Monday, March 12, 2018

Employee of the Year

I had reached Foote Bridge and was just about to start writing when I spotted a white V-shaped object on the bottom of the water.  As I fished it out with the tip of my paddle, two women walked onto the bridge and asked me, "what are you researching?"  Interesting that something in my bearing should cause the word, research, to come up.  It was animal bone, likely deer.  Secured in the boat, I had a delightful conversation with the women.

I started by the sea and came up river with a minor wind out of the north or east.  Nothing of note, meaning it was a perfectly fine trip, happened until I got to the bottom of the Big Bends where an immature Bald Eagle was flying circles.
For me, it takes 2 or 3 days traveling solo before I get comfortable with myself.  It takes about a week to fully bed into the experience.  Seven days is when everything is "now"... the things coming in the future will be handled then, the things in the past have been passed.  But thoughts of work intrude...I know that paddling will make it dissipate.  My boss sent me an email, "why haven't you contacted this customer? I asked you to do it a week ago."  Actually, he told me to do it a week ago, which is different.  But, a question is lets me use my creativity. His problem is an opportunity for me.  Possible answers bubble to the surface:
1.  Because I suck at my job.  (I reserve the right to use this later, for the most part it isn't true)
2. Until I can figure out how to use the company spam filter, I am using my own analog spam filter. (this is true, I am ignoring him)
3. I knew it would piss you off. (which is true)
4. I had more important things to do. (which is true, but it is never heard when said out loud, so why bother)

I return to something I do best...I begin paddling back down river.  I am Employee of the Year at canoeing.  The wind is in my face through much of the upper marsh.  It is stiff, but I have a mile an hour of ebb current in my favor, so the canoe continues along at something less than walking pace.  It makes no difference to the canoeing Employee of the Year.

Above the arch bridge I enter the Connecticut hardwood forest.  The marsh is completely snow-trodden, the forest, even in winter bareness, is dramatic.  It is a welcoming place.
I turned back from the bridge when the conversation with the two women ended.
This time at the Big Bends there was no Eagle.  However, I spotted a grey Loon several hundred yards off...A Red Throated Loon.  They pass through here in early spring.  It is smaller than the Common Loon, but equally beautiful.  It dives...I wait and watch.  It surfaces and dives again.  It will evade me by swimming.  I wait and watch.  Nothing.  I round the bend and find it several hundred yards downstream.  It probably had to breath only once to make that distance.  As I approach, it dives.  It surfaces near me, but only for a moment.  It dives.  It comes up a couple hundred yards upstream of me, returning to where I first saw it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Eagles and Beaver

A Nor'Easter came through a couple days back, steady 35 mph winds with gusts up to 50.  Today is the calm between storms.  More wind is predicted for tomorrow with snow coming tonight.  But, what a calm it is.  I head out from Ely's Ferry in clear sky with temperatures in the 40's and more or less no wind.

I paddle upstream, and no sooner than 50 yards out, where I pass under a still unoccupied Osprey nest, an immature Bald Eagle drops down out of the trees and heads across the river.  No more than a couple hundred yards, and a second immature Eagle leaves a perch and heads upriver towards Hamburg Cove.  It is a good start to the day.

I follow the shore closely, the water being quite cold, and the interesting stuff being found where land and water meet.  Halfway between Hamburg Cove and Selden Channel I head up into a small creek that I have always bypassed.  The mouth is usually very shallow, but with the high rive and high tide I slip into it easily.  It is a nice side journey through swamp and after perhaps a third of a mile it meets one of Connecticut's 4000 dams, this one an old low earthen, stone and cement structure.  It's hard to say whether it had any purpose other than to create a pond...not enough height for much power generation.

an almost mature Bald Eagle
Just short of the bottom of Selden Channel I spot a more mature Eagle.  With my binoculars I can see that it is an immature that almost has adult colors.  The head is mostly white as is the tail, but the body is still the mottled feathering seen on juveniles.

Part way up the channel I am watching carefully a piece of land that the state has posted no trespassing.  I suspect it might be to protect a nest, but I can't see anything.  


The slap of a beaver behind me.  I turn to see a medium sized beaver in the water.  It circles downwind of me to catch my sent, and then begins swimming around me at a distance. 
We watch each other for about 15 minutes.   I get a few more tail slaps out of the beaver, and then I head off back in the direction from which I came.

Just as I near Hamburg Cove, a fully mature Bald Eagle flies past heading upstream.  That makes four for the day.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Nest Check Day 3

I put in up in the forest finding the river spring high but also with a rising tide, even though this place is thirty miles from the sea.  It was already in the mid 50's and the wind was near calm.
The mission was to run a check on an Eagle nest that lies about a 1/2 hour paddle down from here. 

I often photograph forests in sepia tone, the green often being too strong for a photograph and black and white being to cold for an environment filled with life.  The high haze and leafless deciduous forest and dormant undergrowth has created a landscape that shows sepia even with my camera set to color.  Trees will begin to bud out soon and the most incredible crop of poison ivy will soon turn this land green.

Beaver activity
I reach the Eagle nest in about a half hour and find it unoccupied.  This area of the marsh is well open with long uninterrupted sightlines.  There are no Eagles in the vicinity.  I watch the nest for a few minutes just to be sure, and then move on.

