Sunday, May 21, 2017

Bird Day Too

I returned to the East River with S to take in the birds that I had seen on my last trip.  We set out from near the sea on a falling tide with mostly sunny skies and a temperature in the upper 60's.  The falling tide would be good for bird sightings with the silty mud banks gradually being exposed and drawing the Willets and sandpipers out of the higher grasses.

I was content to keep my camera stashed on most of the trip up river, concentrating on pointing out and observing what we saw rather than recording it. 

 When we reached the inlet leading to the old sawmill dam I spotted a Yellow Crowned Night Heron, within about 15 feet of where I spotted one on my last trip.  I suspect they are one and the same.  While watching I detected a distant and nonrhythmic hammering.  S listened and heard it too.

 As we continued I heard the weird call of a pileated woodpecker and I quickly spotted it in a riverbank tree some thirty feet up working away at the bottom of a pre-existing round hole.  After a few seconds it decided that we were not a threat and returned to hammering and flinging chunks of wood and occasionally stopping to eat what I assume were ants.  True to nature, the new hole was pileateds do.

 After a good ten or fifteen minutes we turned back knowing that the river above would be getting close to being too shallow to pass.   We rode the ebbing current back into an occasional and mild headwind that when necessary, was canceled out by the current.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Full Contingent

The one thing I notice is that I don't hear the usual calls of the Osprey that nest here in the salt marsh.  Their chirping/whistle is being drowned out by the omnipresent hee-haw-haw's of the Willets that must be getting ready to set up house.  And while quite a few Willets can be seen picking at the silt as the tide recedes, they in no way account for all of the noise.

It seems that the full contingent of summer birds has finally arrived.  The Willets and Osprey have been here for awhile, and there are a good number of least sandpipers...small sparrow sized. And, while I watch a Willet, a Least Tern calls out as it flies over.
Least Sandpipers

I headed straight up the East River today, the tide already down far enough that I sensed the opportunity to get stuck halfway through the Sneak.  The portage out isn't bad if one ignores the boot sucking sailor cussing experience of getting up the bank to the top of the firm spartina plain.

I catch the call of a Marsh Wren as I approach the Post Road bridge....just one. 
the lower big bend
At the lower big bend a Bald Eagle is perched in one of the trees that line the outside of the curve.  It flushes and leaves as I paddle past.  The Willets peter out not far above the highest of the big bends, but I trade that for several Marsh Wrens, which are none to obliging about having a photograph taken.
Near the Duck Hole Farms there are three Osprey busy fishing, and a splash to my right draws my attention just in time to see a Kingfisher flying up out of the water, no fish, a miss.  A hawk crosses the river too far off to be identified other than it is not an Osprey. 
Marsh Wren

I turn at Foote Bridge, which by the way is a foot bridge and as I leave the short bit of fast water I spot a hubcap sized snapping turtle drifting with the current under my boat.  I give it a playful tap on the back, just to wake it up.

At the old dam I spot a Yellow Crowned Night Heron.  Other than that, there are a few more egrets out and about than when I came up the river.
Yellow Crowned Night Heron

And an Oyster Catcher at the take-out.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017



A friend of mine tipped me off to a fine article on Polish mountain climbers.  One short line stuck during the morning read stuck in my mind, "They are captives of their dreams."*

We should all be captives of our dreams.  We should all have more Walter Mitty in us and less Mr. Potter (It's a Wonderful Life).  It is dreams that make us go, that carry us through the mundane parts of life, that make the mundane parts tolerable.  It's what we all have in common.

a large beaver scent mound

I put in at the top of the Great Swamp, the water still high, with the sky partly cloudy and the air still cool in our long drawn out spring.  Even before the canoe is loaded the blocky head of a beaver swims into view not more than 20 yards down stream.  It scopes me out and then casually dives and disappears.

I head out.

Wood Ducks

And I dream of setting out to discover the source of a distant river.

And I dream of canoeing my yearly supplies to my wilderness trading post.

And I dream of bears and caribou coming into view at the edge of the forest.

I live those dreams and I let those dreams live, and I see a bit of my soul.

*Michael Powell, NY Times, May 9, 2017 "Scaling the World's Most Lethal Mountain, In the Dead of Winter"

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Return of the Willets

Me and Daniel Boone set out from high up on the short river on a gray and somewhat raw day.  The tide was low but on the rise and the wind was more than less in our face.

