29 July 2011

A New Place-Names Perspective

IIII ) lllllllllllllllllllll A New Place-Names Perspective (23Jul11)

1623 Sspopiikimi - it's been seven days since I last had an opportunity to hike around and catch up with the goings-on here. After half a decade of such visiting, there's still so much to pursue in terms of gaining phenological familiarity, and enhancing my relationship with the foods of this pond. These endeavors will certainly continue until my end. But just yesterday I had a thought about an additional project that could take our learning to a higher level. Mahoney and I have named this pond and many of its features and micro-environments, based on our perceptions and experiences. I wonder though, what we might learn if some of the resident animals here were producing these names for us, based on their perceptions and experiences rather than our own. What features are important to them, and how would they describe them? In some regards, undertaking a mapping project of this nature would be an exercise in imagination. But it would also be an opportunity to strengthen our identification with the animals, and our appreciation of their perspectives. And who knows... when approached as teachers, the animals often lead us on amazing journeys. We've asked them to educate us about how the seasonal cycle affects their lives, and they continue to do so. Perhaps it's time we ask them to teach us about their senses of place as well

1650 So I've started off today with this kind of inquiry in mind. I walk down the trail from the parking lot, and out onto the cutbank of north-pond. Already my thoughts are reeling at the possibilities. What is the parking lot to the residents here? How does it figure into their lives? How do they understand the trail, or this cutbank area, or this end of the pond? My own attention is immediately attracted to the coneflowers and wavy-leaved thistle blooms, forcing the inquiry to become reflexive. Am I merely drawn to these blossoms because I am a contemporary human, detached in so many ways from natural subsistence? I want to say that I go to the flowers because of my phenological interest, because I'm still learning about the relationships between symbionts that seem to centralize on the bloom. But I know this is mistaken. The birds don't seem overly attracted to flowers. From what I've seen, they seem to be far more interested in what can be found on the plant stems, or in what can be harvested during the seeding. So is it just the pretty colors that impress me? Am I that simple? Or are the flowers themselves drawing me to them for a reason? What ancient human place in the symbiotic weave around flowers have we forgotten in our absence of local subsistence practices? Unfortunately, the blossoms aren't offering too many answers today. On the coneflowers, I find yellow blister beetles and ambush bugs. While on the thistles, there is a milkweed beetle buried headlong in one of the flowers, and hosts of thatching ants gripping lethargically to the resinous housing that surrounds the seeds. Are they drunk from the nectar of these played-out blooms? They don't even bother me when I touch them, which is odd for thatchers. What harassment I do receive is from deer flies, landing on my exposed skin and biting

1701 I am very tempted not to move at all, to just sit right here on the cutbank of north-pond and consider all the possibilities. For the beavers, we know, this area is used to harvest certain greens and roots, and is also the location of a shore lodge once built and utilized by their children in starting their own families. It was abandoned, presumably for a better location on the river, three years ago. For the geese, on the other hand, this cutbank is not utilized. The absinthe is growing here, obscuring their view far more than other plants on the wet meadows or golf course. The ducks, for their part, use the cutbank for cover, floating in the water just off the shoreline, under low-hanging roots and trees. Many possibilities to consider. Perhaps I will return to focus here this evening, but I want to check on the swainson nest. I'm very much curious whether their hatchling is still alive

1722 Moving now, I climb the levee, or at least as it's known from our perspective, noting as I do the absence of turtles basking on the main concentration of accumulated wood from the old boardwalk, floating at the extreme north end. I look carefully and see that today the turtles are on the relatively fewer boards in the bulrush patch on the edge of the wet meadows. Most years, without the kind of flooding we've been having, the turtles wouldn't be able to utilize these boards. Most of them would be anchored to land. At present however, this area affords more concealment than the exposed drift on the far north end, and so the wise option is obvious, and they are keen to it. Up here on the levee top, there are rhombic-leaved sunflowers in bloom. Again I am immediately attracted to them, and look them over to find they are being utilized as the mating grounds for marsh weevils. It appears the weevils don't really care if the flowers are actually open or not, for there are as many of them on the flower buds as on the blooms themselves. Is this where they lay their eggs?

1754 There is an increased dragonfly presence as I walk what we know as the levee. There are a few different species here, all of whom I attempt to photograph for later identification. Two of them - a large blue darner and a small golden dragonfly - are clinging to plants, which I at first assume is for escape from the wind. But this presumption fades a bit when I crouch low and close to a medium-sized green darner who is landing on the shale trail itself. Mahoney and I have often seen this behavior with the red-colored variable darners, and thought it had something to do with camouflage. Through my macro lens though, I can see that this individual before me is turning something over in its mouth, eating. And it's lime-green coloration certainly does not blend well against the red shale. Perhaps surveying open trails for small, ground-dwelling insects has been the feeding strategy of the variable darner all along

1823 When I come to the first dirt path leading down into the forest main, I take it. Last week, along this same route, the trees were a raucous of begging fledglings. Tonight it is quiet, and I almost suspect that some of the families who nested here have moved away, though why this would be I don't know. Perhaps the parents feel as though, through the nesting period, the predators here had become all too familiar with them and their routines. Maybe it's safer to move along to another stretch of trees once the fledglings get used to flying and finding food. Or maybe they are already starting to form larger flocks for the same reason. The flora here has also changed a bit. White sweet clover, maanikapii and aahsowa are all in the height of bloom. Also, both color morphs of the spurge hawk moth larva are now appearing. I walk along until coming within view of the swainson nest. The parents are not here, and their absence at first has me thinking the worst. But I am pleasantly surprised when I glass the nest and see not one, but two hatchling faces looking down at me. The second baby is far darker than the other we'd seen before. I wonder if it will take on the dark adult plumage of the color morph for which this species is known in Blackfoot. Sikohpoyitaipanikimm... the Black-Greasy-Hawk. I prefer this name to the English Swainson's, which these hawks are obviously called after some come and gone human being. In fact, I don't think I will use the English term again. I also feel that here we may have our first perfect place reference. Mahoney and I have always thought of this as being the hawk tree, and maybe that was alright. I'm thinking the title Ayinnimaoyiiyis is appropriate. It utilizes the Blackfoot generic term for hawks, ayinimaa, and can be transliterated as Seizer's-Nest. Surely this is something close to how many of the residents of the forest know this patch of trees overlooking the subpond and wet-meadows

