|Paddling by an ice shelf|
By now the heron probably felt I was a stalker as he’d wait till I was a hundred yards or so from him and take off down the river. A few bends later, we’d met up again and repeat the procedure. He stretches out his neck (I assume it is a male) then spreads his powerful wings and take off. A wingspan of six feet allows him fly quickly with a slow steady beat. When airborne, his feet hang behind his body, creating a streamlined profile. In the air, they look ancient. This time, when my troubled friend takes to the air, things are different. He beats a path down river and when he makes the turn at the bend, another heron quickly rises and approaches with a croaking sound. Has my friend invaded another bird’s territory? But as soon as the other bird spots me, it turned and joined my friend, flying down the river.
I’ve seen thousands of herons in my years in the canoe and they always amaze me. Still today, nearly forty years later, I can recall the first time seeing the bird up close. It was winter and I was with the scouts, camping at Kirkwood, a church camp just north of the metropolis of Burgaw. We climbed the earthen dam of the lake and as we got to the top, surprised the bird. As it takes off, it flies right over us heading for the swampland downstream and I felt the air from the bird’s mighty wings. With its long crooked neck stretched out and over-sized wings, the bird look like something from a prehistoric age.
We’re having another mild winter and after having spent a couple days carving paddles (see my previous post), I was ready to get on the water. Those paddles are not yet ready. I am waiting for the wood to dry out a bit before sealing them. This was the first time I’d have a chance to get my canoe into the water since I replaced my gunnels back in November.
|approaching the bridge on the outskirt of town|
Last Saturday was a sunny but cool day. The temperature rose just above freezing, but still there were plenty of places with ice on the river. I put in at McKeown Bridge. In the summer I often start at Charlton Park but that section includes the lower part of Thornapple Lake which is now frozen. In a dry bag, I had extra clothes although I’ve never needed them. I also have a thermos and some hot tea, which tastes good as I switch from paddling to just floating and enjoying the beauty. I spot an otter, a few squirrels, a hawk, dozens of ducks and a number of kingfishers who dart up and down the river, swooping down and rising up as they fly. The trees are all barren now, except for the occasional pine or cedar and the smaller beech trees whose brown leaves hang on till spring. A few nights ago, on a full moon, I was out walking and the young beech appeared silver in the moonlight.
As the afternoon wanes, the temperature begins to drop and the sky turns gray. It’s almost five o’clock when I arrive back in town and pull out of the water. The light is quickly draining from the sky, but it has been a good afternoon. Back home, I store the boat in the garage as darkness falls and a few flurries fly. After putting stuff away, I built a fire in the hearth and enjoy the evening with a book. Another good day is coming to an end.