a heavily wooded glacial valley

3.16.22 ~ Paffard Woods, Stonington, Connecticut

The preserve offers diverse terrain ranging from a heavily wooded glacial valley in the northern portion to a salt marsh on a tidal cove at the southern edge. Other distinguishing features include many glacial erratics, large trees, a white pine grove, wetlands crossed by bridges, and a cultivated field.
~ Avalonia Land Conservancy website

After several weeks of being plagued with gout/tendonitis/edema, Tim’s foot was finally healed enough to take a walk! Just in time to welcome some lovely warm spring weather. We chose a new-to-us preserve, Paffard Woods and walked for over an hour, much to my delight! It was a sunny day with temperatures around 50°F (10°C).

skunk cabbage coming up, early sign of spring
glacial erratic with a split hidden in the shadow
curious markings on tree bark
(thanks to Eliza for identifying beech bark disease)
a stone crossing ~ we made it across without incident
root covered terrain leading up to a nicely placed bench on top of a ledge
looking down at glacial erratics from the top of the ledge
moss on log illuminated by sunbeam

Even though these dark-eyed junco photos are marred by twigs I was excited to see them in the woods. They used to visit my birdfeeder when I had one but these are the first ones I’ve seen in the wild.

dark-eyed junco
tree/glacial erratic buddies

And then we saw a couple of eastern bluebirds flying to and from the hole way high up in this tree. Again, it was hard to get pictures with the twigs interfering with the focus. These were the best of my dozens of attempts! (Lots of shots with blurry wing action, too.)

eastern bluebird
trunk with many legs
trunk with many arms
more skunk cabbage
even more skunk cabbage
vine strangling a trunk
marcescence

Connecticut’s positivity rate has been hovering between 2-3%. There’s talk of a fourth shot being needed for those of us over 65. Still exercising a lot of caution in stores. Putin’s cruel onslaught on Ukraine continues. But it was good to forget reality for an hour and feel grateful for a brief dose of the healing power of nature.

35 thoughts on “a heavily wooded glacial valley”

  1. What a great walk. So glad your husband was able to venture out. The rocks made the walk look a little rough at times. Was glad to see that bluebird. We use to have dozens of bluebirds in our yard. But the big snow in 2021 was the last time I saw a bluebird here. Still no bluebirds in our area and I do miss them. Those tree limbs often mess up our attenpts to capture a photo.

    1. Thanks, Peggy. After seeing what Tim went through I have a new appreciation for how precious feet are! The uneven terrain is actually better for his back because he uses different muscles for each step. He walked for over an hour! On a flat surface his back starts hurting within minutes. I’m so sorry your bluebirds have disappeared. 😔 It may take time but I hope their population will recover and some day they will return to your area.

      1. Glad your husband did so well on your walk. I too want my bluebirds back. I love the bluebirds and the wrens. Took a year to get our Cardinals back. A lady in Missouri said they found their bird nest boxes full of dead bluebirds. They huddled together in those bird houses in that bad storm last year and froze to death. We checked our bird boxes, but we found no dead bluebirds .

        1. Our local arboretum puts up birdhouses for the bluebirds but sometimes tree swallows take up nesting in them. That must have been upsetting for the Missouri woman who found the bluebird remains in her birdhouses. We don’t see bluebirds or wrens here in our small city so it was nice to find the bluebirds out in the woods. Glad your cardinals came back. We do see a lot of those because they come to people’s feeders.

    1. For some reason it never occurred to me to even think of eating skunk cabbage! It’s only native to eastern North America where it is pretty common in wetlands. I did some research and found this for you:

      “Most animals avoid skunk cabbage because it causes a burning sensation when eaten, but bears will eat young plants in the spring. Native Americans have used it as a medicinal treatment for coughs and headaches. For a time in the 1800s, it was sold as a drug called dracontium to treat a variety of ailments.”
      ~ The National Wildlife Federation

  2. Thanks for sharing nature’s healing. The bluebird photos are great! The skunk cabbage reminded me that in Florida old timers ate “swamp cabbage” which was the heart of palm from young sabal palms, AKA cabbage palms. Now it’s a novelty.

    1. Thank you, Anna, it was thrill seeing the bluebirds! I guess they would have to get the hearts of palms from the young sabal palms in order to harvest the buds. The mature trees look incredibly tall and unreachable from the pictures I’m seeing online.

  3. How wonderful for you to share your healing nature walk with us, Barbara! I especially love the bluebirds and the moss; and I’m fascinated by those markings on the tree bark. I wonder if they were made by insects? Glad you two were able to get out and enjoy the early Spring weather.

