24 May 2011

Food, Intelligence, And Extreme Moisture

IIII ) lllllllllllll Food and Intelligence (18May11)

1142 Some scientists studying corvids propose that there is a link between their high (i.e. similar to us) intelligence and their omnivorous subsistence practices. Corvids locate, harvest, scavenge, cache, prepare and learn about a great diversity of food. I wonder what cognitive depreciations may occur when we rely on corporations to do everything but eat our food for us

IIII ) llllllllllllll Ponokaowahsin, Hover Flies, And Lessons From The Rattler (19May11)

0657 Two important lessons from the rattlesnakes yesterday, not so much emphatic "knowledge" as interesting things to consider. Curiously enough, both were mediated by humans

First, Darin noticed a secondary face in the rattler image I posted, a mask that is deceptively benevolent, meant to mimic, catch and hold the trust of rodent and/ or small bird prey. If we assume the obvious, that we too are a part of nature, and that the rattler's face contains this mimicry because it is adaptive, then should we not wonder whether there are predators employing similar ploys against us? I have long considered the notion that there are now two or more human sub-species, at least one of which is completely and purposefully abiotic in it's agenda. How ironic that an animal this vicious, parasitic sub-human hates most should reveal such a key strategy in the very deception our predators employ... to appear very much like us, while in truth intending to consume us, to feed off our energies, for their own short-term benefit

The second lesson came inadvertently through Cody who, in response to the reposted image with highlighted secondary face, noted that he respects and fears the rattlers. Having grown up so much around snakes, I don't generally identify with the fear of them. Though I have to admit, the first time I explored the rattlesnake hibernaculum and found myself amidst dozens of very camouflaged and poisonous serpents, it took some effort to calm my racing heart. They are powerful, but they are also quite delicate. Every time my anxiety would rise, so would theirs. I recognized very quickly that when I feared rattlesnakes, my anxiety transferred and created real danger. Following this observation, I began visiting them more frequently, and for longer durations, and part of my own work was learning to be internally calm in their close presence. I've mastered that, to a degree, but only by staying out of striking range. When on occasion a rattlesnake has approached me with the obvious intent of making friendly physical contact, as soon as it comes into striking range my anxiety goes up, the snake registers that fear and acts in kind, and both of us are suddenly in danger again. So I have been well aware of the manner in which my own fear can put me in danger. But when Cody mentioned respect and fear, my response was a kind of identification with the snakes. Our fear is exactly what distresses them. Why? Because when someone fears you, the potential for them to act in unpredictable, uncontrolled and violent ways on that fear rises. In other words, the ones who fear you are the most dangerous. This is something the snakes have been telling me all along, but that I've never quite been able to hear correctly. Think about it. If we extend this lesson into our human social affairs, it could be of considerable consequence

1710 Pitsiiksiinaikawaahko - the road out to the coulee rim is a sloppy mess this evening, owing to fairly continuous rain showers since last night. I'm heading down to snag whatever new images there are off RyeCam01, and to see whatever else I may given the dampness

1737 Though darkly clouded in all directions, there is no rain at present. But the ground and vegetation are fairly damp, enough so that, halfway down the slope now, I'm quite aware that one of my waterproof boots is in need of some repair. There is one insect dominating the scene today, and that is the blood-sucking mosquito. The birds sound pretty happy with the situation. Robins, meadowlarks, vesper and clay-colored sparrows, all are singing. I have noticed a few new blossoms of ponokaowahsin, or yellow puccoon, starting to open. Aside from that, the flowers are all the same. In the forest below, some of the poplars and cottonwoods are showing leaves

1833 I slog my way down to the sagebrush flats, and it is now raining again. At a couple locations on the way, I hear frogs near the trail and make unsuccessful attempts to locate them. Once at the bottom of the slope, I veer off toward the area where I have the game-can set up, but taking a slightly different route than usual. In doing so, I come across first a fairly freshly killed starling, and then a large den system that can only belong to the coyotes. There's no obvious sign that the den is presently in use, but I figure the dead starling is at least a fair indicator. In any case, the location is duly noted for future monitoring. Not far away, at the camera, I learn that the only animal to pass in the last few days has been a night-visiting porcupine. Now I am at the river, where the pelicans are huddled on what little of their island remains above water, and I'm aiming to head through the forest toward an alternate path back to the top

1909 Though thoroughly soaked, I'm glad I decided to route through the forest. It's given me the opportunity to hear the niipomakiiksi and kakkooyiksi, to learn that at least some of the mi'kaniki'soyiiksi are still mating, and to check in on the kakanottsstookiiksi. The owlets of the latter are fledged now, though one of them is standing in the nest, and the other (an ample flyer) is sticking close by. I'm just in time to witness one of the parents fly in with a rodent dangling from talon. The meal is brought to the nest, where the provider and the one owlet share in ripping it apart

