a living museum

2.11.22 ~ Alewife Cove Nature Walk
Ocean Beach, New London, Connecticut

When we arrived at Ocean Beach and started walking down the boardwalk to get to the Alewife Cove Nature Walk we heard a couple of starlings singing the loveliest songs and couldn’t believe our ears. (Back at home I was surprised to learn that “they have impressive vocal abilities and a gift for mimicry.”) I’ve only heard them making unpleasant noises until this day.

European starling

As we went along I spotted a cat spying on us. He must have been enjoying the spring-like weather.

The last time I was at this place was in April of 2012, almost ten years ago, with Janet and Nancy. It’s changed a lot due to the many storms forever reshaping the coastal landscape. Here is what I posted back then: walking is discovery. When Tim & I walked at Waterford Beach Park back in October we could see this nature area across the cove and so I made a mental note to revisit it soon. See: sunlight by the sea.

song sparrow
Alewife Cove and Long Island Sound
great blue heron
Alewife Cove
looking west across Alewife Cove to the walkway to Waterford Beach Park

On the walk ten years ago I discovered a praying mantis egg case like the one above. On this walk we saw dozens of them! This must be a favored habitat for them because I’ve never noticed these anywhere else on our wanderings. Apparently the nymphs, up to 300 of them, will emerge as soon as temperatures warm in spring.

praying mantis egg case

Whatever the environment from which it springs, local knowledge matters, because enchanted living begins with local living: genuinely understanding, and so living in harmony with the landscape you occupy.
~ Sharon Blackie
(The Enchanted Life, Unlocking the Magic of the Everyday)

praying mantis egg case
driftwood caught in the brush
driftwood on the sand ~ maybe part of a tree trunk?
cat hanging out at the beach pavilion

It was a great day for a walk. It’s a good thing we left when we did, though, because the Ocean Beach parking lot, which was empty when we arrived, was suddenly full of activity and people placing traffic cones everywhere to make space for lines of cars. They were setting up for free covid testing. We had to to exit out of an entrance to finally find our way out of the maze! A reminder that the pandemic is still with us. Our positivity rate is currently 5%. Seems to be going down slowly…

38 thoughts on “a living museum”

  1. Another great post and a very interesting place for a walk . I did not know starlings made much of a sound at all. When they venture in my yard they make no sounds.

    1. Thank you, Peggy. The belligerent starlings that used to mob my birdfeeder made such awful squawking noises that I grew to dislike the bird intensely. Seeing and hearing them act like songbirds here surprised me!

    1. Thanks, Frank! I thought that log was a stone from the distance and used the zoom lens to take the picture. So surprised to get home and see on the computer screen that it was actually a log.

  2. The egg cases are so interesting. As a kid, I was fascinated by the adult ones…still am because I so rarely see them. If I’ve ever seen the egg cases, I probably just walked by. Thanks for pointing them out to me. I’m reading the Sharon Blackie book now and enjoying it. Her “story stone” reminds me of your glacial erratic pictures.

    1. Years ago we had a praying mantis visit our garden. My hands were dirty from weeding so I asked Tim to get the camera and get some pictures. She seemed to turn her head and follow Tim’s movements with her eyes. It was a magical experience. But I’ve never seen an egg case in our garden or on any of our other walks. I’m loving Sharon Blackie’s book, too. There are so many stories those glacial erratics could tell!

  3. what a lovely photographic walk through the nature preserve! Yes, the weather here has been sunny and almost 60 degrees! So taking advantage of that with walks around the neighborhood, there are many bit old trees, little areas of woods with streams running through which I take in all the nature energy I can during that time.

    1. Thank you, Jeff! I know, we had spring for a few days and now it’s snowing this morning! We might get 2-4 inches and it should stick for a bit. I’m so happy to hear you’re becoming acquainted with the trees and streams in your new home and are finding the healing energy walking and connections with nature offer to us.

  4. So much new and exciting stuff to see for me- how different Rykkinn, Norway is from your place – and I have never seen a praying mantis egg case in my whole life! That is a bit strange, since the temperature seems to be like where I live.
    Loved the tree trunk too.

