migrating sandpipers

8.16.20 ~ two kinds of sandpipers, Eastern Point

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 sandpiper

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.

semipalmated sandpiper

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…

herring gull

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.

pair of double-crested cormorants

I’m pretty sure the ducks below are mallards.

mallard
mallard looking out to sea

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.

Canada geese in Beach Pond

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)

crow walking along a seawall at Avery Point

It was definitely a bird walk!

gull portrait

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7.10.16 ~ my gull friend

You do not ask a tame seagull why it needs to disappear from time to time toward the open sea. It goes, that’s all, and it is as simple as a ray of sunshine, as normal as the blue of the sky.
~ Bernard Moitessier
(The Long Way)

Now that our son and daughter-in-law have returned home to Georgia our house is so very quiet… Yesterday for lunch we went to the beach. The weather was cool and damp and there were very few people there. I wasn’t the only one wearing a sweatshirt. At first we didn’t see our friendly gull.

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7.10.16 ~ there was a crow raising quite a ruckus, all by himself, leaving us wondering what all the fuss was about

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7.10.16 ~ a mother Canada goose swam by with two children

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7.10.16 ~ gull monitoring Long Island Sound from the rooftop

Disappointed that we hadn’t seen our friend, we started to walk back to our car and then we saw him, standing on the sidewalk, almost as if he was waiting for us. He was quiet – no vocalizations this day.

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So I got down on the grass and talked to him for a while. He sat down and allowed me to get closer than ever before. This time I had my camera!

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After getting the picture above I pressed my luck and got the portrait at the top of this post. What a thrill! Somehow he knows we can be trusted. But again, he seems old and tired. I wonder if we will ever see him standing on one of the white posts this summer. Maybe those days are over. We’ll see…

Blizzard Colbie ~ 1.27.15

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1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Come, ye cold winds! at January’s call,
On whistling wings; and with white flakes bestrew
The earth.
~ John Ruskin
(The Poems of John Ruskin, Volume 1)

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1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Blizzard Colbie gave us 22 24 inches of snow. I have been waiting for some decent snow this winter and it finally arrived. Zoë and I had a delightful afternoon watching the birds feeding in the snow on our balcony.

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an odd couple ~ 1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Tim sets up a webcam when it snows up here, so our kids in Georgia and North Carolina can watch the storm as it progresses. Nate, who has loved the color red since he was a baby, pinged me to let me know I had a cardinal out there. I already knew that, but it warmed my heart to know that he is still partial to all things red.

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an angry looking jay, perhaps because I didn’t put out peanuts in the shells for him ~ 1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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this cardinal seemed to be eating snow all afternoon ~ 1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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Tim liked this picture a lot so I included it here ~ 1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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oh how I love my friendly, inquisitive mourning doves ~ 1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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a sweet little junco, he captivated Zoë’s attention for quite a while ~ 1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

They still have not come to plow the parking lot of our complex and I’m wondering what the hold up is. Tim returned from doing some volunteer work at the Red Cross shelter and got stuck in the entrance to the driveway. Fortunately our very kind neighbors dug him out and created a parking space for him, too. All the neighbors’ cars are still buried.

Edit – the morning after – the final snow total for Groton was 24 inches! The town of Thompson got 33.5 inches!

a warm and helping hand

"Hooded Crows" by Bruno Liljefors (1860–1939) Swedish Wildlife Painter
“Hooded Crows” by Bruno Liljefors

Now as the last broad oak leaf falls, we beg, consider this:
there’s some who have no coin to save for turkey, wine or gifts.
No children’s laughter round the fire, no family left to know.
So lend a warm and a helping hand, say Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow.
~ Ian Anderson
♫ (Jack Frost & The Hooded Crow) ♫

Welcome Winter!

my first tornado warning!

Image: National Geographic

Southeastern Connecticut doesn’t usually have many exciting weather events and I’ve pondered whether I should bother to write about the wild thunderstorm we had Thursday morning. Maybe it has just taken me this long for me to gather my wits about me again.

I was at the computer, perhaps playing Scrabble, enjoying the start of a day all to myself. Heard some rumbling of thunder and didn’t think much of it, except that it rarely thunders in the morning here and it seems to be happening a bit lately. Then a blue jay started calling at my window, very insistently. I finally got up to see what all the fuss was about. When I came to the window it flew off the balcony to a nearby tree, now quiet, but staring at me. The storm was coming on fast and I didn’t like the feel of it. Then suddenly it was right overhead – it felt like someone was dropping boulder after boulder on the roof and the house was shaking. The lightning was striking fast and furious, crackling and sizzling like it was ripping the air to shreds.

About 8:45 I turned on the TV just as the station was interrupting programming and two meteorologists appeared with their dazzling technology. They pointed right to our town where the darkest red indicator was right overhead. They zoomed in – there was our street right under the reddest red. There was a tornado warning, too, and Dr. Mel informed us that this was the first early morning tornado warning ever issued in the history of southeastern Connecticut. Then he advised us to turn the TV up really loud and go down to the basement.

I didn’t do it. I froze in fear. It makes me wonder about my ability to respond appropriately in an emergency. When I spoke to my sister about it she said instinct probably was making me play dead like a terrified bunny.

There were multiple reports of a funnel cloud over the river, but later in the day authorities determined it was smoke coming from an industrial stack. Then the civil defense sirens started wailing from 9:02 to 9:05. (By now I was taking notes…) I kept expecting some sort of announcement from the loudspeakers but there was no message. A warning with no instructions – very puzzling. I kept watching the TV as the storm moved to the east, until it left our area and regular programming resumed.

A news report quoted one woman saying, “I scooped up my 3-year-old out of a dead sleep, grabbed him and ran into the bathroom. I heard the sirens go off, which seemed like forever.” Maybe if I had a child to protect I would have been less paralyzed, maternal instinct might have kicked in.

After it was gone the experience seemed surreal, as if I had dreamed it. But Nate called to see how I was, since Tim was away visiting his brother in England, so I guess it did happen. He saw 4 or 5 lightning strikes right outside his window at work. I never looked out the window, probably a wise move. It was the worst thunderstorm I have ever experienced! Although it probably wouldn’t have seemed that bad to someone who lives in Kansas… The storm did leave behind downed trees and wires, and flooded streets. Several homes were hit with lightning and there were power outages.

The blue jay came back to sit on the balcony again, apparently no worse for wear. But it was trying out some different sounding calls. Wish I could have understood its version of the disturbance!

The following is from the town webpage:

Shortly before 9am on August 5th, the National Weather Service issued a Tornado Warning for New London County and targeted Groton and our immediate shoreline being at highest risk. The Town’s emergency sirens, located throughout town, were activated in response to this immediate threat to life and property.

This event was the first time the emergency sirens were activated for a tornado warning and this tornado warning was the first issued for our area in recent memory. Due to the extreme weather patterns we have experienced over the past year or so, the chance of more storms of this type cannot be discounted.