Friday, January 20, 2023

Steely Gray Days

Apparently, it is Goose hunting season. Five hunters are at the put-in - three taking out and two getting a late start at 10:30 am. Two of the three who are on their way out have gotten a Goose. I do not expect the two that are just setting out to have any luck. I ask where they are going to set up, but they haven't decided.

I head out to paddle the outer edge of the marsh so as not to bother any hunters - there could be more out in the center who have come in from a couple other nearby launches. Since high tide has just passed, the shallow shoreline, which is mudflat by mid-tide, is more than deep enough. I head down to the bottom of the marsh and then over to Milford Point.

This is one of those days that always jogs my memory. The clouds are overcast and gray, with just a band of orange at the horizon. There is a light wind and a little threat of rain. It feels a bit cold and raw. It reminds me of November days when I was growing up in Minnesota. It reminds me of my first hunting trips with my Dad. Early starts on days that would never see the sun. There was no hiding from those days, you just learned to deal with it. It was easy to fall asleep in the car on the way home.

On the way across to Milford Point, I spot ten or twelve Bufflheads. They flush and then fly no further than necessary to keep some distance between us. I am glad I paddled over tothe point, because as I near it, I spot a pair of Harriers hunting over the low dune that forms the point. Rather than fight the current out in the main river, I retrace my route.

I find a single Canada Goose swimming not to far from the put-in. I tell myself That I have seen one more Goose than the two late hunters will. I pass the put-in and take the channel up along the upstream side of Cat Island. Then back out and toward Beaver Creek, just to extend the trip out to a couple hours. I spot a small flock of Canada Geese flying over the main marsh. There are no shots, so either the geese were too high or the hunters in the wrong place.  I have still seen one more Goose than the have. 

I am glad that I made that decision to head up the creek, because not far up the creek, a Bittern flies by. This is my fourth Bittern sighting, and half of those were in this creek. It took a second to figure out what I was seeing as I've only seen Bitterns fly right after being flushed and not settled into flight. It was a process of elimination - Merganser pointy but tan and too chubby, Night Heron-ish but wrong color and shape, wrong head for a hawk. That didn't leave much for January in the marsh.  I think it had taken off from some nearby short grass marsh. In taller plants they are more likely to freeze with their head up. The striped feathering blends in with a stand of cattails or reeds. The last one I saw in here had turned its back and head high, walked back into the cattails, disappearing in no time.

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