1951 My hike back up the coulee slope follows a very grueling, vertical path. As I start out, there are small herds of deer grazing. The whitetails, three of them, depart when they see me coming from the forest. They follow a lateral path along the lower slope, moving downriver. The mules, thirteen of them not nearly as skittish, keep an eye on me as I climb. There is nothing of interest to note until I reach the last shelf before the rim. There, in a particularly wet area where canary grass grows, I find my harvest for the day in a batch of barely-flowering pennycress. I strip the green leaves off a couple dozen of the plants, filling a cargo pocket, and leave three or four times as many alone to develop. While at this task, I find a fly of some sort, a bee mimic, sitting dormant on one of the leaves. I'm easily able to get good macro photos of it for later identification [note: it is a hoverfly species]

IIII ) llllllllllllllll Ducklings And New Goose Nests (21May11)

1006 Sspopiikimi - It's been too long since I've surveyed the pond, a week since my last visit, and that was just a brief foray to collect motoyaan. Spending most of my outdoor time at the river confluence, I feel out of touch with the goings-on here. Hopefully this morning's visit will change that

1018 As soon as I get out of the car, my senses are popping. I hear clay-colored sparrows, robins, mourning doves, redwing and yellow-headed blackbirds, chorus frogs. I see cabbage white and pink-rimmed sulphur butterflies, the latter visiting dandelions, and the two sometimes moving together. I figure the first stops I'll make are at the thatching ant hive and along the north-pond cutbank where I expect to find garter snakes. But even before I get to my first destination, I hear and see in my periphery a bit of movement in the grass beside the trail. I look down in time to watch a stem of alfalfa greens being pulled down into a vole hole

1052 The thatchers at the large midpond hive are still in their mating swarm phase, with winged males and females emerging from the mound and climbing to the tips of the surrounding grass. The smaller colony on the north-pond cutbank, on the other hand, are not producing winged members yet. Their hive is seriously pocked from repeated flicker visits, I even find a discarded feather beside it. While I observe these north-pond ants, a stink beetle of some kind makes a mad dash across the surface of the hive. Immediately the ants are on him, and he races back to the safety of the grass. My hopes of finding wandering garter snakes along this same cutbank are unrealized. Apparently they haven't made their way here yet, having just emerged from their hibernaculum at the extreme south end of the pond last week. I do however see that the kingfishers have returned, that the currant bushes are in flower, the turtles are basking, and there's a robin collecting mud to craft the bowl of her nest in a cottonwood that - like all of the forest main - is now in leaf

1116 There are no coot nests in the north pond reeds this year, owing to the floods of last summer having flattened all the foliage they depend on for camouflage. The redwings and yellowheads are going to make a go of it with what few usable bulrush an cattail remain. Today, the redwing males are giving chase to females. No sign yet of the yellowhead females. I walk around this area to the northeast bank, where I begin searching the buckbrush for nested mallards. It is here where I encounter my first wandering garter of the day. The whole thing gives me flashbacks of this time last year when, in the exact same place, doing the exact same thing, I also observed the first garter to reach north-pond for the season

1153 Following the edge zone where the forest main meets the wet meadows, I continue my search for mi'ksikatsi nests. At this point, my interest is not in collecting their eggs for food. I know it's too late for that and, as I search, three drakes fly low overhead to confirm. I'm just interested in knowing where they are so that I can follow their stories this summer, since there's no indication yet that any goslings will be raised here. While conducting my search, I find an interesting, deadwood colored ambush-looking bug on a log. And this log itself overlooks the largest ant hive of the pond. They are not thatchers, these ones, but build instead with sandy soil. And their hive, raised only about eight inches off the forest floor, is easily six feet in diameter. I take photos of both the bug and the ants in hopes of learning their identification this evening [note: identification of Formica podzolica, the slave ant]

1236 There are a couple of new flowering plants at the forest edge, in addition to the others I've already noted over the last two weeks. The two I'm seeing newly blossomed today are the star-flowered solomon's seal and a little blue violet. Another new arrival at this edge zone is pookaa, the catbird. I follow the line until I'm above the big bulberry patch of the wet meadows, and here by the magpie nest I figure I'll at least find sign of local duck nests by the remains of eggs they've stolen. But nope, no duck eggs. And no magpie eggs for that matter. Their nest has been raided by someone who either has arms dexterous enough to reach in (raccoons), or a slender enough body (least weasels). Along the tunnel-trail leading through this brush, I do feather remains of two small birds who have been recently eaten, and half a robin egg. Judging the wingspan and coloration with the feathers, I'm tentatively thinking they belonged to swallows. It's just difficult to imagine many animals swift enough to catch one

1316 The water of the pond has risen, and I have a wet walk coming out of the meadows. At the same time though, there's so many changes going on that it is worth the damp socks. Coming out, I see a snipe, my first dragonfly for the season, a baltimore oriole and, only from the viewing angle of the meadows, I can see that the swainson mama is up in her nest. We are going to have hawk babies to watch again! Once out of the meadows, I continue my survey of the buckbrush from the hawk nest to the duck blind over south-pond. It was only a matter of time. Sure enough, I've located a mallard nest. Eight eggs in an easy site to remember

1347 South-pond has it's own interesting happenings going on. The water, as I noted, has risen. Indeed it's to the point that Big Island in the wide south pool is submerged, and the eggs from the long-abandoned goose nest there are the only thing showing. The big news though is that there is a new goose nest in the pool. A mother incubating on a pile of reeds she's set on what little remains of one tiny island near the peninsula. I really hope she succeeds. Summer would not be the same without goslings here. The coot of the south marsh is still incubating her nest as well, which I suspect has risen with the water in flotilla fashion. And there are now three pairs of redheads here, though none of them are Scabby. I wonder what happened to her

1356 Hold the phones! We have our first babies of the season! Seven mallard ducklings paddling in one tight group beside their mom in the south marsh!

