Friday, July 12, 2024

Full White Bird Mix

I put in on the Menunketusuck River at the usual spot, a half mile below Chapman Pond and a couple miles above the sea. The tide is just starting to come in. There is a thick overcast and it begins to mist as soon as I settle in the canoe. It will mist and sprinkle almost the entire time that I am out. It is much more comfortable than living in the heat and humidity that would come with any sun.

An Osprey is perched at the first bend, and I flush a Green Heron at the second, which flies up and disappears into the tree tops. It is calm and still, and I do not expect to see anyone else.

The marsh is narrow in this upper section, 50-70 yards of spartina on either side of the river until it comes up against a hardwood forest. Near Opera Singer Point the marsh spreads out. A lot of birds prefer this area, probably both because of the distance to the trees and the better feeding due to the many small channels and pannes.

As I turn one of the bends, I find thirty some white birds on either side of the river. A few are Great Egrets - noticeably larger with a bright yellow bill, several are Snowy Egrets, identified by the yellow feet and black bill, and the others, perhaps half of them, are young Little Blue Herons - the size of Snowy Egrets, but with greenish legs and feet and without a pure black bill. One of the theories as to why young Little Blues are white is that they can mix with Egrets, a safety in numbers thing. There is one morphing Little Blue as well - its feathers patchy white and blue as it becomes an adult. 
Left to right - Little Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Egret

If someone told me that they wanted to see a Glossy Ibis or a Little Blue Heron, this is where I would send them. I don't know if it is real, but it seems to me that the population of Little Blues and Glossy Ibises has been increasing in this marsh. 

Little Blue Heron morphing to adult
In the tree above the abandoned opera singer's house is a mature Bald Eagle. I'll bet that 4 out of every 5 times I paddle here, there is an Eagle on that perch. The white birds are just far enough away that they would see and have time to evade the Eagle.

The tide is right for returning through the railroad underpass, so I head down to the Post Road bridge. There are four young and one mature Little Blues up in a some trees, and a couple of Great Egrets along the river. I spot a fox loping along the river near the Post Road, but it is raining too hard to pull out the camera.

On the way back, three Glossy Ibises fly past, one seems to be being chased by a mature Little Blue Heron. 

With a few more inches of tide, I can now scan across the broad spartina flats. I find four more Glossy Ibises on river left feeding in a panne with a few Egrets.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

A Fresh Wind

The day might become to warm to put the effort into going to one of my more distant rivers. It seems that being off the water by noon is a good plan. At least the humidity is down from yesterday's gas chamber conditions.

I put in under the highway bridge. Two Yellow Crowned Night Herons are immediately downstream. I usually don't see them until I get to the marsh, but it is no big deal.


There is a stiff south wind, 10 to 15mph, coming straight up the river. I might complain if it was 60F, but it is not, and after yesterday, it feels great, even if it is a bit of work to paddle into. The tide is all the way out and the top of the spartina is well over my head, so my view will be somewhat enclosed. I head down Nell's Channel, one of the few choices that I have with the tide out. I spot four old bottles as I make my way. Unfortunately, all of them are out of the sediment layers and just laying on shoreline silt. I collect three of them just because they are interesting. One has a molded divider inside. It reminds me of a yogurt container where you mix your own fruit into the yogurt. It might be a baby food jar. The second might be a dairy container - half pint with an old milk bottle lip. It is embossed with lots of identifiable details. The third is a Singer Sewing Machine oil bottle with the cork pushed inside. It is cracked from freezing. There are bubbles in the glass, so it's probably over a hundred years old.

Short Billed Dowitchers
There are a couple flocks - maybe 20 birds each - of Short-Billed Dowitchers, which would already be migrating south. They're about the same size as a Yellow Legs, without the yellow legs, and with a much longer bill. There are also quite a few turtles. I get spy hopped continually while writing my notes.

