Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Canoeing on the Potomac

Saturday I went canoeing on the Potomac River with some new birder friends. One worked for the Potomac Conservancy, and needed to do an informal survey of invasive plants on an island owned by the Conservancy. We paddled out to Minnie's Island, with some difficulty since the water level was so low and the area rocky. We enjoyed great looks at a very active Green Heron, and then pulled the canoe out and hiked around the island, looking at plants, bugs and birds.
 It was so lush and green, and the hum of cicadas so loud I felt like I was in a tropical forest in South America, or back in time. A native sunflower bush was attracting droves of Eastern Tiger-Swallowtails and Monarchs.
We birded around and discussed the various invasive plants, trying to ID them and and figure out how best to go about doing a removal and restoration. The high water line was well overhead, which really gives you goosebumps when you realize the ground you're standing on could, and has been, under water.
After we finished surveying the island, and feeding the happy mosquitos, we got back in the canoe and paddled up-river for a while. We saw what at first looked like a stick bobbing toward us, as it came closer, we realized what we were looking at was a water snake - swimming with an eel in it's mouth! It swam under the boat, and to a rock where it lost the eel. I felt sorry because I wondered if our paddling in for a closer look had distracted the snake enough for the eel to twist away. I hope it wasn't our fault he lost his lunch. He was a big gorgeous snake, probably a brown water snake. So exciting!
It was definitely the highlight of the day, and after paddling up a bit further, we headed back to the boat launch and hauled the canoe back up to the lockhouse, then headed home. It was a great morning and although I had so many mosquito bites coating my legs it looked like chicken pox, I was extremely happy to have gotten out on the water.

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