Monday, March 19, 2018

In the Mattabasett

My head is up inside the canoe, the edge of the seat resting on the back of my shoulders, it is a standing upright buried headfirst sort of feeling.  A bird shadow sweeps past my feet just before I reach the water and begin to roll the canoe down my thigh to ground.  I watch an immature Bald Eagle fly away down the center of the narrow forested river.
I head upstream with the intention of going a bit higher than I have gone before.  In the past I've always turned back at a small logjam where, for one reason or another, I've not had the gumption to portage.  The current is faster than expected, probably a combination of some spring high water and the low tide (this is fresh water 30 miles from the sea, but still tidal).  Of more note is the amount of new deadfall in the river.  Three nor'easters have come through in short succession and the combination of wind and heavy wet snow has brought down numerous weak trees.  Fortunately, the river is about as wide as the tallest of trees and I can push through the branches in the few places where a tree has fallen bank-to-bank.

It is a cool day, the temperature still in the 30's and with a light but chilling wind coming down river my eyes water.  Instead of wiping the tears away, I leave them running down my cheek.  There is something pleasant about the contrast between those wind chilled tears and the warmth of my face.  It is a cold day.
These 2 were expected.  They nest here every year.
I wade one gravel bar, I portage the rocks under the defunct railroad trestle.  Otherwise, I stay in the canoe.  The current turns me back at the highway bridge and I do not argue.

With plenty of time, I pass my put-in and continue down to the Eagle nest.  I observe for about 10 minutes from various locations but I see no Eagles in or near the nest.  It looks like this site is not in use.  With that I turn and return.

Besides the Eagle, I have spotted a half dozen Great Blue Herons, 1 Hawk, a Kingfisher, a few Wood Ducks, a pair of Mute Swans, a Woodpecker and a Blue Jay.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Employee of the Year

I had reached Foote Bridge and was just about to start writing when I spotted a white V-shaped object on the bottom of the water.  As I fished it out with the tip of my paddle, two women walked onto the bridge and asked me, "what are you researching?"  Interesting that something in my bearing should cause the word, research, to come up.  It was animal bone, likely deer.  Secured in the boat, I had a delightful conversation with the women.

I started by the sea and came up river with a minor wind out of the north or east.  Nothing of note, meaning it was a perfectly fine trip, happened until I got to the bottom of the Big Bends where an immature Bald Eagle was flying circles.
For me, it takes 2 or 3 days traveling solo before I get comfortable with myself.  It takes about a week to fully bed into the experience.  Seven days is when everything is "now"... the things coming in the future will be handled then, the things in the past have been passed.  But thoughts of work intrude...I know that paddling will make it dissipate.  My boss sent me an email, "why haven't you contacted this customer? I asked you to do it a week ago."  Actually, he told me to do it a week ago, which is different.  But, a question is lets me use my creativity. His problem is an opportunity for me.  Possible answers bubble to the surface:
1.  Because I suck at my job.  (I reserve the right to use this later, for the most part it isn't true)
2. Until I can figure out how to use the company spam filter, I am using my own analog spam filter. (this is true, I am ignoring him)
3. I knew it would piss you off. (which is true)
4. I had more important things to do. (which is true, but it is never heard when said out loud, so why bother)

I return to something I do best...I begin paddling back down river.  I am Employee of the Year at canoeing.  The wind is in my face through much of the upper marsh.  It is stiff, but I have a mile an hour of ebb current in my favor, so the canoe continues along at something less than walking pace.  It makes no difference to the canoeing Employee of the Year.

Above the arch bridge I enter the Connecticut hardwood forest.  The marsh is completely snow-trodden, the forest, even in winter bareness, is dramatic.  It is a welcoming place.
I turned back from the bridge when the conversation with the two women ended.
This time at the Big Bends there was no Eagle.  However, I spotted a grey Loon several hundred yards off...A Red Throated Loon.  They pass through here in early spring.  It is smaller than the Common Loon, but equally beautiful.  It dives...I wait and watch.  It surfaces and dives again.  It will evade me by swimming.  I wait and watch.  Nothing.  I round the bend and find it several hundred yards downstream.  It probably had to breath only once to make that distance.  As I approach, it dives.  It surfaces near me, but only for a moment.  It dives.  It comes up a couple hundred yards upstream of me, returning to where I first saw it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Eagles and Beaver

A Nor'Easter came through a couple days back, steady 35 mph winds with gusts up to 50.  Today is the calm between storms.  More wind is predicted for tomorrow with snow coming tonight.  But, what a calm it is.  I head out from Ely's Ferry in clear sky with temperatures in the 40's and more or less no wind.

I paddle upstream, and no sooner than 50 yards out, where I pass under a still unoccupied Osprey nest, an immature Bald Eagle drops down out of the trees and heads across the river.  No more than a couple hundred yards, and a second immature Eagle leaves a perch and heads upriver towards Hamburg Cove.  It is a good start to the day.

I follow the shore closely, the water being quite cold, and the interesting stuff being found where land and water meet.  Halfway between Hamburg Cove and Selden Channel I head up into a small creek that I have always bypassed.  The mouth is usually very shallow, but with the high rive and high tide I slip into it easily.  It is a nice side journey through swamp and after perhaps a third of a mile it meets one of Connecticut's 4000 dams, this one an old low earthen, stone and cement structure.  It's hard to say whether it had any purpose other than to create a pond...not enough height for much power generation.

an almost mature Bald Eagle
Just short of the bottom of Selden Channel I spot a more mature Eagle.  With my binoculars I can see that it is an immature that almost has adult colors.  The head is mostly white as is the tail, but the body is still the mottled feathering seen on juveniles.

Part way up the channel I am watching carefully a piece of land that the state has posted no trespassing.  I suspect it might be to protect a nest, but I can't see anything.  


The slap of a beaver behind me.  I turn to see a medium sized beaver in the water.  It circles downwind of me to catch my sent, and then begins swimming around me at a distance. 
We watch each other for about 15 minutes.   I get a few more tail slaps out of the beaver, and then I head off back in the direction from which I came.

Just as I near Hamburg Cove, a fully mature Bald Eagle flies past heading upstream.  That makes four for the day.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Nest Check Day 3

I put in up in the forest finding the river spring high but also with a rising tide, even though this place is thirty miles from the sea.  It was already in the mid 50's and the wind was near calm.
The mission was to run a check on an Eagle nest that lies about a 1/2 hour paddle down from here. 

I often photograph forests in sepia tone, the green often being too strong for a photograph and black and white being to cold for an environment filled with life.  The high haze and leafless deciduous forest and dormant undergrowth has created a landscape that shows sepia even with my camera set to color.  Trees will begin to bud out soon and the most incredible crop of poison ivy will soon turn this land green.

Beaver activity
I reach the Eagle nest in about a half hour and find it unoccupied.  This area of the marsh is well open with long uninterrupted sightlines.  There are no Eagles in the vicinity.  I watch the nest for a few minutes just to be sure, and then move on.

I spot a mature Bald Eagle near where the Coginchaug River enters the Mattebasset.  It chases a hawk and then climbs high to soar. 

With the high water I paddle up the Coginchaug farther than I ever have before.  I almost reach the first road bridge before turning back.  I get a second Eagle sighting just as I reach the Mattebasset.  The Eagle flies off to the east and doesn't seem particularly associated with the nest.