sunlight before first frost

10.16.22 ~ Harkness Memorial State Park

In our little corner of southern New England the fall colors don’t peak until late October and we don’t expect the first frost before the 22nd. That makes it difficult to give much of an autumn flavor to my Walktober post. But since we never got to the gardens at Harkness Memorial State Park this summer I decided to go with it and contribute a garden walk this year.

This is my third annual Walktober post with Robin over at breezes at dawn. 🍁 If you would like to see my previous Walktober posts please click here. 🌼

When we arrived at the park there was a huge flock of starlings making quite a racket, darting from tree to tree and to the water tower en masse. Tim estimated that there were hundreds of them.

The gardens surrounding the Eolia Mansion still had a summery feel to them with many flowers in full bloom and many buds making plans to blossom before the frost comes.

bug matching the center of the flower
view of Long Island Sound from one of the gardens

I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.
~ Lucy Maud Montgomery
(Anne of Avonlea)

10.16. 22 ~ Historic Jordan Village Green
Waterford, Connecticut

Heading for home, feeling vaguely disappointed about the lack of fall foliage, Tim spotted a bit of bright orange across the intersection as we were waiting at a traffic light. When the light changed we went for it and discovered Jordan Village Green, which belongs to the Waterford Historical Society.

And so we took another walk!

1740 Jordan Schoolhouse
Beebe-Phillips House

Most of the trees still had green leaves but there were enough trees turning to autumn colors to satisfy my cravings that day. 🙂

falling leaves gather
rusting spokes left motionless
an abiding tree

~ Barbara Rodgers
(By the Sea)

Margaret W. Stacy Memorial Barn
Ralph Madara Blacksmith Shop

The buildings were deserted, except for two blacksmiths we found busy at work in their forge. The man above was working on an axe head. They were pleased to show us their tools and creations. We were delighted to find the perfect holiday gift for someone on our list!

How smoothly nature’s vast machine whirs on with all the big and little cogs revolving in their places! Each seed and bird and flower and fly, in its apparently haphazard existence, plays its part in the output of the seasons.
~ Edwin Way Teale
(Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)

a rustic birdhouse on the corner of the schoolhouse
cirrocumulus clouds, forecasting the coming rain

Now that late October is arriving we have much more of this delightful season to enjoy! And a few more walks, too, between the rainy days.

piping plovers

6.29.22 ~ Harkness Memorial State Park

Another gorgeous day for a walk, this time through the meadow and nature preserve at Harkness Memorial State Park.

All the birds were quite far away and the distance was a bit too much for my zoom lens to handle.

song sparrow high up top of a tree
song sparrow and cobweb

When we got to the bird viewing blind at Goshen Cove I was delighted to see and to add a new lifer to my list, even though the dozen or so piping plovers were so tiny and at a good distance…

piping plover, #72

Piping Plover Charadrius melodus: Endangered, rare to locally uncommon migrant; breeds on sandy beaches with limited human disturbance, mid-March to mid-November.
~ Frank Gallo
(Birding in Connecticut)

Piping Plovers are sandy grayish brown birds with white underparts and a narrow, often broken collar. They have yellowish orange legs in all seasons. In the breeding season, they have an orange bill with a black tip, a black collar, and a black line on the forehead. In the nonbreeding season, the bill is black and the collar fades to gray and doesn’t go all the way around the breast.
~ All About Birds webpage

I was so captivated by the piping plovers I almost missed this willet who came strolling by, much closer to the blind. As if offended, he turned and walked away from me.

willet

Three women came into the blind and were very excited by some activity on the osprey nest. They didn’t notice the piping plovers at all. I finally looked at the ospreys, also too far away for my camera…

ospreys

After all that stimulation we left the blind and continued along through the lovely meadow. There was a touch of humidity and although it wasn’t too much for me Tim was starting to feel it. This may be our last extended walk for a while. It’s supposed to get hot and humid tomorrow.

a nice park setting between the meadow and Long Island Sound
Long Island Sound

While we were taking in a view of Long Island Sound we heard the unmistakable call of approaching American oystercatchers. Three of them finally came into view flying over the sound, parallel to the the shoreline. We followed them with our eyes until the they vanished on the horizon. I hope we’ll get to have some nesting on our beach this summer. We saw them about this time last year.

to stand by these shores

6.15.22 ~ great blue heron at Avery Pond

Assorted sightings from an early summer, sunny, beach walk… Enjoy!

path to the Eastern Point estuary beach
double-crested cormorants in the estuary
cultivated rose on the fence
song sparrow on sign
entrance to Eastern Point Beach
common grackle (?) with missing tail (?)
sailing way offshore
Avery Point, view across the water from Eastern Point
top of Avery Point Light seen over the hill

For some strange reason we didn’t see any gulls…


Good it is to stand by these shores
How beautiful life can seem!
Hear; what joy from birds’ throats pours,
see, how the grass verdant gleams!

