Sunday, August 28, 2016

Fall is Not Far

We put in down by the sea and head up into the Neck, my usual route at high tide, which has just passed an hour or so ago.  The smallest amount of ebb current is against us, but it is nothing to notice unless one stops paddling.  It is a very calm day as far as birds go.  The willets are few and the ones that we spot are inactive, plopped down on the ground as if they have not risen from their night beds.  We find a greater yellow legs and two lesser yellow legs before reaching the first bend.  Even the osprey are still with few in the air and not for long when they do fly.  But, almost every one that flies has a fish in the talons, so they may have all had a successful morning hunt before we arrived.
greater yellow legs
I take S through the sneak to show her how it closes in with the spartina alternaflora as summer progresses.  We see no willets as we make the passage.

In the middle marsh we find a few great egrets and a great blue heron, but again, little in the way of the usual shore birds.  We also have not seen any snowy egrets.

We pause on the upstream side of the stone arch bridge letting the stronger ebb current push us against the foundation while we take a break.  Then, we paddle on watching the spartina dissipate and and the cattails increase as we leave the brackish waters.  I collect a marsh wren nest from the phragmites.  Their nesting is well over, their young are fledged, and if they are anywhere around they are certainly not showing themselves.

We spot a pair of kingfishers at the gravel flats (which are nowhere to be seen due to the water depth).  We also spot a green heron.  I spot green herons quite often here where the open marsh river meets the forest river.  We end up spotting several and get close enough for a good view with the binoculars.

green heron
Halfway is Foote Bridge where we turn.  The canoe speeds past the landscape with the ebb current near its fastest.  A light fresh breeze is in our face taking some of the days heat off, but never impeding our progress.  We finish the trip in the main river, the tide down enough to make the Sneak impassable.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


The lower marsh is alive with birds - willets, young willets, yellow legs, least sandpipers, and a pair of oyster catchers all in sight all at the same time.  The biggest group is at the inside of the first big bend of the Neck, where the exposed mud is always heavily littered with fragments of shells.  All of the osprey chicks have been flying for over three weeks now, so the sky has two to three times as many of them as it does during the spring and early summer.  It is no longer easy to identify the chicks, their flying, at least over short ranges, looks the same as the adults.  I can only tell them apart when the young ones are goofin' around. 
willet, willet, willet, willet, willet, willet, willet, yellow legs, oyster catcher, willet

I ride herd on that pair of oyster catchers pushing them up river for four bends or so until they make a big wide circle around me and back to the river and back to near where I first saw them.

Then, as I enter Bailey Creek, I flush an American Bittern. I flush it six times, the last just as I enter the Sneak.  I am no longer convinced that it was a single bird.
The Sneak, swallow overhead

The spartina alternaflora is full height and encroaching on the Sneak, as it does every summer.  But, the path stays at least five feet wide at high tide, the water in the center too deep for that grass.  The spartina has also gone to seed.  I spot a large flock of dark songbirds out over the marsh that have probably come here for just that reason.

And so I paddle on, aided by the gentle current of a flood tide and refreshed every so often by a breeze from the north and east.

I paddle on alone and in quiet and turn around at the bend just above Foote Bridge.  I return exactly the way I came and when I get to that first bend in the Neck I find that all of those birds have returned to that spot.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Indian River

The neighbor walks by as I am about to descend the seawall to the put-in. 
"Rough day for a canoe."
"Yeah, just getting in the water will be the hard part."

A 10 mph wind direct out of the east across 15 miles of open water is delivering 2 ft waves to the boulder shoreline that I launch from.  I have prior knowledge that it is a tough place to swamp a canoe in wavy conditions.  I load the canoe with my pack clipped to a lanyard.  Then I put the canoe in the water broadside to the waves and stand helping it to roll over the larger steep faced ones.  Then I start mentally recorded what the water looks like 50 yards out when it delivers large waves or relatively small waves.  After a minute of this I time my move and hop quickly into the canoe dropping directly to my more stable kneeling position and paddle off.  For the first half mile the waves come at my side.  I glance over my left shoulder constantly watching for larger waves that might break over the gunwale. It all goes well, just a rolling ride.  As I near Pond Point the waves start coming on the aft quarter.  Then, at the point I swing just a bit into Calf Pen Bay and I am sheltered from the action.  About halfway across the bay I start riding waves again, but the wave length is longer and easier to deal with.  One last corner, Welches Point, where I get a few good long pushes from behind and then it is calm.

I wish I could write while in such waters, but I can't.  As well, my camera remained in its waterproof box, having neither the time to take it out or to use it.
The Railroad Bridge

I ride a flood tide under the rusty decrepit (and closed) bridge into Gulf Pond.  I have not been here since there was ice...much too long for my local water.  The pond is calm enough and there isn't much to mention except that several great blue herons and egrets are up at the top of the lower pond.  There is not much to add about the upper pond either.  It is just nice plain paddling.

I duck the last road bridge and then ride the flood under the narrow railroad bridge.  The opening is maybe 20 ft, so tide water backs up here creating a short stretch of rapids that changes direction with the tides.  It is a foot drop in fifty feet, upriver.  I've never seen anyone up here, which is probably due to the current or water level preventing easy passage for about 18 hours of the day.  I slip through and am greeted by several egrets and several glossy ibises.  Birds are often more numerous on this side of the bridge.
Great egret and glossy ibis
Snowy egret and great egret

This is the Indian River. It meanders at first through spartina, then through a mess of invasive phragmites.  I flush birds at the bends...a yellow crowned night heron, then a least bittern.  I'd never seen a least bittern and it surprised me because it had been perched up in the phragmites and not on the shore...which is a noted trait of that bird.  When the trees begin to enclose the river I start spotting kingfishers, and some green herons and more egrets.  I continue all of the way up to the fish ladder.  I've not been here in more than a year.

Nearing the fish ladder

I take out at the railroad bridge and portage home.  It's just a mile and I am fairly well certain that I would not be able to cleanly exit my canoe where I started.  It is a nice walk.