Snakebird

February 27 | Chassahowitzka River: The river is shallow—in some places, maybe two feet. I push my foot down to its sandy bottom and it gives another six inches. Blocks of limestone have risen from the riverbed as if to life and are rutted in long striations by the props of boats struggling to find their way to fisheries. In a battle with the tide, the river’s channel seems to flow toward the head spring, while its margins cut firmly into the banks bound for the estuary.

Within the reach of a paddle, a snakebird shakes its crown into absurd erect tufts, and then disappears below the boat resurfacing at the bow with a lanced bream hanging from the bottom of its stiletto bill. It then turns its meandering neck skyward and gobbles it down. As I approach, it lets out a guttural croak and dives into the eel grass.

Downriver, the air becomes heavy with the smell of salt and sulfur. Limestone is replaced by oyster bars and snakebirds by cormorants chasing mullet out of shallow tidal creeks to the bay.

I back the stern into the muddy bank of a mangrove hammock and take it all in.

Anchor Podcast: https://anchor.fm/james-riordan/episodes/Snakebird-emkkrs/a-a3sj9fh

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