Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Don't Step in That

I almost fell into the trap, I had to remind myself to return to the track.  I went out to the marsh, two marshes to be exact, although I passed at putting in at the first one.  Today, and probably for another week or so, the marsh is what most people would call unsightly.  And, that is the trap that I stepped into, because the marsh is, of course, exactly as it should be at this time of the year.  The grasses have all collapsed and are covered in a thin layer of tidal silt... it's grubby... worn out.  If it wasn't a marsh, one might think that it was a post-harvest farm field with little left to show for the bounty other than stubble and shreds of plants.  I had to tell myself that this is what it is supposed to be.  Until I turned the corner, the one where a ridge of land sticks into the marsh, where archaeologists found the remains of a Native American fishing site.  I turned the corner and found some fifty glossy ibises stabbing their long curved bills into the spartina marsh searching for food.  I needed no more of a reminder.
glossy ibis
I head up towards the top of Nell's Island noticing far more shorebirds than anyone would expect, far more than anyone on land can see.  Their camouflage is ideal for conditions.  I suppose that once the grasses grow and brush leafs out they will have plenty of cover no matter what color their feathers are. but right now the greys, tans and patterns of their feathers make them blend in with the sparse remains of last year's growth.  I miss a good many photographs because I don't spot them until I flush them.
mute swan nest
Of course, the egrets stand out and spotting a well constructed swan's nest is no challenge.
I spot an orange man in an orange kayak behind me and coming towards me.  I turn into one of the circuitous and often dead end channels in hopes of discouraging a meeting, should that be his intention.  I know from all too many encounters with "people in boats" that if we talk, the talk will likely be about boats, performance and gear...seriously boring and distracting stuff to bother with when surrounded by willets, yellow legs, ibises, brandts, Canada geese, osprey and egrets.  I hope his tour is as good as mine. 
As I get closer to the sea the bird life changes.  Farther back, the ibises were the most numerous of the larger visible birds, but near the sea brandts take over in force.  At one time I flush about a 150 at once, and they are scattered throughout the lower half of the marsh.
oyster catcher
I finish the trip with a spotting of four yellow crowned night herons a couple hundred yards before the put-in.  They fly up into nearby trees and wait for me to leave.
yellow-crowned night heron
Where:  Wheeler Marsh at the mouth of the Housatonic River

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