the sound of outer ocean on a beach

11.20.20 ~ ring-billed gull
Bluff Point State Park & Coastal Reserve

The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach. I have heard them all, and of the three elemental voices, that of the ocean is the most awesome, beautiful, and varied. For it is a mistake to talk of the monotone of the ocean or of the monotonous nature of its sound. The sea has many voices.
~ Henry Beston
(The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod)

waves, shorebirds, plants

9.21.20 ~ beach rose hips
Napatree Point Conservation Area, Watch Hill, Rhode Island

Now that summer is giving way to autumn we decided to go to Napatree Point again. An added incentive was the promise of big waves from Hurricane Teddy, churning away out at sea. It was lovely to walk and breathe in the sea air. The tide was coming in and the waves were bigger than usual, 6.5′ according to a surfing website. I even brought a blanket so I could sit on the beach for a while, and soak up the earth’s energy.

first glimpse of the sea from the dune
big waves breaking
fishing from the breakwater
one view from my blanket
Watch Hill Lighthouse
spectacular waves
the sound was stirring and calming at once
so much beauty

And then, much to my delight, two tiny birds flew in off the water and landed in front of us. We watched them for the longest time as they were feeding by the wrack line, and as they ran back and forth between the waves. If I’m making correct identifications, the larger one in front is a semipalmated plover and the smaller one in back is a semipalmated sandpiper. It was fun getting pictures from a sitting position.

shorebirds
semipalmated sandpiper (6″ long)
semipalmated sandpiper (15 cm long)
feathers stuck in the wrack line
semipalmated plover (7″ long)
semipalmated plover (18 cm long)
goldenrod, a classic sign of autumn
beach rose hoping for a little more summer
along the path
lots of things grow on the dunes
herring gull heading out for a swim in the bay

What a wonderful morning!

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

migrating sandpipers

8.16.20 ~ two kinds of sandpipers, Eastern Point

On the weekend we finally got a break from the heat and humidity and when we went down to the beach early Sunday morning I was very surprised to see some very tiny shorebirds on the rocks. After careful investigation I believe they are two different kinds of sandpipers because of some small differences in size and beak shape. The smaller one in front with the yellow legs and the slightly curved bill is a least sandpiper. The slightly larger one in back with the black legs (legs seen in following pictures) and a stouter bill is a semipalmated sandpiper.

They were a little difficult to capture with my camera, but in the picture above you can see the semipalmated’s (lower left) black legs. The least sandpiper (upper right) is only slightly larger than a sparrow.

least sandpiper

Least Sandpipers breed in tundra and boreal forests across the extreme northern regions of North America. They nest in coastal wetlands, bogs, sedge meadows, and tussock heaths. At the southern reaches of their breeding range, in Nova Scotia and British Columbia, they also nest in sand dunes. During migration they stop on coastal mudflats, rocky shorelines, and inland habitats including wet meadows, flooded fields, and muddy edges of lakes, ponds, and ditches. They winter from the southern United States through the northern half of South America in lagoons, mangrove forests, wet ditches, swamps, wet fields, mudflats, saltmarshes, tidal sloughs, and the edges of lakes, ponds, and rivers.
~ All About Birds webpage

My guess is that this flock is migrating south and stopped on our “rocky shoreline.” The “All About Birds” webpage also says they flock with other shorebirds during fall migration, including with the semipalmated sandpipers.

semipalmated sandpiper

The Semipalmated Sandpiper has three North American breeding populations: western (Alaska), central (western Canadian Arctic), and eastern (eastern Canadian Arctic). A 2012 study estimated a total population of 2.26 million breeding birds, with 1.45 million in the western population, and 810,000 in the central and eastern populations. Population trends have fluctuated over the last several decades. Overall, it appears that the Alaskan and central populations are currently stable, with possible increases in some areas, and the eastern population is declining. Semipalmated Sandpiper is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists bird species that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action.
~ All About Birds webpage

There were fewer semipalmated sandpipers in the flock than the least sandpipers, which makes sense if they are declining. It seems this little guy flew here from the eastern Canadian Arctic. Good luck on the rest of your journey, little one!

As I was oohing and aahing over the sandpipers a herring gull came over, wondering why I wasn’t taking his picture…

herring gull

As we continued our walk we tried to make a Marco Polo video message of ourselves for Katherine and Finn. We love it when they send us one. 🙂 I hope it came out all right. We want them to remember the beach. It was just over a year ago that they were here!

There was an unusually large group of cormorants gathered on the breakwater. Just a tad closer to me than normal, but not quite close enough to get the “perfect” picture I dream about.

pair of double-crested cormorants

I’m pretty sure the ducks below are mallards.

mallard
mallard looking out to sea

On the way home we saw a large flock of Canada geese resting and preening on logs in Beach Pond, which seems to have a little more water in it from a recent rainstorm. Not sure where the logs came from.

