After a couple of years we finally made it back to this little 6-acre nature preserve, again in the winter. We really must try to get back here in a different season. The property is tucked between houses, a highway and Beebe Cove. Things are very drab this time of year so we took advantage of the new tree identification signs and enjoyed looking more closely at the different kinds of tree bark found in our neck of the woods.
I climbed up on the huge boulder this time and Tim took this picture of me with his cell phone. Last time we came he climbed up and I took the picture. You can see those pictures here.
I’ve seen many sassafras saplings over the past couple of years on our walks in the woods. I recognize them from their three differently shaped leaves. I wonder how many full grown trees I’ve walked by, not recognizing them. I was delighted to find myself in a small grove of them here, maybe 20 mature sassafras trees very close to the cove. Note to self: come back in other seasons to see what they look like leafed out in the spring and summer and in fall colors.
On this day it was 36°F/2°C and cloudy with a bit of a north wind. Today it was too cold and wet to go outside, for us anyway, so this morning I did some yoga for the first time in months. It felt so good!
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
The patient is safely home from the hospital and all seems to have gone well and as planned. Tim has a resting pulse now!!! So many thanks to you all for the healing energy, well wishes and prayers. ❤️
A couple of days before the surgery to put in the pacemaker we took a long Sunday walk at Avery Point. It was a gorgeous day, with beach roses blooming!
This song sparrow was singing away, claiming the beach rose shrub for his territory no doubt. We listened to him for quite a while.
Then we moved on to some smaller rosebushes farther down the path…
The lovely flowers embarrass me, They make me regret I am not a Bee — ~ Emily Dickinson (The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #808)
Another song sparrow staking his claim on his bush with the sweetest melody. The adjacent garden no doubt provides plenty of buggy delights for his dining pleasure.
We’re planning to try a post-surgery walk here again on this coming Sunday, a week after this one. This was also the first place we took a walk after Tim’s heart attack and by-pass surgery in 2007. It’s so hard to believe that was almost 15 years ago!
Finally Connecticut’s daily covid positivity rate started to go back down this week, even if ever so slightly. It had been creeping up for weeks. Let’s hope the downward trend continues.
For May Day weekend we decided to visit the historic water-powered Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill, which is only open on Saturdays in the spring and fall. Earth’s energy has shifted again as this hemisphere begins traveling closer to the sun in the brighter half of the year. All the mill’s windows and doors were wide open so it felt pretty safe (covid-wise) to go inside and see what the process of sawing wood was like in the late 1800s.
The finely cast and machined 19th century model is about four inches wide and has an operating gate and rotating runner. ~ Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill website
After watching the saw operating for a minute we went outside, down some huge stone steps and into the lower level to see the turbine in action.
And then we went back upstairs to see more of the sawing.
It was quite loud and the whole building vibrated while the saw was operating.
My father, when he was still alive, had visited this place after it was restored and opened to the public in 1975. He often said he wanted to take me to see it some day. Sadly, that never happened, but he was very much on my mind as we looked around and listened to the operators tell us about its history and how it worked.
After our trip back through time we decided to take a walk around Sawmill Pond and see what visual treats the brightness of spring had to offer.
And then, for me, a new life bird! I heard it singing and looked up into the nearest tree and there it was! What a nice surprise, the last sort of thing I was expecting to find on this day. 🙂
Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina: Widespread common migratory breeder mid-April to November; rare and local in winter; in areas with short grass and trees, residential neighborhoods, parks, open upland forest. ~ Frank Gallo (Birding in Connecticut)
Thank you, little chipping sparrow, for singing so sweetly that I couldn’t miss seeing you!
In our area the spring equinox comes close to the traditional weekend of the maple sugarhouse open houses, fun places to visit to celebrate spring and see how maple syrup is made. Sadly though, probably due to climate change, the sap stopped running and the last boil of the season happened on Friday, two days before we got to Goshen Hill Maples. The friendly couple running this one, though, had a fire going and boiled water to illustrate the process to visitors.
It seems the days of tapping a tree and hanging a bucket under the spout to collect the sap are gone by. These days tubes bring the sap to the holding tanks and then to the evaporator. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to yield 1 gallon of syrup. One tree will produce about 10 to 20 gallons of sap, or a quart to a half gallon of syrup.
We bought two quarts of their maple syrup which should last us for a year. 🙂 I have a salmon recipe that uses maple syrup in the marinade which we have at least once a week. Our days of eating pancakes or waffles with maple syrup are long gone, but we have many fond memories of the deliciously sweet weekend breakfasts.
We are lucky in Groton to have a long boardwalk alongside the Poquonnock River, squeezing in a bit of nature between industrial parks, shopping centers, a small airport and the railroad tracks and bridge. The flatness of the walkway is not good for Tim’s back, which does much better on uneven terrain, but there are a few well placed benches along the way where he can sit and readjust his muscles enough times to make it a doable walk. We were wearing our winter coats this day and most of the birds and berries we saw were nestled in the reeds and trees. No waterbirds on the river, except for an occasional gull touching down for a few moments. And one amazing flyby of Canada geese high in the sky.
