It is October, the migrating season, the changing season and I need to see the marsh having not been here, ever, before this spring. The marsh grasses are changing to golds and reds while the band nearest the water holds onto its green, for the time being. I spot two medium sized hawks - dark with white rumps...probably Northern Harriers. I've never seen them here before. I suspect that when the willets are here (there are no willets today, a very plentiful bird in this marsh during summer), the harriers get no peace, so the harriers don't bother coming around. Willets are sentinel birds - one will fly up and harass a hunting bird while constantly calling out an alarm. It is very cool to see and if it happens one can't not notice it. Pretty hard for a hawk to surprise anything when they do that. Interestingly, willets do not pester osprey who only hunt fish.
Just past Cedar Island, a 75 yard diameter rockpile with its own forest, I turn into one of the old drainage channels. The marsh is crisscrossed with drainage channels, most of which are landscape memories - slightly taller grass or an out of place line of sparse shrubs with no visible water, but a few of the bigger ones can be paddled at high tide. This one takes me across the flat marsh grass plain into Bailey Creek, although it takes me several minutes to figure out that I am actually in the creek.
Having nowhere to go, I head downstream to the confluence with the Neck River, and having not been here at high tide, head up the Neck. Its a tightly meandering river, more of a creek to be fair, and it gradually works its way back into the trees. The spartina gives way to the invasive phragmites, which signals lower salinity in the tidal waters. I find a good stand of small cattails, the pods bursting open and the spears all gone golden. I pass my previous high point with plenty of water and continue another quarter mile where the marsh river goes to forest river by trading the grasses and reeds for boulders and fallen trees. There is no canoeing past this point.
|the top of the Neck River|
On the way out, I spot three or four osprey. I did not see a single one on the way in. At the height of summer, sighting ten or twelve osprey might be possible. I suppose that on my next trip they will have all gone south. I head back up Bailey Creek and find the other shortcut that takes me to the East River at a higher point. And with nowhere particular to be, I go upriver and explore another backwater in the golden marsh.