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.

hazy, hot, humid

8.11.21 ~ New London Ledge Light from Eastern Point

Air quality alerts, heat advisories, ugh… We came out of our nest twice yesterday, once to go to the farmers market and after supper down to the beach. Not much going on there and we didn’t stay long because of the oppressive humidity. Walking was a struggle. No sea breeze…

New London Harbor Light from Eastern Point
only one gull on the rocks

When we heard some vigorous splashing we looked over in the river to see a gull taking a bath. Was he cleaning off or cooling down? I’m amazed these pictures came out at all!

And then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a tiny least sandpiper running around on the sand. He’s only six inches long and this is the only picture that came out! So cute!

least sandpiper

Back inside, we’ve been working on jigsaw puzzles again…

a walk in the park

8.4.21 ~ Wilcox Park, Westerly, Rhode Island

For our walk on Wednesday we went to Wilcox Park to enjoy another nice weather day. It was cloudy but not humid yet — yay! (And no poison ivy!)

nonbreeding male mallard

“The people shall have a park.” So saying, in 1898 Harriet Wilcox purchased and donated to the Memorial and Library association the seven acre Rowse Babcock estate in the heart of Westerly’s business district. Established as a memorial to her husband Stephen Wilcox, the moving force behind the building of the library, the park was expanded through several smaller additions until 1905. At this time, the purchase of the adjacent nine acre Brown estate essentially fixed the park’s boundaries as we know them today. … Wilcox Park features a beautiful landscape defined by an open meadow area with surrounding trees, a fish pond, monuments and perennial gardens.
~ Wilcox Park website

very old white oak

This white oak, above and below, is the oldest tree in Wilcox Park. The second picture is taken from the top of a hill. We climbed many granite steps to get to the top of the hill on the steep side, and then followed a path down the more sloping other side.

white oak from top of hill
a sugar maple with personality

This solitary little pink water lily caught my eye from a distance. When we got close to the pond to take its picture we were subjected to a disturbing tirade from a windbag pontificating against masks and vaccines. Talk about shattering a peaceful scene. Ignoring the know-it-all, we quickly moved on to the other end of the park.

back at the fish pond
fading rose
I don’t know what this is…
…but I fell in love with it

I don’t think we were the only ones who had fled the scene. There were lots more people strolling around near the lovely gardens where we ended up.


On the way home from the park we could see an osprey sitting in a nest on the osprey platform in the marsh in Paffard Woods, a preserve of the Avalonia Land Conservancy. By the time we pulled safely off the road it had flown away but we waited a while and then the osprey came back. My camera’s poor zoom lens was maxed out and overworked again!

8.4.21 ~ Paffard Woods, Stonington, Connecticut

In the last picture it looks to me like it’s trying to decide if another stick with moss on it is needed to finish off the project. A much more pleasant ending to our outing.

sightings

7.14.21 ~ banded American oystercatcher ~ Eastern Point

I submitted my sighting of this banded American Oystercatcher to the American Oystercatcher Working Group and have now recieved a history of this bird’s travels. He was caught on Cape Cod in July of 2012 and has been spotted along the shoreline from the Cape down here to southeastern Connecticut and southern Rhode Island over the past nine years. 🙂 Thank you so much, Donna, for letting me know I could do this!


7.23.21 ~ northern mockingbird
Fort Trumbull State Park, New London, Connecticut

On a visit to Fort Trumbull last week the northern mockingbird, above, landed on top of the rampart while we were up there enjoying the views. I was surprised to see one so high up as the ones I’ve seen so far have been on the ground.


Monday night at the beach seemed to be reserved for ring-billed gulls. I looked in vain for the Captain and for any laughing gulls. Looking back now at my older posts I’ve noticed that all my pictures of laughing gulls are dated August and September so perhaps that’s when they ususally show up here. I’m learning.

7.26.21 ~ ring-billed gull on the rocks ~ Eastern Point

Tim noticed several osprey flying above the Thames River estuary but we couldn’t identify them until we got home and the helpful people from the What’s This Bird? Facebook group assisted us. 🙂

osprey
osprey

The sky was gray and hazy from the smoke from the fires out west. We’ve been under an air quality alert. The birds have no choice but to breathe this air, though.

ring-billed gull on the Thames River beach
great egret in Thames River estuary

I almost missed the tiny killdeer skittering about on the island in the estuary. They’re fuzzy because they were on the move and the island was so far away from my camera!

killdeer on island in Thames River estuary
great egret
killdeer
juvenile gull
great egret
one of my little song sparrows on the stone wall near the thicket
sun setting in smoky haze over Thames River

I started feeling a little nostalgic as we walked around. Years ago I was so busy keeping an eye on my children at the beach that I didn’t notice the shorebirds. But as I watched the lifeguards gathering up their equipment for the day, the sights and sounds and smell of the salty air filled me with a longing for those happy summer days so long ago…


for Leelah: my mossy fairy garden

sandpiper, my gull friend

7.16.21 ~ Eastern Point

Ugh. Unrelenting tropical humidity… Last night we sat down on our bench at the beach and sweltered… I was hoping to see my gull friend because we hadn’t seen him since the end of June. I miss him sitting on the post in front of us… But it looked like we weren’t going to see any shorebirds so we watched the sailboats going by instead. They were coming in because a thunderstorm was rumbling in the distance.

