Saturday, May 19, 2018

Three Paddle - Island Cruise, saying hello to ospreys

Continuing on with the one paddle, two paddle song -- here's "three paddle", and this one finally brings me up to this month!

May 6th was a very nice day for paddling, maybe not so much for the racers in the spring sailing race series that was underway! Light winds, and very shifty (I asked Patrick, who I'd just passed here, how the racing was and that was what he said).

Our paddle was a pretty straighforward one, TQ is off work on Sundays so we'd decided to go when we saw a decent forecast - nice temperatures, light winds, potential for drizzle but hey, it's a water sport - and when a new club member asked if anyone was willing to take him out paddling, we invited him to join us. We hadn't met him before, but he'd said on his request that he was an experienced paddler; now, people have different ideas about what constitutes "experienced" and and we were ready to keep the paddle slow and short if that's what was appropriate, but it turns out R. was most recently from Alaska and really does know what he's doing. We set out at 3:00 and I'd suggested about 3 hours on the water. I'd first proposed just a loop around Canarsie Pol, clockwise, say hi to the ospreys, on around the island and back, but we were zipping along quite nicely as we passed the nest platform and I suggested maybe extending our course to around Ruffle Bar, too. TQ and R. were both very happy with that idea, so off we went.

The Canarsie Pol ospreys haven't got much of a nest going, in fact we weren't sure they were there at all as we approached (ospreys add to old nests every year and the things can get massive, but we had some pretty bad storms this winter and last year's sticks must've blown away), except that there weren't any cormorants. The old pier structure here is a favorite perch for the local cormorants until the ospreys get back from their wintering grounds - the ospreys are very territorial and won't let anybody else perch on their pier when they are in residence. Ospreys generally return to Jamaica Bay in March, with the males returning first, with older males reclaiming their nesting sites and unestablished males finding a territory. The females join the males a little later. There was a great project that ran for a while a while back, where one of the established males was fitted with a tracker and you could follow his travels on a website - it was so fascinating watching the bird fly all the way back from I think it was Chile and settle in with his mate back at their usual nest in the bay. The tracking was supplemented by direct observations by project scientists including our baykeeper, Don Riepe, and they did a great job of telling the story. There was drama - there was a 2nd bird with a tracker, and all of us who were following the site were so sad when his course showed that he'd most likely been blown out to sea in a storm and lost, and then there was soap opera - like one year where one established male got held up en route, and another male decided to take over that tempting unoccupied platform, and when the female came back & found the new guy, it seemed like she was going to be OK with that, and the original guy got back just as this was going on - total Days of Our Lives, only with feathers and fish. :D

Anyways, there was indeed a nest on the Canarsie Pier platform and as we went by we could just see an osprey watching us paddle by, just her head - no pictures, sorry, the guys were moving along well and I didn't want to hold them up. We also saw a pair of ospreys when we got over to Ruffle Bar, plus the usual spring mix of gulls, terns, brants, and oystercatchers. R. enjoyed hearing the oystercatchers, turns out those guys make it up to Alaska in the summertime and it's always fun to hear a familiar bird in a new place.

Also some very cool clouds - looked to me a bit like "mammatus" clouds, same root as "mammal" and "mammary" where it looks like breasts hanging down from the sky. You can google "mammatus" to see some really cool pictures - we had a suggestion of that, you can see it in the first photo below, but sometimes it can much more pronounced. Also excellent views of Manhattan, especially for a cloudy day.

I ran out of steam a bit as we paddled into the ebb current on the return home, with R. & TQ pulling away from me depressingly fast. Now this is partly established paddling habits for me and TQ - when we get into a headwind or an adverse current, I do best going into a low gear and then just chugging away, while he does better if he sprints, so when we get into that kind of situation is I'll tell him if I'm feeling comfortable and am OK with him running while I plod, and then he goes (keeping a good eye on me as he goes) - but it's also a matter of conditioning. This is something I'm hoping to work on this year, it's been two and a half years since my mastectomy and I'm still nowhere near in the shape I was before I went my round with breast cancer; last summer got away from me in the worst way, but I'm really going to try to get more water time this year.

We did get back to the club in a nice amount of time, and R. was very happy with his first real intro to the bay, and we were happy with having given that to him!

8.5 miles according to Google. Here's hoping I can get back into a good habit of doing trips like that regularly this summer!

More photos, no more writing. Click any photo for a slideshow view.

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