This was the closest I have ever gotten to a brant! He was all by himself. It felt good to get outside and get a fresh perspective along with some fresh air.
Please bear with me as I post more photo memories to take with me when we move! Harkness Memorial State Park is one of my favorite places, year-round for the waterbirds and in the summer for the flower gardens. On this walk we were immediately greeted by a sweetly singing song sparrow, who flew from branch to branch, teasing me. But I did get a few pictures of him!
American Black Duck Anas rubripes: Common coastal migrant and wintering species. In summer, an uncommon breeding species in freshwater and brackish habitats, especially coastal marshes; inland nesting occurs in freshwater marshes, densely forested swamps, and beaver ponds, mainly in central and western Connecticut.
~ Frank Gallo
(Birding in Connecticut)
The American Black Duck hides in plain sight in shallow wetlands of eastern North America. They often flock with the ubiquitous Mallard, where they look quite similar to female Mallards. But take a second look through a group of brown ducks to notice the dark chocolate-brown flanks, pale grayish face, and olive-yellow bill of an American Black Duck. Numbers of this shy but common duck declined sharply in the mid-twentieth century. Hunting restrictions have helped to stabilize their numbers, although habitat loss remains a problem.
~ All About Birds webpage
Today was a beautiful, calm, spring day. No wind! A woman was there trying to fly a kite, which is possible there more often than not, but she had to give up. The temperature was 52°F (11°C) so I had my first walk of the year with no thermal leggings, wearing my spring hoodie. 🙂 I am going to miss living by the sea very much.
Whenever we take a walk at Avery Point we start out on the path that follows the sea wall to the lighthouse and then we go up a little hill and return to the parking lot by cutting across the UConn campus. But, with the thought of keeping the sun out of our eyes on the return, we decided to do the opposite this time, going clockwise instead of counterclockwise around our usual loop. Things looked so different!
There wasn’t much to see in the Cognitive Garden…
After crossing the campus we came to the top of the little hill and were surprised to see a view of the lighthouse from higher up. A whole new perspective…
As we rounded the point for the final stretch to the parking lot we encountered a biting northwest wind and dramatically increased our pace. I was glad to have on my layers and my Norwegian wool hat — the best souvenir from our trip to Norway — but I had forgotten my thermal gloves. Maybe by our next walk I will remember to bring everything needed.
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.
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.
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)
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!
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)
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)
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.
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.
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 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.
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…
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.
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.
Assorted sightings from an early summer, sunny, beach walk… Enjoy!
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…
Connecticut’s positivity rate dipped down to 7.6% but now it’s creeping back up again, 8.1% on Friday. Sigh…
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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)
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…
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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)
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.