Sunday, August 28, 2011

August 28 - Pumpkin Island, Ospreys, minks, and the edge of a Hurricane

Last night as the sun sets the water explodes into a fanfare of sparkling diamonds, a dazzling disco ball unfolded and laid smoothly over the undulating surface of the pulsing river.  The sky and water's swirled orange colors almost merge as one except for the broken line of weathered pines marking the river's northern shore. The hurricane swirling slowly up the New England coast has spun off wisps of weather, reaching us as early this morning as gusts of wind and gun metal grey sky.  The towering white pines and gnarled hemlocks sway mightily up high on the island, but down on the soft needle covered paths winding between front and back docks, the air is calm, but expectant. We inspect the island's fleet of watercraft to insure all are snugged and secure- ready to withstand a blow. The rigging of the sailboat whistles longingly in the strong wind, as the small craft tugs at its mooring lines along the front dock, being blown against the current from an unfamiliar side.  

Yesterday as we paddled upstream towards Mulcaster Island, we found the eagle's nesting box abandoned - the birds fledged and off about their life's exploration.  Contrary to the Eagles, there are more loons this season than I remember in the past, and we catch sight of one nearby almost daily.  As we round the western tip of Owen Island, looking for the narrow slot that splits the Island in two with a quiet, protected and languid stream, just deep enough for small craft to pass, along the edge of the mid-Canadian shipping channel we notice a mink swimming to the point. We stop to watch as the small head leaves a growing V in it's wake until the sleek animal climbs ashore, gives one small shake to free its oiling pelt of loose water, and disappears into the jumbled lichen covered, pink granite rocks forming the island's shore. The river's water is clear, and greenish blue, unlike the tea colored tannin laced waters we experienced north and west of here earlier in the summer. As we float over the shoals and shallower areas, we can easily see 10 feet down to the grasses, and sandy bottom.  The white crushed shells of a million zebra mussels form whitish patches in the sand, swirling and pale green as seen through the river's flow. 

We paddle slowly back downstream returning across the big water west of Pumpkin Island, to the duet of persistent Osprey whistles.  One impressive stark white bird with black eye mask and wingtips sits atop a large tree while a second smaller, darker, and younger bird stands on the edge of the massive coarse nest nearby. The treetop birds whistles non-stop to the nest bound bird, we think urging the adolescent to get out of bed and get on with some fishing perhaps. The nested bird complaining that he just wants fish delivered as he experienced just weeks before. 

This river, as massive as the mighty Mississippi drains easily a quarter the continent east and north to the Atlantic, but here past most of the great cities, except for Montreal, still to our east, the water is clean, and clear, and flush with life - the vast and varied birdlife a testament to the abundant fish. The river flow and wind's churn leave little but organic matter upon the variegated shoreline, with little or no plastic or oily sheen evidenced upon thoughtful wandering along the shore even though this same water has passed the shores of the big mid-western cities of Detroit, Chicago, Duluth and others on its way through the Great Lakes.  This is a hopeful sign for me, as similar walks along the beach in California invariably turn up vast quantities of debris - even with the powerful flushing of the Pacific Ocean to assist with the plumbing.

From 2011 Summer Trip

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