Tuesday, July 29, 2014


It is not an hour past low tide when S and I set out on the East River.  We are down in the river, unable to see up and over the salt marsh spartina grass...It is a narrow world compared to the high tide trips when one looks out over a broad marsh that really looks much more like a meadow.  But, it is still early in the morning and the osprey and willets are very active.  Young osprey are still in the nest, not yet ready to fly, and the adults are beginning to head out looking for fish.   The willets are coming out of the grass and down onto the mud banks, also looking for food.  They scold us some, but most are more wary than alarmed. 

As always with a new bow person, I run the list of birds as we see them.  As usual, I am assumed to be a bird watcher, but S quickly figures out that I just know the birds that happen to be where I happen to be. 

great egret
The low tide lets me point out some of the obsolete modifications that man has made...the dike feature (that may have been a road or railroad bed)...the rock pile (possibly the remains of a farmer's ford).  But, the tide is too low to show her the mid 19th century stone dam that hides back up against the forest.

Then we begin to talk about art, and about ourselves and each other.  As usual, it is a bonding trip...I don't think I have ever come across a better way to meet a person than to share a canoe with them.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

East River, High Tide

L and I set out from the usual spot on the East River as the tide approaches high and the weather report of scattered thunderstorms seems to be askew.  Cloudy skies and a pleasant breeze soften the heat of the day and bring out some of the vibrant colors of the salt marsh, the green spartina not uniformily green with hazes of golds and reddishness at farther distances.  With the near high tide I steer us to a more interesting route.  We head up the Neck River, then Bailey Creek, and then into the narrow marsh sneak that returns us to the East River.  All the way, adult osprey fly and perch, leave the perches as we near, and scold us from their nests.  This years young osprey haven't left the nest yet, but it should be soon.  The willets, which normally make quite a racket when we intrude are unusually calm.  We also spot some great and snowy egrets, as always, but none of the glossy ibises.  It is L's first trip here, so I identify birds as we go, until I get to the point where I think he'll remember the names.

Above the stone arch bridge, I turn us back into the the little creek that drains from the hills where someone built a stone dam 160 years ago to power a sawmill.

I always try to take people in here.  I like showing them the collision of man and nature.  With the high tide, we paddle right to the remains of the dam.

Back in the river, we continue upstream, under the deadfall that guards Foote Bridge, under Foote Bridge, and into the swamp where the river becomes narrow and paddling is a contortion exercise.

The tide has turned, but with the lag, the current is still slack.  It catches up with us as we return.
By the time we've returned to the marsh sneak, the water is down a foot or so.  This narrows the sneak a surprising amount.  Another 1/2 hour and it would be a close call to pass through.
I don't know why, but the willets are far more aggressive on the return.  They are putting on the sentinel bird show, coming out and loudly scolding, circling around us and at times flying straight at us only to veer away with ten feet to go.  All that has changed is the level of the tide.  Perhaps they were sitting tight at their nests while the water was high.

scolding willet

Saturday, July 12, 2014


It's the middle of the tide change, when the currents are usually moving the swiftest, in most topography.  I push out from shore and the bow swings upstream with the tidal flow of the Lieutenant River.  I take the paddle and turn it downstream.

It's a fine weekend day and I come across a pod of kayakers every so often.  They move somewhat aimlessly and somewhat haltingly...people enjoying the outdoors...a pastime more than a lifestyle.

Wrensong dominates the river, the buzzer robot sounds emanating from the cattails and phragmites.  Their nests are built and in use, but finding a wren nest takes patience and sharp eyes, well camouflaged  and built of the same stuff they are hidden in.

As I move toward the sea, the salt marsh takes over, the cattails and phragmites give way to spartina, the wrens yield to egrets, great blue herons, willets, terns and more and more osprey.

I hoped that the young osprey might be testing their wings, but they are still up in the nests, watching until the adult gives the right call and then ducking down, not hidden if one looks close, but less obvious.

A half mile short of the sea I turn up the Black Hall River.  Once I leave the confluence it is new ground to me.  Salt marsh with forested edges until the first bridge, a 50 year old design...more earthwork than bridge, a constriction.  The river narrows and the forest becomes more dominant.  The next bridge is the railroad.  There's no big change here, except that the river begins to meander through cattail marsh bounded by the forest.  The third bridge is older, lower and narrower.  It backs up the tide so that I get a strong push when I pass under.  The river narrows significantly and meanders even tighter.  I doubt that many people come up this far and I don't see anyone.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

East River

My friend C came out from the big city and I took her to the East River to show her the workings of the salt marsh

"That's a willet,  there's another, that's an osprey, there's another willet, three no six great egrets up there, a snowy over there"...and so it goes.


We were out on a low and falling tide, so not quite four miles was the turn around. But, the birds kept us going.

osprey with two fledglings...not yet flying.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Trip to Danger Dam

I set out from the boy scout put-in after getting lost three times on the way there.  It's not that difficult to get there, but one wrong turn and it has to all be made up from scratch.

The wind had come up by the time I put in and heading upriver would not be prudent should the wind increase.  So, downriver although there is no current, and upwind it is.  The wind is stiff, almost stopping the canoe when it gusts, but it skims across the surface and creates no waves.

On this section of the river, the summer invasion is in full swing.  The quiet of the off season is replaced by people and far too many motorboats, but I'm here and there is skill to be honed in grinding into a wind. 

I turn back some distance short of the Danger Dam at Shelton.