Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Winter Sport

Even when the backwaters of our part of the River were still icebound, we would see small flocks of Canada geese—vanguards of the thousands that waited downstate in Little Egypt, conscious of the growing duration and intensity of daylight and chafing to be on their way north. No sooner had ice left the Alton Pool than diving ducks began to arrive—the scaup, goldeneyes, and buffleheads that would soon be augmented by redheads and canvasbacks. Pintails were among the first of the puddle ducks, up from the Lacassine and Sabine country of Southern Louisiana, pulled up the ancient migration routes by clouds of lesser snow geese. Mallards were coming in, too, and in a few weeks the smaller puddlers, the teal and wood ducks, would be arriving. So would the shore birds, the killdeers and sandpipers and the big Caspian terns and delicate least terns, the great blue herons and white herons. On my first crappie expedition of the year, a yellow-crowned night heron stalked to within thirty feet of me and we exchanged unspoken pleasantries—one fisherman to another.

Muskrats and beaver are out again and working; our eagles are gone, but the bull cardinals are hollering from the treetops and Doc Kozicky opines that he'll trade a winter eagle for a spring cardinal any day. From upriver comes word that a near-record walleye has been boated during a late snow squall. Spring, as Horace Walpole once observed, has set in with its usual severity.

We'll take it any way it comes.

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