migrating sandpipers

8.16.20 ~ two kinds of sandpipers, Eastern Point

On the weekend we finally got a break from the heat and humidity and when we went down to the beach early Sunday morning I was very surprised to see some very tiny shorebirds on the rocks. After careful investigation I believe they are two different kinds of sandpipers because of some small differences in size and beak shape. The smaller one in front with the yellow legs and the slightly curved bill is a least sandpiper. The slightly larger one in back with the black legs (legs seen in following pictures) and a stouter bill is a semipalmated sandpiper.

They were a little difficult to capture with my camera, but in the picture above you can see the semipalmated’s (lower left) black legs. The least sandpiper (upper right) is only slightly larger than a sparrow.

least sandpiper

Least Sandpipers breed in tundra and boreal forests across the extreme northern regions of North America. They nest in coastal wetlands, bogs, sedge meadows, and tussock heaths. At the southern reaches of their breeding range, in Nova Scotia and British Columbia, they also nest in sand dunes. During migration they stop on coastal mudflats, rocky shorelines, and inland habitats including wet meadows, flooded fields, and muddy edges of lakes, ponds, and ditches. They winter from the southern United States through the northern half of South America in lagoons, mangrove forests, wet ditches, swamps, wet fields, mudflats, saltmarshes, tidal sloughs, and the edges of lakes, ponds, and rivers.
~ All About Birds webpage

My guess is that this flock is migrating south and stopped on our “rocky shoreline.” The “All About Birds” webpage also says they flock with other shorebirds during fall migration, including with the semipalmated sandpipers.

semipalmated sandpiper

The Semipalmated Sandpiper has three North American breeding populations: western (Alaska), central (western Canadian Arctic), and eastern (eastern Canadian Arctic). A 2012 study estimated a total population of 2.26 million breeding birds, with 1.45 million in the western population, and 810,000 in the central and eastern populations. Population trends have fluctuated over the last several decades. Overall, it appears that the Alaskan and central populations are currently stable, with possible increases in some areas, and the eastern population is declining. Semipalmated Sandpiper is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists bird species that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action.
~ All About Birds webpage

There were fewer semipalmated sandpipers in the flock than the least sandpipers, which makes sense if they are declining. It seems this little guy flew here from the eastern Canadian Arctic. Good luck on the rest of your journey, little one!

As I was oohing and aahing over the sandpipers a herring gull came over, wondering why I wasn’t taking his picture…

herring gull

As we continued our walk we tried to make a Marco Polo video message of ourselves for Katherine and Finn. We love it when they send us one. 🙂 I hope it came out all right. We want them to remember the beach. It was just over a year ago that they were here!

There was an unusually large group of cormorants gathered on the breakwater. Just a tad closer to me than normal, but not quite close enough to get the “perfect” picture I dream about.

pair of double-crested cormorants

I’m pretty sure the ducks below are mallards.

mallard
mallard looking out to sea

On the way home we saw a large flock of Canada geese resting and preening on logs in Beach Pond, which seems to have a little more water in it from a recent rainstorm. Not sure where the logs came from.

Canada geese in Beach Pond

We drove through the Avery Point campus looking for American oystercatchers that someone spotted a few days ago. Didn’t see any, just a group of crows.

An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, April 20, 1840)

crow walking along a seawall at Avery Point

It was definitely a bird walk!

misty hibiscus palustris

8.4.20 ~ Beach Pond

Before Tropical Storm Isaias arrived on Tuesday, and after filling the car with gas and dropping off our mail-in primary ballots, we went down to the beach and the turtle pond for an early morning walk. We never lost power here, in spite of the high winds, but I see on the news the rest of Connecticut was hit much harder.

swamp rose-mallow and common cattail

Unfortunately the storm didn’t bring much rain here, which we could have used because we’ve had so little this summer. In these pictures you can see that Beach Pond is almost dried up, all that remains are puddles and mud. Normally there would be lots of blue-gray water behind these wildflowers.

swamp rose-mallow and common cattail

My heart always skips a beat when I see the swamp rose-mallows are blooming! They seem to be a perfect shade of pink. When I was little, pink was my favorite color. My parents even let me paint my bedroom walls pink. Blue has replaced it as my favorite color in adulthood, although I think you could call the muted shade on my current living room walls a dusty rose.

purple loosestrife
pickerelweed
swamp rose-mallow (hibiscus palustris)
8.4.20 ~ Eastern Point
rabbit’s-foot clover ?

