Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Very High Tide

I set out from the forest about 2 hours before high tide.  Already the water is well up as the the tide today will be just 5 inches short of the record 6ft 10 in.  The sky is overcast, with a surprisingly swift moving watercolored wash of greys and blues without distinct edges. 
Pocket Knife Bend
 There is little in bird life to be seen.  The mudflats and shallows have been swallowed by the tide.  I spot a couple of Kingfishers and flush some ducks as I start across the Gravel Flats.  By call I know that the ducks are either Mallards or Blacks, and since they have flushed from such a great distance that I cannot identify them, they are probably Black Ducks.  At the Big Bends I spot 3 Snowy Egrets, 2 Great Egrets and a Great Blue Heron.  The Snowy's are pretty much migrated out at this point.  At the last bend a good sized mature Bald Eagle takes wing and circles several times before moving off.

Coming down the Neck River
The current grows slowly, stagnant above Duck Hole Farms, gentle in the middle marsh, and stronger when I get below the railroad bridge.  I take the well flooded Long Cut over to Bailey Creek.  The current there is making the paddle a bit of a grind.  The sun breaks through for awhile.


The Neck River boat launch is thoroughly flooded, so much so that I can paddle through the parking lot.  I return up the East River riding a good current.  At the bottom of the Big Bends I find 2 dozen Yellow-Legs lined up at what would be the top of the river bank.  Normally, they are scattered about back some 50 yards where there is a panne, which is flooded temporarily.




Sunday, October 7, 2018

Not So Wild Waters

I set out upstream from the Feral Cat Park on a humid but not too hot of a day.  The sky was overcast and would pretty much remain so.  The very high tide had been falling for a short time, so the tidal current added to the normal river current was not a bother.
 I stayed to the east shoreline as it is more wooded and backed by wide margins of wetland.  The opposite side of the big river has a road that runs along not far from the bank.

This was not an especially peaceful trip.  There was a fair amount of large boat traffic, at least for a cloudy October weekend.  Worse were the small herd of jet skis that followed the larger boats around jumping off the wakes and generally making a lot of noise.  My friend M told me one day that jet sk drivers almost always had the same body type.  She was correct....I observed that the drivers were balding un-athletic 30-45 year old males who whooped and hollered a lot.  Kind of an idiot fest.

I went three islands upriver, about an hour and a half one way.  There were quite a few Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets and most of the time there was a Kingfisher somewhere near.  On the beach by the Dragonfly Factory I spotted a Greater Yellow Legs.  I usually dump Greaters and Lessers into one pile, but this time I was able to see the slightly upturned bill.
On the return I followed the west shore once I was below the Dragonfly Factory.  The current flowing over the bedrock shore creates some interesting boils and eddies.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Mad Hawk

 I set out up the west side of the big river following the shoreline fairly closely.  A crow lets out an odd call.  It flies out from the trees with a Coopers Hawk in hot pursuit, tail fanned wide, wings fully spread, a slow speed highly maneuverable chase.  The hawk is giving that crow hell.  The crow takes a quick perch under a branch to shake off the hawk.  Then the crow retreats, not far, but a retreat none the less.  The hawk disappears into the trees, not too far off but out of my view.
The Essex Steam Engine

I head into a tributary that I've only gone into once before...maybe last year or the year before.  The bottom 1/3 of a mile or so is a big boat parking lot.  They have to be somewhere, but it isn't what you set out in a canoe to see.  On that last trip I went up to where the boats ended just to see if there was more.  At the railroad bridge, where the boats end, I flush a Great Blue Heron.  Then, three swans, one is a cygnet.  Another few hundred yards takes me to the road bridge.  Two hundred Red-Wing Blackbirds are feeding in what is left of the wild rice.  Passing under the bridge for the first time, I see that this is a good spot for them.  There are tens of acres of wild rice upstream of the bridge although there is little rice left on the plants.  The river takes a few wide meanders as it passes through the rice marsh before it narrows and becomes forested.  The current picks up a bit, but it is not preventing upstream travel, yet.  I cross a gravel bar and note ceramic remnants, a pretty typical sighting when nearing towns in Connecticut.  I collect an old beer can, old enough to have been opened using a church key.  The river narrows more and picks up speed.  I recognize the buildings up above as the town of Chester.