When we couldn’t take the heat any longer we walked over to a bench in the shade on the other side of Tyler House, and looked out over the rocks and breakwaters. I spotted a tiny little bird way out and strained to make it out. It finally came a little closer.

spotted sandpiper

And, lucky for me, the robin-sized shorebird came even closer! The spotted sandpiper is a new one for me. 🙂

spotted sandpiper

After taking way too many pictures of the sandpiper, most of them blurry and deleted already, I sat down and felt grateful for the sea breeze finally starting to come in from the sound. And then The Captain flew by in front of us! He flew back to the other side of Tyler House and we followed, and sat down on our usual bench. But he wouldn’t come down to his fence post. He stayed up there on that ugly lamp post. There were no children running around this day so I wonder why he won’t come down.

We waited for a good while but he wouldn’t budge. So we started for the car. Looking back at him it looked like he was doing some stretching. Amazing his sense of balance up there!

Good night, dear summer friend! I hope to see you again soon.

gull, oystercatcher, willet

7.14.21 ~ Eastern Point, juvenile herring gull

So, last night we went down to the beach for a few minutes before getting back home for our scheduled video call with our son and daughter-in-law. The humid air was oppressive and Tim wouldn’t have lasted down there much longer anyway.

juvenile herring gull portrait

I was content to capture a few gull portraits, but then, out of the corner of my eye I spotted an oystercatcher way out on the breakwater. Zoomed out. I don’t think this one is related to the family group we’ve been seeing because it is banded.

banded American oystercatcher

While I was trying to get a clear picture of the oystercatcher I detected some movement near it and finally spotted a bird I’ve never seen at our beach before, a willet! (I think I may have seen them on Cape Cod, but never this close.) When it flew from the breakwater over to the rocks in front of us we could see a bold white and black stripe running the length of each wing. But once it landed on the rocks it walked all over them and didn’t fly again before we had to leave. We were mesmerized.

willet

And after that brief but exciting visit to the beach we got back home to the air conditioning and had a wonderful long video chat with the kiddos. 💙

after the storm

7.9.21 ~ Eastern Point, mouth of Thames River

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.

ring-billed gull
herring gull
herring gull feet

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…

threatening weather

7.7.21 ~ Eastern Point
herring gull, second winter?

This morning we have woken up under a tropical storm warning. What’s left of Hurricane Elsa looks like it will come bother us after all. It’s been a wild week. Hot and humid with violent thunderstorms in the evenings. Last night we snuck down to the beach before one arrived, listening to the rumbles in the distance.

We didn’t see The Captain but I had fun taking pictures of plants and an assortment of gulls passing the time on the rocks and fence posts. Much as I love my gulls I do have a terrible time trying to figure out what year they are!

herring gull, breeding adult
ring-billed gull cooling off with a drink
rabbit-foot clover

After walking around the property I spotted a great blue heron out on the island where the cormorants usually position themselves. Never seen one at our beach before! He was pretty far away but I did the best I could.

great blue heron
great blue heron
great blue heron

I heard a song sparrow and then Tim spotted it way up at the top of a tree. (I usually see them in the thicket…)

song sparrow

I think another invasive species has arrived in our area. the European water chestnut is a freshwater aquatic plant released inadvertently into waters of the Northeast in the late 1800s. As of 2014 it hadn’t been seen in Connecticut but it is here now and has overtaken Avery Pond. It completely covers the water. Sigh… It’s very sad to see. Beach Pond, which I think is a salt pond, has not been affected.

dead water chestnut leaf?

Time to batten down the hatches!

my gull friend and oystercatchers

6.29.21 ~ The Captain is back!!! ~ Eastern Point

The weather has been brutal here, heat advisories, oppressive humidity, air quality alerts… What a relief that pandemic restrictions at the beach have been lifted, for the most part, so we can get out of the house for supper there, a tradition we had to skip last summer. And joy of all joys, on our first evening out, my gull friend with the mangled leg showed up!!!

He did a couple of flybys but didn’t land on the post in front of our bench. Perhaps he doesn’t remember us. It’s been a couple of years. But, more likely, it was because of a human family picnicking on the lawn. They were encouraging their children to toss food to the gulls (against the beach rules) and to then chase them, shouting and screaming at them, when they tried to get the food. If my friend had landed on his usual post he would have been pursued. I hope that family won’t be there the next time we go.

The Captain surveyed the situation from the top of a tall lamp post and I did manage to get a couple of pictures of him. I’m a little concerned because he was keeping his mouth open, a behavior I’ve not seen before. Tim thinks perhaps he was cooling off from the heat. I did some research and that does seem to be the case. Poor overheated gull.

For my newer readers who may be wondering who The Captain is… Back on August 27, 2011, almost ten years ago, I met him at our beach while we were waiting for Hurricane Irene to arrive. We’ve been friends ever since. When Tim & I have supper at the beach in the summer he will often come perch on the pole in front of our bench and keep us company while we’re eating. We never feed him so I like to think he has no agenda besides friendship. If you click on “The Captain” tag at the end of this post you will see all the posts tracing our history.

As I turned to leave my friend I heard the unmistakable calls of American oystercatchers. There was a family of five on the rocks, plucking hermit crabs out of the water, the parents teaching their young ones how to feed themselves. It was only a few weeks ago when we saw the parents flying around the rocks and so it looks like they did settle here this year, like they did seven years ago. Needless to say, I was walking on air!

The youngsters have the dark-tipped bills.
The adult bills are bright orange-red.

This juvenile was paying close attention to its parent’s demonstration.

American Oystercatchers probe sandy and stony areas for clams, oysters, and other mollusks, which they open by cutting or smashing. Much of their day is spent resting in roosts during high tide. They are vigorous, and very loud, during courtship displays, territorial conflicts, and interactions with intruders.
~ All About Birds website

The first hint to their presence is often their whistling call, which can be heard from a mile away.
~ All About Birds website