14 July, 2002
What a Sunday! Hardly a cloud in the sky, a breeze, warm air and me with lots of enthusiasm. I refuse to let my legs get tired now - they will have time to rest soon enough, but have lots of "work" to get done now!
Truly, I felt like I was on a mission today. I didn't walk fast or hurried, but I did cover quite a few miles to see some new areas and take in as much as possible. The day started off great. I went down to look at the last two remaining swan nests - both are successful. One nest had only one egg remaining, as the other was eaten a few weeks earlier by a parasitic jaegar. But that one egg was pipped (the shell was cracked) and as I put the egg up to my ear, I could hear the cynet crying and scratching to get out. I won't go back to look again, so I am just assuming it makes it the rest of the way out. The other nest was even more exciting. This nest has had 5 eggs all summer, and this morning I walked up and found 5 newly hatched cygnets (hopefully there is a picture below). Four of them were dry, meaning they must have hatched at least a couple hours earlier. The fifth cynget was still wet (it really looks wet) and was just making its final kick to remove itself from the shell. I held a couple of them, took some pictures, smelled them, listened to them, told the mother congratulations and good job, then hurried away. I never like to stay at any nest too long, especially one with newly hatched young, as it may grab the attention of a predator and cause unnecessary problems for hatching success. Anyway, it was such an incredible feeling to hold these fluffy creatures - new life, scared but seemingly prepared to take on life's upcoming migration requirement.
Although I haven't been able to see a large percentage of the nests we found with babies, the opportunity to see 2 of the 12 swan nests and even just one of the king eider nests with the newly hatched young has been more rewarding than I would have imagined. It is almost like I feel proud of the parents for doing such a great job of protecting their nests the last 6 weeks - which is much more of a task than I would have formerly believed!
From there, I had the day to go wherever I wanted. I chose to follow Wyoming Creek as it runs northward. I had never been that direction before, so I was looking forward to slightly new sights and adventures. I began by wading across a shallow area of the creek to walk on the East side . . . I have never gone beyond the creek line! It was really a pretty neat feeling when I got to the other side and continued looking east. Truly, I could keep on walking east to brand new areas I hadn't even been able to see before! Rather than do that, though, I kept along the creek border, following its zigs and zags. There were times that I could walk less than 100 yards and count at least 15 different wildflowers blooming. In the distance, I could get glimpses of new, far away lakes and marshes. I saw a pair of Swans drifting down the creek. Some other birds enjoyed the creek with me - plovers, Lapland Longspurs, gulls and semi-palmated sandpipers being the most common. I was also entertained by arctic ground squirrels busy near their holes dug in the sides of the bank. And I was frightened back by fairly fresh bear tracks seen crossing a sand bar.
As I neared our camp about 5 hours later, I worked up the nerve to jump in the water and bathe. I dunked myself a few times so that the water came above my shoulders. Splashing, scrubbing and attempting to catch my breath, I ended my first real bath of the summer in record-breaking time. Without a towel, the breeze dried me and after warming back up I felt quite refreshed!
To fully utilize the creek, I then attempted to catch a few fish. Unfortunately, I had 3 excellent opportunities, but blew them all. Two of them I even had right up against the shoreline, but at the last second they wriggled off my hook and swam away! Although disappointed in my fishing skills, the meat wasn't needed for supper. When I got back to camp, Yumiko had a great pizza cooking - she used yeast, even, to make a real bread crust. It was delicious! A few green beans and corn as a side dish, good bird talk for conversation, and a nice breeze passing through the tent windows made the day end with satisfaction for all.
Tomorrow, I am going back up to Fox Den Lake Camp, so I won't be able to journal. I am going to be using the radio tracking equipment to attempt to locate the king eider with the radio transmitter attached. She has left the nest, but we haven't been able to find her, yet. Anyway, I won't be able to journal from there, so I'll catch you back up on my return. Hope all of you had a great weekend.
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