While on my way back to the take out, I paddle back out and turn up a small river that leads to Deep River .  I 've been in here before, a small river that goes from marsh to forest to town.  It's just a pleasant diversion to make the trip last a little longer.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Cormorant

I don't need to see you
No reason to look over my shoulder
I know who you are
I know your wing beats on the surface of the water
No one else does that
People ask me if you're a loon
But you hold your chin too high
Too proud

Tall Spartina at mid tide
I set out clockwise around the Wheeler Marsh in a southeast wind, comfortable temperatures and a sky with dark clouds around the edges... a forecast of rain for a time after I take out.  The tide is mid level and rising, an ideal time for canoeing in this marsh as you can get mired at low tide and the wading birds take tree perches as the water rises.  I make frequent sightings of Night Herons and Great Egrets all of the way out to Milford Point. 

Snowy Egret at right
From there I head down the inside of Nell's Island where there are few birds other than a congregation of five Great Egrets and one Snowy Egret - the only Snowy sighting of the day.  At the top of the marsh I flush a few Great Blue Herons from the edges of the tall spartina.  This marsh is almost all the tall spartina variety...it gets washed over on almost every high tide.  The short version grows on higher ground that only gets flushed during the highest high tides.  Coming up the edge of the marsh close to the launch site, I start seeing the Night Herons taking their perches in the trees.  The numerous Snowy Egrets that I saw earlier in the month are absent.
Yellow-Crowned Night Heron




Monday, October 1, 2018

Old Coots Day

I woke up in the middle of the night with a rough draft of a poem running through my mind and this all seemed to be a solid signal that I should go canoeing in some body of water that was geographically fitting for the poem.
In the Mattabesset River

A short, older and more grizzled man drags his kayak by a rope from the parking lot down the rough stone path to the water while I am gathering my gear.  I do the short 75 yard portage and find that guy already gone, which is a surprise since the typical recreation boater usually takes something like an hour to get their boat launched.  I head out downriver, the water high with rain runoff and the current faster than normal, but still gentle.  It is a pleasant day, heavy overcast in the sky and temperatures in the low 70's.

I catch up with that guy in about a half mile as he comes out of a backwater.  He is a good paddler and I pace him from behind.  I sense that we both want to paddle alone and I am giving it a bit of time to see if he maintains his pace.  He eases up in a few hundred yards and I go ahead.

At the beaver cut place there are three lodges where I seem to remember only two.  One is a crude bank burrow, one has had recent home repairs of added mud, so it is definitely occupied. The third is the one I don't remember, so it may be new.

In the big open marsh below the forest I spot three Great Blue Herons and two Mute Swans.  A short way farther on I sight a Harrier prowling.  Their hinting style really is an airborne prowl.  It weaves and dips, skimming across the tops of cattails and wild rice.  I've seen quite a few Harriers this year and I do not know why I have not noticed them as often in the past.

I pass another old coot in a kayak coming the other way.  We exchange a few brief pleasantries.

At the first point below where the tributary enters, the air is thick and heavy with the scent of beaver castoreum.  The humid still air is holding odors in place.  I spot a couple of swans ahead and a large fish splashes behind me.  After a minute, I begin to wonder if that splash might have been a beaver tail slap.

Near the railroad bridge I spot six wild turkeys.  At the bridge I spook a Green Heron.

At the big river I take a turn around the long island, there is almost always an island where tributaries come in.  The island will extend the trip to a length where I can be farther away than I am.  It also give the other old coots a chance to be alone on their trips.

I don't see all of it, but that beaver confirms its presence by making a diving leap from the bank into the river.  It surfaces and we watch each other for awhile.  As I head on, I spot another Green Heron back in a small inlet.


