wildflower walk

5.6.22 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum

Friday afternoon my sister and brother-in-law joined us and a large group of (mostly) retired folks to take the Connecticut College Arboretum’s annual guided wildflower walk in the Edgerton & Stengel Memorial Wildflower Garden. It was outside so no masks. They hadn’t had this walk for the past two years because of the pandemic. Leading the walk this year was Miles Schwartz Sax, arboretum director, and Madison Holland, horticulturalist.

I didn’t catch the names of all the flowers but have identified the ones I’m more sure of. When we arrived we saw some arborists hard at work in the trees.

And while waiting for the talk and walk to begin I saw my first catbirds of the year! They were very busy but I did manage to get a couple of pictures. 🙂

Enjoy the spring ephemerals!

Virginia bluebells
???
wild columbine
foamflower
wild geranium
wild geranium
dwarf crested iris
barren strawberry
violet
pinkshell azalea
violet
violet
herb Robert (thanks to Jane for the identification)
white baneberry
great trillium
Virginia bluebells
smooth solomon’s seal
large-flowered bellwort (merrybells)
nodding trillium

The Edgerton and Stengel Wildflower Garden is filled with wildflowers, ferns and a shrub layer of native azaleas and rhododendrons. Sheltered by a canopy of white ash and red maple, this naturalistic garden displays its beauty on a west-facing slope. The remains of stone walls are reminders of the original agricultural use of the land. Wildflowers are able to survive without the intervention of people and they add to the natural beauty of any setting.
~ Connecticut College Arboretum website

We were lucky the approaching rainstorm held off until after the walk. It was fun interacting with people again, even while everyone kept a respectable distance. Might be worth another visit in a week or two. Some flowers had gone by and some looked like they hadn’t bloomed yet.

around the pond, through the swamp

5.5.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center

Six days after we saw the goslings, we returned to the nature center to find the whole family missing. I cannot bear to think about what might have happened to them. Feeling very disappointed, we took a walk around the pond and then followed the boardwalk through the swamp.

sleeping mallard
this turtle got himself into a predicament
bullfrog #1 (by the pond)
bullfrog #1 on his mossy peninsula
eastern painted turtle ~ what are those specks on its shell?
another eastern painted turtle
moss sporophytes
marsh marigold

We couldn’t believe how many dozens of bullfrogs were in the swamp!

bullfrog #2
bullfrog #3
the back of bullfrog #4
bullfrog #5
lunaria (thanks to Eliza for the id)

Before leaving we went up to the outdoor rehab enclosures to see how the raptors were doing. I managed to get this portrait of a hawk through the wires.

broad-winged hawk

Connecticut’s positivity rate is up to 11%. The CDC has now listed all 8 counties in the state at medium or high levels of transmission. We never stopped wearing a mask indoors in public, but it’s now recommended again. Sigh…

water-powered up-down sawmill

sunrise at home, 5:46 am, May Day
40°F, clear with periodic clouds, light wind from the north at 7 mph
4.30.22 ~ Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill, Ledyard, Connecticut

For May Day weekend we decided to visit the historic water-powered Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill, which is only open on Saturdays in the spring and fall. Earth’s energy has shifted again as this hemisphere begins traveling closer to the sun in the brighter half of the year. All the mill’s windows and doors were wide open so it felt pretty safe (covid-wise) to go inside and see what the process of sawing wood was like in the late 1800s.

millstone, the sawmill operated briefly as a gristmill from 1858-1860
headgate controlling pond water flow through the dam into the mill water tank
vintage salesman’s model of the John Tyler Water Turbine

The finely cast and machined 19th century model is about four inches wide and has an operating gate and rotating runner.
~ Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill website

“Turning the handwheel opens and closes the turbine gate,
controlling water flow from the holding tank into the turbine.”
“The vertical turbine shaft is geared to a horizontal shaft
that ends with a heavy iron flywheel and crank under the saw.”
“A wooden pitman arm connects to the crank to the wooden saw sash,
converting the rotary motion of the flywheel into
an up and down (reciprocating) motion.”

