We launched in what felt like late winter and landed in early spring. Clouds covered the sky when we embarked at about noon. Patches of blue and sometimes the sun passed across the sky. Then, my mid-afternoon, the overcast was over, and it was suddenly spring. We got hot in our morning clothes.
The birds on the banks cheeped and chirped. Few sang. Countless yellow-rumped warblers hopped around flooded forest. Unidentified cousins accompanied them. Red-winged blackbirds acted emboldened. Ducks were maybe more secretive, or more habituated to humans, or unwilling to abandon nests and mates, compared to a few weeks ago.
After last summer’s drought, the high water was more than welcome. It spread across many floodplain islands, quenching their thirst from last year’s dry months. It also meant we could canoe through the trees sometimes, a joy I promised myself I would relish last summer, when one could barely find a route down the main channel. I found myself again in that flooded timber, twisting and turning through the tree trunks, no sounds except the cheeps and chirps.
The water was even high at the great blue heron rookery, allowing us to paddle silently below the nests. From a distance, the nests, sometimes 10 to a tree, crowding the crown, appeared unoccupied, and was quiet.
But as we came closer, we saw herons standing sentinel at many nests, perched on the clump of sticks, or a nearby branch; I figured they have not laid eggs yet, or at least certainly none have hatched, and for now, all was peaceful and silent. Perhaps there were other birds sitting on eggs that I couldn’t see. In a couple weeks, it will be a cacophony of squawks and croaks, the big birds flapping to and fro, landing in a sprawl of wing and leg, to stand on what looks like the tiniest twigs.
Spotted sandpipers flew and flitted among rafts of timber along the banks. When walking among the woody debris, they bobbed their tails and stalked insects and other prey.