The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 17, 2005


A river riddle: What is waterborne, has 50 eyes and craves coffee?

CRUISING DOWN THE RIVER. Enthusiastic paddlers wind down the Concord River at RiverFest 2005 on Saturday. (Photo by Peter Burn)
The answer is Event 5 of RiverFest 2005.

A bird-watching, kayak-and-canoe-paddling, breakfast-eating group of 25 people in 19 boats departed the Route 225 boat launch on the Concord River last Saturday at 5:30 a.m.

Ken Harte, the putative leader of the expedition who recognizes most birds by their calls, sat ensconced in a canoe propelled by his wife, Marilyn, and Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard. According to Harte, there were fewer sightings than usual due to the high water. "Birds like edges and the normal shoreline is flooded now. Creeks are also full and there are probably more birds back there in the bushes than on the river."

For most of us who got up at 4:30, the draw was the beauty of the river in the early morning with the sun rising and the expectation of learning the names of the birds whose songs we often hear this time of year. The hearty breakfast at the River View Restaurant in Billerica after an hour-long paddle with congenial neighbors from Carlisle, Concord, Lincoln and Sudbury was additional motivation.

We saw red-winged blackbirds, nesting grackles, several pairs of kingbirds, a willow flycatcher, and a few great blue herons. We heard the complex songs of rose-breasted grosbeaks, warbling vireos and yellow warblers and the more familiar and repetitive voices of crows, grackles, starlings and mourning doves. On the return trip, a black-billed cuckoo was calling from the Bedford side of the river. Most tantalizing but unverified, a pair of large birds seen briefly by Willard and Marilyn Harte on the Great Meadows Refuge O'Rourke parcel might have been sandhill cranes, according to Harte.

Last weekend marked the fourth RiverFest, an annual celebration sponsored by the River Stewardship Council. Forty-three events sprawled throughout the eleven towns that border the 29-mile coastline of the Sudbury, Concord, and Assabet Rivers. Participants walked and talked, paddled and rowed, taught and learned about these beautiful rivers, designated as National Wild and Scenic Rivers in 1999. Hundreds of people participated during the weekend-long event.

The National Park Service and the Council evaluate federal permits and facilitate efforts to preserve and improve river resources. For more information about RiverFest and the River Stewardship Council, visit their web site at

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito