Sunday, July 26, 2015


The edge of a thunderstorm dumped on us as we left the house on our way to places east.  It was still raining, although lightly when we set out near the mouth of the Connecticut River.  Still, there were dark clouds to the west and while I do not mind rain, lightning is a completely different matter from the seat of a canoe.

It rained steady and reasonably hard as I steered us downriver and then upriver into the Black Hall sliding just barely over the shallows in the shortcut knowing that that passage would not go on the return.  The Black Hall River was the best option with the weather as it was.  Most of it is not too wide and forested with a good many places to beach a canoe and seek some cover if need be.

Osprey were out in great numbers.  The chicks have now begun to fly and so it gives the appearance that there are two or three times as many osprey as before.  Of course, once hatched, the chicks were hunkered down low in the nests for a couple of months until they were big enough and strong enough to test their wings.  S spots the young ones without much trouble, their flying imprecise and lacking the confidence that the adults have.  There are, as usual here, a good number of great and snowy egrets and some terns.

The tide is ebbing, but we still have enough depth to continue up the Black Hall not turning back until we are a hundred yards short of my high point, which is where the river narrows to almost nothing where it is draining a large cattail marsh. 

Rain comes and goes on the return (as it did on much of the way in) and seems to be synchronized to me taking my camera from its waterproof case.

Just after the railroad bridge we spot a juvenile little blue heron.  The juveniles are white and just slightly larger than a snowy egret.  In fact, there's almost no difference in appearance except that the little blue heron's legs are yellowish instead of black.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

In the Big River

I didn't pick up my pencil while I was in the canoe.  It was just a day not to do that.  I put in at the feral cat park and pointed myself upstream pushing against an ebbing tide and a bit of a headwind.  The big river lacks any feel of remoteness, highways, helicopters or motorboats all too common on a summer weekend.  But, if one puts their blinders on, it is a wide river bounded with marsh and forested bedrock hillsides. 

Today seems a particularly good day for osprey.  The young have left both of the nests that sit in the electrical towers.  They aren't too hard to identify, their flight more labored than the adults, their wings rarely being fully stretched, and they don't soar as often, if at all, instead flapping from start to finish on their flights around the tower.  They'll soon get the hang of it as their wings strengthen, and then they'll be identified by their less than proficient hunting, until they get that figured out.
great egret contemplating great blue heron...are you really great?

It is also a good day for great blue herons.  I see them quite often as I make my way as well as snowy and great egrets.  Near my turn around point, some two and half hours up, a kingfisher flashes blue against the trees, the rattling chatter call confirming the sight.

More motorboats than I prefer are out as I return, but this is much better than the river above, which is held back by dams and has more consistent deep water.  Here, the river is wide with a narrow deep water channel and I can paddle a hundred yards away from "them" in places that will tear their bottoms out.  I don't think the birds care much for the motorboats either.  But maybe it's just harder to spot birds when you can't hear them.

But, as I pass under the power lines once more, the osprey are still practicing their flying.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Ten Minutes

It doesn't take ten minutes for me to lose count of the number of yellow crowned night heron sightings.  I guess that they really like this inside corner where the long sand bar meets something more firm.  Egrets, night herons, osprey, a glossy ibis and more egrets, that's what it is.

I spent my morning working in an enormous cave of a mostly abandoned building preparing for a fall art event.  Scraping walls, spraying, scraping flooring up...that's what it is.  I like hard work and I like making things, but I don't so much like fixing stuff that is broken because of neglect.  But, like a long day paddling, you just put your head down and go.

It takes surprisingly little time for my head to return to where it should be...nothing more to disturb the rhythm of paddling other than a stiff breeze, nothing to take my eyes astray other than the flushing of yet another heron.  A great egret flies across the bow and I notice that it looks like one of the day's clouds.  It turns into the wind and settles most gracefully on the branches of a dead fall tree that lies a bit back in the spartina.  That's what it is.
Wheeler Marsh, Housatonic River

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Home Waters

I set out early in the sun with a moderate offshore breeze.  It has been several months since I've put in here, but it has the distinct advantage of being close.  The canoe does not go on the car but instead on my shoulders, and the distant so short that I can carry all of my gear all at one time.

I paddle down the shore to the second point, the one beyond the entrance to Calf Pen Creek.  By that time the wind is blowing harder.  It is skimming across the water raising only a small chop not having enough distance to build a wave of any significance.  With that, I turn back preferring to reach home before the wind grows too much more.

The bay at Calf Pen Creek

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Bailey Creek

It was already warm when we set out.  The heat built a thin fog that obscured the distance.  At least the early start would get us the coolest part of the day.

It was barely past low tide and the mud banks of the Neck River and Bailey Creek were exposed to their fullest and no one had proceeded us up either waterway - wildlife would be where wildlife should be.

