Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Five Brants, Five Loons - going where they end up

I started the morning by reading a few articles in Minnesota Conservation Volunteer, a magazine put out by that state's Department of Natural Resources.  How lucky I was to grow up in a state that valued its environment.  In retrospect, what I do is not something that I came across by luck, but instead, a result of many seeds planted by many different people, people who hoped that something would grow, but knew, in most cases, that they would never get to measure the result.  True to my nature, I don't seem to have been involved in making the plans....I go where I end up.

I put in down in front of the house on a cloudless day if one excludes the ones that are way over on the east horizon...where I am not going.  A half moon still hangs overhead and a fine cool autumn breeze blows off shore.  The tide has just passed low and I can start from the minimal shell beach that shows at that water level.  I stay reasonably close to land, mostly for shelter from the wind but also because the water is beginning to cool off and in the event of a capsize I'd rather not be drifting farther from shore.  Rather than cut across the bays from point to point, I swing in, paddling extra distance knowing that this will delay my arrival at the mouth of the river, which just might make it possible for me, as the tide comes up, to squeeze through a gap in the breakwater instead of paddling the mile out and around it.

I portage the bar that leads to Charles Island.  It is awash, but only by an inch.  The portage is not much more than 15 feet and hardly counts as such.

It takes something short of two hours to get to Milford Point, at the mouth of the Housatonic.  I do, in fact, find a gap in the breakwater that lets me sneak a shortcut into the river.  There, I spot 7 swans with 5 brants and a bit farther off are 5 loons.  The loon calls are limited to a brief "hoop".  One surfaces 20 feet away, very close for a loon.  I wonder if they might be yearlings here for the first time.  They aren't particularly large and seem a bit too curious for loons.  They are common loons stuck somewhere between youth, adult, summer and winter colors.

Milford Point and the Wheeler Marsh

I stop inside the point to stretch my legs and eat some lunch.  There is barely enough water to pass through the deepest of the channels in the Wheeler Marsh, but it will get deeper on the flood tide if I run out of water.  The mud banks at the base of the tall spartina grass are exposed and as a result there are quite a few birds out feeding.  I pass 20 some swans, see many egrets, several of the night herons, a great blue heron, some lesser yellow legs, and something small, dark and very fast hunting other birds (I hear a lot of warning calls when that bird comes by) but I can't identify it.

a juvenile night heron

I've never been in here when the water is this low...the yellowing grass being well over my head, it seems like... paddling through prairie.

Link to Minnesota Conservation Volunteer Magazine

No comments: