Friday morning we woke up in the middle of a wonderful, long-awaited snowstorm. Less snow fell here than expected by the end of the nor’easter, but the 5 inches it left behind were enough to delight me. And there was no freezing rain or sleet at the end so we could get out and about in the afternoon and enjoy the fluffy white stuff. ❄️
First stop, Avery Pond. Lots of Canada geese and mallards, but a pair of American wigeons caught my eye.
Next stop, Eastern Point Beach. The gulls were hunkering down in the parking lot. I got out of the car to take some pictures and was nearly blown over by the wind. Other times I tried opening the car window to take pictures. That sent most of the gulls up in the air, flapping and squawking. I suspect they thought I might be going to feed them.
Next stop, Beach Pond. No wildlife to be seen at all…
Next stop, Avery Point. There were quite a few folks out walking their dogs. Too nippy to get out of the car!
Last stop, Birch Plain Creek. Got out of the car here. There were lots of birds chirping and flitting about. I was lucky to get a couple of shots.
It was wonderful having some snow stick around for a change and feeling the winter season the way I remember it. A hot cup of tea at home to enjoy, snuggled under a blanket, looking out the window as darkness fell over the snow… Bliss!
The song sparrow, who knows how brief and lovely life is, says, “Sweet, sweet, sweet interlude; sweet, sweet, sweet interlude.” ~ E. B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
Thursday’s afternoon walk was a bit nippy. (We thought it might be slightly warmer than our usual morning walk. It was, but still, my fingers froze. Maybe two layers of gloves in the future… Maybe stop trying to take so many pictures…) I counted five song sparrows flitting about near the thicket and sea wall. I left them a few seeds.
And we saw a huge flock of brants on the lawn. Suddenly they took off en masse to fly a short distance and alight on the river. (Attemped in-flight photos were all blurry.) If you want to hear the sound they made while flying there’s an audio clip at the bottom right side of this webpage: brant sound. It’s very different than the honking sounds Canada geese make.
Maybe they’re here for the eelgrass and will then move on to greener “pastures.” I can only imagine how much of it such a huge flock consumes in a few days.
Geese are friends with no one, they badmouth everybody and everything. But they are companionable once you get used to their ingratitude and false accusations. ~ E. B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
Yesterday we took a walk by the pond adjacent to our beach and enjoyed a chilly day that felt a lot more like late fall than it did during the recent warm spell. The temperature when we started our walk was 39°F (4°C) so we bundled up in winter jackets.
Sunday night we had a cold front come through with gale force winds and some more needed rain. We lost power for 45 minutes in the middle of the night and even lit some candles. The new moon had made it a very dark night. It was good to see some water in this pond once again.
All of a sudden I had the revelation of how enchanting my pond was. ~ Claude Monet (Concise Encyclopedia of Semantics)
the long tapers of cattails are bursting and floating away over the blue shoulders
of the ponds, and every pond, no matter what its name is, is
~ Mary Oliver (In Blackwater Woods)
As we walked from the pond over to the beach we found sand along the side of the road, blown off the beach during the storm. And an oak leaf from a distant somewhere. The sand had shifted around on the beach itself. In the winter they don’t comb the sand like they do in the summer, so one can see what nature decides to do with the shoreline.
During the storm a tall tree at the beach came down and someone posted a picture of it on social media on Monday, lying flat on the lawn. But it was gone before we got to the beach on Tuesday, so the city had made quick work of that clean up. There were people operating equipment, working on the playground renovation. I’m looking forward to bringing our grandchildren here again some day.
The waves were bigger and louder than usual. In fact, we heard them while we were at the pond. Little tiny breakers. Most of the time Long Island Sound is pretty smooth.
Quite a few treasures had been deposited on the beach. Ocean offerings.
One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few. ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh (Gift from the Sea)
The heart of man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depths it has its pearls too. ~ Vincent Van Gogh (Letter to Theo van Gogh, October 31, 1876)
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 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.
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…
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.
I’m pretty sure the ducks below are mallards.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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!
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.
Someone is tending some beautiful rose bushes near the entrance, along the chain link fence.
I love the contrast between rusty old metal and fresh new flower.
The water was very calm on the river/estuary side of the point.
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)
I like this place, and willingly could Waste my time in it. ~ William Shakespeare (As You Like It)
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)
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!
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.
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)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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…
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)
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) ♫
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…
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.
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…
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.
More pictures will be coming when I get a chance to post again…