Thursday, February 16, 2023

The Sacred Place

 I set out from the town that once was called Pettipaug. The day was already unusually warm - more than 60F. There was more wind than the weather service had predicted, but it felt like it was a low wind. It felt as if the only moving air was in the lowest ten or twenty feet and that above that it might be calm. It was out of the west and by paddling the shoreline, the brush and reeds, which only reached six feet above the water, were enough to block the wind.

I needed time in my sacred place. A bit more than an hour upstream, I could return to the world.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Winter Calm

It is a calm day, and a calm day in winter is a gift for canoeing. By the time that I put in at Ely's Ferry, it has been made clear that there will be no sun, but it is calm. The weather service's prediction of 50F has also gone south and although it is not frigid, the day feels quite chilled. But, it is calm.

My start is fortunate to coincide with the crest of the high tide. I have a minor upstream current as I get going, but most of the trip will be on slack water, or at least water that is moving so slowly that I won't notice. And, it is calm. There is ice in the water, but it is small pieces that have broken free of the shoreline or come down out of creeks or marshes. Mostly it is tinklers - herds of saucer sized ice pieces that can be ignored. I just have to avoid anything that looks white or sticks up above the surface - that is the thick stuff.

I head upstream. A look into Hamburg Cove shows it to be iced in - no surprise. An immature Bald Eagle overtakes me. It will continue to leapfrog ahead of me all of the way to Selden Island - a good hour upstream. There are a good number of scattered Common Merganser flocks. They are easy to spot from a distance with the male's striking tuxedo. There are also quite a few Canada Geese. In the stillness, their calls travel quite far and I often hear them without being able to spot them.

In Selden channel, drifting off in the meditative repetition of paddling, a muffled bang brings me to alert. It sounded like a distance shotgun blast or maybe freight trains connecting - although filtered by distance, trees and landforms. I look left and watch flock of seventy five ducks fly off. The bang was the entire flock taking off at one time. Something startled the them in a single moment. They were too far away for me to be the cause, and I suspect, but cannot prove, that my immature Eagle had something to do with this. Farther up is a pair of Red Tail Hawks sharing a tree on river left.
There are also a couple of well used beaver feed zones, each associated with a lodge.

I round the top of the island and resume drifting off into paddling. Geese continue to try to disturb me. I stop counting except for the two mature Bald Eagles that I see on the way downriver.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Post Cold Snap

I put in just before high tide, starting from the hunter's launch, which is on the east side of the marsh and eliminates a mile of river paddling between here and the next possible access. It is 50F and sunny, but there is a 10 mph steady wind with gusts, just to make it interesting.

Two days ago dawn came at -4F, which is quite cold for a neighborhood with 67 billion gallons of 40 degree salt water right next to it. There is a sheet of ice in the lower end of the marsh. That area is shallow open water. I'm heading to Beaver Creek and there are a few small sheets of ice that are a 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, but it is rotten and the canoe knifes through easily. I spot eight Mute Swans, most of these will have come from some inland water that froze over during the cold snap. I also spot a Harrier and Great Blue Heron before I've gotten a quarter mile. We've had no more than a half inch of snow all winter, so the spartina is still standing tall. I suspect that for the Harrier, it makes for good hunting. Harriers fly low and use stealth to approach prey.

Up in Beaver Creek, I flush about four dozen Ducks. It is a mix of Mallards, Black Ducks, and Hooded Mergansers, plus a Kingfisher and a few Common Mergansers that fly overhead. A couple Vultures are soaring overhead, probably looking for animals that died in the cold snap. I pass a dead raccoon floating in mid-creek. 

On the way out, I spot a deer, or more accurately, the ears of a deer. It is moving through the marsh midway between the creek and Cat Island. I watch the ears for a couple minutes as it wades and bounds towards the far side. I never see anything the ears.

I find a channel that crosses over to Cat Island, at high tide anyway. Then, I work my way out to the Central Phragmites Patch where I flush a Harrier. I find a dead Canada Goose along the way. I check for a leg tag, but there is none. The wind is increasing and, as nice a day as it is, I head out and call it a day.