Up before the sun
The South Wind blew itself out overnight, left everything warm and quiet in the morning. Very quiet. Just birds and crickets and the occasional splash of minnows along the water’s edge. Got up early before sunrise, made some coffe, and watched the wildlife wake up slowly. There’s some nice video at the end of this post. It will give you a really good feel for what it was like.
The headwind gone, flocks of ducks and geese were back. Streaming south in long, black, undulating ribbons against the sky, one right after another. They started well before sunrise and continued throughout the day. Some flew low and fast, wingtips nearly nicking the water. Most went by high overhead.
Great White Egrets congregated in the marsh by the campsite every day. The evening before, we counted over two dozen gliding past, one at a time, in the last light of dusk as we made dinner – on their way back to a rookery, a night roost on an island safe from shore predators. They returned as the sun came up, one by one, until the marsh was again thick with them.
The only power boat I remember seeing all three days was a crabber. Two men worked the pots at sunrise, methodically moving from one buoy to another down the sound, trailing a tangle of gulls in their wake.
A Tricolored Heron worked the shallows near the shore, though not very hard. Seemed pretty happy just standing there enjoying the view, and didn’t mind me much.
The dim light revealed a mix of critter tracks in the sand passing by the boat. One set left by a fox, another from something with webbed feet like an otter, and also something else – either a big raccoon or a nutria? I’m not very good at reading tracks. Then a dog, probably looking for all three. None made enough sound in the night to wake me.
After breakfast it was time to pack up and start heading back. Rather than carry the boats back up from the water, we dropped the trailers at the ramp by the bridge a few miles away. Had to navigate around some ponies to get there. A stallion stood his ground on the road, keeping watch over his mares. “Wild Ponies of Assateague” is taking on a new meaning. As they lose their fear of people, they become more like stray dogs, or four-legged thugs, than wild animals. They raid coolers and beach bags with impunity, nipping sunbathers and fools who try to stand too close while they mug for the camera. This one offered to cut me a new smile if I didn’t go around.
The Thatchers took a tour of the island and the new visitor center. Tony and I launched the boats and had a leisurely sail back.
It was amazingly calm, so different from the previous days. What wind was left was so light you often couldn’t feel it. But the boats managed to catch enough to keep ghosting along nicely, still making two to three knots without rippling the water.
Here’s the video, starting before sunrise, running up to just before landing. Lot’s of wildlife. A really nice way to end the trip.