First Paddle of the Season!
While we are firmly paddling through warm weather now, it wasn't so long ago that we loaded our canoe for the first ride of the year. Here's a little recap of another great day on the Adirondack Coast.
Wren and I met up with a friend, and after enjoying some birding on dry land, we set out on Scomotion (Dead) Creek just south of Cumberland Head. The put-in is accessed from a small parking lot for a doctor’s office and the stream is best paddled on weekends as a result. A contingent of fishermen were taking advantage of the location for the same reason.
Marsh birds at sunset
We set off as the sun dropped low on the horizon, but the air was warm even with a constant breeze from the south. Soon after pushing off, we noted a Wild Turkey balancing on a low flimsy limb – just a few feet above the water – and looking at real risk of taking a bath if it wasn’t careful. Despite this, it appeared that it would spend the night suspended precariously above the water. I snapped a few photos of it from our drifting canoe, and we turned our attention to the bridge which runs beneath I-87. I had been a little apprehensive about negotiating the watery tunnel in high water, but we found plenty of headroom once we reached it.
Once on the other side, the flooded marsh opened up before us and we paddled north with a plan to maximize our daylight. We quickly began to add to our bird list. Some, like the Black-capped Chickadees, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, chattered from the shrubs along the shoreline, while most of the birds were quintessential marsh species – and we listened to Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, Marsh Wrens, and Swamp Sparrows as we went – all with the background din of spring peepers. Soon after passing the bridge, we spotted a Belted Kingfisher and then the jerky flaps of an American Bittern silhouetted by the low sun as it flew across the stream in front of us.
Ospreys and gulls glided on their final feeding rounds of the day, and further along the stream we spotted a Female Northern Harrier cruising low over the cattails. We also noted our first ducks of the trip, a trend that would lead us along the waterway. A few pairs of Bufflehead accented the dark water with their white markings, and as the sun began to dip low and disappear, Wood Ducks, Mallards, American Black Ducks, and Green-winged Teal dashed overhead on fast wings, or took to flight from tucked away nooks in the reeds. Evening insects were also in the air, and in one place we happened upon a large group (perhaps 80-100) of Tree Swallows, swooping in pursuit and squabbling with each other in the process. They glided and dived above us as if in a choreographed display and we slid silently through their midst in awe of their quiet aerial dance.
Watching beavers - and being watched by them, too!
But we soon passed through the swallows and they too – like many of the other species headed towards their roost for the night. They were replaced by the dark swimming forms of beavers – active in the evening shadows and slapping their tails loudly – kerplunk! – at our approach. And so we began to watch not only the ducks buzzing above us, but also the drifting shapes of beavers interested in frightening us away from their home.
But it was not beavers which sent us back to the put-in, but rather the approaching dark and we turned around after perhaps a mile and a half. We continued to watch ducks and Great Blue Herons fly overhead as we paddled toward the car and a late dinner, even as the gray night air made some identifications more difficult.
After passing through the bridge tunnel beneath I-87, we confirmed that the Wild Turkey was still stationed on its perch – a seemingly odd choice for such a large terrestrial species – and its questionable location still looked comical, even in the dim light. It would certainly move on with the following morning. The same was true of an Osprey we spied as we approach the take-out – sitting like a quiet sentinel watching for the sun of the following day.