unplanned visit

9.23.22 ~ Napatree Point Conservation Area

The promise of 7′ waves from Hurricane Fiona lured us to make a spur-of-the-moment trek out to Napatree Point Friday afternoon. Tim couldn’t keep his hat on the northwest wind was so strong. I tucked his hat inside my hoodie. But the 3′ waves were disappointing, once again.

There was a solitary monarch butterfly lingering on the dunes. Hopefully it will be on its way to Mexico by the end of September!

monarch
goldenrod getting ready to bloom
Watch Hill Light

To get the above picture I climbed up higher on the dune, up off the regular path. (There was no rope or sign to indicate I shouldn’t!) I was delighted with the new vantage point, but then, when I turned around to retrace my steps, found myself sliding down the sandy slope with nothing to hang on to. But somehow I made it without falling. 🙂 The camera was safe, too.

seemingly random fences along the dune
gull enjoying a quick walk
view stretching all the way to the point
beach rose determined to bloom
some kind of fly
blooming in the early autumn sunshine

Earlier that day we went to a nursery and found a good pumpkin, an assortment of gourds and a pot full of mums. Stopped by the cider mill and got some more freshly pressed cider for Tim. A lovely way to celebrate the first full day of autumn!

9.26.22 ~ gourds and pumpkin with the river birch tree in my garden
(we thought the gourd on the right looked like a hand holding onto a ball)

crossing over the dune

9.10.22 ~ Napatree Point Conservation Area

Every once in a while a hurricane churning away out in the Atlantic sends some big waves as far as Napatree Point, so we went there to see what Hurricane Earl might be sending our way. The waves weren’t so big after all, about 3′ according to a surfing website. (In 2020 Hurricane Teddy sent 6.5′ waves!) But we still had a good time at this wonderful beach on Saturday, enjoying the September sunshine and sea air.

driftwood #1
driftwood #2 (made me think of a hippopotamus)
driftwood #3
driftwood #4

After walking part way down the beach on the Atlantic side of the Napatree Point peninsula, we crossed over the dune on the indicated path to enjoy beach roses and the views. Rhode Island is still in an extreme drought. Ours is still severe, in spite of the recent rains.

beach rose hip
beach rose
more beach roses to bloom
a very busy bee

Tim spotted a bird on one of the ropes marking off the path. A new life bird for me!

yellow warbler, #74

Yellow Warbler Setophaga petechia: Common widespread migratory breeder April to September in brushy thickets of river-edge forest, wetland edges, moist power-line cut segments, and open woodland.
~ Frank Gallo
(Birding in Connecticut)

These pictures were taken with the zoom lens and were the best I could do at a distance. The warbler did seem to love flitting about on the brushy beach rose thickets.

North America has more than 50 species of warblers, but few combine brilliant color and easy viewing quite like the Yellow Warbler. In summer, the buttery yellow males sing their sweet whistled song from willows, wet thickets, and roadsides across almost all of North America. The females and immatures aren’t as bright, and lack the male’s rich chestnut streaking, but their overall warm yellow tones, unmarked faces, and prominent black eyes help pick them out.
~ All About Birds webpage

looking from the dune and across Little Narragansett Bay
to the village of Watch Hill, Rhode Island
white beach rose in the shadows
looking back at the dune from the bay side of the peninsula

The beach on the bay side of the dune is a little different from the one on the ocean side. Little Narragansett Bay is a small estuary and serves as a harbor for the village of Watch Hill.

driftwood #5
things the tide left behind
heading out for a sail
eastern juniper (?) and dune grass

We walked for over an hour and felt very refreshed. There is nothing quite like the sounds of crickets and of waves crashing, the smells of salt air and beach roses, the sighting of a new bird and the feel of sunlight warming the skin!

outdoor sculpture exhibition

9.3.22 ~ Avery Point
“Chameleon” by Helena Chastel

Saturday morning we visited Open Air 2022, an outdoor sculpture exhibit hosted by the Alexey von Schlippe Gallery of Art on the beautiful UConn Avery Point campus from July 14-September 29. This idea started in 2020 because of the pandemic, when the gallery had to remain closed. It was so popular with the public that they plan to continue with a new installation every summer.

