herring gull, third winter

11.29.21 ~ Harkness Memorial State Park
herring gull, third winter

Another turn at Kathy’s photo shorts game. (“One photo. Write something short. Then move on into your day.”)

Yesterday we took a cold (37°F/3°C) walk by the sound and saw lots of herring gulls and a couple of common eiders. It was a dull gray day with a light northerly wind. Not great for photography so this one will suffice.

down by the river

11.17.21 ~ Poquonnock River Walkway

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.

juniper berries
Canada geese

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.

downy woodpecker
downy woodpecker
golden autumn
maple leaves between beech tree trunks

I would love to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding.

~ John O’Donohue
(Conamara Blues: Poems)

tree silhouette reflection in water
under moss covered branch and bankside foliage
reindeer moss and lichens on dying branch
northern mockingbird with orbs
northern mockingbird
northern mockingbird

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)

autumn river beauty
one can forget the civilization is so close by
multiflora rose hips
(thanks to Eliza for the id)
blackberry
(thanks to Leelah and Eliza for the id)
crabapples
(thanks to Eliza for the id)

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.

~ Wendell Berry
(Fall, for Wallace Fowlie)

one morning, two walks

11.15.21 ~ New London Ledge Light from Eastern Point

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.

hydrangea seed heads?
content Canada goose
American crow
climbing bittersweet?

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.

11.15.21 ~ Walt’s Walls & Woods, Groton, Connecticut

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

notice the seam where the tree is meeting the erratic
other side of the same erratic and tree
this erratic looked like the back of a sea lion to me
beautiful autumn sky
reflecting sunlight
moss and lichen
autumn texture
steep hill

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)

a stone wall interrupted by a glacial erratic
some of Walter Watrous’ stone walls
a dandelion in November?

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.

a long narrow hilltop

11.9.21 ~ Candlewood Ridge, climbing up to the ridge

Last week we revisited Candlewood Ridge, where we had an amazing walk in April 2020. This day we didn’t get as far as we did the last time because Tim’s back and hip were acting up, but it was interesting to see how different things were with the passing of time.

For one thing, we remembered spotting a glacial erratic across the ravine but there was so much vegetation now that we couldn’t even see the other side of the ravine. So we walked north along the trail at the top of the ridge and spotted an erratic that Tim had stood next to last time. The brush was so thick we couldn’t get close to it.

I put a picture of Tim by it last time below. Nature is always changing the scenery!

4.17.20 ~ Tim with the same boulder a year and seven months ago
so many orbs

After we got to the erratic above we decided to turn back. But when we got to the side trail to go back down to the car I spotted another erratic farther south on the ridge, in the direction we hadn’t taken last time. So we found a spot for Tim to sit and rest and I took off on my own to get some pictures. Little did I know I was in for a good scare.

front of the huge glacial erratic

I took pictures of the front and then went around to the back of it and took some more.

back of the huge glacial erratic

As I was taking pictures of the back I became aware of the sound of panting approaching from behind me pretty quickly. I froze, and before I knew it a loose dog appeared. I have an intense fear of large and medium size dogs so it was all I could do to keep myself from panicking. I forced myself to remember Cesar Millan’s advice, “no touch, no talk, no eye contact.” I was glad I had the camera in my hands, for some reason it made me feel less vulnerable. The dog seemed uninterested in me and kept a respectable distance, although it did circle around me a few times.

side of the huge glacial erratic

I moved to the side of the erratic and kept taking pictures, ignoring the dog. I didn’t realize he got in two of the pictures! Then I decided to start walking back to Tim, followed by the dog. After I got within earshot I called him, calmly, and asked him to come to me. Meanwhile another dog came along the path, and then about the time Tim and I met the dogs’ owner came along, too. Phew! She continued north on the trail and we took the path down to the car. My heart was pounding.

path down from the ridge

Instead of heading straight home we took another autumn drive and wound up near the Mystic River. Mallard photo op!

And berry tangles!

Like a tide it comes in,
wave after wave of foliage and fruit,
the nurtured and the wild,
out of the light to this shore.
In its extravagance we shape
the strenuous outline of enough.

~ Wendell Berry
(The Arrival)

For some reason the berries and twigs made me think of calico cloth or old-fashioned wallpaper. Autumn lingers…

autumn images

10.29.21 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum
poison ivy climbing a flowering dogwood

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…

mottled colors

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.

