So, on Monday we got 10 inches of snow before it turned to sleet. Snow is fun, sleet is not. On Tuesday, Groundhog Day, we drove down to the beach around noon but didn’t stay too long. The gale was lingering with a storm surge at high tide and the wind was still howling. There were no shadows, therefore, according to tradition, spring will come early. Yay!
It turned out to be a nice day for photographing gulls. 🙂 They love to pose.
After marveling at the high water we drove up the road along the Thames River.
And then we left, shivering but still happy to have gotten out for a short while! I didn’t see the song sparrows but then again, I didn’t wade through the soggy grass to get to their thicket. I hope they’re all right. The water was almost up to their home. It’s amazing how birds survive the storms.
Near the end of December we found the graves of a couple of Revolutionary War soldiers on a walk in Stoddard Hill State Park. Debbie, one of my readers, mentioned that they don’t have graves that old where she lives in Illinois. So, although I much prefer nature walks, I decided we could change things up a bit and take a history walk. Because of Debbie’s comment I have a new appreciation for the historic Battle of Groton Heights that took place right here in my town. (Link is for history buffs.)
This is the historic site where, on September 6, 1781, British Forces, commanded by the infamous Benedict Arnold, captured the Fort and massacred 88 of the 165 defenders stationed there. The Ebenezer Avery House which sheltered the wounded after the battle has been restored on the grounds. A Revolutionary War museum also depicts the era. Fort Griswold was designated as a state park in 1953. ~ Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park website
There is some doubt about the details of this story. The shirt and vest Col. Ledyard was wearing when he was killed had tears in the side, suggesting a bayonet wound is what caused his death, not his own sword in the hands of a British officer.
Critical acumen is exerted in vain to uncover the past; the past cannot be presented; we cannot know what we are not. But one veil hangs over past, present, and future, and it is the province of the historian to find out, not what was, but what is. Where a battle has been fought, you will find nothing but the bones of men and beasts; where a battle is being fought, there are hearts beating. ~ Henry David Thoreau (A Week on the Concord & Merrimack Rivers)
The 295-foot Barque Eagle is the flagship of the U.S. Coast Guard. She serves as a training vessel for cadets at the Coast Guard Academy and candidates from the Officer Candidate School. The Eagle is the only active-duty sailing vessel in America’s military, and one of only two commissioned sailing vessels, along with the USS Constitution. ~ US Coast Guard Academy website
From the tunnel we followed a trench down the hill. The trench hid the soldiers from enemy fire as they moved between the fort and the lower battery.
Off to the side on the lower battery is the restored Ebenezer Avery house. It was moved to this location from a nearby street in 1971.
In the old times, women did not get their lives written, though I don’t doubt many of them were much better worth writing than the men’s. ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe (The Pearl of Orr’s Island: A Story of the Coast of Maine)
Sometimes I think that historical houses should be named after the wives and daughters who lived in them, to honor them, as they very likely spent more time working there than the men who were out and about in the world.
But on a plaque outside this house I found a picture of Anna Warner Bailey (1758-1851) and the note that she was one of the first women to tend to the wounded after the battle. When I got home I found this online: Our Petticoat Heroine by Carol Kimball
We’ll have to wait until the pandemic is over before we can tour the house. I discovered a bit of synchronicity, we happened to be visiting this place on the 170th anniversary of Anna Warner “Mother” Bailey’s death. And there is a house named for her close by, where she had lived.
The Groton Monument was built between 1826 and 1830, and is the oldest monument of its type in the country. Built of granite quarried locally, the Monument stands 135 feet tall with 166 steps. ~ Fort Griswold Battlefield website
We will also have to wait until the pandemic is over before we can tour the monument and small museum.
When I was preparing this post I noticed I already had a category for Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park. With another nod to synchronicity, it turns out Tim & I visited the fort nine years ago, almost to the day! The trench looks a little different nine years later. We had climbed up on the fort wall, which is no longer allowed. They have installed a viewing platform on the wall sometime in the past nine years. My, how things keep changing… The views of the river and city below are amazing. My old post: Fort Griswold Battlefield
Several weeks after our first visit to this state park we returned to hike up the hill to the lookout, 183 feet (56 meters) above the river. The leaf-covered path started behind the cemetery and was much more steep than we had anticipated.
It wasn’t long before I covered the camera lens and grabbed two strong walking sticks to steady myself. Tim already had his walking stick and was more steady on his feet, but had to stop frequently to catch his breath. I was starting to question the wisdom of embarking on this expedition! Especially when we lost the trail and decided to just keep going up…
When things leveled off a bit I got a few pictures…
Near the top we turned around near this ledge and saw the cemetery way down below…
At last we could see an opening in the woods and views of the river, trees and railroad tracks below. Tim said it was a good thing we came in the winter because the leaves on the trees would have blocked these lovely scenes. Keep in mind, under these ridges is that jumble of glacial erratics pictured in the last post. We didn’t go close enough to the edge to peek down there.
Only with winter-patience can we bring The deep-desired, long-awaited spring. ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh (The Unicorn & Other Poems)
We found the trail again and managed to follow it all the way back down to the cemetery. I’m pleased to report that neither of us fell! I slipped a couple of feet once but my sticks saved me. 🙂 That’s probably enough of steep climbs for us!
It was nice to finally stand on level ground and take a couple of bird pictures. Phew!
We took this walk along the banks of the Thames River a couple of weeks ago. Immediately we were confronted with dead, half-eaten fish littering the path. It was pretty creepy and we wondered what on earth was going on. We had to watch our steps!
