For the Birds: Sights and sounds of a fall canoe ride

Photo by Chris Bosak
A great blue heron perches on one leg in a tree in Brookfield, Conn., during the fall of 2018.

Here’s the latest For the Birds column, which runs in several New England newspapers.


The fall drawdown on large New England lakes can make it a challenge to launch a canoe. The shoreline is often soupy and mucky, making it a dirty and dicey proposition to get in a quick paddle.

A little dirt and muck have never deterred me, however, especially when the possibility of good duck watching lies ahead. Such was the case last week when I braved the Lake Lillinonah shoreline in southwestern Connecticut to launch my canoe. Lillinonah is considered a lake because of its width, but it is really part of the Housatonic River.

Thankfully, it hadn’t rained in a few days so much of the shoreline was hardened mud. It got muckier the closer I got to the water, but I was able to leave the tail end of the canoe out far enough that my feet only sunk down about 2 or 3 inches before jumping in.

The bottom of the canoe’s interior was smeared with mud, but what the heck; it’s a canoe, a little dirt won’t hurt it. I lifted up my butt, dug in the paddle and pushed off hard. I was on my way and instantly felt the cares of the world disappear as I glided over the glassy water, surrounded by New England’s famous fall colors.

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Purple Sandpipers on Long Island Sound off the coast of Darien

Photo by Chris Bosak Purple Sandpiper on rocky island off the coast of Darien, CT. (Dec. 2013)

Photo by Chris Bosak
Purple Sandpiper on rocky island off the coast of Darien, CT. (Dec. 2013)

Snowy Owls and a Fork-tailed Flycatcher are grabbing all the headlines in Connecticut this week _ and deservedly so. Snowy Owls are being found up and down the coast and that flycatcher has been entertaining birders in Hadlyme.

I haven’t seen either species yet this fall/winter, but I thoroughly enjoyed a canoe trip on Long Island Sound this weekend. I launched from Pear Tree Point in Darien and canoed over to Green’s Ledge Lighthouse and back along the Darien coast. Common and Red-throated Loons were abundant. Long-tailed Ducks were constant companions and even uttered their unique song over and over.

But, for me, the highlight was Purple Sandpipers. I came across two flocks _ one a sizable flock of about two dozen; the other just two birds. Purple Sandpipers are hearty birds that live on rocky islands and breed in the Arctic. They winter on isolated rocks off the coast of New England, including Long Island Sound. 

(Way more photos below. Click on “continue reading.”)

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