1400 Before leaving the south, I gather as much asparagus as is available. It's been so long since we last checked on them that most of the plants are already branching out and past their prime as edibles. But there are enough you shoots still to make up the vegetable component of at least a few dinners for our family. I have started a natural foods diet, ensuring to eat at least something that I've harvested from the coulees every day. Thus far, only five days in, the foods I've eaten have merely supplemented my normal, toxic diet. But I am hoping that by the end of summer I am replacing at least two-thirds or more of what I consume with natural foods

1430 My hike back to the car on the shale trail along the west bank of the pond provides the perfect finish to my day here. I see the saskatoons are blooming now, as too the lens-podded hoary cress. The best thing I see on the route is that we have a pair of geese with two goslings. These must be parents from the river island. Also, there is another goose nested on the beaver lodge itself... first time we've seen this in the five years we've been watching them here, though we always wondered why none of them considered it before. Looks like we will have aapsspini families to keep us in summer company after all

IIII ) llllllllllllllllll Extreme Moisture (23May11)

0951 Pitsiiksiinaikawaahko - Extreme moisture. We have had light rain off and on for several days, and at present it is pouring heavy. All the same, the green of our world has been renewed, so I've decided to come down to check on RyeCam01, and have brought along fishing gear to see whether I can catch whatever it is the pelicans have been feasting on

1022 I begin following a deer trail down the coulee slope, but it is so wet today that, after the third near slip, I cut over and use the established shale path the rest of the way. In this manner, the descent is quick. Along the way, I pick up about two dozen of the largest worms I see. They are not the huge night crawlers, but the medium sized species. The earth is so saturated, it is only with care that I manage my way to the bottom without killing many of the exposed worms. There are robins on the trail too, taking advantage of the easy meal. I can hear clay-colored sparrows in the sagebrush flat and mourning doves in the forest. My plan is to enter the treeline and follow the oxbow canal to the river. From there, I will fish my way upstream to the site of my game-cam, then climb the slope again. One large sunwise circuit

1209 The oxbow, save for robins and starlings, is quiet as I pass through, until the last little stretch. There in the dense willow patch, where the oxbow is now filled with water, thousands of chorus frogs sing. There will be no way to fish the route I had planned without wading through. And since I would already be getting wet anyway, I figured I might as well try to catch one of the frogs for bait. Even with thousands here, this is not an easy task. In order to even see these frogs, one has to wade in and hunt them down by their individual voices, moving heron-style through the water, one tiny muscle at a time. A frog-catching tai-chi. The frogs are incredibly wary though. Once you seem like a threat, which usually means as soon as they're aware of your presence, the nearest frogs stop talking, and all hopes of locating them are shot. Three times over the course of an hour, I manage to creep close enough to one of them that I could almost grab him. Almost being the key descriptive. Every reach I made, however fast, was met with an elusive dive. Normally, this would not be much a problem in shallows. But this water is above my knee, murky, so the frogs have ample space to evade me. After the third failure, I give up. I'm confident another hour would see profit, but it's also eating away the day

1323 I am glad the frogs eluded me. If I'd have caught one, it's life would have gone to waste. The Oldman is high, fast, and muddy today. I know at a glance that the chances of catching a fish in this condition are nil. Far more likely I'll snare a drift log as it floats down river in the semi-flood. All the same, I put a bright spinner on my line and lace it's hook with a worm, who is then promptly stripped off by the force of the current on first cast. I stubbornly fish my way upstream, making futile attempts every twenty-five meters or so until I eventually reach the black cliffs. Geese, mallards, and killdeer all move aside as I pass through, and for a little while the rain stops and the mosquitoes come out. If only the mosquitoes feared us like the other animals do. The pelicans, for their part, stand on their island at the confluence, watching me with what I assume is amusement. They're not fishing at the moment, but if they were I bet they'd catch something

1411 When I arrive at the game-cam, the rain is back on. It's a complete downpour. With three days having passed since I last stopped in, I'm expecting to find a couple dozen images on the camera. Instead, there are just two: one that seems to have missed the target entirely, and the other being my own legs just seconds before I opened it up. Curious that the animals have avoided this brush in the rain. There has been one visitor for sure though... an insect has secured patches of tiny, yellow eggs on both my lens and sensor. I clean the eggs off, replace the SD card, and hike my way back up the coulee rim wet, tired, but happy to have come out anyway

1608 Results of first field test of Scottish waterproof socks: they work well until wading into water deeper than the calf-high cuffs, after which they transform into bladder bags carried by the feet