Thursday, May 2, 2013

A day for the birds

On a very calm and sunny day I cut across the bays, paddling a 1/4 or 1/2 mile from shore, in part to save time, in part because the conditions are safe to do so.  I am in the loon belt, the slightly farther off the shore strip where the loons do their fishing.  The mated pairs are gone to fresh water lakes up north where they can nest and raise their young.  It is solitary loons that remain.  The first dives and swims off to the side as I approach.  The second one flies off three feet above the water and I watch it become a moving black dot a mile or more swoops up and back down just once before it disappears to my eye.

Charles Island

Egrets are visible as white spots in the distant trees of Charles Island.  Unlike my own "home" shoreline, which is alive in winter and somewhat dull as summer approaches, the island is all life - its winter dormancy has passed.  Gulls and cormorants own the rocks surrounding the island while Canada geese and mallards rest in the tidal grasses and the narrow beach.  An oyster catcher streaks by calling a very high pitched, "weeeeeeep!"  Great Egrets are perched in trees, mostly towards the heart of the island, and by the dozens, but don't seem to be tending nests, yet.  The trees closer to the water hold black-crowned night herons and many of them tend unlikely small nests...bunches of twigs jammed high in branching forks.  As I neared, I watched an osprey hover, dive, and splash...a miss, but it moved a short distance and repeated and scored.  The osprey perches high in the center of the island with its meal.

Great Egret

I paddle away following the bar that connects the island to the mainland.  Low tide approaches and the lowest parts of the bar are just an inch below the surface.  The next stretch of shore, the two miles from the island to the mouth of the big river, is less interesting.  It is sand without any freshwater creeks and apparently, it holds little interest for the birds.

Excellent camouflage - dunlins
I get to the big river at "low tide by the clock".  The current will lag behind about an hour as the river keeps draining, but the low tide is significant because it forces me into a mile long detour out and around the stone breakwater.  A broad sand bar is exposed at this water level, but tidal as it is, it provides for the animals.  Unexpectedly, I find about 500 brant geese in the first mile of the river.  I count a dozen swans and a couple young loons.  It is near slack tide and I paddle against a current, with the current, and sometimes at an angle to the current.  It is slack and aimless.  The low water keeps me out of the marsh...the canoe would float free, if I got out and waded.
solitary sandpiper

On a mudflat up the river, I find two solitary sandpipers...being not solitary.  They are migrants, a bird that I've not seen before.  They are passing through heading north well into Canada.  At Fowler Flat, a mute swan heads straight for me going through a variety of clearly aggressive poses as I steer wide.

Mute swan - this is a warning

1 comment:

John said...

Nice work, Scott. Always a pleasure to visit your blog and take a vicarious canoe ride.