Thursday, March 29, 2018

First Osprey Sighting, and the Second Osprey Sighting

My coworker, looking at a 3x3x8 ft bundle of hardwood flooring says, "Who put that there?"
I answer, "I don't know."
"Where did it come from?"
"It was there when I came in."
He is beginning to transition into fire drill behavior....anxious for the purpose of being anxious.
"This is unacceptable."
"...I agree."
"People can't walk up to our desk with this here."
"...Yes, you're right."
He scurries off somewhere.  I clock out and go canoeing.
Just short of the second bend in the river a familiar whistling, a whistling that I've not heard recently, catches my ear.  In a tree some 200 yards across the spartina marsh is perched an Osprey.  It is my first Osprey sighting of this year.

There is an Osprey nest platform at the third bend.  From a few hundred yards out I detect something out of place.  It is my second Osprey sighting of this year.

Whether these two nest in this are or not, I have no way of knowing.  Given that an awful lot of Osprey have to pass by to places farther north during the spring migration, it seems more likely than not that they are just pausing here.  I am passing through as well.

The tide is falling, the predicted sun has been superseded by a low thick overcast.  I set my camera to shoot in sepia tone.  There is little color, so color seems pointless.  Black and white is for the man-made, or perhaps glaciers, mountains or canyons.  I never liked the way forests or marshes looked in black and was if there was no life.  The sepia brings out a warmth that reminds me of how much life is present in the marsh.

At the upper Big Bend I spot a Red Throated Loon.  It dives to evade surfacing another hundred yards ahead.  Five times this repeats.  Then it lets me close to about 50 yards.  It dives and surfaces behind me.
Duck Hole Farms
I turn back when I get to the Duck Hole Farms.  I know that at this very low tide I will run out of water in about 400 yards at the spot I call the Gravel Flats.  I play the same game with the Loon on my way out.  At the second bend of the Big Marsh I find a second Loon.  We play the same evasion game.  But, instead of diving to come up behind me, this Loon takes wing, which is rather rare.  It speeds, really speeds inches off the water.  Arrow like with the wing tips tapping the surface.  And it is gone.
The Sneak at very low tide (impassable)

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Favorite Waters

By now, I've been here many times.  My first paddle on this river was one of discovery.  Here was a river that should have its shoreline developed yet one whole side was almost entirely without roads or houses and the other held only a sparse few structures.  It turned out that this is the lasting benefit of a nuclear power station that had been removed before I came to this part of the country.  Only a set of power lines crossing the cove remain in sight.  Out of sight, back up on the hill, is a storage building for spent fuel rods.  But that benefit...the entire power station property is now a National "no trespassing" Wildlife Refuge.  I paddle up the wide cove of Salmon River alone.

By the time I reach the first turn, I have spotted a circling pair of Red Tailed Hawks, and another pair perched at in a tree beyond at the point.  I also flushed about fifty Black Tail Ducks from the cedar swamp that divides the mouth of the Salmon from the Connecticut River.

I follow the northern shore up.  The large house that was on this side near the top of the cove, notable because it was surrounded by the "nuclear property" is gone.  Only the landscaping walls remain along with the addition of new "No Trespassing" signs. 

I continue up into the narrowing river.  This first river bend always stirs emotions.  It is a few hundred yards of river where I do not need to filter out noise or structure.  For this short distance no house or much of anything man-made is in sight.  A swamp to my right, a steep pine forested hillside to my left.   It is as it should be.

I continue up to the Leesville Dam.  A good amount of water is topping the low-head structure, a good amount of current is paddled against to reach the shore where I get out for a break.

I return down the main river with a brief explore of the Moodus, at least up to a bank to bank obstruction that doesn't need to be dealt with.  Then, I head out.

Monday, March 19, 2018

In the Mattabasett

My head is up inside the canoe, the edge of the seat resting on the back of my shoulders, it is a standing upright buried headfirst sort of feeling.  A bird shadow sweeps past my feet just before I reach the water and begin to roll the canoe down my thigh to ground.  I watch an immature Bald Eagle fly away down the center of the narrow forested river.
I head upstream with the intention of going a bit higher than I have gone before.  In the past I've always turned back at a small logjam where, for one reason or another, I've not had the gumption to portage.  The current is faster than expected, probably a combination of some spring high water and the low tide (this is fresh water 30 miles from the sea, but still tidal).  Of more note is the amount of new deadfall in the river.  Three nor'easters have come through in short succession and the combination of wind and heavy wet snow has brought down numerous weak trees.  Fortunately, the river is about as wide as the tallest of trees and I can push through the branches in the few places where a tree has fallen bank-to-bank.

It is a cool day, the temperature still in the 30's and with a light but chilling wind coming down river my eyes water.  Instead of wiping the tears away, I leave them running down my cheek.  There is something pleasant about the contrast between those wind chilled tears and the warmth of my face.  It is a cold day.
These 2 were expected.  They nest here every year.
I wade one gravel bar, I portage the rocks under the defunct railroad trestle.  Otherwise, I stay in the canoe.  The current turns me back at the highway bridge and I do not argue.

With plenty of time, I pass my put-in and continue down to the Eagle nest.  I observe for about 10 minutes from various locations but I see no Eagles in or near the nest.  It looks like this site is not in use.  With that I turn and return.