After watching the saw operating for a minute we went outside, down some huge stone steps and into the lower level to see the turbine in action.

the turbine pit in the mill lower level

And then we went back upstairs to see more of the sawing.

“The saw cuts on the downstroke and
the log moves toward the saw on the upstroke.”

It was quite loud and the whole building vibrated while the saw was operating.

diagram of both levels

The sawmill has a great website for any who would like more details: Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill.

My father, when he was still alive, had visited this place after it was restored and opened to the public in 1975. He often said he wanted to take me to see it some day. Sadly, that never happened, but he was very much on my mind as we looked around and listened to the operators tell us about its history and how it worked.

After our trip back through time we decided to take a walk around Sawmill Pond and see what visual treats the brightness of spring had to offer.

red maple seeds
tiny bluets, a childhood favorite
an eastern painted turtle for Tim

And then, for me, a new life bird! I heard it singing and looked up into the nearest tree and there it was! What a nice surprise, the last sort of thing I was expecting to find on this day. 🙂

chipping sparrow, #69

Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina: Widespread common migratory breeder mid-April to November; rare and local in winter; in areas with short grass and trees, residential neighborhoods, parks, open upland forest.
~ Frank Gallo
(Birding in Connecticut)

Thank you, little chipping sparrow, for singing so sweetly that I couldn’t miss seeing you!

the new arrivals

4.29.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, empty nest

This morning we were up early so we headed over to the nature center to see if there were any Canada goose hatchlings. The nest was empty! We were so disappointed to have missed seeing the little ones in the nest. 🙁

But, I scanned the pond, hoping to see mama and papa goose swimming around with their goslings. There they were, far away on the other side of the water, up on the land. Used the zoom lens to get these pictures…

mama and one baby
mama and three babies

The vigilant papa was off to the left but I neglected to get his picture. I was too excited about the little ones. We walked a little around to the south side of the pond, getting a little closer to them, but too many sticks were blocking the view. I think there are four goslings in the next picture.

We retraced our steps and then walked farther around to the north side of the pond. Suddenly on the path, Tim estimates about 50 feet ahead of us, was a gosling, off on his own little adventure.

my, what a big foot you have!

And then mama came down the path to fetch him.

And lead him back to the rest of the brood.

We turned around to leave them in peace, feeling very happy. 🙂 We met two nature center staffers on the way out who didn’t know yet that the little ones had arrived. One of them told us that back in March there was quite a dispute between several Canada geese over who was going to occupy that perfect nest in the middle of the pond. Prime real estate, it would seem!

healing by the sea

4.25.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, Mystic
photo by Tim

Monday we were planning to check on mama goose but my gut was having a very bad morning. My sweet husband offered to go by himself to see if there were any goslings, and brought back the picture above. No little ones yet and he reported that papa goose was still missing. He went inside the nature center and inquired about the situation. A staffer said they were concerned about the avian influenza but had no answers.


By late afternoon I was feeling a little better and decided to go down to the salt water and air for some healing energy. The first wildflower of the season at the beach, a dandelion, was poking through the stone wall and concrete!

4.25.22 ~ Eastern Point, Groton

When we got down on the sand a friendly ring-billed gull came over to to see what we were up to. I must have taken 30 pictures of him as he enjoyed our company, and we his. There was not another gull on the beach. I thanked him for the lovely pictures with the sand as a backdrop, rather than the ugly tar of the parking lot. 🙂

ring-billed gull

I never get tired of communing with my beloved gulls. But with a quick glance out over the breakwater I spotted a common grackle. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one at the beach before.

common grackle

On the way home I suddenly remembered that the weeping cherries were probably blossoming more fully than when we saw them the week before. So off we went. It was a lovely scene, complete with creeping phlox, a patch of heather, and a robin.

4.25.22 ~ Walt’s Walls & Woods, Groton
heather
American robin
creeping phlox
weeping cherry blossoms

We stopped by the grocery store and picked up some salmon for supper and felt grateful for a pleasant end to the day.


