Only about 20 miles east of us the sea changes from the gentler waters of Long Island Sound to the open Atlantic Ocean with its bigger waves.
One last walk on the dunes and beach at Napatree Point…
It was a very hazy day, the smoke particles in the air came all the way from the wildfires in Alberta, Canada. Sometimes the camera captured some blue in the sky and others times the sky came out very gray.
We heard this male yellow warbler sweetly singing before we finally spotted him flitting around the thickets on the dune, in the same area we saw a female back in September. It’s amazing to think that this little songbird spent the winter in Central America and has arrived here to breed.
As we were walking along a robin came wandering down the dune path towards us. He would take a few steps, pause, look around, and then take a few more. We stood still and he kept coming closer, and closer and closer. After he checked us out, he turned around and started retracing his steps in the same manner. Curious little fellow.
When we got back to the parking lot these two herring gulls were having a spirited encounter. The one on the right kept making a long call and the one on the left kept jumping down into the water and bringing up globs of seaweed. The first one ignored the seaweed and kept repeating his long call.
Salt marshes have a long memory. Humans have a short one. Like sponges, salt marshes hold onto things. But for us, it’s out of sight, out of mind. ~ Tim Traver (Sippewissett: Or, Life on a Salt Marsh)
Many years ago, my 7th grade class traveled for an hour-long ride to a field trip (48 miles away) on Barn Island on the Connecticut shoreline. Little did I know I would one day move down here to live in a neighboring town. It wasn’t until February of 2019, though, when my friend Janet suggested we take a winter walk here, that I got around to visiting it again. See: winter in the marsh. I took Tim there during the pandemic in December of 2020 when we were looking for isolated places to walk: See: reflections. So we decided to visit one last time before the big move. There is a very long path that crosses the marsh.
It was low tide and the water level in the tidal creeks was lower than it was on my other visits. I noticed a lot of clams and mussels in the exposed mud and clinging to the creek banks. The only waterbird we saw was a mallard but we encountered a lot of people and dogs, which was surprising mid-week. The woods beckoned from the other end of the path. Then we retraced our steps.
Barn Island is the largest and single most ecologically diverse coastal Wildlife Management Area in Connecticut. With over 60 years of continuous wetland research at this site, Barn Island provides a rare window into long-term marsh development both before and after restoration efforts. Its 1,024 acres are marked by centuries of cultural and biological history, once a vital resource for early colonial settlers and Native Americans and now for scientists and outdoorsmen. Its diverse habitats support rare plants and animals which add to its rich ecological resource base. Barn Island’s sprawling landscape sustains a wide variety of ecosystems and recreational activities; it consists of salt and brackish marshes, one of the state’s largest coastal forests, hilly uplands, intertidal flats, sandy beach, and a rare sea-level fen. ~ Long Island Sound Study website
The marsh is a microcosm of the world. With its peat meadows, meandering tidal creeks, microbes and mud, at the living, breathing edge of continent and ocean, it seems that life must have started here. Every microcomponent contributes to the whole. Discovering how this system works was a biogeochemical pursuit that took years and is ongoing. ~ Tim Traver (Sippewissett: Or, Life on a Salt Marsh)
In the above picture, looking south from the path, dock pilings can be seen in the distance. There is a boat landing there, on Little Narragansett Bay. We decided to drive down there and get a picture of the salt marsh from the dock. A solitary herring gull was quietly sunning himself on the dock when we arrived. He stayed put the whole time I was there.
The next picture is looking north to the salt marsh (between the woodlands) from the dock on Little Narragansett Bay. There are some people walking along the path that crosses the marsh, where we had taken our walk and had taken pictures. I zoomed in on them in the second picture, as much as possible.
On the way home we spotted two ospreys above a much smaller marsh near Paffard Woods, a preserve of the Avalonia Land Conservancy. We pulled over on the very busy road and tried my luck with the zoom lens. Unfortunately it was a very windy day and the car was shaking a lot.
We stopped again on the way home to pick up a cod loin for dinner and wondered what kind of fish we will find plentiful in North Carolina. Also, living by the sea it is breezy and windy here more often than it is calm. I started wondering what the wind will be like in our new inland home. And then we got back to our sorting and packing…
Every once in a while a hurricane churning away out in the Atlantic sends some big waves as far as Napatree Point, so we went there to see what Hurricane Earl might be sending our way. The waves weren’t so big after all, about 3′ according to a surfing website. (In 2020 Hurricane Teddy sent 6.5′ waves!) But we still had a good time at this wonderful beach on Saturday, enjoying the September sunshine and sea air.
After walking part way down the beach on the Atlantic side of the Napatree Point peninsula, we crossed over the dune on the indicated path to enjoy beach roses and the views. Rhode Island is still in an extreme drought. Ours is still severe, in spite of the recent rains.
Tim spotted a bird on one of the ropes marking off the path. A new life bird for me!
Yellow Warbler Setophaga petechia: Common widespread migratory breeder April to September in brushy thickets of river-edge forest, wetland edges, moist power-line cut segments, and open woodland. ~ Frank Gallo (Birding in Connecticut)
These pictures were taken with the zoom lens and were the best I could do at a distance. The warbler did seem to love flitting about on the brushy beach rose thickets.
North America has more than 50 species of warblers, but few combine brilliant color and easy viewing quite like the Yellow Warbler. In summer, the buttery yellow males sing their sweet whistled song from willows, wet thickets, and roadsides across almost all of North America. The females and immatures aren’t as bright, and lack the male’s rich chestnut streaking, but their overall warm yellow tones, unmarked faces, and prominent black eyes help pick them out. ~ All About Birds webpage
The beach on the bay side of the dune is a little different from the one on the ocean side. Little Narragansett Bay is a small estuary and serves as a harbor for the village of Watch Hill.
