Saturday, December 21, 2013

Long Tails

the put-in boulder

A silvery grey calm is the salt water today and I start off from the beach, such as it is, somewhere between low and mid tide.  Birds are visible as black silhouettes from a half mile or more in these conditions.  With the calm, a distant call is all it takes to put name to the shape.  A loon lets out a short whoop, then the charming chatter of long-tailed ducks begins to arrive...uh..uhuh (repeat endlessly).  Outside of the bay at Calf Pen Creek, twenty or so long-tails are busy feeding.  They dive and stay down for 20 or 30 seconds before surfacing.  Unlike loons, which usually travel 50 or more yards horizontally, the long-tails come back up to the same place that they started.

Halfway out to Charles Island, in the navigation channel which I suppose is somewhat deep (but not too deep as there is an old oyster boat working its allotment nearby), I find more long-tails, in fact, more than I have seen in one place before, although I have only been familiar with them for a year.  There are four dozen, some in a loose flock and others scattered one or two hundred yards away.  The noise is fantastic.

I paddle the island counter-clockwise, having realized that I have always gone around it the other way.  The tombolo, the half mile long bar that connects the island to the mainland, is well submerged and I coast over not far from the island, which is rimmed in golden spartina grass and centered with grey winter deciduous trees that, during summer, are home to hundreds of herons and egrets.  Completing the circle, I find that most of the long-tails have moved off and that four brant geese have arrived.  These are the first brants that I've seen since spring.

Back out in the navigation channel, I find a dozen long-tails, and a dozen more when I get to the point.  The bulk of the flock is off Calf Pen Creek bay.  Each time they move they leave a few more ducks behind, their flock apparently based more on convenience than allegiance.

No comments: