Saturday, April 30, 2011

After the Flood

It was a beautiful day.  Comfortable temperatures, clear, azure skies, and no rain.  I first went for a bike ride, and then went for a paddle on the Otter.  With the lake at a record level, I thought it would be interesting to see what the flooding has done to the wildlife.

I decided to paddle at the mouth of the Otter and head upstream.  As you can see, the road was flooded, so I just put-in on the road and headed through the woods until I hit the river.

The flooding is extensive. If you took away the trees that line the bank, the river would look like it is at least 8 times wider.

The lake is 2 feet over flood stage.  The flooding makes the river look like a swamp.

There is a lot of debris in the river.  In one section where the river turns due north, the south-blowing winds were pushing the north-flowing debris.  The water was full of log, sticks, and plant matter.

Some animals seemed to take the flooding in stride.  The geese were about as usual...

... as were other waterfowl.

I saw a beaver lodge.  With the high water, the lodge was probably flooded.  I wondered if there were beaver around...

... and there were.  The adult beaver saw me, went into the water, and slapped its tail, moving away from the lodge while continuing to slap the water to draw me away.  I know this trick, but decided to move on anyway.

I paddled into a hidden marshy area.  I saw that the muskrat dens were flooded.  The muskrats were probably around.

Not only has the flooding displaced the beaver and muskrat, but some of the wood duck boxes were flooded.  The flooding has hit some people hard, as it has the wildlife.

The redwind blackbirds seemed oblivious to the flooding

I paddled upstream to the mouth of Dead Creek.  At this point a road comes close to the river.  I went cycling by here a few days ago.  The water is even higher.  I was able to paddle over the road to Dead Creek, and then back to the Otter.

I saw my first sandpiper.

Osprey were everywhere.  I saw at least 7 nests.  All of them had a pair of osprey in them.  Some were solitary..

 ... some were working with their mates ...

... and some were keeping an eye on me.

I also saw downy woodpeckers.

I paddled away from the river into one of the flooded areas.  I saw muskrat eating and sunning themselves.

One thing I wasn't expecting to see..., the first turtles of the season!

The flood had an immediate impact on the river.  It will be interesting to see what nature does in the next few months.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Across The Lake

In a previous post, I mentioned that I was looking forward to paddling across Lake Champlain from the Vermont side to the New York side.  Near us, the New York side of the lake rises hundreds of feet.  The cliffs are home to falcons, and after a lot of rain, covered in waterfalls.  The lake has little boating on it this time of year.  It  is a great time to explore the cliffs and take in the wildlife.

Though we have had a lot of storms and rain the last few weeks, the winds were light today.  The lake is at record heights (102.5 feet around noon today).  By late summer, it will be 6 or 7 feet lower!

The skies were unsettled.  I ran into a few sprinkles driving to my put-in place.  I unloaded my kayak, checked I had my spare paddle, paddle float, bilge pump, camera and other gear.  I was off.

I encountered a few 1 foot waves by the mouth of Kingsland Bay, but the wind died down by the time I reached the New York shore.  It was about a 2 mile crossing at this part of the lake.

I stopped paddling and heard the sound of rushing water.  There were numerous small streams pouring down the steep walls.  I paddled south along the cliffs.  In the distance were waterfowl.  Ducks, geese and heron were about.

I saw a heron fly off to the west.  I then saw more herons flying about.  I wonder if there is a rookery nearby...

There would be a small waterfall every 100 to 200 meters.  I love watching the water.

You have to paddle right into the falls.  By summer, they will be gone.

I continued paddling south.  I was nice being on open water.  I like to paddle the local rivers, marshes and slangs, but there is something about being on big water that is appealing.  Maybe it is the ability to have unobstructed views, or being able to just focus on paddling towards a far-off place.  Its very relaxing, just picking a point far away and traveling to it.

Overhead I could hear a falcon cry out.  This part of the lake is home to peregrine falcons.  They nest in the cliffs.

I looked up one part of the cliff face.  I saw vultures soaring overhead.  No, I don't think they were watching me!

I could hear loons calling.  I started paddling back to the Vermont side and ran into several loons.  Their call is haunting.

I was heading towards the Diamond Islands.  They aren't very large.  Just a few large rocks, some gravel and a small lighthouse in the middle of this part of the lake.  I was surprised how high the lake is.  By mid-summer, the 2 islands will become one.  You can see how high the lake is by the submerged trees.

As I paddled back, I could see Camel's Hump off in the background.  Beautiful!  It wasn't a long paddle, but it was full of great experiences.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Local Flooding

We have had tons of rain the last week.  The rivers and lake are at record heights.

I went for a ride after work yesterday.  We had very warm temperatures (80+ degF).  It was warm, windy and humid.  It felt like summertime.  I didn't need to wear any cold weather gear, just my biking shorts and jersey.

It was warm again today.  I went for another ride down by the river, but the road was closed - it was flooded.

There was a woman taking photos.  She pointed to something in the water.

What is it?

Ants! Ants trying to survive the flooding.  Amazing!

I hope to paddle across the lake this weekend.  With all the rain, there is a good chance for waterfalls to be coming off the cliffs on the New York side of Lake Champlain. We'll see what it is like . . .

Sunday, April 24, 2011

My Easter Paddle

I decided to get a longer paddle in.  I put in above the falls, and paddled up the Otter for 6 miles.  This part of the Otter has some houses on the river as you leave town, but then opens into farmland.

The wildlife is not as numerous as that at the mouth of the Otter.  The current was pretty strong (~ 2 mph).  There were some waterfowl about, mostly Canada geese, mallards and black ducks.

I saw an redtail hawk upstream in a tree.  As I got close enough for a photo, it took off.  It circled around and  then flew off through the trees.

Off in the distance was Buck Mountain.

I would come across ducks, but would never get real close.  I would start to get close, but as I would get the camera out, the current would quickly push me downstream away from the ducks.

I was able to get some good photos of swifts.  They are very hard to get when they are flying.  They always remind me of little fighter jets!

What was that up ahead?  Yep - a turkey!  I see them a lot when I paddle the Otter.

Ahead I could see Snake Mountain.

Finally, I got to the bridge.  It took me 3 hours to go 6 miles.

I turned around and started to head back.  It was good to get the current helping me.

There are a number of smaller creeks feeding into the Otter.  At this time of year you can paddle up them.  You never know what you will find.

Inquisitive squirrels.

Skunk cabbage.

Bracket fungus on an old log.

I pulled into one little creek.  Off in the distance was a cluster of weathered barns and an old windmill.

Three hours to go upstream the 6 miles.  One hour to get back.  A pretty good early season training paddle.  Good to build endurance.

I was hungry.  I got home and ate some jelly beans and chocolate (no, thats not all I ate - I actually, I ended up eating some pasta for lunch).

I didn't see the Easter Bunny, but I saw some of his friends.  Happy Easter!