Saturday, May 3, 2014

Watching Birds on the Ox Bow

Yesterday, I went on a trip (which happened to coincide with my birthday) with the University of Massachusetts Outing Club to watch birds and hike around the Ox Bow of the Connecticut River in Northampton/Easthampton, MA. We hiked for about 3 miles in Mass Audubon's Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary.
Above is the view of the Holyoke Range Mountains, mirrored from the south and across the river, as opposed to my normal view.

The birds that we came to see were the Great Blue Herons, and their many nests over the Ox Bow.  Two of the nests have been taken over by larger raptors.

One is now occupied by a family of Bald Eagles, with the mother sticking her head out of the nest above.

Another nest was taken by Great Horned Owls.  Sadly, there were no Owls to be seen, as the younglings had fledged, and some smaller birds were flying around the abandoned nest.

We saw about a dozen Great Blue Heron nests over the Ox Bow, which had flooded so much, that a puddle just past the bridge at Old Springfield Road was more than ankle-deep, leaving me barefoot for the rest of the excursion.

The way back brought this beautiful view of the sun shining over a green, grassy field...
...and a rabbit!

Monday, January 20, 2014


I just got back from a ten day Taglit Birthright to Israel, so I'd like to share some about the wildlife and natural history of Israel.

Israel is 60 percent desert, but there are four seas in the state:  the Sea of Galilee, the Red, Dead, and the Med. (Mediterranean)

Sea of Galilee, freshwater lake in the North of Israel

The Dead Sea, the lowest place on Earth.  View of Jordan on the other side.

The Mediterranean Sea, at the wonderful city of Tel Aviv.
I did not get to sea the Red Sea, since it is much further away from the other three seas.

However, I did get to see Ein Gedi, an incredible desert oasis where the water flows into the Dead Sea.

In and around Ein Gedi, I saw some of the native wildlife of Israel.
Rock Hyrax at Masada

Tristram's Starling (note the hummus on it's beak and claws)

Drive-by photo of a Nubian Ibex, near the Dead Sea

Hoopoe, the national bird of Israel in Tel Aviv

Israel loves to recycle!
Until next time

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Year in Review

2013 was not the most eventful paddling year for us, due to being busy with other things in life, but still deserves a "year in review" posting.

For the simple breakdown:
Bodies of water paddled: Mystic River, Horn Pond, Little River/Alewife Brook, Sudbury River, Ipswich River, Connecticut River, Elkhorn Slough in CA, and the Florida Everglades (not really paddled on, but still documented)

After breaking down data from documented trips:

On the Mystic, I paddled a total of 15.5 miles, a bit more than the river's 9 mile length.  From the Mystic I had also retrieved 45 items, 39 of which recyclable, 25 of which redeemable.  In addition, I pulled out 5 barrels of water chestnuts.

On the Little River/Alewife Brook, I retrieved 9 items, 4 of which recyclable, 4 of which redeemable.

I paddled 1 mile of the Sudbury River, where I hauled 2 items, 1 recyclable.

I paddled 1 mile of the Ipswich River, 6 miles of California's Elkhorn Slough, and 5 miles of the Connecticut River.

I look forward to 2014, and the trash hauling adventures that come with it.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Paddling Some of the Connecticut River

Today, I was able to get out and paddle on some of my new home base river, the Connecticut River.  At around 11:30 today, I left with other members of UMOC, the University of Massachusetts Outing Club, to go canoeing.  We launched our five canoes at the Northfield Mountain Reservation off of Route 63 in Northfield, MA, seen below, and headed downriver.

Shortly after, the French King Bridge came into view, which carries Route 2 over the Connecticut River, and also connects the towns of Erving and Gill.  Just beyond the French King Bridge, the Millers River and the Connecticut meet.

At around halfway through the trip, we stopped to eat lunch and skip stones.  It was then that the sun came out and the sky became clearer.

After getting back on to the water, we saw this Bald Eagle flying over the river.  I didn't get as good a picture as I wanted, but it surely was one of the highlights of the day.  Other wildlife we saw included black ducks, mute swans, a belted kingfisher, and a pair of red-tailed hawks.

After seeing the eagle, the river took a sharp turn, and our destination, Turners Falls came into view.

I saw the eagle, or an eagle anyways, sitting in a tree near Barton Island.

One of the most surprising bird sightings came after we got out of the canoes, at Barton Cove, there was an emu farm.  
I was glad not to see a single piece of trash during the whole 5 mile trip, and I will surely be back on the Connecticut River as more UMOC trips are arranged.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Return to the Mystic

After being away and preoccupied for the past few months, I finally got a chance to get back on the Mystic River today.
I left shortly after noon and headed upriver from my usual spot, at the dead end on Sharon Street in West Medford.
I was first greeted by this family of swans.

Weather was a bit cloudy today, but at around 1:30 the sun came out and the skies cleared.
I made it up to the Lower Mystic Lake, where I turned around.

On the trip back downriver, I ran into this cormorant.
Other animals I saw today included a woodpecker, ducks, squirrels, carp, kingfishers, and a Pine Warbler at the Lower Lake.

Since I was in the kayak today, I didn't have enough room to fit a crate, or very much trash either.  Luckily, there was not much trash to be collected today.  However, I did pick up these two bottles, both  recyclable, 1 redeemable during a 2 mile trip.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Summer Wildlife on the Mystic

This afternoon, I went out on the kayak to paddle some of the Mystic River, and see some of the wildlife that comes with it on a late July day like today.
The booms that kept oil from spreading have receded back to the shores of the Mystic.  Unfortunately due to the recent oil spill, I saw at least a dozen dead fish floating in the water.

However, I saw lots of living animals today as well, including...
Spotted Sandpiper

Juvenile Mallards

Great Blue Heron on the ladder tree

Family of Swans
Other animals that I could not get a picture of included carp, a muskrat, a chipmunk, cormorants, and a belted kingfisher.

On previous days, I had seen this red-tailed hawk in Mount Auburn Cemetery...
...and this Great Black Backed Gull eating a prehistoric horseshoe crab on Crane Beach.

After I had paddled for two miles, no trash today!  A good sign on the Mystic River.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

2013 Mystic River Water Chestnut Pull

This morning, the Mystic River Watershed Association held its annual water chestnut pull of the invasive plant species that ruins habitat for wildlife, and is very frustrating to try to paddle through.  The task of removing the water chestnuts proved to be dirty and hard, but productive.

After paddling and pulling for about an hour and a half, I had filled up 5 containers of water chestnuts.  I decided to go on shore to take pictures and relax.  My canoe had collected a lot of river water by the stern.
I noticed two types of animals that were in the river.  I saw a crawdad, which I didn't know that they even lived in the Mystic.  The other creature was hundreds of tadpoles, seen above.
Volunteers hard at work removing Water Chestnuts

Mike, Monty, and Faith

After the pull was finished, we all enjoyed lunch from Sacco's Bowl Haven.  I counted at least 30 canoes.  For anyone interested, there will be another Chestnut pull on August 3.  For more information, click here.