21 February 2011

Two Fruitless Searches

IIII ) lllllllllllllll Two Fruitless Searches (20Feb11)

1115 Sspopiikimi - very much needing to take a walk at the pond today. For the next week or so, I'll be in Marie Winn's territory, hoping to catch a glimpse of that famed redtail Pale Male along 5th Avenue in Central Park. But I would probably not be at all aware of such alternate tourist opportunities were it not for the influence of Sspopiikimi

1132 We are back to cold temperatures, with the pond completely frozen over again, and snow covered. I head immediately toward the owl wood, hiking the shale trail along the west shore. I can hear the magpies calling from the forest main, alerting everyone of my arrival. I can also hear niipomakiiksi, and there are lots of deer mouse and coyote prints around. But the burning question for me this morning is whether the raccoons have returned to their winter lodge since the temperature dropped and, if not, where they've gone. The recent snowcover should help me resolve the latter, should it come to that

1154 I'm greeted at the edge of the owl wood by a young bald eagle. Darkly colored, I didn't even notice the bird until I was practically right below it and heard the crunching of branches as it departed, moving with heavy wing beats out across south pond, over the forest main, and eventually to the other side of the Oldman

1206 When I drop down into the wood, I immediately see the resident owl couple. They are perched low on a tree right alongside my path, and don't seem to mind my presence at all today. They look at me sleepily as I walk by within a few meters of them. I notice though that the tree they're using has a pedestal nest set against the trunk at a place where it bends almost horizontal. It's not a large nest, but we've known this couple to incubate on minimal surfaces before. They may have even built this one, because I can't imagine any magpies would have used this exposed tree, and it's far too low and small for the redtails and swainsons to have bothered with. The pad of small sticks has owl written all over it

1208 The raccoons are not home, though I really didn't expect them to be. I suspect they are in the forest main, if not the north wood. So I plan to arch around by the river, giving the owls their privacy, and cut over the levee to see if I can pick up their tracks on the other side

1232 Following through, when I initially cross the levee, I swing down to check out the south pond spring. I'm surprised to see there's very, very little open water here right now, even less than there was when the temperatures dipped to minus twenty. I thought there might be raccoon tracks here to follow from, as I know the animals are still cleaning up the remains of the pike die-off from that aforementioned cold shot. But the only evidence of recent visits here are from magpies and coyotes. So I start into the forest with a plan to hopefully chance upon coon tracks while also searching for logs that house poplar borer grubs, and maybe wandering past the large bulberry patch on the wet meadows to see if there's any magpie nest-building or repairing activity underway

1306 After a good half hour or so of entirely unrewarding search for grubs in about a half-dozen logs, I'm beginning to appreciate the woodpecker's gift for locating borer larva. All the logs I test have evidence of previous borer use, but none of them have been recently visited by the birds. I should perhaps reserve my energy until I find a log that has. Meanwhile, there's definitely some territoriality being exhibited by the magpies at the bulberry brush. I'm here now, sitting on a log at the forest edge to watch. As soon as I sat down, one of the resident birds swooped in noisily and flew right to the old net that is in best condition. I may go down there and have a peek

1351 There's nothing too interesting to see in the bulberries, at least so far as I notice. I do however take advantage of the opportunity to collect another bundle of i'naksa'pis, which grows really tall all around this brush. I then continue making my way north through the forest in search of logs with woodpecker sign. All that I find are old, and when I dig in the logs there's nothing to indicate that the borers haven't already eaten their way to adulthood and departed. I know they're here somewhere though. All the logs have evidence of their activities. It's just no easy matter to find them without my hoary guide. What I do come across at the far north end though, is a log with a very narrow hollow occupied by deer mice. They have caches here of chokecherry pits, licorice burrs, and other seeds I can't identify

1436 Leaving the forest main at it's extremity, I again cross the levee and cut down into the north wood. Still no sign of raccoon presence at all, and the situation here is no different. Moreover, there are very few logs in the north wood, and the ones that are here show no sign of woodpecker activity. I wonder if these birds locate the grubs by smell, or if they hear them? Either way, I'm giving up for this afternoon, going home to my Derrick magpie without any of the sweet-flavored larva I promised him