to the lighthouse

10.13.21 ~ Watch Hill Lighthouse

So, we finally made it to 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

a holy curiosity

great blue heron ~ 9.20.21 ~ Avery Pond

On our way to the beach for a walk I spotted a great blue heron perched on a stone in Avery Pond. Had to get out of the car and walk down the road to find a spot without vegetation blocking my view.

double-crested cormorant on the breakwater ~ 9.20.21 ~ Eastern Point

At the beach we found lots of cormorants on the breakwaters again. Since there were very few people down on the sand we walked the length of the beach and I was able to get a picture with some of this cormorant’s markings more visible.

ring-billed gull with feet covered in sand

Lots of gulls were enjoying the sun, sand and sea. This time of year they can hang out on the beach in peace. I know I take too many pictures of gulls but I think they are so beautiful and photogenic.

ring-billed gull by the sea
ring-billed gull woolgathering
ring-billed gull sunbathing
laughing gulls, juvenile and nonbreeding adult

I’ve seen very few laughing gulls this year. I almost didn’t notice these two.

When we headed over to the estuary I saw a bee on a goldenrod plant growing up through the cement and rocks on the edge of the parking lot. The last place I expected to see something cool to photograph!

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day. Never lose a holy curiosity.
~ Albert Einstein
(Life, May 2, 1955)

double-crested cormorant in the estuary

Another cormorant was out on a rock in the estuary, and still another one was swimming around fishing. It was high tide. My camera was finally able to capture some of their coloring subtleties. It’s amazing what a little sunlight will reveal.

double-crested cormorant ~ it just swallowed a fish

I love my little beach, especially this time of year.

it’s nowhere near over

9.7.21 ~ Eastern Point
double-crested cormorant on the rocks

Another nice day Tuesday. After Labor Day the beach is “closed.” No lifeguards, concession stand or restrooms open. Fewer people to navigate through. Great for a morning walk. Got closer to a cormorant than I’ve ever been before, but as luck would have it, the sun was behind him and he came out as mostly a silhouette.

ring-billed gull on the rocks
immature male common eiders in the estuary

The gift for this morning was spotting four immature male common eiders hanging out in the estuary. I’ve only seen a female common eider once, last summer. New England is in the southernmost part of their range. I was enchanted.

A bird of the cold north with a warm reputation, the Common Eider is famous for the insulating quality of its down (typically harvested from nests without harming the birds). Breeding males are sharp white and black, with pistachio green accents on the neck. Females are barred with warm brown and black. These largest of all Northern Hemisphere ducks gather along rocky ocean shores, diving for mussels and other shellfish, which they pry from rocks using long, chisel-like bills. Males court females throughout the year with gentle, crooning calls.
~ All About Birds website

monarch butterfly on the lawn

The coronavirus pandemic rages on, surging especially among the unvaccinated. But the fully vaccinated are getting sick, too, which gave us pause and led to our postponing our trip to North Carolina to see our grandchildren until we can get our third dose of vaccine. We don’t even want to get the “mild” version of COVID-19. We’re back to wearing double masks in the grocery store. And because we’re super cautious we stopped going inside anywhere else. Avoiding crowded outdoor places, too. Masks at the farmers market.

My sister reports from Connecticut College that on Monday, 20 students who were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and some of their friends were tested. Through contact tracing, it was determined that the students who had contracted the virus had been socializing without masks in cars, in friends’ rooms or apartments, at parties or in bars. Tuesday morning the test results showed an additional 34 students had tested positive. All were moved to isolation housing.

double-crested cormorant in the river

Connecticut College requires all students and staff to be fully vaccinated (and to wear masks indoors) so these are breakthrough cases. Beverly spent one week with us but is now teaching remotely from her home and probably won’t be back here for the semester. 🙁 I’m just glad we were able to see each other a few times this summer before this new social distancing period seems prudent. Sigh.

It’s been a while since I’ve made note of our local coronavirus statistics. We have had 3,014 detected cases in our town. Connecticut has had 376,747 confirmed cases and 8,395 deaths. We’re coming close to the 8,500 number of estimated deaths we had in the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. On September 8th we had 403 new cases. Overall, 2,368,830 people or 66% of Connecticut’s population has been fully vaccinated.

driftwood caught in the rocks

And now CNN is reporting that 1 in 4 new cases of COVID-19 are in children.

summer’s end

It’s nowhere near over.

Update: As of Thursday 107 students have now tested positive. Many are going home instead of quarantining on campus. Seems like that would not help to contain the spread.

shells, seaweed, feathers

6.10.21 ~ herring gull, second year ~ Eastern Point

The morning after the heat wave was over we couldn’t wait to get out of the house and take a walk at the beach. I’m done with hiking in the woods for the summer. I managed to get poison ivy again last week, even after being very very careful on our last ramble. I swear it floats in the air in June. Fortunately this outbreak is not as bad as the one I had last year.

Sometimes I need
only to stand
wherever I am
to be blessed.

