woodland treasures

8.15.22 ~ Beebe Pond Park

Scenes from a wonderful late summer walk on an incredibly beautiful day. No humidity, comfortable temperatures in the 70s, and no mosquitoes, no doubt thanks to the continuing severe drought.

hiding in plain sight
walking over roots and around boulders to get to the pond
great blue heron way across the pond
tiny flower with orbs
Beebe Pond during severe drought
water lilies carpeting the low water level
buzzy
no standing room
a giant
(there’s a little chipmunk sitting on the rotting wood under the erratic)
hiding under the giant
as far as the eye can see, an endlessly rocky trail
the space between
impaled
marcescence
marching to the beat of a different drummer
the lofty oak

When we had arrived at the park we saw two cars from a dog day care business and wondered what situation we might encounter on the trail. Much to my relief we crossed paths with two women walking eight medium-sized dogs on leashes. The dogs were well-behaved and minding their own business. (No tugging, lunging or barking.) Cesar Millan would have approved. 🙂 I was impressed!

severe drought continues

8.9.22 ~ Thames River

On Tuesday we left early to vote in the Connecticut primary and then drove down to the pond by way of the road along the Thames River. Some of the river’s banks are covered with an unattractive cement ramp, but, I happened to notice a swamp rose mallow popping through it as we were driving by.

Fascinated, I asked Tim to stop the car so I could hop out and examine the wildflower up close. How could it be growing in such an inhospitable spot? It wasn’t that big yet, maybe 2 feet tall, and I wonder how high it might be able to grow there. (They can grow to 7 feet, and the flowers are 4-6 inches in diameter.)

As I was enjoying the close encounter I noticed another wildflower growing through another seam. I loved the shades of purple on its petals.


Back in the car and on to the pond. So sad to see even less water remaining in it. I’m surprised the shorebirds don’t do their fishing over at the beach but they must have their reasons for hanging out here still.

drought-stricken Beach Pond
lesser yellowlegs

Nature, like a loving mother, is ever trying to keep land and sea, mountain and valley, each in its place, to hush the angry winds and waves, balance the extremes of heat and cold, of rain and drought, that peace, harmony and beauty may reign supreme.
~ Elizabeth Cady Stanton
(Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Feminist as Thinker: A Reader in Documents & Essays)

great egrets strolling by
snowy egret with lesser yellowlegs behind him
snowy egret
great egrets mingling with snowy egrets
swamp rose mallow, this one growing by the pond

We’re supposed to get a break from the heat and humidity this weekend, which will be nice, but we also need some rain!

snowy egrets

8.5.22 ~ Beach Pond

Another early morning visit to the pond. We are now in a severe drought. Most of the birds were on the far side of the pond again and most of them were snowy egrets! I’ve never seen so many here. But the one in the pictures below was on my side of the pond. Intent on her fishing, she seemed unconcerned by my presence, even though she was keeping an eye on me.

The great blue heron was still at the pond and remained stationary with his head down. Linda suggested he might be molting.

At first I wasn’t sure these birds were snowy egrets because when they came out of the water most of their feet seemed black. I wondered if the legs might be covered with mud. Then I noticed the snowy egret on the log above with one yellow foot and one black foot, confirming my theory.

It was fun watching the snowy egrets observe a mallard family swimming through their claimed fishing grounds. There were a few disputes. There isn’t much water left in the pond so I imagine what fish are left are concentrated into a much smaller area than usual.

Last summer we had plenty of rain and very few swamp rose mallows. The opposite is true this year. So beautiful! They grow along with the cattails.

The receding water has exposed some interesting things. I’m guessing this thing (below) might be parts of a horseshoe crab shell?

We’re doing our best to enjoy the great indoors while high temperature records are getting broken, ragweed pollen fills the air, air quality alerts are issued and there is no relief from the hazy humidity. Covid numbers keep rising. Thank goodness for the sea breezes at the pond and the beach where we can get a few relatively comfortable minutes outside every day.

moderate drought at the pond

7.30.22 ~ Beach Pond

We are in a moderate drought and it is evident at the pond. Normally those rocks are covered or almost covered with water. On this sultry early morning all the waterbirds were hanging out on the opposite side of the pond but I did my best with the zoom lens to get a few pictures. Some snowy egrets were here before in 2016 during another drought. The greater yellowlegs I’ve never seen here before, but had seen one on Cape Cod in 2015.

snowy egret
snowy egret
greater yellowlegs
great blue heron

I’m grateful to the folks in the What’s this Bird? Facebook group for helping me to distinguish between the greater and lesser yellowlegs. A new life bird for me without realizing it at first!

lesser yellowlegs, #73 (with mallards)

Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes: Uncommon to fairly common migrant in coastal wetlands and inland ponds, lakes, rain pools, and marshes.
~ Frank Gallo
(Birding in Connecticut)

The Lesser Yellowlegs is a dainty and alert “marshpiper” that occurs in shallow, weedy wetlands and flooded fields across North America during migration. It’s smaller with a shorter, more needlelike bill than the Greater Yellowlegs, but otherwise looks very similar. It breeds in the meadows and open woodlands of boreal Canada. Like many other shorebirds, the Lesser Yellowlegs rebounded from hunting in the early 20th century but has declined again from losses of wetland habitats. It is on the Yellow Watch List for species with declining populations.
~ All About Birds webpage

Also, the swamp rose mallows are starting to bloom! Another summer wildflower I look forward to seeing every August.

