splish splash, catbird taking a bath…

7.17.21 ~ Wilcox Park, Westerly, Rhode Island
gray catbird cooling off in birdbath
what are you looking at?
gray catbird drying off in a tree
pictures taken on our hot and humid walk through the park
after visiting the outdoor Virtu Art Festival

sandpiper, my gull friend

7.16.21 ~ Eastern Point

Ugh. Unrelenting tropical humidity… Last night we sat down on our bench at the beach and sweltered… I was hoping to see my gull friend because we hadn’t seen him since the end of June. I miss him sitting on the post in front of us… But it looked like we weren’t going to see any shorebirds so we watched the sailboats going by instead. They were coming in because a thunderstorm was rumbling in the distance.

When we couldn’t take the heat any longer we walked over to a bench in the shade on the other side of Tyler House, and looked out over the rocks and breakwaters. I spotted a tiny little bird way out and strained to make it out. It finally came a little closer.

spotted sandpiper

And, lucky for me, the robin-sized shorebird came even closer! The spotted sandpiper is a new one for me. 🙂

spotted sandpiper

After taking way too many pictures of the sandpiper, most of them blurry and deleted already, I sat down and felt grateful for the sea breeze finally starting to come in from the sound. And then The Captain flew by in front of us! He flew back to the other side of Tyler House and we followed, and sat down on our usual bench. But he wouldn’t come down to his fence post. He stayed up there on that ugly lamp post. There were no children running around this day so I wonder why he won’t come down.

We waited for a good while but he wouldn’t budge. So we started for the car. Looking back at him it looked like he was doing some stretching. Amazing his sense of balance up there!

Good night, dear summer friend! I hope to see you again soon.

gull, oystercatcher, willet

7.14.21 ~ Eastern Point, juvenile herring gull

So, last night we went down to the beach for a few minutes before getting back home for our scheduled video call with our son and daughter-in-law. The humid air was oppressive and Tim wouldn’t have lasted down there much longer anyway.

juvenile herring gull portrait

I was content to capture a few gull portraits, but then, out of the corner of my eye I spotted an oystercatcher way out on the breakwater. Zoomed out. I don’t think this one is related to the family group we’ve been seeing because it is banded.

banded American oystercatcher

While I was trying to get a clear picture of the oystercatcher I detected some movement near it and finally spotted a bird I’ve never seen at our beach before, a willet! (I think I may have seen them on Cape Cod, but never this close.) When it flew from the breakwater over to the rocks in front of us we could see a bold white and black stripe running the length of each wing. But once it landed on the rocks it walked all over them and didn’t fly again before we had to leave. We were mesmerized.

willet

And after that brief but exciting visit to the beach we got back home to the air conditioning and had a wonderful long video chat with the kiddos. 💙

after the storm

7.9.21 ~ Eastern Point, mouth of Thames River

Tropical Storm Elsa cleared up in time for us to have our supper down at the beach. Didn’t see any storm damage, although other parts of Connecticut got some flash flooding. We had 4 inches of rain. The winds weren’t too bad but it was still pretty breezy down by the water. The wildflowers on the rocks looked freshly showered.

We had two gulls to keep us company. They waited politely and posed for pictures but never got a bit of food from us.

ring-billed gull
herring gull
herring gull feet

After we ate we took a walk over to look at the island where we saw the great blue heron the other day but he wasn’t there. Instead, we saw a Canada goose hanging out with the American oystercatchers. If only I could get closer!

And as we passed by the song sparrow’s thicket we saw one of them. When he faced the sun and the wind he looked fine, and when he turned and faced away from the wind his feathers ruffled.

It was good to get out of the house. Still trying to wrap our minds around the latest COVID-19 news, that 4 million people have died of it worldwide. (Probably many more than that.) Even though things seem almost back to normal around here, the fact is that most of the world is still in a very precarious situation.

We worked on a jigsaw puzzle during the storm… Now it’s back to the heat and humidity and thunderstorms…

threatening weather

7.7.21 ~ Eastern Point
herring gull, second winter?

This morning we have woken up under a tropical storm warning. What’s left of Hurricane Elsa looks like it will come bother us after all. It’s been a wild week. Hot and humid with violent thunderstorms in the evenings. Last night we snuck down to the beach before one arrived, listening to the rumbles in the distance.

We didn’t see The Captain but I had fun taking pictures of plants and an assortment of gulls passing the time on the rocks and fence posts. Much as I love my gulls I do have a terrible time trying to figure out what year they are!

herring gull, breeding adult
ring-billed gull cooling off with a drink
rabbit-foot clover

After walking around the property I spotted a great blue heron out on the island where the cormorants usually position themselves. Never seen one at our beach before! He was pretty far away but I did the best I could.

great blue heron
great blue heron
great blue heron

I heard a song sparrow and then Tim spotted it way up at the top of a tree. (I usually see them in the thicket…)

song sparrow

I think another invasive species has arrived in our area. the European water chestnut is a freshwater aquatic plant released inadvertently into waters of the Northeast in the late 1800s. As of 2014 it hadn’t been seen in Connecticut but it is here now and has overtaken Avery Pond. It completely covers the water. Sigh… It’s very sad to see. Beach Pond, which I think is a salt pond, has not been affected.

dead water chestnut leaf?