“Noon” by Myles Nurse
“Piles” by Jack Henry

Life is a train of moods like a string of beads, and, as we pass through them, they prove to be many-colored lenses which paint the world their own hue, and each shows only what lies in its own focus.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Experience)

“Stand Up” by Margaret Roleke
herring gull with feathers ruffled in the breeze
“Silent Vanishing” by CoyWolf Collective
(Elizabeth Knowles, Steven Phillip Harris, Debra Vilen)

Silent Vanishing was my favorite sculpture, depicting melting icebergs and the snowy owls who breed in the treeless arctic tundra. Where will they go if/when the environment changes too fast for them to adapt?

one of many cairns on top of the seawall
northern mockingbird

I stopped by my beach rosebushes to see if the song sparrow was still there but a mockingbird came out to greet me instead. He posed for quite a while and I took many pictures of him.

beach rose hips
lonely little beach rose
“Movement Study: Wave” by Margaret Parsons
purple coneflowers and stone wall
“Bubbles” by Brian Walters
“And Only Its Hands Are Left Pleading for Life”
by Thomas Pilnik

For an interesting explanation of Pilnik’s crumbling sculpture (above) and a picture of what it looked like when he first created it in July follow this link: Thomas Pilnik

And now we’re getting some much needed rain!

copper beech healing

7.4.22 ~ Avery Point

If we keep having these lovely weather days I might have to change my negative feelings about the summer season. Returning to Avery Point we again found a song sparrow singing at the top of the beach rose bushes. I wonder if it’s the same one we met a month ago. He was in the same spot.

song sparrow still king of his beach rosebushes

The bushes were full of rose hips but I think there will be another bloom or two left in the season.

beach rose hip and thorns
fading
beach rosebud ~ there are still more to come
there were still a few in full bloom
Avery Point Light

Look who was very busy digging bugs out of the lawn…

northern mockingbird

I lingered under this immense copper beech tree and held my hand on it, soaking up some healing energy. (It’s trunk was way too big to hug!) Looking up into its branches was a transcendent experience.

We come into being in and through the Earth. Simply put, we are Earthlings. The Earth is our origin, our nourishment, our educator, our healer, our fulfillment. At its core, even our spirituality is Earth derived. The human and the Earth are totally implicated, each in the other. If there is no spirituality in the Earth, then there is no spirituality in ourselves.
~ Thomas Berry
(The Sacred Universe)

copper beech

Not sure what kind of tree this is (below) but the slash in its bark was striking. I wonder how long it’s been there and if it grew with the tree…

What would our lives be without trees? Bleak and inhospitable, I’d say. What a blessing to have their gifts to us and the other creatures in our summer world.

summer solstice in the woods

6.20.22 ~ Bluff Point State Park & Coastal Reserve

This is the third year we’ve celebrated Midsummer since this endless coronavirus pandemic began. Driving on our way to a walk in the woods I was chattering to Tim about the “end” of the pandemic, how it was becoming more or less endemic now and that maybe I should stop tagging my posts with “pandemic.”

last quarter moon

Monday was a perfect summer day and the trees were green and lovely. Tim was already wearing shorts and I was still in my hoodie, typical between-season attire for this couple. 😉 We had forgotten it was a 3-day weekend, a Monday holiday for Juneteenth, so there were lots of people in the state park. No matter, everyone was friendly and in good spirits.

a peek at the Poquonnock River

We had a nice conversation with a young couple from New Hampshire who were very excited about a bird they had spotted. (We finally got a glimpse of it but couldn’t see it well enough to identify it.) And another conversation with a man, about our age, who commented on how good the honeysuckle was smelling and asked me about the zoom lens on my camera. I really didn’t feel too nervous being so close without a mask since we were outside.

it looks like these two trees are lifting the glacial erratic up off the ground

I took a picture of these trees holding the boulder (above) in November 2020. See here. Interesting difference between autumn and summer surroundings.

beach rose blossom
honeysuckle blossoms
greenery!

It turned out to be the longest walk we’ve taken in ages, a whole hour and a half! And I don’t know what it is about catbirds this year — they are turning up everywhere! It was one of those days where it simply felt exhilarating to be alive and present.

gray catbird
twig art on glacial erratic
the twig and the glacial erratic in the above picture
clover blossom
another sunlit glacial erratic
another gray catbird

I’m still enjoying daily encounters with the catbird coming to the birch tree outside my kitchen window. He usually announces the visit with a few meows and then begins his repertoire of varied melodies, songs that I imagine he has picked up and adopted along the way.

on another branch

People who watch a banded gray catbird outside their window all summer will find it hard not to wonder exactly where it’s spending the winter, or to marvel that science still doesn’t have the answer. And if the catbird doesn’t come back, they, too, will inevitably wonder why.
~ Miyoko Chu
(Songbird Journeys: Four Seasons in the Lives of Migratory Birds)

looking the other way
hawkweed (thanks to Eliza for the id)
a chipmunk on the path

But perceptions will inevitably shift, as fickle as the weather. On arriving home we learned that a fully vaccinated relative has come down with covid and had a very high fever. The news shattered my hopeful illusions. Other relatives who have had the virus have said it was no worse than a cold. One of the most disconcerting things about the illness is that it is impossible to know how it will hit you until you actually catch it.