    1. That tree trunk was pretty cool ~ sometimes the camera reveals things I didn’t see with my naked eyes. From what I can see of the praying mantis range maps they aren’t found in Scandinavia and northern Europe. They are pretty rare here as we are on the northern edge of their range. Looks like your average temperatures are about 7°F colder than ours. I bet you have all kinds of insects that we don’t have!

  5. Do you know I’ve never seen a praying mantis egg case?? Thanks, Barbara, for showing it to me. And I didn’t know starlings were singers either. Gee, the things I learn by reading about my blogging friends’ adventures!!

    1. You’re welcome, Debbie. I never saw a praying mantis egg case either until that one ten years ago and now these. And I grew up in the woods… Some walks can be pretty run-of-the-mill but once in a while one is full of surprises! 🙂

  6. I’m going to just repeat Debbie and Leelah. I have never seen a praying mantis egg case ever. (Maybe not a praying mantis, either…not really sure.) Gosh, you have so many interesting places to walk and hang out in nature.

    1. Praying mantises are pretty rare, as far as I know. I’ve encountered just two in my lifetime. They’re like walking sticks and luna moths, each of which I’ve only seen one time in the woods where I grew up. During this pandemic I’ve come to appreciate how much open space we do have preserved in this industrial area.

  7. My favorite on this walk with you is the Great Blue Heron who looks cold standing on one leg. It’s other leg, I hope, is tucked underneath keeping a spare foot warm.

    I enjoyed both links. Your photoshop cropping explanation with your grandmother’s slide cropping gave me a good smile today. My grandmother used slides too. My parents also used slides. Neither new the clever cropping tool!!! When I would visit Mom & Dad I would ask for a slide show night. Mom loved my interest. They were both obsessed with cataloging all their shows! I just enjoyed any choice they wanted to pull out for me. Good for our three spirits together.

    I’m glad you had a nice walking day. The parking lot escape must have been mind boggling. Organized chaos. The positivity rate is very low there. Still high here. I’m wondering if the cold there might be keeping people inside which might result with lower rates. Cold front is blowing in here right now, so the wind is howling and the oak trees are dancing. I’m listening to the excitement and watching through the windows. 20 Gayle warning. Temp this morning at 60 dropping to 30 degrees quickly. Brrrrrr…

    1. The heron did look cold with its neck all tucked in, too. In warmer weather they stretch their long necks up high. I admired it for quite a while.

      I do miss my grandmother’s slide shows, too… I have most of her slides that I want to go through one day. Since she suffered from dementia in her final years she made a mess of her organizing system as she fussed over them. It makes me sad and I keep putting it off…

      Yeah, when we got to our car it took us a while to figure out what was happening. I think they do it every Friday and it was being set up very quickly and efficiently, we just didn’t understand being caught in the middle of it all! I think our positivity rate peaked at 25%. Most people seem to be continuing with the masks, as we are, even where they’re not required.

      After a few spring-like days it is snowing this morning. We’re expecting 2-4 inches. Enough to enjoy without causing too many problems. 🙂 Stay warm, my friend!

      1. I love to watch a heron fish along the sea shore. They tip toe so quietly in the low waters, then quickly scoops one up. The herons are use to people, but will not allow anyone to get closer then about ten feet. I respect their set boundaries.

        Hmh, dementia is rough to witness. Perhaps the way that they are placed is in an order that assisted her memories of particular people or places or heartfelt moments. Instead of how you might want them organized. My print photos are organized by chronological events, but as I age I find myself pulling them out of their secure space and use them to hold onto my memory. So I have a lot of photos that are no longer obsessively organized. And it’s okay that pictures are just snippets of a moment in time.

        Most people here are not wearing mask and I find myself having to explain why I must wear my mask. People respect me to wear mine, but my mask wearing doesn’t change their choice in behavior. I keep my distance and end up feeling more isolated. One day, I hope my confidence will return.

        My sighting of joy in my yard this week was four cardinals and two woodpeckers, both often not seen. I have seen both praying mantis (insect eaters) and walking sticks (plant eaters). Both often not seen, but truly a wonderful insect treat to respect!

