Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wheeler Marsh

S and I put in from the wooded launch site on "our" side of the river.  This is her first trip to the Wheeler marsh, a large estuary wetland of spartina grass islands and water passages that open and close with the tides.  We start with a couple more hours of rising tide, which gives us more exploring time than we will want and a good amount of extra time to back out of dead ends well before the tide falls.  It is sunny and one would say warm, except that the light wind puts a chill on everything.

Our first attempt at a shortcut passage takes us into a dead end, but a dead end with a fine new muskrat house.

House.  Entrance at the lower left.

Then, we paddle a route known to me out to the sand spit that forms Milford Point.  It is not a particularly good bird day for some reason, but we flush American Black Ducks fairly often.  That duck is similar to a mallard and will even interbreed with mallards.  It has an almost identical silhouette, a similar quack and is easily recognizable due to its almost black coloring.

I beach the canoe on the sand spit and coax S out of the canoe.  I tell her that she needs to look at it all from here.  Once on the spit one gets a clear idea of what the landscape is - a tidal marsh separated from the ocean by 20 yards of sand.  A broad shallows forms the sea side of the spit and the river mouth is to the west.  The marsh, with its fall colors is a swirl of golden lines and patches with blue green water in the spaces between.

We paddle back into the grass, seeking out openings, flushing ducks and once, a snipe that was sitting low in the grass near the water.  It flies off like a dart.  For some reason, I aim us down a number of dead ends, where when I have been here solo I have wandered into only one or two.  We finally retreat to a main channel that takes us to the upriver end of the marsh where another open channel takes us over to the river bank.  While we follow that back towards the put-in, I hear brush crashing from a long ridge that forms an upcoming bay, but we see nothing.  Then, as we pass the ridge I whisper, "deer."   A 4-point white tail buck and a doe are standing belly deep in the marsh about 30 yards away.  My camera focuses perfectly on the grass that stands between us, so we just watch each other.  They don't move until I attempt to move us into a better viewpoint, and a second doe appears as the three of them climb out of the water onto the ridge and wander off.

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