1906 Already I feel like I've taken in a lot this evening. Having confirmed the presence of ayinnimaikoaiksi, and settled on at least one appropriate feature name, I'm satisfied and ready to go home. As I walk out through the forest and back along the levee to north-pond, I finally begin to see and hear some of the smaller birds - a catbird calling "ow-ee" from deep in the brush, a waxwing moving from branch to branch on a tree down by the river. Coming again past the big drift of old boardwalk wood at the far north end, I see it is being utilized by a spotted sandpiper family. There are two fuzzy fledglings hunting insects on the wood, while their father stands guard and keeps up a pip cadence that the little ones seem to move in time to. We have observed many bird species use this wood in similar manner, as a place to harvest insects. Maybe a second feature name can be derived from this, but I will have to give some thought toward constructing a manageable title

2038 Spotted a big patch of mature stinging nettle on my drive home from the pond. Continued on a little ways thinking, "Maybe I'll harvest some tomorrow." Then came to my senses, turned around, pulled off and picked a nice bundle. It's a start... one of the plants to get right now, before the leaves begin burning

19 July 2011

Fledglings Galore

IIII ) lllllll Swainson Baby And Water-Beetle Mating (9Jul11)

1105 Sspopiikimi - we've had strong winds coming off the mountains since yesterday, which means it'll be a pleasantly cool walk this afternoon with minimal disturbance by mosquitoes or golfers

1133 We're moving counter-sunwise, starting with the shale trail along the west bank. Following this route, we pass two thatcher highways early on. At the first, we witness an ant hauling what appears to be a dung beetle across the trail. Oddly, there are few ants at the second crossing, so we check at the hive itself. At first it appears there's not much going on, but when I pull back some of the overlaying grass we find a lot if activity. They are keeping to the shade, and I get bit hard between the fingers to make this observation. Continuing on, we see four mallards in the reeds at midpond. I suspect it's the mother with her three ducklings, who have grown quite a bit. There's also a drake lounging on the ksisskstakioyis. While the river has receded, the pond remains significantly flooded, and the Four Square aapsspini family retreats to these waters when we approach them. They've come down off the golf greens, where there are lots of robins and flickers picking around. On the trail itself, we're finally witnessing the reappearance of a significant number of dragonflies, mostly cherry-faced meadowhawks, but there is also a lime green species I don't recall the identity of, perhaps a variable darner

1220 Before rounding south-pond, we decide to make our way through the tick zone, down to what in times of lower water is the peninsula. There are two events unfolding on the water here today. The first, just above the surface, is another round of bluet mating, where the damselflies are meeting one another, connecting, and moving as pairs back to the long grass of the shore. The second event appears to involve water beetles, hundreds of them, all whirling across the surface of the pond in a tight cluster. This too, I assume, is a mating swarm of sorts. Below them, underwater, but not paying the beetles particular attention, is a small pike, perhaps fifteen inches in length. It seems to be watching the shoreline, staying in place for a minute or two, then slowly moving over a meter and repeating the wait. Perhaps it's waiting for dragonflies

1240 Still surprised that none of the currants look near to ripening. About this time, we would already expect to be picking. The okonoki are getting close though. They will end up being our first berry harvest this year. Rounding south pond, we check both plants. There are redwings nested in some of the currants within the tick zone. We also see bohemian waxwings and goldenfinches, but they are sticking to the cottonwoods. The white sweetclover has come into bloom now, along with Canada thistle. No garters basking at the hibernaculum this afternoon. I wonder if they've finally all spread out. I imagine many are residing in the flooded wet-meadows, the perfect place to catch fish, tadpoles, and other choice bites

1333 Our next move is to drop down into the forest main, pass the swallow and wren snag where the feeding of hatchlings is ongoing, and head toward the edge-zone where treeline meets wet-meadows. There we can check on the ayinnimaiksi, and I can wade out to download this week's images of RYECAM02.  I'm happy to announce, our wait at the swainson nest is over. When we get within sight, we find mama hawk perched off on a limb nearby, and one very cute, fuzzy-white hawkling craning her head over the edge of the nest to see us. No doubt she was up there for the last couple weeks, but only now strong enough to make an appearance. Mom and pops are none too pleased with our visit. She takes to the sky and he appears out of nowhere to meet her. Together they soar overhead, scolding Mahoney and I as we follow the deer trail that passes beneath their nesting tree. Soon though, we are far enough away for them to calm down, and I wade out to check the camera in the bulberries while Mahoney waits sitting on a log on shore. There is another cluster of the beetles scurrying about on the water's surface here. I can't get close enough to them for a good look though. The bulberries, for their part, are full of redwing fledglings, and more upset parents as I pass among them to collect my images. The photos are, not to surprisingly, of redwings, grackles, and magpies

1411 We conclude our walk hiking out of the forest main, past the catbird nest, and then along the north cutbank. The single, week-old catbird hatchling is alert and surviving the danger. Maybe another week or so and he'll be ready to fledge. We're rooting for him. On the cutbank, once again there are no signs of the wandering garters. No large turtles basking in the pond either. With the heat we've been having, all of them must be in a routine of seeing cool spaces to pass the afternoons

IIII ) lllllllll Callippe Fritillaries And Promachus Robber Fly (11Jul11)

0945 Pitsiiksiinaikawaahko - my traditional foods students were supposed to join me again for the hard work of digging ma's and pisatsiinikimm, but only one showed up, so I let her off the hook. Stephen Harper is visiting Kainaissksaahko today, and I suspect that's where at least some have gone. As for me, I'll always take the coulee over a right-wing conservative politician, so I'm off to enjoy the hike

1044 It is a slow progression from the coulee rim to the rattlesnake hibernaculum about half-way down. What might take me fifteen minutes to hike is drawn out into an hour of fairly careful insect observation and photography. There's so much to observe in this season, and so many insects I've yet to learn to recognize. The butterflies are pretty straightforward, I am seeing spring azures, inornate ringlets, and callippe fritillaries, the latter probing mainly the blanket flowers and Canada thistles. But there are also a good number of bee, wasp, and bee/ wasp mimics. I take pictures of as many of them as I can, in hopes of later identification

1120 I'm expecting to start finding black widow egg sacks in the entrances of the hibernaculum, badger holes, etc. So I walk in toward the snake den to check it out. No widow eggs yet, but there is a pair of brown thrashers doing something in the nearby, short chokecherries. When they leave, I move to the brush to check things out. No nest that I can find, there must be some insects here driving their attention. Just as I'm finishing up my unsuccessful search for the food source, two of my students arrive. I hike with them up to the ridge where the roots are growing, and will leave them to dig as I continue my walkabout

