Two weeks ago a pair of male buffleheads came splashing in for a landing at the piling field near my bench. It was early for our locals who winter here, so I figured they were headed farther south and just taking a rest. Didn’t see them again, so I was probably right. But this morning, a single male landed, floated around a piling with a seagull on it, and dove for fish, looking right at home. About twenty minutes later a flight of Brant geese went by, showing their plump white behinds in a messy V. The winter visitors have arrived!
Also this morning, a gull swooped into a float of debris and came up with a small eel. He flew away and was immediately mugged by another gull, who stole it. Then the first gull and about a dozen others all chased the thief, not to bring him to gull justice but to steal the eel themselves. Or maybe that is gull justice. Anyway, I didn’t see who ended up with the prize, but I started to wonder: do gulls hold grudges? Will Gull #1, who caught the eel, be gunning for Gull #2, who stole it? Will he knock #2 off a perch, or hang around on purpose to see what he finds to eat so #1 can steal it, turnabout being fair play? Also, are some gulls better at finding food, or quicker at catching eels or whatever, and are they therefore stalked by other gulls, who find it easier to steal a faster gull’s prize than to fish themselves?
These are the questions that come up in the early morning, by the river.
On wrinkled river
Helicopter's shadow slides,
Ferry's white wake froths.
Tall construction crane
Looms over trees, low buildings:
Dog jumps on next bench,
Sticks cold nose in hand, wags tail,
Refuses to leave.
And don't forget your 2016 Calendars!
Glassy high water.
Cormorants flap drying wings.
Pilings stand like reeds.
Neighbor stops to chat.
Tourists photograph the sky.
Runner slaps on past.
Small tug, little barge,
Inching by at turtle speed,
Barely leaving wake.
And don't forget your Five Snouts of Mongolia, Flowers, and Travel Calendars for 2016!
These were lost, but now they're found.
Whitecaps race downstream.
Strong wind blows across current.
Tea goes cold quickly.
Sharp-edged, fast-moving water,
Bright light in slices.
Fast flash against gray:
On ferry terminal roof,
Ridges have caught sun.
Blue-and-white striped tug,
Black tires nailed to painted hull,
Frothy wake behind.
Tide out, river calm.
Dots of seagulls, rolling waves,
Cormorant pops up,
Looks left, right, nothing to see,
Arcs and dives again.
Lots of fog in the past few days, much of it beautifully low-hanging enough to dissolve the tops of the towers on both sides of the river. Cormorants huddling on the pilings, gulls swooping, and a red-tail who seems to be making the neighborhood his home. Fingers of gold leaves from the locust trees lying in criss-crosses on dark wet stone. This morning, sudden silver bursts of fish jumping from the water right in front of my bench. I watched for a while hoping they were being chased by a seal who’d eventually surface. Seals from New England do winter in Jamaica Bay, but they don’t often come this far up the Hudson. I’ve only seen one here, about four years ago. Did not see one this morning. In the end I had to admit the predator was probably just a bigger fish.
Flaw in heavy clouds.
Sun pours through, hits long ridge top.
Buildings all light up.
River flat and calm.
Fallen yellow leaves drift past
Two ducks breakfasting.
Cormorant takes off,
Flaps low over water's glass
To fresh fishing ground.
The grass is still green and thriving, but the leaves are fading, crisping brown at the tips, or turning glorious colors as they variously will. The air is cool, though not yet cold. The wind has started to raise sharper waves on the river. The gray slate pathway is dotted with gold and tan, this leaf-trickle soon to be a flood. Many of the migrating birds have come and gone. The local mallards and Canada geese are still here, as are the local cormorants, though bands of cormorants can be seen overhead heading to their winter quarters. Yesterday, to my surprise, a sloppy V of Brant geese raced chaotically south along the river. Way too early for them in the usual way of things, but climate change being what it is, they must have had a good reason for leaving the Arctic this soon. I hope they find a welcome where they’re going.