Wednesday, July 31, 2013

From Patterson

I wake S earlier than she wants, but not as early as I want.  Wildlife is most active in the changes between night and day and day and night and the rest that S wants (and deserves) is, and always is, "daylight burning" in my mind.  If we were camping it would be on my clock, but S runs the show today.

We return to the Great Swamp.  Although this time, we start from a point farther upstream in the town of Patterson and head downstream to places that I was at on my last trip.

The river is narrow and forested where we put in, at times just 6 or 8 feet wide, and it meanders tightly for a half mile until reaching the open sky forest of ghost trees and soon to be ghost trees - trees drowned most likely by increases in beaver activity, the dams raising the waters just a few inches but a few inches beyond tolerable, but also widening the channel for us.  When I did some research on the swamp, I found a photo from a Great Swamp advocacy group that was captioned, "beaver damage".  I long ago converted my own thinking away from the idea of beaver doing damage, for beaver just do what beaver do, and what is often referred to as damage is actually beaver creating habitat for other species.  It's only damage if one places more value on the tree than on the beaver.  Once you view them as equals in a natural landscape, the "damage" idea crumbles.  The swamp will change, that is the nature of swamps.  It's best not to reinforce the tack of damage.

We don't see much wildlife for the first mile.  Then, as we round another tight bend, we pass a couple in two kayaks.   It doesn't take long before we are spotting great blue herons taking wing through the trees.  But, the frogs seem quiet today.  It might be that they haven't warmed up from the evening chill, because as time passes they begin to vocalize more and more.  S spots a nuthatch and some turtles.  We flush some ducks and see several more flying at their great speed through the trees. 

We cross a couple beaver dams and paddle around another and eventually get to one that we just sit up against, not interested in going further.  We are surrounded by dozens of dragonflies and we are content to watch them do what dragonflies do.

As we return, we spot a flicker in a tall riverside snag and S spots a baby flicker calling from the nest, a perfectly round 2-1/2 inch hole (flickers make perfectly round holes).  We watch for several minutes and the baby makes quite a racket until the mother finally flies in and feeds it.  All that while, the bullfrogs steadily increase their singing...without being seen.

Just short of the put-in, S spots bullfrogs in the backwater of the final bend.  Again, we sit for several minutes and watch the bullfrogs watch us...a face-off which neither party shows any particular interest in ending.

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