And then, the next morning I woke to the news that a play we were planning to attend outdoors this week was put on hold:

Update on PEER GYNT: Due to COVID delays, our production will not be opening this weekend (June 23-26) in Wilcox Park. We will update on our revised schedule of performances as soon as we can. Thank you for your understanding and stay safe!
~ Flock Theatre

Connecticut’s positivity rate is hovering around 8%. So, all things considered, I guess it’s too soon to remove the pandemic tag from my posts. This refreshing walk will be recalled as our third pandemic summer solstice celebration. Feeling gratitude for the company of sociable strangers, playful catbirds and a chipmunk with the munchies on this memorable, bittersweet day.

beach roses and song sparrows

maple tree by the sea
6.5.22 ~ Avery Point

The patient is safely home from the hospital and all seems to have gone well and as planned. Tim has a resting pulse now!!! So many thanks to you all for the healing energy, well wishes and prayers. ❤️

northern mockingbird eating its breakfast

A couple of days before the surgery to put in the pacemaker we took a long Sunday walk at Avery Point. It was a gorgeous day, with beach roses blooming!

the biggest clump of beach roses

This song sparrow was singing away, claiming the beach rose shrub for his territory no doubt. We listened to him for quite a while.

Then we moved on to some smaller rosebushes farther down the path…

Avery Point Light

The lovely flowers embarrass me,
They make me regret I am not a Bee —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #808)

Another song sparrow staking his claim on his bush with the sweetest melody. The adjacent garden no doubt provides plenty of buggy delights for his dining pleasure.

horse chestnut blossom

We’re planning to try a post-surgery walk here again on this coming Sunday, a week after this one. This was also the first place we took a walk after Tim’s heart attack and by-pass surgery in 2007. It’s so hard to believe that was almost 15 years ago!

Finally Connecticut’s daily covid positivity rate started to go back down this week, even if ever so slightly. It had been creeping up for weeks. Let’s hope the downward trend continues.

a new sparrow and a new swallow

5.20.22 ~ first beach rose of the season ~ Eastern Point

Friday’s morning walk around the beach, estuary, lawn and ponds turned out to be exciting, with two new lifer birds encountered! It was foggy and cool, with no hint of the record-breaking heat that is supposed to be coming for the weekend.

double-crested cormorant in the estuary
Savannah sparrow, #70

Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis: Uncommon local breeder in scattered grasslands and agricultural areas. Common migrant September to October and fairly common April in farm and weedy fields, community gardens, and marsh edges. Uncommon in winter; a few of the pale “Ipswich” subspecies winter locally on coastal dunes.
~ Frank Gallo
(Birding in Connecticut)

Savannah sparrow
a very tiny white flower in the grass
song sparrow on the gravel
mourning dove on the grass
little bird with nesting material on the lifeguard chair
(zoom lens in fog)
New London Ledge Light in the fog
northern rough-winged swallow, #71

Northern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx serripennis: Fairly common statewide migrant and nesting species from April into September near water. Breeds along waterways in holes, drainpipes, crevices, riverbanks, often near bridges or old bridge foundations, and coastal retaining walls.
~ Frank Gallo
(Birding in Connecticut)

northern rough-winged swallows
red-winged blackbird by the pond
red-winged blackbird
killdeer by the pond
killdeer

I’m kind of surprised we saw so many birds. Eastern Point Beach was sponsoring a busy event, the starting line for a Ragnar Road team relay race. The 200-mile race will end today in Quincy, Massachusetts. Every once in a while a team would take off. Announcements and pop music came from a loudspeaker. This is how it works:

Teams of 12 run roughly 200 miles—from point A to point B—on city streets, country roads, sidewalks, and bike paths. You’ll run day, and night, and day again, sleeping (ha ha) in vans, grassy fields, or perhaps a high school gym (with the principal’s permission). Each teammate will run three separate legs of the race, with downtime in between, for a total of 11 to 24 miles per runner (twice that for ultra teams). After the final pass of the baton—er, slap bracelet—you’ll cross beneath the iconic orange arch together, dripping with … pride.
~ Ragnar Road website

starting chute
half a team (6) takes off

It was an odd experience birdwatching and walking with music blaring at the beach! But one never knows how or when or where a new bird will turn up. And it certainly gave us a new topic for conversation. 😉

sunlight by the sea

10.15.21 ~ Waterford Beach Park

This is my second annual Walktober post with Robin over at breezes at dawn. If you would like to, click the link to learn more about it and perhaps join us. Everyone is welcome! 🍂

great blue heron

For our walk I decided to visit a place my Birding in Connecticut book suggested. We had never been to Waterford Beach Park before. There was a long path through a wooded area and then through a salt marsh and then over a dune to get to the beach. And then we had a pleasant walk up and down the scenic beach on Long Island Sound, although the sand flies were pretty bad that day. It was also unseasonably warm. A few people were arriving with beach chairs as we were leaving.

