Only about 20 miles east of us the sea changes from the gentler waters of Long Island Sound to the open Atlantic Ocean with its bigger waves.
One last walk on the dunes and beach at Napatree Point…
It was a very hazy day, the smoke particles in the air came all the way from the wildfires in Alberta, Canada. Sometimes the camera captured some blue in the sky and others times the sky came out very gray.
We heard this male yellow warbler sweetly singing before we finally spotted him flitting around the thickets on the dune, in the same area we saw a female back in September. It’s amazing to think that this little songbird spent the winter in Central America and has arrived here to breed.
As we were walking along a robin came wandering down the dune path towards us. He would take a few steps, pause, look around, and then take a few more. We stood still and he kept coming closer, and closer and closer. After he checked us out, he turned around and started retracing his steps in the same manner. Curious little fellow.
When we got back to the parking lot these two herring gulls were having a spirited encounter. The one on the right kept making a long call and the one on the left kept jumping down into the water and bringing up globs of seaweed. The first one ignored the seaweed and kept repeating his long call.
Salt marshes have a long memory. Humans have a short one. Like sponges, salt marshes hold onto things. But for us, it’s out of sight, out of mind. ~ Tim Traver (Sippewissett: Or, Life on a Salt Marsh)
Many years ago, my 7th grade class traveled for an hour-long ride to a field trip (48 miles away) on Barn Island on the Connecticut shoreline. Little did I know I would one day move down here to live in a neighboring town. It wasn’t until February of 2019, though, when my friend Janet suggested we take a winter walk here, that I got around to visiting it again. See: winter in the marsh. I took Tim there during the pandemic in December of 2020 when we were looking for isolated places to walk: See: reflections. So we decided to visit one last time before the big move. There is a very long path that crosses the marsh.
It was low tide and the water level in the tidal creeks was lower than it was on my other visits. I noticed a lot of clams and mussels in the exposed mud and clinging to the creek banks. The only waterbird we saw was a mallard but we encountered a lot of people and dogs, which was surprising mid-week. The woods beckoned from the other end of the path. Then we retraced our steps.
Barn Island is the largest and single most ecologically diverse coastal Wildlife Management Area in Connecticut. With over 60 years of continuous wetland research at this site, Barn Island provides a rare window into long-term marsh development both before and after restoration efforts. Its 1,024 acres are marked by centuries of cultural and biological history, once a vital resource for early colonial settlers and Native Americans and now for scientists and outdoorsmen. Its diverse habitats support rare plants and animals which add to its rich ecological resource base. Barn Island’s sprawling landscape sustains a wide variety of ecosystems and recreational activities; it consists of salt and brackish marshes, one of the state’s largest coastal forests, hilly uplands, intertidal flats, sandy beach, and a rare sea-level fen. ~ Long Island Sound Study website
The marsh is a microcosm of the world. With its peat meadows, meandering tidal creeks, microbes and mud, at the living, breathing edge of continent and ocean, it seems that life must have started here. Every microcomponent contributes to the whole. Discovering how this system works was a biogeochemical pursuit that took years and is ongoing. ~ Tim Traver (Sippewissett: Or, Life on a Salt Marsh)
In the above picture, looking south from the path, dock pilings can be seen in the distance. There is a boat landing there, on Little Narragansett Bay. We decided to drive down there and get a picture of the salt marsh from the dock. A solitary herring gull was quietly sunning himself on the dock when we arrived. He stayed put the whole time I was there.
The next picture is looking north to the salt marsh (between the woodlands) from the dock on Little Narragansett Bay. There are some people walking along the path that crosses the marsh, where we had taken our walk and had taken pictures. I zoomed in on them in the second picture, as much as possible.
On the way home we spotted two ospreys above a much smaller marsh near Paffard Woods, a preserve of the Avalonia Land Conservancy. We pulled over on the very busy road and tried my luck with the zoom lens. Unfortunately it was a very windy day and the car was shaking a lot.
We stopped again on the way home to pick up a cod loin for dinner and wondered what kind of fish we will find plentiful in North Carolina. Also, living by the sea it is breezy and windy here more often than it is calm. I started wondering what the wind will be like in our new inland home. And then we got back to our sorting and packing…
Please bear with me as I post more photo memories to take with me when we move! Harkness Memorial State Park is one of my favorite places, year-round for the waterbirds and in the summer for the flower gardens. On this walk we were immediately greeted by a sweetly singing song sparrow, who flew from branch to branch, teasing me. But I did get a few pictures of him!
American Black Duck Anas rubripes: Common coastal migrant and wintering species. In summer, an uncommon breeding species in freshwater and brackish habitats, especially coastal marshes; inland nesting occurs in freshwater marshes, densely forested swamps, and beaver ponds, mainly in central and western Connecticut. ~ Frank Gallo (Birding in Connecticut)
The American Black Duck hides in plain sight in shallow wetlands of eastern North America. They often flock with the ubiquitous Mallard, where they look quite similar to female Mallards. But take a second look through a group of brown ducks to notice the dark chocolate-brown flanks, pale grayish face, and olive-yellow bill of an American Black Duck. Numbers of this shy but common duck declined sharply in the mid-twentieth century. Hunting restrictions have helped to stabilize their numbers, although habitat loss remains a problem. ~ All About Birds webpage
Today was a beautiful, calm, spring day. No wind! A woman was there trying to fly a kite, which is possible there more often than not, but she had to give up. The temperature was 52°F (11°C) so I had my first walk of the year with no thermal leggings, wearing my spring hoodie. 🙂 I am going to miss living by the sea very much.
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.”
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.
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
It was a wonderful break, and then we had a good Thanksgiving, and now, back to work on my project!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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)
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?
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.
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
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%.