One last walk with Janet in Connecticut… (There may be walks together in North Carolina in our future…) It was a lovely, sunny, spring day. So many blossoms!!!
After enjoying the wildflower garden we crossed the college campus and visited another garden, this one of ornamental trees and shrubs from around the world.
You think winter will never end, and then, when you don’t expect it, when you have almost forgotten it, warmth comes and a different light. Under the bare trees the wildflowers bloom so thick you can’t walk without stepping on them. The pastures turn green and the leaves come. ~ Wendell Berry (Hannah Coulter: A Novel)
I will miss my adventures with Janet, sharing with each other all the little details we notice along the way.
You wouldn’t think it was spring, Austin, if you were at home this morning, for we had a great snowstorm yesterday, and things are all white this morning. It sounds funny enough to hear birds singing and sleigh-bells at a time. But it won’t last long, so you needn’t think ’twill be winter at the time when you come home. ~ Emily Dickinson (Letter to William Austin Dickinson, March 24, 1852)
Springtime snowstorms were not uncommon in southern New England a hundred seventy-one years ago. They happened often enough when I was a child, sixty odd years ago. I prepared this post several years ago, hoping that we might get one again and I could use Emily’s words to go along with the weather. But it was not to be and since this is my last spring in New England I decided to post it now, in fond memory of times gone by.
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.
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.
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!
Hello, November! Taking an afternoon walk instead of our usual morning saunter proved to be invigorating — we went on for an hour and a half! There are many side trails at Bluff Point and we took a couple of them, finding some summery greens, a few fall colors and many bare trees, ready for winter. And of course, glacial erratics at every turn.
As we were walking along we were surprised to witness the silent flight of an owl. We did not see or hear it swoop down to catch its prey, but we suddenly heard the moment of capture, a rustling of the dry leaves on the ground, and then saw it fly up and away, soundlessly, carrying its squirrel-sized victim.
The entire Connecticut landscape is a gift of the glacier. … Our safe harbors, historic mill sites and early farm economy were made possible by an ice sheet that oozed down from Canada between 25,000 and 15,000 years ago. The ice sheet also gave us fertile lowlands along our large rivers, gracefully curved upland pastures, gravel riffles in trout streams, verdant marshes fronting shoreline villages, a patchwork of stone walls, bricks for colonial buildings and solitary boulders, stranded here and there as if they were hillside shipwrecks. All of these are glacier gifts. ~ Robert Thorson (“Connecticut’s Glacial Gifts”, Hartford Courant, August 31, 2003)
We also saw a woodpecker and a nuthatch, but couldn’t get a decent picture of either of them. It was loads of fun navigating all the side trails weaving through the woods, deciding which fork to take several times. It was almost like a maze and we did backtrack a few times when we seemed to be going in the wrong direction.
When we got back to the parking lot a man was feeding a couple of squirrels. I think he must be doing it regularly because the squirrels were hanging out there very close to him. There were a few birds scolding this squirrel, impatient to have at some of those seeds he was sitting on. It was such a pleasure to be deep in the woods on a warm and lovely November afternoon.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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)
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.
Back at home my favorite chionodoxa bulbs were blooming by my river birch. I call them my little blue stars.
Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where others see nothing. ~ Camille Pissarro (Word Pictures: Painting with Verse)
So, the facts and figures have been determined. We had blizzard conditions for over 8 hours yesterday. And, Groton’s snow total was 21.5 inches! The wind chills were below zero every time I checked. I took pictures through the glass every once in a while, all the following are in order, but I can’t remember the exact times I took them.
Before it got too dark we opened the front door to take a couple of pictures of the garden. We had to push hard on the screen/storm door to move the snow out of the way.
The last time we had a blizzard like this was seven years ago on January 27, 2015.
Today we were hoping to go to the Essex Ed Groundhog Day Parade but it was canceled because of the storm and how long it will take to clean up the roads and parking lots. Sigh. It’s something fun to look forward to between the winter solstice and spring equinox! Maybe next year…
Instead, it looks like today we will try to brave the cold and shovel some snow off the balcony. I don’t even want to think about getting to the car, although it looks like the sidewalks were shoveled overnight.
Now that some leaves have fallen off our tree we can see the little birds better from the kitchen window. We discovered a little nest deep in the branches. We are grateful to the tree for shading us from the hot sun all summer, and now with the leaves gone it will let some sunlight in to warm us up.
On Friday we decided to take a walk in the woods at a town park we’ve driven past many times, not realizing it wasn’t just a dog park, which is only a small part of the huge property. But first, as we were driving by the post office we had a close encounter with Thelma & Louise, a pair of male wild turkeys.
They are local celebrities and even have their own Facebook page, where humans post pictures of their sightings. A biologist weighed in and said they were two males, but the names Thelma & Louise remain stuck to them. They hang out in downtown Groton and regularly stop traffic as they stroll across the streets.
But nobody seems to get irritated with them as they wait patiently for the turkeys to get out of harm’s way.
We’ve crossed paths with them many times but this was the first time there was a place we could pull over and get a few pictures. I posted these on Facebook. 🙂
On to Copp Family Park. It was gorgeous! And we had a nice long walk because the uneven terrain on the trails was good for Tim’s back and hip. We even had to cross a stream using stepping stones. It felt so good to be deep in the woods again. No mosquitoes! In fact, we were wearing our winter coats because it was only 37°F (3°C) when we left the house.
