Sunday, March 23, 2014

Merganser Gathering Time

One can talk one's self out of canoeing on such a day with the grey sky and, once again cold air.  How glad I am that I didn't.

The tide is out, or near out, being hard exactly to know such things when you are 15 miles inland from the ocean.  But, the water is lower than any other time that I've been here.  I put in at the Connecticut River where the Salmon River joins up.  The Salmon has become a favorite, a relatively unspoiled shoreline of forest and tidal freshwater marsh with only a few houses here and there.

I spot two recent beaver felled trees on the low marshy point that separates the Salmon and the Connecticut.  A hundred yards is as close as I can get, the water from here to there just a few inches deep at this tide.  It's a good sign that I've not noticed in the past.

At the big bend where the forest starts to take over from the marsh, there are a hundred swallows darting and weaving over the surface of the water.  The man on the radio said they are among the first of the spring migration to appear.  In the shallows of the outside corner are a dozen buffleheads, and farther up are what I guess to be fifty mute swans.  When I count, by some freak of nature, I count fifty swans.  Another ten are much farther up but still easy to spot.  That is half of what I counted on my last trip last fall.  I had hoped to collect shed feathers, which were all over on that last trip...but, it seems that swans don't lose many feathers in the spring.  There is not one to be seen.

When the river necks down, the swans in the lower section (Salmon Cove) give way to the common mergansers.  Usually seen in ones and twos, they are gathered in tens and fifteens, a spring behavior that I've seen before.  I counted 58 in a single flock one spring in Union Bay back in Seattle

The current picks up as I near the Leesville Dam.  From the bridge (the only bridge) it is a challenging current made more so by shallow water that dictates progress to a narrow bit of the river.

From there I turn back, the day's increasing wind at my back, and blowing strong, the river current adding to the stroke of my paddle.  The return takes half the time.

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