Five years ago, when I would kayak early in the morning, I’d strap on my iPod and crank workout tunes and paddle hard up and down the placid waters of our local Wrightsville Reservoir. I was sort of oblivious to my surroundings as I worked on technique and speed. That was before I was a birder.
Yesterday, I let the birds provide the music — and did they ever. I wore my binoculars, covered with a plastic bag, and carried my camera in a dry bag in the cockpit and set out on a quiet, fog-shrouded journey. Four Canada Geese came honking in and landed with a splash quite near me — we seemed to be the only critters on the water.
I’m not great at bird call identification but had dozens to chose from as I cruised along — I think I had 25 species in the first 15 minutes. Kayaks let you cruise up close to the shore and approach some birds rather closely. I was gliding toward a perched Belted Kingfisher for a photo but made the same mistake I can make on land: I moved too quickly raising the camera and spooked him.
Up ahead, a Common Merganser was feeding in the shallows. I approached her slowly, hardly paddling, and she seemed undisturbed, but just easing away from this big approaching object. Here’s a shot I took from the kayak.
The North Branch River runs into the reservoir on the north end resulting in a short stretch of quiet water with narrow banks and overhanging trees. It was easy to cruise up to warblers and sparrows — I got some great looks at a Mourning Warbler.
Returning, I spooked two beavers out for an early sapling breakfast and approaching the takeout ramp, saw a gull that seemed out of place. It let me get pretty close so it was either used to people or not feeling well. I snapped a few shots and let it be.
It was a great paddle and I logged 35 species, getting a mild exercise session in while enjoying a perfect Vermont morning. It was the first, but won’t be the last, birding by kayak outing of the year. Nice way to multi-task.