It was time to dust off the camera and resume taking our walks again. The big project is, for all intents and purposes, finally completed. But, I haven’t figured out how to write about it yet, so that long story will have to wait until after the holidays. Now to prepare for the coming visit of our darling grandchildren!
I added a layer of thermal leggings under my jeans for the first time this season and then we enjoyed the winter scenery along the Poquonnock River Walkway. We might be getting a coating of snow this afternoon. I love the cloudy light before snowstorms.
But the winter sun was shining brightly for the day of our walk, illuminating the tops of the reeds in a magical way.
Let us dig our furrow in the fields of the commonplace … and leave to others, more favoured by fortune, the job of explaining the world’s mechanism, if the spirit moves them. ~ Jean-Henri Fabre (The Life of the Fly: With Which are Interspersed Some Chapters of Autobiography)
We came across a large flock of house sparrows flitting around in the bushes along the boardwalk — how commonplace can it get? But a couple of them actually stayed put long enough to get their portraits taken.
It felt very good getting out of the house again and enjoying the ordinary, simple things the natural world has to offer.
Recently we were driving down a road less traveled (by us) and spotted a sign right next to an industrial business. Sassacus Nature Preserve? The parking lot was shared with the business, and behind a chain link fence were ladders and small dumpsters available to rent. It didn’t seem to be a very natural setting. We thought we saw a path off the parking lot and decided to come back for our next walk.
When we returned we found the trail and ascended to an elevation of about 100 feet and so began our walk across a ledge. On one side of the trail was a tall, long outcrop and on the other a steep slope down to a valley. It was cool looking down onto the tops of trees.
Sassacus (Massachusett: Sassakusu (fierce) (c. 1560 – June 1637) was born near present-day Groton, Connecticut. He was a Pequot sachem, and he became grand sachem after his father, sachem Tatobem was killed in 1632. The Mohegans led by sachem Uncas rebelled against domination by the Pequots. Sassacus and the Pequots were defeated by English colonists along with their Narragansett and Mohegan allies in the Pequot War. Sassacus fled to what he thought was safety among the Iroquois Mohawks in present-day New York, but they murdered him. They sent his head and hands to the Connecticut Colony as a symbolic offering of friendship. ~ Wikipedia
Notice in the picture below how the trail squeezed its way between two glacial erratics. There was no other way around unless we wanted to tumble down the hill to the left.
After about twenty minutes of walking we started to hear water rushing and then maybe five minutes later we could see a stream way down below so I used the zoom lens to get a picture.
At this point we turned around because the path was starting to look even more tricky to navigate. Retracing our steps we found that the sunlight now illuminated some colors deep in the woods.
October, the extravagant sister, has ordered an immense amount of the most gorgeous forest tapestry for her grand reception. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes (The Seasons)
This large glacial erratic seemed to be precariously balanced…
For the remainder of the walk back I enjoyed finding sunlight on the fallen leaves, mosses and lichens.
Truly it has been said, that to a clear eye the smallest fact is a window through which the Infinite may be seen. ~ Thomas Henry Huxley (The Major Prose of Thomas Henry Huxley)
It was an adventure finding this little nature preserve in the middle of town, surrounded by railroad tracks, streets, houses and a new elementary magnet school. And then coming home to learn about Sassacus and starting to picture his people living in these woods four hundred long years ago.
Scenes from a wonderful late summer walk on an incredibly beautiful day. No humidity, comfortable temperatures in the 70s, and no mosquitoes, no doubt thanks to the continuing severe drought.
When we had arrived at the park we saw two cars from a dog day care business and wondered what situation we might encounter on the trail. Much to my relief we crossed paths with two women walking eight medium-sized dogs on leashes. The dogs were well-behaved and minding their own business. (No tugging, lunging or barking.) Cesar Millan would have approved. 🙂 I was impressed!
We got up early Saturday morning to see if mama goose was still on her nest. She was. We’ll keep checking. It was fun being out earlier than usual for a walk, before the world is completely awake. The nature center wasn’t even open but we assumed it was okay to walk on the trails before hours.
Papa goose was still on the watch. This time he stayed in the water so I guess we’re okay to take pictures for now.
My blogging friend Linda noticed something about Papa goose that I missed. Two white spots above his eyes. After browsing around online I’m guessing he might be a Canada goose subspecies, either a moffitti or a maxima or even a hybrid.
It was so peaceful and quiet. Even the birds were singing softly.
On the way home we decided to drive by Walt’s Walls & Woods. We discovered this open space in November and decided to come back in the spring to see the weeping cherry trees bloom. It looks like they are just starting so we’ll come back in a few days. Link to our last visit: here.
