Saturday, July 18, 2015


I set out from the Feral Cat Park and grind away down river into the middle of the flood tide and a reasonably stiff head wind under an overcast sky that has, not too long ago, stopped rumbling with thunder. 

I reach my planned destination and through the mechanics of marshes and constricted flows, the same current that I was fighting against now propels me into the marsh and the canoe exchanges a mile and a half per hour of headway for something more like five miles per hour.  As such, the paddling is quiet and I approach bird life without giving them much warning...a black crowned night heron overtakes me near my right shoulder, I pass a yellow crowned night heron that stands back in a small inlet, and pass a snowy egret that flushes when I get too near.  Then, as I cross the front of a channel that cuts back, a loud nasty hiss raises goosebumps on my skin.  I turn my head to find a large swan, the neck well thicker than my arm, raised up to eye level from ten feet distance.  It is guarding three grey cygnets.  I do not stop until I have 50 yards between us...and all of us calm down.

I make my way around to the sandy spit of Milford Point, flushing more night herons and willets as I go.  Two oyster catchers stand at the tip of the spit as they quite often do when I am there.

yellow crowned night heron
The tide high, it is a good time to work the inner passages of the marsh.  Wide channels narrow and branch, divide and come to sudden ends or peter out into something too narrow for a canoe.  Openings that look promising stop surprisingly short of the next open channel.  I enter and retreat from most of these attempts.  Not being able to find a way to the inner channel of Nell's Island, I head back for the diagonal that I've used before.  I find it after a few tries and follow it up river.  It is interesting to be surrounded by landmarks while still being somewhat lost.
Few people care to wander into this part of the marsh and I find a spot that is favored by a good number of birds.  In one spot, I scare up 10 snowy egrets, one glossy ibis, and 4 black crowned night herons while 4 more remain unperturbed.  I flush another half dozen snowys about a hundred yards on.
spartina alterniflora
As I near the top of the marsh, I take the left and wider fork and paddle a couple hundred yards to find it end just 15 yards from where I wanted to be.  I wade through the tall spartina grass, mostly firm although uneven (the short spartina is as hard as a muddy ball field) dragging the canoe behind.  Being inundated with each high tide, the Wheeler Marsh is mostly the taller spartina grass.

I return from where I came but on a following current and wind.

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