wintering purple sandpipers

11.23.22 ~ Eastern Point

After three weeks of not walking so I could concentrate efforts on my project, we decided to take a little break on the day before Thanksgiving. In order to avoid holiday traffic we took a peaceful morning meander close to home, down at the beach. Little did I realize we would encounter a new life bird! I guessed it was a sandpiper but couldn’t figure out which kind… The good folks at the What’s This Bird? group helped me out.

purple sandpiper, #75

There were about eight of them and the sun was behind them, of course, so the pictures aren’t that great. I disobeyed the “keep off the rocks” signs to get a little closer. (That was a first for me!)

Purple Sandpiper Calidris maritima: Uncommon to fairly common (May) coastal migrant, and winter visitor to rocky shores, breakwaters, and jetties.
~ Frank Gallo
(Birding in Connecticut)

A pot-bellied shorebird with a long, drooping bill, the Purple Sandpiper is a hardy species that specializes on rocky, wave-battered coastlines. These subdued, gray-and-white sandpipers nimbly explore seaweed-covered rocks as they search for mussels, crustaceans, and flies, flashing bright orange on the legs and bill. The common name refers to a seldom-seen purple sheen on some of the wing feathers. Purple Sandpipers breed on arctic tundra; they spend winters on North Atlantic shores, farther north than any other shorebird.
~ All About Birds webpage

clam shell with polka dots?
a gull stretching its left wing and left foot
gull footprints through the garnet sand
the long winter shadow of an oak leaf
cormorant silhouettes and the lighthouse
sand fences ready for winter

It was a wonderful break, and then we had a good Thanksgiving, and now, back to work on my project!

unplanned visit

9.23.22 ~ Napatree Point Conservation Area

The promise of 7′ waves from Hurricane Fiona lured us to make a spur-of-the-moment trek out to Napatree Point Friday afternoon. Tim couldn’t keep his hat on the northwest wind was so strong. I tucked his hat inside my hoodie. But the 3′ waves were disappointing, once again.

There was a solitary monarch butterfly lingering on the dunes. Hopefully it will be on its way to Mexico by the end of September!

monarch
Watch Hill Light

To get the above picture I climbed up higher on the dune, up off the regular path. (There was no rope or sign to indicate I shouldn’t!) I was delighted with the new vantage point, but then, when I turned around to retrace my steps, found myself sliding down the sandy slope with nothing to hang on to. Somehow I made it without falling. 🙂 The camera was safe, too.

seemingly random fences along the dune
gull enjoying a quick walk
view stretching all the way to the point
beach rose determined to bloom
some kind of fly
blooming in the early autumn sunshine

Earlier that day we went to a nursery and found a good pumpkin, an assortment of gourds and a pot full of mums. Stopped by the cider mill and got some more freshly pressed cider for Tim. A lovely way to celebrate the first full day of autumn!

9.26.22 ~ gourds and pumpkin with the river birch tree in my garden
(we thought the gourd on the right looked like a hand holding onto a ball)

outdoor sculpture exhibition

9.3.22 ~ Avery Point
“Chameleon” by Helena Chastel

Saturday morning we visited Open Air 2022, an outdoor sculpture exhibit hosted by the Alexey von Schlippe Gallery of Art on the beautiful UConn Avery Point campus from July 14-September 29. This idea started in 2020 because of the pandemic, when the gallery had to remain closed. It was so popular with the public that they plan to continue with a new installation every summer.

“Noon” by Myles Nurse
“Piles” by Jack Henry

Life is a train of moods like a string of beads, and, as we pass through them, they prove to be many-colored lenses which paint the world their own hue, and each shows only what lies in its own focus.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Experience)

“Stand Up” by Margaret Roleke
herring gull with feathers ruffled in the breeze
“Silent Vanishing” by CoyWolf Collective
(Elizabeth Knowles, Steven Phillip Harris, Debra Vilen)

Silent Vanishing was my favorite sculpture, depicting melting icebergs and the snowy owls who breed in the treeless arctic tundra. Where will they go if/when the environment changes too fast for them to adapt?