The picture below is a failed attempt to capture a woodpecker, but I kind of like the pleasing composition.
I found a tree hosting lots of reindeer moss, at least I’m pretty sure that’s what this lichen is called…
I was holding a small clump of reindeer moss in one hand, a little piece of that branching, pale green-grey lichen that can survive just about anything the world throws at it. It is patience made manifest. Keep reindeer moss in the dark, freeze it, dry it to a crisp, it won’t die. It goes dormant and waits for things to improve. Impressive stuff. ~ Helen Macdonald (H is for Hawk)
I even spotted some on the ground farther along the trail.
After we got back to the car we decided to go for a leaf peeping drive and wound up at the cider mill and a cemetery. Will share those pictures in the next post!
Our peak fall foliage dates are supposed to be October 24-November 6 so as soon as we got a chance between rainstorms we squeezed in this autumn walk. We enjoyed the colors but there is still a lot of green. Climate change, I suppose. We’ve been getting a lot of rain and our temperatures have been running about 10°F above normal. Sigh…
The energy from this huge American beech resonated with me. I think it might qualify as a wolf tree! It was too wide to get in one photograph! We lingered under its branches for quite a while.
A new bird for me! When I was taking the picture above I spotted some white “circles” moving in the distance, way across the pond. We followed the path around the pond and they swam in the opposite direction. So I tried my best with the zoom lens. When we retraced our steps, they swam back to where we were. Clever little things. They are a lot smaller than mallards.
Hooded Merganser Lophodytes cucullatus: Year-round resident; fairly common to common migrant in March and from October to November; and fairly common in winter on fresh or brackish water on the coast or larger rivers. Uncommon and very local cavity-nesting breeder in secluded wooded swamps, beaver ponds with open water, mostly in the northwest hills and lower Connecticut River. ~ Frank Gallo (Birding in Connecticut)
We had a lovely winding stroll through what’s becoming my favorite woods on Tuesday. It felt like a visit to an early spring outdoor art gallery. The weather was perfect and we encountered quite a few people along the way enjoying the sunshine.
Even though there were many birds chirping and flitting about I was only able to capture one of them with my camera!
And solitary places; where we taste The pleasure of believing what we see Is boundless, as we wish our souls to be. ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley (The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley: In Three Volumes)
Wednesday we went to have our income taxes done. It was the last thing we did last year before we went into self-quarantine. We double-masked up, not knowing what to expect, and our masked preparer waved us a greeting and unlocked the door. It was good to know they weren’t letting people wander in without appointments. Someone in the office had tested positive recently so most of the preparers were at home in quarantine but ours had been fully vaccinated so she was working in the office. Glad to see there was plexiglass and hand sanitizer everywhere…
So it’s been a year. We have both had our first vaccination shots. Tim gets his second Moderna on the 17th and I will get my second Pfizer on the 26th. Looks like our self-quarantine will officially end on April 9. Plans for the little ones (and their parents!) to come for a visit are in the works, most likely in May. It’s all I can think about!
Unlike animals, trees cannot heal a wound by repairing or replacing injured tissues. Instead they wall them off, compartmentalizing them by means of chemical and physical barriers, and subsequently form healthy new growth around them. A succession of organisms, from bacteria and fungi to slugs, insects, and other small animals, moves in to utilize the nutrients and spaces opened up by a tree wound. These organisms in turn provide an important food source for many birds and other animals who live in surrounding uplands as well as in the swamp. ~ David M. Carroll (Swampwalker’s Journal: A Wetlands Year)
We will still wear our masks and practice social distancing in public, but I think we will go more places and are even looking forward to eating at our favorite restaurant again, starting outdoors until we feel comfortable going inside…
But, fair warning, these are the latest statistics: New London County now has 19,624 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those, 10 people are currently in the hospital and 417 have lost their lives. That’s 2,871 new cases since January 30 when I last reported. Will a day ever come when there are no new cases reported?
Connecticut’s positive test rate is now 3.07%. 25% of Connecticut residents have had their first dose of vaccine. Connecticut has had 7,752 deaths since the pandemic began. We are still averaging 7 deaths a day in the state. These are people and families are still being devastated by the loss of the their loved ones. Each and every one of these people represented by the numbers was the most important person in the world so someone. We still have to be very careful and not let our guard down.
My hope is, when we come out of self-quarantine, that we will continue with our nature walks and not get too swept up in the demands of a return to “normal” life.
It is easy to overlook this thought that life just is. As humans we are inclined to feel that life must have a point. We have plans and aspirations and desires. We want to take constant advantage of all the intoxicating existence we’ve been endowed with. But what’s life to a lichen? Yet its impulse to exist, to be, is every bit as strong as ours — arguably even stronger. If I were told that I had to spend decades being a furry growth on a rock in the woods, I believe I would lose the will to go on. Lichens don’t. Like virtually all living things, they will suffer any hardship, endure any insult, for a moment’s additional existence. Life, in short, just wants to be. But — and here’s an interesting point — for the most part it doesn’t want to be much. ~ Bill Bryson (A Short History of Nearly Everything)