American beech
American beech leaves starting to turn
interesting scars
other side of American beech
hints of Yuletide
tulip tree leaf
paper birch bark
paper birch leaves
sunlit changes
Tim contemplating a glacial erratic he might have climbed in his younger years
glacial erratic overlooking the amphitheater and pond
glacial erratic in pond supporting all kinds of life and a blueberry bush

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.

male hooded merganser, #68

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)

female hooded merganser
the red leaves are a reflection in the water,
the green leaves are hanging over the water
view of pond through the underside of leaves
orbs and sunlit leaves
one final spot of color

It was a refreshing, wonderful autumn walk!

close enough!

10.29.21 ~ double-crested cormorant on Thames River

So, Tim & I were on our way home from the food co-op and decided to drive down by the Thames River. Much to our surprise, two cormorants were sitting on a rock in the water close to the riverbank. “Try to get your picture!” Tim encouraged. “When I open the door they will fly away,” I replied, but decided to try anyway, not expecting much.

Well, they didn’t fly away! As many of you know, I’ve been trying to get a decent picture of a cormorant for many years now. They are always just a little too far away to get the “perfect” picture. And I love my bird portraits and headshots. I have to say, I am finally satisfied!!!

sunlight by the sea

10.15.21 ~ Waterford Beach Park

This is my second annual Walktober post with Robin over at breezes at dawn. If you would like to, click the link to learn more about it and perhaps join us. Everyone is welcome! 🍂

great blue heron

For our walk I decided to visit a place my Birding in Connecticut book suggested. We had never been to Waterford Beach Park before. There was a long path through a wooded area and then through a salt marsh and then over a dune to get to the beach. And then we had a pleasant walk up and down the scenic beach on Long Island Sound, although the sand flies were pretty bad that day. It was also unseasonably warm. A few people were arriving with beach chairs as we were leaving.

great egret

Great blue herons stay here for the winter. I thought great egrets flew south but apparently during mild years they stay as far north as Massachusetts. The summer ones in Groton are gone, maybe they come over here for the winter. 🙂 Or maybe the warm weather has merely postponed their departure. Tim noticed the interspecies friendship moment in the picture below.

great blue heron and great egret together
(taken from the John A. Scillieri, Jr. Overlook Wetlands path)

Waterford Beach Park offers nearly 1/4 mile long stretch of sandy beach and an extensive tidal marsh. Visitors have the rare opportunity to experience an unmodified natural beach with outstanding views of Long Island Sound.
~ Town of Waterford website

path over the tidal marsh and dune, leading to the beach

I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light.

~ Wendell Berry
(The Peace of Wild Things)

tidal creek coming from Alewife Cove
beach roses

The beach views took our breaths away! A friendly town employee greeted us and when we told him we had never been there before he kindly filled us in on all sorts of events held there. A summer pass is quite expensive though, so I suspect all our visits will be off-season when there is no entrance fee.

looking west

Since we started looking for nature walks when the pandemic began we still keep finding “new” places near home that we’ve never been to before. It’s a good thing, though, since our health problems keep us from traveling too far away from our nest.

squabbling gulls

We spent quite a bit of time watching the gulls at the west end of the beach. They were having a feast. I can’t figure out if they are juvenile herring gulls or juvenile great black-backed gulls. And I don’t know what kind of creature they were eating inside those shells.

(?) the gulls were feasting on these
this calm one must have finished eating
looking east
slipper shell
art in the sand
beach rose and sand, summer lingering…

As we headed back through the marsh we could see out past Alewife Cove to the lighthouse we usually see from our beach. From our beach it has nothing but the water of Long Island Sound behind it. I’m not sure what the land mass is behind it from this vantage point. I’m going to try to find a map to study…

New London Ledge Light from tidal marsh at Waterford Town Beach

It looks like our fall colors are arriving later this year. We’ve been avoiding the woods because of the mosquitoes, of which we’ve had a bumper crop. I didn’t appreciate it at the time but last year’s drought kept the mosquitoes away and made all those autumn walks in the woods possible. May a first frost arrive here soon!

Thank you, Robin, for hosting Walktober! 🍂

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.