1212 Once the ladies set to work digging, I walk up to the draw which I saw the thrashers fly into. There is a thick chokecherry patch here, and right away I spot the birds again. They dive down into the brush, and I'm tempted to crawl in after them... but I also hear loud buzzing that suggests a hive of some sort I do not want to disturb. I wait a bit to see if the thrashers will emerge again and, when they don't, I pack up and begin hiking down to the bottom of the coulee. I want to get this week's images off RYECAM01, and I'd like to go at least briefly into the forest to see if the owl neat is being utilized by hawks, as it has in previous summers

1235 At the base of the coulee slope, where there is some badland exposure, I come across a curious insect I've never seen before. My first guess is that it's a cicada, and I heard they might be around this year, but on closer look it turns out to be a large promachus robber fly. I then check the game-cam to find images of all the usual suspects: mule deer, porcupine, coyote. In fact, a mule doe who is bedding nearby startles at my approach to the brush, and hops uphill. Moving then even further down to the river, my presence provokes a kestrel into alarm. Now I'm wondering if I need to check the trees right around here for a hollow or cavity that might house it's nest

1324 Failing to locate the kestrel nest (although I'm sure it's here), I wade through brome, sweetclover and spurge, all nearly as tall as me, to check the old owl nest in the forest. It is unoccupied, but there are lots of dragonflies and bluets in the grass down here, as well as whitetail does who snort at me as they leap away and quickly disappear

1345 The hike back up the coulee slope is arduous as ever. There seems to be no season when it is not either too hot, too windy, too muddy, or too drifted over in snow to make the climb pleasant. I find the best approach is to simply march straight along, and enjoy a good rest at the top. I do, however, note a couple of things as I walk. Twice near the base of the slope I witness a small orange butterfly drop without apparent provocation from the sky and land at my feet apparently exhausted or dying. I have no idea what might be causing this to happen, but if I witnessed it twice in such a short stretch, I can only imagine it is going on all over the lower slopes. Near the rim, there's a different event underway. I'm noticing that many of the rose and morning glory flower pedals are riddled with holes. Looking around, the only culprits I find are grey blister beetles, and these are only observed on a single flower, so I wonder...

IIII ) lllllllllllllll Fledglings Galore (17Jul11)

0928 Sspopiikimi - heavy rain and thunderstorms last night, everything's damp, and I wanted to get out here to survey things phenological before the heat of this cloudless, blue-sky morning becomes uncomfortable

0953 Arriving at the bat tree of north-pond, I immediately encounter a redwing family, mother and fledglings, who are hunting the absinthe and alfalfa together. Within moments of my appearance, the mother goes into alarm, and the fledglings disappear below the plants. The prairie coneflowers are now in full bloom, and I inspect them as I walk the cutbank, finding tiny beetles, indigenous bees, and a spider awaiting the unsuspecting pollinator

1050 I am at a total loss now to explain the persistent absence of wandering garter snakes and large, mature turtles during our last couple visits. My start this morning was early enough that I fully expected to witness some basking activity, but again I see only baby turtles. It is, however, the time of youth. Between north pond and my drop down into the forest main, I encounter several bird families with fledglings being fed by parents. These include magpies, starlings, redwing blackbirds, yellow warblers, house wrens, and the single catbird baby we've been following, who is able of wing and presently collecting his own food, though mama-cat stays close

1139 Add to the list of fledgling families northern flickers, who I see, and tree swallows, who I infer by the absence of feeding activity at their cavity abode. Unfortunately, things are less certain for the swainson hatchling. When we saw her last week, she was nowhere near to fledgling. And today, she does not peek over the nest rim at all. Of course it could be that she is resting, but that seems unlikely for a curious baby hawk. We've had two incredible lightning storms with intense rain since the last sighting. To my mind, it seems entirely possible that something unfortunate could have happened. Still, distant calls from one of the parents, somewhere above the coulee rim, but no doubt able to see me, lends some hope. For good measure, I check around in the area under their nest. What I find, aside from a lot of white-wash, is that the spurge hawk moth larvae are starting to make their appearance. And by the duck blind, so too are the asparagus beetles

1219 I am busy watching a flycatcher perform amazing aerial maneuvers, including tight 360 degree backwards rolls to snatch it's prey from above the forest canopy, when a man arrives in a service truck, retrieves a weed-whacker from the bed, and begins a loud and unnecessary assault on the plants that line the trail to the duck blind, and all of the smaller animals residing in the same. This is my signal to leave. I can't stand to witness this kind of desecration in the name of an aesthetics completely foreign to the pond. It embarrasses me to be categorized in the same species with people like this, oblivious. I walk past the man, climb the levee, and head out along the shale trail that rounds south-pond and follows the west length. Showy milkweed is in bloom here, and there are dozens of cabbage white butterflies fluttering around, probably laying eggs on the stems of the lens-podded hoary cress that, at present, bear spicy seeds. It's hot out here now, so just as well that I be on my way. My last encounter, as I make my leave, is with the two aapsspini families - the older Four Square goslings, and the single parents with four younger goslings. They are all traveling together these days, and they enter the pond to give themselves a liquid buffer as I pass

08 July 2011

Mosquitoes Feed Baby Birds... A Mantra

I Mosquitoes Feed Baby Birds (29June11)

1954 Sspopiikimi - out for a brief dusk stroll, moving sunrise along the trails lined with yellow-flowering brome. We've stopped at the north-pond redwing nest, where the hatchlings are now open-eyed, nearly ready to fledge. Within the next week or so, we should find them exploring the surrounding buckbrush and currants

2007 Similarly, we drop into the forest main to check the catbird nest of this end. The mosquitoes punish us for the intrusion, all too happy to exact their toll. But it's worth it for the reward of seeing mama-cat safely incubating

2024 The mosquitoes make life all too uncomfortable, swarming us in the long grass of the forest. We trudge on south, spotting two more eggless catbird nests along the forest trail, and breaking briefly again at the duck blind, where there are fewer blood-suckers. Here, the redwing fledglings have already left their nest. They are hidden in the brush somewhere near, their parents chucking at us as we sit and rest and swat

