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!

solitary boulders, stranded here and there

11.2.22 ~ a trail at Bluff Point State Park & Coastal Reserve

Hello, November! Taking an afternoon walk instead of our usual morning saunter proved to be invigorating — we went on for an hour and a half! There are many side trails at Bluff Point and we took a couple of them, finding some summery greens, a few fall colors and many bare trees, ready for winter. And of course, glacial erratics at every turn.

dried up browned ferns surround a glacial erratic
birch leaf

As we were walking along we were surprised to witness the silent flight of an owl. We did not see or hear it swoop down to catch its prey, but we suddenly heard the moment of capture, a rustling of the dry leaves on the ground, and then saw it fly up and away, soundlessly, carrying its squirrel-sized victim.

dense woodland behind old stone wall
sunlit maple leaves

The entire Connecticut landscape is a gift of the glacier. … Our safe harbors, historic mill sites and early farm economy were made possible by an ice sheet that oozed down from Canada between 25,000 and 15,000 years ago. The ice sheet also gave us fertile lowlands along our large rivers, gracefully curved upland pastures, gravel riffles in trout streams, verdant marshes fronting shoreline villages, a patchwork of stone walls, bricks for colonial buildings and solitary boulders, stranded here and there as if they were hillside shipwrecks. All of these are glacier gifts.
~ Robert Thorson
(“Connecticut’s Glacial Gifts”, Hartford Courant, August 31, 2003)

American wintergreen

We also saw a woodpecker and a nuthatch, but couldn’t get a decent picture of either of them. It was loads of fun navigating all the side trails weaving through the woods, deciding which fork to take several times. It was almost like a maze and we did backtrack a few times when we seemed to be going in the wrong direction.

sassafras leaf
a squirrel for Linda

When we got back to the parking lot a man was feeding a couple of squirrels. I think he must be doing it regularly because the squirrels were hanging out there very close to him. There were a few birds scolding this squirrel, impatient to have at some of those seeds he was sitting on. It was such a pleasure to be deep in the woods on a warm and lovely November afternoon.

sundown for the year

“Last Hour of the Day” by T. C. Steele

In the garden the dry rustle of leaves, stirred by the breeze, has taken the place of the insect music of only a month ago. Most of the crickets are gone. The clock of their little lives has run down, never to be rewound. At sunset, the breeze dies. All sounds are low or short or subdued. This is the sundown of the day and the month. It is sundown for the year as well.
~ Edwin Way Teale
(Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)

a few prosaic days

Besides the Autumn poets sing
A few prosaic days
A little this side of the snow
And that side of the Haze —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #123)

After a few muggy, rainy days it felt wonderful to get out for an autumn walk in good weather. It was only in the 40s Friday so we wore our winter coats and headed for Sheep Farm. I realized we had been here in September 2021 and November 2020 but never in October. Fall is in full swing now here. We started down the yellow trail.

10.28.22 ~ Sheep Farm
glacial erratic viewed from the yellow trail
new trail markers on the trees

There were so many leaves on the trail we made good use of the new trail markers to stay on track. Love walking on dry, crunchy leaves…

leaves, moss and lichen on a glacial erratic
waterfall in Fort Hill Brook
amazing root system

The drought seems to be over (or almost over) judging by the water flowing in the brook. The drought map for Connecticut puts us on the line between “none” and “abnormally dry.” We decided to cross the footbridge over the brook and get another view of the waterfall.

waterfall viewed from other side of the brook
the same root system viewed from the other side of the brook
footbridge and huge tree with its amazing roots

The we turned around, heading up the hill and branching off onto the red trail.

golden yellow and burnt orange
other side of glacial erratic viewed from the red trail
tree with leaves in shades of green, rusty orange and brick red

On our way back to the car we encountered a very large group of mothers and children of all ages. They just kept coming and coming and the air was filled with their happy, excited voices. I wondered if they were all being homeschooled. When we got back to the parking lot we laughed because when we had arrived earlier ours had been the only car parked. Now there were a dozen (we counted!) SUVs surrounding us. Can you tell which car is ours? They sure gave us plenty of elbow room!

walking along a ledge

10.19.22 ~ Sassacus Nature Preserve, Groton, Connecticut

Recently we were driving down a road less traveled (by us) and spotted a sign right next to an industrial business. Sassacus Nature Preserve? The parking lot was shared with the business, and behind a chain link fence were ladders and small dumpsters available to rent. It didn’t seem to be a very natural setting. We thought we saw a path off the parking lot and decided to come back for our next walk.