Bees are humming, butterflies shimmering
lark-song pierces through the clouds,
and from bowls with nectar brimming
we drink our fill of summer flowers.

~ Gunnar Wennerberg
(The Magic of Fjords)


Then, two days later, in hazy conditions…

6.17.22 ~ female brown-headed cowbird near the fence
killdeer standing on one leg at Beach Pond
I couldn’t decide which killdeer picture I liked best…

Connecticut’s positivity rate dipped down to 7.6% but now it’s creeping back up again, 8.1% on Friday. Sigh…

wandering around rocky neck

3.22.22 ~ Rocky Neck State Park, East Lyme, Connecticut

There are still a few places to walk we haven’t visited yet so we decided to check another one off of our still-growing list. Rocky Neck State Park is a little farther west down the coastline than we usually like to go, but seeing pictures of birds taken there and posted online tempted me to give it a try. Sadly, no birds on this windy day. We had to walk through a tunnel (see above picture) under the Amtrak railroad to get to the beach.

This beach is one of the most visited beaches in Connecticut, with some of the buildings at the beach even dating back to the 1930s. This is one of the most popular beaches to visit for those in the area because of how scenic it is.
~ Roaming the USA website

The fact that it is so popular is probably another reason we never tried to come here before. Every summer weekend morning on the news we hear that the parking lot is full and no more cars are being allowed in. When traveling down the interstate we often see flashing LED changeable message signs, miles in advance, announcing the same thing.

We walked down the beach and up a ledge, following a sign saying “Pavilion.” The pavilion was huge! (Perhaps built in the 1930s?) We followed a tunnel through the bottom of it and took some stairs up the back, then came around to the front and took some pictures of Long Island Sound.

tunnel under the pavilion
pavilion balcony on top of ledge
Long Island Sound from the pavilion balcony

Behind the pavilion was a pedestrian bridge (above) back over the Amtrak railroad tracks. We decided to go for it, lured in by a point on a map of the park called Toby’s Nose Overlook. Eventually we found the spot but the viewing platform I was expecting did not exist. There was a complicated maze of trails, parking lots and driveways in the woods back there, but we finally figured out a zig-zaggy route we could take back to the car.

view of Four Mile River from Toby’s Nose Overlook
a glimpse of Long Island Sound through the woods
glacial erratic on top of a hill

When I got home and studied the map a little more closely I noticed that there was another part of the park, along Bride Brook, with a crabbing deck and an actual viewing platform. Maybe next time. Turns out we had only seen a very small portion of this place.

And now to prepare for a visit from our daughter and granddaughter! Kat has spring vacation so Larisa is going to work remotely here while we have Kat to ourselves for half the week. 😊 (Kat’s other grandparents will have her the first half of the week!)

3.26.22 ~ Look who are coming for a visit!!! (Larisa & Kat)

a living museum

2.11.22 ~ Alewife Cove Nature Walk
Ocean Beach, New London, Connecticut

When we arrived at Ocean Beach and started walking down the boardwalk to get to the Alewife Cove Nature Walk we heard a couple of starlings singing the loveliest songs and couldn’t believe our ears. (Back at home I was surprised to learn that “they have impressive vocal abilities and a gift for mimicry.”) I’ve only heard them making unpleasant noises until this day.

European starling

As we went along I spotted a cat spying on us. He must have been enjoying the spring-like weather.

The last time I was at this place was in April of 2012, almost ten years ago, with Janet and Nancy. It’s changed a lot due to the many storms forever reshaping the coastal landscape. Here is what I posted back then: walking is discovery. When Tim & I walked at Waterford Beach Park back in October we could see this nature area across the cove and so I made a mental note to revisit it soon. See: sunlight by the sea.

song sparrow
Alewife Cove and Long Island Sound
great blue heron
Alewife Cove
looking west across Alewife Cove to the walkway to Waterford Beach Park

On the walk ten years ago I discovered a praying mantis egg case like the one above. On this walk we saw dozens of them! This must be a favored habitat for them because I’ve never noticed these anywhere else on our wanderings. Apparently the nymphs, up to 300 of them, will emerge as soon as temperatures warm in spring.

praying mantis egg case

Whatever the environment from which it springs, local knowledge matters, because enchanted living begins with local living: genuinely understanding, and so living in harmony with the landscape you occupy.
~ Sharon Blackie
(The Enchanted Life, Unlocking the Magic of the Everyday)

praying mantis egg case
driftwood caught in the brush
driftwood on the sand ~ maybe part of a tree trunk?
cat hanging out at the beach pavilion

It was a great day for a walk. It’s a good thing we left when we did, though, because the Ocean Beach parking lot, which was empty when we arrived, was suddenly full of activity and people placing traffic cones everywhere to make space for lines of cars. They were setting up for free covid testing. We had to to exit out of an entrance to finally find our way out of the maze! A reminder that the pandemic is still with us. Our positivity rate is currently 5%. Seems to be going down slowly…

a preserve by the railroad tracks

1.19.22 ~ Knox Preserve, Stonington, Connecticut

It’s hard to believe after almost two years of walking outings during the pandemic we’re still finding open spaces we haven’t visited yet. Tim was reading about this one, Knox Preserve, in an editorial in the Sunday paper. The writer was frustrated because a fence had been put up between the nature preserve and the railroad tracks, keeping trespassers off the tracks, yes, but also obscuring the views of Long Island Sound.