Saturday, September 29, 2018

Autumn Light

I told S that I would be putting in at Foote Bridge and probably wading a bunch until I got down past the Gravel Flats.  But, lower tides are usually good for animal sightings, so I don't mind the wet feet.  It's a bit of surprise to find the river high and running fast when I put in.  We had several inches of rain on Tuesday and another day of rain on Thursday.  The East River drainage is clearly catching a lot of runoff.  I set out and find a swift run with dry feet.
To add to that change in conditions, there are almost no birds.  When I get to the end of the Gravel Flats (about 10 minutes), I have heard one Kingfisher and spotted one Osprey.  Contrast that to  earlier in the month when I would have seen 15 or 20 birds in that same stretch.
Yellow Legs
I spot two more Osprey in the middle marsh.  I start spotting Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons in this area as well.  Of the latter two, it is about the same number as I expect during summer. 
It is a spectacular day with temperatures in the upper 60's and a light wind coming down the river.  The tide is rising by the time I start but the tidal current is weak.  I make my way down the East River to the confluence with the Neck adding quite a few Great Egret sightings plus a few Snowy Egrets.  I suspect that most of the Snowy's are on the move south.  Of note, I have seen no Green Herons or Night Herons.
The Sneak
My unplanned timing has worked out well enough that I can return through the Sneak.  So, I head up the Neck, up Bailey Creek and into the unusually brushy Sneak.  With the tide only half way up, I expect it to be narrow, but it also seems that the tall spartina is encroaching on the channel.  This may be due to the heavy rains adding to the normal tidal runoff.  I've observed that there is a glacial flow to the spartina.  Looking at older maps shows that the channels are remarkably stable in path and width.  But, old main made items such as farmer corduroy road have been pushed down and probably out toward to the river bank.  I think that the silt builds up on the marsh surface and pushes it down and out.  The banks often show crevasses at the top of the banks, just as glaciers do.
The rest of the return is uneventful unless one wants to count a beautiful day with low fall light that kaleidoscopes the surrounding forest.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Wheeler Marsh

S suggests a turn around the Wheeler Marsh to see the large numbers of Egrets and Night Herons that I witnessed two days ago.  I check the tide charts and try to time our put in for about 2 hours before high tide.  Not only does the Wheeler Marsh need an above mid tide level for easy paddling, but I figure that the rising tide will be moving the birds out of the large marsh and into the trees that line the east shore.
We arrive at the put-in a little early.  I tell S that we can go, but we will be shin deep in mud to get the canoe in the water.  We retreat to a local bakery for a half hour.

When we return, the water level is just right and the put-in clean and easy.  There are no birds in the trees, yet.  We paddle counter clockwise flushing a few Green Herons at first, then a Night Heron or Egret every once in awhile.

At the far upstream end of the marsh we head up the Nell's Island channel.  Some light motorboat traffic ahead of us is sure to eliminate most bird sighting possibilities, so I take is into one of the side channels.   There, we start to flush Night Herons with frequency.  It is a mix of adults and juveniles, and seems to be all Black Crowned Night Herons.  Our Channel dead ends after a quarter mile and we retreat. 
Juvenile Night Heron

When we get up to the long sand spit, Milford Point, I point out to S that there are dozens of Egrets perchd in the trees on the far side of the marsh, which is also where we started.  As we paddle that way, more and more Night Herons leave the marsh and we track them over to the trees.



Friday, September 14, 2018

Great Day with a Friend

I set out with M from Ely's Ferry and headed upriver following the east shoreline.  We talked about a lot of things as we always do...art, science, nature, friends.  As we neared the mouth of Hamburg Cove a mature Bald Eagle flew by.

The Selden  Channel was near glassy smooth.  In fact, it was a still and quiet day with little boat traffic anywhere.  We just paddled in peace.

From the top of Selden Island, where another Eagle was perched, we continued upriver to the Chester Hadlyme Ferry where we beached the canoe and made the hike up to Gillette Castle, since M had never seen the entirely bizarre "castle".  There is a fine view of the Connecticut River from that point also.  Gillette may have built a weird house, but he sure did know location.

