Thursday, November 25, 2010

Autumn on the Indian River

Cordgrass in the upper Indian River.
- (c) Rogard Ross
Went canoeing on Indian River a few days ago and was pleasantly surprised by the natural diversity of the area. A tributary of the Elizabeth River, this estuary is in the City of Chesapeake just outside of Norfolk. Starting at the Indian River Road Bridge, we paddled south a couple of miles to the upper tidal reach of the waterway. The river is bordered on both sides by a mature suburb first established at the start of the 20th century. The early part of the trip included lots of backyards some bordered by native Black Needle Rush grasses and the occasional stand of phragmites. Gulls, including Herring Gulls, congregated around the piers while Cormorants and several Great Blue Herons patrolled.

Soon we came to the first large stand of Cordgrass near the mouth of a small side stream and then the upper third of the estuary is filled with vibrant Cordgrass, and with it hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds. As the waterway narrowed into an undulated path through these tall grasses, dozens of Mallards appeared around nearly every curve. We also spied several Kingfishers, more Great Blue Herons, Cardinals, and Chickadees. Overhead we spotted a Red-tailed Hawk and at least one Osprey that hadn't gone south yet. As the river narrowed and the homes closed in, Phragmites again dominated the final stretch and on a large lawn we discovered a flock of Canadian Geese.

Reversing course, we headed home before the sun set, again passing the whole aviary of birds finding sustenance and home along this small jewel of a river.

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