Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Rounding Great Island

 It will be a hot one again, so an early-ish start is in order.  

I put-in on the Lieutenant River, more or less because I don't feel like driving any farther. Three guys are there crabbing. The Connecticut crabbing technique is tying a line to some old chicken parts and tossing it in the water. Then, if a crab grabs it, you slowly pull it in. Whenever I see doing it, I half expect them to go back in the woods and pour off another cup of moonshine from the still. The guys are spending their time feeding crab and getting nothing in return.

I head downriver against a flood tide and a nice cooling breeze out of the southwest.  There are schools of menhaden near the railroad bridge. I head out to the main river and turn down.  The river is about a 1/2 mile wide in this area with the deep water channel on the far side.  The mouth of the Connecticut is shallow enough that it never became a big ship port. Early as it is, I see less than ten motorboats in the hour and a half it takes to get to the mouth of the river. 

There is a crumby chop today - just a few inches, but it has no rhythm. The waves from the SW wind are rebounding off of the vertical spartina banks. A few thousand years of roots and grass in a sticky silt matrix makes for some robust river bank. Closer to the sound, sand beaches have formed on the edge of the island and the chop dissapates, and the bird life multiplies.  There are lots of Gulls and Cormorants, of course.  But, at any one time, I can look around and see a dozen Osprey. Fifty yards or so out into the main channel, Terns are hunting minnow sized fish. The Terns are particularly vocal. They are a favorite of mine, mostly because they remind me of a long bike trip in Iceland where the Terns would dive bomb and buzz me whenever I got near their nesting grounds. I wonder how often people have favorite plants or animals because it reminds them of some good memory.

About a half mile out into the sound, way far from any land, is a small boat and two people who are out wading on a bar...probably fishing.

I turn the end of the island and right away pick up the flood current, which moves me along at a mile and hour on its own. Even though this is a back channel, it has a surprisingly good tidal current, and when I've timed it wrong, it has been a workout.  

I spot a Willet eyeballing me from the grass.  Then, a second Willet.  They're recently fledged, small and pale in color.  They walk back toward the taller grasses as an adult comes up and starts a warning call.  Willets are sentinel birds and they let all the others in the area know that there is an intruder.  The Willet makes a short flight over to a log, probably to focus my attention while the young head back the other way. As I paddle on, I flush a Great Blue Heron and a Willet comes in to harrass it. I'm pretty sure that unattended fledgling Willets are on Heron menus.

The Sentinel Willet

I drift with the current for awhile, spotting Great and Snowy Egrets, and some more Great Blue Herons. There is a new Osprey nest, a "natural," in a tree just west of the Watch Rock.

I head back up the Lieutenant River. I can feel the heat of the day starting to come on and my launch sight is too tempting. Like a horse that has seen the barn, I take out.  A couple of the crab guys are still here, still not catching anything... sounds like fun.

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