to the marsh, up the lighthouse steps

2.19.24 ~ Jekyll Island
great blue heron

Some pictures from the rest of our one sunny day… After leaving Driftwood Beach we stopped at an observation deck looking over one of Jekyll Island’s marshes. Lucky for me, I found another life bird. 🙂

Little Blue Heron, #84

A small, dark heron arrayed in moody blues and purples, the Little Blue Heron is a common but inconspicuous resident of marshes and estuaries in the Southeast. They stalk shallow waters for small fish and amphibians, adopting a quiet, methodical approach that can make these gorgeous herons surprisingly easy to overlook at first glance. Little Blue Herons build stick nests in trees alongside other colonial waterbirds. In the U.S., their populations have been in a gradual decline since the mid-twentieth century.
~ All About Birds website

juvenile little blue heron

Eventually we wound up on St. Simons Island for a late lunch and a visit to St. Simons Light.

The Lighthouse and Keeper’s Dwelling were built in 1872 to replace the original lighthouse built in 1810 by James Gould of Massachusetts, the first lighthouse keeper. The original lighthouse was destroyed by Confederate forces in 1861 to prevent the beacon’s use by Federal troops during the Civil War. The Lighthouse is one of only five surviving light towers in Georgia. The Lighthouse still serves as an active aid to navigation for ships entering St. Simons Sound, casting its beam as far as 23 miles to sea. Visitors may climb the 129 steps to the top to experience spectacular, panoramic views of the coast including Jekyll Island, the mainland (Brunswick), and the south end of St. Simons Island. The Keeper’s Dwelling is a two-story Victorian structure that was the home of lighthouse keepers from 1872 until the 1950s. Today it houses the Lighthouse Museum, and includes interactive exhibits, rare artifacts, and period rooms that reveal the history of St. Simons Island and the life of a lighthouse keeper.
~ Golden Isles website

St. Simons Lighthouse Museum
Coastal Georgia Historical Society
image credit: Wikipedia

All four of us climbed up the 129 steps, stopping at each landing to catch our breath and take pictures out the windows. I think it worked out in such a way that there was one window facing in each of the four directions. There was a sign on the wall of each landing and window, indicating the number of step remaining to climb.

The view was amazing but Tim complained of vertigo so he didn’t get to walk around the balcony up top.

waxing gibbous moon

When we got back down we toured the keeper’s quarters…

kitchen
parents’ room
children’s room
parlor

And then it was back to the vacation cottage for one last evening of conversation before we were to leave the next morning. It was a very long, wonderful day!

wildlife in the rain

White Ibis, #83

Waking up on our first morning in Georgia I looked out our vacation cottage window and spotted another life bird! It was raining but Tim got these pictures standing on the covered porch. Exciting! After breakfast, Nate & Shea picked us up and off we headed for Jekyll Island. I didn’t want to use my camera in the rain so we took a quick peek at Driftwood Beach and decided to return in a couple of days when the rain would stop.

White Ibises gather in groups in shallow wetlands and estuaries in the southeastern United States. At each step, their bright red legs move through the water and their curved red bill probes the muddy surface below. As adults, these striking wading birds are all white save for their black wingtips, but watch out for young birds that are brown above and white below. White Ibises nest in colonies in trees and shrubs along the water’s edge, changing locations nearly every year.
~ All About Birds website

Then we headed for Horton Pond where there was a covered observation deck, so I could use my camera. You can see all the raindrops hitting the water.

alligator
big turtle
alligator
my family said I should caption this “the standoff”
black-crowned night-heron hiding from the rain

As we were driving along to our next stop, Nate spotted an armadillo on the side of the road. He stopped so I could get a picture. Tim held an umbrella over me and the camera and I got quite a few shots.

nine-banded armadillo

After that bit of excitement we headed for the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, Georgia’s only sea turtle education and rehabilitation facility. Tim has been a big sea turtle fan since childhood and it was very interesting learning how they’re helping sea turtles injured and traumatized by human activity. One turtle that captivated me had some weights attached to its shell because it had a spinal injury and the weights helped it to stay balanced while it was swimming. I didn’t get any pictures in there but it was indoors and out of the rain.

