Curious beaver

I first spotted the beaver by his wake – gliding smoothly out from shore, just downstream of the dock. I placed my rowing shell gently into the water, keeping one eye on my busy downstream neighbor. He arched his back, slapped his tail loudly, and dove… only to emerge a few seconds later, a few meters away. I sat still, and watched. He looked at me. I looked at him. He paddled along, zig-zagging upstream ever closer to me, clearly curious to see who (or what) I was, and what I might be up to. My fingers itched for my smartphone – only 10 meters away, on shore where I’d left it – but to stand up and fetch it, I knew, would spoil the moment. The beaver swam ever closer, his eyes on me every moment.

Eventually – for the moment seemed to last, though it was surely only one or two minutes – he pulled alongside the dock, keeping a safe distance of five meters, watching me from the side as he paddled strongly upstream.

Then a sudden SLAP and he dove again. The moment was gone; I readied my shell to row, and he resumed his course across the river.

Beaver near his den, near our home (2017).

It’s moments like these when I wish I had a camera, or even a smartphone. No such luck today! The photo above is from a sequence I shot in 2017.

Today’s beaver may have been the same fellow whose photo I shared in April:

A beaver swims at the mouth of Grant Brook, Lyme NH

Riverside birds

Camera practice.

I took a short paddle today on the river beside our home, and came across some ducks … and some fast-flying insect-catching birds. I welcome tips about the name of these birds! Update: it appears to be an Eastern Kingbird.

A pair of Eastern Kingbirds, next to the Connecticut River, near home.
An Eastern Kingbird, next to the Connecticut River, near home.
A mallard duck in the Connecticut River, near home.
Mallard ducks in the Connecticut River, near home.

Rowing season

A joy to be back out on the river!

Finally. May has arrived, the docks are in, and the morning weather is warm enough for me to get out my shell and make a quick sculling trip before work.

Ever since the time I capsized in early April, some years ago – it was my first outing of the year, I was a bit rusty – and I experienced first-hand the danger of spring water sports when one is tossed into near-freezing water that can bring on hypothermia in minutes… I’ve set a personal rule not to row until May. Furthermore, throughout the season, I don’t row if the air temp is below 40º. Call me wimpy, but I skip sculling when it is raining or windy. I’m out there solo, so it’s best to be safe.

Today was a beautiful morning, with air temp (at the riverside) about 41º … and for the first time, just for yucks, I measured the water temp: 53º. Glad to say I stayed above the water today.

First river outing

Time to get out on the river!

With the warm weather this weekend, it’s finally time to get back onto the river. I pulled out the kayak and headed downriver to the mouth of Hewes Brook. On a tiny island, inches above the level of the river, I found a Canada Goose guarding her nest.

Shortly downriver, another goose hesitated until I was near, then launched out of the water and into the air.

On that island, a bit bigger, is a beaver lodge dating back several years.

Is it still occupied? I’ll check again another day.

See the full-resolution gallery for more/better pictures.

Ducks and beavers

New arrivals and old friends.

A stroll along River Road, just upstream, brought me an opportunity to see some of the local regulars as well as some unusual migrants – all at the mouth of Grant Brook. Although the winter’s ice has just begun to recede, the critters moved in quickly. We saw some green-headed Mallard ducks, but also a pair of Mallards with vibrant blue heads:

Unusual blue-headed (Mallard?) ducks at the mouth of Grant Brook, Lyme NH

Meanwhile, a beaver zipped by, then dove.

A beaver swims at the mouth of Grant Brook, Lyme NH

See the full gallery for more photos of both.

Ice out

Spring is here, like it or not.

Tuesday morning I saw the first spots of open water along the river as I drove into town. By Tuesday evening the river had opened up a channel down the center, near home. By Wednesday evening, below, the water was widely visible, the ice slowly dissipating and breaking up. I don’t have good records, but this sure feels early…

Eagles on ice

Nothing like a deer carcass to bring everyone together.

As I drove home today along the Connecticut River I noticed a dark object out on the ice – clearly, a carcass of some unfortunate deer. It was already attracting visitors that, from a glance, appeared to include a bald eagle. I dashed home to pick up my camera. When I returned, I found three bald eagles – one mature adult, and two juveniles – enjoying the spoils of this opportunity. Several crows were nearby, but were shooed away by the eagles whenever they came too close.

A bald eagle feeds on a carcass on the ice – and scolds a crow that tries to join in.

It was interesting to see that each eagle looked quite different – even the juveniles looked very different, perhaps of different ages. I also noticed the mature eagle flying alongside one juvenile several times. Family members? or rivals? hard to tell.

A pair of Bald eagles (one immature) flying (and fighting) beside the Connecticut River.

I shot well over six hundred photos, most of them out of focus – on my first visit it was snowing heavily and the snow wreaked havoc on the camera’s autofocus mechanism. But I returned later when the snow stopped and the sun came out. I saved a dozen decent photos for you in the gallery, where you can see each of the three eagles, sometimes together.

Icy river

Beautiful patterns.

Last weekend was very cold, well below zero, and the river’s surface became even more solid. The cracks and fissures of a week earlier healed into sinuous patterns, which I found to be an interesting photographic subject – especially at the shoulders of daylight.

Ice and patterns on the river in front of our house.

Twice on Sunday I saw skaters – traveling in pairs, some wearing nordic skates and carrying safety poles, and some (like the teen below) wearing hockey skates and using ski poles for support – enjoying the opportunity to skate for kilometers upon kilometers.

A skater travels down the center of the river in front of our house, late one afternoon.

End of the season

Likely my last sculling opportunity this year.

The cold and darkness of late autumn has made it increasingly difficult to get out sculling on the river. With the end of Daylight Savings Time in a few days, I will regain the morning daylight but mornings are now too cold to row – my lower limit is 40ºF. Afternoon rowing has been feasible for the past week, but will surely be impossible (with my work schedule) next week. So today I bid farewell to the river, recalling the Great Blue Heron I saw browsing the reeds a few days ago, and the ducks I saw heading south this evening. Even the hunters have shifted inland, with duck season ending and deer season opening in a few days. Now my attention turns to winter – and six months later, back to the river.

Last row of the season.