        Snowing!!! Enjoyment size and a reminder that it truly is still winter. Smiles…

        1. I can’t say I’ve seen a great blue heron in the act of fishing but I did catch a great egret once. You might enjoy this old post, TD:

          Dementia is so heartbreaking. I find baby pictures mixed in with travel pictures and those mixed in with her entomology presentations. All completely out of order chronologically and by subject matter. Sigh… Fortunately she wrote something on each slide when she developed them so someday I will probably manage to get them in the groupings she originally intended. It’s nice that you can pull out some of your photos to enjoy now and still be aware of the purpose of what you are doing.

          That’s too bad you feel you have to explain why you wear your mask. The isolation so many of us are feeling is very hard to deal with. Thank goodness we have the creatures in nature close by to visit us and brighten our days. We got about 5 inches of snow yesterday and overnight! It was a long, slow, gentle snowfall, and wonderful, not like that rough and tumble blizzard we had a couple of weeks ago.

          1. Oh YES! EXCELLENT; Love all those great photo shots in action of the Egret. Excitement: Like watching the Herons fish. The two have different styles, but every bit of excitement to watch. Love it!

            And yes it’s true, Barbara; Dementia is heartbreaking and many other complicated emotions swirling within ourselves as we watch love ones and our friends within it.

            As far as my pictures in an unorganized pile, I’m not sure when or why I started pulling out certain pictures from my albums. But my psychology hobby of it must be searching for something, or answers to things that I will never fully have all the missing pieces of the puzzle. Yet it is some sort of brain, heart, and soul that is engaged in some sort of deep personal work. I cannot explain the meaning of it.

            I’m so glad to hear the happiness in your voice for the new snow flakes. I’m looking forward to see if you might share some fun photo captures!

          2. “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” ~ Martin Buber
            May you find some peace as your search for answers and deep personal work continues. *hugs*

          3. Thank you for the *hugs*, Barbara. I really like that one liner quote in your reply to me. For the most of my present life (when the physical, mental and/or emotional pain are at rest) I am very much at peace. There’s nothing within the photograph pile that I’m searching for, but has caught my attention that all it that is in the past. After I spoke to a homeowners insurance agent today, that one liner quote was applicable for me as I found myself realizing that I am still on that journey that has secret destinations of which I, the traveler, is unaware. This cottage has served me; as a safe resting place and to re-stable my financial affairs with a fresh start and more importantly to re-discover myself as I age alone (with Yorkie of course). I have a better understanding of what I need now. It might take some time, but I have some hope that there’s a secret destination ahead that will be much smaller, less work, lower expense… perhaps a tiny sq ft condo with a view…

            I saw one of those leaf grasshoppers that your granddaughter was holding that you photograph share in a post. The winds were whipping 40 mph and the grasshopper found a very safe place on the side of my roof gutter where it was protected. As I watched out my window, I smiled thinking of you and your granddaughter. I’m glad to hear that they are well and will be visiting you soon.

          4. Life seems to be a series of adjustments to new situations, including the changing needs of our aging minds and bodies. Looking back I marvel at how swiftly and how slowly different things in our lives change as we correct, reorganize and repair. Years ago I used to be a bit envious of my aunt and her simple little elderly housing unit with a little hawthorn tree visible from her window.

            I recently received a new picture of my granddaughter holding a tarantula, in a supervised setting at a museum. I’m terrified of spiders so I cringed and decided not to post it on my blog. But at the same time I thought it was wonderful that she is not burdened with inheriting my fear. That must have been awesome watching the grasshopper find refuge on the side of your roof gutter. I love it when nature comes close to the window!

  8. You are fortunate to have so many parks to explore, Barbara. Though the cats are handsome, I wish folks would keep their cats inside… they wreak havoc with the birdlife. 🙁

    1. I agree with you, Eliza. Not only that, but it is safer for the cat to be inside, too. When I was a child nobody kept cats inside and all my beloved childhood kitties were eventually hit by cars and killed. 🙁

  9. Lovely place to walk, as you shared, there’s lots to see! 🙂 Lovely bird sightings and captures, Barbara! I do not know one insect egg case from another, and I know I see a lot when out walking. Very cool find of a praying mantis egg case, how awesome to note your ten years difference of increased breeding population. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Donna! I haven’t been seeing too many birds these days. Maybe things will pick up in the spring. When I found the first praying mantis egg case ten years ago it was my friends who identified it and then I was able to find pictures online to confirm it. It was amazing to see so many of them in the same place ten years later.