Besides the Eagle, I have spotted a half dozen Great Blue Herons, 1 Hawk, a Kingfisher, a few Wood Ducks, a pair of Mute Swans, a Woodpecker and a Blue Jay.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Employee of the Year

I had reached Foote Bridge and was just about to start writing when I spotted a white V-shaped object on the bottom of the water.  As I fished it out with the tip of my paddle, two women walked onto the bridge and asked me, "what are you researching?"  Interesting that something in my bearing should cause the word, research, to come up.  It was animal bone, likely deer.  Secured in the boat, I had a delightful conversation with the women.

I started by the sea and came up river with a minor wind out of the north or east.  Nothing of note, meaning it was a perfectly fine trip, happened until I got to the bottom of the Big Bends where an immature Bald Eagle was flying circles.
For me, it takes 2 or 3 days traveling solo before I get comfortable with myself.  It takes about a week to fully bed into the experience.  Seven days is when everything is "now"... the things coming in the future will be handled then, the things in the past have been passed.  But thoughts of work intrude...I know that paddling will make it dissipate.  My boss sent me an email, "why haven't you contacted this customer? I asked you to do it a week ago."  Actually, he told me to do it a week ago, which is different.  But, a question is lets me use my creativity. His problem is an opportunity for me.  Possible answers bubble to the surface:
1.  Because I suck at my job.  (I reserve the right to use this later, for the most part it isn't true)
2. Until I can figure out how to use the company spam filter, I am using my own analog spam filter. (this is true, I am ignoring him)
3. I knew it would piss you off. (which is true)
4. I had more important things to do. (which is true, but it is never heard when said out loud, so why bother)

I return to something I do best...I begin paddling back down river.  I am Employee of the Year at canoeing.  The wind is in my face through much of the upper marsh.  It is stiff, but I have a mile an hour of ebb current in my favor, so the canoe continues along at something less than walking pace.  It makes no difference to the canoeing Employee of the Year.

Above the arch bridge I enter the Connecticut hardwood forest.  The marsh is completely snow-trodden, the forest, even in winter bareness, is dramatic.  It is a welcoming place.
I turned back from the bridge when the conversation with the two women ended.
This time at the Big Bends there was no Eagle.  However, I spotted a grey Loon several hundred yards off...A Red Throated Loon.  They pass through here in early spring.  It is smaller than the Common Loon, but equally beautiful.  It dives...I wait and watch.  It surfaces and dives again.  It will evade me by swimming.  I wait and watch.  Nothing.  I round the bend and find it several hundred yards downstream.  It probably had to breath only once to make that distance.  As I approach, it dives.  It surfaces near me, but only for a moment.  It dives.  It comes up a couple hundred yards upstream of me, returning to where I first saw it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Eagles and Beaver

A Nor'Easter came through a couple days back, steady 35 mph winds with gusts up to 50.  Today is the calm between storms.  More wind is predicted for tomorrow with snow coming tonight.  But, what a calm it is.  I head out from Ely's Ferry in clear sky with temperatures in the 40's and more or less no wind.

I paddle upstream, and no sooner than 50 yards out, where I pass under a still unoccupied Osprey nest, an immature Bald Eagle drops down out of the trees and heads across the river.  No more than a couple hundred yards, and a second immature Eagle leaves a perch and heads upriver towards Hamburg Cove.  It is a good start to the day.

I follow the shore closely, the water being quite cold, and the interesting stuff being found where land and water meet.  Halfway between Hamburg Cove and Selden Channel I head up into a small creek that I have always bypassed.  The mouth is usually very shallow, but with the high rive and high tide I slip into it easily.  It is a nice side journey through swamp and after perhaps a third of a mile it meets one of Connecticut's 4000 dams, this one an old low earthen, stone and cement structure.  It's hard to say whether it had any purpose other than to create a pond...not enough height for much power generation.

an almost mature Bald Eagle
Just short of the bottom of Selden Channel I spot a more mature Eagle.  With my binoculars I can see that it is an immature that almost has adult colors.  The head is mostly white as is the tail, but the body is still the mottled feathering seen on juveniles.

Part way up the channel I am watching carefully a piece of land that the state has posted no trespassing.  I suspect it might be to protect a nest, but I can't see anything.  


The slap of a beaver behind me.  I turn to see a medium sized beaver in the water.  It circles downwind of me to catch my sent, and then begins swimming around me at a distance. 
We watch each other for about 15 minutes.   I get a few more tail slaps out of the beaver, and then I head off back in the direction from which I came.

Just as I near Hamburg Cove, a fully mature Bald Eagle flies past heading upstream.  That makes four for the day.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Nest Check Day 3

I put in up in the forest finding the river spring high but also with a rising tide, even though this place is thirty miles from the sea.  It was already in the mid 50's and the wind was near calm.
The mission was to run a check on an Eagle nest that lies about a 1/2 hour paddle down from here. 

I often photograph forests in sepia tone, the green often being too strong for a photograph and black and white being to cold for an environment filled with life.  The high haze and leafless deciduous forest and dormant undergrowth has created a landscape that shows sepia even with my camera set to color.  Trees will begin to bud out soon and the most incredible crop of poison ivy will soon turn this land green.

Beaver activity
I reach the Eagle nest in about a half hour and find it unoccupied.  This area of the marsh is well open with long uninterrupted sightlines.  There are no Eagles in the vicinity.  I watch the nest for a few minutes just to be sure, and then move on.

I spot a mature Bald Eagle near where the Coginchaug River enters the Mattebasset.  It chases a hawk and then climbs high to soar. 

With the high water I paddle up the Coginchaug farther than I ever have before.  I almost reach the first road bridge before turning back.  I get a second Eagle sighting just as I reach the Mattebasset.  The Eagle flies off to the east and doesn't seem particularly associated with the nest.