In the evening we traveled down to Jacksonville, Florida to visit The Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary, which was all outdoors and it was raining non-stop. Their mission is “to provide a safe, loving, forever home for endangered big cats, and to educate the public about their plight in the wild and captivity.” I left my precious camera in the car so it wouldn’t get wet, but got a few pictures with my cell phone.

one of the caregivers with his small cat co-pilot
they were keeping nice and dry
Rosa

I caught up with Tim who had found a dry bench under a pavilion to sit for a while. He had been watching a female lion named Rosa and told me that from the way she was acting he thought she had a migraine. My first thought was that animals don’t get migraines but then again, how would we know? They have other diseases similar to ours. Tim certainly has plenty of experience observing someone (me) suffering from a migraine.

pretty sure this is one of the Siberian tigers

After about an hour of us wandering around, the caregivers began feeding the big cats, explaining that they hunt at night in the wild and so they are fed at night here. Each cat had its own method of consuming the food offered, chicken and beef. We were told a bit about each of them, what situations they came from and what their personalities were like. While it was sad to see these wild felines behind fences we appreciated this was the best life they could be having after suffering from the ignorance and cruelty inflicted on them by some thoughtless people.

We returned to our cottage, soaked and tired from a very long rainy day! But grateful for all wildlife we were able to see.

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.”

woodland treasures

8.15.22 ~ Beebe Pond Park

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.

hiding in plain sight
walking over roots and around boulders to get to the pond
great blue heron way across the pond
tiny flower with orbs
Beebe Pond during severe drought
water lilies carpeting the low water level
buzzy
no standing room
a giant
(there’s a little chipmunk sitting on the rotting wood under the erratic)
hiding under the giant
as far as the eye can see, an endlessly rocky trail
the space between
impaled
marcescence
marching to the beat of a different drummer
the lofty oak

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!

snowy egrets

8.5.22 ~ Beach Pond

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.

moderate drought at the pond

7.30.22 ~ Beach Pond

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.

snowy egret
snowy egret
greater yellowlegs
great blue heron

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, #73 (with mallards)

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.

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%.

to stand by these shores

6.15.22 ~ great blue heron at Avery Pond

Assorted sightings from an early summer, sunny, beach walk… Enjoy!

path to the Eastern Point estuary beach
double-crested cormorants in the estuary
cultivated rose on the fence
song sparrow on sign
entrance to Eastern Point Beach
common grackle (?) with missing tail (?)
sailing way offshore
Avery Point, view across the water from Eastern Point
top of Avery Point Light seen over the hill

For some strange reason we didn’t see any gulls…


Good it is to stand by these shores
How beautiful life can seem!
Hear; what joy from birds’ throats pours,
see, how the grass verdant gleams!

Bees are humming, butterflies shimmering
lark-song pierces through the clouds,
and from bowls with nectar brimming
we drink our fill of summer flowers.

~ Gunnar Wennerberg
(The Magic of Fjords)


Then, two days later, in hazy conditions…

6.17.22 ~ female brown-headed cowbird near the fence
killdeer standing on one leg at Beach Pond
I couldn’t decide which killdeer picture I liked best…

Connecticut’s positivity rate dipped down to 7.6% but now it’s creeping back up again, 8.1% on Friday. Sigh…

a living museum

2.11.22 ~ Alewife Cove Nature Walk
Ocean Beach, New London, Connecticut

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.

European starling

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.

song sparrow
Alewife Cove and Long Island Sound
great blue heron
Alewife Cove
looking west across Alewife Cove to the walkway to Waterford Beach Park

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.

praying mantis egg case

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)

praying mantis egg case
driftwood caught in the brush
driftwood on the sand ~ maybe part of a tree trunk?
cat hanging out at the beach pavilion

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…