Kayak Birding

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.

Heading north on the reservoir with the still air punctuated by the songs of Ovenbirds and White-throated Sparrows .

Heading north on the reservoir with the still air punctuated by the songs of Ovenbirds and White-throated Sparrows .

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.

It's a tough life being a small migratory bird. Studies estimate that half of all adult Ovenbirds die each year. The oldest known Ovenbird was seven years old.

It’s a tough life being a small migratory bird. Studies estimate that half of all adult Ovenbirds die each year. The oldest known Ovenbird was seven years old.

Merg1W

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.

A Ring-billed Gull on the shore, perhaps waiting for me to feed it.

A Ring-billed Gull on the shore, perhaps waiting for me to feed it.

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.

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2 Responses to Kayak Birding

  1. Jeff Jones says:

    It’s one of the coolest things how we can move into an area as an intruder, just be still and see the wildlife almost forget you’re there. Some of the most magical times I’ve had happened this exact way. Some great shots!
    Jeff

  2. Pingback: Shakedown Cruise Tomorrow | Vermont Birder

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