waterbirds in the tidal marsh

1.30.23 ~ Waterford Beach Park

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.

female hooded merganser
male hooded merganser

A tidal creek runs through the marsh.

trees reflected in the water in the tidal creek

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!

great blue heron, hunting
noticing something in the water
getting ready to strike
making a stab at it
oh well, not this time

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.”

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!

early bird gets the worm

7.18.22 ~ great blue heron in Beach Pond

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.

gulp, finally!

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).

least sandpiper

Then the harsh call of a great egret coming in for a landing got my attention!

great egret
great blue heron on the move again
great egret checking out the scene

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!

7.18.22 ~ great egret at Eastern Point
female common eider
male mallard in eclipse plumage
ring-billed gull

This friendly gull was waiting by our car to pose for a portrait before we left.

on the side of the road, heading back home
wild carrot (Queen Anne’s lace)

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%.

it’s a killdeer thing

7.13.22 ~ Beach Pond

Wednesday was supposed to be hot and humid so we decided to get up early and take a walk down at the beach before it opened. On the way there we heard some killdeer at the pond, incessantly trilling. I wondered if they might be trying to chase a Canada goose away from their nest.

killdeer urgently trilling
solitary Canada goose who refused to budge
a juvenile spotted sandpiper looks on
a least sandpiper also watches
Canada goose holding its ground
distraction display, used in courtship
or to chase intruders away from a nest-site

I couldn’t make out if they were courting or protecting a nest I couldn’t see. Those white stones at the feet of the one on the right don’t look like the pictures of eggs I’ve seen online, which would be mottled cream or buff with brown specks.

After some time, one of them moved to a spot farther away from the goose.

Then it was time for us to move on to the beach. The beach grooming tractor was busy at work but one gull was wading in the water with the early morning sunshine on his back. It felt good to walk across the sand, even with the hum of technology in the background.

7.13.22 ~ Eastern Point

Amazingly, we still haven’t turned on the air conditioning this year and we’re halfway through July! It’s getting slightly more humid this week but we haven’t had a heat wave yet and it’s been bearable so far. Very unusual.

healing by the sea

4.25.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, Mystic
photo by Tim

Monday we were planning to check on mama goose but my gut was having a very bad morning. My sweet husband offered to go by himself to see if there were any goslings, and brought back the picture above. No little ones yet and he reported that papa goose was still missing. He went inside the nature center and inquired about the situation. A staffer said they were concerned about the avian influenza but had no answers.


By late afternoon I was feeling a little better and decided to go down to the salt water and air for some healing energy. The first wildflower of the season at the beach, a dandelion, was poking through the stone wall and concrete!

4.25.22 ~ Eastern Point, Groton

When we got down on the sand a friendly ring-billed gull came over to to see what we were up to. I must have taken 30 pictures of him as he enjoyed our company, and we his. There was not another gull on the beach. I thanked him for the lovely pictures with the sand as a backdrop, rather than the ugly tar of the parking lot. 🙂

ring-billed gull

I never get tired of communing with my beloved gulls. But with a quick glance out over the breakwater I spotted a common grackle. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one at the beach before.

common grackle

On the way home I suddenly remembered that the weeping cherries were probably blossoming more fully than when we saw them the week before. So off we went. It was a lovely scene, complete with creeping phlox, a patch of heather, and a robin.

4.25.22 ~ Walt’s Walls & Woods, Groton
heather
American robin
creeping phlox
weeping cherry blossoms

We stopped by the grocery store and picked up some salmon for supper and felt grateful for a pleasant end to the day.


Tuesday morning we decided to check on mama goose again. Good news! Papa goose was back, along with his buddy the mallard!

4.26.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center
mama goose looking happier
the mallard buddy looks a little worse for wear
~ what on earth were they up to while they were gone?
papa goose photo by Tim

I just LOVE this picture Tim took of papa goose! I don’t think we’ll have a chance to check again until Friday. Hope we don’t miss the hatchlings…

a sand gallery

1.28.22 ~ Eastern Point Beach

It feels like winter. Cloudy with snow flurries today and a blizzard warning for tomorrow. Quick walk at the beach to breathe in some fresh air and to enjoy the delightful snowlight.

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Everything in nature invites us constantly to be what we are.
~ Gretel Ehrlich
(On Water)

snow by the sea

morning has broken, view out back

Friday morning we woke up in the middle of a wonderful, long-awaited snowstorm. Less snow fell here than expected by the end of the nor’easter, but the 5 inches it left behind were enough to delight me. And there was no freezing rain or sleet at the end so we could get out and about in the afternoon and enjoy the fluffy white stuff. ❄️

1.7.22 ~ my river birch during the morning snowstorm
from my kitchen window

First stop, Avery Pond. Lots of Canada geese and mallards, but a pair of American wigeons caught my eye.

American wigeon
American wigeon

Next stop, Eastern Point Beach. The gulls were hunkering down in the parking lot. I got out of the car to take some pictures and was nearly blown over by the wind. Other times I tried opening the car window to take pictures. That sent most of the gulls up in the air, flapping and squawking. I suspect they thought I might be going to feed them.

ring-billed gulls with eyes open just a little bit
snow on the rocks
gulls drifting in the wind
juvenile herring gull sticking right by our car
snow covered sand on the beach

Next stop, Beach Pond. No wildlife to be seen at all…

snow all around the pond
snow in the dune grass
cattails
snow and cattails

Next stop, Avery Point. There were quite a few folks out walking their dogs. Too nippy to get out of the car!

don’t know the name of this sculpture
“Azucar” by Christopher Wynter
New London Ledge Light in the background
Avery Point Light and windswept snowscape

Last stop, Birch Plain Creek. Got out of the car here. There were lots of birds chirping and flitting about. I was lucky to get a couple of shots.

song sparrow
song sparrow
snow and ice on Birch Plain Creek
white-throated sparrow
white-throated sparrow

It was wonderful having some snow stick around for a change and feeling the winter season the way I remember it. A hot cup of tea at home to enjoy, snuggled under a blanket, looking out the window as darkness fell over the snow… Bliss!