waterbirds in the tidal marsh

1.30.23 ~ Waterford Beach Park

It was a rare day with calm winds so, even though it was cloudy, we went to walk along a tidal marsh by the sea. The first thing to catch my eye was a gorgeous little oak tree, still hanging on to its leaves. Then I spotted a pair of hooded mergansers in the distance, so these pictures are heavily cropped. The female kept diving for food but the male seemed to be resting.

female hooded merganser
male hooded merganser

A tidal creek runs through the marsh.

trees reflected in the water in the tidal creek

A solitary herring gull was floating around aimlessly, slowly drifting in my direction. Wondering where all the others have gone. They always seem willing to pose for me.

Somewhat disappointed by the lack of bird sightings we were on our way back to the car when I spotted a great blue heron on the other side of the marsh. Just as I got into a good position to photograph him, he took off! Frustrating… But, lucky for me he was just headed for a spot even closer to me and the other birds. Yay!

great blue heron, hunting
noticing something in the water
getting ready to strike
making a stab at it
oh well, not this time

I’ve been getting pictures of great blue herons for a few years now and this was the first time I’ve had one facing the camera. I had never noticed that pretty pattern running down the front of its neck before! It’s not even illustrated in my field guide. So I’m very excited about my new “discovery.”

winter wanderings

1.22.23 ~ Leo Antonino Preserve, Groton, Connecticut
first brook crossing on the yellow trail

On a cold and cloudy winter morning we decided to explore a relatively new open space property pretty close to home. Leo Antonino Preserve was acquired by the Avalonia Land Conservancy in 2018. What a pleasant surprise we had as we meandered along the loop trail, so many twists and turns, ups and downs and bubbling brooks to cross. We haven’t had any accumulating snow this January, not even a coating. But the woods did smell like winter and the crisp cold air soon gave us rosy cheeks and runny noses.

spotted wintergreen

We were curious about this mysterious black stuff we saw on lots of the beech trees. Is it another symptom of beech bark disease?

The Leo Antonino Preserve is an unexpected tract of woods, wetland, rock outcroppings and erratics … The trail includes short sections of wide-open travel on packed earth and longer stretches of single-file trail that are rocky and rooty with elevation changes. The trail travels through areas of beech and oak and along vernal pools and active brooks. Erratics and upthrust sections of granite illustrate the geologic history of this section of Connecticut. Also illustrative of the history of this property, the yellow trail features the wreck of an old Chevy truck. The section of the yellow trail north of the Chevy is the most challenging with a scramble over a steep rocky ridge.
~ Avalonia Land Conservancy website

beech marcescence
very green mosses were everywhere

We made several crossings over a (or two?) brook. There were no bridges so we used the stepping stones, feeling grateful that we didn’t slip on the mosses!

another crossing
Tim left the trail, climbed the hill and then appeared from behind these erratics
yet another crossing
the wreck of an old Chevy truck
spotted wintergreen
a rusting metal circle hanging from a branch
ferns growing on top of a rock outcropping
lichen with moss
moss and lichen on different levels
sitting on top of a rocky ridge
American wintergreen
woodpecker work, I presume
???

Near the end of the trail we spotted these black lines on the path. I can’t help wondering if it’s the same black stuff we saw on the beeches…

I’ve been trying to be more selective and to include fewer pictures in my posts, but I had to make an exception for this one. When we started this hike I didn’t expect to take many pictures but it seemed like around every turn there was something interesting to notice. We’re looking forward to returning and trying the blue trail through these woods.

moss, raptors, skunk cabbage

1.18.23 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center

It’s hard to believe we haven’t been back to the nature center since June! For this nice walk we found lots of mosses to satisfy some craving for color. And we enjoyed seeing the latest patients in the outdoor rehab enclosures.

peregrine falcon
broad-winged hawks
the female is larger
broad-winged hawk
skunk cabbage emerging — too early?

Mosses are prolific under the moist shaded canopy of evergreens, often creating a dense carpet of green. But in deciduous forests, autumn makes the forest floor virtually uninhabitable by mosses, smothering them under a dark wet blanket of falling leaves. Mosses find a refuge from the drifting leaves on logs and stumps which rise above the forest floor like buttes above the plain. Mosses succeed by inhabiting places that trees cannot, hard, impermeable substrates such as rocks and cliff faces and bark of trees. But with elegant adaptation, mosses don’t suffer from this restriction, rather, they are the undisputed masters of their chosen environment.
~ Robin Wall Kimmerer
(Gathering Moss: A Natural & Cultural History of Mosses)

a rusted farm relic weathering by the pond

kinds of bark, a water view

1.15.23 ~ Town’s End

After a couple of years we finally made it back to this little 6-acre nature preserve, again in the winter. We really must try to get back here in a different season. The property is tucked between houses, a highway and Beebe Cove. Things are very drab this time of year so we took advantage of the new tree identification signs and enjoyed looking more closely at the different kinds of tree bark found in our neck of the woods.

