First paddle of the season

Last year’s first paddle of the season was March 31st. This year’s was May 10th. Ok, granted the spring was much later this year, but I still see it as a sign of how disorganized I’ve been this spring.

The air temp was in the high 70s, and the water temp was cool to the touch. I just traded in the wet suit that I got for Christmas for one that goes around my huge gut, and so I was terribly over dressed in a wet suit and polar weave long sleeved shirt. I brought along my iPod shuffle but as I parked the car I could hear the sounds coming from the marsh and decided to leave it behind.

The water was smooth as glass, and I didn’t feel any current at all. I was paddling without a skeg – I always heard that using a skeg on smooth water was a crutch, but I wanted a boat that took some growing into and it took me a while to get to this point, so I was happy that I seem to have outgrown it.

The marsh is in full spring mode. The reeds have all been mashed down over the winter, leaving just a few cat tails sticking up. A lot of those cat tails had male red wing blackbirds singing out their territory and keeping a wary eye on the other males. I don’t think the females have arrived yet.

Down in the mashed down reeds, lots of geese were nesting, although I didn’t see any goslings. At one point there is a log in the middle of the stream, and on it there were two goose eggs on top of the log, and five or six other eggs down in a crook in the log. No goose anywhere near by, so I wonder if the goose got frustrated with its eggs rolling away and abandoned the nest.

I only saw one swan, not surprisingly in exact same place I’ve seen swans before, and many pairs of ducks. Up near the wier, I came across a Great Blue Heron. By keeping my paddles down so that they wouldn’t be sillohuetted against the sky (I normally have a high paddling style) I was able to ghost by without him flying away.

Other bird life included an American Goldfinch and another yellow bird about the same size, but without any black. I’m not sure, but I think I saw some red in it as well. I also could see a float plane doing take offs and landings on the bay – at first I thought it was Mike’s plane, but it appeared to have a huge tail that marked it as a Maule.

Near the weir, I also saw a small mustiled, somewhere in size between a chipmunk and a red squirrel but longer, swimming across the stream. As it climbed out on the bank, I could see it was black or very dark brown. I’m guessing it was a mink. It was definitely thinner than a muskrat.

As I reached the turn around point, I started reflecting on what a wonderful little oasis this is. The marsh is surrounded on both banks by lovely woods, what I still think of as “orienteering woods” – the sort of trees that you could really see yourself running through at good speed. Yeah, behind the sounds of the red wing blackbirds and other wildlife, you could hear traffic noise and the occassional siren, but you could shut that out and make believe you were in a real wilderness. It’s no Algonquin park, but it’s beautiful and it’s here.

According to Google Maps Pedometer, I paddled 3 miles today. Not a bad start to the season.