Every now and then I add a non-technical item here (See my posts on Over-fishing and my brother’s band). I just got back from a short but stellar kayak trip.
I went from the Town of Harvard Oxbow boat landing on the Nashua river and went just north of the Rt. 2 overpass in Ayer. It is a short trip (under 2 hours one way including a side trip here and there. On one side of this stretch of river lies the former Fort Devens (and an area still owned by the government if the No Trespassing signs are to be believed). I think the old Tank Road parallels this. The other bank is the Oxbow Nature Refuge.
The Nashua is a slow moving river in this stretch (it isn’t much more to paddle upstream than it is to paddle down stream). I had the river to myself.
What made this such a fantastic paddle was the range (and quantity) of wildlife and plantlife I saw. The banks are rich with arrow-root, cattails, small purple flowers, red berries, ferns, and moss climbing over fallen trees that litter the waterway. The water clarity is not great but in one spot I could see a school of 9″ small-mouth bass swimming slowly upstream. Where the current seems to be non-existent on the surface, it is more evident near the bottom where you see fish and grasses bending to it.
Dragon and Damsel flies were everywhere. To the uninitiated: Damsel flies are dragonflies that hold their wings together vertically when they alight; dragonflies keep their wings outspread. The damselflies are often iridescent. I saw stunning green and blue ones. One damselfly rested on my hand. Every now and then you would see a dragonfly dipping to catch an insect on the surface of the water. Here and there you would see huge masses of tiny water-striding insects that the kayak just glided over, hardly disturbing them.
Upstream from the bass a duck noisly flapped across the water just in front of me, waddling out on the opposite shore. Looking from where she came I could see a brood of ducklings; the duck was clearly trying to draw my attention from her family.
From there I saw three large great blue herons sunning themselves on a fallen tree. These would be three of half a dozen that I would see on this trip.
Just before reaching Route 2, I slipped into a very shallow pond that connects to the river (this is part of the large wetland you see on your left as you travel west on Rt. 2 past the Shirley exit). Another pair of enormous Great Blue Herons flapped away. The shore was peppered with I think are killdeer (a type of shore bird…though more typically associated with beaches). A number of painted turtles plopped into the water as I passed by. Schools of minnows swam by.
Returning to the river, I passed a gaggle of Canada geese. Just past the Rt. 2 bridges I saw a lone mute Swan. I wondered what had happened to its mate.
Also in this area were a pair of Kingfishers with their distinctive white collar, crest, bill and swooping flight.
Finally, on my way back I rounded out the animal kingdom with the only mammal I saw on the trip: A beaver crossing the river.
Despite a 90+ degree day, paddling on the river was quite pleasant. Much of the time I was in the shade and the water tended to keep it a little cooler.
Truly an amazing venture practically in my backyard!