  10. Your Great Blue Heron is picture perfect Barbara, not a feather out of place – he looked like he is posing for you. How nice to have the area to yourselves, then luckily you could scramble on out of there for the COVID shot set-up. Your positivity rate is excellent! Here in Michigan they were crowing about being at 14% a few days ago; this was, however, significantly down from a whopping 40% just one month ago. The Starlings have a beautiful and strong call – I hear them at the Park when I walk and also in the neighborhood. I have never seen a praying mantis, let alone a praying mantis egg case, so thank you for showing us that. Now I am going to check out your earlier post from this venue.

    1. Thank you, Linda! I couldn’t believe my luck in the end. The first pictures were blurry and I kept inching closer, using the zoom lens. Just one good shot! Wow! We never got to 40% here! We were alarmed when it got to 25%. It’s amazing how each state has such differences in positivity rates. Last we checked North Carolina was 22% making us doubt we’ll feel safe enough to go down there for a visit any time soon. We got about 5 inches of snow yesterday and overnight. It was a gentle, pretty storm. I watched Neflix most of the day and snuggled under my blanket with some chamomile tea, watching the snowflakes changing size and shape. You know, since starlings have a gift for mimicry I bet they sing different songs in each area of the country.

      1. I do the same thing Barbara – take a lot of pictures, all the while walking closer or zooming closer with the camera. A photographer I follow calls them “safe shots” which he has just in case the animal or bird bolts. That’s not so good, 22% for NC. I am happy we are declining, but they reported 60 new deaths in the past three days in Michigan, a stat that they feel is good. To me, that’s still too many. I like hearing the starlings – they have a strong song and very clear.

        1. I like that description, safe shots. Our positivity rate is down to 4%. Now Queen Elizabeth has tested positive. We will remain very cautious. We don’t have to worry about traveling to NC any more, though. Larisa and Kat will be coming up for Kat’s spring vacation and we will have our granddaughter to ourselves while her mom works remotely. 🙂 Making plans!!! (They will test for covid before they arrive, like they did for Christmas.)

          1. Yes, I always take safe shots as I approach something in case it moves. A photographer I follow called them safe shots and I told him I’ve always done that in “just in case” instances.

            I was surprised to hear Queen Elizabeth tested positive for COVID. I know Charles has had it twice and it was reported last week Camilla tested positive as well. I would have thought they would have stayed away from her as the jubilee events had to have been at least two weeks ago. I heard some Brits on the national news – they are convinced she is “a tough bird and will rally.” Hope so.

            I won’t be removing my mask any time soon. Because we’ve had colder-than-average temps, the anti-fogging spray has not worked so well on my glasses and if walking (very few times believe me), I drop the mask enroute to the Park and put it on there unless no one is there. Your positivity rate is admirable – not great here, but getting better.

            That’s exciting – how fun for you and by then hopefully this Winter weather is done and you can get out and explore more.

  11. What an amazing walk; being a Floridian I appreciate seeing your nature area as it’s very different from way down here. I covet the driftwood.

    I’ve been working on my family tree and my Grandparents both descended from the Norwalk and Saugutuck shores areas; I’d love to visit one there day.

    1. Welcome to my blog, Suz! It’s been many years since I’ve been to Florida but I remember how different the beaches and nature areas are. My father-in-law took us to Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon and I cherish the memory. I hope you do get to visit Connecticut and the land of your ancestors some day. Genealogy trips can be wonderful!

  12. I’m over from Ally’s. I’ve always thought of starlings as nuisance birds. Beautiful photos with a dash of pandemic reality at the end. Sigh.

    1. Welcome to my blog, Margaret! I think of starlings as a nuisance, too, and kept looking for another bird to be singing that pretty song. You never know… Thanks for coming over from Ally’s.

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