Tuesday morning we decided to check on mama goose again. Good news! Papa goose was back, along with his buddy the mallard!

4.26.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center
mama goose looking happier
the mallard buddy looks a little worse for wear
~ what on earth were they up to while they were gone?
papa goose photo by Tim

I just LOVE this picture Tim took of papa goose! I don’t think we’ll have a chance to check again until Friday. Hope we don’t miss the hatchlings…

neon green and long plumes

4.22.22 ~ Bride Brook Salt Marsh, Rocky Neck State Park

It’s breeding season at the salt marsh. All these pictures were of great egrets who were close enough to photograph. We also saw ospreys flying on and off their nests, Canada geese honking up a storm and quite a few ducks paddling around, but out of reach from my camera, even with the tripod which Tim lugged around for me. 💙

The pristinely white Great Egret gets even more dressed up for the breeding season. A patch of skin on its face turns neon green, and long plumes grow from its back. Called aigrettes, those plumes were the bane of egrets in the late nineteenth century, when such adornments were prized for ladies’ hats.
~ All About Birds website


After enjoying our birdwatching at the salt marsh we drove over to the nature center to check on mama goose. Monday night we had a nor’easter with lots of wind and rain so we checked on her Tuesday morning. She had turned around in the nest. When we checked again on Friday (pictures below) she was still in Tuesday’s position so we had to walk part way around the pond to get some pictures of her. Papa goose was there on Tuesday but nowhere to be found on Friday. We don’t know if we should be concerned or not.

4.22.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center

Earlier this week the dishwasher died. It was buzzing and when I went to turn it off I got a shock. Our condo was built in the 1970s so it has aluminum wiring. We’ve always had electrical problems with the dishwasher connection and have gone through quite a few since we moved in here nearly twenty-nine years ago. The last one died in 2018. Even though the technicians installing them assure me that the goop they use to connect the aluminum wiring to the dishwasher wiring is safe and effective, I refuse to believe it any more. And so I have decided this time there will not be a new dishwasher.

skunk cabbages are flourishing

I feel surprisingly zen about it. I thought of my grandmother who enjoyed doing her dishes by hand for her whole life. I remember her telling me it was her favorite household chore. As a child I disliked the task intensely and was utterly fascinated by her revelation. But now I’m finding the time spent doing dishes by hand meditative and mindful.

???

Thinking about all that is happening in Ukraine I feel grateful to simply have some dishes to do. Connecticut’s covid positivity rate was climbing all week, and reached 8% on Friday. Sigh… Looks like we need more practice living with uncertainty.

five days later

4.16.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, Mystic

We got up early Saturday morning to see if mama goose was still on her nest. She was. We’ll keep checking. It was fun being out earlier than usual for a walk, before the world is completely awake. The nature center wasn’t even open but we assumed it was okay to walk on the trails before hours.

mama must be getting awfully tired and hungry

Papa goose was still on the watch. This time he stayed in the water so I guess we’re okay to take pictures for now.

My blogging friend Linda noticed something about Papa goose that I missed. Two white spots above his eyes. After browsing around online I’m guessing he might be a Canada goose subspecies, either a moffitti or a maxima or even a hybrid.

at least papa can swim around
moss and/or lichen clump on a branch reaching out over the pond

It was so peaceful and quiet. Even the birds were singing softly.


On the way home we decided to drive by Walt’s Walls & Woods. We discovered this open space in November and decided to come back in the spring to see the weeping cherry trees bloom. It looks like they are just starting so we’ll come back in a few days. Link to our last visit: here.

4.16.22 ~ Walt’s Walls & Woods, Groton
weeping cherry tree
creeping phlox and Walt’s stone walls
creeping phlox

While we were out and about we decided to drive through at Avery Point before going home. Much to my delight a killdeer was running around on the rocks, chirping about something. What a sweet little voice she had! We didn’t see any babies. I can’t believe these pictures came out. I was in the car and taking them leaning across Tim and out of his open window!