2044 Mosquitoes feed baby birds, Mosquitoes feed baby birds, Mosquitoes feed baby birds, my only solice tonight

2110 We hike, it-it-itching, around south-pond and along the shale trail. An oriole flies past us by the owl wood. A baby cottontail zooms through the grass near the tick zone. One of the swainson parents is crying above, pesked by a little redwing. When back at north-pond, we see the Four Square aapsspini family off in the wet-meadow reeds. But tonight, they are no longer living up to their name... just the single pair of parents accompany the four goslings. I am inordinately relieved when we reach the safety of our car

III Damselfly Mating (1Jul11)

1350 Sspopiikimi - a blue sky day with just a few, light cumulous puffs of cloud and a gentle breeze. We start off counter-sunwise, beginning with the north-pond cutbank, where all of the bluets are engaged in love, chasing one another, or clinging to grass stems, locked in their heart-shaped embraces

1409 There are no garter snakes on the cutbank this afternoon and, despite the warmth, there's relatively few turtles basking down by the water. Mahoney and I round the north end, climb the levee, and take a seat in the crested wheatgrass and yellow sweetclover, on the slope above the active redwing nest

1427 Below us, both mom and pop redwing are bringing food in for the hatchlings, dragonflies by the looks of it. Some of their efforts are thwarted, however, by an eastern kingbird who takes the good perch nearest the nest. From this stand beside the water, the kingbird watches the pond, our slope, and the air. He takes short flights to retrieve what again appear to be dragonflies, sometimes nabbing them off the grass, other times plucking them right out of the air

1505 Leaving the redwings, we cut down into the forest main to check on the catbird nest. Here, incubation has concluded, but there is a mysterious absence. Out of the five eggs mama-cat was tending, there is only one hatchling and no sign of anything else. I check the ground all around below the nest, nothing. And given the difficulty of access, with dense branchlets surrounding the nest, we can only assume the work of a very sly predator is at play. Magpies perhaps, or possibly one of the least weasels we know to be here. Given that the predator knows the nest location, I will be very surprised if this newborn makes it to fledge. If so, I would have to conjecture that the predator is being purposely generous or conservationistic, allowing one to live

1514 From the catbird nest, Mahoney and I split up, she heading along the main path to the south-end duck blind, me going to wade out to the bulberry patch on the wet meadows to download images from RYECAM02. Crossing the thigh deep water, I again came across a small piece of floating log with a tight cluster of giant waterbug eggs attached. The defending mother I could only see by bending down to look through the water at the underside of the wood. There were images captured by the game-cam, but I've had no chance to look them over. While downloading them to my little viewer, I could hear voices back on shore. I hurried out of the brush to find a few mountain bikers passing through the forest main right where I'd cached my backpack holding thousands of dollars worth of photography equipment. Needless to say, I moved quick to wade back across. But I was never in need of much concern. As blind as the bikers are to the ecology of this place, they didn't even spot my large pack beside the trail. I picked it up, hiked quickly to the duck blind, and have now reunited with Mahoney, who has brought me a late asparagus shoot to snack on

1530 Before leaving the forest main / duck blind area, I walk over to check on one of the other catbird nests we found. This time, the mother didn't even come around to cry at me, and again there were no eggs. Either this nest failed before we found it, or it is an old nest and the bird has been using it to direct our attention away from her current brood

1554 As per our usual routine, we have a look at the big rocks around the garter snake hibernaculum next. Like the north-pond cutbank, there are no snakes out today. Something must be going on in the reptile world. Mahoney and I are discussing it as we walk the levee around south pond, and just then I hear something all too familiar... it is the buzz of hundreds, maybe even thousands of bees. I hold my arm out to block Mahoney from proceeding down the trail and ask, "Do you hear that." Both of us freeze, scanning the sweetclover patches surrounding us, then looking up. Just above us, and at head level, in fact flying past our faces, are the bees. Honey bees. My first instinct is that we've somehow disturbed the nest, and in that kind of situation I'm accustomed to being repeatedly stung. There are too many bees in front of us to run that way, so we turn and go back about ten meters the way we've come. Out of the swarm, we turn again and can see the cloud of bees moving away from us along the trail. He hadn't disturbed a nest, the colony is moving to a new hive. The swarm had passed right through us. As quick as we can, we get our cameras out and follow after them, but we're too slow. They've already moved to the west side of the pond and up the coulee slope. Amazing experience. It's not every day you stand amidst an entire colony of bees on the move

1615 Continuing on, our next encounter is with the Four Square aapsspini family, who are eight together again. They are out in the pond as we approach, but then paddle up to our shore right below us, where the older mother and goslings begin to feed. The main gander watches them briefly, then darts out and bites his wife in the butt as if to say, "What are you, crazy? There's humans right there!" The goose and her goslings are startled away from their meal, and the whole family moves on

1626 Our walk concludes with a sighting of one of the ksisskstaki, who swims up and climbs ashore below us as we pass the lodge. She grabs a large dirt clod and slips back into the water. The dirt dissipates and, when she surfaces again it is empty-handed

IIII Swallow And Wren Hatchlings (2Jul11)

1329 Sspopiikimi - we into the hottest part of a full summer day, blue skies without a cloud, and hardly a breeze to speak of. Like yesterday, Mahoney and I are taking a sunwise route around the pond and, at least on the north end, encountering none of the garter snakes we're accustomed to seeing here, and few of the turtles. I suspect it may be the heat

1347 In this part of the season, when the cottonwood seeds are drifting through the air, and the absinthe spiders wrapping their white silks around the tips of last year's tumbleweeds, there comes a peculiar growth on the recently leafed-out clematis vines. It has the shape of a gall, with swollen stems and pocked on the outside by bright orange blisters, which could themselves easily be eggs. Cutting these growths open, I find no larvae. It is another mystery needing to be understood, and today I'm taking one of these growths home to mature or die in a jar, in the event that it is an insect related phenomenon

1435 The damselflies are not in anywhere near the kind of mating frenzy as we witnessed yesterday, and there are still very few dragonflies around... though enough to feed the kingbirds and growing redwing fledglings apparently, as this is what was revealed from images we took yesterday afternoon. As we round north-pond, we see that the three mallard ducklings who had been alone here about a week ago have reunited with their mother. Again, I suspect the brief separation to be part of their training. Cutting down into the forest main, we note that mama-cat is still tending to her sole hatchling of two days old. Perhaps this is indication that the predators who took her other four are going to leave this last one be. Then, making our way through the forest to south-pond, I scour the trail-side brush for more catbird nests, as well as those of yellow warblers and eastern kingbirds. With the exception of one catbird nest that has a single egg broken on the ground beneath it, I find nothing. But we know they're here

