Wednesday, January 28, 2009

At the Lodge

In the mid 40's today. It was dead calm when I got into the water, but the sun broke through right then and put just enough breeze on the water to break the glassy surface. Here's the biggest of the beaver lodges on the bay. It is about 9 feet tall and 30 feet in diameter. I headed counter-clockwise around the bay today. I saw three eagles today, one on the log boom, one on the west shore and the third at the lunch counter perch. As I paddled too close to one, it got up and made a run at some ducks that were a few hundred yards out. I've noticed this behavior, that they seem to be content to sit, but if you disturb them they will take advantage of it and go ahead and try their luck at hunting. The dead swan has now been dragged onto the shore and scavangers continue to work at it. I still don't think that a coyote has found it, I would expect a coyote to rip it up pretty good. There was a coyote scat pile about 20 yards from the swan, but no telling how old it was. It was a territorial marker, conveniently dumped on an old plastic coffee can lid.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I'm so tired

In the 30's, there is thin ice in the marsh. I pick small sheets of it out of the water. It is clear and window glass thick. I head out east of the burial island and find a barrel floating in the water, which I haul out. Both eagles are on the burial island perch. I see three otters near the north point perch. The scavenger is continuing to chew on the neck of the dead swan, which has been pulled to one side of the carcass since yesterday. One eagle is now at the lunch counter perch. I haven't seen them hunt today. I pick up an annoying tire and drift with the wind, drinking coffee and passing a falcon sitting in a tree on one of the islands. I sit still and the falcon stays and lets me pass.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Just Checking on Stuff

I'd rather paddle somewhere else today, but I needed to check on stuff from two days back. It looks like the two raccoons that were in the live traps are free. I head over to the dead swan. Someone or something has laid the head back on the body and there is a wound at the back of the head/neck. If it is a scavenger, it is a small one - but it has to be big enough to pull the head and neck out of the water, so who knows... One eagle is at the lunch counter perch and the other is on the Foster Island perch. They are taking runs at flocks of ducks every once in awhile, so they haven't eaten today. I see two attacks, but no kills. The eagle in the photo (it's at the lunch counter) was quite busy and I drifted for several minutes to see if it had a catch, but it was just busy drinking water.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wild Hair Day

It is almost sunny and 39 degrees today. The bay appears as it really is. I should be making art, but I need to get out and procrastinate, so, I do. I paddle straight across the bay to check on the swan carcass and it is as it was. Then, I do the log dance and retrieve one of the abandoned buoys for the garbage heap. I decide to go back and get the last of the abandoned buoys and dump it also. These things are PVC plastic, about 4-1/2 feet long with about 50 lbs of ballast in the bottom. They cut loose from their moorings several years ago and have been sitting in the marsh since. Now, there are no more. Paddling over to the garbage cans with some foam chunks, I spot two sad raccoons stuck in the nutrea live traps. They should be out tomorrow. The third, which might be a mother is about 40 yds further along the shore. Then I head home.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Today, I write as I paddle.
There is a thick fog where I put in.
The heron is where it usually is and it flies off even though it has no reason on account of me, but it always does that.
Nearly all of the bark is off of a birch to my right, the beaver has been busy. I have paddled 50 yards.
I cut between the workbench and the big lodge to see if there are beaver tracks. I have plaster with me today. Beaver seldom leave paw prints.
Fog Changes the view. It is almost like a new place to me.
I use my compass to steer a straight course across the bay.
Even in this little bay I am out of sight of house and road for some time.
Ducks are just barely visible. Their safe distance is almost the same as my visible distance.
I put my wool gloves on. A slight breeze makes just enough difference.
I stop in mid bay to drift for awhile.
A duck surfaces in front of me. It seems to be 200 yards off, which means that it is 3 feet tall.
Fog confuses time and space.
I find shore at the point where the eagles and hawks perch.
My only chore today is to check on the carcass of the dead swan. It is as it was.
As I near the lunch counter, I hear the swans before seeing them. I drift and let them swim away.
Both eagles are perched on the little island near the lunch counter.
One eagle flies off after some ducks and they all quickly disappear, the outcome is a secret.
The ducks are very near shore today, something they would not do if it was clear.
The eagle returns and the two of them chirp at each other.
I am shooting lots of photos today in directions that I normally would not. The bay appears the way I like to think of it.
Paddling by the west islands, I startle the three immature swans.
I recover an Amazing Spiderman rod and reel from the depths. Actually, only 18 inches. The water is very cold. As long as my hand is freezing, I pick up some golf balls.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Another fine day, almost 50F, sunny and a light wind. I put in on the north side of Elliot Bay today, out in the sound. A few buffleheads, hooded mergansers and goldeneyes are around. I head west, out towards the main sound, but when I get to 4 mile rock (photo) the wind is stronger and while it is not so strong to keep me from making headway, I don't feel like fighting with anything. So, I turn around and paddle through the giant boat parking lot (how many boats in any marina actually move?). I spot a pair of harlequin ducks, of which the male is very striking. A cormorant surfaces from a feeding dive not 5 feet from me. We are both surprised... Then I return around the outside of the parking lot. Many herons out on the breakwater. The gentle bobbing on the swells and wakes from distant ships washes me from the inside out.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Almost a Perfect Day