When we returned we found the trail and ascended to an elevation of about 100 feet and so began our walk across a ledge. On one side of the trail was a tall, long outcrop and on the other a steep slope down to a valley. It was cool looking down onto the tops of trees.

Sassacus (Massachusett: Sassakusu (fierce) (c. 1560 – June 1637) was born near present-day Groton, Connecticut. He was a Pequot sachem, and he became grand sachem after his father, sachem Tatobem was killed in 1632. The Mohegans led by sachem Uncas rebelled against domination by the Pequots. Sassacus and the Pequots were defeated by English colonists along with their Narragansett and Mohegan allies in the Pequot War. Sassacus fled to what he thought was safety among the Iroquois Mohawks in present-day New York, but they murdered him. They sent his head and hands to the Connecticut Colony as a symbolic offering of friendship.
~ Wikipedia

Notice in the picture below how the trail squeezed its way between two glacial erratics. There was no other way around unless we wanted to tumble down the hill to the left.

After about twenty minutes of walking we started to hear water rushing and then maybe five minutes later we could see a stream way down below so I used the zoom lens to get a picture.

At this point we turned around because the path was starting to look even more tricky to navigate. Retracing our steps we found that the sunlight now illuminated some colors deep in the woods.

October, the extravagant sister, has ordered an immense amount of the most gorgeous forest tapestry for her grand reception.
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
(The Seasons)

This large glacial erratic seemed to be precariously balanced…

For the remainder of the walk back I enjoyed finding sunlight on the fallen leaves, mosses and lichens.

Truly it has been said, that to a clear eye the smallest fact is a window through which the Infinite may be seen.
~ Thomas Henry Huxley
(The Major Prose of Thomas Henry Huxley)

a little beech sapling
moss surrounding the base of a tree
in a crevice of the outcrop
sapling at eye level growing out of the outcrop

It was an adventure finding this little nature preserve in the middle of town, surrounded by railroad tracks, streets, houses and a new elementary magnet school. And then coming home to learn about Sassacus and starting to picture his people living in these woods four hundred long years ago.

sunlight before first frost

10.16.22 ~ Harkness Memorial State Park

In our little corner of southern New England the fall colors don’t peak until late October and we don’t expect the first frost before the 22nd. That makes it difficult to give much of an autumn flavor to my Walktober post. But since we never got to the gardens at Harkness Memorial State Park this summer I decided to go with it and contribute a garden walk this year.

This is my third annual Walktober post with Robin over at breezes at dawn. 🍁 If you would like to see my previous Walktober posts please click here. 🌼

When we arrived at the park there was a huge flock of starlings making quite a racket, darting from tree to tree and to the water tower en masse. Tim estimated that there were hundreds of them.

The gardens surrounding the Eolia Mansion still had a summery feel to them with many flowers in full bloom and many buds making plans to blossom before the frost comes.

bug matching the center of the flower
view of Long Island Sound from one of the gardens

I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.
~ Lucy Maud Montgomery
(Anne of Avonlea)

10.16. 22 ~ Historic Jordan Village Green
Waterford, Connecticut

Heading for home, feeling vaguely disappointed about the lack of fall foliage, Tim spotted a bit of bright orange across the intersection as we were waiting at a traffic light. When the light changed we went for it and discovered Jordan Village Green, which belongs to the Waterford Historical Society.

And so we took another walk!

1740 Jordan Schoolhouse
Beebe-Phillips House

Most of the trees still had green leaves but there were enough trees turning to autumn colors to satisfy my cravings that day. 🙂

falling leaves gather
rusting spokes left motionless
an abiding tree

~ Barbara Rodgers
(By the Sea)

Margaret W. Stacy Memorial Barn
Ralph Madara Blacksmith Shop

The buildings were deserted, except for two blacksmiths we found busy at work in their forge. The man above was working on an axe head. They were pleased to show us their tools and creations. We were delighted to find the perfect holiday gift for someone on our list!

How smoothly nature’s vast machine whirs on with all the big and little cogs revolving in their places! Each seed and bird and flower and fly, in its apparently haphazard existence, plays its part in the output of the seasons.
~ Edwin Way Teale
(Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)

a rustic birdhouse on the corner of the schoolhouse
cirrocumulus clouds, forecasting the coming rain

Now that late October is arriving we have much more of this delightful season to enjoy! And a few more walks, too, between the rainy days.

picked out by the sun

10.7.22 ~ Caroline Black Garden, Connecticut College Arboretum

Caroline Black Garden is known as the secret garden of Connecticut College, located on a steep hill between the college and the Thames River. Starting with this gate you follow paths passing through various garden “rooms.” It has four acres of native and exotic ornamental trees and bushes. We enjoyed a morning of exploration.

western red cedar
paths connected the “rooms”

Sit and be quiet. In a while
the red berries, now in shadow,
will be picked out by the sun.