    1. It was such a lovely day! The sunshine hitting that patch of moss made it look fluorescent and seeing the bluebirds was thrilling! Spring was definitely in the air. Your guess about the tree bark markings is on track. Eliza, in comment below, identified and explained the beech bark disease. Sigh…

  4. Nice photo but the dark-eyed junco is one spooky looking bird. I hadn’t heard about a 4th shot. I wonder if eventually getting a Covid-19 vaccination will become a yearly thing like a flu shot?

    1. Spooky? I think they’re cute, but I usually see them in the snow, which is a better backdrop. First Pfizer and now Moderna is asking for a fourth shot. I’ll be first in line. I get a flu shot every year so getting a covid shot every year will be no problem.

  5. So sorry to learn of Tim’s feet conditions and walking back pain. It truly is incredible that he musters up the desire to take these types of walks!

    I’m weak when it comes to dealing with my own pain. I understand there are different tolerances between people and different levels of pain.

    I love the textures that you captured. And the blue bird is certainly a treat to please.

    1. Thank you, TD! I’m just glad Tim paid attention to the pain and sought treatment and followed the doctors’ suggestions. And I’m beyond grateful he can walk again. Dealing with chronic pain can be one of life’s greatest challenges. You’re brave to carry on in spite of your pain and you have my heartfelt sympathy. I had chronic migraines and missed out on a lot of life until 2006 when a neurologist prescribed me a new drug that works. I’ll always be grateful to modern medicine for that.

  6. Glad you got out today to enjoy the warm weather, today was outstanding! The marks on the bark sadly spells doom for that beech tree. “Beech bark disease (BBD) has killed millions of American beech (Fagus grandifolia) throughout New England and has drastically altered northern hardwood forests, of which beech is a primary tree species. BBD is a disease-insect complex that involves both native and non-native scale insects (Cryptococcus fagisuga and Xylococculus betulae) and two species of the fungal pathogen Neonectria (N. ditissima and N. faginata).” There are patches of it here in town and I fear for my own trees. It seems every tree now has threats– maple, ash, elm, hemlock… 🙁

    1. Oh no! 🙁 Thank you so much, Eliza, for letting me know about the beech bark disease. We have so many beeches in the woods around here but this is the first time I’ve noticed this. Sigh… I’m still depressed about the decimation of the hemlock forest surrounding my childhood home. And I remember my father talking about the American chestnut blight. I guess the woodlands will keep changing as time goes on and species die out and new ones take their places. What’s happening to the maples?

      1. Fungal leaf blight exacerbated by the warming climate. Maples need cold winters and cool summers to thrive. Their range is predicted to move northward. But that may not be cool enough if the ice caps and permafrost melts. See what keeps me up at night? :-/

        1. Me, too. Climate change is already affecting the maple syrup industry. So many things to be anxious about these days, between climate change, pandemics and wars. I’ll look up fungal leaf blight. Could this be why I don’t see as many red maple leaves as I remember seeing in the fall?

          1. The red maples seem to be more resistant to leaf spot, but can get spots as well. Many of the sugar maples in our area which used to have vibrant hues now have this brown leaf spot, where the leaves just dry up and drop. The overall color is a muddy yellow-brown. When I see a healthy sugar maple in the fall now, I’m surprised and realize how widespread the disease is. It is wind-borne and last year’s leaves infect the new growth in spring, so it is a vicious cycle. Perhaps this is why in the past leaves were burned, but that practice is no longer allowed.

          2. Very interesting, and very sad. So many changes in the woods over the years. It’s hard to stay optimistic. Sigh….

    1. Thank you, Donna! It was great fun finding colorful skunk cabbages and bright bluebirds and fluorescent moss in the otherwise drab woods. 😊

  7. Those are curious markings on that tree! I haven’t seen anything like it before. Your spring-like post is making me want to hurry spring along here. But I guess it will come as quick as it comes. There’s no hurrying Mama Nature and skunk cabbage.

    1. I hope you never do see markings like these in your neck of the woods, Kathy! Eliza identified them as the work of beech bark disease, a “disease-insect complex.” It’s true, we can’t hurry spring along but the wheel of the year keeps turning so we “know” it will come eventually.

  8. That’s great that Tim’s foot has healed in conjunction with the warmer weather – a good reason to try a new park out. That rock walkway looks dicey – congratulations for making it across. I had never seen Dark-eyed Juncos until this past Winter. I see a group of them feeding under the Safe Haven Tree at the Park – they hop around eating the sunflower seeds. They are cute and arrive and leave as a group. 🙂 I have never seen a bluebird. There are bluebird nesting boxes that were handmade and placed around Lake Erie Metropark. I really like the sunbeam hitting the moss photo. Our stats are a little lower, but now I am worried about this BA.1 variant. I went grocery shopping today … crowded and five people wearing marks, all elderly people and me too. No clerks, cashiers, stock people – no masks on. What a worrisome past few years it has been Barbara – if it’s not COVID, it’s the Ukraine crisis and erratic weather.

