It had been a month since we took a walk at the beach, when it was a windy day and we didn’t stay long. Walking in the woods has been our first choice since then. But Wednesday we woke up to calm winds so I put on my thermal layers and we went for a nice long beach walk. It was 36°F/2°C. First stop, Avery Pond.
Someone had seen hooded mergansers on this pond but no luck for me this time. Onward to Eastern Point Beach. It was a sunny day but there was a big cloud out over the water of Long Island Sound. Things were quiet and we had the whole beach to ourselves.
I didn’t shiver from the cold even once. Connecticut’s positivity rate was 7.15%. My sister and I finished decorating the tree for the grandchildren. (Forest birds and animals, nisse, stars, snowflakes, hearts.) I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we all stay healthy and test negative the day before they arrive. Everyone is fully vaccinated and boosted except for the three-year-old…
We are lucky in Groton to have a long boardwalk alongside the Poquonnock River, squeezing in a bit of nature between industrial parks, shopping centers, a small airport and the railroad tracks and bridge. The flatness of the walkway is not good for Tim’s back, which does much better on uneven terrain, but there are a few well placed benches along the way where he can sit and readjust his muscles enough times to make it a doable walk. We were wearing our winter coats this day and most of the birds and berries we saw were nestled in the reeds and trees. No waterbirds on the river, except for an occasional gull touching down for a few moments. And one amazing flyby of Canada geese high in the sky.
We avoided this walk during the pandemic because there wouldn’t be enough room to stay six feet away when passing other walkers. But since we both have had our booster shots we felt safe enough to take a chance. One jogger passed by us twice, on his way out and back. We also passed an elderly man walking along, talking to himself.
I would love to live Like a river flows, Carried by the surprise Of its own unfolding. ~ John O’Donohue (Conamara Blues: Poems)
So far as our noblest hardwood forests are concerned, the animals, especially squirrels and jays, are our greatest and almost only benefactors. It is to them that we owe this gift. It is not in vain that the squirrels live in or about every forest tree, or hollow log, and every wall and heap of stones. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Journal, October 31, 1860)
The wild cherries ripen, black and fat, Paradisal fruits that taste of no man’s sweat.
Reach up, pull down the laden branch, and eat; When you have learned their bitterness, they taste sweet.
Our first walk of the morning was at “our” beach. The clouds were dramatic and it was too windy so we didn’t stay very long.
We had to stop at the post office after that walk so we decided to explore a new Groton Open Space Association property. Walt’s Walls & Woods was acquired on July 31st and it is near the post office. We wound up taking another walk.
Walt’s Walls and Woods provides a small forest, wetlands, exquisite stonewalls and gardens to a neighborhood green space for the residents and visitors of downtown Groton. Wetlands surround the property on three sides, and Town-owned open spaces cover two sides. A spectacular steep ravine, part of an ancient rift valley, is located nearby, separating the Ledges and Boulder Heights properties. … Walter Watrous spent many years constructing the exquisite stonewalls in front of the cliffside ledge, using a drystone technique, backfilling with crushed stone and providing room for the roots of the weeping cherry trees. Colorful creeping phlox, heathers, azaleas, rhododendrons and purple coneflowers extend the blooming season. ~ Groton Open Space Association website
Autumn teaches us that fruition is also death; that ripeness is a form of decay. The willows, having stood for so long near water, begin to rust. Leaves are verbs that conjugate the seasons. ~ Gretel Ehrlich (The Solace of Open Spaces: Essays)
It was a lovely walk. We’re looking forward to coming back to see the weeping cherries bloom come spring. But, first we’ll have to see what winter has in store for us.
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.
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…
Yesterday we took an amazing walk at the arboretum! A long one, for an hour and a half. We concentrated on the wildflower garden and the bog, both bubbling with the delightful signs of springtime.