great egret

Great blue herons stay here for the winter. I thought great egrets flew south but apparently during mild years they stay as far north as Massachusetts. The summer ones in Groton are gone, maybe they come over here for the winter. 🙂 Or maybe the warm weather has merely postponed their departure. Tim noticed the interspecies friendship moment in the picture below.

great blue heron and great egret together
(taken from the John A. Scillieri, Jr. Overlook Wetlands path)

Waterford Beach Park offers nearly 1/4 mile long stretch of sandy beach and an extensive tidal marsh. Visitors have the rare opportunity to experience an unmodified natural beach with outstanding views of Long Island Sound.
~ Town of Waterford website

path over the tidal marsh and dune, leading to the beach

I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light.

~ Wendell Berry
(The Peace of Wild Things)

tidal creek coming from Alewife Cove
beach roses

The beach views took our breaths away! A friendly town employee greeted us and when we told him we had never been there before he kindly filled us in on all sorts of events held there. A summer pass is quite expensive though, so I suspect all our visits will be off-season when there is no entrance fee.

looking west

Since we started looking for nature walks when the pandemic began we still keep finding “new” places near home that we’ve never been to before. It’s a good thing, though, since our health problems keep us from traveling too far away from our nest.

squabbling gulls

We spent quite a bit of time watching the gulls at the west end of the beach. They were having a feast. I can’t figure out if they are juvenile herring gulls or juvenile great black-backed gulls. And I don’t know what kind of creature they were eating inside those shells.

(?) the gulls were feasting on these
this calm one must have finished eating
looking east
slipper shell
art in the sand
beach rose and sand, summer lingering…

As we headed back through the marsh we could see out past Alewife Cove to the lighthouse we usually see from our beach. From our beach it has nothing but the water of Long Island Sound behind it. I’m not sure what the land mass is behind it from this vantage point. I’m going to try to find a map to study…

New London Ledge Light from tidal marsh at Waterford Town Beach

It looks like our fall colors are arriving later this year. We’ve been avoiding the woods because of the mosquitoes, of which we’ve had a bumper crop. I didn’t appreciate it at the time but last year’s drought kept the mosquitoes away and made all those autumn walks in the woods possible. May a first frost arrive here soon!

Thank you, Robin, for hosting Walktober! 🍂

to the lighthouse

10.13.21 ~ Watch Hill Light

So, we finally made it to the Watch Hill Lighthouse! I’ve been taking pictures of it from the distance from Napatree Point (see here) but now we have managed to see it up close. Sort of. It’s surrounded by a chain link fence and is closed to the public, but it sits at the end of a peninsula where we could take a nice long walk, surrounded by water on both sides. I was able to get pictures of it from a few slightly different angles.

The Watch Hill Lighthouse in Watch Hill, Rhode Island has served as a nautical beacon for ships since 1745, when the Rhode Island colonial government erected a watchtower and beacon during the French and Indian War and Revolutionary War. The original structure was destroyed in a 1781 storm, and plans were discussed to build a new lighthouse to mark the eastern entrance to Fishers Island Sound and to warn mariners of a dangerous reef southwest of Watch Hill. President Thomas Jefferson signed an act to build the lighthouse in 1806, and construction was completed in 1807. The first lighthouse stood 35 feet (11 m) tall. In 1827, a rotating light was installed to differentiate it from the Stonington Harbor Light in Connecticut. Erosion forced it to close in 1855 and move farther away from the bluff edge. The next lighthouse opened in 1856 and remains as the present structure, standing 45 feet (14 m) tall.
~ Watch Hill Lighthouse Keepers Association website

looking east
looking west toward Napatree Point
(the pictures I’ve taken of the lighthouse before were taken from that dune)
rose hip

Of course, it didn’t take me long to locate some birds. They were on the other side of a large thicket, though. It took me some time to find a way aroud the thicket and down closer to the cormorants and eiders.

double-crested cormorant drying its wings
juvenile double-crested cormorant ~ first one I’ve seen
side view of a double-crested cormorant drying its wings
view from the thicket
sticking out of the thicket
house sparrows peeking out of the thicket
immature male common eider
female common eider
immature male common eider
female common eider

What was it then? What did it mean? Could things thrust their hands up and grip one; could the blade cut; the fist grasp? Was there no safety? No learning by heart of the ways of the world? No guide, no shelter, but all was miracle, and leaping from the pinnacle of a tower into the air? Could it be, even for elderly people, that this was life? — startling, unexpected, unknown?
~ Virginia Woolf
(To the Lighthouse)

Atlantic Ocean

It was a pleasant day for a walk by the sea. We found the walk-in entrance to another public beach to the east of the peninsula and will probably try to visit that one on another visit. It will be fun to photograph the lighthouse from that direction!

Watch Hill Lighthouse