eastern towhee

5.7.20 ~ Avery Farm Nature Preserve
Ledyard & Groton, Connecticut

Back in April we had a great walk in the Candlewood Ridge open space property which led to a sand plain with a glacial erratic on top of a ridge in the distance. On May 7th we decided to explore the property north of it, Avery Farm Nature Preserve, and followed a trail to get to the elevation from the opposite direction.

5.7.20 ~ welcome!

This historic 305-acre farm spans the border of Ledyard and Groton in a scenic rural setting. It is contiguous to the 91 acre Candlewood Ridge property, Groton and Ledyard town-owned open spaces, and to the Town of Groton conservation easement on a 7-acre former cranberry bog. Combined, over 430 acres of habitat area are available for wildlife and watershed protection.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

Avery Farm is part of a critical large block of diverse wildlife habitats highlighted on the State of CT Natural Diversity Database maps: grasslands, hedgerows, early successional forest, oak-hemlock-hickory upland forest, Atlantic white cedar swamp, a habitat managed power utility corridor, forested peatlands, kettle type bogs, poor fens, multiple seeps, several Tier I vernal pools, Ed Lamb Brook, Haley Brook, and the southern portion of a 38 acre marsh.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

The walk through the woods was lovely as we ascended gradually. I took more pictures on the way to the overlook than I did on the return part of the loop trail, which went through a low wetland.

5.7.20 ~ Tim with a glacial erratic

What on earth is that noise? Who goes there?

5.7.20 ~ eastern towhee

A strikingly marked, oversized sparrow of the East, feathered in bold black and warm reddish-browns – if you can get a clear look at it. Eastern Towhees are birds of the undergrowth, where their rummaging makes far more noise than you would expect for their size. Their chewink calls let you know how common they are, but many of your sightings end up mere glimpses through tangles of little stems.
~ All About Birds website

As we were walking along we heard a lot of rustling a few feet off the path and I tried to get a picture of the bird making the commotion. The “best” one is above. At home I used my new bird identification app and learned it was an eastern towhee. Had to laugh when I read the description above. Our sighting was definitely a string of brief glimpses and the rummaging was quite loud!

5.7.20 ~ We finally reach the large glacial erratic overlooking the sand plain!
We approached from behind it.
5.7.20 ~ we did not sit in the chairs, keeping COVID-19 in mind
5.7.20 ~ view from the overlook across the sand plain,
down to where we were standing the month before
5.7.20 ~ taken with telephoto lens

Then we climbed down the steep trail to the sand plain and returned by the lower wetland trail. On that portion of our walk we encountered four people coming from the other direction. We always got six feet off the trail and let them pass, wondering if they would have done the same for us if we hadn’t done it first. One man was operating a drone which we couldn’t see but could hear buzzing nearby. Another man was jogging. And two women were looking for a waterfall. (I think they may have mistaken this property for Sheep Farm.)

5.7.20 ~ moss and lichen
5.7.20 ~ wintergreen

The walk lasted about an hour and a quarter, our longest one yet. ♡

to dew her orbs upon the green

6.26.19 ~ heavy with dew

And I serve the fairy queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green:
The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours,
In those freckles live their savours:
I must go seek some dew-drops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear.

~ William Shakespeare
(A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

6.26.19 ~ cedar waxwing enjoying a mulberry
6.26.19 ~ dragonfly landing on dewy grass

We had a very wet spring and so far it’s looking to be a wet summer, too. Tuesday we got two inches of rain! It rained all day and I enjoyed many hours of family history research. But Wednesday we emerged from our den and took a walk in the very wet woods. And we saw several cedar waxwings, a new bird for us!

6.26.19 ~ cedar waxwing
6.26.19 ~ serenity
6.26.19 ~ ferns covering a bubbling brook
6.26.19
6.26.19 ~ cedar waxwing

As I approached this tree I was trying to figure out if it might be a shagbark hickory. (Still not sure…) And then a new experience for me: orbs appeared in the viewfinder when I went to take a picture! In the past, orbs have been an occasional surprise when they show up in pictures downloaded from the camera. But these were there before I even took the picture.