one of many cairns on top of the seawall
northern mockingbird

I stopped by my beach rosebushes to see if the song sparrow was still there but a mockingbird came out to greet me instead. He posed for quite a while and I took many pictures of him.

beach rose hips
lonely little beach rose
“Movement Study: Wave” by Margaret Parsons
purple coneflowers and stone wall
“Bubbles” by Brian Walters
“And Only Its Hands Are Left Pleading for Life”
by Thomas Pilnik

For an interesting explanation of Pilnik’s crumbling sculpture (above) and a picture of what it looked like when he first created it in July follow this link: Thomas Pilnik

And now we’re getting some much needed rain!

in the doldrums

8.26.22 ~ Beach Pond

Yesterday the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated our county as a primary natural disaster area due to the drought. We did get about two and a half inches of rain on Monday and Tuesday but it wasn’t enough to end the drought or benefit beleaguered farmers. These pictures were taken at the pond yesterday, a couple of days after the rain.

We wondered at all the bubbles in the very shallow water. The poor mallard could barely swim and couldn’t dabble deep enough to get her butt elevated. 😉

There were a few sandpipers and yellowlegs wandering around. I’m feeling too wearied to bother trying to identify them more specifically…

After a lovely week of low humidity and opened windows, the muggies returned with a vengeance, corresponding with the arrival of our granddaughter, visiting us on her own for a few days. But we made the best of our time indoors and went out one evening to see a troupe of Ukrainian dancers perform outside at Mystic Seaport. Afterwards, Kat, age 7, exclaimed that they were awesome! We thought so, too.

The rain came for the last two days of our visit. I introduced Kat to Cesar Millan: Better Human Better Dog on TV and Tim introduced her to a family board game called Rocks. I filled in a family tree fan chart for her which she examined closely and offered several very thoughtful observations. We spent another evening walking on the beach after the rain let up. Our little bright spot in the doldrums!

The following pictures were taken on August 19, before the two and a half inches of rain, a week before the ones above. It’s the lowest I’ve ever seen the pond’s water level. But for the little puddle it was dry.

8.19.22 ~ Beach Pond

I always forget how important the empty days are, how important it may be sometimes not to expect to produce anything, even a few lines in a journal. … A day where one has not pushed oneself to the limit seems a damaged damaging day, a sinful day. Not so! The most valuable thing one can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room, not try to be or do anything whatever.
~ May Sarton
(Journal of a Solitude)

So I continue living in the changing light of this room, biding my time, dreaming of crisp, cool, walkable autumn air. And more rain, which is not in the weather forecast. Waiting somewhat patiently and keeping my wits about me — so far.

woodland treasures

8.15.22 ~ Beebe Pond Park

Scenes from a wonderful late summer walk on an incredibly beautiful day. No humidity, comfortable temperatures in the 70s, and no mosquitoes, no doubt thanks to the continuing severe drought.

hiding in plain sight
walking over roots and around boulders to get to the pond
great blue heron way across the pond
tiny flower with orbs
Beebe Pond during severe drought
water lilies carpeting the low water level
buzzy
no standing room
a giant
(there’s a little chipmunk sitting on the rotting wood under the erratic)
hiding under the giant
as far as the eye can see, an endlessly rocky trail
the space between
impaled
marcescence
marching to the beat of a different drummer
the lofty oak

When we had arrived at the park we saw two cars from a dog day care business and wondered what situation we might encounter on the trail. Much to my relief we crossed paths with two women walking eight medium-sized dogs on leashes. The dogs were well-behaved and minding their own business. (No tugging, lunging or barking.) Cesar Millan would have approved. 🙂 I was impressed!

severe drought continues

8.9.22 ~ Thames River

On Tuesday we left early to vote in the Connecticut primary and then drove down to the pond by way of the road along the Thames River. Some of the river’s banks are covered with an unattractive cement ramp, but, I happened to notice a swamp rose mallow popping through it as we were driving by.

Fascinated, I asked Tim to stop the car so I could hop out and examine the wildflower up close. How could it be growing in such an inhospitable spot? It wasn’t that big yet, maybe 2 feet tall, and I wonder how high it might be able to grow there. (They can grow to 7 feet, and the flowers are 4-6 inches in diameter.)