It takes a full hour to get to the bottom of Nell's Channel - close to twice the time it normally takes. I head back the way I came.

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

On a Contour Line

It is going to be a hot day and I don't feel like driving over to Rhode Island where I have been exploring some rivers that are new to me. I pick my place for the shade that I will get, at least during some of the trip. I put in on Pond Brook, back in the quiet sheltered cove that it has become. I'll head out and turn down river.

Before I reach the confluence with the Shephaug, I have spotted at least six Great Blue Herons. They seem to be preferring this spot just below Pond Brook. I spot a good number of fingerlings in the shallows along here. 

I take only one photo. I have taken this shot, or something like it, dozens and dozens of times. It is not because it is a particularly good setup. It is simple put, where I like to paddle. It is the edge - the boundary between open water and the forest, the line between light and shade. It is where the birds feed, where the animals come to get a drink, where the little fish thrive in the shallows.

I head downriver finding more shade than I expected. I tuck under the trees and follow the shoreline closely. It is not a natural shoreline. No matter how hard I look, I will not find evidence of an ancient fishing camp or even an old cabin. This shoreline is a contour line, one of those faint green lines on a topographic map that denotes constant elevation. The original river is some 70 feet down, with the old fishing camp, the cabin, the old trails and roads. There is a trail paralleling the shore for a short while, but it came after the dam. There is even an old stone wall that runs along the shore, but this is by chance as soon enough, it slips into the water. The shoreline is mostly cobbles and boulders, but it is not river rock. It might be the same geology as the river rock below, but this is glacial drift with the soil that held it for so long having been washed away. The glacier rounded it off and smoothed off the rough edges, but it hasn't been water polished and tumbled with sand like the stones in the old river bed. No one ever made a point of walking this shoreline until perhaps, the geologists, foresters and surveyors connected with the dam building came along. I think that I will plot my route on an old topo map when I get home.

I paddle down to the dam, losing the shade as the shoreline bends around. I cross above the dam and find more shade for my paddle back, crossing back over when the shade disappears.



Sunday, July 7, 2024

Low Tide Mattabesset

The river runs through freshwater tidal marsh and swamp, and the tide is all the way out. With the extra gradient, there is a current at the put-in that is rarely seen. I get an almost early start. The day will be humid with temperatures in the upper 80's, but it looks like the overcast will hold and there will be little wind if any.

Even with the nearby highway, the river is peaceful. No one else is around and it looks like I am the only one that has put-in, so far. The call of a Woodpecker comes over my right shoulder - probably a Flicker. A hundred yards in, I pass a Great Blue Heron and take the obligatory photo. This is good Heron terrain and I will see fifteen or twenty during the trip. 

Near the Point Beaver Lodge, I spot a Green Heron. It will be the only one today, and it will be in this same area when I return. The lodge looks like it might be in use although I can say exactly. We had three flood events last year that topped every known lodge in this section of the river. There is a noticeable lack of beaver sign - no cuts or peels, no scent mounds, no leftover feed sticks floating in the water. Each of the floods lasted about 2 weeks, and I suspect that the colonies moved on. Farther down the main river at Salmon Cove, the beaver responded to the high water by adding height to their lodges, but they were dealing with 5 feet. of water, not the 15 feet that the Mattabesset was getting.

There's a heavy growth of a plant that I don't recognize. I pause to take a look and realize that it is yellow pond lily fully exposed by the low tide. I did not know that the stalks were stiff enough to stand. I spot only a couple of white pond lilies today. The white lily is a floater and it may be that it doesn't do well in the tidal zone.

Yellow Pond Lilies

A muskrat crosses the river in front of me. 


As I round the point near where the Coginchaug enters, there is a young Bald Eagle. Its feathers are mottled - probably a 2 year old just moving toward the white tail and head coloring of an adult. It stays pretty calm and lets me take several photos. As I turn away, there is a whitetail doe swimming the river.

