one of their byproducts

1215 We drop into the main forest next, to begin our survey there of nests, the developmental state of each okonoki bush, and whatever else we can find. Here, where there is less wind, we are immediately set upon by the female ksisohksisiiksi, gathering from us the bellies full of blood that they require for producing eggs

1239 For the most part, the okonoki in our forest main are slim, a few bushes spaced throughout, usually amidst larger stands of pakkii'p, and so far all with green or pinkening berries. About half-way through the forest, we come upon a gorgeous erebid moth (Euclidia ardita) who's roosted right on the sand of our trail, wonderful black and brown geometric designs. It allows me to kneel close and take a few photographs to use for identification later. But when we try to catch it, it flutters into the grass and very quickly disappears

1248 Reaching the blind over south-pond, we find other plant developments. There's showy milkweed, licorice root, buckbrush, and clematis in bloom here. Berries have formed on the asparagus, star-flowered solomon's seal, and prickly rose. And I've just spotted the first ripe golden currant. As we sit down to smoke, a pair of redwings flutter around us in alarm. They can't be the same pair as that which have the nest in the saskatoons at the far south end. These ones must have their hatchlings very near

1329 In the little stretch of forest remaining south of the blind, we encounter a catbird in alarm. Searching the wolf-willow thickets, we find a new nest of twig and straw. No eggs have been deposited yet, but we will continue to monitor it on future visits

1342 Before climbing back up on the levee walk, we gather a few handfuls of asparagus berries and okonoki, not much. Already the okonoki on the single ripe bush here are getting the white fungus in their navel, making them not completely inedible, but ensuring they'll clean the system. The full berry season has yet to start here at Sspopiikimi. But on the east side of the river, there are high bushes where the okonoki are hanging like grapes. We picked a good bunch yesterday, and will likely return as soon as we're done here for the afternoon

1355 Rounding south-pond on the levee-walk, we pass just in time to see papa coot returning to their nest here and passing a mouthful of food to mama, who in turn feeds it, a morsel at a time, to her new hatchlings. Also present in the marsh is a mi'ksikatsi mother with her three, fairly grown ducklings

1403 Coming around to the south bench, we check on the currant bushes and find that most of them are still green. It seems like it's been a long wait for these currants this year. Usually they're ready well before the okonoki, but not this time around. All is well though, we'll be enjoying their sweet flavors soon enough, and it looks like there will be plenty to be had by birds and ourselves alike

1410 Below the south bench there's a pair of cinnamon teals... no ducklings, but at least they survived the nest predators and floods with their lives. On the coulee slope behind us, we can hear western kingbirds singing, while their eastern counterparts dart around the bulberry brush by the edge of the pond. All three aapsspini families - the Triplets, Big Island, and Log goslings - are resting on the trail, opposite what would normally be the entrance to the subpond canal. The goslings of the Triplet and Big Island families in particular look as though they could take their first flight any day. It will be interesting to see if they leave the Log goslings behind when they're ready, or if they'll wait for them to mature

1420 Before leaving the pond, we heard and caught glimpses of the magpie family out on the golf course. We'd have liked to go watch them, to see how their fledgling is being taught, but we're unsure how well we'd be received by the golfers. We expect them to stay on their side of the fence, I'm sure they'd appreciate the same of us