The person who practices this exercise of concentration sees the universe with new eyes, as if he were seeing it for the first and the last time. In his enjoyment of the present, he discovers the splendor and mystery of existence and of the world’s emergence; at the same time, he achieves serenity by experiencing how relative are the things which provoke anxiety and worry. ~ Pierre Hadot (What is Ancient Philosophy?)
Edgerton & Stengel Memorial Wildflower Garden
Can words describe the fragrance of the very breath of spring — that delicious commingling of the perfume of arbutus, the odor of pines, and the snow-soaked soil just warming into life? ~ Neltje Blanchan (Wild Flowers: An Aid to Knowledge of Our Wild Flowers & Their Insect Visitors)
Glenn Dreyer Bog
In the light shed by the best science and scientists, everything is fascinating, and the more so the more that is known of its reality. To science, not even the bark of a tree or a drop of pond water is dull or a handful of dirt banal. They all arouse awe and wonder. ~ Jane Jacobs (Dark Age Ahead)
The song sparrow, who knows how brief and lovely life is, says, “Sweet, sweet, sweet interlude; sweet, sweet, sweet interlude.” ~ E. B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
Thursday’s afternoon walk was a bit nippy. (We thought it might be slightly warmer than our usual morning walk. It was, but still, my fingers froze. Maybe two layers of gloves in the future… Maybe stop trying to take so many pictures…) I counted five song sparrows flitting about near the thicket and sea wall. I left them a few seeds.
And we saw a huge flock of brants on the lawn. Suddenly they took off en masse to fly a short distance and alight on the river. (Attemped in-flight photos were all blurry.) If you want to hear the sound they made while flying there’s an audio clip at the bottom right side of this webpage: brant sound. It’s very different than the honking sounds Canada geese make.
Maybe they’re here for the eelgrass and will then move on to greener “pastures.” I can only imagine how much of it such a huge flock consumes in a few days.
Geese are friends with no one, they badmouth everybody and everything. But they are companionable once you get used to their ingratitude and false accusations. ~ E. B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
Yesterday we took a walk by the pond adjacent to our beach and enjoyed a chilly day that felt a lot more like late fall than it did during the recent warm spell. The temperature when we started our walk was 39°F (4°C) so we bundled up in winter jackets.
Sunday night we had a cold front come through with gale force winds and some more needed rain. We lost power for 45 minutes in the middle of the night and even lit some candles. The new moon had made it a very dark night. It was good to see some water in this pond once again.
All of a sudden I had the revelation of how enchanting my pond was. ~ Claude Monet (Concise Encyclopedia of Semantics)
the long tapers of cattails are bursting and floating away over the blue shoulders
of the ponds, and every pond, no matter what its name is, is
~ Mary Oliver (In Blackwater Woods)
As we walked from the pond over to the beach we found sand along the side of the road, blown off the beach during the storm. And an oak leaf from a distant somewhere. The sand had shifted around on the beach itself. In the winter they don’t comb the sand like they do in the summer, so one can see what nature decides to do with the shoreline.
During the storm a tall tree at the beach came down and someone posted a picture of it on social media on Monday, lying flat on the lawn. But it was gone before we got to the beach on Tuesday, so the city had made quick work of that clean up. There were people operating equipment, working on the playground renovation. I’m looking forward to bringing our grandchildren here again some day.
The waves were bigger and louder than usual. In fact, we heard them while we were at the pond. Little tiny breakers. Most of the time Long Island Sound is pretty smooth.
Quite a few treasures had been deposited on the beach. Ocean offerings.
One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few. ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh (Gift from the Sea)
The heart of man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depths it has its pearls too. ~ Vincent Van Gogh (Letter to Theo van Gogh, October 31, 1876)
Sunday we took my favorite walk by the sea at the Avery Point campus of UConn. It’s good to visit on the weekends because parking isn’t restricted like it is during the week when students are in classes. There weren’t many people out and about, though, and the few people we encountered gave us a very wide berth. I think everyone is more cautious these days because southeastern Connecticut has become a coronavirus hot spot in the state, our numbers have been going up dramatically.