I head up the Coginchaug. It is running a bit more shallow and faster than the Mattabesset. The beaver lodges look abandoned and there is no sign. There are a lot of Kingfishers. In fact, by the time I come out, the Kingfishers will have outnumbered the Great Blue Herons by a good amount. Besides fish, they may be feeding on some bugs, there is a healthy horsefly and green head fly population. The other day, I saw a Kingfisher snatch a cicada out of midair, so it can be done. 

I manage to get to the first big log jam. I wasn't sure that would happen with the low water. Anyway, this is the turn-around point, as it is also the point of useless-to-continue being that there are more logjams and only a couple hundred yards of canoeable river above this.

I pass the Green Heron pretty much where I last saw it.


Saturday, July 6, 2024

Storm Trash

Morning brings a pair of thunderstorms that dump three quarters of an inch of rain. Afterwards, although the sky is a thick overcast and more rain is possible, the weatherman's radar shows that thunder is over for the time being. 

I put in from O'Sullivan's Island near the upper end of the tidal section of the big river. Here, the river is somewhat enclosed in a deep enough valley to give me some protection just in case the weatherman's radar missed something. The tip of O'Sullivan's is also the confluence of the Housatonic and Naugatuck Rivers.

As I paddle downriver, it is impossible to ignore the amount of floating plastic trash. The last time I saw this was also just after a storm that flushed the rivers. And, just like the first time, all of the plastic is coming out of the Naugatuck. The Housatonic is clear and not one single floater is visible, but the Naugatuck has dozens and dozens of trash items in near view. Note that this does seem to be a high water/storm related phenomena, so somewhere, trash is getting flushed.

The two rivers are quite different. The Housatonic doesn't pass through any large cities and I suppose that most of it's surroundings are either forest or farmland. The Naugatuck runs through a deep and rather scenic valley. And, it runs through series of old milltowns and one large and somewhat dilapidated city. It also has a major state highway sharing the bottom of the valley. I can paddle the majority of the Housatonic, but the Naugatuck is a different matter. The Naugatuck is shallow, fast, rocky. It's one of those rivers that when it is safe to paddle, it's too shallow to, and when it's full of water, it's a torrent. And. that is without considering that it just doesn't have many places to access it.

I would not be surprised if something like 90 percent of the plastic debris in this lowest section of the Housatonic comes directly out of the Naugatuck.

I paddle down to Wooster Island - an hour out, and return. I fill up the bow of my canoe with trash. It would have not, at all, been difficult to fill the entire canoe up to the gunwhales.

Friday, July 5, 2024

Into the Wilds of Nell's Island

It is the day after Independence Day. It should be busy on the water, but it is not. It's 10 o'clock and my car is the only one at the launch. The river is glassy smooth under a thick and humid overcast, The tide is an hour short of high. There's no wind.

I put in and enjoy the quiet paddle of the mile down to the marsh. With no motorboat traffic to be seen, I stay in the main river. Aerial photos of the marsh show a channel that zigzags through Nell's Island and I have wondered if it has enough water in it to get through. High tide is the time to explore.

Great Egret
Osprey are quite active at the top of the marsh, and as I edge along Nell's, Willets come out to scold me and warn everything in the marsh of my presence. The first channel I get to is about 30 feet across. It winds into the island but peters out after 300 yards. I return to the river and continue down finding a second channel in a couple hundred yards. This channel is at least twice as wide as the first and looks more likely. I expected to find a channel to follow with maybe with a few short dead ends. But, a hundred yards in it just blows up. I get up on my knees and can see that there are good open channels all around. It looks like a shattered pane of glass. One thing is for sure, this is where most of the Willets are nesting. I flush at least fifty while in here. As the channel dies out, I look around and find channels heading off in all directions. I paddle through a narrow bit of spartina and pick up a new trail, repeat, repeat...  I come out into Nell's Channel pretty close to where I expected, but not in the channel that I expected to. This is worth coming to in the future.
The wilds of Nell's Island

I spend the rest of the time connecting some of my favorite inner marsh routes. A few people are getting started from the marsh launch, but they are paddling the perimeter, as almost everyone that comes here does.