We returned to the canoe, skimmed the cliffs so that M could see the remains of Gillettes miniature train rail system, which featured trestles that ran out and along the cliff faces overlooking the river.
Then, we returned down the main channel of the river.  ...a great day with a friend.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Filthy with Birds

The place is filthy with birds.
Snowy Egrets and a few Night Herons
I haven't been here all summer for no good reason as it is just on the other side of town from where we live.  But, I needed a short break and the short drive would maximize the time in the canoe.  I put in from the primitive state launch and head out clockwise around the marsh, because that is the direction the canoe is pointed when I set it in the water.  By the time I have paddled 200 yards I have seen a mix of well over 60 Snowy Egrets and Night Herons with a few Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets thrown in.  They are perched in the trees of the forested shoreline that forms the East side of the marsh.  The only time I've seen this density before is out at the nesting colonies on Charles Island.

Wheeler Marsh at high tide
There continues to be a scattering of Herons and Egrets as I make my way out to the long sand spit, Milford Point.  There. I spot a Common Loon, first of the fall for me.  Loons like the mouths of rivers where they dive for fish in the tidal currents.

Osprey Nest
I follow the inner channel of Nell's Island.  It is high tide and I can take alternate routes through the flooded spartina, although not too alternate.  Most of the channels in the marsh are dead ends even at high tide.  When my chosen path goes narrow I turn out to be lucky and follow a clear opening back into the main channel.  Every so often out here in the open marsh I happen across a half dozen or more Egrets and Herons standing back from the water on some small slightly dryer bit of marsh.  I also find a low Osprey nest built on a drift log rootball.
Four juvenile Night Herons
Up at the top of the Marsh I ride the flood into Beaver Creek.  More Egrets, a few Osprey, and a few Herons.

As I approach my put-in from up river, I find another 40 some Egrets and Night Herons.  I'd say that my day count is good for about a 100 Egrets and 75 Night Herons.


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

For What Ails You

 I've been out of sorts lately, it's something that goes with the job description of being an artist.  In my previous career as an engineer, much of my life was laid out and planned well in advance.  I knew that I would be working on some project for the next four months and that some new project would arise before completing the first.  Life ran on inertia, so to speak.  Art is different, so very different.  Most of the time you start something with no idea of what you're going to end up with.  Sometimes, you just start hoping on faith that something will come of it...it usually does.

I head out a little later than normal today.  The lateness is to coincide with a very high tide in the East Marsh.  The river will be 6 to 12 inches above its banks.

I put in from Foote Bridge up in the forest knowing well enough that the launch parking lot will flood with 8 inches or more of salt water.  I flush a Green Heron from the opposite side of the bridge as I get settled in the canoe. It takes ten minutes to get to the Gravel Flats, which are already under four feet of water, and in that ten minutes I have spotted ten Great Blue Herons, three Kingfishers, two Snowy Egrets and three Green Herons.  The word is out with the Kingfishers and Herons that the feeding is good on the upper end of the river.

I dawdled my morning at home by reading the Mountain Journal, a website publication of nature related writing by people in the Yellowstone region.  There was a fine interview with the incoming superintendent for Yellowstone.  When they transferred the long standing former superintendent out, I suspected that they might be replacing him with a "yes" man.  Fortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case.  His strongest skill for the job might be that he hasn't met and pissed off the wrong people, yet.  My interpretation is that someone pulled a political favor and got the former superintendent moved out, probably due to his views on wolves or bison.  Anyway you look at it, that's a pretty shitty thing to do.  I figure that if some management guru gets around to writing, "10 Terrible Habits of Lousy Managers", vindictiveness will be in the list.

I don't know what this is...it's in the flooded spartina
I don't spot any Osprey until I'm below the Stone Arch Bridge.  I've noticed that they don't seem to do much fishing when the water is high.

I ride a flood current into the Sneak and make a quick and easy pass of it.  When I get to the Neck River, a Harrier skims by on the prowl...6 ft above the spartina...a little bobbing and slight weaving with the eyes focused on the ground.  It goes on until I lose it in the distance.