1514 At the junction of the two main trails leading through the forest main, there is a small poplar snag with three cavities constructed by woodpeckers. As we pass by, I just happen to notice, the two cavities highest up are being nested by two different species. We stop to watch and learn that the one on top is a tree sparrow. Both parents are attending to feeding their hatchlings within, bringing beaks full of small insects at a rate of about a minute and a half per feeding (I timed it), and carrying out their white packets of poopy as needed, to drop elsewhere in the forest. The second cavity is occupied by a house wren family. The wrens are more skittish about revealing their presence. The parents will not feed their hatchlings while both Mahoney and I stand below watching. They wait patiently off concealed in nearby brush until one of us walks away

1533 The mosquitoes are not bad here this afternoon, compared to the situation a few days ago. For some reason, those that are lingering in the forest grass seem especially attracted to Mahoney, possibly because of the lotion she put on earlier. The combined effect of mosquito assaults and the heat have sapped her will to continue our study today. So after the cavity nests, we climb out of the forest, onto the levee, and make our way back without further event to the car

IIII ) l Forest Cathedral (3Jul11)

1316 Sspopiikimi - taking the counter-sunwise this afternoon, starting with the west length, and stopping early on to drop a bit of frosting by the big thatcher hive (complements of Starbucks lemon raspberry loaf). The thatchers are few on the highway and exposed parts of their mound. The clouds of earlier this morning have dissipated, and the heat is bearing down again

1326 Cottonwood seeds continue to float in the air, piling up on the edges of our path alongside pockets of shed brome flowers. The Four Square aapsspini family continues to fare well. Their goslings are now all grey, with just a hint of yellow on their heads. This year's absinthe are now nearly as tall as last summer's dry remains. The hoary cress is in seed, and the wild mustard golden in bloom

1402 We hike around the wide south pool and past the very lush owl wood to drop into the forest main. Along this route, we notice that the buckbrush is now in bloom, and that the saskatoons appear to be nearer to ripening than the currants, something that's never occurred in previous summers. Already we are feeling overheated, so we decide to seek out a shady log where we can sit and watch the trees for the possibility that some of the birds will reveal the locations of their canopy nests

1421 The area where we chose to sit is the kind of place a new-ager might look at and perceive as a vortex. It is a grand forest cathedral, where all of the tree trunks around a wide central clearing angle sharply toward one another, and come together to create arches overhead. But it is nothing too mysterious. The central open area is the key. All of these trees have bent in their convergent directions to bring their leaves access to maximal sunlight. I wish those people searching for supernatural answers could one day appreciate that the greatest force of creation on this planet is and always will be the Sun. Just consider, here it has bent the largest of trees permanently with but a glance

1433 Though we can hear the cricket-like calls of waxwings high in the canopy above, the only nest we're able to locate in watching the trees of this cathedral place is that of a house wren couple, using an old woodpecker cavity in a dead snag. That makes two wren nest locations we're presently aware of in the forest main. Like the wrens from yesterday, the two residing in the cathedral are hesitant to bring food to their hatchlings while we are present. In the fifteen minutes or so we sit here, they make only one quick, stealthy drop. Aside from these wrens, the scene is fairly quiet. Too much midday heat, we figure. Taking a cue from this widespread inactivity, we decide to hike back to the vehicle and call it a day, seek shade indoors

01 July 2011

The Long Rains Conclude

IIII ) lllllllllllllll Many Redwing Nests (17June11)

0915 Just saw some of those at-risk long-billed curlews on agricultural lands of the north end... you know, the ones who don't really nest here according to the oil and gas environmental impact surveys. Oh, but it's nesting season right now, isn't it? Must have just been a figment of my imagination, returning every year

1515 Sspopiikimi - the proverbial calm before the storm, I arrive under a warm bit of sunlight that glows as it only does when, as today, massive thunderstorms are about to ensue. No doubt I will be drenched by the deluge within a very short while. But with a packed couple of days ahead, I need the pond right now to get my mind back in order

1521 It's that season now when I feel compelled to start anew the project of learning to recognize all the different grass species here. The field guides available to assist in such endeavors are fairly unhelpful. None of them are flowering as yet, but I suspect they're close, and I take pictures of some of them as I make my way to the first stop on today's round, the big thatching ant hive. The fare this afternoon among these largest of local ants consists of sidewalk carabid beetles. When I arrive at the mound, the residents are in the midst of hauling three such beetles, kicking and fighting, up the side of the hive and into the passages. Perhaps unbeknownst to them, there is a running crab spider waiting in the grass nearby for any unlucky ants who stray out in her direction

1551 Once the thatchers have begun biting my sandaled feet, I move on to survey the north-pond cutbank. Here I find three large wandering garter snakes basking. They are definitely rodent eaters, these three, and one of them is so swollen she doesn't even move when I squat down to have a look at her. I know these snakes to be constrictors, though it's a disputed topic. I videotaped one working on a deer mouse two years ago, and it was clear that the rodent was dead from suffocation before the snake began feeding. During summer, I always check along this cutbank with the hopes of witnessing the same again. Today, I'm also checking to see if the absinthe spiders (my name) have begun wrapping their webs around the dry seed-heads of last years stalks. They haven't, but I expect that phenological event to happen at any time. There are, however, several butterflies - pearl crescents, inornate ringlets, and spring azules - whose wings are so damp from recent bouts of rain that they can't really fly. I reach down and pick up a spring azule, letting it crawl around on my fingers a bit before setting it back in the grass. Below me, on the pond, there are dozens of painted turtles basking on the floating planks of the old boardwalk. And where I sit down to make these notes, near the redwing nest at the north reeds, there are small orange ants (of a species I don't know) working to drag the tail of a damselfly into one of the flush-to-the-earth-surface entrances to their subterranean hive

1646 I check on the north-pond redwing nest as I pass, and find it is being incubated. Still the same four eggs as last week. About the time I enter the forest main - checking in on the large slave ant complex, where they are hauling leaf clippings around- the dark clouds roll overhead, bringing with them a wind. I'm pretty sure a deluge is near, and so I fairly hustle out to the wet meadows to drop my pack and wade out to the bulberry island where RYECAM02 is set up. It seems that, unlike the river, the depth of the pond's flooding has continued to increase over the week. It is now impossible to cross at the mere thigh-depth of last year. I hike my shorts up at the sides 70's style and wade across, but my crotch still gets wet. Inside the bulberries, there is no longer any exposed land at all. The water would still have to rise another couple feet to reach the height of my camera though. I download the SD card. There are over a hundred images collected, so I'll wait to check them out back at home tonight