Time to batten down the hatches!

my gull friend and oystercatchers

6.29.21 ~ The Captain is back!!! ~ Eastern Point

The weather has been brutal here, heat advisories, oppressive humidity, air quality alerts… What a relief that pandemic restrictions at the beach have been lifted, for the most part, so we can get out of the house for supper there, a tradition we had to skip last summer. And joy of all joys, on our first evening out, my gull friend with the mangled leg showed up!!!

He did a couple of flybys but didn’t land on the post in front of our bench. Perhaps he doesn’t remember us. It’s been a couple of years. But, more likely, it was because of a human family picnicking on the lawn. They were encouraging their children to toss food to the gulls (against the beach rules) and to then chase them, shouting and screaming at them, when they tried to get the food. If my friend had landed on his usual post he would have been pursued. I hope that family won’t be there the next time we go.

The Captain surveyed the situation from the top of a tall lamp post and I did manage to get a couple of pictures of him. I’m a little concerned because he was keeping his mouth open, a behavior I’ve not seen before. Tim thinks perhaps he was cooling off from the heat. I did some research and that does seem to be the case. Poor overheated gull.

For my newer readers who may be wondering who The Captain is… Back on August 27, 2011, almost ten years ago, I met him at our beach while we were waiting for Hurricane Irene to arrive. We’ve been friends ever since. When Tim & I have supper at the beach in the summer he will often come perch on the pole in front of our bench and keep us company while we’re eating. We never feed him so I like to think he has no agenda besides friendship. If you click on “The Captain” tag at the end of this post you will see all the posts tracing our history.

As I turned to leave my friend I heard the unmistakable calls of American oystercatchers. There was a family of five on the rocks, plucking hermit crabs out of the water, the parents teaching their young ones how to feed themselves. It was only a few weeks ago when we saw the parents flying around the rocks and so it looks like they did settle here this year, like they did seven years ago. Needless to say, I was walking on air!

The youngsters have the dark-tipped bills.
The adult bills are bright orange-red.

This juvenile was paying close attention to its parent’s demonstration.

American Oystercatchers probe sandy and stony areas for clams, oysters, and other mollusks, which they open by cutting or smashing. Much of their day is spent resting in roosts during high tide. They are vigorous, and very loud, during courtship displays, territorial conflicts, and interactions with intruders.
~ All About Birds website

The first hint to their presence is often their whistling call, which can be heard from a mile away.
~ All About Birds website

life underfoot

6.25.21 ~ very murky early morning ~ Eastern Point
lichen and moss
rabbit-foot clover
???

The wildflowers above were growing on the rocks at the beach. The garden flowers below were planted around the flag pole in front of Tyler House. Muggy days…

Her body moved with the frankness that comes from solitary habits. But solitude is only a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot; every choice is a world made new for the chosen. All secrets are witnessed.
~ Barbara Kingsolver
(Prodigal Summer)

a castle by the river

6.23.21 ~ Gillette Castle State Park
East Haddam, Connecticut

Another gorgeous day of mild temperatures and low humidity presented itself on Wednesday, so off we went to visit a small castle in Connecticut. The last time we were there was in 1981, when the gypsy moth infestation was in full swing. 40 years ago — where does the time go? My memories are of trees stripped of their leaves and our three-year old son stomping on every single caterpillar in his path. And there were many. It was slow going…

Wiliam Gillette as Sherlock Holmes lithograph
1900 Library of Congress Collection

The castle sits high above the Connecticut River. It was designed by William Gillette (1853-1937), an American stage actor who famously portrayed Sherlock Holmes in multiple productions. He lived in his castle from 1919 until his death. We couldn’t get any indoor pictures but it was a very enjoyable and informative tour. (We were required to wear masks inside the castle and the visitor center.) The man owned 15 cats and had designed many built-in features to entertain them, like a round table with wooden toys dangling off the edge.

Connecticut River, viewed from the castle

Looking at the river we spotted the ferry crossing from Hadlyme to Chester, which brought back another memory. One day when the caterpillar crusher was a teenager he wanted to visit a certain obscure comic book store, far from home and on the other side of the river. We went by the interstate but I decided we would take a side trip on the way home to locate an ancestor’s gravestone at a cemetery on this side of the river, and that we would take the car over the river on the little ferry. It was an adventure!

