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

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