Down at the beach I noticed these curious tiny puffy pale pink flowers (above) growing between the rocks. And there was a solitary gull (below) letting the waves wash over his feet. You can tell the wind was just starting to pick up from his ruffled feathers.

ring-billed gull

After taking the online Joy of Birdwatching course at The Cornell Lab Bird Academy, I took their suggestion and joined the “Connecticut Birds” Facebook group. It’s a private group with about 6,500 members and you cannot share the beautiful pictures other members submit. What a treasure trove! And the members are so helpful when you need assistance identifying a bird.

non-breeding male or juvenile mallard

Even if you don’t know you need guidance! Back on June 24 I saw a solitary eider swimming in the river and honestly thought it looked like a juvenile loon. But someone in the group suggested it was a female common eider and that she had never seen one before! I looked it up and agree with her identification. At first I thought this bird was another common eider but now I’m going with a non-breeding male, or a juvenile, mallard, unless I get corrected again. 🙂

morningtide

6.24.20 ~ Eastern Point
Canada goose papa watching over his family in Avery Pond

One morning, four days after the beach “opened” for the season on June 20, we got up early and headed down there before it opened for the day. What a difference! Now that people have to pay for a pass to enter between 8am and 8pm the freeloaders and all their litter, cigarette butts and dog crap have disappeared. Peace is restored and we had such a lovely walk!

killdeer parent and three tiny chicks
near Avery Pond
killdeer on the run after the speedy little chicks

In contrast to the tranquil Canada goose family, the killdeer parents were beyond frantic, chasing after and chirping to their three chicks, who were darting all over the place and in every direction. It made getting their pictures next to impossible! They blended in well with the gravel.

the morning dew promised a humid day

Someone is tending some beautiful rose bushes near the entrance, along the chain link fence.

rose and chain link fence

I love the contrast between rusty old metal and fresh new flower.

rose and buds

The water was very calm on the river/estuary side of the point.

juvenile gull
female common eider
flying over the Thames River estuary
underwater and above-water seaweed
please, please, please

Another risk factor to worry about:

The two stretches of DNA implicated as harboring risks for severe COVID-19 are known to carry some intriguing genes, including one that determines blood type and others that play various roles in the immune system. In fact, the findings suggest that people with blood type A face a 50 percent greater risk of needing oxygen support or a ventilator should they become infected with the novel coronavirus. In contrast, people with blood type O appear to have about a 50 percent reduced risk of severe COVID-19.
~ Dr. Francis S. Collins
(Genes, Blood Type Tied to Risk of Severe COVID-19,
NIH Director’s Blog, June 18, 2020)

I have type A blood. Fortunately my husband, children, and grandchildren are all type O. Reading this article made me glad that we haven’t let our guard down and continue to remain firmly self-quarantined. And now our governor has ordered out-of-state travelers to quarantine for two weeks when entering Connecticut because of the way COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire in so many other states. I’m glad to know he is still looking out for us. The numbers are getting very alarming again.

It’s good to know my beach sanctuary is available to me again, at least for the summer. Looking forward to many early morning walks on the sand.

The salt of those ancient seas is in our blood, its lime is in our bones. Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments, or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refugees of a long war.
~ Loren Eiseley
(The Unexpected Universe)

gull tracks

I like this place, and willingly could
Waste my time in it.