6.26.19
6.26.19 ~ looking up the tree with orbs
6.26.19 ~ more magic, sunlight highlighting a stone covered in lichen

In the span of centuries the rock became glazed with a gray-green crust of lichen almost indistinguishable from the rock itself, a bare coating of life.
~ Robin Wall Kimmerer
(Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge & The Teachings of Plants)

6.26.19 ~ juniper berries?
6.26.19

These trees and stones are audible to me,
These idle flowers, that tremble in the wind,
I understand their faery syllables,
And all their sad significance.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Collected Poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson 1823-1911)

television

Happy Spring!

Work on the stuff in boxes has slowed way down because one box in particular has loads of my work from grammar school. Work that my mother had saved. The trip down memory lane has been surreal… and slow…

The above drawing was with a group of papers created when I was about seven years old. We had to draw things we were thankful for. I drew my house, the American flag, and this television. It made me smile.

Recently I’ve learned that I think in pictures, rather than words or patterns. I had a reputation for being a bookworm, and I do love read, but I do it very slowly and my reading comprehension is not up to par. (I now have my grade school report cards to confirm that.) I find it very interesting that I did not draw a book for this assignment!

I still love watching T.V., although at times I am embarrassed to admit it. Some people can be pretty snooty about how mind-numbing they think most of what is offered is. And it is. But as I was growing up my parents required us to watch nature (think Jacques Cousteau), science and history documentaries. To this day I still watch and enjoy them!

After my mother died I would watch T.V. with my father on Wednesday nights, Nature and Nova on PBS. And Masterpiece Theatre on Sundays. And nowadays you will find me glued to the set when Finding Your Roots, with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. comes on!

One night in October last year, I found an episode of Nature online. I invited Katherine to watch A Squirrel’s Guide to Success with me on my laptop. To my surprise and delight, she was utterly fascinated — we do watch squirrels a lot when we’re outside — and stayed put to watch the whole program with me. 🙂

I will keep reading books, but I’m more gentle with myself now when I have difficulty following along. And in honor of my inner child, I will now be watching T.V. without apology!!!

winter in the marsh

2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ marsh observation area

Yesterday Janet and I explored Barn Island Wildlife Management Area in Stonington, the “largest primitive coastal area left unspoiled in Connecticut.” It was a cloudy, chilly winter afternoon, with snow flurries starting up just as we were leaving.

2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ Red-breasted Merganser
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ moss and ice on stone
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ trees with fluffy moss?
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ tidal creek
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ solitary evergreen
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ one tree with shelf mushrooms
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ feather
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ ice falling into ebbing tide
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ juvenile common loon
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ juvenile common loon
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ ice falling into ebbing tide
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ spotted wintergreen
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ great blue heron
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ great blue heron

Caher Conor (Fahan Beehive Huts)

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ not sure if the 2,000 BC date is accurate ~ other sources suggest the 12th century

Sunday happened to be Imbolc, Groundhog Day, Candlemas or Brigid’s Day, about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It marks the beginning of spring, which I now see comes a lot sooner in Ireland than it does in New England. Our first stop was at these fascinating beehive huts.

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ the canine proprietor greeting us was eager to sell us tickets

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ the ticket booth was a bit run down but Larisa found him friendly enough

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ Dima, Katherine and Tim had already started the 2-minute walk up the mountain path

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ the path narrows

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ stone wall path boundary

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ looking back down at the sea behind us

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ I loved the lichens on the stones and the little green mosses and plants

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland

Also known as the Fahan Beehive Huts, Caher Conor (Cathair na gConchuireach) is located on the south side of Mount Eagle west of Dingle. The complex consists of five structures.

The clochan (beehive huts) in Caher Conor were probably single family dwellings and were attached to each other with a doorway leading from one to the other. They were built in the form of a circle of successive strata of stone, each stratum lying a little closer to the center than the one beneath and so on up to a small aperture at the top that could be closed with a single small flagstone or capstone. No mortar was used in building, which is called corbelling.

The hillside at one time had over 400 of these drystone, corbelled huts surviving, prompting one antiquarian in the 19th century to refer to the area as the “City of Fahan”. Dating the huts is difficult because the skill of corbelling has been used in Newgrange (3100 B.C.) and as recently as the 1950s. The huts at Fahan along the Slea Head Drive may well date to the 12th Century when the incoming Normans forced the Irish off the good land and out to the periphery of the Dingle Peninsula.

