Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Long Day and New Birds

S drops me off at the harbor on her way to somewhere else.  It takes me just a few moments to put-in as anyone that has canoed with me can tell.  Everything is in its place and ready to go when I start, and everything is left in its place and ready to go when I finish.

It is a very calm day, warm and sunny - it is a day to make special use of.   When I reach the mouth of the harbor, I see that I can still pass under the rusty bridge into Gulf Pond, but it is too calm to go there and instead I turn seaward.  I spot a long-tailed duck, the first that I have ever seen although I know it from noticing its wonderful plumage while browsing through bird guides.  It does not oblige me with a good pose.

Long Tailed Duck
 A long tailed duck can dive to 200 ft and spend 3 to 4 minutes at a time underwater.

I turn SW and follow the seashore.  Recently, I followed an online discussion about risk.  One person wrote that we have become a risk averse society.  I did not agree with that, but thought about it long enough to decide that we are actually a risk ignorant society.  I paddle past beach front homes that are unscathed, and then for some quirk of nature, I paddle past fifteen or twenty houses that have the first floors busted in, windows gone or sometimes the floor, joists and walls removed leaving a cantilevered second floor dangling over the sand.  This pattern repeats itself for as long as I am on the salt water.  And we were only touched by the edge of the hurricane.

It is not the first hurricane, by any means, to reach Connecticut.  Nor will it be the last.

Something that sounds like a loon call draws me out towards a tiny sand bar at the tip of a groin (groins are underwater wing dams for the purpose of collecting and holding beachfront).  I don't see anything that matches that call, but instead I find two American oystercatchers.

American Oystercatcher

When I get to Milford Point, I find out why the houses on this exposed beach survived with minimal damage.  I had only seen them from the marsh on the other side of the point.  There is a sand/gravel bar on the sea side that is nearly a 1/4 mile across.  While well submerged, it would've broken some of the water's impact during the storm surge.  I paddle in less than 2 feet of water for a few hundred yards to get into the river.  There is a stiff current against me.

I continue to fight that current into the Wheeler marsh until I can slip into one of the dozens of channels that work their way through the spartina.  The cloudless day lights the fall colored grass to a beautiful bronze.  I wind through the channels aware that there is an expiration date when one is in a tidal marsh during a falling tide.  At some point, it is time to seek the larger deeper channels lest one find the way forward blocked... and find the way back blocked as well.  I spot a couple dozen black ducks, about 15 greater yellow legs, and 2 great blue herons during the passage.

When I exit the upstream end of the marsh, it is open big river with a growing wind at my back that not quite cancels the opposing current.  I take out a couple miles up at the feral cat park.

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