I climbed up on the huge boulder this time and Tim took this picture of me with his cell phone. Last time we came he climbed up and I took the picture. You can see those pictures here.

view from the top, looking down on the trail leading to a tidal marsh and Beebe Cove
glacial erratic sitting on top of the boulder
view from below the boulder

I’ve seen many sassafras saplings over the past couple of years on our walks in the woods. I recognize them from their three differently shaped leaves. I wonder how many full grown trees I’ve walked by, not recognizing them. I was delighted to find myself in a small grove of them here, maybe 20 mature sassafras trees very close to the cove. Note to self: come back in other seasons to see what they look like leafed out in the spring and summer and in fall colors.

Beebe Cove

On this day it was 36°F/2°C and cloudy with a bit of a north wind. Today it was too cold and wet to go outside, for us anyway, so this morning I did some yoga for the first time in months. It felt so good!

moments of wonder and joy

1.7.23 ~ song sparrow at Moore Woodlands

Resuming our walks! When we arrived at Moore Woodlands the birds were singing and it sounded like spring. It was 44°F/7°C and cloudy on this warm-for-January day. As we started walking around the meadow a song sparrow came down to the bushes and started singing for us. This made my whole day!

standing out in the meadow
lone tree in the meadow
beech marcescence

It is not enough to weep for our lost landscapes; we have to put our hands in the earth to make ourselves whole again. Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I choose joy over despair. Not because I have my head in the sand, but because joy is what the earth gives me daily and I must return the gift.
~ Robin Wall Kimmerer
(Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge & The Teachings of Plants)

wondering what those rusty maroon blobs are growing with the reindeer moss
~ amber jelly roll mushrooms ~
(thanks to Eliza for the identification)

In the woods we found a great many eastern red cedar trees that must have come down in a storm. Where they fell across the trail they had been cut and moved off to the side. It was interesting seeing the redness of the freshly cut wood.

We also saw a lot of English ivy growing on the ground and climbing some of the trees. I did some research when I got home and learned that the ivy is invasive and greatly weakens the trees they climb, making them more likely to fall during strong winds. It looks like the Avalonia Land Conservancy has been working to remove the ivy from this patch of woodland. We also saw quite a few eastern white pine saplings.

It also looks like the land conservancy is starting to identify the trees with little tags! I’d like to get more familiar with our local trees and welcome this new aid. This was a lovely first walk for the new year. 🙂

projects and memories

Long time readers of this blog may remember me complaining about the ancestral “stuff” we have accumulated over the years. For instance, here is part of my 15 July 2018 post:

You might guess from my recent choice of reading material that I’m still struggling with the objects and possessions I inherited from our ancestors. Things started piling up around 2008. Hard to believe it’s been 10 years! I have managed to dispose of a lot of stuff but cannot rest on my laurels. What’s left is stacked halfway to the ceiling in a corner of what is supposed to be the genealogy/guest room. The corner takes up almost half the room. … Trouble is, life (births, illnesses, travels, weddings, visitors, deaths) keeps happening and I need a good chunk of uninterrupted time to roll up my sleeves and dig in.

Four years after writing that, nothing had changed. More illness and then a pandemic… Well, I finally measured the pile of boxes. 6′ x 5′ x 4′. I’m terrible with numbers but I believe that was 120 cubic feet of stuff! And I finally realized that a good chunk of uninterrupted time was never going to come my way. I was going to have to seize it for myself. Walks, yoga, blogging, housework, puzzles, reading and family history research were all abandoned for the project.

I rolled up my sleeves and dug in. Much of it was disposed of. There were countless trips to the dumpster, the Book Barn, Goodwill and the Give & Take Shed at the transfer station. It took me a little over a month to make that pile disappear.

There were many treasures in there and these were roughly sorted and then stored where I can get my hands on them and organize them. (Soon, I hope!) At first I was trying to file important papers, like birth, marriage and death records, into the loose-leaf notebooks I created back in the 1990s. But it quickly became apparent that these would have to be reorganized to accommodate the volume of paperwork and photographs I was finding. These are the old notebooks:

There is room for expansion on the shelf below now. All the paperwork is put into acid-free sleeve protectors and kept in these notebooks. I need more! The first one was for us and our parents and the rest were for our eight grandparents and their ancestors. But I’ve had to start new notebooks for our parents and change the size for some of the grandparents. I can’t believe how many citizenship papers and wills and property deeds I found. Not to mention photographs.

One thing taking up a lot of space was my grandmother’s and my mother’s slides. My sister has made a start on digitizing them. Sadly, some are badly deteriorated.