I turn up the East River and explore a side channel that I've not been into.  It meanders in towards the forest, but the grass is a bit to thick to force the route over the spartina into the next channel upriver, which is about 300 yards away.  The highlight is flushing a Clapper Rail, a bird I've heard but never seen before. I retrace my path to the river.  Then I cut across the spartina over to Bailey Creek noting that a lot of Gulls are out here floating around.  Then, I cut across the spartina crossing the Sneak and intersecting the Long Cut. At the Big Bends I leave the river again and cut through the panne to the Rockpile.  I ride an easy flood current all the way to the Gravel Flats before the water goes slack.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Dreamlike

The tide hadn't quite crested, a trickle of salt water was still filling a low spot where I was putting in.  There was a light wind, just enough to raise a thrum as the air passed over the folds of the ears.  But the temperature had dropped 15 degrees or more since yesterday, brought on with good thunderstorm that has left a sky roofed well over with a thick layer of dark clouds
With the high tide I headed up the Neck aiming for the Sneak, my  preferred route to the upper end of the river when the timing is right.  It is bird quiet this morning...just a few Osprey.  The first nest has been blown off of the man-made platform, so they got some wind here as well.  The loss of the nest is no problem as the young have all fledged and the adults will rebuild it next year.

As I near the upper end of the Sneak, a Harrier sweeps by, crossing the entire marsh at 10-15 ft over the surface.  It is a dark hawk with a white butt patch and a head that reminds me of an owl...pretty easy to identify if one is close enough.  As I leave the Sneak I spook 12 Willets.  Approaching the dike below the Post Road I spot a Kingfisher.  More often than not throughout this entire trip I will either be hearing or seeing a Kingfisher.  They are out in numbers.
In the Big Bends I start seeing Great Blue Herons.  As with the Kingfishers, they are here in numbers and sightings increase as I continue upriver.  I will easily have a dozen sightings by the end of the trip.
Approaching the Stone Arch Bridge an Osprey and a Bald Eagle take wing out of the same tree.  That Osprey flies away, but a second Osprey overtakes the Eagle.  It takes several swoops at the Eagle, dropping down from above, each time the Eagle rolls over and fends off the Osprey with its talons.  They continue upriver until out of sight...then the Osprey returns and joins the first Osprey.

Green Heron
Near Foote Bridge I spot 4 Green Herons, this being a favorite spot for them with trees and low branches overhanging the water.

All this time I have been just at the head of the tidal stagnant water...hardly any current since the lag in tide levels takes time to get upriver.  I turn at the bend above Foote Bridge and notice the ebb.  I return to the put-in riding a steadily increasing current.  The wind has calmed, the clouds are still there, the day is still and pleasant, the trip is somewhat dreamlike.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

A Small Expedition

I carry the canoe from the car over to the water.  Some guy pulls up to the ramp and unloads his canoe while I walk back to grab the rest of the gear and fetch my wife, S.  When we return, that guy looks at me, "Scott!" Damned if it ain't my artist friend G and his wife L.  They're in the habit of going around Connecticut and exploring different rivers much like I do.  We've talked about canoeing together, but it never happened.  Today, by chance and dumb luck, it happened.
Add caption
G and L tell me that they've been here to the East River 4 or 5 times.  We'll go up the river together so that I can point out some features, since I paddle the river 4 or 5 times each month.

The tide is low, so showing off the Sneak, other than the entrance can't happen until we come back down when there will be more water.  We head up the East. 

There's few birds in the lower marsh.  Rule 1 is in play - "First one up the river sees the most wildlife" and I imagine that people have been crabbing by boat, which scares off pretty much anything on shore.  But, the crabbers usually stay down in the lower marsh, so when we get to the Big Bends things get more interesting.  We flush a Green Heron and then three Great Blue Herons.  Great Egrets start showing up as well.  Osprey have been rare, perhaps the fishing is better elsewhere.

In the trees before the Stone Arch Bridge we start spotting Kingfishers.  Above the Stone Arch Bridge there's more bird action... several Osprey are up here for one.