~ Wendell Berry
(This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems)

path leading to a magical pool
Tim pretending to climb a huge glacial erratic
water bubbling out from under this rock ~ a spring perhaps?
Japanese inspired water feature
THIS POOL GIVEN TO
THE CAROLINE BLACK
MEMORIAL GARDEN
BY THE NEW LONDON
HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY
1930
gate leaving pool “room”

The clearing rests in song and shade.
It is a creature made
By old light held in soil and leaf,
By human joy and grief,
By human work,
Fidelity of sight and stroke,
By rain, by water on
The parent stone.

~ Wendell Berry
(This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems)

prickly pear, the only cactus native to Connecticut
bee and goldenrod
another garden gate

What a natural wellspring — cooling and refreshing the years — is the gift of wonder! It removes the dryness from life and keeps our days fresh and expanding.
~ Edwin Way Teale
(Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)

meadow, woods, old orchard

9.30.22 ~ Coogan Farm Nature & Heritage Center

It felt so good getting out for a long walk in the woods on a cool, crisp autumn day! First we enjoyed the meadows at the entrance to Coogan Farm.

milkweed pods
abundant goldenrod blooming everywhere
bee and asters
can you find the bee?
a stump that was growing out of the crack in a huge boulder

Following a path past the Giving Garden we came to the Gallup Orchard Trail, which winds through the woods before arriving at a forgotten orchard that was recently discovered and is being studied and restored.

a wolf tree welcoming us to the Gallup Orchard Trail,
a relic from farms of the past when trees along the edges of open fields
could spread their branches without competition from other trees
leaf, berries and orbs
ducked under a broken tree
marking the end of the woods and entrance to the orchard

Dating back to the original 1654 Gallup homestead and actively farmed by the Greenman brothers during the age of shipbuilding in the 1800s to feed their shipworkers at what is now Mystic Seaport Museum, the orchard contains clues that will help us uncover the history and heritage of the land.
~ Anna Sawin
(“Apples and Pears, Oh My!” ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center blog post, March 9, 2020)

pear on tree
apple on tree
fall color in the distance

The orchard is on a hill. We entered at the top of the hill and when we found our way down to the bottom we found this sign. The bottom entrance is off the Stillman Mansion Trail. We followed that trail back to the parking lot and encountered a cute little song sparrow, who wasn’t singing, only staring at us apprehensively.

song sparrow

Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.
~ F. Scott Fitzgerald
(The Great Gatsby)

American burnweed ~ pilewort (thanks to Eliza for the identification)

I hope we get lots of walks in this autumn! 🍂 🍁 🍂

how to take a walk

9.16.22 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum
waning gibbous moon
bee inspecting a hole in a trumpet vine blossom
blueberry life on the rocks
trumpet vine reaching for the moon
fallen leaf standing in water

We enjoyed a lovely long walk around the pond at the arboretum on Friday. I was in my sweatshirt and enjoying the fresh cool air. The trees are still green for the most part and we wondered what kind of fall color is in store for us in the wake of the drought. There were still some summer tints lingering side by side with hints of autumn hues.

half standing lily pad
pond in moderate drought
upside down

Few men know how to take a walk. The qualifications of a professor are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much. If a man tells me that he has an intense love of nature, I know, of course, that he has none. Good observers have the manners of trees and animals, their patient good sense, and if they add words, ’tis only when words are better than silence.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(The Later Lectures of Ralph Waldo Emerson: 1843-1871)

We also took a side path to the Glenn Dreyer Bog which was illuminated with spots of bright sunshine. The light near the equinoxes is amazing, as I often say.

Glenn Dreyer Bog
Glenn Dreyer Bog

The woods were full of gray catbird calls and we heard them rustling around in the tree branches. Occasionally we spotted one but they were diligently avoiding my camera. This was the summer of the catbird. Not only did we have one singing in our river birch outside our kitchen window, we saw them on almost every walk we took. Back in June, though, they were out in the open and more amenable to being photographed.

gray catbird
gray catbird
gray catbird
small fern and moss

How much of beauty — of color, as well as form — on which our eyes daily rest goes unperceived by us!
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, August 1, 1860)

river birch triplets

Today the humidity is creeping back with higher temperatures but it shouldn’t last for too many days. We plan to go see an outdoor Ibsen play, Peer Gynt, in the park tonight and will bring blankets to keep warm. This was supposed to happen in June but covid got the theater group and they had to postpone. We got our new bivalent booster shots last week but still plan to exercise caution as we try to move forward.