Home is where you’re safe. It is familiar; you know your way around so you feel comfortable. You belong. And even when it changes – maybe it gets crowded, or things you thought you could count on disappear, personalities come and go – you still flock to it. At least if you’re a bird and home is Point of Cedars Island in Little Assawoman Bay.
On a light-wind-day in early April, I launched from Mulberry Landing in the Assawoman Wildlife Area (AWA) to see how the winter had treated Point of Cedars. This tiny spot of high ground in the middle of the bay supports a ton of bird life. Even at low tide it is less than one acre of a mud/sand/bird dropping mix, yet during the spring and summer, astute observers can spot nearly a dozen species of birds on it.
When we first paddled in this bay, 25 years ago, a small forest of trees grew out of the center of Point of Cedars and marsh grasses covered perimeter. Erosion, higher water levels, and strong winter storms have eaten away at it though. The trees have all died leaving only their skeletons. And the marsh grasses have retreated to the area around the dead trees. We’re sure every winter will be the last for Point of Cedars, or at least the last for any possible nesting grounds for the birds. So the first paddle out is full of trepidation.
(The above video of Point of Cedars was taken a few number of years ago before the trees died off.)
No matter how many times I’ve paddled this area, finding Point of Cedars is an act of faith. The low elevation of these marshy shorelines blurs into the water. Only the houses, condos, and the few trees that haven’t fallen to a bulldozer outline the bay. So I usually aim for the southern shoreline – now easy to focus on because of the new clubhouse and dock in the new development sticking out of what used to be the marsh.
The corrugated metal seawall surrounding the sun-bathing deck and the cement rip-rap protecting the newly dredged boat basin don’t belong here but I guess Planning and Zoning disagrees. After scooting under the dock still smelling of fresh creosote, I recognized a small opening in the shoreline. This opening turns into a narrow mosquito ditch which leads to a shallow marsh pond on the far end of which is another ditch that goes to another pond. You used to feel as though you were discovering something new when paddling through these areas. Now, as I looked up onto the porches of the brand new houses, it felt like sneaking through someone’s backyard. Which, maybe, I was.
Coming back out to the open bay, Point of Cedars now hovered above the horizon. It’s not a far crossing and as I neared, I saw two Blue Herons perched on the out-stretched barren branches of the one lone skeleton tree that survived the winter. Cormorants lined up on a log on the edge of the western shoreline. Above the grasses near the center of the island, the white heads of Great Egrets appeared and disappeared. One, in full view, displayed its beautiful, lacey breeding plumage. To me, the island, still in all shades of brown, didn’t look like a welcoming place. But thankfully, to the birds, it looks like home – for another season anyway.
Thanks to the light east wind, the pounding hammers and the screeching circular saws from the development were replaced with the sound of waves breaking on the beach a mile away and the arguing herring gulls. As I continued around, I saw a pair of American Oystercatchers poking along the shoreline. Two Snowy Egrets flew over me towards the tree. On a small point of land with the grasses eaten down, a Canada Goose squatted on its nest, neck lowered in an attempt to hide. I tried to give it plenty of room but it needed more. It stood up and honked its protest but thankfully didn’t come after me with its wicked elbows. A little further, two Osprey circled a sad-looking, empty platform with a precarious southerly lean. One trailed a white shred of plastic in its beak, seeming confused as to how and where to start building a nest on this thing.
Although I was on the other side of the island, somehow I spooked the Cormorants and they flew, first one, and then the entire flock, back towards Mulberry Landing. Not wanting to disturb the rest of the island, I followed them back to the launch.
If you go:
- The trip to Point of Cedars from Mulberry Landing and back is a little under three miles. A person could easily extend it by exploring the many salt marsh cuts, especially west of Mulberry along the AWA’s shoreline.
- The AWA is owned and managed by Delaware Fish and Wildlife. A couple of years ago they started requiring a Conservation Access Pass to park at AWA. The rules are a little murky – if you are launching a boat or fishing or hunting, you don’t need a pass. For all other activities you do. But there is a sign at the boat ramp stating that you need to have a Delaware registration to use the ramp.
- If you don’t have a kayak but would like to see Point of Cedars, there is a wonderful, amazing, fantastic kayak rental business, Coastal Kayak (full disclosure – Mitch and I own Coastal Kayak!), that is only 3/4 of a mile from Point of Cedars!!
- Check the wind before attempting this paddle (the marine forecast – not the regular forecast). It is all open water. White caps make this trip a slog.