There was about a decade in the 1990s I think of now as my genealogy heydays. My children were in their teens so I had more time on my hands. My mother had died of cancer in 1991 and my father decided to spend some of his time helping me with research. We took a day-long local family history class together with the Connecticut Society of Genealogists in East Hartford. He also came with me to a national genealogy conference in Hartford one summer where we bought a map of the Austrian Empire in 1875, as it was laid out when his parents were born there, in what is now Ukraine. I found the map and got it hung up again.

In 1993 I started a correspondence course with the National Genealogical Society.

My father and I also made many trips to Cape Cod during that decade. My late mother’s beloved parents were still alive and we visited them about once a month, sometimes making a side trip to a cemetery to locate an ancestor’s resting place. Grandfather finally had to put Grandmother in a nursing home when she kept falling and her dementia was too difficult for him to cope with. I am so grateful for my father’s companionship during those years. It was on these visits that Grandfather told me stories about his parents and grandparents, and I wrote them down. I did find many of my notes and corralled them into one place.

Grandmother died in 1996. After her funeral Grandfather took me and my sister and my cousin and my children to two of the cemeteries where Grandmother’s parents and grandparents were buried.

After a few pauses and restarts, I finally completed my course in 1998.

I wish that my mother had lived long enough to enjoy that decade with us. She became interested in family history toward the end of her life and my father used to help her visit town halls and genealogical libraries. She was just getting started with genealogy chat rooms online. She would have loved using the resources, like Ancestry.com, that I take for granted now. Once in the 1980s, before she got too sick, Tim had a work conference in Boston so he took Mom and me up there with him and dropped us off at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. We spent a memorable day in their library doing research. Went out for lunch in the city. It was a fun day, a rare mother-daughter outing. I can’t even remember who was watching the kids — was it my father?

Time marches on. Papa fell in 2000, breaking his femur, and began his slow decline. Beverly & John moved back from New Mexico to stay with him. Grandfather died in 2001. Auntie Lil needed ever more help and finally moved from elderly housing into my father’s house. Children went to college, got married and moved away. The 2000s are a blur of eldercare to me now. Tim had a major heart attack and almost died in 2007. Tim’s grandparents’ home in Provincetown was sold in 2009 and the Dennis Port home of my grandparents was sold in 2010, if I remember correctly. We wound up with lots of stuff we couldn’t handle or absorb. Papa, and Tim’s brother Toby, who lived out his last eight months with us, both died in 2013. Auntie died in 2016, at the great old age of 101. In 2017 Tim had major surgery, a sigmoid colon resection, and later that same year I was diagnosed with cancer and had a hysterectomy. So this is all why there was such a huge, untouched pile of stuff!

It’s such a relief to have it finally done. There are some loose ends to work on but these can be handled a little at a time. I’m looking forward to making new covers for my notebooks and reorganizing the insides. That’s fun work. It was so nice being able to set up air mattresses for our grandchildren to sleep on in the space formerly occupied by that awful pile of stuff!

the dust has settled

“Mama Kangaroo & Her Joey” by Kat, age 8

The appearance of my New Year’s post surprised me because I had put it together a long time ago, when the inspiration had hit, and then scheduled it and forgot all about it. But it’s been fun catching up with all my blogging friends as life gets back to normal.

I am happily and thoroughly exhausted from the intensely exciting visit from Larisa, Dima, Kat and Finn over the holidays. Kat brought me this beautiful painting! They all pitched in and painted our staircase walls. Dima cooked some fabulous meals, incorporating my special dietary needs — he enjoys the challenge. Larisa took me out to buy yarn for a shawl she started knitting for me. (I get so cold while sitting these days!) Finn kept balsa wood and paper airplanes flying through the air. Kat and I had an fascinating conversation while we were peeling carrots together. We baked cookies for Santa, worked on puzzles, drew lots of pictures, and fed peanuts to the squirrels and blue jays on the balcony. We went to the beach to feed clams from the grocery store to the gulls but could only watch for a few minutes due to the bitter cold.

So much joyful chaos! It’s a bit too quiet around here now but I’ve got plenty of wonderful memories to cherish until we see them all again! Now I can turn my attention to explaining my project and the other projects it has led to.

walking clockwise instead

12.18.22 ~ Cognitive Garden at Avery Point

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…

logs standing at attention
a cement orb lying in the grass, a little moon
perfect spot for a gnome to sit and contemplate
lamppost sandwiched between two trees

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…

Avery Point Light
lantern room and cupola
light shining through from the other side
— what on earth is hanging inside there?
winter sun softened by the clouds
lichen Tim spotted on a post
a cairn on top of the sea wall
meteorological tower
shriveled beach rose hip
Tyler House on Eastern Point
Black Rock (where the cormorants hang out
about 200 yards south of our beach)
& New London Harbor Light

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 the fields of the commonplace

12.9.22 ~ Poquonnock River Walkway

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.