Almost Spring on the Sudbury River

canoe under snow cover

Here is our canoe on this first morning of spring. Boston has gotten slammed with winter storms this year. That isn’t a complaint. Despite many long early mornings spent shovelling before work, we have also had opportunities for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and just appreciating the relative quiet and slowed down pace of the city under a couple of inches of snow.

Last weekend, winter be damned, we took the canoe out on the Sudbury River. We got a lot of “You’re going out today?” and “Don’t fall in!” comments from our neighbors as we tied the boat onto the car Saturday morning. The sun was out but the temperature didn’t break 40 degrees all day long. Fortunately there was no wind on the water and we were dressed plenty warmly for the weather. The Sudbury River is running slow and high right now. The banks are overflowing in most places and the trunks of the trees growing along the edge are submerged in three to five feet of water. We had to duck to make it under road and railroad bridges that probably usually sit a good eight feet over the river.


We paddled upstream until we found a place to pull off for lunch, which happened to be a nice bit of conservation land with hiking trails. After lunch we left the boat tied up and walked a big loop through the woods and fields. Spring birds were in full force. We saw chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, goldfinches, robins, blue jays, crows, woodpeckers of indeterminate species (probably downy), a red-tailed hawk, a mute swan, some mallards, a flicker, and most exciting, a wood duck. This was my first ever wood duck sighting. We heard its distinctive call before we were able to see it. You can listen here: In fact we only ever caught brief glimpses of it as it paddled away from us in area where the river overflowed into a thick wooded pool that was full of duck weed and dead hollowed trees. Really the perfect habitat for this shy and rare bird. Wood ducks almost went extinct a hundred years ago from over-hunting and habitat loss. This is the time of year when they start pairing up to breed and nest. I hope we have a chance to go back later in the spring to see if they have actually nested there, and maybe see some ducklings.

Wood Duck photo by Michael Dossett

Wood Duck photo by Michael Dossett

We got back to the canoe and I heard the sweet “bob-white, bob-bob-white” call of some bobwhite quail across the river. I whistled back and forth with them a few times before they were scared into hiding by a father and son walking with their dog along that bank. There is so much to explore along the Sudbury River. Thankfully large parts of it are protected conservation land, due to sixty years of work by the Sudbury Valley Trustees. This was our first time exploring the area and I look forward to spending more spring and summer days out there. It’s canoeing, hiking, and birding paradise just half an hour from Boston.