Posted by: ecckayak | March 26, 2011

A waterfowls Serengeti

It’s the end of March, a Friday, and the breeze is blowing from the north/northwest. The sun is shining, warming the land and sea surface. Linda and I have the afternoon off so we decide to go for a paddle. On the lower cape, with an Arctic air mass, a high, sitting on top of us, the Quanset Road Landing on Quanset Harbor in Big Pleasant Bay, South Orleans is an ideal paddle. Particularly because the  sun’s spring rays bounce off the bluffs, angled by the carved north shores of the bay, right at you. The shallows show us new seasonal growth. A pair or two of Horseshoe crabs mating, in March, give me hope for their survival yet this season, a constant fight between those making a living and living, period. Perhaps they weren’t mating, rather keeping each other comforted. The buffleheads are so cute, and the guttural sounds of the Brant combine to transport you to their world. Like the summer yellowlegs, I could watch the winter buffleheads continually. But, on this day, hundreds of water fowl filled Little Pleasant Bay. Brant’s and scoters, but the largest group were female and adolescent Red- breasted Mergansers. As we round the point at the Cochran estate and paddled against the outgoing tide in the Narrows, we happened upon 100’s of Red-breasted mergansers. Down wind, paddling against the tide, we were able to move silently to within 40 yards of this floating merganiser community. There we sat, Linda and I, 50 yards off shore, sharing space on the leeward side of the Horseshoe, bobbing together, with 100’s of cooing, croaking, squawking, waterfowl. Their orchestrated sounds are like a melodic, new age recording by Paul Winter. It is  a calming mantra to the soul, enlightening to the senses. Even that is by chance, for, in a flash of amazing co-dependency, every one of the water fowl in front of us took flight. First, we sensed the energy of the downward synchronized strike of their wing’s that swung them up to take flight. Simultaneously, the wings hit the waters surface and the rush of splash produced a sound of bouncing water particles. With their necks extended, and their webbed feet, hurriedly kicking backwards, run, run, Linda and I thought. The faster there wings flapped, the faster there little webbed feet scurried along the surface, running on water, trying their best to run fast enough to catch up to the force of their flapping wings. My vision instantly flashed to the Serengeti Plain migration. How incredible that migration in Tanzania must really be? What I was sensing was incredible enough for the moment. The horizon, just a hundred yards from us, was covered with flying, running, squawking red- breasted mergansers, Brants, and an assortment of whatever we could identify in the hundreds. We also think that we saw a group of pin-tailed oldsquaw, but I find it sometimes difficult to make a positive identification from such a distance amongst such beauty. In that moment I was fully aware that before me was a little league version of the Serengeti. It didn’t matter. Again, Pleasant Bay brought me to an awe moment. Turning around, the tide swept us back to Quanset, the sun in our face, the leeward bluffs radiating warmth. Looking high above, buzzards glided in the air currents, in front, Great Blue heron hugged the shores, the trees and brush along the shoreline  showing buds, some green, some red, sprout’s on branches that will give us more opportunity to observe the season as it comes alive before our eyes.

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