waning summer

9.13.20 ~ Eastern Point

Beach season ended with Labor Day weekend. We took a walk down there the following weekend and were greeted by this solitary gull on the rocks.

On the ocean, gulls are good luck. Gulls are strong, brave, commanding. They are harbingers of land, of fish just below the surface, of a coming storm. Legend has it they hold the souls of drowned sailors and fishermen, so killing one is bad luck.
~ Sara Anne Donnelly
(Yankee, July/August 2020)

nonbreeding adult laughing gulls

When we got down to the sand we found a large gathering of gulls hanging out. They have reclaimed the beach! I was delighted because the tiny laughing gulls were actually on the sand, which is a much more appealing backdrop than the asphalt parking lot where I usually see them. There was quite an assortment of sizes and colors.

juvenile laughing gull and nonbreeding adult herring gull
laughing gull, second winter and nonbreeding adult herring gull
juvenile laughing gull
nonbreeding adult laughing gull
nonbreeding adult ring-billed gull
laughing gull and herring gull, both nonbreeding adults
these two seemed to be great friends
At first I thought the large one might be a great black-backed gull because he seems pretty huge, but he doesn’t quite fit the description. I dusted off my “Gulls of the Americas” reference book and discovered that there has been some cross-breeding between the great black-backed and herring gulls. Maybe that’s what’s going on here…
perhaps a version of yoga tree pose
nonbreeding adult ring-billed gull
juvenile laughing gull
waning summer
weed and post art
jellyfish!

There really is a kind of insane beauty around us all the time. It’s just a question of learning to slow down, take a deep breath, and meet the moment.
~ Graham Nash
(Eye to Eye: Photographs)

It was fascinating watching this creature propelling itself through the murky water. It moves so fast I was surpised that some of the pictures actually came out!

The bars are still closed in Connecticut and now that the beach gate is open I’m sure it won’t be long before people start returning to the beach to socialize, bringing their dogs and leaving their trash, cigarette butts, and empty beer bottles. We will probably return to the woods soon, and try to do a better job of avoiding the poison ivy. Enjoying the autumn weather!

a fine day for fishing (and walking)

“Hobbes’ Claw – Unsheathed 4” by Stephen Klema
9.5.20 ~ Avery Point
Open Air: An Exhibition of Sculpture & Installation Art

We enjoyed a lovely walk at Avery Point on Saturday morning. The weather was perfect! (The weather was wonderful on Sunday, too, but we stayed home and did some painting with windows wide open.)

“Azucar” by Christopher Wynter

We discovered quite a few people fishing down on the west-facing revetment, and then spotted dozens of new cairns along the top of the south-facing seawall.

cairn close-up
lots of cairns on the revetment, stretching from the tree to the lighthouse
cairns by the sea

But as we were admiring all the little sculptures we heard some gulls squabbling and turned around to investigate. A great black-backed gull was in possession of a large fish, perhaps he caught it but he may well have stolen it from a nearby herring gull. Either way, he wasn’t about to share it.

We watched him stab and pick at his meal for quite a while, completely captivated. I wonder if any of the human fishers were so lucky that morning. 🙂

New London County now has 1,620 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those, 7 people are in the hospital and 107 have lost their lives. That’s 121 new cases and 4 more in the hospital since August 21. Numbers ticking up again. Staying safe (I hope) in our bubble… College students are back in town and there could be a surge after the Labor Day weekend, although it seems like there weren’t any large holiday gatherings locally. Perhaps people are becoming more prudent.

After many years of referring to “my gull friend with the mangled leg” I have finally dubbed him The Captain, after my sea captain ancestors. I went through my old posts and added his new moniker as a category so I can quickly see all the photos I have taken of him over the years. I don’t know if I will ever see him again but I am hoping that by next summer Tim & I can resume our evening meals on our bench at the beach and have him fly over to the post in front of us for a visit. I sure missed him this summer! The Captain

do not disturb

On our next visit to the beach we sat in our usual spot to enjoy some supper and noticed that my gull friend wasn’t around. Instead we had two large juvenile great black-backed gulls (above and below) pacing back and forth in front of us, probably hoping for a handout. Eventually they will learn that these two humans never feed gulls! Perhaps they were the offspring of the gull bothering my herring gull during our previous visit?