We creep our way through the low tide shallows at Duck Hole Farms...two Red Tailed Hawks fly by and head off into the forest.  Now, we start to see numerous Snowy Egrets, a couple more Green Herons and, of course, Yellow-Legs working over the wide mud bar at the Gravel Flats.

We turn back 200 yards short of Foote Bridge, being that it is more wading than paddling to get there at this tide level.

The trip out is against the flood current and against a pleasant headwind.  Everyone finishes hungry and tired.


Friday, August 31, 2018

Seasons

The temperature has dropped some 15 degrees from what it has been for the last few days, which were far too hot and humid do to much of anything.  A pleasant wind comes from the NE and the light has a distinctly autumn characteristic.  I set out at the bottom of the tides and the spartina grass reaches up well over my head.  I follow the east shore up the East River using that wall of spartina to protect me from the wind.
I spot two Green Herons between the railroad bridge and the Post Road bridge.  There are a lot of Sandpipers and Yellow-Legs along with a few Plovers.  Also note that there are more Great Blue Herons than usual.  They are all busy feeding from the exposed silt banks of the low tide.

Great Egret
I spot a third Green Heron in the Big Bends and just upstream from there I catch sight of a Harrier that is flying back and forth across the entire width of the marsh, treeline to treeline, rarely more than ten or fifteen feet above the ground.

Yellow-Legs
Near the Stone Arch bridge I start seeing Kingfishers and as I get into the forest section I find more of them.  There are schools of very small fry in the water, they leap and stir it when a predator fish chases them. 

I expected a wade, but the Gravel Flats have just enough water to float the canoe.  There are a couple large mud flats here and the shore birds are darting about feeding on mud critters.  It's a few Great and Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Yellow-Legs, and one Common Snipe.  Kingfishers are in the overhanging trees and two unidentified mid-sized hawks (possibly Coopers) are overhead.  Definitely busy.
Yellow-Legs and Common Snipe
I continue up to the small cedar swamp, flushing three more Green Herons along the way and harmlessly bumping a large snapping turtle with the canoe.  It's a 150 yard wade from here to the Foote Bridge, and it's a 150 yard wade back, so I turn here.

In that short time, 15 minutes or so, a couple of inches of water have been added to the Gravel Flats...the tide is coming in quick. 

As I return I think about the seasons.  Most of us follow an astronomical meter - the year broken into four seasons based on, at least from our common perspective, the length of day.  A people that is in touch with their environment might see the seasons differently.  The Sami traditionally had eight seasons that were based on the behaviors of reindeer.  The seasons varied in lengths from a 10-15 day calving season to a 5 month winter.  The East River must have its own seasons.  I'll have to think about what markers would be most logical.  I can see the possibility for a Willet Nesting season, maybe a fall migration season, maybe the doubling of osprey season, and definitely the greening of the marsh.  To me, today feels like a change in season.

Near minimum water Sneak passage
The tide is high enough to use the Sneak, and so I do, returning to my put in via Bailey Creek and the Neck River.  I see no Willets until I get into the Neck...they've been hanging out on the docks for a couple weeks.  I think they might be first year birds, hatched this summer.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Branford River

It wasn't my intention to be here, but here I ended up, the result of some truck that is scattered all over the highway several miles further on.  In fact, it is only my second time on this river.  And, that is because once I have traveled this far, the East River is just a few more miles, and the East River is so much better.  But all places need exploring.

I put in at the popular State boat launch. Next to me is a cigarette boat and its multiple unmuffled V-8 engines drown out my vulgar commentary on the boat and its owner.  Most people head downstream from here, I head upstream...rather quickly to get out of earshot of that stupid craft.

For about a mile it is marina backed by old industrial buildings.  The first bridge filters out any boats that are higher than 30 inches.  It's fairly nice at that point.  Two more bridges, that come in quick order, lead to the High School Marsh.  I spot several Great Egrets and a Kingfisher.  8 Osprey are circling but the audibles coming from the trees figure the total to be more like 12.  At the far end of the marsh I flush a hundred Canada Geese and a few Mallards. 