~ William Shakespeare
(As You Like It)

? near Beach Pond
red-winged blackbird near Beach Pond

We are nature. We are nature seeing nature. The red-winged blackbird flies in us.
~ Susan Griffin
(Made from this Earth: An Anthology of Writings)

close to home

5.16.20 ~ eastern painted turtle at Beach Pond, Groton

Last weekend we took a long meandering early morning walk at Eastern Point Beach. No pictures because the place had been trashed, complete with broken beer bottles. We wanted to see it before it opened for the summer because we will not be going there much. Only before or after hours (8am-8pm) when it opens June 20. Still concerned about possible exposure to COVID-19. On the other hand, since people will have to purchase season passes to enter between 8am and 8pm, perhaps the individuals currently vandalizing the place will go elsewhere.

When we drove past Beach Pond Tim spied a turtle sitting on a rock in the pond. He loves turtles. ♡ So we stopped and I got the above photo!

5.16.20 ~ Calf Pasture Overlook, Groton

Then we checked out a nice mini-park with one bench and one picnic table, overlooking Baker Cove. Maybe we’ll come here for our summer outdoor suppers… (Eating in our car, of course. Just in case the virus is on the bench or picnic table.)

And then the next morning we hopped over to the Sparkle Lake Conservation Area, practically in our back yard, and enjoyed some lovely scenery and did some birdwatching.

5.17.20 ~ Sparkle Lake Conservation Area, Groton, Connecticut
5.17.20 ~ gray catbird

The catbird is a bit of a busybody. Its presence should caution you to be extra careful about what you say and to whom. Things will have a greater potential of being made public or being distorted. Its presence can hint at others being overly inquisitive about your own affairs or that you are being so about others.
~ Ted Andrews
(Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small)

5.17.20 ~ red-winged blackbird

Spring is such a lovely time of year.

moving with change

7.31.16.wounded.gull
7.31.16 ~ juvenile great black-backed gull ~ photo by Timothy Rodgers

Well, I’m sad to report that I haven’t seen my gull friend with the mangled foot since our encounter on July 10th… I have a strong feeling that he was indeed saying good-bye.

Sunday afternoon a different gull with an injured foot limped over to us to see what food we might offer him. He’s young so he hasn’t learned yet that most humans follow the rules and don’t feed the gulls. While I’m pretty sure our old friend was a herring gull, our new friend is much larger, perhaps a juvenile great black-backed gull.

Of course I was without camera, but I made sure to bring it with me yesterday. The sky was striking. But our new friend wasn’t there.

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8.1.16 ~ light and dark, late afternoon sun

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8.1.16 ~ laughing gull portrait

On Sunday the parking lot had been full of laughing gulls, but yesterday there was only one, and he perched near us, watching us eat. The laughing gulls don’t usually hang out on the white posts. It seems everyone is behaving differently these days!

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8.1.16 ~ snowy egret at Beach Pond

As we left for home I spotted this bird wading in the nearly dried up salt water pond. Connecticut is in a moderate drought. We have many great egrets but this one was smaller and I wondered if it was a young one. He was too far away to get a decent picture.

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8.1.16 ~ snowy egret at Beach Pond

Imagine my surprise when I enlarged a few of the pictures and noticed his yellow feet! Pretty sure this identifies him as a snowy egret, which is smaller than the great egret.

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8.1.16 ~ snowy egret at Beach Pond

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8.1.16 ~ sanderling (?)

Not sure what kind of little shorebird this but he sure looked cute exploring the exposed pond bed. So many appearances in the flow of life…

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8.1.16 ~ sanderling (?)