1736 By the time I get back to the shore, it's apparent that the storm is skirting off toward the south, and that my likelihood of getting rain-soaked is minimal. During last week's visit, I found a giant water bug guarding her egg cache on a bit of floating wood along this shore. I figure today I'll walk the edge to the duck blind and see if I come across others doing the same. I don't have to go too far before getting results. Right below the swainson nest, where incubation continues, I find a small piece of floating log with a cluster of eggs. There's no giant water bug mama guarding them from atop, as before. But when I left the log, there she is. The bug drops and swims down to hide in the submerged foliage below. Continuing on, I come across another redwing nest near the waters edge, just past the hawk nest, in some buckbrush that will be easily remembered for the small honeysuckle tree flowering beside it. The nest has three new hatchlings. Similarly, when I arrive at the duck blind, I find these eggs have hatched as well, and there are three slightly larger babies within. The father redwing is, of course dive-bombing me. The mother perches off a distance with a mouthful of baby food that, through my camera lense, I can distinguish as comprised of two parts damselfly, one part green caterpillar. I have no idea where she found the caterpillar, but I'm curious to see if she'll find another. So I am backing off now, to observe from a distance

1819 Nothing doing. Papa redwing is totally onto my tactics, and it seems he's ordered mama not to bring her food to the nest, and betray it's position, even though he already saw that I located it. Mama gives little begging calls and flaps her wings at him like a fledgling, but somehow it's communicated to her that she must not. The only way I'm going to learn where she's gathering the green caterpillars, and by extension what they are, is to return another day and keep my distance from the start. So I pick up and head out Through the forest main, to the levee and shale trail, and follow this around the south pool and west length, back to my vehicle. Along the way, I pass the Four Square goose family (four adults, four goslings). The second family with the traditional two parents appear to have moved away from the pond, it's been a couple visits since I've seen them. The mallard mother, with her now six ducklings, remain in the big puddle surrounding the golf course pump-house. There's plenty of vegetation hide in here, as well as invertebrates and plants to eat. The chorus frogs are still singing from this same puddle and, to my surprise, there are turtles who have moved over as well. It always fascinates me how aquatic animals can sense new habitats developing beyond their line of sight

IIII ) llllllllllllllllll Fungi Day (20June11)

1317 Onion day turned out to be fungi day... we filled several bags fairy ring mushrooms and giant puffballs. Might go check out the onion situation at the confluence a bit later

IIII ) llllllllllllllllllll Mosquito Swarms (22June11)

1225 Pitsiiksiinaikawaahko - Off to a late start this morning, owing to a general lethargy, or maybe the sense of being overwhelmed. Happens every summer. This is solstice time, the long rains have subsided, and the world of the coulees is just absolutely buzzing with life. It's now or never to really stockpile a winter supply of botanic foods, but all I want to do is look around in amazement

1249 From rim to hibernaculum, my usual half-way-down stopping point, I note all the same plants and insects as recorded during my last visit, but everything is larger and now more abundant: a variety of vetches, the closely related yellow sweetclover and black medick, yarrow, onions, butte marigold and Colorado rubber plants, a host of all three predominant butterflies (spring azures, inornate ringlets, and pearl crescents), billions of blood-thirsty female mosquitoes, Hunt's and Nevada bumble bees, and the sounds of meadowlarks, flickers, clay-colored sparrows, mourning doves, and nighthawks. New to bloom this week are the blanket flowers, yellow umbrella plants, and wild morning glories. The berries on the skunkbrush are beginning to turn red, and already have a decent citric flavor. The thatching ants are tending to their aphid herds in the not-yet-flowered wavy-leaved thistles. And so many of the grasses I don't know by identification have flower spikes. I walk with my camera out, snapping photos of those who I'll later research

1340 If I thought the mosquitoes were rough on the hike down, those awaiting me in the meadow at the base of the slope comprised a force I was totally unprepared to deal with. They covered me, swarming no doubt to the scent of my sweat and breath. I hated to rush, there were glorious patches of onion in the meadow, but I had to quickly nab the photos off the game cam I keep in the brush here and head quickly to higher ground. Not too surprisingly, given the mosquito density, animal action at the game cam over the past week proved minimal... just one visit each by the coyote and porcupine, and a couple passes from the deer. I climbed the nearest rise to a hilltop overlooking the river confluence, and here, in the shortgrass, I decided to stop and dig up some ma's. Glad I did too. The ground is perfect for it, although the work is still slow-going, and while digging the first one I found an indigenous lady beetle I've never seen before. She's tiny and red, with two black spots on each wing cover, and black line where the wing covers meet, a Winter Lady Beetle

1417 What I wouldn't give for some strong winds right about now. Having uprooted a couple of the turnips, I mustered my courage and tolerance to head back into the meadow for onions. Of course, the mosquitoes approved the plan immediately, "Yes, please do that." In the few minutes it took me to dig perhaps a dozen onions, they had a royal feast, and I was prompted to flee again, this time up the ridge above the rattlesnake hibernaculum, intent to start making my way home. Maybe in a few days the winds would kick up, or the heat would overcome these buggers and send them to the shade of the wood. Right now, it is just too much to handle. On my way up the ridge, making my escape, I am forced to pass through a thick patch of sweetclover. The buzz of the honeybees working there was intense. When I again got into shortgrass, I could see that some of the ball cactus have begun to open their flowers, while the early yellow loco weed so dominant here a couple weeks ago has gone to seed

1448 Descending the ridge, I grab a handful of ninnaika'ksimi and use it like a horse's tail to switch the air in front of my face while I finish my climb to the rim. I've inhaled and gagged on far too many mosquitoes today. All the way up, I'm swarmed relentlessly. Brutal and miserable. After seven weeks of pretty much solid rain, the roots and berries are going to be awesome, but anyone who wants to take advantage of them is definitely going to need to sacrifice

IIII ) lllllllllllllllllllll Spider And Seeding Synchronicity (23June11)

1330 Sspopiikimi - ever the glutton for punishment, I've come out in the hottest part of a brutally warm day, braving the mosquito hordes, so that I might learn more about what insects are on what plants, and which of them the smaller birds are eating and feeding to their hatchlings

1343 Never ceases to amaze me how quickly weather conditions can shift here. When I arrive at the pond, it is sweltering hot with dead-calm air. Ten minutes later, ominous dark clouds slip over the rim of the coulee, and a wind kicks up, prompting the cottonwoods to release some of their seeds. It is a beautiful summer snow, and for now mosquito free in thanks to wind

