A calm, blue-sky May day, with the Turkey River running clear and stable. Spring migrants singing from the trees along the river banks. Redhorse spawning on the gravel bars. Could there be a better day for a leisurely canoe float?
Even before Margaret and I launched our boat, the turkey vultures put on a “drying-out” show along the land to the river. The comical birds sat in a field, wings out-stretched, soaking up the sun’s first rays. Later, one of the handsome (?) birds watched nonchalantly from a riverside tree as we floated past. Then a whole flock of “buzzards” floated gracefully overhead on the thermals, escorting us down the river.
We floated quietly, savoring the serenade of spring birds: song sparrows, rose-breasted grosbeaks, brown thrashers, a lone pileated woodpecker, cardinals, a great-crested flycatcher, chickadees, tufted titmice, robins, mourning doves, field sparrows, chipping sparrows, Baltimore orioles, Canada geese. And, of course, many chirps, whistles, and warbles that we could not identify.
The river itself provided the background music, with subtle swishes around fallen trees, gurgles against shoreline rocks, and louder splashes over boulders in the occasional rapids.
The woodlands in the valley glowed that special color of spring-green. Lowly boxelders already had begun to fill in their canopies, while their sugar maple cousins on the north slopes shimmered among the slower oaks. Scattered walnuts stood black, stark and leafless, in no apparent hurry to greet the new season.
Slipping closer to the bank, we could identify bellworts, bloodroots, Dutchman’s breeches, and a few other spring wildflowers – including, of course, dandelions and garlic mustard.
We marveled at a tag-team of bald eagles that accompanied us. We were hardly ever out of sight of at least one eagle – whether it was perching, sparring with a rival, or circling against the blue.
With eyes to the skies, we were lucky to see a pair of young otters pop their heads above the water as the canoe approached. Although they quickly ducked under again, they continued alongside for a couple of minutes, seeming to play a game of hide-and-seek with the paddlers invading their river.
Get used to it, otters! We’ll back soon to share “your” river.