~ Saints & Stones website

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ this enclosure didn’t have a roof

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ Larisa coming through a doorway

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ Katherine going through a doorway

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ orbs ~ I found the one with the bright center very interesting

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ it was so cold that Katherine finally relented and put her coat on ~ notice the pink plastic spoon in her hand ~ it was with her most of the day

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ Larisa and a gorgeous view

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ Dima and another view

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ this cross would make more sense being here if the wall was built in the 12th century

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ Barbara & Tim with orbs ~ Larisa knit the hat from Irish wool ~ at first she let me borrow it but then she gave it to me ~ now I have wool hats from Ireland and Norway!

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ I think Ireland may have even more stones than New England does!

2.4.18 ~ view from Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ coming around a corner

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ the walk back down to the parking lot

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ the canine proprietor keeping tabs on our departure

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ a door on a nearby building

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ the side of the same building, set well into the steep mountainside

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ the narrow, one-lane road between the entrance and the tiny parking lot

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ view looking down from the parking lot ~ yikes!

It was good to get warmed up in the car and drive off for our next destination.

apple pickers

camillepissarro-the-apple-pickers
“The Apple Pickers” by Camille Pissarro

The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel –

Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Drying grass,
New books and blackboards
Chalk in class.

The bee, his hive
Well-honey, hums
While Mother cuts
Chrysanthemums.

Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze.

~ John Updike
(September)

~ autumn equinox ~

light

7.23.17 ~ tiger lilies at Mystic Seaport

Light is the mother of life. The sun brings light or color. It causes grasses, crops, leaves, and flowers to grow. The sun brings forth the erotic charge of the curved earth; it awakens her wild sensuousness.
~ John O’Donohue
(Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom)

7.23.17 ~ flower box at Mystic Seaport

When you possess light within, then you see it externally.
~ Anaïs Nin
(The Diary of Anaïs Nin: 1939-1944)

7.23.17 ~ purple coneflowers at Mystic Seaport

blossoms and birdhouses

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ mountain laurel

So… there were other treasures waiting to be discovered while we were on our long hike Saturday. In 1907 the mountain laurel, a lovely native American shrub, was designated as the official state flower of Connecticut. They are just starting to blossom and we saw loads of them.

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ wild geranium, another native wildflower

I was raised by the melody
Of the whispering grove
And learned to love
Among the flowers.
~ Friedrich Hölderlin
(Odes & Elegies)

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ eastern blue-eyed grass, another native wildflower
6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ ferns and saplings filling the edge of a meadow

Now, the staff at the arboretum is keeping a meadow open for habitat for several kinds of animals and birds. They also erected several birdhouses and we did see a tree swallow looking out the “window.”

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ tree swallow and orbs

These shots were very hard to get because they were taken from so far away. I didn’t have a tripod to stabilize the camera and the zoom lens. I climbed a bank on the side of the trail, through a thicket of plants and saplings, and then leaned one arm on a tree to steady my grip, trying to avoid the gypsy moth caterpillars. (I wound up bringing at least one tick home – I hope I won’t find any more…) Even though I had to delete most of the shots I took it was a thrill to get home and find that these three came out!

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ tree swallow and orbs
6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ tree swallow and orbs

I love all the orbs I captured…

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ mosses and grasses

We were just thinking of turning around and retracing our steps when Beverly was beckoned by yet another tree growing through the rocks. So we left the path and carefully navigated our way through uneven terrain of rocks and bushes. I found a spot to take the picture. More orbs!

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ tree with orbs
6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ looking up the same majestic tree

After finding our way back to the trail I finally put away the camera, took a long drink of water, sprayed on some more bug repellent and enjoyed the long walk back, hands free.

May 2, 2020: When this post was first published I misidentified the bird as a baby bluebird, a mistake that was pointed out to me recently by much more knowledgeable friends. Consensus is that the brightly colored bird is an adult tree swallow! I have edited the text above, but the comments below reflect my original error. Sorry about that!

grass-powered organism

“Kneeling Cow” by Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) French Post-Impressionist Artist
“Kneeling Cow” by Paul Gauguin

So this is what commodity corn can do to a cow: industrialize the miracle of nature that is a ruminant, taking this sunlight- and prairie grass-powered organism and turning it into the last thing we need: another fossil fuel machine. This one, however, is able to suffer.
~ Michael Pollan
(The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals)