Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Sittin' Marsh

Pilgrim Landing on the Connecticut River...a flood tide carries me into Lord Cove at a good clip while four osprey and one turkey vulture fly overhead.  The vulture is silent while the osprey whistle back and forth at each other without pause.

It is my first time here, across the river and a bit downstream from Essex, where I have paddled from before.

The phragmites of Goose Island give way to cattail marsh, and a quite expansive cattail marsh at that with side channels going off to unknown results....a maze.  For a first trip, I follow the shore, or what can be taken for shore on my right.  The one sure way to find one's way through a maze is to follow a wall...although it may not be the quickest way through a maze. 

It's a beautiful trip with a rising shoreline of bedrock and forest bounding that broad freshwater tidal marsh.  I am surprised to see the cattails doing so well with the ocean not 4 miles downstream.  I would expected more brackish conditions that would favor spartina.

As the cattails close in, I paddle more carefully, slipping the blade into the water with each stroke, emphasizing quiet over speed.  There isn't much to see, yet.  The cattails are mangy and browned out from winter, the new growth not yet started.  I catch the call of red wing blackbirds, but not the calls of marsh wrens, yet.  This looks to be exceptional habitat for the wrens, but it is still too early for them.  My chosen channel closes in, the point at which the cattails will finally hug the canoe into stillness is not far ahead. 
This is a sitting marsh.  Too often in my explorations I forget to sit, and marshes, if one wants to know a marsh, requires one to sit.  The marsh will come to those who sit.  A reddish bird flits in and out of the most peripheral of my vision, and hides away unidentified.  And there is a distant sound that requires me to stop and think about it.  It is muffled and altered by a great many yards of brush and forest.  It must be frogs, hundreds of frogs croaking away.  But, I won't get there by canoe.
mute swan being defensive...aggression is a week or two off

I head back out and continue exploring, not sure of where I am, traveling as normal without a map.  I might be near Coults Hole, a circular opening in the middle of the marsh, but I also might not be.  I follow a channel up to a stand of trees knowing that there must be a bit of slightly higher landstuff for trees to grow.  I recognize this place, a narrow piece of low land, having arrived on the far shore when I paddle out of Essex...landmark.  Two osprey seem to be claiming a nearby nesting box.
When I get back to the put-in, I have a delightful talk with the lady that lives next to the beach.  We trade bird and wildlife stories, but hers are better.  She clues me in on some seasonal marsh events that I need to come back for.

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