Saturday, March 8, 2014

East River Salt Marsh

There's no hurry today.  Low tide has passed by an hour ago and most of the daylight will burn off before it is high again.  The wind is a bit stronger than I expected, but here in the salt marsh that just means a headwind for the return trip.  It doesn't bring chop and waves and besides, it is already in the mid 30's with a prediction of 10 more degrees to go.

The mud banks are fully exposed and topped by a crew cut of short brown spartina.  Winter has taken away most of the remnants of the longer spartina grass, the variety that grows where it gets inundated with every tide.  Both spartinas are interesting plants, adapted specifically for the salt marsh, and in that environment no other plant comes close to being as hardy.  While it will grow in fresh water, there its strengths aren't put to use and other plants outcompete it with ease.  Today, those mud banks below the grass are still.  In warmer weather they crawl with thousands of fiddler crabs.

The low tide gives me a chance to look for the "man made".  Forgotten dikes, fords and road beds show in low water, crude piles of rocks where there should be only mud.  It is too bad that detailed maps were not made when these features were in use.

Buffleheads give way to buffleheads and common mergansers, which yield to the hooded mergansers, which in turn part for the Canada geese and black ducks, until I get to the woods and the common mergansers return.  So goes the journey upstream on the East River.

male common merganser

A flock of crows make a racket in the trees to the west.  The repeated cry of a hawk shows its disapproval.

the inlet leading to the blown out sawmill dam

I run out of water before seeing the Foote Bridge, perhaps a third of a mile or so short of that place.  Here, the river is just a few inches deep and clean and clear.  I scan the bottom for specimens.  People have always thrown their trash in low spots, and eventually some of that finds it way to running water.  I find a leather shoe insole, a multifaceted glass quart bottle, a shotgun shell, and a fragment of a porcelain dish.


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