Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Sound Comes Back

The sound has returned to the salt marsh.  All winter long there was little more than the wind on one's ears.  The osprey came earlier in the spring with their piercing whistles, but it seemed a long wait for the others to arrive.  The sound of willets comes across the marsh even before I can get the canoe in the water, and they remain unseen not much longer than that.  I head up the Neck River and there is always a willet or two or more in sight on the mud bank, difficult to see in the morning fog and blending into the mud and spartina stubble, but when they raise their wings they are hard to not see, the bars of white and dark as obvious as a waving flag.  It is the easiest way to identify them - it separates them from similar looking shore birds.  They nest here, probably attracted to the short grass on a wide open marsh where they can build a nest and watch for's not the ocean they come for as they also breed in eastern Montana.  It's all willet, sandpiper, and osprey calls with silent white egrets for punctuation.

Two terns fly over with their long thin tapered wings and just a hint of fork at the end of their tails.  They add their call to the mix and go.

I spot a black bellied plover...but I have to look that one up in the book, which says it should be on its spring migration to the tundra. 

I make the turn off of the Neck into Bailey Creek, racing the falling tide to get through the sneak back into the East River before the sneak runs out of water.  When I get to it, the sneak is skinny, the turns are tight.  I put the lightweight cedar paddle away and take out the walnut one, which will survive pushing off the bottom much better.  I can always walk out if I have to, but I get to the high spot and the ebb current changes from fighting me to carrying me along...and the water gradually gets deeper.  I beat the tide by about ten minutes.

Snowy Egret - black bill, yellow feet

I found my arms and legs fatigued this morning.  It had been five days since my last canoe trip and most of those days were good paddling days.  I spent two of them in the big city, working at a museum.  I love being in the museum, but the 20 block walk through the big city, with all its rush and conflict with wildness is something I just endure.  As I canoe up the river, as each bird whistles at me or warns the others of my arrival, the strength returns.  It is getting right with nature.

I find 20 some glossy ibises mixed with some Canada geese at the rockpile bend.  The ibises are busy stabbing their bills into the mud...feeding.  The willets are noticeably fewer here as well.  This is still salt marsh and spartina grass still rules, but it is not far to get to the end of that.  After the next bend I start to find turtles, in rather large numbers, on the mud banks.

The river changes most and quickest as I pass under the stone arch bridge.  Above this bridge, it is a freshwater cattail marsh.  The raucous nature of the salt marsh gives way to a calm humid sleepiness that is still packed with birds and animals, its just that these creatures are quieter.  The egrets are here, the osprey too, and the great blue herons.

a bruiser
I visit the stone dam remains and then paddle a few hundred yards more before the river goes shallow with the low tide.  I turn and paddle back, into a warm fresh headwind, with not much changing except that when I get to the rockpile bend, there are fifty glossy ibises...and they get up all at once and fly a short distance up river.

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