I was so focused on those birds that I almost missed the flowers, which were on my side of the pond. But I’m glad I finally noticed them because seeing all that lovely pinkness made my day.

colonial flower garden

7.27.22 ~ Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park

A gray catbird greeted us when we got to the Ebenezer Avery House at the bottom of the hill at Fort Griswold. The last time we visited was in January a year and a half ago. Of course there was nothing growing in the small garden at that time. But this time the air was filled with a pleasant fragrance that must have been some herb or flower I didn’t recognize.

We had a nice walk all around the fort and then it was a delightful surprise to find this little front yard garden surrounded by a picket fence. We lingered here for quite a while, enjoying the colors, smells and visiting butterflies. The flowers were in all stages of life, new ones blossoming right alongside the fading beauties. Please enjoy!

eastern tiger swallowtail
monarch

After we had our fill we made our way back up the hill and past the fort to our car. It was a good workout. 🙂

looking up the hill to the fort

I started to imagine what the people who were in this house during the Battle of Groton Heights might have witnessed from their vantage point that tragic day in 1781.

at the very summit of the season

7.26.22 ~ Buttonwood Farm

In the circle of the seasons, there is no pause. Already summer slides toward autumn. On this hot afternoon, at the very summit of the season, signs of change are in the air.
~ Edwin Way Teale
(Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)

Every year I look forward to visiting one of the huge sunflower fields at Buttonwood Farm. Summer is my least favorite season and this harvest, for me, marks the midpoint between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox. After two years of viewing the field from the perimeter, due to the pandemic, this year we walked through. 🌻

What a thrill, walking through, looking up at the sunflowers which seemed to be looking down at us, curious about the stream of humans admiring them. There were hundreds of bees buzzing and the sky was so blue. You’d think after seeing a couple of sunflowers it might get boring but on we went, dazzled over and over again. 🌻

After going through the field we returned outside by way of the perimeter, to get a little shade from the adjoining woods. Then we climbed the viewing hill and took some more pictures. 🌻

On our way down the hill I spotted a shagbark hickory tree, and I think the nut pictured below is from that tree. A shagbark hickory nut, I do believe. 🌻

As we returned to the grassy parking field we noticed the corn field with a viewing platform. It should be ready for the corn maze in September. 🌽

Since sunflowers are the national flower of Ukraine the fate of the land of half my ancestors was very much on my mind on this day. 🌻 Sunflower in Ukrainian: соняшник (sonyashnyk) 🌻

And now, as I patiently anticipate autumn with all its bountiful harvests, I will try to focus on summer’s remaining blessings. Flowers blooming, butterflies and dragonflies, songbirds still singing, excursions to the farmers markets and pleasant warm evenings by the sea…

early bird gets the worm

7.18.22 ~ great blue heron in Beach Pond

Before it started raining on Monday we took an early walk down by the pond where we encountered a great blue heron struggling to get its breakfast under control.

gulp, finally!

Nearby a miniscule least sandpiper was also looking for its breakfast, skittering about so quickly I almost missed seeing it. Great blue herons are huge (38-54 inches) in comparison to the smallest of the sandpipers (5-6 inches).

least sandpiper

Then the harsh call of a great egret coming in for a landing got my attention!

great egret
great blue heron on the move again
great egret checking out the scene

We left the pond and headed for the beach. Hunting for its breakfast in the seaweed on the rocks was yet another great egret. It was a great morning for watching the shorebirds!

7.18.22 ~ great egret at Eastern Point
female common eider
male mallard in eclipse plumage
ring-billed gull

This friendly gull was waiting by our car to pose for a portrait before we left.

on the side of the road, heading back home
wild carrot (Queen Anne’s lace)

After we got home it started to rain and it rained for most of the day. A good, steady soaking rain, just what we’ve been needing for our abnormally dry conditions. Some parts of the state already have a moderate drought. We finally had to turn the air conditioner on Wednesday. It will be interesting to see how the weather has affected the sunflowers, which we hope to visit this coming week. 🌻

By Friday Connecticut’s positivity rate reached 11%.