Chester/Hadlyme Ferry

Gillette also designed a short-line, narrow gauge train with three miles of track on the grounds of his 184-acre estate.

From the 1920s through the ‘30s, Gillette’s personal railroad amused visiting dignitaries from Albert Einstein to Calvin Coolidge as it carried them across bridges, trestles, and through a tunnel Gillette designed himself. The 18-inch-gauge railroad included electric- and steam-powered locomotives, two Pullman cars, and an observation car. In the 1940s the tracks and train engines were sold to Lake Compounce in Bristol. They were donated back in the 1990s and a restored passenger car is currently on display at the castle’s visitor center.
~ Connecticut History website

“Grand Central Station”
???mysterious substance hanging from ceiling of train station???
looking out from the train station towards the river
Gillette Castle from a different angle
stone wall along a driveway
entrance to ???
stone wall along a walkway

Tim spotted a bird high up in a tall tree and I did the best I could with the telephoto lens and no tripod! My first pictures of an indigo bunting!!! A lovely way to end the visit.

indigo bunting

But that wasn’t the end of the outing. On our way to the castle I had spotted a picturesque body of water and Tim had spotted a place where we could pull off the road to look at it. So on the way back we stopped. There were no signs so it took a bit of investigating when I got home to identify it.

6.23.21 ~ Whalebone Cove
Lyme, Connecticut
freshwater tidal marsh
dome-shaped beaver lodge of sticks and wood
lovely summer colors
more summer colors

And then I spotted what looked to be part of the bark on that dying tree in the first picture above. But when I zoomed in it turned out to be a bird! The bird never moved, except to turn its head, the whole time we were there. Flitting around it were two other birds who never landed for more than a second, but I managed to get the last picture below of one of them. I was able to steady my arms by leaning on the car. With help from the good folks at the What’s This Bird? Facebook group it seems to be a fledgling barn swallow and its parents.

juvenile barn swallow
barn swallow

We stopped at our favorite restaurant on our way home again and wondered how many more of these delightful days we will have before the heat and humidity return and settle in…

with fields of lavender

6.18.21 ~ Lavender Pond Farm ~ Killingworth, Connecticut

Picking our own strawberries used to be a favorite way of marking the summer solstice, but since my diet is so restricted now we decided to visit a different kind of farm this year. The beautiful, sweet-smelling Lavender Pond Farm fit the bill perfectly.

I had to laugh at myself. We were almost there when I realized I still had my house slippers on! So I wore my slippers all day! (Absent-minded old lady!) Thankfully there was no mud on the ground to deal with.

There were quite a few attractions and activities and it looks like they are still adding more. First we took a walk through the formal garden.

“Enjoy a relaxing game of giant chess in our formal garden.”

The air was fragrant with a thousand trodden aromatic herbs, with fields of lavender, and with the brightest roses blushing in tufts all over the meadows.
~ William Cullen Bryant
(Prose Writings, Volume 5)

a bee!

Then we took a nice long, slow train ride on the purple Lavender Express, through the lavender fields and around the ponds. We also passed by more than a few fairy gardens in the woods.

“There’s nearly 10,000 lavender plants in 30+ beds.”
“On sunny days our honeybees are busy as, well, you know…
and you can see them working around the hives.”

We are wont to forget that the sun looks on our cultivated fields and on the prairies and forests without distinction. They all reflect and absorb his rays alike, and the former make but a small part of the glorious picture which he beholds in his daily course. In his view the earth is all equally cultivated like a garden.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Walden)

“Our farm is solar powered. In 2017 we became only the second site
in the USA and first in CT to put in a SmartFlower.”
approaching the covered bridge
“We’ve got an Arnold M. Graton authentic covered bridge at our farm.
See the work of a master bridge wright.”

After the train ride, we did a quick walk-through in the gift shop, which smelled lovely, and then met a sleepy rooster outside. Tim spent a fair amount of time admiring a very old red truck. It felt a little strange being so close to people without a mask on, actually, just being close to people, period. I never know what to make of people who are wearing masks. Are they unvaccinated? Or playing it safe?

“Our ‘Broadway Chicks’ are always excited to make new friends.”
well, this one was too sleepy to make new friends…
1947 Ford Pickup ~ “Half Ton”

We had a lovely taste of the best kind of summer morning, with low humidity and comfortable temperatures. On the way home we stopped at my favorite restaurant for lunch, where they graciously take and prepare my special order. 🙂

The next day we went to an estate sale, something we haven’t done since before the pandemic started. Again I felt uncomfortable being in such close proximity to people with and without masks. (We’re not wearing them unless required by an establishment.) But I found a nicely-framed needlepoint of two chickadees on a branch, for only $5! And since the garden rake we use to spread mulch every year was falling apart we found one in good condition to replace it, also for $5. It doesn’t take much to delight us! 🙂