Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wildlife tour

Today I am guiding a wildlife tour through the north end of Union Bay.  The plan is to head north from the canoe rental dock and then east across the top of the bay into Yesler Swamp.  But, a plan is only a plan.

east channel of the burial island
The great noisy bridge is closed today, so I head down to the marsh early to enjoy the relative quiet, which is only interrupted by occasional airplanes.  It is windy and possibly too windy for beginners.  The bay doesn't get large waves until the wind is at ridiculous levels, but canoes do get blown around, especially in the hands of the inexperienced.

Cattails are turning yellow, although perhaps it is more that the green is fading away rather than a donning of fall colors.  Fall is not so much about a coming of color as it is about a leaving of color.  In the wind, the cattails rustle creating a most comforting sound.  I stop south of the sedge meadow, the low water making it seem to much like work to enter that spot.  The wind eddies here in the east side of the burial island and it pushes the canoe one direction, and then back, and then it spins me, and it does it some more.  I sit and wait to see where the wind will leave me and which direction it will decide I should face, but it seems as indecisive as I am, and if I add up the distance I have traveled in those few minutes, it comes to zero.  I am where I started.

Coot - the favorite winter food for bald eagles
I meet up with the tour as planned and we discuss the trip.  It seems pretty windy and I am concerned about the crosswind stretch.  It's not that there is any danger, it's just that people could end up going in circles if they cannot get a handle on the canoe.  But, the man in charge (not really me) wants to do it.  So we do. But, the schedule, now I am not very good at schedules.  There are things to see and I will point them out, and we will fall behind the clock.  This is the cost of going somewhere with me and my canoe.

I point out beaver canals in the cattail islands, and at the marsh wren nesting spot, I stop everyone and announce, "let's see if we can find a nest".  I part the cattails with my paddle and there one is (the male builds 15 to 20 - only one gets used).  Even I am surprised.  We stop at the west lodge to talk about beaver colony social stuff and what to watch for to see if a lodge is begin used (home repair work in Oct-Nov).  When we get over to north point, I find some scent on one of the territorial scent mounds and everyone gets a sniff.  Then over to the railroad islands for a little history lesson and into Yesler Swamp for a rest and some Q and A.  One canoe has two people who teach nature classes to kids...they have pretty good questions.  When we leave they stay behind to search the mud banks for animal tracks, which I am sure they will find unless the last nights rain washed them out (I forgot to mention that the rain might have done that).  Everyone has turned out to be fairly good at canoe handling and the trip has gone well.

No comments: