Friday, January 27, 2023

Lieutenant River

I saw a coyote while on the drive to my put-in.  It felt like I was getting a mile head start on the canoe trip.

I put in on the Lieutenant River just downstream of the two lane bridge. The tide is out, the wind is near calm, the sky is sunny and clear and the temperature is about 40F. It is a fine winter day.

On the upstream side of the bridge, not fifty feet into the trip, a juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron is perched on a rock near the water's edge. The sighting throws me as I have never seen one of these birds during winter. Once home, my bird book confirms that they can be in this area year around. Anyway, such a unique sighting so soon in the trip feels a little like cheating.

Juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron

Once around the first bend, I spot a Kingfisher that flies off, and a couple hundred yards up, a pair of Hooded Mergansers. A medium sized Hawk flies into the trees near the Mergansers. Two Turkey Vultures are soaring overhead.

Once upstream of the next two bridges, I spot seven Hooded Mergansers together about two hundred yards ahead. As I continue, I notice a Bald Eagle perched in a tree at the point just before Boulder Swamp. There is an Eagle nest not more than a hundred yards from where the Eagle is. I am looking at bird crap on the bottom of the shallow river, and when I look up, the Eagle is gone. You might think that bird crap dissolves after hitting the water, but it actually sinks to the bottom more or less intact.

With the tide out, Boulder Swamp is in its full glory, a maze of what I think are glacial erratics left behind by the last ice age. Long Island was the terminal moraine of the ice sheet, and this spot is no more than fifteen miles away. As the ice sheet melted, it dumped erratics all over this state. I sit up high and look down into the water hoping to spot the submerged canoe biters before I hit them. Make it through to Mill Brook with only one bonk.

Mill Brook and Boulder Swamp

Mill Brook is almost impassable at low water with narrow gaps between boulders and deadfalls. Plus, with the water down, the current of the brook picks up. I stop and stretch my legs, look around the bend to confirm that it is not worth the effort, and pick my canoe up and turn it around, as there isn't enough room to do that while in the water. I head back out.

When I get to the Heron's perch, the Heron is still there. It doesn't look like it has moved an inch. It is too early to end the trip, so I continue on down river as far as the Watch Rocks before calling it a day.

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