It is a beautiful, calm, sunny day. S joined me for the first hour. She hadn't seen the swans or even been out in the canoe for a month or so. Since yesterday, one of the swans has died (in the photo). I was picking trash in this area, so I am sure it happened within the last 24 hours. Tried to contact the Burke Museum to see if their zoology or ornithology folks might want the carcass, but couldn't get through to anyone. There are coyotes in the area and I would expect them to find it soon. I took a close look and didn't see anything obvious. There aren't any power lines or real flight hazards near, so who knows... Anyway, I just stayed out and paddled as it was so nice. Went over to the south end of Portage Bay, which is a bit natural, but nothing interesting there, yet. So, I did another lap around the bay. The eagles showed up then. The ducks are much more wary than they used to be. They hang in mid-bay now and take flight when the eagles are in the air, even when they are at a distance.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sun Brings the Old Tars Out

Made art with a full head of steam all morning, but when the sun showed up for the first time in many days, it was lake time. It was calm and in the 40's, but the sun makes it feel warmer. I didn't see the eagles at all today, they may have eaten early. The swans were out, looks like they are here for the winter. The ducks are hanging in mid-bay, where the eagles can't use the cattails to sneak up on them. I headed straight across the bay to retrieve a 40 gallon garbage can that has been annoying me for some time. Once I had the garbage can, I decided I might as well fill it up, so I spent half of my lake time walking drift logs and fetching foam, bottles and cans. The old tars were out in their big motorboats, it being a Saturday and sunny. You have to watch out for them, their not like the pros that drive tugs and fishing boats. The pro boat drivers always seem to have eye contact with me when they are near - the amateurs rarely turn their heads at all, except perhaps to pour a drink. You know, it's a rare known fact, but Captain Ahab never went whaling when it was cloudy. Still, it was a fine day to put a paddle to the water.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Into the Bay

Very calm today, maybe 40 degrees and very gray with a thick overcast and light fog. Entering the main bay from the marsh, I spot twelve mature swans near the lunch counter (the NE corner). As I cross the bay, I spot one eagle (right) in one of their favorite perches, a stunted birch tree that grows out of a small island on the west side of the bay. The three immature swans swim across my bow from the NW corner of the bay. They take off when I'm about 60 yds away and fly low over a couple flocks of ducks that are in mid-bay. The ducks don't move an inch - ducks apparently can tell the difference between an eagle and a swan. Once on the N shore, I spot the other eagle in a common perch near the lunch counter. I run into C, an avid birdwatcher that I've talked with once before. She spotted over 170 bird species in the bay last year and has counted over 60 since the first of the year. Now I know how to differentiate between a redhead duck and a canvasback. I collect 1/3 canoe of foam and junk from the N shore, including 13 tennis balls. At least I have to get out of my canoe and walk drift logs to do it - I use to be able to collect that much right from the boat.. Once at my usual dump site, a coach-like guy invites me to dump the trash in his garbage cans. I just let it go that I've been doing it all along... but I appreciate the ok just the same. Neither eagle moved an inch during the two hours I was in the bay. Maybe they already ate.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Out of the Bay