With the high tide, my eye is just a few inches above the tips of the spartina. the heads of Yellow Crowned Night Herons are distributed all through the green expanse. Great Egrets are also out there. I saw a couple of Snowy Egrets in the middle of Nell's Island. And at the central phragmites patch, two Black Crowned Night Herons. Twice I hear the scratchy scolding of what might be a Clapper Rail - once on Nell's and once at the central phragmites patch. If it was a rail, it acted like a Rail and stayed hidden. I've only seen them a couple times.

I head out and up the river. Even now, boats are just beginning to appear. The fireworks parties must have been ferocious last night.

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Wood River, Trip 2

 This might only be my second time in this river. It does not take long for me to wonder why that is. 

I start at Alton Pond, just above the dam and about a 1/2 mile from the confluence with the Pawcatuck. It is an ideal day for canoeing, sunny and with temperatures in the upper 70's and a light wind out of the north. A wide and clear main channel runs through the shallow pond, a big S leading to the river. It is the start of wild flower season in the marsh. Pickerel weed started blooming a week or so ago and now it is all over. It will bloom for a long time as the plants don't all "pop" at the same time. The marsh bees are quite happy about this, working the blossoms as they would with a lavender plant. White and yellow water lilies are also in bloom as are several of the marsh shrubs.

Pickerel weed
After reaching the top of the pond, the forest gradually begins to dominate, overhanging and closing in. But except for a few short passages,the channel is plenty wide and always deep enough. I flush, and will continue to flush, a Great Blue Heron or Osprey every so often. In this terrain, I rarely see them before they take wing. I spot a muskrat swimming a good bunch of swamp grass to its nest. 

The portage at Woodville Dam comes after about 45 minutes of easy upstream paddling. As I finish the portage, I meet a guy putting a kayak in. He puts in at a different spot than I've been using. Aha! not only will this shorten the portage, but I won't have to climb over a metal road barrier anymore.

There is a short pond above the Woodville Dam. The river closes up quickly when you leave the pond. There is a short stretch here where the current runs through the shrubs and it is easy to get side tracked into a small channel with a running current that will close up into impassable brush. One wrong turn and I get back into the river. From here on up, this is a small river running through the forest.  I surprise a whitetail fawn that was resting on a small island. It leaps into the river and swims the narrow channel to make its escape.

Wrong turn

I don't remember much about this section. I don't even remember why or where I turned back on that first trip. Sometimes, increasing current makes the decision, and other times it is log jams that I just don't want to deal with anymore, knowing of course, that I have to re peat them on the way out. Well, the first logjam jogs my memory. It was a double - two logs where I stepped from one to the other while lifting the canoe over. This time I can end run it as someone has trimmed some of the upper branches of the offending tree. The current never builds to anything particularly bad. It is a 2:1 current at worst. I do a 30 foot portage around a second log jam and continue up to a messier tangle. 

The turn around logjam
At this point, I can here the interstate well enough to make out individual vehicles. I sour grape it and decide that if I wrestled over this log jam, I would be returning to it in pretty short order, and I am getting close to being 3 hours out as it is. Time to head back.

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Swan Cowboy

I stay in the local waters as there is a prediction for strong afternoon winds. There is a thick overcast and the air is cool and humid. The tide has about 2 hours to go to hit low. I put in under the highway and head down river to the Wheeler Marsh. With low tide, my route options will be limited, but it does make for good bird watching.

Rollin'  rollin'  rollin', keep them dogies rollin'....

