Sunday, July 27, 2014

East River, High Tide

L and I set out from the usual spot on the East River as the tide approaches high and the weather report of scattered thunderstorms seems to be askew.  Cloudy skies and a pleasant breeze soften the heat of the day and bring out some of the vibrant colors of the salt marsh, the green spartina not uniformily green with hazes of golds and reddishness at farther distances.  With the near high tide I steer us to a more interesting route.  We head up the Neck River, then Bailey Creek, and then into the narrow marsh sneak that returns us to the East River.  All the way, adult osprey fly and perch, leave the perches as we near, and scold us from their nests.  This years young osprey haven't left the nest yet, but it should be soon.  The willets, which normally make quite a racket when we intrude are unusually calm.  We also spot some great and snowy egrets, as always, but none of the glossy ibises.  It is L's first trip here, so I identify birds as we go, until I get to the point where I think he'll remember the names.

Above the stone arch bridge, I turn us back into the the little creek that drains from the hills where someone built a stone dam 160 years ago to power a sawmill.

I always try to take people in here.  I like showing them the collision of man and nature.  With the high tide, we paddle right to the remains of the dam.

Back in the river, we continue upstream, under the deadfall that guards Foote Bridge, under Foote Bridge, and into the swamp where the river becomes narrow and paddling is a contortion exercise.

The tide has turned, but with the lag, the current is still slack.  It catches up with us as we return.
By the time we've returned to the marsh sneak, the water is down a foot or so.  This narrows the sneak a surprising amount.  Another 1/2 hour and it would be a close call to pass through.
I don't know why, but the willets are far more aggressive on the return.  They are putting on the sentinel bird show, coming out and loudly scolding, circling around us and at times flying straight at us only to veer away with ten feet to go.  All that has changed is the level of the tide.  Perhaps they were sitting tight at their nests while the water was high.

scolding willet

Saturday, July 12, 2014


It's the middle of the tide change, when the currents are usually moving the swiftest, in most topography.  I push out from shore and the bow swings upstream with the tidal flow of the Lieutenant River.  I take the paddle and turn it downstream.

It's a fine weekend day and I come across a pod of kayakers every so often.  They move somewhat aimlessly and somewhat haltingly...people enjoying the outdoors...a pastime more than a lifestyle.

Wrensong dominates the river, the buzzer robot sounds emanating from the cattails and phragmites.  Their nests are built and in use, but finding a wren nest takes patience and sharp eyes, well camouflaged  and built of the same stuff they are hidden in.

As I move toward the sea, the salt marsh takes over, the cattails and phragmites give way to spartina, the wrens yield to egrets, great blue herons, willets, terns and more and more osprey.

I hoped that the young osprey might be testing their wings, but they are still up in the nests, watching until the adult gives the right call and then ducking down, not hidden if one looks close, but less obvious.

A half mile short of the sea I turn up the Black Hall River.  Once I leave the confluence it is new ground to me.  Salt marsh with forested edges until the first bridge, a 50 year old design...more earthwork than bridge, a constriction.  The river narrows and the forest becomes more dominant.  The next bridge is the railroad.  There's no big change here, except that the river begins to meander through cattail marsh bounded by the forest.  The third bridge is older, lower and narrower.  It backs up the tide so that I get a strong push when I pass under.  The river narrows significantly and meanders even tighter.  I doubt that many people come up this far and I don't see anyone.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

East River

My friend C came out from the big city and I took her to the East River to show her the workings of the salt marsh

"That's a willet,  there's another, that's an osprey, there's another willet, three no six great egrets up there, a snowy over there"...and so it goes.


We were out on a low and falling tide, so not quite four miles was the turn around. But, the birds kept us going.

osprey with two fledglings...not yet flying.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Trip to Danger Dam

I set out from the boy scout put-in after getting lost three times on the way there.  It's not that difficult to get there, but one wrong turn and it has to all be made up from scratch.

The wind had come up by the time I put in and heading upriver would not be prudent should the wind increase.  So, downriver although there is no current, and upwind it is.  The wind is stiff, almost stopping the canoe when it gusts, but it skims across the surface and creates no waves.