~ Mary Oliver
(It Was Early)

mourning dove

I was very surprised to see a couple of mourning doves on the breakwater. I’ve never seen them at the beach before. And I only saw the one herring gull, looking like he might be in the middle of molting. Later on the walk we saw an abundance of feathers on the rocks and floating in the water. On this day, too, there seemed to be a colorful seaweed salad floating just under the surface of the water.

growing out of a crack in the rock

The belief that nature is an Other, a separate realm defiled by the unnatural mark of humans, is a denial of our own wild being.
~ David George Haskell
(The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors)

While we were noticing everything and anything in the water we heard a familiar bird call in the distance and then a couple of American oystercatchers flew into view!!! No pictures because they kept flying in circles around the area and whenever they went to land they disappeared behind the rocks. I do hope they are going to make a nest there like they did back in 2014. That was the last and only summer we saw them here. Click here if you’d like to see the pictures: oystercatchers!

The light must have been just right and my arm must have been steadier than usual because for some reason I got some halfway decent pictures of a cormorant. Which isn’t saying much. They’re too far away and have frustrated my attempts to photograph them for years. This one had a bit of a personality and seemed different than the others.

double-crested cormorant

I have started on a new drug to manage my radiation proctocolitis symptoms and am hopeful it will make things easier for me, perhaps even get me to the point where I will feel comfortable traveling to visit our grandchildren. We’ll see. My wonderful gastroenterologist is retiring. 🙁 I will see her one last time in July. She assures me, though, that she is leaving me in good hands.

Had a wonderful weekend visiting with my sister — the talking went on forever. 🙂 I hadn’t seen her in person since December, and that was on a walk outside, six feet apart, and with masks on. What a blessing to lounge around the house and catch up. Living in the present moment.

And the grandchildren are planning another trip up here in August!!!

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!

comfort

7.13.18 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Sometimes I think it must have been much easier to live and die at the time of our ancestors, the Vikings. When they buried their relatives, they also buried many objects together with the body. This was to be sure that the dead would not miss anything in their new environment. It also an assurance for the family members who remained that they would not become obsessed with spirits of the dead and constantly be reminded of them because their possessions were still scattered all over the tent or mud hut. Very clever.
~ Margareta Magnusson
(The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself & Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter)

7.13.18 ~ Eastern Point
my camera decided to go Impressionistic for this distant cormorant

You might guess from my recent choice of reading material that I’m still struggling with the objects and possessions I inherited from our ancestors. Things started piling up around 2008. Hard to believe it’s been 10 years! I have managed to dispose of a lot of stuff but cannot rest on my laurels. What’s left is stacked halfway to the ceiling in a corner of what is supposed to be the genealogy/guest room. The corner takes up almost half the room.

there are three cormorants in this picture,
which I didn’t realize until I saw the picture enlarged on the laptop

Trouble is, life (births, illnesses, travels, weddings, visitors, deaths) keeps happening and I need a good chunk of uninterrupted time to roll up my sleeves and dig in. Now that there is a lull in the stream of summer activities I am annoyed by the droning of the air conditioners. But I since learning about the autism I am aware now that I am much more sensitive to noise than neurotypical people, so, I will wait patiently for some cool, dry, quiet weather to return.


7.12.18 ~ Grandmother Elm ~ Stonington, Connecticut

We enjoy going to estate sales. We rarely buy anything but a few days ago we found a large file cabinet in excellent shape at a great price. It is now in the genealogy/guest room waiting for me to make use of it. After my grandmother died my grandfather offered us anything we wanted in the house. I chose my grandmother’s mahogany secretary which I still have and treasure. Grandfather said he didn’t want us grandchildren to be burdened with all the stuff. I don’t want my children to be burdened either.

7.12.18 ~ Grandmother Elm ~ Stonington, Connecticut

I’m also sad about the changes at my beloved beach. The city has installed a gull repellent system. Every three minutes a recording of a gull in distress blares out from the loudspeakers. There are maybe two or three fearless gulls left on the roof of the beach house. All the laughing gulls are gone, all the different kinds of gulls are gone. I suppose I will never see my friend with the mangled foot again. It’s all too much for me to bear and I’ve been reduced to tears more than once this summer.

7.12.18 ~ Grandmother Elm ~ Stonington, Connecticut

I visited my elm tree, Grandmother Elm. I cannot believe it’s been 5 years since I have gone! I used to visit all the time when Tim’s brother was living with us, the year he died here of cancer. Now she has small stems and branches growing out at the base of her trunk, covered with leaves. When I read The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben I believe he said this was a sign of distress. No other tree in the cemetery was like this. Perhaps she is suffering, too. Still, her wordless wisdom comforted me.

