Sunday, April 19, 2015

Collecting Bones

I spot an egret up ahead through the trees on the outside of the next meander.  And, I almost miss the muskrat diving not more than 15 feet from the bow of the canoe.  And, it's not one egret, but two.  And, it's not two egrets, but two egrets, a great blue heron and a Canada goose.  This is not to mention the three bald eagles that I passed back a 1/4mile...all white headed but seemingly young and fairly small still.  Nor is it to mention the pair of downy woodpeckers that were circling a large swamp tree a bend or two back.
My start was all not so early, but early enough that, today, I am the first one into the Great Swamp, and such things are always worth the effort.  The trick is to remember that they are.  The day is not awake, at least the not day that people take part in.  It is sunny and cool with a light breeze and when I set the paddle down across the gunwales, the sharp drum snap that results echoes back off of the grey sticks. 

The water is down 6 or 8 inches from last week.  Grasses are beginning to grow, cattails are coming up, but no higher than 6 inches, and skunk cabbage is coming up, and clouds of non-biting gnats occupy the forested areas.
I find my first bone at the bend before the only bridge, where you come out of the woods and hopefully leave the gnats behind.  It is the skull of a buck white tail deer, sitting at the edge of the bank, a specimen positioned as if someone said, "Jimmy, put that thing down right this second!"  I collect it.

The second bone is a half mile farther and another skull.  This time in 3-1/2 feet of water.  Beaver.  When I stop to collect it, I notice that a good percentage of the skeleton is scattered about on the bottom.  I collect a short section of the backbone, but the skull slips into the silt after three or four tries at bringing it to the surface with two paddles ala chop sticks.

The third bone is found up another 1/4 mile on top of a punched out beaver lodge on the outside of the bend.  It appears to be the entire backbone with some ribs and leg bones of a mammal.  I can imagine the backbone to be from something capable of serpentine motion and guess it to be from an otter.  I leave it.

I turn back as I near Pine Island, not needing the tight fidgety bends that start there. 

I spot an otter.  It dives, then surfaces closer, exhaling to clear its nostrils as it takes a look at me and dives away for good. 

I notice that I have not heard the peeper frogs or the bullfrogs today.  But, I have seen a good many turtles.
I collect the long backbone from the lodge as I pass, of course.  What was I thinking.

A few peeper frogs call out as I get to the end of the marsh.

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