Other than Redwing Blackbirds, the forested and freshwater marsh segments were quiet.  No one else was out on the water and the usual osprey were not to be seen.

But, once in the upper marsh, the area between the highway and the stone arch bridge, we picked up the call of a willet.  And it wasn't long until we spotted a few.  Since my last trip here, the willets have returned although they did not oblige me with a photograph.  Also in attendance were a very many Yellow-Legs that were a bit less camera shy.  

Yellow Legs
 We kept the trip shore, the wind being stronger after we passed under the railroad bridge.  We spotted a single green heron, unexpectedly close up on the return.

Snowy Egret with signature yellow rain boots

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Selden Channel

Wherever the bedrock ridges come out of the forest and into the river the receding high water current is stirred.
It is a warm day and I have left my cold water clothing behind.  I take the whole of it to consideration and trade the balmy sweat lodge of a drysuit for comfort and staying close in to shore.
At each of those rocky points, inside the stirring, I receive a push, sometimes from ahead or sometimes from behind, when I am in an eddy.  I watch for the eddies, it's not that important but it is good practice at reading water.  I note that the water clarity is poor, the tip of my paddle disappearing.  While the bottom is often firm, it is coated with an inch or so of very fine silt, and the spring current seems to be carrying it along.
An hour and twenty up the river and I enter the back channel that is lined by broad marshes in turn bounded by forested hills.  I spot four osprey nests right away where they are expected, but one of them, the one at the entrance of Beaver Inlet, a new one.  It is nicely situated in a leaner snag out high and over the water.
the new nest
The Redwinged Blackbirds are especially vocal, a constant trilling coming from all directions of the cattail marsh.
A bit over halfway up the channel I spot a male swan standing guard.  It might not be the swan that was here in previous years as that one was particularly aggressive, flying a quarter mile or more to make its territorial point.  This one lets me pass with little more than a raise of the wings over its make itself look larger.

I pause at the bay at the top of the channel, something I don't do often enough.  A slap of water on the side of the canoe, a slap that shouldn't be there in the calm, draws my eyes down.  I find a water snake swimming away from the canoe.
I return to where I started having seen no one other than a few motorboats out in the main channel of the river.

Thursday, April 27, 2017


I did the short portage from the house to the sea and I set out into the fog.  The visibility was a 1/2 mile, or maybe a 1/4 mile, or maybe somewhere in between.  Looking seaward there were no references.  The nearest work boat, the low slow speed rumble of a practical motor, was clearly audible, but the boat remained invisible. 
The tide was high and rising and I followed the shore making sure to maintain at least the hazy shadows of the beachfront houses.

Red Throated Loon
At Silver Sands there were several people out walking.  They were reserved and appeared withdrawn.  It may be the effect of the deep fog...they are experiencing something a little more wild and remote than on clear days.  I observed and found it reassuring that people should stop to ponder and contemplate.

I came across a good number of dunlin with a few plover mixed in as I neared the big river.  Once around the point and inside the marsh I found what looked to be 200 brants scattered about.  The marsh was high, high enough that I cut straight across without following the usual maze of channels.  Finally, the fog began to burn off.
Common Loon
I pulled out at the Feral Cat Park.  A long half day.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Round Top Boulder

another baby doll
Spotted Sandpiper
The water is high, and moving up the shallow Eight Mile River is fairly easy, the current being no stronger than normal and the depth allowing for a full deep stroke of the paddle.  At the fork there is a small white house set too low and close to the water for my own druthers.  I continue left...either way is in fact a short trip unless one wants to wade and tow a canoe.  I stop on a small bar with a round top boulder that seems to be made for my ass.  I picked up a small piece of teal glazed ceramic in the last few yards of wading.  I collect an acorn from the sand at my feet.  An old tumbling stone wall to my right keeps long gone cattle from getting into the river and the gentle sloped open area behind the narrow row of river bank brush and trees was probably a farmer's field.  It is now Nature Conservancy land.  One of the two osprey that was circling at the last bend flies directly at me, eyeing me and verifying my non-threat status.  As I am readying to leave, the second osprey does something similar although it has a fish in its talons.  At the bend I retrieve a shattered egg from bicep deep water.  This river runs clear and it is a good place to look for dinosaur bones and revolutionary cannon balls and other things that one dreams of.

The top of Hamburg Cove

Eight Mile River

Where:  Connecticut River - Elys Ferry Road, Hamburg Cove, and Eight Mile River