7.12.18 ~ Grandmother Elm ~ Stonington, Connecticut

a point of connection

6.2.17 ~ Avery Pond, Groton, Connecticut
great egret by Timothy Rodgers

The camera is an excuse to be someplace you otherwise don’t belong. It gives me both a point of connection and a point of separation.
~ Susan Meiselas
(Whitney Museum of American Art: Handbook of the Collection)

black-crowned night heron (?) by Timothy Rodgers

One evening last week Tim took the camera down to the beach and the salt pond and came home with these beautiful shots! I’m pretty sure the bird above is a black-crowned night heron, but if I’m wrong I hope someone will correct me…

swan by Timothy Rodgers

The swan, like the soul of the poet,
By the dull world is ill understood.
~ Heinrich Heine
(Early Poems, Evening Songs)

swan and cygnet by Timothy Rodgers

When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.
~ Ansel Adams
(3000 Astounding Quotes)

double-crested cormorant by Timothy Rodgers

Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.
~ Dorothea Lange
(Ancestors in the Attic: Making Family Memorabilia into History)

courting pair of double-crested cormorants by Timothy Rodgers

before the storm

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9.2.16 ~ juvenile laughing gull

Five days ago there were a lot of birds at the beach, perhaps getting ready for Tropical Storm Hermine… I had some fun trying to identify the different stages of life of the laughing gulls…

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9.2.16 ~ non-breeding adult? or first summer? laughing gull
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9.2.16 ~ non-breeding adult? or first summer? laughing gull
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9.2.16 ~ non-breeding adult? or first summer? laughing gull

We had a few gusts of wind which ruffled some feathers…

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9.2.16 ~ laughing gull with feathers puffed up from a gust of wind

I wondered if the cormorants would be staying out on their island during the storm…

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9.2.16 ~ cormorants on their exclusive off shore island

The baby great black-backed gull wondered if we would be handing out a french fry. Tim had unintentionally dropped one recently, renewing hopes for some of the younger birds…

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9.2.16 ~ juvenile great black-backed gull

My friend knows better — he’s content to visit with us. 🙂

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9.2.16 ~ my herring gull friend with the mangled foot

We also saw a great egret — they don’t often come this close, preferring their island in the middle of one of the salt ponds.

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9.2.16 ~ great egret

The swan’s pond has mostly dried up due to the drought…

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9.2.16 ~ swan

Sharing the estuary by the sea wall, we were amazed to see eight snowy egrets feeding with the great egret, the swan and a flock of Canada geese!

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9.2.16 ~ swan and snowy egrets
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9.2.16 ~ great egret, snowy egrets and Canada goose

The calm before the storm… Hermine gave us mostly gale force winds and drizzle. Several branches and many leaves and twigs came off the trees, but no trees were uprooted in our vicinity. That was more than enough excitement for us!

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9.2.16 ~ swan and Canada geese

sprightly

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8.27.16 ~ probably a juvenile great black-backed gull

So… Yesterday there were three cormorants sitting on the breakwater, closer to land than I’ve ever seen them before. But, confound it, still too far away for a decent picture. And of course, they had no interest in spreading their wings out to dry. So tantalizingly close by, yet still so far away…

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8.27.16 ~ cormorants on the end of the breakwater at high tide

However, in my efforts to get as close as I could to the cormorants, I discovered a large group of gulls wading in the rocky pools created by high tide.

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8.27.16 ~ herring gull, wading
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8.27.16 ~ herring gull, rock climbing
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8.27.16 ~ herring gull, waiting for the next wave to cool off his feet

A few days ago my gull friend with the mangled foot came back! He was sitting on the white post in front of us as we sat down on a bench to eat our supper. 🙂 He took off several times, soaring up high and circling around the beach house and landing each time again on the post in front of us. I think he was trying to demonstrate that he was just fine, thank you. He seems so healthy and energetic now — he must have recovered from whatever malady was troubling him earlier this summer.

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8.27.16 ~ look who is back!!!

Yesterday I spotted him hanging out with the other gulls on the rocks. He was getting a drink of water. Gulls are able to drink salt water or fresh water.

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8.27.16
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8.27.16 ~ posing for me – doesn’t he look sprightly?

My family thinks I should come up with a name for him but for some reason I can’t think of one. I’m also not even sure if “he” is male or female.

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8.27.16 ~ more drinking
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8.27.16 ~ so refreshing!
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8.27.16

After his thirst was quenched he decided to walk over to investigate a noisy group of gulls nearby.

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8.27.16 ~ walking with a sense of purpose
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8.27.16 ~ pausing to listen and contemplate

Meanwhile, another herring gull walked into view. He’s pretty handsome, too.

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8.27.16 ~ another herring gull

It seemed like everyone wanted their pictures taken!

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8.27.16 ~ another juvenile great black-backed gull
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8.27.16 ~ juvenile great black-backed gull

I’m still amazed that the juvenile great black-baked gulls are larger than the adult herring gulls. In fact, they are the largest species of gull in the world.

We didn’t see any laughing gulls this day, who are smaller than the herring gulls, but had seen several of them a few days beforehand.

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8.27.16 ~ Mystic Whaler heading out for a dinner cruise…

Summer is winding down, but it’s still hazy, hot and humid. We are close to setting a record for the hottest August in Connecticut weather history. Sigh… Looking forward to October!