The spring has been particularly cool and that cold, wet weather has carried on into the first month of summer 2011. Even so, life goes on for us and the wildlife. Mating season is over for the bears and for us it was amazing to witness. We saw black bears mating and it was not so easy for either mate. The boar had a huge gash below his eye and another chunk out of his cheek, but he had the sow. They argued quite often as they wandered around for three or four days together. At the same time we watched one of our regular female grizzlies, first chase her son, "Peanut" away and take up with a male named "Pretty Boy." a few days later she was with "Bruno." After a few days with him there was a big bear fight between Bruno and and new male we called "Clyde." Talk about a furious scrap on the beach, but then we saw Lenore with Clyde. After about a week or so another male showed up and took over from where Clyde left off. Lenore was making sure she was well fertilized and the last I saw her, she was by herself, once again the solitary bear, as she is meant to be. For now, she will carry her fertilized eggs called "blastocysts", floating around her womb until she begins hibernation. At that time, her body will decide if she is carrying enough fat reserves to feed her and nurse her new cubs. If she is healthy enough the blastocysts will attach to the uterine wall and become a foetus.
The most important and always most dramatic for all of us is when the bears present us with their new cubs. Both black and grizzly bears have brought their shy new babies down to the shoreline to be introduced to the people who watch respectfully from boats nearby. The black bear brings her babies past the lodge regularly, scraping barnacles and mussels from the rocks and foraging for berries overhanging the slippery, rock weed covered rocks. They seem never tempted by the delicious odors of baking or barbecuing, emanating from the kitchen. As they are first exposed to humans, the bear cubs are very worried and we can often hear them muttering excitedly to their mom about the dangers coming closer from the water. Mother bear is, in turn, soothing their fears with quiet whispers as she carries on grazing on the sedge or turning rocks over for the succulent inter-tidal life hidden beneath. She must weigh her family safety with a calculated risk of trust she has built over the past seasons with the humans who live in her home range. So far they have done nothing to hurt or disturb her and she feels a certain comfort by their presence. She has also learned that the large male bears are not so sure about the people, so they tend to hang back in the safety of the deep, dark forest lining the shore. A couple days ago, one of those male grizzles decided to risk all and attacked the mother grizzly with two cubs. It only took a few seconds and the fury of a mother bear protecting her babies was demonstrated. She had him by the throat and flipped onto his back about as quickly as I can type this. The cubs hid quickly under a stump while their mother dealt with the threat to their young lives. There was a whole lot of chuffing and snuffing and posturing until dominance was established and the male bear headed for safer territory. I do not want to see the bears hurt, but I do admire how they deal with their problems. The situation is dealt with immediately, with no waffling or discussion. The problem is solved, one way or the other and life then goes on. There do not seem to be any grudges held, just memories and their hierarchy is established. Life goes on by comforting and reassuring her cubs, sedge grazing, nursing and a nap.
The bears are so very dramatic but no more important than all the other creatures living in the forest around us. I watched the other day as a river otter was startled by our sudden appearance and warned her new kits to hide in the forest above the rocky shoreline. They had trouble scrabbling over the slippery rocks and could not move fast enough to suit mother, so she bravely risked her own safety to grab each kit by the scruff of the neck and drag them, one by one, to the securety of the bush. This immediately brought my question to mind for my amazed guest: "which one of your kids would you have grbbed first, the closest one or the favored one?" When danger threatens us, how would we react, is there a favored one or does instinct just kick in to do the best we can at the time?
Around the eaves of the lodge and in the bird houses are scores of baby barn and tree swallows, all squabbling over the food the parents gather by swooping through the air after insects. Frantically, they fly, over the water, high in the air above the forest, from first light to can't see evening, they flutter hurriedly, noisily, trying to satisfy the always agaped bills facing them as they settle onto the rim of their nest.
Hummingbirds buzz, eagles scream the osprey cries, the loons yodel and the crows and ravens squawk from the distance. Everyone is trying to raise their families while protecting them from the maurading predators. Daily, we witness cooperating little birds gang up on larger, more dangerous predatory ones.
Up in the heights of the forest, I watched a couple weeks ago a Pacific-sloped flycatcher build her nest under an overhanging rock ledge. Last week I saw her incubating it. The same day I saw a roughed grouse with her little chicks, pecking grit along the roadside.
A couple days later I found the first glaucous winged gull baby that I have ever seen. "Ugly cute" is how I describe that thing. How can such a beginning result in such beauty. The baby gull doesn't wander far from the protective wing of it's devoted mom. Good thing for mothers and we now know where the saying comes from: "Something only a mother could love."
The flowers are blooming, turning to seeds and fruit already. The leaders of new growth on the conifer trees has already beagan to darken and the salmon berries are ripe. Huckleberries and elderberries are turning color, soon ready to feed the birds and bears of the forest.
There is also sadness on the water. I found several dolphins and one seal that had died, most I think were youngsters who did not survive birth. The seal still had it's umbilicle cord attached. Sharp eyed eagles had found these carcasses before I did and were taking advantage of this bounty to feed their youngsters. Life goes on!
How can anyone be bored when such miracles take place before our very eyes as we sit quietly in our boats or on our butts in the forest. Slow down and enjoy Mother Nature's miracles as they progress through the seasons.