The winter river
Wednesday, Jan 10, 2018 09:28 am
The morning dawned calm and cool after a skiff of snow overnight and Peggy and I decided to walk along the river and see what winter had brought.
Everything was still and quiet among the tall grey poplars. We could almost feel nature sleeping all around us. We stood for a while along where we had picked Saskatoon’s last summer.
A flicker of movement and then the quiet chirring of a little family of chickadees working their way from tree to tree. As we watched, I saw the quick flash of a downy woodpecker.
Then there was the distinctive rah rah call of a red breasted nuthatch somewhere up in the gnarled old poplar tree behind us. I have always found it strange that in winter, little flocks of different birds tend to hang around together. Is it for protection? Similar food tastes? Or just the need for mates regardless of feather colour? Fools me.
Working our way back past the Sewage Works, we spotted a small flock of ducks in the open water below the 32 Street bridge. Most of them were obviously mallard but there were a couple of smaller birds in among them and I wondered if they were Goldeneye.
However, before we could get close enough to get a good look, a bald eagle came quartering up the river and all the ducks scattered in every direction. At this time year, we have the occasional baldie patrolling the river looking for ducks that are weakened by starvation or have got damaged in some way. Nothing for him here however.
As we walked back upstream I heard a surprising rattle and then saw a Belted Kingfisher flying rapidly under the railway bridge. He was not supposed to be here. We often see him or his cousins down on the little river that tumbles through the little fishing village where we winter down in Mexico.
I have noticed that more and more of our birds that in the old days used to take off for warmer spots now seem to be hanging around well into winter. Global warming maybe. Why fly all that way and risk being deported by Donald Trump if you can get enough to eat here?
The Canada Geese and mallard that hang around the river through the winter make use of the open water generated by the warm effluent from the sewage plant. There was not much else moving along the river but we did know that down under the ice there was still stuff happening.
The mayfly larvae and other greeblies would be crawling around and under the rocks and the rainbow trout and other predators would be picking the odd one up for breakfast. Not very vigorously but one has to remember that water, by its very nature, never falls much below zero degrees centigrade so the winter temperature change faced by stuff that lives in the river is not nearly as great as that facing those of us foolish enough to live out where the wind blows.
Back in the days before Costco (BC) and the growth of the Town, there were springs that bubbled up in the bottom of the river especially up above the Lions Camp Ground These springs were a favorite spawning area for large native bull trout I suspect that with all the water we are now sucking out of the shallow aquifers under the river for our daily shower, these springs are probably gone. But if not, the bull trout will have laid their eggs there back in the fall and they will now be maturing towards hatching in the early spring.
We can only look forward to that.