This sculpture was left over after the open air exhibition a couple of months ago. All the cairns were gone, however.
I need the sea because it teaches me. I don’t know if I learn music or awareness, if it’s a single wave or its vast existence, or only its harsh voice or its shining suggestion of fishes and ships. The fact is that until I fall asleep, in some magnetic way I move in the university of the waves. ~ Pablo Neruda (On the Blue Shore of Silence)
Flowers by the sea…
Although the main focus of Project Oceanology is educational, they do offer some public cruises. For years I’ve dreamed of taking one of the harbor seal watch cruises in March or April…
‘Twas a lovely hour-long walk all over the campus and now we’re tucked in for some rain. We might get an inch from the remnants of Hurricane Delta but we’re eleven inches behind normal. Our drought was elevated from severe to extreme. We’re going to need a lot of storms to catch up.
On the weekend we finally got a break from the heat and humidity and when we went down to the beach early Sunday morning I was very surprised to see some very tiny shorebirds on the rocks. After careful investigation I believe they are two different kinds of sandpipers because of some small differences in size and beak shape. The smaller one in front with the yellow legs and the slightly curved bill is a least sandpiper. The slightly larger one in back with the black legs (legs seen in following pictures) and a stouter bill is a semipalmated sandpiper.
They were a little difficult to capture with my camera, but in the picture above you can see the semipalmated’s (lower left) black legs. The least sandpiper (upper right) is only slightly larger than a sparrow.
Least Sandpipers breed in tundra and boreal forests across the extreme northern regions of North America. They nest in coastal wetlands, bogs, sedge meadows, and tussock heaths. At the southern reaches of their breeding range, in Nova Scotia and British Columbia, they also nest in sand dunes. During migration they stop on coastal mudflats, rocky shorelines, and inland habitats including wet meadows, flooded fields, and muddy edges of lakes, ponds, and ditches. They winter from the southern United States through the northern half of South America in lagoons, mangrove forests, wet ditches, swamps, wet fields, mudflats, saltmarshes, tidal sloughs, and the edges of lakes, ponds, and rivers. ~ All About Birds webpage
My guess is that this flock is migrating south and stopped on our “rocky shoreline.” The “All About Birds” webpage also says they flock with other shorebirds during fall migration, including with the semipalmated sandpipers.
The Semipalmated Sandpiper has three North American breeding populations: western (Alaska), central (western Canadian Arctic), and eastern (eastern Canadian Arctic). A 2012 study estimated a total population of 2.26 million breeding birds, with 1.45 million in the western population, and 810,000 in the central and eastern populations. Population trends have fluctuated over the last several decades. Overall, it appears that the Alaskan and central populations are currently stable, with possible increases in some areas, and the eastern population is declining. Semipalmated Sandpiper is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists bird species that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action. ~ All About Birds webpage
There were fewer semipalmated sandpipers in the flock than the least sandpipers, which makes sense if they are declining. It seems this little guy flew here from the eastern Canadian Arctic. Good luck on the rest of your journey, little one!
As I was oohing and aahing over the sandpipers a herring gull came over, wondering why I wasn’t taking his picture…
As we continued our walk we tried to make a Marco Polo video message of ourselves for Katherine and Finn. We love it when they send us one. 🙂 I hope it came out all right. We want them to remember the beach. It was just over a year ago that they were here!
There was an unusually large group of cormorants gathered on the breakwater. Just a tad closer to me than normal, but not quite close enough to get the “perfect” picture I dream about.
I’m pretty sure the ducks below are mallards.
On the way home we saw a large flock of Canada geese resting and preening on logs in Beach Pond, which seems to have a little more water in it from a recent rainstorm. Not sure where the logs came from.
We drove through the Avery Point campus looking for American oystercatchers that someone spotted a few days ago. Didn’t see any, just a group of crows.
An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Journal, April 20, 1840)