While we were out and about we decided to drive through at Avery Point before going home. Much to my delight a killdeer was running around on the rocks, chirping about something. What a sweet little voice she had! We didn’t see any babies. I can’t believe these pictures came out. I was in the car and taking them leaning across Tim and out of his open window!
The sharp thrill of seeing them [killdeer birds] reminded me of childhood happiness, gifts under the Christmas tree, perhaps, a kind of euphoria we adults manage to shut out most of the time. This is why I bird-watch, to recapture what it’s like to live in this moment, right now. ~ Lynn Thomson (Birding with Yeats: A Memoir)
One more stop, at Calf Pasture Overlook, where a squirrel was striking a pose on the stone wall by the parking lot. This fuzzy picture was through the car’s windshield. It seemed like the perfect portrait to me.
Back at home my favorite chionodoxa bulbs were blooming by my river birch. I call them my little blue stars.
Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where others see nothing. ~ Camille Pissarro (Word Pictures: Painting with Verse)
As we were leaving for an intended walk at Avery Point on Saturday I was delighted to find some more crocuses opening up in the garden.
Then we drove down towards Avery Point and suddenly saw a black vulture guarding a dead racoon on the side of the road! When we slowed down to get a good look at him he started walking away, eyeing us carefully. He didn’t want to leave his prize but he also didn’t exactly want to stick around us humans.
We finally moved on and left him in peace to tackle the task nature has assigned to him.
Distracted by seeing the vulture up close, next thing we knew we had missed our turn into Avery Point. We pulled into the Eastern Point parking lot to turn around and spotted a flock of brants swimming and feeding in the estuary. Hopped out of the car and took a few pictures. But I had my heart set on getting to Avery Point.
On we drove to the Avery Point campus, but, there was a wedding happening and the parking lot, which is open to the public on weekends, was full. And we knew from experience that they wouldn’t allow us to walk in front of the mansion and along the seawall, spoiling the view for the guests.
We then decided to go for a walk in the muddy woods at Copp Family Park. It was a partly cloudy day, with an afternoon temperature of about 50°F (10°C). Being a weekend day we encountered quite a few people, and because there is a dog park there we also ran across a few loose dogs. (They’re supposed to be on a leash until they get into the enclosed dog park.) Sigh… Next time we’ll keep to the trails that don’t go by the dog park.
An interesting afternoon, full of surprises! Our shoes got wet but not too muddy after all.
This was my first visit to this 140-acre park in our town, but Tim hiked here many years ago with one of his friends. The Pequots were the first people living here before the English colonized what is now the town of Groton and the village of Mystic.
The infamous Pequot Massacre occurred near here on May 26, 1637.
Capt. John Mason led English, Mohegan, and Narragansett warriors in an attack on the main fortified Pequot village on the site of modern-day Mystic, Connecticut. The Pequot were surprised but quickly mounted a spirited defense that almost led to an English defeat. Realizing that he could not defeat the Pequot in the close quarters of the palisade, Mason ordered their wigwams set afire; some 400 Pequot men, women, and children were burned alive or slaughtered when they tried to escape. ~ Encyclopædia Britannica
There have been archaeological digs conducted in this park, unearthing musket balls and arrowheads. But there are no memorials here to tell the terrible story.
After the English took over, this land was cleared for farming, and today there are plenty of stone walls remaining from those days, before farms were abandoned and many people went out west. The woods came back. Now we have hiking trails, wildlife viewing and an abandoned farm pond.
We gauge what we think is possible by what we know from experience, and our acceptance of scientific insights, in particular, is incremental, gained one experience at a time. ~ Bernd Heinrich (Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival)
It was a partly cloudy day, very cold, 41°F/5°C, with a feels-like temperature of 33°F/1°C, due to a moderate wind from the northwest. We had a nice conversation about cameras with the man in the next picture. He was trying to get a picture of the mallards, too, and wondered about my telescopic lens. His mother has a camera like mine and he’s considering getting one, too.
As far as coronavirus pandemic statistics go, I’ve decided to chronicle Connecticut’s positivity rate to make my tracking simpler. Looks like we’re headed into yet another surge. On the day of this walk our positivity rate jumped to 6.32%, the highest it’s been since last January.
We are lucky in Groton to have a long boardwalk alongside the Poquonnock River, squeezing in a bit of nature between industrial parks, shopping centers, a small airport and the railroad tracks and bridge. The flatness of the walkway is not good for Tim’s back, which does much better on uneven terrain, but there are a few well placed benches along the way where he can sit and readjust his muscles enough times to make it a doable walk. We were wearing our winter coats this day and most of the birds and berries we saw were nestled in the reeds and trees. No waterbirds on the river, except for an occasional gull touching down for a few moments. And one amazing flyby of Canada geese high in the sky.
