Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Northern Shovelers Have Returned

I started today at the newly refurbished Portage Bay boat launch. I always avoided this spot in winter because I would have to wade 20 feet out in the mud just to float the canoe. I met the grounds keepers who just happened to be doing some follow-up work and complimented them on the excellent job. In the photo is the Portage Bay beaver lodge. A track up the side and fresh branches piled on top confirm that it is still in use. Once through the cut into Union Bay, a heron skims the surface, a pied billed grebe sinks as I approach, and six Canada geese fly directly overhead in an echelon. A work crane is to the east, a bad sign signaling the beginning of new bridge work - work that will widen the ugly and noisy highway that runs through this pretty spot. More coots are in the bay and they form a large mass out in the middle. The lily pads are so thin now that I can paddle the marsh edges with ease. I surprise some ducks and coots rounding a point. They have not yet learned that they are easy eagle food when they are so close to the shore. I retrieve a little trash and see mostly tennis balls. This may be a good sign because tennis balls are deliberately tossed into the lake, and if they are more obvious than other trash it may mean that trash takes longer to accumulate than I thought. From the north point, I see one eagle sitting at the lunch counter. I paddle over to a down wind location to see if it has been eating, but there are no feathers in the water. I spot some northern shovelers today also, the male which is very beautiful.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Buffleheads Return

Land based artwork has kept me out of my canoe, but at least I was outdoors while that was going on. I put in today on the big lake. The water is all chop, a SE wind blows, but in this part of the lake, which is bounded both north and south by floating bridges, regular waves never seem to occur and the junk comes at me from all directions. The chop is always a foot high and sometimes two and I paddle from a kneeling position for extra stability. Rounding the point into Union Bay, the water calms and I pause to write and drink a cup of coffee. A small flock of black and white buffleheads is in front of me. They have returned from the arctic while I was in the woods making maps. -paddle - I near the biggest beaver lodge, which stands out more now that the summer vegetation has turned gold and begun to drop. A very large eagle sitting on a light pole signals to me that once again, it is duck eating season.

Monday, October 12, 2009


It's all politics rolling around in my head as I walk my canoe to the south lagoon. As soon as I am in the boat it is all birds in my head. Turning the point of the little island, a heron is frozen in hunting position. I see the first hooded merganser that I've seen in awhile. A northern flicker looks for ants on a downed log before flying to the side of a rotten tree, and a stellars jay sits at the tip top of a tall tree. I head out on the east channel of the burial island, grabbing a dozen golf balls from the bottom. I reach in up to my elbow to get them. The water has returned to a hypothermic temperature - cold. Then straight across the bay to the lunch counter in a light east wind. It is cloudy, but they are winter clouds and it seems that the light is filtering through high ice crystals and not through water droplets. A kingfisher sits in a tree at the railroad island (formed by the remaining pilings of an old railroad stub. Ducks are in loose flocks with some widgeons and gadwalls returning to the mix. Coots are carelessly near shore, so the eagles are not intensely hunting them, yet. Half of the cattails are yellow, and half of the cattails are still green. They are all mixed together though, and this makes a beautiful patterned wall. I scare up a dunlin... I spot one large western grebe in the bay and a smaller look-alike in Lake Union.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


We put in at the south lagoon just as the sun dipped behind the false horizon. The water was very still, the evening air motionless. The birds are busy - this is a busy time of day for the ducks and geese as they finish their feeding. There is frequent chatter and quacking and also the tipping of duck butts into the air. We get closer to them than we would in broad daylight. I show S the dirt atoll that has risen from the bay. A small sandpiper picks bugs from the mud of one of the little islands. Near the north shore of the bay we let the canoe rotate. There are dramatic differences in the sky depending on the direction we face. It is gray to the east and the color changes gradually until it becomes yellow-orange in the west. As we sit and the sun drops farther past the horizon S says that it is like watching an oil painting change into a watercolor.

Friday, October 2, 2009


I set out in the rain. Fall has arrived with the steady winds that come with it although today is calm, the first calm day in several. The rain drops absorb the traffic noise that one usually hears on the big lake. Only a whir of industrial toys that are nearby is discernible. This weather will mean few others on the water today. After a mile the rain lets up some, and the noise of cars on the floating bridge returns. As I near the north
marsh I recover my first 1970's beer can of the fall season. The lake level has dropped two feet and the marsh is giving up it's treasures as the bog stuff contorts. The ducks and coots are up here today, as usual. There are dozens of exposed pilings now. At one time a railroad stub ran out onto a pier in this area. I do not know for sure if these pilings are the remains, but they are in the right location. The trees and shrubs are beginning their shift to fall colors. Shades of purer green are giving way to tinges of yellow and red. The cattails and irises now have yellow edges on their spears and the collective effect says, "fall"