We walked for over an hour and felt very refreshed. There is nothing quite like the sounds of crickets and of waves crashing, the smells of salt air and beach roses, the sighting of a new bird and the feel of sunlight warming the skin!
Somehow a week passed between our walks and I was feeling the definite lack of my regular endorphin boost. How did that happen? Some of the time was spent decorating our tree, which is almost done. I’m waiting on a mail order of ornament hooks. For some reason I ran out of them before all the pretty glass icicles made it onto the tree. But mostly I’ve been puttering around aimlessly.
Barn Island is the largest coastal wildlife management area in the state. It has about 1,000 acres of deciduous forest and tidal saltmarshes and lovely views of Little Narragansett Bay. The area supports “at least 9 State-listed avian species.”
I love it here, even if we didn’t see any birds this time. That might be because several couples were there walking their dogs. One couple was even letting their two large rambunctious dogs off the leash, putting them on the leashes when they saw us and then letting them go again after they had passed. Infuriating!
After a still winter night I awoke with the impression that some question had been put to me, which I had been endeavoring in vain to answer in my sleep, as what — how — when — where? ~ Henry David Thoreau (Walden)
I’m missing my grandchildren. Most of the time I don’t dwell on it because I’m so grateful that we’re all safe and have incomes and food and roofs over our heads, the basics that so many Americans have lost or are losing soon. But recently, on a video call, Finn, age 2, called me Grammy for the first time, and the sound of his little voice coming into his own tugged at my heart.
And then there was the evening that Katherine, age 6, created a solar system model out of Play-Doh. I watched for about an hour as she told me about the different planets and that the first four were rocky and the last four were gaseous. I was captivated.
Another morning I got a phone call, Katherine wanted to know if I still had the Barbie Animal Rescuer set she played with here over a year ago. Yes! It is waiting right here in the living room for her next visit. When she visited us that November (2019) I meant for her to take it home with her but she said no, it was to stay at Grammy’s to be played with here. We had such fun playing with it together and I had wondered if she would remember that, and she did.
Katherine has lost four of her baby teeth. And Finn, an agile little guy who loves speeding around on his scooter with the greatest of ease, wound up tripping over his bean bag chair in the middle of the night, hitting and cutting his lip with his tooth on the bedframe and getting 7 stitches! But it’s healing up well and the scar is almost invisible.
The beauty of the earth answers exactly to your demand and appreciation. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Journal, November 2, 1858)
I trust that the walkers of the present day are conscious of the blessings which they enjoy in the comparative freedom with which they can ramble over the country and enjoy the landscape. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Journal, February 12, 1851)
Along the shoreline, about 19 miles east of us, the waters of Fishers Island Sound give way to the the bigger waves of Block Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. When leaving Connecticut and arriving in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, the terrain and the beaches feel a lot more like Cape Cod to me. The irresistable desire to hear those waves crashing led me to drag Tim to Napatree Point Thursday morning and he was a good sport about a hike over the dunes.
Napatree Point is a slender, 1.5 mile long peninsula in Block Island Sound. To the north of the peninsula is Little Narragansett Bay, a small estuary into which the Pawcatuck River empties. The small bay is an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean. ~ Wikipedia
First we walked along the bay side, but not all the way to the end of the peninsula. The water was calm and there were lots of birds busy fishing and flying, but only one herring gull. He was quite handsome and paid no attention to us.
What is it with me and gulls? I won’t say how many pictures I wound up taking of this one. 🙂 But the sound of the waves on the ocean side was beckoning…
Time to take a shortcut over the dune. We made it across without encountering someone coming the other way. With COVID-19 ever on our minds we knew it would have to be a one-way-at-a-time bridge.
The waves were relatively calm, but bigger than the ones at our beach, and the sound of them crashing was soothing to me.
Till my soul is full of longing For the secret of the sea, And the heart of the great ocean Sends a thrilling pulse through me. ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (The Secret of the Sea)
There was a family with two children playing there on the beach. When we got closer the parents called the little ones back to their blanket and we hugged the water, putting as much distance between us as possible. We didn’t linger so the kids could quickly get back to their playing by the water. Life in the time of coronavirus.
I’ve been wrestling with several other concerns, though. Perhaps it’s stress, but my migraines have come back and have become very frequent, waking me up almost every night. Fortunately I have a stash of meds but I’m starting to worry I will blow through it before my next refill is due.
And then there is what I thought were spider bites I woke up with last Saturday morning. Mostly on my belly, a few on my face, and a couple of days later, a spot on my ankle. By the middle of the week I suspected flea bites or chigger bites. But the itching and rash now feels exactly like poison ivy. Which means I’ve got another week or two of this misery to live through. Probably picked it up in the woods on one of our walks. I think I will confine our walks to the cemetery and dirt roads for now.
Seeing the open ocean, hearing the waves, smelling the salty air, picking up a shell to remember the morning, all of it gave me some breathing space. Even the incessant itching seemed to stop for a while.
Try to be happy in this very present moment; and put not off being so to a time to come: as though that time should be of another make from this, which is already come, and is ours. ~ Thomas Fuller (A Dictionary of Thoughts: Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors of the World, Both Ancient & Modern)
This morning I read that headaches are one of the possible side effects of hydrocortisone cream, which I’ve been using on the poison ivy. Itching, too. So I’m going to stop using it for a while and see what happens. This too, will pass.
I was very sorry to leave but very grateful to have enjoyed our moments there. On our way out we managed to stay far enough away from a couple of people arriving and exchanged greetings from behind our masks. “It’s the new way,” one man observed, as we all did our do-si-dos along the paths.