Warm Late-Fall Weather
Wren and I took advantage of another warm, late-fall day by paddling the other evening. We already enjoyed the last of the colorful leaves with two walks earlier in the day, so Wren would likely be settled enough to sit quietly in the boat. All the same, we took a short walk immediately beforehand.
Many of my paddles in the region cover the lakes and ponds which dot our landscape, but for this trip I chose the Raquette River out of Axton Landing - a change of pace is always nice. Judging by the number of cars in the parking area, I wasn't the only person who had this thought. And so we bumped along the short access road - soft in places from our recent rains - listening to Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets as we went. More kinglets were calling at the put-in, as was a Pileated Woodpecker, which flew across the river, cackling as it went.
A Variety of Birds
As I unloaded the boat and walked it to the put-in, I was surprised by two Greater Yellowlegs feeding in the muddy shallows. Most of our shorebirds have migrated through the region by now, and it was nice to find a couple lingering. We did our best not to spook them as we headed out to join the river, and they went about their business as we passed.
While the day was overcast and somewhat dreary, those silver and red maples that had retained their leaves glowed in the gray light, and I paused now and then to take photos. We soon came across a flock of songbirds that included several White-throated Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and a Brown Creeper. I had also soon added Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, and Hairy Woodpecker, and we came across both species of kinglets multiple times. I began whistling for Eastern Screech Owl and Northern Saw-whet Owl to agitate the birds so we could see them better, and I soon added both Song and Swamp Sparrows in the process.
As a general rule, Wren seldom takes notice of songbirds, but she smelled the air with enthusiasm as I slid close to the banks for better views of the birds. There must have been something of interest moving along the banks that had left its scent. We also passed a few beaver lodges, and I figured we would soon see them cruising the waterway as evening approached. As it did, we turned around, and the growing shadows began to hide the calling birds as the river was slowly engulfed by the darkness.
Returning in the Evening
But the way was easy to see and, knowing that I would likely be returning after dark, I made a point of looking for any major obstacles on our way out - and I knew the route was largely clear. A male Barred Owl called in the distance, and I paused to hoot back at him. I also resumed my occasional Northern Saw-whet Owl calls to see if I received an answer, but got none.
The expected beaver finally arrived with a tail slap ahead of us along the river. The slap was followed by several more as we crossed through its neighborhood. It was dark enough that it was difficult to see the beaver until it flipped the water into the air with a loud kerplunk that made both Wren and I startle each time. I suspected the beaver was quietly lurking in the shadows with that exact intention.
A short distance further I heard Greater Yellowlegs calling, and thought perhaps we had found our way back to the take-out. But the birds were apparently on the wing overhead, and I listened as their calls became more distant, realizing we still had a short paddle ahead of us to the car. Near the take-out my Northern Saw-whet Owl calling finally proved fruitful, as an owl briefly returned my calls from a stand of conifers. I sat listening for it to call again, but its short initial reply was all it offered.
We returned to shore and Wren took a drink while I used my light to load the boat up in the dark before we headed home for dinner.
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