Saturday, September 19, 2015

Soul Food

I turned away from a drawing in my studio that has gone untouched for some three weeks.  Dirty indoor work has kept me away from art and the canoe.  And while art is an outpouring of the soul, my canoe trips are food for the first.

I have spotted 5 osprey before the canoe is laid on the water - 2 on sailboat masts, 1 in a tree, 1 in a nest box, and 1 in flight.  Paddling a hundred yards brings me to five ducks... the first bend shows 2 great egrets and a yellow legs that I don't notice until the white birds leave.  The tide is low, the wind light and onshore, the man-sounds of cars and trucks is blown away from me and it is as it should be.  That is why I came here.
remains of a wooden boat
I come to this river more than most any other; the minor distance well worth the rewards.  It has become my marker river, the one I am familiar enough with to track seasonal changes by the little things that an occasional visitor doesn't notice.  From a distance, the spartina grass was tan with streaks of green and tones of red.  Once in the canoe and down in beneath the tops of the spartina I can see that the tan is the stalk of next year's seeds and the leaves are still green.

A mature bald eagle flies off from the corner tree at the big bend...a frequent happening.  At the stone arch bridge, I spot a green heron, and then several more once I've gone under.  I spook two great blue herons, and get scolded by a couple of kingfishers.  With the tide out, I make it only as far as the gravel shallows where I decide to turn rather than wade farther.
Of note, I see no willets, I spot an immature bald eagle off on a tree in the lower marsh, and I see a whimbrel on the bank that spooks before I can ready my camera.

Saturday, September 12, 2015


I've been spending my days working in a giant cavern of a building with long dark hallways and a huge great hall, mostly lit by the filtered light that comes through open doors and reflects off the dingy floors and walls, the electrics not quite working.  As I said, a cavern.

I put myself into the big river that lies some miles east of our house not wanting to be constrained by the narrow passages of the marshes that I so often frequent.  And, it seems a good choice as the cove where I start from is occupied by more white birds than normal.  At least 50 swans in a couple of flocks are out there and I find twelve great egrets crowded onto the point where I make my entry into the river.  Eight of them share two wet foot stunted trees with the others at the shoreline.  Rounding out the tally are a couple dozen cormorants and a couple of osprey.  A fine start.
2 great egrets, 2 great blue herons, 6 cormorants
It is calm and humid with high thick clouds that may part as the day goes on, but they will not burn off.  The tide is near high, but I still find myself being propelled by a still energetic flood tide and the shoreline speeds by with relative ease.

I arrive at the bottom of the Selden Channel in rather quick order.  It is guarded by an immature bald eagle that moves off confusing me for something that I am not.  A great blue heron crosses the channel ahead, a couple osprey make themselves known, and a nearby green heron runs up and down a deadfall tree that leans over the water.  It has not flown off as I paddle away.

The channel is peaceful...tranquil, with slowing current, with wild rice that has already dropped most of the crop into the water, with cattails going tan.  A slow moving motorboat comes my way and as I pick a plastic bottle from the water I nod greeting to them.  But, it is not so much a "how are you?" but rather a "you can leave now."

At the far end of the channel, a party of ten sea kayaks come around the bend ahead.  I quickly spin and head back before they can get close enough for a greeting.  Motorboats come and go in a matter of seconds, but chattering sea kayakers linger for ages.  I leave them behind.  One cannot hear the land speak if one doesn't listen.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

After the Doldrums

I return to the river with S after several days of traveling, traveling that has carried us over the period that I call the summer doldrums.  It is time of unusual calm in the rivers when birds have fledged and nests are abandoned and their habits shift to something that makes them harder to find and definitely less obvious. 

We put in a few miles from the sea at the Foote Bridge.  The tide is low, very low, in fact, the lowest that I have seen it at this point of the river.  But, it is an intentional plan that will bring us back on a flood tide with a tail wind, and I figure it to be a good summer day to wade the shallows ahead of us.
green heron

The odor of marsh decomposition is in the air, but this also means that mud banks and shallows are exposed to their fullest extent, and shore birds will be out in view picking at a bounty of small critters.  In and around Pocket Knife Bend we spot a half dozen green herons.  A few great blue herons show up and we observe a good number of yellow legs feeding in a manner that I've not seen before.  They are holding their bills at the surface of the water and walking...S says they are "Hoovering", which is as good a description as any.  Kingfishers become a regular sighting with a good deal more out than is normal, but then again, there is a good deal more tiny silver minnow sized fish than is normal.  The kingfishers are eating well.

As we wade the gravel shallows the one bird that is noticeably missing is the osprey.  We've only seen one and probably because a bird that dives after fish from some 50 ft in the air prefers to have more than 2 inches of water to dive into.  Then, a bald eagle takes off from somewhere in the forest.

We scare up some Canada geese near the Big Bend, which is where we also spot our first willet.  It is a normal upper limit for the willets, who prefer the more expansive salt marsh that is closer to the sea.

Once below the railroad bridge we start to see osprey again.  At first they are just perched in the trees, but with the tide coming back at a fast rate, they start to fly and disperse up river.  Ourselves, we turn back at Cedar Island and return on a river that is different except for its path on the map.  A foot of water has been added in that time, the shallows have gone below the surface, the water touches the spartina and covers the mud banks.  The yellow legs have moved off to somewhere else, the kingfishers remain and scold everything in sight, the green herons still own Pocket Knife Bend, and osprey are starting to arrive.

Foote Bridge