Anyhow, after we ate we took a little walk. Tim spotted my gull friend first, sitting way out on a section of rocks where we are not allowed to climb. I called out a greeting but he seemed determined to ignore me. He turned his head a couple of times, but didn’t respond. And so parts of a Van Morrison song came to mind…

Other times you just can’t reach me
Seems like I’ve got a heart of stone
Guess I need my solitude
And I have to make it on my own

Well I guess I’m going A.W.O.L.
Disconnect my telephone
Just like Greta Garbo
I want to be alone

Too long to decode all the secrets
Have to get some elbow room
Most people think that everything
Is just what they assume

Well I know I’m going A.W.O.L.
Tell everyone I’m not at home
Just like Greta Garbo
I just want to be alone

~ Van Morrison
♫ (Just Like Greta) ♫

Having a very strong need for “alone” time myself I gave him his space and let him be.

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

moving with change

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7.31.16 ~ juvenile great black-backed gull ~ photo by Timothy Rodgers

Well, I’m sad to report that I haven’t seen my gull friend with the mangled foot since our encounter on July 10th… I have a strong feeling that he was indeed saying good-bye.

Sunday afternoon a different gull with an injured foot limped over to us to see what food we might offer him. He’s young so he hasn’t learned yet that most humans follow the rules and don’t feed the gulls. While I’m pretty sure our old friend was a herring gull, our new friend is much larger, perhaps a juvenile great black-backed gull.

Of course I was without camera, but I made sure to bring it with me yesterday. The sky was striking. But our new friend wasn’t there.

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8.1.16 ~ light and dark, late afternoon sun

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8.1.16 ~ laughing gull portrait

On Sunday the parking lot had been full of laughing gulls, but yesterday there was only one, and he perched near us, watching us eat. The laughing gulls don’t usually hang out on the white posts. It seems everyone is behaving differently these days!

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8.1.16 ~ snowy egret at Beach Pond

As we left for home I spotted this bird wading in the nearly dried up salt water pond. Connecticut is in a moderate drought. We have many great egrets but this one was smaller and I wondered if it was a young one. He was too far away to get a decent picture.

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8.1.16 ~ snowy egret at Beach Pond

Imagine my surprise when I enlarged a few of the pictures and noticed his yellow feet! Pretty sure this identifies him as a snowy egret, which is smaller than the great egret.

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8.1.16 ~ snowy egret at Beach Pond

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8.1.16 ~ sanderling (?)

Not sure what kind of little shorebird this but he sure looked cute exploring the exposed pond bed. So many appearances in the flow of life…

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8.1.16 ~ sanderling (?)

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.
~ Alan Watts
(The Wisdom of Insecurity)

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8.1.16 ~ sanderling (?)

identifying gulls

8.18.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut
young and mature laughing gulls ~ 8.18.13 ~ Eastern Point Beach

Gulls – a word of inherent paradox. Almost anyone can recognize a gull – or “seagull” – as such, but to identify certain gulls to species can vex the most experienced observers.
~ Steve N. G. Howell & Jon Dunn
(Gulls of the Americas)

8.18.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut
8.18.13 ~ Eastern Point Beach

8.18.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut
“regular” herring gulls with their new and smaller laughing gull neighbors ~ 8.18.13 ~ Eastern Point Beach

8.18.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut
I love these petite laughing gulls and their little black legs! ~ 8.18.13 ~ Eastern Point Beach

Until April of 2012, when we were visiting our son and his family in Georgia, I was unaware of the fact that there were about 50 different species of gulls, about 22 of them found in North America. At Cumberland Island National Seashore I was very surprised to see two black-headed gulls perched on a dock.

Then in the summer of 2012 we noticed a couple of HUGE juvenile gulls at our local Eastern Point Beach here in Connecticut. After some sleuthing we determined that they must be the largest of all the gulls, great black-backed gulls. Awe-inspiring! I took pictures of them next to what we started calling “regular” gulls to show the difference in size.

This summer we were hoping to spot some adult great black-backed gulls, which we finally did. But before that, I noticed we had more new visitors, these little gulls with black legs. Time to purchase a reference guide! I’m not 100% positive, but I think they are laughing gulls.

Now what species are my beloved “regular” gulls? Again, not absolutely sure, but I think they are ring-billed gulls. The problem I seem to be facing is that gulls molt several times as they mature and look a little different during each of their four cycles, sometimes dramatically different.