4.16.22 ~ Avery Point, Groton

The sharp thrill of seeing them [killdeer birds] reminded me of childhood happiness, gifts under the Christmas tree, perhaps, a kind of euphoria we adults manage to shut out most of the time. This is why I bird-watch, to recapture what it’s like to live in this moment, right now.
~ Lynn Thomson
(Birding with Yeats: A Memoir)

song sparrow near a thicket

One more stop, at Calf Pasture Overlook, where a squirrel was striking a pose on the stone wall by the parking lot. This fuzzy picture was through the car’s windshield. It seemed like the perfect portrait to me.

4.16.22 ~ Calf Pasture Overlook, Groton

Back at home my favorite chionodoxa bulbs were blooming by my river birch. I call them my little blue stars.

4.16.22 ~ chionodoxas in front of the river birch tree in my garden

Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where others see nothing.
~ Camille Pissaro
(Word Pictures: Painting with Verse)

yellow sun-bonnets

4.11.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center

A week after our last visit we returned to the pond at the nature center to see the nesting Canada goose again. Our first encounter was a mallard bobbing for food.

Mama goose was still sitting on her nest. 🙂

Papa goose eyed us and started swimming towards us.

But I continued with my photo shoot…

…until he decided to come even closer and make his point.

He came out of the water so we backed away and gave him some space, while continuing to take pictures. No need for a confrontation.

And then the mallard decided to come out of the pond, too. They seemed to be friends, nibbling on the same patch of moss.

violet (?) growing out of a crack in a big rock

On our way back to the car we spotted another trail that seemed to lead toward the Denison Homestead, a historic museum across the road from the nature center, where the daffodils were still blooming. We followed it to a crosswalk which led us to a great picture-taking spot.

4.11.22 ~ Denison Homestead

I never saw daffodils so beautiful. They grew among the mossy stones, about and above them; some rested their heads upon these stones, as on a pillow for weariness; and the rest tossed and reeled and danced, and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew directly over the lake to them.
~ Dorothy Wordsworth
(Journal, April 15, 1802)

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
“Winter is dead.”

~ A. A. Milne
(Daffodowndilly)

spotted this periwinkle on the way back to the nature center

We plan to come back every week, hoping to catch the goslings swimming in the pond one day. The average number of eggs is five and the parents take them to a brooding area soon after they hatch. I hope the brooding area is nearby so we don’t miss seeing them.

it’s like the woods

4.4.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center

Four days after we visited the nature center with Kat I wanted to return to see if the Canada goose was still sitting on her eggs. She was, and had turned and was facing the other direction. This time we walked on some other trails through the woods and the meadow. There are still more loops to follow so we plan to return once a week to see the Canada goose, and if we’re lucky, some goslings one day.

eastern white pine sapling growing in the swamp
glacial erratic on top of Council Rock

It’s like the Light —
A fashionless Delight —
It’s like the Bee —
A dateless — Melody —

It’s like the Woods —
Private — Like the Breeze —
Phraseless — yet it stirs
The proudest Trees —

It’s like the morning —
Best — when it’s done —
And the Everlasting Clocks —
Chime — Noon!

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #302)


I imagine ‘it’ in Emily’s poem is Presence.

We also found six locations along the Meditation Walking Path, “each selected to provide a place for quiet reflection or meditation.” The path follows some of the other trails and the shortcuts between them. A little confusing but I think we sorted it out.

plentiful skunk cabbage
the leaves are food for the Canada goose couple
a blind for meadow bird photographers
a view from the blind
birdhouse in the woods
red-bellied woodpecker
Canada goose on her nest
notice the turtle climbing up the rocks
mama
seed pods, goose feather and moss on water
papa’s morning nap

The light is so magical this time of year!

Sadly, Connecticut’s covid positivity rate is going up again. On Friday it was over 5%. I got my second booster shot that day and felt malaise all weekend, but it wasn’t too bad. Feeling overwhelming mourning and anticipatory grief for Ukraine…