Thursday, September 12, 2019

To the Dragonfly Factory

 I set out from the Feral Cat Park heading upstream into a headwind, a river current and a tidal ebb flow.  It is a slow crawl against a steady 10-15 mph wind, but the air is fresh and the noise of the wind is blanking out any of the outside influences. 

It takes about 1-1/2 times as long to get up to the Dragonfly Factory.  But, this is where I start to see significant birds.  From a distance I had spotted two mature Bald Eagles circling and soaring on the prowl.  Two immature Bald Eagles show up and I start adding a Great Blue Heron sighting at rather short intervals and there are several Great Egrets perched in the nearby trees.
Three Great Egrets and a Great Blue Heron
All told I figure that I've spotted 4-5 Bald Eagles, a dozen Great Blue Herons and a dozen Great Egrets.

I circle the first island above the Dragonfly Factory and then cross the river to explore two inlets that I have neglected for far too long.  The upper inlet ends in about 200 yards and is nothing special other than the shore birds seem to like the innermost corner.  The lower inlet continues farther than expected and becomes a creek.  I'm stopped by a low bedrock shelf that the creek slides over.  It is far enough and I'll consult the maps when I get home.

On the return the missing Osprey show up near Peck's Mill....4 individuals.

Monday, September 9, 2019

A Quiet Day

I set out just after high tide, but the water is higher than normal, I'd say maybe 6 or 8 inches.  The remains of Hurricane Dorian passed by in the last few days.  While it was well out in the ocean and we saw only a couple windy days, a storm surge seems to still be present.  I wasn't sure when I headed this way if I'd have enough water to take my favorite route up through the Sneak, but it is clear that it will go.  So, I head up the Neck River.

6 Willets and a Dunlin, 3 Dunlin just past the first bend, 2 more Willets, 2 Great Egrets well out in Ox Meadow, and a Least Sandpiper.
5 Willets and a Dunlin
Fall is coming and the marsh is starting to tinge with red and brown.  The water is calm, the air not quite still and the sun pokes through the clouds from time to time.  The marsh is exceptionally beautiful today.

Mom passed on last summer and since then me and my brother have been distributing her ashes.  Some of them are halfway around the world, some have gone to her birthplace, and others went to a midwest forest where she would take us when we were kids.  She was a water spirit for sure, a teenage member of a synchronized swimming troupe and holder of most if not all of the Red Cross swimming and lifesaving certifications.  So, I brought some of her ashes here - a water place - a river that if I could only paddle one place, this would be it. 

Cedar Island
The first pinch goes into the water at the bend in Bailey Creek with the beautiful view of Cedar Island.  The second goes in the Sneak.  It's my private place, the one spot I try to show friends when they share the canoe.  It is also the center of the Willet nesting grounds and they are particularly attentive parents. 

Another pinch goes in at the Big Bends, then more between Duck Hole Farms and the colonial smallpox cemetery that can't be seen until the leaves fall, then another at Foote Bridge.  The final pinch is put in the river at a log jam a 1/3 mile above the bridge where very few people go.  The off-white grains settle on the shallow bottom.  It's the only time I bother to watch.  Then, I turn and head back out.

It has been one of the finest of days on this river.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Outmarveling the Marvel that Outmarveled the First Marvel.

I set out from the state boat launch under the big highway bridge and headed downstream on a fairly swift current that owed some of its speed to the falling tide.  I planned to circle Wheeler Marsh as far as possible before the dropping water level blocked me, but as it unexpectedly turned out, the water was still at a good level.  It wouldn't allow for much time to explore the many dead ends, but the trip around would not be a problem.
It is a quiet day for birds.  I had hoped to see more, but until I get to the inner corner of the marsh, it is just three Great Egrets, a Great Blue Heron and a couple Osprey.  In the inner corner I start scaring up juvenile Night Herons.  I end up flushing eight out of the tall spartina.  I can't tell whether they are Yellow-Crowned or Black-Crowned as the juveniles are too similar for me to discern when they are flying.

Heading for the channel on the inside of Nell's Island, I figure that I've missed it and am in one of the side channels that goes to mud at low tide.  But, after a couple turns in the spartina hallway I find that I am exactly where I wanted to be.
Northern Harrier
So, I edge up against the spartina to write in my journal.  I am marveling at the two identical vintage Pepsi bottles that I found about 500 yards apart when a owl-headed Northern Harrier appears, outmarveling the pop bottles.  The Harrier is on the hunt and is skimming and floating low over the spartina, its hunting method one of stealth - coming up on its prey before the prey can react. 
Immature Clapper Rail
Then,   I pause and look up and outmarveling the marvel that outmarveled the two pop boottles, is an immature Clapper Rail watching me from no more than 25 feet.  I very very slowly bring my camera up and manage to get some video and a few photos as it walks in front of me and back into the spartina.   Fairly secretive birds, this is only the second time that I've seen a Rail.

No more is needed.  I head back upriver.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Low Tide on the Neck River and Bailey Creek

It was nearing low tide when we set out.  M had been here a few times before, but those trips were when the tide was up.  Low tide trips might follow the same track as high tide tours (at least until you run out of water), but the differences are enough to make it a new experience.