The Swam pair at the top of the marsh have two cygnets, and one of those is white. Cygnets are usually gray, but I see a white one maybe once a year. I head into the channel leading to the phragmites patch, but I surprise another Swan with four Cygnets and a Mallard with a few ducklings. The Mallard does the wounded Duck decoy thing that is so common with Wood Ducks. I decide not to head up in the channel as there seem to be too any young birds about. The Mallard plays decoy for a ridiculously long distance, and then circles back to where she ditched her youths. The Swam leads her young away, except for the slow one in last place. It turns around and starts swimming in the wrong direction. So, I circle around and get it turned around and headed in the right direction. Around the bend are a couple inlets that Swans like to take shelter in, and I suspect that is the plan. The Cob should also be there, as mated Swans do stay together. This is a 10 minute slow paddle with the little goof paddling steadily. And, as I round the bend, there is the big Cob looking as big as he can by standing on the bottom in a couple inches of water. The little one swims up to the Cob and once I turn the canoe, the Cob saddles up and takes over.

Virginia Dare Extract bottle
I head down Nell's Channel instead. There will be fewer young birds in here as it is more open water with fewer places to hide. I find a bottle in the cut bank not much more than fifty yards in. It is a Virginia Dare Extract bottle at a depth of 19 inches. That should make it about 75 years old as my estimate of soil deposition, based on bottles recovered from cut banks, is about 50 years per foot.
Black Crowned Night Heron

Great Egrets and Yellow Crowned Night Herons are numerous today. I spot two Snowy Egrets, and a total of six Black Crowned Night Herons. I usually don't see more than a single Black Crowned, if any. There are several Willets near the top of Nell's Channel as well.

Friday, June 28, 2024

Hidden Industry

I haven't figured out this section of the river. For a few years the O'Sullivans Island launch wasn't available due to a massive amount of road construction, and some brown field issues with the island. That meant a 16 to 17 mile round trip to see this part of the river. The official boat ramp is still closed, but I can put in from the shore without any problem.

This is the top of the tidal section of the Housatonic, at least since 1871 when the dam just upstream was constructed. I put in and head downstream. It is noisy, it is always noisy. Several busy roads converge here, all trying to squeeze over the Housatonic and the Naugatuck, which meet at O'Sullivans Island. Three old mill towns, Shelton, Derby and Ansonia are clustered in the fray. As to the noise, once you are a 1/3 of mile downstream, the noise disappears, and the river becomes something else. There is a marina about an hour down, but few motorboats come into the river above it.

This part of the river is in a valley some 200 ft deep. It is a forest shoreline with few houses in sight at all, and those are mostly up at the top of the valley. A rail line on the east side creates a trick of non-nature. The rail right of way prevents any shoreline development. If one doesn't look to close, it seems fairly pristine. Paddling near shore I notice the man-made left-behinds. There are artifacts and features spanning a 100 or 150 years. In some places the shoreline is bedrock. Where it isn't, it might be rip-rap, or wooden cribbing. The wood cribbing I expect is rather old. Building it is a labor intensive job that would not happen if machinery was available to drive pilings or dump thousands of tons of rock. The rip-rap is ther to protect the rail line. There are also some wharf remnants and cut stone masonry structures. Once upon a time, barges and steamboats did come upriver to the mill towns. There are a few old docks - homeowner sized things, and a tin shack that is quite well hidden in the trees. 

I see five Great Blue Herons, a mother Wood Duck with four ducklings and a mother Merganser with six or seven ducklings.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Selden Against the Wind

I head out into the big river through the breach in the North Cove bar. It is somewhere near low tide, but the water is just high enough to make it out without wading. Three Great Egrets, a Great Blue Heron, and an Osprey are nearby.

I have misjudged the current. Expecting something a little more slack, there is a stiff downriver current. This is probably due to the low tide and the river having to descent that extra few feet. I cross over to the east side of the river on the old route of the long gone Ely Ferry. This side of the river is just a little wilder and shadier with lots of forest to peer back into. There is a steady 10+mph wind coming straight down the river. This with the current slows me to a crawl, especially where the river gets redirected by the bedrock bank.