Wednesday afternoon was finally “warm” enough to head out there, bundled up, of course. (We usually walk in the morning but decided it might be warmer after lunch!) I forgot to make note of the temperature. My new mittens did a fine job keeping my fingers warm. 🙂 We headed up a muddy path along a lovely stone wall with a rusty, golden salt meadow off to our right.

muddy path along salt meadow

What I see is mine.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(A Week on the Concord & Merrimack Rivers)

At a break in the stone wall we took another very soggy path through the salt meadow, then leading up to a grassy knoll where we found a bench with a view.

While we enjoyed the view a little boy and his mother came along and sat down to wait for the next train. Mom had an app on her cell phone that let her know when the next train would be along. The little guy was very excited, even though he had done this many times before. We smiled, thinking of all the good memories they will have to look back on some day.

view of fence, Amtrak train tracks and Long Island Sound

Railroad iron is a magician’s rod, in its power to evoke the sleeping energies of land and water.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(The Young American)

the controversial fence

Next we decided to follow a path into the woods and along the new fence. We heard the expected train approach and hoped the little boy was enjoying himself! It was probably a high-speed Acela train.

into the woods
train whizzing by
reindeer moss

When we came out of the woods we found ourselves at Quiambog Cove and walked along it until we came back to the salt meadow where we started. It was fun completing a loop instead of retracing our steps the way we usually do.

Quiambog Cove and railroad bridge
afternoon sun

Is not January alone pure winter? December belongs to the fall — is a wintery November — February to the spring — it is a snowy March.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, February 9, 1854)

ice in the salt meadow

When we woke up this morning the wind chill was 0°F/-18°C. Needless to say, we did not take a walk. Instead, it was more yoga for me!

After peaking at 25% on January 7th, Connecticut’s covid positivity rate has slowly inched its way down to 13% yesterday. Baby steps in the right direction.

snow by the sea

morning has broken, view out back

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. ❄️

1.7.22 ~ my river birch during the morning snowstorm
from my kitchen window

First stop, Avery Pond. Lots of Canada geese and mallards, but a pair of American wigeons caught my eye.

American wigeon
American wigeon

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.

ring-billed gulls with eyes open just a little bit
snow on the rocks
gulls drifting in the wind
juvenile herring gull sticking right by our car
snow covered sand on the beach

Next stop, Beach Pond. No wildlife to be seen at all…

snow all around the pond
snow in the dune grass
cattails
snow and cattails

Next stop, Avery Point. There were quite a few folks out walking their dogs. Too nippy to get out of the car!

don’t know the name of this sculpture
“Azucar” by Christopher Wynter
New London Ledge Light in the background
Avery Point Light and windswept snowscape

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.

song sparrow
song sparrow
snow and ice on Birch Plain Creek
white-throated sparrow
white-throated sparrow

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!

tranquility and high hopes

12.15.21 ~ mallard on Avery Pond, Eastern Point
his green head looked blue in the sunlight

It had been a month since we took a walk at the beach, when it was a windy day and we didn’t stay long. Walking in the woods has been our first choice since then. But Wednesday we woke up to calm winds so I put on my thermal layers and we went for a nice long beach walk. It was 36°F/2°C. First stop, Avery Pond.

the reeds by the pond looked so pretty in the sunlight
peaceful Canada geese
mallard floating by

Someone had seen hooded mergansers on this pond but no luck for me this time. Onward to Eastern Point Beach. It was a sunny day but there was a big cloud out over the water of Long Island Sound. Things were quiet and we had the whole beach to ourselves.

winter by the sea
falling tide
unusual purple-red seaweed
unusual orange-pink seaweed
gull keeping an eye on me
stray oak leaf
weeds in dune grass
New London Ledge Light from behind the dune
pine cones
driftwood with barnacles

I didn’t shiver from the cold even once. Connecticut’s positivity rate was 7.15%. My sister and I finished decorating the tree for the grandchildren. (Forest birds and animals, nisse, stars, snowflakes, hearts.) I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we all stay healthy and test negative the day before they arrive. Everyone is fully vaccinated and boosted except for the three-year-old…

herring gull, third winter

11.29.21 ~ Harkness Memorial State Park
herring gull, third winter

Another turn at Kathy’s photo shorts game. (“One photo. Write something short. Then move on into your day.”)

Yesterday we took a cold (37°F/3°C) walk by the sound and saw lots of herring gulls and a couple of common eiders. It was a dull gray day with a light northerly wind. Not great for photography so this one will suffice.