We headed up the Neck River.  There are several stretches of corduroy road farm trail protruding from the banks on the Ox Meadow side.  The age of these roads is hard to figure.  They are about 18-24 inches below the surface of the high marsh and I don't know how quickly the silt accumulates.  As the mosquito control trenches cut through them in a few places, I figure them to be a hundred years old or so.  Most likely built when the salt hay (spartina patens) on Ox Meadows was being harvested for cattle feed.
Corduroy Road
The fiddler crabs are putting on their usual low tide show, which, as they run away from us, looks like a bunch of tiny crabs re-enacting the D-Day Landings.  They don't have a high tide show as they tuck themselves into a hole and seal it with mud when the water rises.  Osprey are numerous, of course, this being the double Osprey time as all of the young are fledged and indistinguishable from the adults.  Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons are a common sight.  We also spot a few Willets, some Yellow Legs, a pair of Snowy Egrets, a couple Short Billed Dowitchers, a Least Sandpiper and a Dunlin.  We also get spy-hopped by a lot of turtles.

We paddle up Bailey Creek and I manage to split my paddle tip as we cross the remains of an old tide dam/bridge.  When I look I see a fragment of a mussel shell stuffed clear through the paddle blade. We continue up the creek until the water gets thin about a 1/4 mile short of the culvert that ends the explorations at any water level. 

Four Osprey and a pair of Great Egrets
On the way back we divert up the Neck River, which oddly enough is shorter than it's tributary Bailey Creek.  There's more birds and a close pass on a natural Osprey nest.  We ground out on a boulder, which gives me a cue to point out what I think is a band of ancient glacial moraine.  Of course, Long Island, about 10 miles away, is the terminal moraine of the Ice Age sheet that covered this part of New England.

Instead of taking out, we continue down and out the mouth of the river into the sound, and round the first point until we can see the mouth of the West River.  On the return we stop to explore the red shed, an open air shelter that belongs to the town of Guilford.  M immediately begins planning for an art event to take place in the shed.
View from the Red Shed

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Wild Ricing

My first plan for the day was to go play in the easy rapids on a section of the Housatonic.  But last night it occurred to me that the wild rice was out and so I asked M if she would rather go out to the Connecticut River and check out the crop.

We put in at Pilgrim Landing, the normal start for a trip up into Lords Cove.  Parts of the cove are undergoing restoration - removal of invasive non-native plants and the changes are becoming more obvious.  The cove is on my list as a place to return to regularly to track on how the restoration is affecting things.
 It is calm with a a bit of very fine mist in the air.  Because of that we go out and head up the main channel until we can re-enter the cove via Goose Bay.  With the tide still up we can cross the shallow bay directly.  Already there are many more Egrets than normal.  Autumn can bring out Egrets and Herons in large numbers as they bulk up and prepare for migrations.

Taking the longer side channel up to Coultes Hole, a weird circular "pond" feature in the marsh that defies logic, we flush a couple dozen Great Egrets, several Great Blue Herons, and watch a dozen or so Common Terns actively fishing...all in the same 100 yard section.   The first Osprey show up on the bend by the old camp, with several more Egrets perched up in the trees.  From there we head back to the Eagle nest, which is  unoccupied at this moment.  But, we flush more Egrets and a Green Heron along the way.  I figure we're at about 35 Egret sightings, so far.

We come out of that section of cove and head over to the wooden bridge.  There's a large number of small dead fish - a fish kill of undetermined reason although this section of water might be prone to a toxic algae bloom as it doesn't get full exchanges of water.  Aside from that, there is quite a bit of wild rice and we take 15 minutes to collect a few cupfuls, so that we can go home and see if we can figure out how to process it.

Wild Rice
We begin working our way out and soon it begins to sprinkle.  Then it begins to rain lightly.  Then, it begins to rain heavily.  But, we flush a large Bald Eagle as we work our way along the forested shoreline.

Monday, August 26, 2019


August 26
We visited friends in Rhode Island over the weekend.  Our plans to canoe on Saturday were interrupted by our enthusiasm to visit and talk for hours on end having not seen each other in quite some time.
Sunday came up with weather that was every bit as perfect as Saturday, except for more wind.  Our first put in was too exposed with a long windy crossing to get into the calmer water on the far shore.  So, we diverted to the Kikamuit River.  While the wind was still strong, it was a head wind and the crossing over to the other side of the river where the good stuff was would be reasonably short.

We explored a fine little spartina marsh cove before heading farther up the river during which the wind died down some.  Then we headed upriver until it was time to return and go visit D's art studio.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Return Performance

I headed back to the same stretch of the Housatonic that I was in two days ago.  It occurred to me that S had never been up there.
We set out from the Boy Scout landing.  Even though it was a weekend, the traffic would be light in the morning due to the partly cloudy weather.  It doesn't take too long to get up into areas where the motorboats can't speed along, so they don't go there.

Today the leftmost gate on the dam was open.
S thought the trip to be good, especially as the river gets better the farther up you go, and it doesn't take a huge or long effort to get there.

The water was down a couple inches, something you might not notice except for subtle changes in the rock garden.  I introduced S to eddy hopping going up through the rock garden as far as the portage. There were no Eagles around today although S thought the nest to be a good one.  Then we dropped back down through the rock garden, eddied out and picked our way back up through it one more time using a slightly different route before heading out.  S thought it a good class in reading water and using the river current to do the work.