Friday, December 20, 2013

Old Knowledge

I set out onto a wave that I am unfamiliar with.  It is onshore, a long slow undulation of only a few inches, seemingly the last breath of a wake birthed by a distant vessel, but ongoing unlike any wake and therefore not the signature of a ship.  It's a wave that if one was on shore, they would not think remarkable, even if they noticed.  But to me, it comes from the wrong direction, it comes not on the wind and its reason escapes my limited logic.  This is old knowledge being learned - how strong the offshore wind can be, or how strong the onshore wind can be for me to safely set out.  It is the old knowledge of fishermen from the time when they set out by oar or sail, safety coming only in the familiarity of their surroundings.  But so far, I don't know what to do with this wave.

A flock of 300 scaups is in the first bay, positioned where I can not avoid flushing them, having to little space between them and shore, and the seaward detour to far out for my own good.  But, they flush from more than 300 yards anyway leaving a few horned grebes scattered about in the water.  If the flavor of duck was based on their scare distance, scaup would taste like chocolate lava cake and mallard would taste like pond scum...but that's not the way things are.

One of the flag rocks is inhabited by a dozen purple sandpipers in their drab winter colors.

A familiar call stops my paddle, "uh....uh uh".  A long-tailed duck speeds by on the seaward side, its small duck body stretched to length by the long tail feathers.

The scaups that I flushed have settled in the bay at Oyster River, but far enough out that I can get by without disturbing them.  There is a loon out there using its trilling call, but it is invisible, perhaps too near the scaups to stand out.

I turn away when I get to the mouth of the Oyster River, noticing that I am a full hour ahead of the high tide and preferring not to be trapped by the current for an hour and half.  I take a side trip up the north side of the bay and find a three more loons some distance off the point.

When I return and enter the river, I drift upstream upon one kingfisher and flock of mallards.  The honking of Canada geese comes from beyond the old trolley bridge foundation, so I slowly edge up along the bank to not panic them.  It is a flock of 200 or so.  They move off up the short river in three waves, not in panic but just to put some distance between us.  If I continue upriver, I will force them to leave as this short little river, at least as far as a goose is concerned, is a dead end and they have moved to the last water open enough for a flock of geese.  I can guess at what is beyond the geese...some black ducks, some more mallards, maybe a few red-breasted mergansers.  I turn and let them all be.

greater yellow legs

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