Then, as the river nears the center of town, it narrows and settles down below the higher land that most of the town is built on.  I duck some branches, but the high tide gives me plenty of water to continue paddling.  It's forgotten water, out of sight, out of mind.  It's a bit industrial, but it is also a bit untouched since no one would think to come here.

I pass through a long tunnel under the main highway.  Here I find shallows that need to be waded, which I think I will save for a later trip.  I'll check the map and see if the effort will be worthwhile.
immature Yellow Crowned Night Heron
In the mean time, the tide has crested and I ride a light ebb current on my way out.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Lower Marsh

J, the fishing guide, is driving out on the partially flooded access road as I am driving in.  We stop and chat, both of us surprised at the high level of the water, which I figure to be about 8 inches over the tide level.  There is a stiff onshore wind leading a coming weather front...a storm surge without the storm. 
A full trip up into the forest is less appetizing with the thought of the return trip into the stiff breeze.  It looked like a much better idea from the armchair.

A dozen young Willets are mixed in with an equal number of Laughing Gulls on the Neck River docks.  The water is high enough to be flooding some of the short spartina marsh, so perhaps they've moved here preferring dry feet.

I head up the Neck and then into Bailey Creek.  As I start my way through the Sneak I am thinking about how few shore birds there are when four Black Ducks, just ten feet away, flush.  I wacth them climb and circle in a neat formation until they are quite high up.  Halfway through the Sneak I spot six Great Egrets feeding in a flooded section of the spartina.  Pannes like this were more common in the marsh until the government trenched the area for mosquito control  There would be a lot more birds here as there would be a lot more feeding spots without those trenches.  Although not maintained, after several decades the trenches are still there.

I head back down the East taking side trips to the east to explore a couple of the channels that head off river into the marsh.  Osprey are especially active over by the east forest area...more noise than sightings, but well populated.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Atomic Canal


Rather than heading straight away up Salmon Cove, I rounded the point and went up the Connecticut River.  I'd not been out on this side of the long spit, actually a cedar swamp that separates the cove from the river, so I felt it worth the time.  For a good fraction of a mile the shore was lined with a bed of wild rice that was about 2 canoe lengths in width. Not long after that I came to the man-made canal that I have named Atomic Canal.  This was the cooling water outflow from a nuclear power plant that has been very well erased from the landscape.  I haven't been to this spot in a few years and then it had a barrier boom stretched across it to prevent any access.  Now, it is open with only a few warning signs that you are not to set foot on the banks.  I've done my research on this area and know that the spent fuel rods are stored somewhere up on the hill.  On the good side, this large area is now a no entry wildlife refuge.
Cormorants
The canal is longer than I supposed, perhaps a half mile.  It's either forested or brushy with a road running near the bank for about half its length.  It does have some nice patches of wild flowers that have attracted some large deep red butterflies.  I also spot a few Great Blue Herons and a couple Kingfishers.  I turn at the rather industrial, or formerly industrial dead end and head back to something a bit more natural.


I cross the river and find a strong current on the far side.  Then, I cross back over and head up Salmon Cove.  I knew of three Osprey nests at the bottom of the cove.  Two of them were blown away during an early summer windstorm, unfortunately when the Osprey chicks were quite incapable of flying.  Two new nests were built afterwards, and although I can't be sure, I figure that it was the same pairs that had lost their nests.  They did not, however, reuse the original sites.  One is across the water from the old spot, and the other is near the point where the cove opens up.  In both cases these nests appear somewhat unfinished.  They are small and the branches are less dense - somewhat airy compared to a nest where eggs are being tended.  I'll see next year, but the nests almost appear to be territorial place markers more than anything.
One of the new Osprey nests
I head up the cove and into the Moodus River.  It is a narrow river with trees overhanging in most places.  With the cloudy skies, it closes in and gets quiet and moody.  I find some almost ripe grapes growing on the banks and a rudimentary beaver dam that is easy to pass.  I turn back at the shallows where I would have to wade and head out.
Dark clouds are moving in and the sky is becoming dramatic.