As I was enjoying the close encounter I noticed another wildflower growing through another seam. I loved the shades of purple on its petals.


Back in the car and on to the pond. So sad to see even less water remaining in it. I’m surprised the shorebirds don’t do their fishing over at the beach but they must have their reasons for hanging out here still.

drought-stricken Beach Pond
lesser yellowlegs

Nature, like a loving mother, is ever trying to keep land and sea, mountain and valley, each in its place, to hush the angry winds and waves, balance the extremes of heat and cold, of rain and drought, that peace, harmony and beauty may reign supreme.
~ Elizabeth Cady Stanton
(Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Feminist as Thinker: A Reader in Documents & Essays)

great egrets strolling by
snowy egret with lesser yellowlegs behind him
snowy egret
great egrets mingling with snowy egrets
swamp rose mallow, this one growing by the pond

We’re supposed to get a break from the heat and humidity this weekend, which will be nice, but we also need some rain!

snowy egrets

8.5.22 ~ Beach Pond

Another early morning visit to the pond. We are now in a severe drought. Most of the birds were on the far side of the pond again and most of them were snowy egrets! I’ve never seen so many here. But the one in the pictures below was on my side of the pond. Intent on her fishing, she seemed unconcerned by my presence, even though she was keeping an eye on me.

The great blue heron was still at the pond and remained stationary with his head down. Linda suggested he might be molting.

At first I wasn’t sure these birds were snowy egrets because when they came out of the water most of their feet seemed black. I wondered if the legs might be covered with mud. Then I noticed the snowy egret on the log above with one yellow foot and one black foot, confirming my theory.

It was fun watching the snowy egrets observe a mallard family swimming through their claimed fishing grounds. There were a few disputes. There isn’t much water left in the pond so I imagine what fish are left are concentrated into a much smaller area than usual.

Last summer we had plenty of rain and very few swamp rose mallows. The opposite is true this year. So beautiful! They grow along with the cattails.

The receding water has exposed some interesting things. I’m guessing this thing (below) might be parts of a horseshoe crab shell?

We’re doing our best to enjoy the great indoors while high temperature records are getting broken, ragweed pollen fills the air, air quality alerts are issued and there is no relief from the hazy humidity. Covid numbers keep rising. Thank goodness for the sea breezes at the pond and the beach where we can get a few relatively comfortable minutes outside every day.

moderate drought at the pond

7.30.22 ~ Beach Pond

We are in a moderate drought and it is evident at the pond. Normally those rocks are covered or almost covered with water. On this sultry early morning all the waterbirds were hanging out on the opposite side of the pond but I did my best with the zoom lens to get a few pictures. Some snowy egrets were here before in 2016 during another drought. The greater yellowlegs I’ve never seen here before, but had seen one on Cape Cod in 2015.

snowy egret
snowy egret
greater yellowlegs
great blue heron

I’m grateful to the folks in the What’s this Bird? Facebook group for helping me to distinguish between the greater and lesser yellowlegs. A new life bird for me without realizing it at first!

lesser yellowlegs, #73 (with mallards)

Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes: Uncommon to fairly common migrant in coastal wetlands and inland ponds, lakes, rain pools, and marshes.
~ Frank Gallo
(Birding in Connecticut)

The Lesser Yellowlegs is a dainty and alert “marshpiper” that occurs in shallow, weedy wetlands and flooded fields across North America during migration. It’s smaller with a shorter, more needlelike bill than the Greater Yellowlegs, but otherwise looks very similar. It breeds in the meadows and open woodlands of boreal Canada. Like many other shorebirds, the Lesser Yellowlegs rebounded from hunting in the early 20th century but has declined again from losses of wetland habitats. It is on the Yellow Watch List for species with declining populations.
~ All About Birds webpage

Also, the swamp rose mallows are starting to bloom! Another summer wildflower I look forward to seeing every August.

I was so focused on those birds that I almost missed the flowers, which were on my side of the pond. But I’m glad I finally noticed them because seeing all that lovely pinkness made my day.