Should we heed the honking?

Posted 2/1/23

You know there’s something ahead when the honking begins. The first warnings are a couple of isolated squawks, but I know from experience what to expect after that. Soon four or five more …

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Should we heed the honking?


You know there’s something ahead when the honking begins. The first warnings are a couple of isolated squawks, but I know from experience what to expect after that. Soon four or five more Canada Geese joined the chorus and then there was an eruption from dozens of geese followed by the sound of their wings beating the water.

I didn’t bother looking over my shoulder. I knew what I would see, water churned by the flock’s hasty departure with perhaps a few of the daring stragglers paddling away. The calling between the flock didn’t subside as it came into view, flying low over the water, south toward Conimicut Point. Hopefully, they weren’t awakening neighbors from the otherwise peaceful early Sunday morning sunrise – even Green Airport was silent.

Conditions were as near perfect as they could be for a winter paddle. While there was a touch of frost on the grass, the temperature was above freezing. The steps down the seawall were free of ice and the rising tide kissed the seawall. And the bay was calm, glass like in the fresh air. I wore water shoes, a vest, cap and poggies although I could have done without the poggies that resemble mittens with holes for the oars. It was warm for January, very warm, I thought remembering years that don’t seem all that long ago when ice stretched out to the Providence River channel markers nearly a half mile away. On occasion in the late 70s and early 80s, the river north from Conimicut Light would freeze from shore to shore although not to the thickness to support vehicles as it did in the 20s and 30s as Warwick historian Henry Brown will tell you.

On Sunday, the weather was comparable to early March although the sun told you otherwise. It has yet to make its shift east.

I launched the shell with its outriggers for the nine-foot oars, rolled up my pant legs and walked into the water. It was cold, but not freezing, a reminder this is winter, albeit a mild one.

The bay water was clean. White clamshells flecked the sandy bottom three feet below the boat. I pulled on the oars and the bow lifted slightly as I gained speed and settled into a rhythm. I’ve rowed this stretch so many times under varying conditions that it feels like the boat knows the way. She was pleased. We weren’t fighting wind or waves, we were moving.

Mornings like Sunday morning are easy and relaxing. It’s a time to take in the expanse of the horizon, feel the salt air fill your lungs as your breathing quickens and to think. My thoughts lingered on how rapidly conditions change. Less than a week earlier during an unusually high tide, waves broke over the seawall leaving quahog shells and bits of lumber across the lawn. Watching the water’s fury then, I wondered what I could have done had there been a boater in distress. It would have been impossible to launch the dinghy without it being crushed.

On Sunday the bay was inviting.

The Canada Geese were welcome company although I don’t see any Brant Geese that winter here before flying north of the Artic Circle. Had their biological clock been upset by such a mild winter; might global warming have accelerated their migration? Might there be other signs of this?

Jellyfish return by mid-April as do the Osprey. There were no jellies, no Osprey. Yet like the first honking of the geese were these subtle changes a warning of things to come? Would there be a catastrophic event where life takes flight?

honk, geese


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