Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Black Crowned Night Heron

I head upriver from the feral cat park.  There is a couple hours of ebb tide to go and I work against a stiff current, my eyes level with the high water mark on the reeds, which with the sun filtering through has a dizzying hypnotic effect.

I round the first bend in the bank and find a kingfisher to escort me upstream.  When I get even with the first island, Fowler Island, I head across to it hoping for a little less current but instead finding out that I was just about to flush a small adult bald eagle, if I hadn't changed course.  While I take a short break to eat an apple, the kingfisher hunts for fish.

Canada geese

I hear distant honking of Canada geese.  I find them some hundreds of feet overhead, a flock in v-formation, a flock of maybe 30.  It has been a long time since I've seen the big vee's of geese in migration.  My last home was more of a wintering/summering ground, but here I am in a flyway.  Down here at the river level it is more a day for raptors.  I catch distant sightings of hawks that I am not familiar with and shoot the best photos that I can so I can ID them later.

At the second island, whose name has been dropped from modern maps, but is labeled "Great Flat" on an old one, I paddle the east channel.  But, soon I find that the east channel doesn't go through at this tide level, so I return.  As I do, I spot a small mammal swimming toward me, and since mammals (and tracks and other signs) are one thing that I've noticed a shortage of, my curiosity is up.  I have not seen this swimming beast before - it is not muskrat, beaver, otter or mink.

It swims straight for the canoe and turns out to be a squirrel.  I get out of its way...it has no intention of turning, and it does not, and when it gets to shore, I watch it bound up into the brush.  I once had a powerful dream about a squirrel in my canoe...it made the center of the boat glow.

As I paddle next to the shoreline I continue to catch a pleasant odor that I remember, but cannot place.  It has a sweetness to it, but more.  It takes a couple miles of paddling before I place it.  It is fall leaves.  For so long I have lived in a region that was dominated by evergreens.  Here, by such an overwhelming number, the trees are deciduous and I had forgotten the smell of damp leaves as they turn red, yellow and orange - leaves that are still on the trees and not moldering.

The shore alters between silty sand, grasses and reeds, and grey bedrock with the layers tilted skyward.

Again, the distant honking of geese.  By now it is a half dozen large vees that have passed over, all at high altitudes.  I stop for lunch on the cobbled beach below a steep hillside and across the channel from Wooster's Island.  I am at the base of Turkey Hill, the last place where the local Native Americans were granted a place to live - that was a long time ago.

I continue upriver another 45 minutes until I get to the point where I know that I will pay for the return trip with fatigue.

Nearly finished, I spot a shadow on a log overhanging the water.  There is a second gray shadow as I near.  Then, they come into focus.

Four juvenile black crowned night herons

1 comment:

Bonnie said...

What a treat to see you out there on the water again! When I lived in Milford back in the 60's, there were lots of feral cats. (grin)