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.
~ Alan Watts
(The Wisdom of Insecurity)

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8.1.16 ~ sanderling (?)

below zero

2.16.15.3174
how gulls hunker down in frigid temperatures ~ 2.16.15 ~ Eastern Point Beach

Oh the snow fell without a break
Buffalo died in the frozen fields you know
Through the coldest winter in almost fourteen years
I couldn’t believe you kept a smile
~ Rod Stewart
♫ (Mandolin Wind) ♫

the rocks where the oystercatchers made their nest last summer...
the rocks where the oystercatchers made their nest last summer ~ 2.16.15 ~ Eastern Point Beach

Cabin fever drove us out of our “cabin” yesterday. It was way too bitterly cold and windy to take a walk, so we drove around all morning, had lunch at our favorite restaurant, and then drove around some more. To get some shots I would hop out of the car for a few seconds, but mostly I rolled down the window to shoot. Even with layers the cold was bone-chilling…

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2.16.15 ~ Eastern Point Beach

First we went down to the beach where a small circle was plowed into the parking lot. The gulls looked miserable – they usually are standing when resting, even in winter, but this was the first time I’ve seen them hunker down like this. Sadly, I’m guessing some of them won’t make it through the winter.

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Beach Pond was frozen over and starkly beautiful ~ 2.16.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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Beach Pond ~ 2.16.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

As I write this it is snowing yet again – the sight of it gently falling brings me pleasure but I must confess to struggling with restlessness and lethargy this winter, an odd combination, but there it is…

...abandoned nest...
abandoned nest ~ 2.16.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Over lunch we talked about our plans for Katie’s upcoming weekend visit in March. We’ll take her to see the beach where her mother grew up, and to our favorite restaurant to show her off to the servers there. It’s nice to have things to look forward to, even while savoring the moments here and now.

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2.16.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

More pictures will be coming when I get a chance to post again…

storm on the way

8.12.14 ~ Groton, Connecticut
swamp rose mallow ~ 8.12.14 ~ Beach Pond

misty sunlit noon
swamp mallows basking in pink
a storm on the way
~ Barbara Rodgers
(By the Sea)

8.12.14.1447
8.12.14 ~ Eastern Point Beach

I first met this battered old gull three years ago in August of 2011, when we were expecting Hurricane Irene. Today he sat on this post right next to us, closer than he’s ever come before, and we heard his long and mournful cry again. He looks a lot worse for wear, his life has no doubt been difficult with that badly mangled foot. Now it looks like he has a barnacle or a growth on his beak. I think he was letting us know about the approaching rain storm. No hurricane this time, though.

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8.12.14 ~ Eastern Point Beach

turtles on the rock in the pond

6.12.14 ~ Groton, Connecticut
6.12.14 ~ Beach Pond

Tim needed an afternoon break from work so we went down to the beach. On our way past Beach Pond he spotted four turtles on a rock! Tim loves turtles. He rushed over to get a better look at them, but they all scrambled off the rock and back into the water. Perhaps they would come back if he retreated.

Eventually one brave soul (above) climbed back up on the rock. In the picture below, to the right of the rock, the head of another turtle can be seen scoping out the situation.

6.12.14 ~ Groton, Connecticut
6.12.14 ~ Beach Pond

He decided to chance it…

6.12.14 ~ Groton, Connecticut
6.12.14 ~ Beach Pond

6.12.14 ~ Groton, Connecticut
6.12.14 ~ Beach Pond

But then his friend suddenly disappeared…

6.12.14 ~ Groton, Connecticut
6.12.14 ~ Beach Pond

Too much of Proof affronts Belief
The Turtle will not try
Unless you leave him – then return –
And he has hauled away.
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1240)

swamp rose mallow

8.18.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut
swamp rose mallow ~ 8.18.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. Whatever the vexations or concerns of their personal lives, their thoughts can find paths that lead to inner contentment and to renewed excitement in living. Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of birds, the ebb and flow of the tides, the folded bud ready for the spring. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.
~ Rachel Carson
(The Sense of Wonder)

Native to New England, swamp rose mallow grows along the salt pond near our beach and blooms from July to September. It is tall, reaching 4 to 7 feet high, and the lovely pink five-petal flowers are 4 to 7 inches wide. This sorrowful summer, when I’m in town, we go down to the beach nearly every day, sometimes twice a day. Enjoying the sight of these cheerful flowers en route helps me find those reserves of strength and healing Rachel Carson wrote about.

8.18.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut
8.18.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut