It was a rare day with calm winds so, even though it was cloudy, we went to walk along a tidal marsh by the sea. The first thing to catch my eye was a gorgeous little oak tree, still hanging on to its leaves. Then I spotted a pair of hooded mergansers in the distance, so these pictures are heavily cropped. The female kept diving for food but the male seemed to be resting.
A tidal creek runs through the marsh.
A solitary herring gull was floating around aimlessly, slowly drifting in my direction. Wondering where all the others have gone. They always seem willing to pose for me.
Somewhat disappointed by the lack of bird sightings we were on our way back to the car when I spotted a great blue heron on the other side of the marsh. Just as I got into a good position to photograph him, he took off! Frustrating… But, lucky for me he was just headed for a spot even closer to me and the other birds. Yay!
I’ve been getting pictures of great blue herons for a few years now and this was the first time I’ve had one facing the camera. I had never noticed that pretty pattern running down the front of its neck before! It’s not even illustrated in my field guide. So I’m very excited about my new “discovery.”
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
Before it started raining on Monday we took an early walk down by the pond where we encountered a great blue heron struggling to get its breakfast under control.
Nearby a miniscule least sandpiper was also looking for its breakfast, skittering about so quickly I almost missed seeing it. Great blue herons are huge (38-54 inches) in comparison to the smallest of the sandpipers (5-6 inches).
Then the harsh call of a great egret coming in for a landing got my attention!
We left the pond and headed for the beach. Hunting for its breakfast in the seaweed on the rocks was yet another great egret. It was a great morning for watching the shorebirds!
This friendly gull was waiting by our car to pose for a portrait before we left.
After we got home it started to rain and it rained for most of the day. A good, steady soaking rain, just what we’ve been needing for our abnormally dry conditions. Some parts of the state already have a moderate drought. We finally had to turn the air conditioner on Wednesday. It will be interesting to see how the weather has affected the sunflowers, which we hope to visit this coming week. 🌻
By Friday Connecticut’s positivity rate reached 11%.
When we arrived at Ocean Beach and started walking down the boardwalk to get to the Alewife Cove Nature Walk we heard a couple of starlings singing the loveliest songs and couldn’t believe our ears. (Back at home I was surprised to learn that “they have impressive vocal abilities and a gift for mimicry.”) I’ve only heard them making unpleasant noises until this day.
As we went along I spotted a cat spying on us. He must have been enjoying the spring-like weather.
The last time I was at this place was in April of 2012, almost ten years ago, with Janet and Nancy. It’s changed a lot due to the many storms forever reshaping the coastal landscape. Here is what I posted back then: walking is discovery. When Tim & I walked at Waterford Beach Park back in October we could see this nature area across the cove and so I made a mental note to revisit it soon. See: sunlight by the sea.
On the walk ten years ago I discovered a praying mantis egg case like the one above. On this walk we saw dozens of them! This must be a favored habitat for them because I’ve never noticed these anywhere else on our wanderings. Apparently the nymphs, up to 300 of them, will emerge as soon as temperatures warm in spring.
Whatever the environment from which it springs, local knowledge matters, because enchanted living begins with local living: genuinely understanding, and so living in harmony with the landscape you occupy. ~ Sharon Blackie (The Enchanted Life, Unlocking the Magic of the Everyday)
It was a great day for a walk. It’s a good thing we left when we did, though, because the Ocean Beach parking lot, which was empty when we arrived, was suddenly full of activity and people placing traffic cones everywhere to make space for lines of cars. They were setting up for free covid testing. We had to to exit out of an entrance to finally find our way out of the maze! A reminder that the pandemic is still with us. Our positivity rate is currently 5%. Seems to be going down slowly…
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! 🍂
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 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.
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
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)
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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
I love my little beach, especially this time of year.