Tuesday, March 31, 2020

First Osprey

An Osprey hovers high overhead, whistling without a break as if to scold me for my intrusion.
I put in near the mouth of the river on a cool and cloudy day as the tide reached bottomed out.  There was a light wind that didn't add to much to the mid 40 temperature.  I headed straight up the East River knowing that the water level would be too low to use my preferred route through the Sneak.  The first Osprey have arrived and while I don't make it scientific by counting, I guess that 1/5 to 1/4 of the birds are here.  There are about 10-12 nests in this marsh - again, I've never bothered to count.  When the nesting pairs, who often stay together for life, migrate south, they separate and don't see each other until returning to the nest, which they repeatedly use as long as they are together.  I don't see any obvious pairs yet.

At the lowest of the Big Bends, I spot a whitetail doe and yearling, but then further movement reveals that it is a small herd of eight or ten deer, the brush making it difficult to count.  They amble up and over a rise without excessive alarm of my arrival.

Above the Big Bends I spot a pair of Yellow Legs.

Yellow Legs
Just upstream of the Duck Hole Farms I spot a subtle wake on the smooth surface of the river.  I follow fifty feet behind and note a small burst of bubbles coming to the surface every fifteen feet or so.  It's a pretty sure sign of a swimming mammal and after six bubble sets a muskrat surfaces.  It looks around and dives again.  I can stop looking for it as it is going to change direction or tuck under somewhere until I am gone.

I paddle over the Gravel Flats with ease as the tide is not especially low.  I suspect that recent rain has also raised the water level some.  This is confirmed when I get to Foote Bridge where there is a genuine current running through the constriction.  It is time to return.

The tide is coming in and the Sneak is passable on the return.  There a column of 30-some large Gulls soaring over the lower marsh.  The clouds parted about a 1/2 hour ago and I wonder if they are catching a minor thermal off the spartina marsh.  The nest just below where the Neck River and Bailey Creek meet has a pair of Osprey in it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Up to the Cascades

I set out in the long shady cove.  It is exceptionally quiet and any bump against the canoe reverberates off the forested hillsides.  What first appears to be a 100 yard long patch of pond matter - small sticks, pine needles and other veggie material, turns out to be a layer of cellophane ice from last night.  It is so thin that the canoe barely makes a sound as it slices through.
Skim Ice
At the main river I turn down to round the first point and head up the more secluded Shephaug River.  Just short of the point I hear a half dozen Canada Geese coming.  It is, in fact, only a pair that flies by, the ghost geese being the echoes of their calls.

A disturbance in the water ahead, what looks to be the final remains of a boat wake, signals that I might not be alone.  Around the point I find a motorboat with two men.  One is wearing a drysuit like surfers or divers wear - the entry zipper running across the back of the shoulders.  Perhaps they are setting a mooring anchor in front of Mr. Bigbucks house.  Then, the drysuit guy  jumps into the water and takes hold of a tow rope.  He is barefoot water skiing and they speed about 2/3 of a mile up the river before stopping.  With 45 degree water, I tell myself a story that the skiers legs are numb to the knees and he has collapsed in a heap unable to feel or control them.  As I near them they speed off the other way.

I spot a young Bald Eagle.
I had planned to observe an Eagle nest that I have seen up on the ridge top.  But, I am unable to spot it and have no sightings of any mature Bald Eagles.  So, my bird tally is made up of several Common Mergansers, a pair of Mallards and a few Wood Ducks.  I also note that there is a frequent beaver activity along this shore -perhaps four well used feed zones.  This is bank burrow terrain without ponds or marshes where beaver could build the more commonly known conical lodge.  I've yet to spot a bank burrow here.  I usually find them by locating the branch pile that guards the vent hole.  Here the banks and hillsides rise up so quickly that they might not have a vent.

I add eight Mallard decoys to my collection.  A sip of schnapps to warm ones self while duck hunting might be "almost" okay, but if you drink the whole bottle you're going to lose some gear.
The Cascades
After two hours I reach the cascade that halts further progress (it also prevents downriver travel as there is a deep gorge of junk rapids that can't be walked out of).  A sandwich, some coffee and some sun before following the opposite shore back.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Social Distancing

It is a good day to be outdoors.  Last night it dipped down below freezing, but now it is sunny and the temperature is climbing into a seasonal 40 degree range.  At the put-in two guys are talking about the virus.  One guy, the one doing the talking, has a raspy hoarse voice, as if he talks alot.  With as much stealth as I can muster (with 16 feet of canoe), I sneak off to the water.
I put in at the bottom of Salmon Cove, a favorite canoe trip of mine since I moved here and "discovered" it.  The upriver side of the cove is the former site of the Yankee Nuclear power plant, which has been visibly removed.  The old site is now a no trespassing National Wildlife Refuge, so the cove has regained a reasonable sense of wildness. 

Text book beaver gnawing
 On the way in I pass a well maintained beaver lodge.  It's been here for a few years and is loarge enough that the adults must be breeding.

Bald Eagle in tree
Up ahead at the bend are about twenty Mute Swans.  After the bend I only find two more.  It has been a mild winter with few of the inland lakes and rivers freezing over for very long if at all.  I've counted over 130 swans here during normal colder winters as this area remains open year round.  

At the top of the cove where the Salmon River enters I spot an immature Bald Eagle.  It is unexpectedly calm about my presence and I get a chance to observe it from a closer than normal range.  A pair of Broad Shouldered Hawks occupy a tree top across from the Eagle.

The Leesville Dam is my turn around point and just as I am approaching, a beaver walks off the beach.  It disappears downstream as I take a short look-see above the dam.  When I return I find that the beaver has also returned to the same spot where I first saw it.  Again, it slips into the water and swims back and forth.  With poor eyesight, beaver rely on motion or smell to determine whether something is a threat.  I cross the river and sit in an eddy and the beaver returns to the same spot again to sun itself and groom.  Time for me to go.

Just before exiting the river and entering the cove I spot two, then a third, then a fourth - immature Bald Eagles.

On the last stretch, I find a flock of swallows.  They must be migrating.  They weren't here when I went in and they aren't actively feeding.  In fact, when they leave their perch high in a overhanging tree, they spend most of their energy chasing each other.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020


We've had a string of nice weather, but today was the first in awhile to come without gusty winds.  Today would also bring a very high tide and the opportunity to paddle wherever I wanted with uninterrupted views. 

Recently, I've been thinking about folklore and how people who lose touch with their folk stories lose a piece of themselves.  I set my camera to sepia, as I often do when I'm thinking about such things. Below is a sculpture that I have in a current show.
Huldre - found objects and horse hair

I set out from Foote Bridge, up in the forest and near the upper limit of paddling for this river.  Setting out, the water still had 2 feet to rise.  The wind was at my back and more than made up for the flood current that was opposing my outbound travel.

This is about time for the Osprey to return and while none were sighted today, it will not be long.
A Red Throated Loon was fishing in the first bends below the RR bridge.  They are common spring visitors often seen near river mouths.

I passed down through the Sneak with more than enough water and flushed about a dozen Black Ducks in Bailey Creek.  I also spotted a few Buffleheads and one Red Tail Hawk. It was otherwise a quiet bird day.  On my return I drifted in on the Loon.  It dove a few times to hunt but when I was about 75 yards away it dove again and resurfaced only when it was a 100 yards behind me.

Near the Duck Hole Farms

Hooded Mergansers

Foote Bridge and the newly fallen tree.