Within ten days in June we joined a group of friends for two visits by canoe and kayak to Tivoli Bays Preserve. Both times we chose high tide as the time to be there. In a tidal marsh, some areas draw down to mud at low tide. You can get stuck and have to wait hours to be lifted and freed.
On our first paddle, high tide at Tivoli was about 8:30 am. This early excursion came with fresh day lily flowers, swamp rose, and a few late-season blooms of yellow iris. Animals included basking map turtles and snapping turtles, and a bold beaver. Baltimore orioles made trips to find insects to feed their young ensconced in the familiar hanging basket nest.
Cool morning breezes on the river tempered a day that would be much warmer away from the water. The high sun shone nearly all the time, making surfaces hot to the touch. By noon we’d had a great morning in the tidelands but enough of the heat.
A late afternoon high tide framed the second excursion. To our surprise, only a week later there were new plant species in bloom. A yellow eye-catcher along an inner channel proved to be fringed loosestrife. Farther out we found the orange bells of Canada lily, and the first deep pink spikes of marsh hedge nettle. Buttonbush blossoms had opened in our absence, and some were turning brown already. Summer was passing quickly.
We reached the outer bay which had big logs favored by turtles, but not one was sunning. The sky was overcast at intervals, but this alone doesn’t discourage turtles from basking. The time before there were more boaters on the water, boisterous folk, yet the turtles were out and about. The beaver made a brief splash and never reappeared.
The late day turned out to be all about birds, and not just the birds of that earlier tidal trip. There were a couple of orioles again, but in a different place, and a little green heron that flew over. But just before we pulled together for a floating feast, across the bay in a copse of willows with live and dead branches, small birds gathered and settled. Like us they seemed to have found just the right place for some cordial gathering. Done with dinner some of our friends went off to explore other channels. We went straight to the birds.
A closer look showed the birds to be swallows, and the bird book said tree swallows — the adults with white breast and blue-gray back and wings. The swallows looked as if they knew each other. They sailed in to land or jostle for a good perch, chipped and chattered at each other, sidled up to one another — the sorts of things friends at a rally or concert do before the event. With tree swallows this congregating is prelude to settling down for the night in the shelter of denser vegetation farther into the marsh.
As the light began to wane we headed back. One of us had found a “short cut” channel through a semi-wooded part of the marsh, and we decided on this alternative going back to the dock. Another new bird appeared, not by sight but by song. As we meandered around bends we were serenaded by the cascading evening phrases of veeries in surround sound. The thrushes hastened us on as the tide fell before our eyes, and we just made it out to the deeper channel before the smaller one was down to mud. ++