Tuesday, January 25, 2022

The January Wildlife Show

I put in on the big river from under the big bridge, but first I talk for about 15 minutes with a guy from the highway department.  The WPKN sticker on my canoe tells him that we are fans of the same radio station, a free format station that is one of the best anywhere.  Anyway, he is the drainage guy for the department and is here to check on some issue.  We share some beaver stories, both of us appreciating the ingenuity of those rodents.  I point out a few Loons that are currently feeding near the bridge.  I suppose they are here because the current will pick up in this area as soon now that the tide is coming in. 

I turn up into Beaver Creek when I get to the top of the marsh.  There are no beaver in this brackish section of the creek and I think it has been some time since there have been any on the upper sections.  It's just an old name.

I flush small flocks of Black Ducks at each turn, maybe 12 or 15 each time.  The count totals a hundred within a coupe hundred yards.  Then, I spot a buff colored bird waddling back into a gap in the weeds.  It is a Bittern, a Dr. Seuss-like bird, shaped like a stretched out bowling pin and a rare sighting for me, this being only the third.  I can go home now.

American Bittern  

Fortunately, I continue to where the water goes too shallow.  At the next bend, I flush a dozen mallards, but a Sharp Shin Hawk sweeps in as all the commotion is going on.  There is a Green Wing Teal in the mix and the Hawk has picked it out as its next meal - Teal are a very small Duck - small enough for a Sharp Shin to deal with.  I watch three attacks.  Each time the Teal evades with a short flight and a quick dive.  They end up behind me down the creek.  

Green Wing Teal


Green Wing Teal trying not to be seen

As I paddle out, I spot the Teal in a side channel.  It was a very difficult sighting as the Teal is low in the water and as still as it would be if it were dead. It looks like a clump of mud sticking out of the water. I look around and find the hawk overhead a short distance off in a tree.  

Sharp Shin Hawk
After a minute, the hawk moves off farther downstream and the Teal begins to move.  I wondered if the Teal might be injured, because although it can fly, it did not fly very far when the hawk attacked.  But, I flush a second Teal as I head out and decide that a Teal taking off is not fast or maneuverable enough to evade the extremely nimble small Hawk.  It is a behavior that I've seen before with Bald Eagles hunting Coots. In those attacks, the only evasion for a Coot is to dive and wait for the Eagle to tire and fly off to perch.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Finally, the Weather Lets Up


A calm and warm day showed up after a good solid two weeks of windy days with rain or snow that made canoeing out of the question. I put in on the big river as the tide is halfway to low.  I cross over to the far side, just for a change, and I follow the shoreline except when I have to paddle out around docks or give the oyster boats some room to work.  It is a fine winter day and birds, oyster boats, and one canoe make up all of the river traffic.


Hooded Mergansers

 Several Common Loons are in the middle of the river taking advantage of the current while they feed.  At the point just inside the river's mouth, where it necks down quite a bit, I cross back over and enter the marsh.  It is clear that hunting season is over as there are a few good sized flocks of Canada Geese and Buffleheads.  I can't round the marsh with the tide dropping, so I head for Nell's Channel.  I spot a total of six Hawks - two are definitely Harriers, one is definitely not a Harrier, and the other three are too far off to identify. Add a pair of Coots and a pair of Hooded Mergansers seen in the channel.


We had six inches of snow a week ago, but it came down dry, cold, and dusty, so the spartina is still standing proud in the marsh. There is some tidal cake ice floating around. Six inches of snow turns into a heavy three inch thick layer of ice when the tide comes up and soaks in.  I've learned not to bump the stuff at any speed as it can be fairly heavy.

The current is slack when I get to the top of the marsh, but it picks up again as I get upriver above the head of the tide.  Still, it's not bad at all considering that this section of the big river can run about 4 mph.