We avoided this walk during the pandemic because there wouldn’t be enough room to stay six feet away when passing other walkers. But since we both have had our booster shots we felt safe enough to take a chance. One jogger passed by us twice, on his way out and back. We also passed an elderly man walking along, talking to himself.
I would love to live Like a river flows, Carried by the surprise Of its own unfolding. ~ John O’Donohue (Conamara Blues: Poems)
So far as our noblest hardwood forests are concerned, the animals, especially squirrels and jays, are our greatest and almost only benefactors. It is to them that we owe this gift. It is not in vain that the squirrels live in or about every forest tree, or hollow log, and every wall and heap of stones. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Journal, October 31, 1860)
The wild cherries ripen, black and fat, Paradisal fruits that taste of no man’s sweat.
Reach up, pull down the laden branch, and eat; When you have learned their bitterness, they taste sweet.
Now that some leaves have fallen off our tree we can see the little birds better from the kitchen window. We discovered a little nest deep in the branches. We are grateful to the tree for shading us from the hot sun all summer, and now with the leaves gone it will let some sunlight in to warm us up.
On Friday we decided to take a walk in the woods at a town park we’ve driven past many times, not realizing it wasn’t just a dog park, which is only a small part of the huge property. But first, as we were driving by the post office we had a close encounter with Thelma & Louise, a pair of male wild turkeys.
They are local celebrities and even have their own Facebook page, where humans post pictures of their sightings. A biologist weighed in and said they were two males, but the names Thelma & Louise remain stuck to them. They hang out in downtown Groton and regularly stop traffic as they stroll across the streets.
But nobody seems to get irritated with them as they wait patiently for the turkeys to get out of harm’s way.
We’ve crossed paths with them many times but this was the first time there was a place we could pull over and get a few pictures. I posted these on Facebook. 🙂
On to Copp Family Park. It was gorgeous! And we had a nice long walk because the uneven terrain on the trails was good for Tim’s back and hip. We even had to cross a stream using stepping stones. It felt so good to be deep in the woods again. No mosquitoes! In fact, we were wearing our winter coats because it was only 37°F (3°C) when we left the house.
The picture below is a failed attempt to capture a woodpecker, but I kind of like the pleasing composition.
I found a tree hosting lots of reindeer moss, at least I’m pretty sure that’s what this lichen is called…
I was holding a small clump of reindeer moss in one hand, a little piece of that branching, pale green-grey lichen that can survive just about anything the world throws at it. It is patience made manifest. Keep reindeer moss in the dark, freeze it, dry it to a crisp, it won’t die. It goes dormant and waits for things to improve. Impressive stuff. ~ Helen Macdonald (H is for Hawk)
I even spotted some on the ground farther along the trail.
After we got back to the car we decided to go for a leaf peeping drive and wound up at the cider mill and a cemetery. Will share those pictures in the next post!
Yesterday we took a side trail in Beebe Pond Park, which led us through a field of glacial erratics and tree shadows, then circled back to the pond.
Some of the boulders were bare and some covered with mosses and lichens. It makes one wonder…
I took so many pictures it was difficult to cull the batch down to size. The weather was perfect and breezy and we met two other pairs of hikers, a father and young son, and two women. All were wearing masks and we exchanged friendly greetings from our six-foot apart positions. The father and son were new to the park and asked us some questions about the trails. It still feels strange interacting with people in the greater world!
Delightful day; first walk in the woods, and what a pleasure it is to be in the forest once more! The earlier buds are swelling perceptibly — those of the scarlet maple and elm flowers on the hills, with the sallows and alders near the streams. We were struck more than usual with the mosses and lichens, and the coloring of the bark of the different trees; some of the chestnuts, and birches, and maples show twenty different shades, through grays and greens, from a dull white to blackish brown. These can scarcely vary much with the seasons, but they attract the eye more just now from the fact that in winter we are seldom in the woods; and at this moment, before the leaves are out, there is more light falling on the limbs and trunks than in summer. The ground mosses are not yet entirely revived; some of the prettiest varieties feel the frost sensibly, and have not yet regained all their coloring. ~ Susan Fenimore Cooper (Rural Hours)
Six months ago when we visited the pond the severe drought had lowered the water level drastically. You can see a picture on this post: by courtesy of the light But the pond is full to overflowing now, and water is running down the stream.
There was a strong breeze this day, making little waves on the pond.
And of course, I couldn’t resist taking pictures of the leaves left over from autumn.
On Friday it will have been two weeks from my second shot and I will join the ranks of the fully vaccinated. We made appointments to get haircuts and plan to celebrate and have our first restaurant meal in 15 months. Outside. To me, being vaccinated feels like having a parachute. Even with a parachute I don’t want to jump out of an airplane and I think going inside to get a haircut will feel almost as scary as skydiving.