1401 I walk my usual route in to midpond, passing first one then another of the thatcher highways that cross my trail. At each, there are colony members hauling grubs toward their hives... two different kinds of grub, neither of which I know by sight. I check also at the dome of each of these hives. During my last visit, I mistakenly noted the ants taking in sidewalk carabid beetles. On closer examination of my photos from that day, the "prey" turned out to be ant scarabs, who no doubt landed near the hive intentionally so that they would be brought in, where they could lay their eggs and feed on thatcher larvae. I wanted to get a better look at these new-to-me coleopterons, but there are none to be seen at present

1412 After checking the ant hives, I walk the north cutbank. No garter snakes today, perhaps they sense the pending storm. What is interesting, however, is that the absinthe spiders have begun to build their cocoon-like webs on the seed heads of the old stalks. I'd predicted this event would be coming soon, but I hadn't connected to the seeding of the cottonwoods. Now that I think back on it, we missed this synchronicity the few years of our study out here, not even noticing the spiders because of our presumption that they were merely bunches of the cottony seed, plucked from the air by the plants. Only last year were we finally able to SEE that almost all of these fibers in the absinthe tops were in fact spider webs. I think we did make the connection to the cottonwood seeding at that time, but I'd since forgotten it. I don't think it will be lost to me again

1422 When I get to the extreme north end of the pond, I take a seat on the ground to write out some of these notes. It is a good place to stop anyway, because here there are lots of floating logs from the old boardwalk which the redwing blackbirds, robins, and other hunt for food upon. They are doing so as I arrive, but quickly take wing. I notice, off hidden below the root of a tree along the cutbank, there are three mallard ducklings alone. No other siblings and no mama anywhere that I can see. We've observed this kind of thing before, at about the same stage of development... the mother abandoning her ducklings for a day, then returning again. I'll have to keep an eye out for these three in future visits. I'd like to stay put and wait for the small birds to resume their hunt, but the storm is going to dump rain on me at any moment, and the wind has become fierce. I need to find cover

1448 The best place I can think of is the duck blind at south-pond. Walking as quickly as I might, I move along the levee to the path that will take me to the blind. Here, I've set up a temporary shelter from the rain that is indeed presently falling. My umbrella is a meter square insect drop sheet made of canvas, which I'd brought so that I could shake some of the various bushes to learn what might be camouflaged within. The duck blind is an optimal place to weather the storm also in that it is very close to a redwing nest. In fact, the father has been scolding me the whole while as I've sat here, and the mother dropped by to show me that she's still feeding her hatchlings damselflies. I'm curious though to learn whether she is continuing to use the wolf spiders and green worms I saw her feeding them during my last visit, and I especially want to know where she is procuring those worms

1553 When the rain subsides, I get busy shaking some of the plants within feeding range of this redwing nest. I survey buckbrush, chokecherry, wolf willow, golden currant, and prickly rose. All of them have resident crab spiders, different species to each kind of bush. The buckbrush has the most tiny spider, as well as an unidentified winged yellow big, a green beetle, and small green worms. These may be the worms I noticed the redwings using last week, but they seem smaller. All I get from the chokecherry is a small grey spider. The silverberry has a tiny crab spider and a small black and red beetle. The golden currant (the most spidery) has four different kinds of crabs and one orb-weaver. And the prickly rose has two crab spiders, bluets, and an ambush bug

1625 Figuring that this redwing family had begrudgingly tolerated enough of my nonsense near their nest, I begin making my way north again, following the edge zone of the forest. At first, I continue to survey brush as I move. But finding nothing different, I soon put the gear away in trade for a more comfortable walk. When I come within sight of the swainson nest, I pull out binoculars to check for the incubating mama. From my vantage point so far below, I don't see her, but it doesn't mean she's not there. Indeed, when I come under the nest tree, both she and her husband burst out of the canopy to hover above and scream at me. Then, continuing on, I come to that part of the wet meadows where the big bulberry patch and one of my game cams is found. There is a beaver eating beside the bulberries when I arrive. When I set down my gear, it slides away. Now I must wade out to check my SD card and find out who's been visiting inside the bulberries the past few days

1703 Ducks, ducks, ducklings, and more ducklings. That's whose come around the camera. There may be a surprise or two when I get home and view the images on a regular monitor, but that's what I could make out on the hand-held. The flood waters here seem to have receded at least an inch or two. I didn't have to get my crotch wet as I waded across today. Also, the turtles are starting to take an interest in the area. I crossed paths with five of them on my way back and forth, and really had to watch my step so I didn't crutch any while they applied their primary defense strategy of swimming to the bottom, and hiding in the mud and plants

1543 Feeling a bit worn now that the blue skies and heat have returned, I decide to make my way out through the forest main, around north-pond and back to the vehicle. As I passed through the trees, I was thinking to myself about how I'd yet to come across any of the catbird, warbler, or kingbird nests I know must be here by now. Just as I was having this thought, I peeked into a thick bit of brush around the trunk of a cottonwood and low and behold, there was the most prefect catbird nest. Five eggs and a very upset mama crying at me to go away. Finally, I can go away confident that I'll have at least one catbird nest to try and learn from over the next several weeks

IIII ) llllllllllllllllllllllll Goose Molt (26June11)

0913 Coffee and corvids. Speaking of which, I observed three very different strategies being utilized yesterday by parent corvids when dealing with humans (myself) who pass near to their fledgling young, and an extension of one of these behaviors this morning in an entirely different scenario...

