by Kurt Zuelsdorf
“ See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.” - Mother Teresa
A hooded merganser moved into the area this week and can bee seen hunting the south pass of Clam Bayou in Gulfport Florida. During our kayak trip today the “hoodie” scattered schools of chad across the surface like shattering shards off a broken mirror. He moves quickly, neck outstretched and wings tucked tightly following the school as they passed the Oyster catchers that sat alone on the bar...no willits, no dowitchers, no matter... They sat quietly without as much as a peep or a whimper and let us pass -primping, preening, probing. The laughing gulls found nothing to laugh at which I found odd, they usually have something to say to my amatuer paddlers! The prehistoric squawk of the great blue heron settled neatly on a mangrove perch was quelled as we paddled near a - too comfy to give up perch today.
Into Brandts lagoon the newly acquired Limkin stayed busy just beyond the hull with barely audible grunts of advice as he probed deep into the mud for his delicacies.“go for the ones with at least 100 legs, they're the best!” No clambering ducks, no kestrel in the pine and not one peep from the osprey as she glided overhead. Even the kingfisher with his machine-gun fire chatter only sputtered a few notes as he worked frantically over a school of shiners.
Clam Bayou's art gallery hosted yearly by the wintering pelicans is off to a slow start. No “poo-painters” on the wall today, but evidence of their smelly work is taking shape. Our recent warm weather likely has them soaking up the sun on a beach somewhere...can't blame em really...colder weather soon come. A casual paddler drifted by with her puppy pal tucked neatly in a chest pouch. Both seemed content with the stillness of the day and only offered minimal words as they tucked trash neatly into a sack..."good form" I say to Lady Rose! We can always use more "elves" around here.
The traverse into Magorie canal was reflective and serene. Night herons held tightly to their perch and stared at us through narrow, red-set eyes. We drifted within paddles reach of an American Egret. Her brilliant white plumage pressed against grassy green mangrove will be as close to an image of snowfall I'll see this year. She was gracious to let us pass twice without so much as a neckstretch.
The slurping, sucking sounds coming from the muck in McIntosh tunnel were only audible if you listened closely and at that dessable range you could almost hear the throngs of spiders quietly nibbling on no-see-ems.
It was nearing darkness when we emerged from the hammock to see the sun melting far beyond the beach buildings shrouded in fog.Then the chatter began. It started low, then grew - The nightly migration of the fish crow passed overhead and in a Southern pessimistic drawl - "Uh Uh" (I do-wanna) "Uh Uh" (I do-wanna) reached a chrishendo and carried through the silent corridors of the bayou. The areal display of black depth stretched far beyond the borders of the bayou and continued on.
The kayak hull crunched the shells at the launch site just in time for my kind of holiday office party! Daily with the setting sun at the Gulfport Municipal Marina is a winged holiday clelebration (and this year is bigger than ever) You can join the party witness a huge flock of redwing's, grackles & starlings. Scores of birds chatting away, milling about and vocally celebrating togetherness. If you watch closely you'll notice the office hussy casually dressed as an Ibis likely kabitzing with finely dressed heron who's visit to the open (oyster) bar has his neck craning and weaving....ah what the heck it's Christmas right? All up at once, an in no order what-so-ever the turbulent swarm wing their way over the bayou. Like a black tornado the swirl of birds spins and spirals downward, settling, falling, squawking over a peaceful area nicely knitted with marsh grass and limb. After a short period of clammering the party comes to a peaceful close, darkness sets in, and if your patience is as strong as your bug spray you too are welcome to come in and experience a “real” silent night.
Kurt Zuelsdorf. Writer, Urban Tracker, Outdoor Enthusiast at Kayak Nature Adventures kayak and sup rentals