Later, after asking around, we learned that this phenomenon has been spotted by others taking walks in other natural areas near the river. We tried to ignore the gruesome scene underfoot and enjoy what else the trail had to offer…
From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Selected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson)
We found a cemetery at the foot of a hillside of jumbled glacial erratics. We noticed a couple of stones for local Revolutionary War soldiers.
In the past month, DEEP Fisheries Division staff have received and investigated numerous calls of reported sightings of dead fish along the Connecticut shoreline, from Darien to New London, and numerous points in between. These incidents, known as fish kills, involve a species of fish called Atlantic Menhaden, also known as “bunker.” Menhaden are the most abundant marine fish species on the east coast, and fish kills involving them are not uncommon. Menhaden fish kills can occur for a variety of reasons, most often due to natural or environmental factors such as school-induced hypoxia (lack of oxygen) or cold water temperature. While DEEP continues to investigate these events, staff believe the cause of the fish kills observed over the past month have been due to more Menhaden overwintering in the Sound this year, possibly due to a missed migration cue, leading them to succumb to the cold water temperatures and a lack of nourishment. ~ The Fisherman website, December 14, 2020
Recently I found a website with pictures of old postcards of huge glacial erratics, many from New England. When the pandemic is over, and if health permits, we might try to visit a few of these! Boulders of the United States
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)
After my yucky week Tim made sure I got out for another walk soon, especially since we’re supposed to be having a few storms this week. I haven’t been finding many birds lately, and not even the gulls were cooperating at the beach, where we found ourselves on Sunday.
But then I remembered a song sparrow I had seen back in July in a thicket near a chain link fence on top of a cement wall near the estuary. (timelessness and quiet ecstasy) I decided to see if some song sparrows were still there. Yes! They live here year round and are native to North America. Finding them made my day! 🙂
in a thicket by the sea the song sparrows are still keeping a home ~ Barbara Rodgers (By the Sea)
Feeds heavily on seeds, especially in winter, mainly those of grasses and weeds. Birds in coastal marshes and on islands also feed on small crustaceans and mollusks, perhaps rarely on small fish. ~ National Audubon Society website, page on song sparrows
If you would have the song of the sparrow inspire you a thousand years hence, let your life be in harmony with its strain to-day. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Journal, May 12, 1857)
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)
While video chatting with our son and daughter-in-law they mentioned an open space property where they used to love hiking when they lived up here. (They live in Georgia now.) So we set about finding Avery Tract the next day. The highlight of our adventure was spotting this scarlet tanager!
If you squint you can see “NATURE SANCTUARY” written into the cement on the landing. Our only clue that we found the property.
The trail quickly started going downhill towards the Thames River and the New England Central Railroad tracks.
We turned around and headed back up the hill, trying to get some pictures of the scarlet tanager who was flying from treetop to treetop. He was very elusive! All taken with the telephoto lens.
The scarlet tanager sighting was definitely the most exciting part of my day!
Since I am getting frustrated trying to identify mosses online I just ordered a field guide book to mosses, liverworts, and hornworts. And since I have no idea what liverworts and hornworts are it looks like I have a lot to learn.
Another hour long walk. Lots of huffing and puffing coming back up the hill but it was all worth the effort. Until next time…
The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (Nature)
Tim likes to point out that you can see four lighthouses from a certain place along this walk. It’s fun to look out at the horizon and try to identify different kinds of ships. We don’t see as many as we used to, but I think the ferries to Long Island are still running…
Avery Point Lighthouse is a lighthouse in Groton, Connecticut, on the Avery Point Campus of the University of Connecticut. Although construction was completed in March 1943, the lighthouse was not lit until May 1944 due to concerns of possible enemy invasion. ~ Wikipedia
Race Rock Lighthouse stands in Long Island Sound, 8 miles (13 km) from New London, Connecticut, at the mouth of the Race where the waters of the Sound rush both ways with great velocity and force. ~ Wikipedia
I’ve been told that Race Rock Light marks where Long Island Sound ends and the Atlantic Ocean begins. I got a good picture of it in 2012 when we took a ferry to Block Island. See picture here.
New London Ledge Lighthouse is a lighthouse in Groton, Connecticut on the Thames River at the mouth of New London harbor. It is currently owned and maintained by the New London Maritime Society as part of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act program. ~ Wikipedia
New London Harbor Light is a lighthouse in New London, Connecticut on the west side of the New London harbor entrance. It is the nation’s fifth oldest light station and the seventh oldest U.S. lighthouse. It is both the oldest and the tallest lighthouse in Connecticut and on Long Island Sound, with its tower reaching 90 feet. The light is visible for 15 miles and consists of three seconds of white light every six seconds. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. It is currently owned and maintained by the New London Maritime Society as part of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act program. ~ Wikipedia
The Meteorological Tower on the University of Connecticut Avery Point Campus measures wind speed and direction (anemometer), atmospheric pressure (barometer), relative humidity, rainfall (rain gauge), air temperature (thermometer), radiation from clouds and sky (pyrgeometer), and solar radiation (pyranometer). It also provides pictures of Long Island Sound. Anemometer height is approximately 37 feet above the water surface.
I cross till I am weary A Mountain — in my mind — More Mountains — then a Sea — More Seas — And then A Desert — find —
And my Horizon blocks With steady — drifting — Grains Of unconjectured quantity —
~ Emily Dickinson (The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #666)
Feeling is deep and still; and the word that floats on the surface Is as the tossing buoy, that betrays where the anchor is hidden. ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Evangeline)
That way I looked between and over the near green hills to some distant and higher ones in the horizon, tinged with blue. … There was pasture enough for my imagination. … ‘There are none happy in the world but beings who enjoy freely a vast horizon,’ said Damodara, when his herds required new and larger pastures. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Walden)