Saturday, December 28, 2019

Clocking Ice Time

The wind was up a bit more than expected, but in truth it was out of the NW and there is little to interrupt any breeze for a couple miles other than some low treeless marsh islands.  It should be calmer up in the higher reaches of the cove. There was also a good chop on the water as the flood tide was opposing that wind.
I set the canoe down among a few small slabs of ice that had been windblown against the shore.  Then, I paddled my way north following the east shore where there was a bit of stagnation buffer from the wind.  A flock of about 20 Buffleheads flushed from the bottom end of Goose Island while I was a good hundred yards distant from them.

Spotted a male Red Breasted Merganser in the calm behind a finger ridge.

Goose Bay
There were two large smooth patches out in the chop of Goose Bay that could be nothing other than ice.  Ice from the nearest of those patches was up against the shore just around the point of the third finger ridge.  I picked a spot that was about 3 canoe lengths long to push through, swapping to an older paddle with a reinforced tip - reinforced because I'd split it a few times in the past.  I got halfway through, a process of pushing in and rocking the canoe side to side to bust the ice into smaller slabs.  It wasn't going, so I backed out and tried again right up against the shore, which went easy.  And, I have a paddle to repair when I get home.
The tip of one of the finger ridges
I stayed on the east shore until I got up to the small wooden bridge.  It was iced in with a thin skim that didn't slow the canoe.  Then I turned and headed toward the next cove up where there is a large Eagle nest.  The usual route was too thick with ice to make the passage, so I headed the long way around Coute's Hole.  Flushed about ten Common Mergansers on the north side of the hole and then four Canada Geese from the cove itself. 
The small wooden bridge
That was enough and I turned to head out.

Spotted three Hawks slope soaring upriver from Goose Bay, flushed twenty Canada Geese from behind one of the finger ridges.  The ice that had been on Goose Bay was nowhere to be seen - no slabs, no chunks.  The chop and wind seems to have dissolved it in the hour and a half since I passed.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Bailey Creek

The day is warm with the temperature in the upper 40's with a light southwest of no consequence, all of it backed up with strong low winter sun.  I pause, slipping the nose of the canoe into the mouth of the Sneak.  It is a good day and a good place to write in my journal.
The Sneak at low tide

I set out from the bottom halfway through the ebb tide.  My horizon was the dry tan colored spartina that was often no more than a canoe length away.  A mature Bald Eagle was perched high on Grass Island about 200 yards south of my start.  Before the first bend of the Neck River I flushed a single male Bufflehead.  There were no other birds for a few bends until I spotted a hawk high in a tree.  It was too far off to make a good identification.  

In the next bend I flushed a dozen Buffleheads.  In the next I saw a rounded shape submerge.  It could've been mammal or duck.  I rounded that turn for the answer.  I'd seen a duck butt, it was a Hooded Merganser hen. 

A Sharp Shin Hawk crosses the Neck when I get to the mouth of Bailey Creek.

Once past the last of the eroding corduroy road and into Bailey Creek proper, I started flushing Black Ducks.  This is a favorite spot for them.  First off went some fifty, then with each bend two to six more.  Another forty or so flew over that I can't take credit for as they came from well up the creek.  By the time I turn back I've seen about 125 Black Ducks, 4 Hooded Mergansers and maybe two dozen Buffleheads.
The uppermost section of corduroy road
I turn back about 200 yards short of the actual end as the tide water is running quite shallow.

As I head back I find myself drifting off.  It is the best and most seductive of canoeing - one bend at a time, the future is what's around the next meander, the past is what's over your shoulder.  Everything is through the senses, the spartina passes by, the sun shimmers off the surface of the water and off the wet silt bank that holds it in place, the paddle dips and slices as need be without thought.

A mature Bald Eagle is hunting in the upper parts of the Neck River.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

After the Ice Storm

The nice days have been windy as hell and the calm days have been 40 degrees and raining.  For too long the weather has kept me off of the water.
I put in at the bottom of the East River, a favorite and well worthy of the first canoe trip in far too long.  It is, as well, always a safe bet - a bit of river that never disappoints.

I meet two hunters returning just as I get ready to set out.  They shot two Buffleheads and a Black Duck from a spot about a 1/2 mile upriver. They tell me the Buffleheads are just okay eating.  Black Duck's are almost the same as a Mallard, so I knew that would be a good meal.

Yesterday, we had a minor ice storm and most everything is coated with a thin layer of ice.  We can get some heavy ice storms, fortunately this one just makes everything glitter, if you ignore the fact that you have to scrape your way into your car.  Today, the sky is blue and sunny, the wind is light, and the temperature hovers around freezing.

The tide is just past low, so I head up the East River and avoid my secret side routes that require more water for passage.  I push a baker's dozen of Buffleheads up as far as the railroad before they fly up and head back from where we came.  Of note, there are no shore birds.  I usually see some Yellow Legs. 
a side channel in the Big Bends
I surprise a white tail deer at Cedar Island.  I cna't tell if it is a large doe or a buck that has shed its antlers.  It takes a few quick steps into the trees and then stops to watch me pass.

Just passed Beebe's dock I flush several Buffleheads and a pair of Hooded Mergansers.   But things really get busy up at the Big Bends.  By the time I've paddled through the three big 90 degree bends I've seen 60-75 Black Ducks.
While I pause on the upstream side of the arch bridge, a Great Blue Heron flies low over me and lands on the far bank.  I'm sure that I was out of view and the Heron didn't see me until it landed.  It gave me a brief going over and then flew off.  
I head back from here.  The weather prediction is for wind gusts in the afternoon and at this tide level I can only get another few hundred yards up to the Duck Hole Farms without wading.

There's no flood current until I'm just two bends from the car.  It seems that I've been paddling pretty much on the top of the tide lag since I set out with no help in either direction.  I'm a bit surprised at the strength of the current and how quickly the water went from slack to flood.