02 February 2011

Six-Legged Thaw

IIII ) lllllllllllllllllllllll Six-Legged Thaw (28Jan11)

1248 Sspopiikimi - out here by my lonesome this afternoon, to see how things are faring after the full week we've had of warm chinook weather. Walking in, north-pond is still ice-covered, but as per snow only the drifts remain

1307 With the ground mostly thawed, I know that it will be a progressively exciting insect season from here on out. I don't even get far past the bat tree before I find a couple small pieces of wood worth turning over. Neither piece is more than a foot long, but both are home to little families. The first wood I turn has a wolf spider egg sack attached to the bottom. It's a very distinct salmon-orange egg sack, protected in a sheath of white silk, two disks glued together at their edges. The second wood I turn, which is sunk a bit deeper in the earth, is home to several minute ground beetles and about half a dozen baby snails

1332 My next stop is at the beaver-felled poplars on the extreme end of north-pond. This is always a productive insect site, though never quite as populated as the old boards found here and there on the wet meadows. I set to work turning large branches and pieces of the trunks. Again there are wolf spider eggs, and also a still-cold ground centipede. I encounter a couple small, live spiders - one of then a crab of some sort, the other a shiny little brown-black creature. From the sawdust piles I find, there are either poplar borers or wood ants dug in here. I also see lots of evidence of the voles nesting under these logs, but no food caches or live rodents. I am surprised to find none of the fuzzy caterpillars hibernating here that were so numerous at this very location last winter

1357 I finally climb the levee and drop into the north-wood in hopes of finding fresh tracks in the muddy soul there. But the ground seems to be absorbing the melt very well, and it's really not damp enough to retain any small mammal impressions. So I cross around by the river and return to the levee-walk. Here, at the extreme end of the forest main, there was a group of eight magpies scouring the shale trail for something. They fly into the forest canopy at my approach, and though I search a patch of the trail myself, I see nothing of interest. I'm presently seated under a tree off the side of the trail, waiting to see if they'll return to the ground and, hopefully, what it is they're eating

1421 The magpies, of course, never return. I take another shot at figuring out for myself what's so interesting. The only edibles I find are the odd bulberry and some fairly decomposed coyote or raccoon dung. Perhaps the magpies were not searching the trail for any one thing in particular, but it seems odd to the that so many should gather together there if there is no abundant food

1450 I hike through the forest main and out to the wet meadows, where the big bulrush patch is. Joey Blood reported seeing magpies carrying sticks by his house the other day, and I'm curious to see if any out here are building or repairing their nests already. I sit on a log at the edge of the forest and watch for about twenty minutes, but no luck. Then I head down to the ksisskstakioyis to see if, by chance, they'd broken through the thinning ice yet. There is a spot between their house and their food cache that looks like it might have been opened, but is now iced over, though this could have been from much earlier in the season. If we continue to get these warm periods, I'm sure it won't be long before they have fresh air again. Moving from there to the subpond, I turned over some more boards. Under one of them I found a very cozy mouse nest, but no food cache. Under a couple of the others, there were clusters of still-cold sidewalk carabid beetles and a few active meadow slugs

1520 The next place I head is to the spring at south-pond. There are two mallards here, but they retreat as soon as I come within view. The kingfisher is also here, and she trills as I pass. The dead pike are still floating in the open pool of the spring, I'm surprised that not even the coyotes have waded in to pull them out. The one fish that I'd dragged to shore last week is completely eaten. All that remain are the dangerous jaw bones, set with many rows of shark-like teeth. I lift one more small board before climbing back up on the levee to walk back to the car. Underneath, I find a single beetle larva of unknown species. Somewhere out on the river, I hear the whistle-wing of a goldeneye in flight

2340 All attempts to control the flow that sustains life will meet resistance, and result in damage, injury, and eventual death. But if you engage with the flow so intimately that your needs and it's nature feed one another, to the benefit of the whole ecosystem, then you have become flow, in the manner of a beaver