I spot a mature Bald Eagle near where the Coginchaug River enters the Mattebasset.  It chases a hawk and then climbs high to soar. 

With the high water I paddle up the Coginchaug farther than I ever have before.  I almost reach the first road bridge before turning back.  I get a second Eagle sighting just as I reach the Mattebasset.  The Eagle flies off to the east and doesn't seem particularly associated with the nest.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Observations Day 2

I set out on the Lieutenant River heading upstream at the peak of a very high tide with a following wind.  It is again, a sunny day in the 50's with only a slightly stronger wind than yesterday.
I've seen Eagles farther up in the river, and there is a possible nest that seems a bit small, but I've never seen the nest directly associated with any of the Eagle sightings.  Right way I spot large birds in the air - Turkey Vultures.  There's at least six and possibly ten soaring near the river. 

When I get up to Boulder Swamp, which also forms a large pond at a bend in the river, an Eagle flies past and takes a perch in one of the trees on the west hillside.  There is a Red Tailed Hawk there as well and the Eagle vocalizes its disapproval.

Next, I head up the river into the forest to check on the beaver dam.  I pass the earlier mentioned nest but see no sign of life. There is a good deal of beaver activity, quite a few downed trees and several that are being worked on.  Chicken wire on some of the trees show that the neighbors are letting the beaver be while protecting some of the larger trees.  The best way to control beaver is to fool them into "behaving".   Anyway, the dam is in fine shape.  High water is topping the dam, but it is not breached.

On my way out I spot the head of an Eagle in the nest.  It is deep down, no wonder I missed it on the way up.  It appears to be tending eggs...not moving, just watching.  The mate is in a nearby tree and flies off as I pass.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Mission

I had purpose today.  I put in at Pilgrim's Landing and headed up river into Lords Cove.  Cold weather, work, and travel have kept me off of the water for too long.  But, this day comes with sun and temperatures near 50F with wind that is not particularly bothersome.  I don my drysuit only because the water has a good deal of catching up to do with the air.
I occasionally flush a duck or a few Canada Geese.  It's Buffleheads, one or two Hooded Mergansers, some Blacks, and a couple of Common Mergansers.  Quiet.  There's a few hawks around, perhaps Broadwings, but I don't take time to identify them...hawks is close enough for today's mission.
My mission is the Eagle nest in the second large cove above the put in.  It is well hidden for something that is in plain sight.  I noticed it last year.  I've watched it since then.  The female is quite large, the females generally being bigger than the males.  These are especially good parents.  It is normal for one chick to fledge and excellent if two survive.  Last year, three chicks flew away from this nest.
I spot an Eagle from several hundred yards, the white head a spot of brilliance out of place in the top of the evergreen.  This is the time of year when Eagles lay eggs, and it does look like this one is tending.  It sits low in the nest and stays put for the ten minutes that I watch.  The mate is nowhere to be seen...likely out hunting for food until it is time to trade places.

Monday, February 19, 2018

My Town

I portage the 200 yards from the house, down the hill, down the seawall, and into the salt water.  It's a trip I do less often than when we first moved to this town.  But, it is worthwhile, particularly in the winter when no other boats are around other than the oyster fleet. 

I cut through or around the groins, the man-made rock wing dams that were intended to limit erosion or to hold beach sand in place.  Milford touts its miles of beaches.  I think more of its dozens of groins.  We have 8 or 10 in our neighborhood...whatever the original plan was, they certainly didn't keep any sand in place.  Our shore is all cobbles and boulders.

All of the winter neighbors are about.  Brandts swim right at the waters edge picking at things growing in rocky shallows.  Long Tail Ducks are farther out, although not as far as usual.  They dive long and deep feeding off the bottom.  The males call out nonstop - and with the calm air I can hear a great many more than I can see.
The Harbor
I paddle into our small harbor.  I figure it would've been an excellent protected anchorage for 18th century sailing ships, but too small for the larger vessels of the steam era.  It is now a mix of work and pleasure craft.  It is always quiet in winter.  When we first moved here most of my canoe trips started in the harbor.
The clouds meet me at the harbor entrance.  Rain is predicted for the afternoon, but it I don't sense it coming, yet.

I turn and return home under grey skies.  I portage up the seawall, then 200 yards to home.  I am happy to live here.

Friday, February 16, 2018


I put in at the Foote Bridge, near the upper end of the canoeable section of the river after finding the road leading to the launch site at the sea flooded with the unusually high tide.  Even as I set out I decided not to paddle the full length knowing well enough that the ebb current would be a tough grind on the way back.  Instead, I used the very high water to explore the inlets and seldom flooded areas on the side of the main river.

It was calm and near 50 degrees.  I was thinking about how peaceful it was when a few Canada Geese disturbed it all honking their complaint about my presence.  I rethought that idea, and returned to the reality that it was quite peaceful - geese might be noisy, but they do not disturb the peace.

Other than a dozen Canada Geese, I spotted about the same number of Black Ducks, and one medium sized but unidentified hawk.

The wind came up just as I ended the trip.  A drop of 30 degrees and snow is in the forecast.