East River

Brief Kayak Sojourn

Brief Kayak Sojourn

The date and time of this post reflect when I took these pictures...

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Cooperative River Birds

Cooperative River Birds

For some reason, there's something that really appeals to me about Tree Swallows...

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Lovers and Assassins in the Salt Marsh

Lovers and Assassins in the Salt Marsh

Saturday morning was another gorgeous, sunny day, so...

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Aim Your Fish Into the Wind

At this point, the drill is familiar: run on down to the Guilford Marina, put the boat in, and head up river. Today I went really early in the day and went a lot farther than last time.

I went about 2.5 miles up, far enough to go underneath I-95, and just past that bridge, I saw a Glossy Ibis.

He took a quick hop while I was drifting toward him, but he didn't seem at all disturbed as I snapped shot after shot until he walked up a mudbank and disappeared.

I've seen this bird once before in the salt marshes, but this is the first time I've been remotely close enough to get a good picture.

For whatever reason, it was a day for good action shots. This Snowy Egret  was a dozen feet away from the ibis also hopped a few times in his pursuit of small fish and crustaceans.

The coolest moment, though, was when an Osprey plucked a sizable fish out of the water not far from my boat. Originally I thought I had spooked him as he flew away from me, so I wasn't prepared with my camera when he suddenly circled back and dove. Though I missed the dive, I did catch him in flight with his prize.

If you've observed enough Ospreys, you might have noticed something unique about their fishing habits: they always turn a fish head first. No matter how they catch it, before they fly off, they'll rearrange it until they're holding it parallel to their bodies, head into the oncoming wind. Sometimes they do it by simply holding one foot ahead of the other, but I've also seen Ospreys who shifted their grip quite a bit in the process. The leading theory I've heard is that they're holding the fish at the most aerodynamic angle, which provides an advantage because it reduces air resistance. I'm not sure I'm convinced, but it's certainly the best explanation I've heard, and Ospreys absolutely do insist on having their fish head first. I've seen several really struggle in the air as they rearrange the fish, so the benefit of having the fish head first must outweigh the risk of falling back into the water and must, at least in the long run, pay for the extra energy expended getting it just so.

So take a lesson from our Osprey friends, and when you're engaging in an important and risky task, make sure you take a second and point your fish into the wind before you really get going.

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Eponymous Saltmarsh

Guilford's East River is rapidly becoming a favorite spot for me. I love that it connects to the new East River Preserve in the north part of Guilford, and it's a bit closer to my house and easier to put into than the Hammonasset River, especially now that I've dropped the $20 for a season pass at the Guilford Marina.

I went almost two miles up the river today, which was almost the entire salt marsh section. While I plan to go farther soon, all the way up into the coastal forest, today had some good exploring.

The predominant wildlife is still Willets (left), Ospreys, and Common Terns (above left). I also saw a high-up hawk that I'm fairly sure was a Cooper's, though she took off over the marsh before I could get a good picture.

I also saw a little guy that's turning into an old friend. I've seen lots of small sparrow-like birds flitting across the water and into the grasses, but they're much shyer than the Willets and the other larger birds, so it's hard to be sure exactly what they are.

But, as I've mentioned before on numerous occasions, here's the huge advantage of the kayak: you can take a few shots at a safe distance, and then set yourself up with current, wind, or even momentum to drift a bit closer and closer.

So I was finally able to confirm my hunch and get a few good pictures at the same time. At least some (and probably most) of the sparrow-like birds are the Saltmarsh Sparrows I've come to know well. I don't like to interrupt birds' habits, and I try to stop at the first sign that I'm disturbing one, but this time I got a little too close, and the sparrow looked back over his shoulder as he took off away from me.

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