Friday, February 26, 2021

After the Snows

It has been almost six weeks since my last trip in the canoe.  I think that is the longest stretch out of my canoe in a dozen years.  Our weather hasn't been that bad, but timing has been such that it has been fairly bad for canoeing.  The sunny days have been windy, the calm days have been 40 degree rain, and the few ideal days have come after a foot of snow when just getting to the water was near impossible.  Paddling alone means carrying a pocketful of chicken shit, and paddling alone in the winter means carrying two pocketfuls.

Today it is sunny and near forty degrees with a light wind out of the southwest.  That wind is cold and it feels worse than it really is.   I set out a half hour after high tide.  The current is already moving, which is more a result of snowmelt coming down out of the upstream forests than due to the tide.  I head up the Neck River, Bailey Creek, the Sneak, and then back into the East River, my usual high tide route.

The recent snow has trampled the spartina grass of the high salt marsh.  The entire area reminds me of a midwestern farm field in winter - a muddy stubble.  The channels in these salt marshes seem to be surprisingly stable.  The oldest good maps that I can find show little change other than the trenching that was unwisely performed to eliminate mosquitoes (draining the shallow pannes in the marsh also drained the marsh of some of its bird life).  The river banks often develop crevasses much like glaciers do when the change angle.  My theory is that each year rotting vegetation and accumulated silt builds up the central area while gravity compresses it and pushes it towards the channels.  It calves off and is replaced by the movement. 

The birds in the marsh today are mostly the wintering ones -  Canada Geese, Black Ducks, Mallards, Gulls, a pair of Buffleheads, one Goldeneye, a couple of Hooded Mergansers and several Common Mergansers in mated pairs.  Of course, there are no Willets or Osprey, yet.  The avian surprise of the day is a flock of a dozen Teal that zip overhead.  I don't see them that often.  In the middle of the Big Bends I spot a pair of Killdeer, the closest that I come to seeing any shorebirds.


I turn back from the top of the Big Bends.  There is no reason to push it after such a long time off and I have wind to deal with on the return.  At the lowest of the bends I spot three white tail deer.  They are even more curious about me than I am bout them.  They stand with their "ear radar" up and aimed in my direction.  I suppose it has been awhile since they've seen anyone in the river.

There are four Black Vultures perched near the railroad bridge.  I suspect something has been hit by a train.

I try to retrace my route through the Sneak but run out of water near the halfway point.  This is ideal as I get to paddle the full distance of the shortcut Sneak without gaining one inch of progress.  So, I finish the trip in the windier East River.