Yesterday morning, while firing up the coalstove, I looked out the parlor windows and noticed mergansers swimming in the open water at the mouth of the creek, the first large flock of mergansers for the season. Ice lined the creek and coves, but open water remained in the main channel of the Hudson River. The flock of diving birds flew away when I stepped outside an walked down to the dock. I spread ashes for traction on a glazing of ice that coated the dock from wind-driven spray from waves. Later in the morning, when I returned to the parlor to stoke the coalfire, I noticed a half dozen kayakers paddling around where the mergansers had been earlier. Bundled up in neoprene and windbreakers against the cold, this colorful group of hearty paddlers took a break from the biting wind in the leeward side of the lighthouse.