Saturday, December 4, 2010


I start in a place that the city hasn't improved, a shoreline with a steep bank and a greasy mud surface. There is a little thin layer of ice in parts of the south lagoon and I paddle along the south facing shore up next to the bare birch trees, stunted by the beaver and the less than ideal soil. The winter sun warms anything that lies up against winter birches. Not just here, but anywhere.

There are several new beaver scent mounds in the east channel. They are still just muddy smears on rocks or high spots, but the smear trailing from the water shows that it is the beaver. One of the mounds is topped with a golf ball, and it is not the first time that I have seen this. By chance, pure chance, I spot a small woodpecker overhead, the wood that it is working on so rotten that the pecking makes no sound. Only the rapid movement caught by the side of my eye catches my attention.

The east marsh is a winter marsh today, the cattails browned, the trees bare, a smear of ice on the easternmost third, and a north wind icing the visitors ears. There are no ducks, which is strange. From the far side I look back to the east channel and spot an eagle in a tree. I wonder if I passed directly under it without noticing. I no longer wonder why there are no ducks here.

I cut straight across the bay, directly into the wind, with the bow pointed at the railroad islands. Birdwatchers are on the north point, so I steer quite wide of any ducks and head into the NE lagoon, grabbing a car tire from the mud as I go. Again, the NE lagoon is empty of ducks, possibly the eagles were here earlier. There is, however, one great blue heron busy with successful hunting on the north shore. I stay long enough to see that this heron is eating well,
and I let the wind blow me out towards the bay.

There is a new dirtberg arisen from the lake and it has been commandeered by cormorants, as usual. They take off when I am way to far off and I spot an eagle. There might be two because it seems that every duck in mid bay is in the air and coot flocks are skittering over the surface in silver splashes in all directions.

Hugging the north shore, I surprise a snipe. A large bird flies directly at me, seems to be a seagull as no other bird is so bold with people, but it is a red tailed hawk passing by ten feet from me. I get the clearest look that I have ever got of its namesake.

I edge the cattail islands south, hoping to see more snipe. And, I do....two from number 2 island and one from the birch island. Their camouflage means that they are near impossible to spot until they take wing.

I head west, through the crossing under place, and down the dead lake with the wind behind me.

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