Canada geese in Beach Pond

We drove through the Avery Point campus looking for American oystercatchers that someone spotted a few days ago. Didn’t see any, just a group of crows.

An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, April 20, 1840)

crow walking along a seawall at Avery Point

It was definitely a bird walk!

an apple a day…

8.10.20 ~ Eastern Point

On Monday we tried to beat the humidity and went down to the beach early. Sometimes there’s no beating the humidity this time of year. Even at that early hour we lasted barely half an hour before Tim felt unwell. But before retreating I did see something new. A ring-billed gull had scavenged an apple and was diligently making a meal out of it.

The sun was trying to come out. Hazy, hot and humid before 8 am.

We got in the car, defeated. Turned on the air conditioner and then noticed a small colony of laughing gulls gathered in the parking lot! They’re back!

laughing gull preening

It was back home to the air-conditioning for us…

misty hibiscus palustris

8.4.20 ~ Beach Pond

Before Tropical Storm Isaias arrived on Tuesday, and after filling the car with gas and dropping off our mail-in primary ballots, we went down to the beach and the turtle pond for an early morning walk. We never lost power here, in spite of the high winds, but I see on the news the rest of Connecticut was hit much harder.

swamp rose-mallow and common cattail

Unfortunately the storm didn’t bring much rain here, which we could have used because we’ve had so little this summer. In these pictures you can see that Beach Pond is almost dried up, all that remains are puddles and mud. Normally there would be lots of blue-gray water behind these wildflowers.

swamp rose-mallow and common cattail

My heart always skips a beat when I see the swamp rose-mallows are blooming! They seem to be a perfect shade of pink. When I was little, pink was my favorite color. My parents even let me paint my bedroom walls pink. Blue has replaced it as my favorite color in adulthood, although I think you could call the muted shade on my current living room walls a dusty rose.

purple loosestrife
pickerelweed
swamp rose-mallow (hibiscus palustris)
8.4.20 ~ Eastern Point
rabbit’s-foot clover ?

Down at the beach I noticed these curious tiny puffy pale pink flowers (above) growing between the rocks. And there was a solitary gull (below) letting the waves wash over his feet. You can tell the wind was just starting to pick up from his ruffled feathers.

ring-billed gull

After taking the online Joy of Birdwatching course at The Cornell Lab Bird Academy, I took their suggestion and joined the “Connecticut Birds” Facebook group. It’s a private group with about 6,500 members and you cannot share the beautiful pictures other members submit. What a treasure trove! And the members are so helpful when you need assistance identifying a bird.

non-breeding male or juvenile mallard

Even if you don’t know you need guidance! Back on June 24 I saw a solitary eider swimming in the river and honestly thought it looked like a juvenile loon. But someone in the group suggested it was a female common eider and that she had never seen one before! I looked it up and agree with her identification. At first I thought this bird was another common eider but now I’m going with a non-breeding male, or a juvenile, mallard, unless I get corrected again. 🙂

timelessness and quiet ecstasy

7.14.20 ~ ring-billed gull cooling his feet at Eastern Point Beach

The humidity lowered just a tad on Tuesday morning so we snuck down to the beach for an early morning walk. The only gull out and about was on the rocks, a ring-billed one with his bright yellow legs. He wanted to be friends and walk along with us.

When we went down on the sand he decided to come, too, and lead the way.

follow me, please
pardon me while I cool off my feet again

Then Tim spotted a butterfly flitting about on the wrack line!

monarch butterfly

When it moved to the sand I tried to get a shot of it with its wings open.

shadow on the sand

Yet there are other windows through which we humans can look out into the world around us, windows through which the mystics and the holy men of the East, and the founders of the great world religions, have gazed as they searched for the meaning and purpose of our life on earth, not only in the wondrous beauty of the world, but also in its darkness and ugliness. And those Masters contemplated the truths that they saw, not with their minds only but with their hearts and souls too. From those revelations came the spiritual essence of the great scripitures, the holy books, and the most beautiful mystic poems and writings. That afternoon, it had been as though an unseen hand had drawn back a curtain and, for the briefest moment, I had seen through such a window. In a flash of “outsight” I had known timelessness and quiet ecstasy, sensed a truth of which mainstream science is merely a small fraction. And I knew that the revelation would be with me for the rest of my life, imperfectly remembered yet always within. A source of strength on which I could draw when life seemed harsh or cruel or desperate.
~ Jane Goodall
(Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey)

nature’s delightful composition
gull tracks
song sparrow having its breakfast

I’d sit on logs like pulpits
listen to the sermon
of sparrows
and find god in Simplicity,
there amongst the dandelion
and thorn

~ Jewel
(A Night Without Armor)

wild carrot (Queen Anne’s lace)

We now have 144 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our town. Our county (New London) has 1,345 confirmed cases. Of those 4 are still in the hospital and 102 have lost their lives. I fret over the figures coming out of North Carolina and Georgia, where my children live. Stay safe and take care…