Got out for a paddle on April 30 and went out to Cockenoe Island in our Norwalk (Connecticut) Islands where I ate my bologna sandwich, and headed around the east end and caught a little bit of the SE wind and flood tide for an assist to track west down on the outside to Sheffield Island, where I stopped to eat my apple and finish my coffee. I had pulled into a small beach next to the cupola of what remained from an old pier that extended out from shore facing Wilson Point.

The island is now the property of the US government and is a wildlife preserve (Stew McKinney Wildlife Preserve) and there are signs along the beach informing you not to go beyond the high water mark. Back in the Ď30s a resort went in on the island that included a golf course, tennis courts, horse stables, and reportedly even a small airfield. A number of structures were built, but given the times Iím surprised that it lasted until 1937 when it was shut down and abandoned. As a kid I remember going out there when the main house was still standing, although its slate roof was mostly gone but the slate was great for skipping across the water.

Today the houses are all long gone and the once pristine grounds are now, and have been for years,

Nature on the
Norwalk Islands

By Hugh McManus

overgrown with underbrush and trees. There are plenty of deer that inhabit the area as you can see the game trails and from time to time see them foraging along the tide line. I walked along the old seawall which is in disrepair and would take a regiment of Italian masons many months to repair.

I think I might have pushed the envelope on the high tide mark when I climbed up over the wall and looked down inside the property, and in doing so I saw in a little corner at the base of another inside seawall a little flash of yellow. Upon closer inspection I discovered a clump of daffodils that apparently have been waiting a long time for someone to find them. The area between the walls looks like it once had been part of a walkway that led from the dock to the main house. There must have been other flowers planted there, too, but these were the only ones to survive the 70-plus years. Interesting to think that these guys have been blooming faithfully every year for the last three-quarters of a century.


I think the flowers were actually a highlight of the paddle, which I continued on to nearby Wood Island which is owned by a neighbor and found that their ospreys have returned for yet another year on the island dock pilings. Their nest didnít survive the winter winds, and three weeks ago when I last paddled by there were no signs of their return. The female was in the nest with the male (Iím making an assumption here) perched in a tall pine tree overlooking the dock. The nest looks as good as ever but no toothbrush sticking out the side as was the case the year before last and the female seems to be sitting on eggs. So yet another constant, I guess.

While the Sound looked pretty calm when I left the house around 10am, I had, as usual, checked online the UConn weather buoys out in the Sound and found to my surprise that the winds were blowing about 12 knots out of the SE. Once I had cleared the harbor I encountered the 1í-2í chop which, as I mentioned, actually helped on the westward leg but required you to keep on your toes, hard thing to do in a kayak, and after 16 miles I was a little tired and even with the dry suit on, the wind was a little chilly. Louise saw me returning and together we hauled the boat and gear up to the house. A good day on the water!