Magpie parents yesterday gave alarm calls that let the fledglings know there was potential danger when I approached. But given my magpie fluency, I was able to speak back and forth with them a bit, and soon they had fledglings down on the ground with them at a careful but close distance from me, and one of the parents even flew away from the scene to gather food elsewhere and bring it back for the young birds, leaving them in my presence all the while. With blue jays, it was a different story. There were no alarm calls at all. The fledglings were a bit younger, and the parents had to go out and search for food alone because the young birds would never be able to keep up. Though I stood even closer to the blue jay fledglings than I had with the magpies, the parents continued to come and go with no sign of trouble, save perhaps for their attempts to stay out of sight themselves. When they'd arrive with food, it would be with a swift and silent fly-in, concealed as much as possible by brush. The same went for their fly-out. Crows were by far the most upset with human presence. Mahoney and I had only to walk past the lot where the crows nest was set, hidden in a large evergreen, and the parents immediately came to meet us, perching in branches above our heads and cawing in alarm. We wouldn't have even known the fledglings were near if not for the parents' anxiety. Their young were about in the same stage of development as the blue jay fledglings, able to fly short distances, but sticking close to the nest (in fact they never left the natal tree). Our proximity to the young crows was about twice as distant as with the magpies, and four or five times as distant as I had been with the blue jays. The fledglings watched quietly as their parents scolded us, never once even making begging calls, as both the magpie and blue jay young did constantly

What to make of this? My initial hypothesis is that the behavioral difference between these otherwise very similar birds has to do with their differential history of treatment by humans. Of these three corvids, certainly the blue jay is least despised by people. Farmers might not like them much, but in urban and suburban settings, humans tend to have some affection for them simply because of their blue color (silly monkeys), and so have not consistently sought to harass or harm them. Perhaps for this reason, the blue jay parents don't find much to be alarmed about when there are humans near their fledglings. Magpies, on the other hand, while also somewhat attractive to people because of their distinct coloration and long, fancy tails, are considered to be too loud. They also have a history of being thought of as magical (hence the "mag" in magpie), and so evoke a bit of residual superstition not aided by their reputation for thievery. The English and their relatives in outlying colonies have made serious attempts to eradicate magpies altogether, and in some locales on their home island are still trying to do so. But here in North America, this English disdain for the birds has been put in check for the last few decades, and magpies - though still often despised - are tolerated. For all of this, the magpie has every reason to give alarm when humans come near their fledglings, but is aware that the chance of a purposeful attack is, for the time being, relatively slim. Best option is to simply keep a safe distance and carry on with life as normal. And then there are the crows... who have had the misfortune of being black of plumage. The English and their colony relatives do not like the color black. It is associated with bad and dangerous things in their culture. Crows have therefore been framed as the evil bird, magically evil, given their intelligence. And crows are loud, all the more call for hatred. As with magpies, there have been serious efforts made to eradicate crows, and all kinds of scare tactics utilized, including the regular construction and placement of life-sized human dolls to ward them off. Because the crow's call is easy to imitate, it is not rare that, even with the relative tolerance shown toward them in the last few decades, humans continue to actively harass them through mocking imitation. Of all the corvids, who are a class generally despised in the dominant European tradition, crows have got the worst rap and no doubt have the most trauma to remember. I would conjecture that this history is what evokes their seeming over-concern with human passers-by in the presence of fledglings

Interestingly, we had an opportunity to witness some crow behavior this morning, in an entirely different, but related scenario. Like every morning, Derrick and I went to spend some time in the back yard with the neighborhood crows and magpies, which I feed daily. All was going as usual, with both types of corvids coming in to get food, taking it from a rail that is no more than a meter from where I'm seated (the magpies have even come to eat from my hand when I've offered). Then Mahoney woke up and she came out holding Keira. The first crow to arrive after Mahoney came out flew in and stood on top of our neighbor's house, studied the scene intently for about three minutes, then gave a croaking call and flew away. It's mate came by about five minutes later, landed on the porch rail, and proceeded to eat, then suddenly realized that Mahoney was holding something that looked very much like another crow. It froze in place and looked carefully. Yes, she was holding a crow. Then it flew down to the fence rail and paced back and forth looking hard at the scene. Eventually, it gave a loud triple call - Aw! Aw! Aw! - and a few seconds later flew away. When neither crow returned after about five minutes, we went in. No sooner did we close the back door than one of the crows swooped in to feed. They had been watching us from a concealed position. Keira, for her part, went to sit by the window and watch them make visit after visit to collect all the kibble from the rail. They knew she was there, and made purposeful close passes at the window to look at her as they came and went, until all the food was gone

1259 Sspopiikimi - no particular agenda today, Mahoney and I are just out for a stroll and a lookabout

1313 We are moving counter-sunrise around the pond today, which means that before passing the ksisskstakioyis our path crosses three different thatcher highways. Not much of anything special appears to be going on at any of the associated hives, probably owing to the rainshowers that have been off and on all morning. The third hive is in disarray, probably victim of a flicker's attention. Far more interesting this afternoon is the state of the ksisskstakioyis, which appears to have collapsed on it's west end. Repairs have of course been made, but now the lodge has a significant bow on this side, where it was well above the floodwaters before

1338 Just past the beaver lodge, we have two welcome encounters. The first is with the Four Square aapsspini family, whose goslings appear to be developing quite well. This is the first time we've ever witnessed yearlings assisting their parents with new goslings. Right now, all four adults are undergoing their molt. Our path is strewn with large feathers, the best of which we collect. Many of them appear to have been crimped near the base and tugged out. Our other encounter is with a fledgling robin, hunting on the short grass of the golf green. It is now on it's own, without any parental guidance, and quite successfully locating it's fare. Like many fledglings though, it is not too concerned with the potential danger of humans, and it allows us to get very close before then running up even closer to snatch a grub

1421 We move unhaltingly around the wide south pool to the river bench by the high level bridge. There, we stop to collect yellow sweetclover flowers, which will be dried at home and converted into vanilla-tasting tea. While picking, I purposely made my way through the wandering garter snake hibernaculum. Sure enough, there are still some large pregnant females here, and I suspect they'll remain all summer. Toward the end of our picking session, high wind gusts kick up, prompting us to head through the forest main, down to the duck blind, to wait it out under cover of Mahoney's umbrella

1508 When the rain subsides, we start hiking north again through the forest main. In the wolf willow near the duck blind, a pair of catbirds were scolding up. A bit of searching turned up their nest, but no eggs yet. The same search also flushed out a fledgling mourning dove, still really awkward at wing. We left it alone, but while we poked around most of the birds around raised a fuss - catbirds, robins, and yellow warblers got into the act. Figuring we'd found the nest, we moved on, and didn't really stop again until the catbird nest on the north end of the forest. There, we found the same five eggs as were waiting a couple days ago, but no incubation underway and, more surprisingly, no scolding mama. I didn't touch the eggs to test for warmth, but perhaps she's just away getting a meal

1517 The rain returns again as we exit the forest, headed toward our vehicle. The showers are not too much of an inconvenience, but it would sure be more comfortable if we'd remember to pack the light ponchos that are always in the back of our car. In any case, despite the rain, we stop at the extreme end of north-pond to look at the basking turtles and a pair of spotted sandpipers. With that last stop, our visit to the pond concludes