Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Not Quite Catching the Tide

I looked at S this morning as I was going out the door and said, "I may not be doing what I am supposed to be doing, but I'm doing something."
She replied, "You're doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing."

By the time I reach Merwin Point, the far side of Calf Pen Cove, I have seen five loons.

male long-tail duck

It is calm, or nearly so, so I make the mile plus crossing from the point to Charles Island, remembering that last winter I had found it so bare, but also that a hurricane had just swept over, through and around it.  When I get about a 1/3 of the way, where the water is deep, I spot three long-tail ducks, the male holding his seven inch tail feathers up out of the water.

The island looks much better this time.  The shoreline brush is thicker and the nests that the night herons built still dot the upper branches of the trees.  Last winter, the plants were pretty shaggy and there were no left overs from any bird nests - over 300 egrets and herons nest here in the summer.  I scare up some black ducks as I round the outside of the island.  I try not to flush birds too often, but black ducks are skittish and the only way to keep them from flying off is to stay home.  They often scare at 200 yards or more, even when there is no line of sight between us.

horned grebes

A thousand scaups lie east and shoreward from the island in three evenly sized flocks.  I try to skirt the nearest flock, but they are about as nervous as black ducks and they fly off.  The other two flocks stay put as I pass.  I spot three more long-tails and a pair of horned grebes...and a loon.

It occurs to me that I am behind the tide.  I planned to spend time in the big marsh at the mouth of the big river, but I will have to paddle straight through until I pass the three bridge narrows.  With the very high tide, the current in the narrows will be against me and faster than I can paddle if I delay. 

The big marsh is touted as a great birding spot, but while it provides a lot of habitat, it also provides a lot of concealment, and near low tide is best because the wading birds have places to stand.  But, with high tide and the golden spartina grass and the bright sun, it is nothing short of glorious.  I lose my way as I usually do in the maze, but this day I can coast through the tops of the grasses to get back into the more open and likely channels.

Black duck, mallard, mallard, and black duck. 
They have similar calls and silhouettes and can interbreed.
 The current picks up just as I leave the three bridges behind.  I take the east passage up the narrow channels behind Peacock and Carsten's Islands and then cross the river over the top of Pope's Flat to the Feral Cat Park, where wildness prevails.

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