Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Bird Day

The wind seemed ill informed as to the weatherman's prediction, so I diverted to a more inland location that was primarily in the trees or a shallow river valley. 

Just as we set out, S spots a Kingfisher.  I tell her, for no good reason, "I think this is going to be a good bird day."

We head down river.  The wind is gusting today.  It will be almost calm for 5 or 10 minutes, then the wind comes up for about 5 or 10 minutes before dying down.  That cycle repeats the whole time we are out.

We start to spot Great Blue Herons every so often.  Then, when we get to the first big opening, we count seven.  They are all fairly close together.  I've seen this congregating before in Union Bay in Seattle.  For a few days each spring I might find twenty or so Herons lined up in the marsh, each about 5 to 10 yards apart.  I don't know the reason behind it, but I assume it might have something to do with mating.  This is a common observation for the entire trip, Herons is loose groups of three or more.  We don't count but two dozen individual birds is conservative.

Osprey are out and fairly numerous.  A pair are perched in the tree that holds the old Eagle nest.  The nest has been unoccupied for two seasons and is shrinking as it falls apart.

Woodpeckers are constant.  I spot a few Hairys, a couple of Red Breasted, and several calls without sightings.

When we get down to the Tepee beaver lodge, a six foot tall cone that I am familiar with, and the associated well logged feed zone on the opposite shore, we spot a coyote.  It trots down river always keeping an eye on us. 
The Tepee Lodge
We turn back after examining the rootball beaver lodge.  There's no reason to do the final 1/3 of a mile to the big river when so much is going on in the marsh

A side trip on the return locates a Swan nest.  There is a pair that raises a few cygnets in this section of the river each year.  I never knew where the nest was.

Immature Bald Eagle
With a half mile left to the put in, we spot a pair of immature Bald Eagles.  They perch up in one of the back waters and we get to observe them for a few minutes.

Mattebesset River

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Spring Day

We put in on our favorite day trip river, perhaps the best day trip river in the state.  Days of rain and wind have given way to a sunny day nearing 60F.  The flood tide has about an hour to go as we head up the Neck River.
The first Willet had arrived on my last trip into this river.  Then bad weather and a minor bout of the covid virus showed up.  I wasn't particularly sick, but I sure was short on energy for a good 10 days.  So, I missed the entertaining shenanigans of the arriving Willets - the territorial bickering and mating dances that you can see if you are in the right place at the right time.  In fact, that drove our choice of river today, to see how the Willets were.

Osprey are all in place and it is clear that eggs have been laid.  In each nest, one Osprey always stays while the other hunts or stretches its wings.  We see a few Willets as we head up the Neck and into Bailey Creek.  With the high tide I suppose that most of them are back away from the edge of the water.

It is in the Big Bends that the Willets become most active.  This area is usually where their numbers peter out.  Today, there are Willet calls from all sides.  Frankly, they are making quite a racket.  I spot four white tail deer moving along the edge of the marsh a good quarter mile off.  It takes S a few moments to find them with the binoculars.

We pass the arch bridge, the smallpox burying ground and Foote Bridge.  With the water high and the day so fine, we head up past Foote Bridge about another 1/3 of mile where the river is blocked with a deadfall.  The next bridge is just a hundred yards up and I know from past experience that the water runs too shallow for a canoe above that.

Above Foote Bridge
We turn around and retrace our route.

Monday, April 6, 2020

First Willet

With a 6 foot tide, I set out from Foote Bridge, up in the forest near the upper end of this short river.  I figure the tide to be just about peaking as the current is completely slack.  Perhaps there is another hour until the 4-1/2 mile lag catches up at this location.  The day is already near 60 degrees with sun and a light breeze.
Above Foote Bridge
I flush a pair of Great Blue Herons from the well submerged Gravel Flats.  They seem intent on staying near each other rather than staking out their own fishing territory.  When one flies off, the other follows.
Walls of the epidemic burying ground
With the leaves still down, the stone wall of the old epidemic burial ground can be seen from the river.  There was a "sick house" nearby although no sign of that remains.  It's old ground from a day when smallpox or yellow fever were the killers.  It confused me the first time I went up and looked at the wall as it was a neat almost square enclosure.  Most old walls here were farm barriers and so they run for fair distances through the woods.

Below the arch bridge, an area I call the Upper Marsh, both of the Osprey nesting platforms have a pair of Osprey.
orange jelly fish
I spot a Willet just below the Big Bends.  In past springs I've noticed that one or two Willets arrive ahead of the others.  This one looks thin as if it had a long and poorly fed migration.  Well, it's arrived and now it can go positive on the energy balance.  At that same point I notice an orange tentacled jelly fish.  I'm still 2 miles from the sea.  There are many more as I continue down river.
The Sneak in a 6 foot tide
The eddies at the railroad bridge confirm that the tide is still coming in.  I head into the Sneak, which is currently more of a water highway than secret passage.  I scope out a few of the Osprey nests that can be seen from this spot.  Single bird on the railroad nest, but pairs at the other two.  It looks like most of the mated Ospreys are here.  I don't see anymore Willets, and the count for the day ends up being just one.
Above Foote Bridge
 I continue up above Foote Bridge, high water making access into the tangle of the last 1/2 mile possible.  I run into some minor tree blockage about 200 yards short of the next bridge, which is where the water goes too shallow for a canoe at any tide or season.  It was worth the extra distance just for the fine frog that I spotted on the bank.