The Selden Channel gives me some relief from the current, but the wind is still there. The Osprey are active and busy around their nests. I flush a surprisingly colorful Great Blue Heron from one of the side channels. Then, there is a large splash behind me...wrong place for a turtle, but there is a bunch of old beaver sign. I pull over and wait. And, a beaver surfaces and begins with its beaver behavior - swimming slow circles or side to side. They have bad eyes, but no doubt it can see my shape, and catch my scent. I wait and watch, but it is not going to climb out of the water until I am gone. 


I get back to the big river at the top of the channel. There is not much in motorboat traffic, so I opt to return in the main channel. I have the current with me, but as it happens, the wind, which would have been at my back, has dropped off. I paddle down the island until crossing the river at the bottom of Eustasia Island. I follow the west shore back.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Pomparaug Musings

I have a few sections of various rivers on my explore list. Unfortunately, the weather today does not favor my plans. An expected hot day with gusty winds pushes me toward something shorter and closer to home.

I put in on Lake Zoar, the second reservoir on the Housatonic above the sea. It is on my short list of places I least like to canoe in. The lake is popular with motorboats and jetski things. It also features a delightful stretch of beach-blanket-bingo houses wedged in between the lake and Interstate 84. But, if you get an early start...

I paddle up in the shade of a protected patch of forest, cross the wide bit below the highway bridge, and head up a tributary, the Pomperaug. It goes quiet in no time flat.

I've been up in here several times, and it is the best bit of paddling on the reservoir. There are some modest cabins, but there is also a lot of forest with the river down in a deep valley. I go as far as the boulder garden.

I've never seen enough water in the boulder garden to even line a canoe through. I have yet to get up enough gumption to portage/line the canoe up through what looks like at least a quarter mile of boulder garden. It looks like such a great river to paddle in a great location, if there is enough water upstream to float a canoe. This time, I decide to do some land (automobile) based exploring and see what the river looks like up higher. I turn around and paddle out. 

The Three Stooges are launching their personal water crafts just as I get back to my put-in. Moe is yelling at Larry and Curly. I timed this perfectly.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

To Nowhere

The heat will come on this afternoon, but right now the day is a humid haze with just a little coolness left behind by yesterday evening's rain. I put in under the high bridge with the flood tide pushing a good current upriver.

I cross the river beneath the drawbridge and head up to the four islands, Peacock, Carting, Long and Pope's. A Black Crowned Night Heron overtakes me on my left flying low enough that I can see its back and identify it. Before I can get into the narrow channel between Peacock and Carting, I have spot five Yellow Crowned Night Herons. By the sound of things, there are a good number of Marsh Wrens in here.

I come out of that narrow channel and paddle down the east side of Long Island spotting four Willets along the way.

I cross the river again at the draw bridge, then head down to the Wheeler. I go in using one of the inner channels. Most of the way in the channel, I am escorted by one or more Willets. They call out letting all the birds in this area know that I am there - that is one of their jobs. I flush a total of 50 Mallards in this area, and my daily quota of Green Winged Teal, a pair.  

I take one of the eastern inner channels back up. There are no Willets over here, but I see a half dozen Yellow Crowned Night Herons and a few Great Egrets. My daily quota of Green Winged Teal gets doubled as another pair flushes and heads off into Beaver Creek.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Up to Potter Hill and the Mystery Bridge

I put in on the Pawcatuck using a rough access near the Gingerella Sports Complex. The plan is to paddle 4 miles upstream to the Potter Hill Dam, checking off another section of Pawcatuck. 

Below this put-in is a section of whitewater where an old mill dam was removed. It can be paddled downstream, but I have no idea if it is reasonably passable going upstream. I leave that for a later date. Even here, the current is fairly quick. I put in and hug the shore as I head upstream. It's not as bad as it looks.