    1. I was happy we made it across the stone crossing safely, perhaps we’re more nimble than we imagine at times. 😉 But there have been times on some other trails when we’ve had to turn around and retrace our steps because it looked too challenging to make it across. I used to love when the adorable juncos visited our feeder in the winter, usually in pairs. They picked up the seeds lying on the balcony. I learned they are ground feeders. Our local arboretum puts up birdhouses for the bluebirds but sometimes tree swallows take up nesting in them. I hope you get to see a bluebird some day! This was a rare sighting for me.

      We do our food shopping Thursday mornings (like many retired folks) and I’d say about half the people are wearing masks. I suspect even fewer do on the weekends. Keeping my fingers crossed that the BA.2 variant keeps a low profile here…

      1. I’ve turned around too Barbara – more times than not due to flooding. The parks are going to be bad after 3-4 days of rain here – the bigger parks put down pea gravel in the low spots, but that even gets flooded sometimes. Or muddy. We have mud everywhere.

        This was the first year for those cute juncos and I recognized them right away from bird sites I follow. I was amazed that they travel as a group, zooming to the ground, zooming into the air just as quickly. I hope they stay. I have heard swallows are known for evicting other birds from their homes and I saw it with my neighbor who put out birdhouses and wrens moved in and were soon gone due to sparrows that took over their home.

        As soon as I get acclimated to this store, I’m going back to going on a weekday morning too – I was never one for crowds before, especially in the Winter months with the flu, but even more wary of crowds now. I heard Dr. Fauci say he anticipates people are COVID weary and will not be as cautious as they were before.

        1. Ah, yes, mud season is definitely upon us. We have to deal with it if we want to walk in the woods and see vernal pools and hear the spring peepers up close.

          Have you managed to get any junco pictures? They flit about so quickly I’m amazed that I could get any at all. I have to admit, seeing a tree swallow poking its head out of the bluebird house was kind of cute. It seemed to be waiting to see something on the horizon. I wonder if the bluebirds put up any resistance.

          Are you shopping at a new store? (You said you were getting acclimated to it.) Dr. Fauci is right about people getting covid weary. Tim went to get his hair cut without wearing a mask yesterday, much to my dismay. (Our bubble is now broken.) He’s not about to let me cut it anymore.

          1. Yes, and wearing rubber boots works for traipsing through the mud keeps your feet dry and walking shoes clean, but boots are not for going on a long walk or hike. I’m going to get my boots out this weekend as we’re having four days of rain, maybe a wintry mix, so if I get to a big park I will have to be prepared.

            I left my junco pictures out of my bird post I did (the one with the fake cardinal up top) because they were so small, you couldn’t see them and the lighting under the tree isn’t too good as it is and it was a gray day when I took the pictures. I have never taken any pictures with birds looking out of birdhouses, but I did have some baby Robins looking out of their nests. They were standing on the edge of the nest – they fledged the next day, so I was happy I got that shot of them (looking disgruntled)

            I am still at Meijer Barbara, but they totally remodeled my store and a fellow walker told me she damaged a tire and axle at a pothole in the stores driveway, so I went to another Meijer and painstakingly wrote what aisle the things I needed were in from going online at their store, only to get there and it didn’t match up. I’d be upset too … I never go out without the mask at all – even if I’m out doing yard work, shoveling snow in case anyone comes over to talk to me. I take no chances and in my own bubble. I had to go out for a few errands yesterday and scurried home. I’ve still not had my hair cut since November 2019 and I cut it myself due to COVID and it looks it.

          2. I’ll be thinking of you traipsing through the mud in your boots this weekend! We’ve started going outside without our masks but keep one handy in our pockets in case anyone comes too close and starts talking. Daughter and granddaughter are coming for a visit this week and will test before they come in. I got my hair cut once in April 2021, two weeks after my second shot. Then Delta came along and I haven’t gone for a haircut since. My hair will have to keep growing out until I feel safer. Our positivity rate went above 3% for a day last week but got back to above 2% yesterday. If they give us a fourth shot I might go get a haircut before that wears off, too…

            The grumpy baby robins were so adorable! 💕 Thank you so much for including the link! 😊 Your captures were amazing ~ I loved the last one with the little one, mouth open waiting for mama to deposit a worm. I love all those little tufts of feathers sticking out, too. So new to the world around them.

  9. Hi Barbara – I sent you a link of my cute Robins that I watched fledging one morning and got their photos – I think it went to SPAM as it was a link. Think Spring when you see the pictures. 🙂

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