A clear morning, but clouds come in by 10. It's almost calm and in the 40's. Today, I need a different view, so I head to the north end of the lake and paddle up the Sammamish River. I was last here in October, when the river current is almost imperceptible. Today there is a 2 to 3 mph current, but by paddling the insides of bends I move upstream fairly well. Some grebes and common mergansers are near the river mouth. There are quite a few herons all along the days trip. I eat my lunch in a small backwater where I watch a northern flicker, a stellars jay and a kingfisher all sitting in the same tree. The river alternates between undeveloped shoreline, million dollar houses, trailerpark and golfcourses. Paddling is most difficult near the fancy houses as they have "improved" shoreline that funnels the current and prevents shallows from forming. After an hour of paddling upstream I return in half the time, sometimes topping 6 mph (I checked with my GPS).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's Just Like Herding Coots

Big rainstorms and a cold have kept me off the lake for a week. I paddle out today to look for a couple storm sewer outlets for an art project that I am working on. I start west along Stitici, an island that was a Native American burial ground. It's now called Foster Island and the state has a major highway running through it. A highway I might add, that many view as cursed - it is a traffic nightmare more often than not. Two eagles cruise over as I get to the main bay. As I move north towards the Lunchcounter, I can see 8 swans from about 3/4 mile. As I close in, I see 3 immature swans (they are gray) and two eagles in the trees. The Diver School boat is out in the main lake. It is a very slow boat and I could probably outdo it with little problem in my canoe. Something spyhops me at the lunchcounter, it is probably a lone otter, but I don't see it again. The eagle gets up when I get too close and flys low towards the swans out in the bay, but it seems to be using them as a diversion as it turns toward a flock of ducks. The eagle sets sights on the last duck and it is forced to dive to the water to keep from being picked out of the air. Then the usual circling and diving hunting game proceeds with a second eagle coming in to help out. The duck gets away, this time. Along the way I see that someone has set traps for the nutrea. I also spot two muskrats and a lone western grebe. In the photo - while I'm at it, I pick up a chunk of foam and an abandoned speed limit buoy. The buoy has been sitting in the weeds for years and whatever government agency it belongs to is out of luck and should take better care of their toys.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Color Gray

It is very gray today. I don't even get a photo worth printing. Last night, it snowed about 3 inches. It was wet sloppy stuff, the snow that breaks branches off and knocks alder saplings into an impenetrable haystack weave. This same stuff normally disappears fast as it is often accompanied by weather that climbs into the 40's. It did, and it did.
As I started today, I did not see the heron that usually sits in the trees near the put-in. Of course, after I paddled 50 yards, it took off "out of nowhere" right over my head. The ducks are still in large flocks in the center of the bay. I don't see the eagles, but I'm pretty sure they are around as the entire flock suddenly lifts off and moves to the east. I spot six swan on the east side of the bay - I am on the west side - they are about 1 mile distant. This is a short trip today. I've been doing paperwork (the secret fun part of being an artist) and my brain needs a reboot. I spot the eagles in the NW corner of the bay, but they move off. They are hunting, but too far away for me to observe. I stay near the marshy islands as a stiff wind will be blowing in my face when I paddle out. No one else is around. Everyone can tell you what the bay is like when it is sunny, when it is calm, when it hasn't snowed. I circle Foster Island. It was once a burial ground, although the burials were in boxes placed in trees. That was a long time ago when the lake was deeper and the bay was larger and one could not find old tennis balls in the cattails.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Mapping Beaver Lodges

It is in the low 40's with a gray sky and a 10-15 mph wind. The weather report says the wind is out of the SE, but as typical, it comes from a different direction out on the bay. Most of the ice is gone and the east channel around Foster Island (see photo) is surprisingly ice free. The ducks are still gathered in large flocks out in the bay, especially near the west shoreline, which is more protected from a wind out of the NW. I see 5 swan in mid-bay and later count at least 8 - there may be a few more, but I am 3/4 mile distant. There is an immature eagle perched in a tree on the west shore. I don't see the mating eagle pair. Otherwise, today I GPS beaver lodges for a possible art project and end up picking trash when opportunity unexpectedly appears. I wrestled about half of a reinforced construction tarp ie one of those cheap blue tarps. It is deteriorating (not biodegrading) and I discover that all of those reinforcing fibers come loose and leave an awful tangle that will probably trap an animal someday.
But, the day is cold and blustery and the days trip clears my head just as I thought it might.