The usual method of ascending - heading for shallow slower water on the insides of the bends doesn't work on this river. Clearly, the bottom geology has a different idea. The river bottom is a series of gravel bars and rocky shelves and it takes a little reading of the water to find the easy path. The half mile takes about a half hour and requires a bit of wading and a few boulder hops to get past some fast water. But, after that the space between fast sections gets longer and easier and about a mile up it becomes pretty easy paddling with a minimal current. Great Blue Herons appear on a regular schedule - to me, they always seem to be territorial in feeding keeping a quarter mile or so to themselves. There is also an occasional Osprey and several Kingfishers.

This section of the river is forest with no significant attached marshland. There is some farmland on the north shore, but except for one pasture, it is atop a fifty foot high forested hillside - not only unseen, but also buffered from the river. The other side (river-left) is all forest and only once does a road come near. All in all, it's has a wild feel. The only people I see are two fishermen near the bridge at Boombridge Road.

The Post Office Lane Bridge

Potter Hill comes a bit quicker than I expected. I recognize Post Office Lane, a bit of state owned access land. I did not know that there was a bridge at Post Office Lane. It is a curious structure. The foundations are stone and I would not be surprised if there had been a covered bridge here at one time. But, now there is a concrete deck on steel I-beams with wood cross bars underneath and a concrete central pillar. It looks like about four generations of various bridge building techniques cobbled together without any plan other than "make it work". It is a narrow one lane width with nothing other than a three inch high curb to keep you from falling fifteen feet into the river.  I do some map research when I get home, and the bridge does not show on the 1889 or 1921 topographic maps. The first time it shows on a map is 1953 USGS topo, and every bit of this bridge predates that, for sure. The 2001 map shows a pond on river-right with the road passing through...the pond is not there anymore, and satellite photos from the time don't show it either. And, it is an interstate bridge, connecting Rhode Island and Connecticut. At least the name, Post Office Lane, has a reason as there was a post office here at one time.

The Potter Hill Dam

I paddle up past the bridge riddle. I find an old riverside trash burn and recover three bottles that I might get a date from. Next, I turn the bend and start seeing the remains of the Potter Hill Mill. 

The first mill on this site was built in the 1760's. In the early 1800's it was converted from a grist mill to textiles and operated until 1958.

The return is a very pleasant paddle with the quick water at the end being easy to navigate in the downstream direction.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

To the Sea

The heat wave doesn't have the teeth here as it does further inland. Even so, it i best to start early and be off the water before the scorch of midday sun adds to the temperature. I start under the highway bridge with a lukewarm plan of heading out to the lighthouse at the mouth of the river. For a change, I cross the river right away and follow the Stratford shore. Because of the way the river curves, this is the long way to the sea. The shoreline is mostly occupied by marinas although there are patches of spartina marsh here and there.

Immature Yellow Crowned Night Heron

Laughing Gull

I reach Milford Point in about a hour, which is double the time it would take if I had paddled through the Wheeler Marsh. I continue on until I get past the Stratford Beach. Then, I get bored with it. Marinas and shoreline houses wear on me. The same thing happened the last time I paddle this route.  I cross the mouth of the river and paddle up past the point and into the marsh.

The tide is still coming in, but there isn't much left of the flood. The spartina is near full height and the channels that I remember from winter look different enough that I have to think a bit to figure out where I am. I have no doubt that the marsh is full of birds, it's just that they can't be seen with the grass up like it is. I see about 75 Mallards, but only after they have taken wing. And, I spot a pair of Green Wing Teal on one of those occasions. There are, of course, a good number of Yellow Crowned Night Herons. Half of those that I see are unseen until they take off, which is the tip that there are a lot of birds in the marsh. After passing the central phragmites patch, I get scolded something fierce by one of the YC Night Herons - it circles around me a few times, constantly skrieking. Three more join in the effort untilI paddle out of their turf. I haven't seen that before and don't know what it was about.