8.21.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut
an adult great black-backed gull with a “regular” ring-billed gull ~ 8.21.13 ~ Eastern Point Beach

8.21.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut
great black-backed gull contemplates taking off ~ 8.21.13 ~ Eastern Point Beach

8.21.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut
8.21.13 ~ Eastern Point Beach

8.21.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut
8.21.13 ~ Eastern Point Beach

It was considered unlucky to kill a seagull, as they are the souls of dead sailors. So if a seagull were to land on the bow of the ship, you didn’t want your captain to see you chase it off as a comrade has come to visit.
~ K. E. Heaton
(Superstitions of the Sea)

So many of my ancestors were lost at sea – I have to wonder sometimes…

8.21.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut
perhaps the great black-backed gull is headed for the approaching ship ~ 8.21.13 ~ Eastern Point Beach

great black-backed gulls

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8.19.12 ~ Eastern Point Beach

The seagulls know the truth of it
And scream it overhead
~ David Gray
♫ (Nos Da Cariad) ♫

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8.19.12 ~ Eastern Point Beach

Growing up visiting the beaches of Cape Cod I never paid close attention to seagulls, taking them very much for granted. But in 2011, after reading the book, A Time for Everything, by Karl O. Knausgård, I’ve been drawn to these interesting sea birds. However, it wasn’t until April of last year (2012) that I noticed that there are different kinds of seagulls, when I saw a pair of black-headed gulls perched on a dock at Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia.

Now I’m pretty sure the gulls we commonly have on our beach here in Connecticut are ring-billed gulls. One day last August (2012), Tim & I were having a light supper sitting at a picnic table on the grass at our beach. We were chatting away and I was watching a gull behind him, who was loitering on the grass, hoping for a handout. (We never give them anything, however, because our food is not good for them.) Slowly it dawned on me that this was the biggest gull I had ever laid eyes on! And yet he had the speckled coloring of an immature one.

Thankfully I had my camera, but when Tim turned around to see what I was so excited about the gull took off. He came back, however, and began strutting along the sidewalk as if he owned the place.

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8.19.12 ~ Eastern Point Beach

Eventually he walked up onto the rocks and posed for me.

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8.19.12 ~ Eastern Point Beach

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8.19.12 ~ Eastern Point Beach

In the pictures above and below I was trying to capture this huge baby standing as close to an adult “regular” gull as I could, to illustrate the difference in size. There were two of these large gulls present that day, but this was the one that came closer to us.

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8.19.12 ~ Eastern Point Beach

Ten days after this gull encounter at the beach we had to take Tim to the hospital in the middle of the night. At dawn I came home to shower and then return to the hospital. As I started driving down Bank Street in New London there was a seagull in the middle of the street, feasting on some roadkill. He didn’t move out of the way of my car until it was almost too late. When he did take off he didn’t fly away, though. He kept flying just a few feet in front of my car, flying very low, all the way down Bank Street to Parade Plaza.

If seagull shows up it means it’s time to clean up your home environment and let go of and recycle as much as you possibly can. … Spend a significant amount of time at the seashore meditating, allowing the rhythms of the waves and the wind to be your guiding pulse.
~ Dr. Steven D. Farmer
(Animal Spirit Guides)

It wasn’t until late September, when we took a day trip to Block Island, that we got a clue about the identity of these giant seagulls. Our tour guide asked us if we had ever seen a great black-backed gull, the largest of all gulls. Apparently they are showing up on Block Island, too!

After Tim came home from the hospital, but before we went to Block Island, son Nate came up from Georgia to help “clean out our home environment” after Tim’s hospital stay. While he was here we took him to the beach one evening, all excited about showing him the big seagulls. But they weren’t there that night. However, we sat with him there for hours, soaking up the healing power of the sea and talking about the wonders of the universe – a memory I will treasure forever. The following sketch reminds me of some of our conversations, Mr. Logic and Ms. Wonder, chatting with their son…

DougNeill.exoplanets
image: Sketchnotes: Natalie Batalha on Exoplanets & Love

Since Nate left to go back home we have spotted the great black-backed gulls at the beach again many times, even after Hurricane Sandy and Blizzard Charlotte, so it looks like the two of them are planning to stick around for a while. And my sister has reported seeing them there a couple of times, too, when she’s gone to the beach to eat a peaceful lunch in her car. Beverly thought I had to be exaggerating until she saw them for herself!