On this section of the river, the summer invasion is in full swing.  The quiet of the off season is replaced by people and far too many motorboats, but I'm here and there is skill to be honed in grinding into a wind. 

I turn back some distance short of the Danger Dam at Shelton.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Salmon River

We set out upstream on an almost high tide into the tidal freshwater marsh and swamp of the Salmon River.  S has not been here before, and it takes little time for her to realize why I chose this spot over several options.  The river starts with as a cove with marsh and swamp at the bottom and high forested hills bounding the top.  At the top of the cove it becomes river.  No public roads come to the river for the first three or so miles, and any nearby roads are silenced on the backside of the hills.

The Moodus River
 Once at the top of the cove, we take the short side trip up the Moodus.  The canoeable section ends just short of Johnsonville, an abandoned mill town with an intact mill pond and dam.  I found wild growing concord grapes along this stretch last year and a return to here is in the plans for later in the summer.

Leesville Dam
S is impressed at how the area has avoided over development.  There are some houses, but they are few and back some from the is a simple play of the mind to filter them out.  The truth is, that the lack of development probably has something to do with a former nuclear powerplant that was situated on the Connecticut River.  But, that is gone, well erased and leaving a no admittance wildlife refuge in its place.

see this great blue heron in the photo above?
We stop and rest for awhile below the Leesville Dam.

The wind has come up and it will be in our faces all the way back.  It will be more work, but the breeze will feel good on such a warm day.  S paddles well and steady all day long.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Blossom Time

I paddle upstream, the floating catalpa tree blossoms passing by at a somewhat faster rate than does the shore.  The static map, if one wants to consult it, will show the places I go to, but not the distance I will travel.  The map leaves out the floating catalpa blossoms that drift by at a somewhat faster rate than does the shore.  Maps always leave out more than they hold.

Time that has happened

I stop to watch the blossoms fall.  They strike the water about once per second, an inexact clock, a blossom clock.

After paddling a distance of about a many thousand blossoms, I find a great blue heron standing in collected blossoms and hunting.  It makes a strike and misses.

The wind comes up, but the blossoms continue to fall at the same inexact rate.  The science of blossom dropping is not directly proportional to the wind.

Time waiting to happen
I return, passing the same number of blossoms even though many of the blossoms I passed on the way up have drifted past where I will take out.  More blossoms have been added to the river - one per second per tree.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Big Sky Marsh

I set out on the Lieutenant River and head downstream towards the Connecticut River.  Just after the railroad bridge, I turn into the suspect channel that turned out not to be so suspect after I consulted with a map.  At least at higher tide levels, there is a good and protected channel running all the way to the sea...too shallow and narrow for yachts and less exposed to the winds.

This is big sky salt marsh.  They say that one can see twenty eight osprey nests at one time if one is standing in the right place.  I am down low in my canoe and I can spot twelve, and I know there are many more in other directions.  But then again, this is a flat salt marsh/river mouth and if one is standing up, they can see a couple miles in most directions.

After a short stretch, the first channel opens into a good sized shallow marsh bay with a pair of swans and three cygnets as the main feature.  Just to not leave the stone unturned, I paddle up what turns out to be the Duck River until is slides under a culvert with no room for a canoe.

The Duck River

The tide begins to drop and without any lag being so near the sea.  I stop and talk with a fishermen who is collecting minnows for bait at a state boat ramp.  I check the posted map and find that I am near the mouth of the Black Hall River.  I circle a small flat marsh island in the mouth of that river.  A half dozen great egrets are busy hunting for food on it, a willet stays huddled up as I paddle past, and some osprey circle high overhead.

On the return,  I take the diaganol Back River, which isn't really a river, but just a passage between two islands.  It is phragmite bound, unfortunately, but I tuck into one of the side channels, which goes a good ways until it dead ends.

Phragmites chokes out plant and animal species...except for wrens.  It's just about perfect stuff for wrens to build nests in, but everyone would be better off if they were building their nests in cattails.

Back in the Lieutenant River

Weather beginning to change