The Osprey were especially active, the adults busy hunting in order to feed the two or three chicks that were still in each nest.  The chicks have all gotten past the "hiding in the nest" phase and stand out in plain view, their colors nearly that of an adult except for speckling on the darker regions.  They vocalize and occasionally flap wings, but they aren't ready to fly yet, and they don't leave the nest until they can. 

osprey chicks
Willets constantly come out to call alarm at us, sometimes on wing and sometimes running along the shore.  In the still of the day, we round each bend as quietly as possible and are usually rewarded with a sighting...a half dozen turtles tumbling off the bank, three or four snowy egrets, or a couple of dunlins.  It is a fine day and it is a rare turn that doesn't give us a close view of something.  Near the top of Bailey Creek, where the water goes shallow at this tide level, we find a pair of yellow crowned night herons in a tree above an old boat shed.

Our way back is more labored, but only because this level of warmth takes the ambition out of us.  It is a more leisurely paddle with some lengthy stops to observe the osprey nests.  We note one nest where the chicks are a week or two behind the others - still mostly tan and quite a bit smaller.  One adult is tearing chunks from a fish and feeding a chick, mouth to mouth.  There is plenty of time before migration.
The little blue heron

Saturday, July 18, 2015


I set out from the Feral Cat Park and grind away down river into the middle of the flood tide and a reasonably stiff head wind under an overcast sky that has, not too long ago, stopped rumbling with thunder. 

I reach my planned destination and through the mechanics of marshes and constricted flows, the same current that I was fighting against now propels me into the marsh and the canoe exchanges a mile and a half per hour of headway for something more like five miles per hour.  As such, the paddling is quiet and I approach bird life without giving them much warning...a black crowned night heron overtakes me near my right shoulder, I pass a yellow crowned night heron that stands back in a small inlet, and pass a snowy egret that flushes when I get too near.  Then, as I cross the front of a channel that cuts back, a loud nasty hiss raises goosebumps on my skin.  I turn my head to find a large swan, the neck well thicker than my arm, raised up to eye level from ten feet distance.  It is guarding three grey cygnets.  I do not stop until I have 50 yards between us...and all of us calm down.

I make my way around to the sandy spit of Milford Point, flushing more night herons and willets as I go.  Two oyster catchers stand at the tip of the spit as they quite often do when I am there.

yellow crowned night heron
The tide high, it is a good time to work the inner passages of the marsh.  Wide channels narrow and branch, divide and come to sudden ends or peter out into something too narrow for a canoe.  Openings that look promising stop surprisingly short of the next open channel.  I enter and retreat from most of these attempts.  Not being able to find a way to the inner channel of Nell's Island, I head back for the diagonal that I've used before.  I find it after a few tries and follow it up river.  It is interesting to be surrounded by landmarks while still being somewhat lost.
Few people care to wander into this part of the marsh and I find a spot that is favored by a good number of birds.  In one spot, I scare up 10 snowy egrets, one glossy ibis, and 4 black crowned night herons while 4 more remain unperturbed.  I flush another half dozen snowys about a hundred yards on.
spartina alterniflora
As I near the top of the marsh, I take the left and wider fork and paddle a couple hundred yards to find it end just 15 yards from where I wanted to be.  I wade through the tall spartina grass, mostly firm although uneven (the short spartina is as hard as a muddy ball field) dragging the canoe behind.  Being inundated with each high tide, the Wheeler Marsh is mostly the taller spartina grass.

I return from where I came but on a following current and wind.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Always Something There

There is a reasonable wind coming down the river into my face as I set out from Pilgrim Landing.  But, I follow the east shore as close as possible, mixing it up with Connecticut's special blend of marsh and boulders, marsh and bedrock, and forest, bedrock and water, such that I cheat the wind and make good speed.

Lately, I have managed to get my wife or friends out in the canoe with me, and while that is always a pleasure, today I have my alone time, time which lets my mind have it's own direction.  I rarely write at all when I have a person in the bow, my time occupied by spotting wildlife and talking about the habits of those critters.  It takes a trip or two with another person before they fall under the control of the canoe.  I suppose we both end up in more or less the same state of mind at that point.  I definitely talk less.

Animal-wise, it starts out more or less as usual with some cormorants, gulls and egrets.  When I get into the broad and shallow Goose Bay, a few common terns arrive darting and bobbing on their long thin wings.  As I exit the bay a bald eagle overtakes me on my left and an osprey comes out of the trees with a very small fish in it's talons.
I paddle the cove in the counter-clockwise direction only because it occurs to me that I usually go in the opposite.  I explore a few of the dead-ends in the maze that I have not seen before, knowing that dead-ends are never really dead-ends.  There is always something there.