Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Coming of Winter

The cloud layer is thick and heavy and the quality of the daylight reminds me of my days walking in the deep cedar forest of Smoke Farm - twilight at noon no matter what the weather.  A single male bufflehead owns the mill pond, not just alone by species, but the only bird in sight.  Back in Seattle, buffleheads seemed to send one or two of their kind ahead of the main flock.  Maybe this one is a leader, but with the water as cold as it is, and it feels like it is in the forties, maybe this bird is a laggard.  As I set out the bufflehead leaves.  That is the day - the temperature, the clouds, the damp chill, the heavy wool trousers I'm wearing along with the extra shirt, this day is not a fall day, this day is the coming of winter.

Just a hundred yards up the river, I spot what looks like hair frost (another thing that I've only seen at Smoke Farm).  I paddle over and find that it is a white cottony fungus that I've not seen before.  As I turn away, I spot a partially cut tree that has not too many days ahead of it...the work of a beaver.  It reminds me to turn on my nose and pay attention for the scent of castorium.  With winter, the beaver begins to rely more on the inner bark of trees as a food source, and the scent of the castorium changes for the better.  It seems that I know way too much about beaver secretions for my own good.

It takes an hour of not too focused paddling to reach the beaver dam that holds back a fine and established beaver pond.  It is about 30 inches high today, the water on the downstream side a little lower than the last time I was here.  It is an easy crossing, just a short drag over the top between a couple of trees that provide firm footing.  But, before doing that I pause and listen to the water filtering through the dam - the sound of a small cascade that might be around a corner from where you stand.  They always make more noise than you expect.

This time I find the circuitous "best" route through the pond - I don't have to get out of the canoe and log dance over deadfalls.

this lodge is notable in that it has the best packed mud sealing job that I've ever seen
Most of the leaves have dropped in this northern part of Connecticut and my sightlines extend farther back from the bank.  There is beaver activity everywhere.  In fact, there is no place on the river where I cannot see a lodge, or a cut tree, or cut limbs, or drags (trails leading to the water) or feed zones.

The air warms rather suddenly.  The calm passes and the wind begins to blow and gust.  In 20 minutes or so, the calm returns.  Not long after that the air returns to its coming of winter temperature.

The bufflehead is back in the center of the pond when I return.  It leaves while I take my canoe out of the water.  It will be back.

Somersville Mill Pond and Scantic River.

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