We avoided this walk during the pandemic because there wouldn’t be enough room to stay six feet away when passing other walkers. But since we both have had our booster shots we felt safe enough to take a chance. One jogger passed by us twice, on his way out and back. We also passed an elderly man walking along, talking to himself.
I would love to live Like a river flows, Carried by the surprise Of its own unfolding. ~ John O’Donohue (Conamara Blues: Poems)
So far as our noblest hardwood forests are concerned, the animals, especially squirrels and jays, are our greatest and almost only benefactors. It is to them that we owe this gift. It is not in vain that the squirrels live in or about every forest tree, or hollow log, and every wall and heap of stones. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Journal, October 31, 1860)
The wild cherries ripen, black and fat, Paradisal fruits that taste of no man’s sweat.
Reach up, pull down the laden branch, and eat; When you have learned their bitterness, they taste sweet.
For our walk on Wednesday we went to Wilcox Park to enjoy another nice weather day. It was cloudy but not humid yet — yay! (And no poison ivy!)
“The people shall have a park.” So saying, in 1898 Harriet Wilcox purchased and donated to the Memorial and Library association the seven acre Rowse Babcock estate in the heart of Westerly’s business district. Established as a memorial to her husband Stephen Wilcox, the moving force behind the building of the library, the park was expanded through several smaller additions until 1905. At this time, the purchase of the adjacent nine acre Brown estate essentially fixed the park’s boundaries as we know them today. … Wilcox Park features a beautiful landscape defined by an open meadow area with surrounding trees, a fish pond, monuments and perennial gardens. ~ Wilcox Park website
This white oak, above and below, is the oldest tree in Wilcox Park. The second picture is taken from the top of a hill. We climbed many granite steps to get to the top of the hill on the steep side, and then followed a path down the more sloping other side.
This solitary little pink water lily caught my eye from a distance. When we got close to the pond to take its picture we were subjected to a disturbing tirade from a windbag pontificating against masks and vaccines. Talk about shattering a peaceful scene. Ignoring the know-it-all, we quickly moved on to the other end of the park.
I don’t think we were the only ones who had fled the scene. There were lots more people strolling around near the lovely gardens where we ended up.
On the way home from the park we could see an osprey sitting in a nest on the osprey platform in the marsh in Paffard Woods, a preserve of the Avalonia Land Conservancy. By the time we pulled safely off the road it had flown away but we waited a while and then the osprey came back. My camera’s poor zoom lens was maxed out and overworked again!
In the last picture it looks to me like it’s trying to decide if another stick with moss on it is needed to finish off the project. A much more pleasant ending to our outing.
Finally a spring day found us both feeling well and free of appointments. Off to explore the gardens at Eolia, the elegant summer mansion at Harkness Memorial State Park. So many birds and greenery to delight the senses. I took more pictures than usual and will probably make three posts out of our visit. 🙂 First, the cutting garden. Not too many flowers yet but plenty of birds and squirrels and even a bunny, who was too quick to be photographed.
His black cap gives him a jaunty look, for which we humans have learned to tilt our caps, in envy. When he is not singing, he is listening. Neither have I ever seen him with his eyes closed. Though he may be looking at nothing more than a cloud it brings to his mind several dozen new remarks. From one branch to another, or across the path, he dazzles with flight. ~ Mary Oliver (Catbird)
I was very excited to spot this mockingbird. I had taken a picture of one back in 2011 but didn’t know what it was. Not too long ago I was going through old pictures and decided to post that old picture on the “What’s This Bird?” Facebook group and they identified it for me. I was pleasantly surprised to correctly identify this one when I saw it, but I did check with the group to make sure. (I’ve been known to get my shorebirds wrong…)
I spent quite a bit of time lingering under this enchanting tree. The birds seemed very fond of it, too, singing away in the upper branches. Peeking out I could see Long Island Sound in the distance. A perfect place to curl up with a good book and, just as I was thinking that, a woman showed up with a book, looking for a place to read where she couldn’t hear the lawnmower. It wasn’t until she mentioned it that I noticed the noise droning away in the background. The lawns of the grounds of this old mansion property are vast and must require a lot of maintenance! Anyhow, I hope she was able to get some peaceful reading in, listening to all the birds.
As we left that wonderful tree Tim spotted three squirrels chasing each other in another tree. They were so cute!
Pretty doves, so blithely ranging Up and down the street; Glossy throats all bright hues changing, Little scarlet feet! ~ Harriet McEwen Kimball (The Doves)
I will try to make my next posts about the west, box and rock gardens. We didn’t even get to the east garden and the orchard! Another time…
Yesterday we took an amazing walk at the arboretum! A long one, for an hour and a half. We concentrated on the wildflower garden and the bog, both bubbling with the delightful signs of springtime.
The person who practices this exercise of concentration sees the universe with new eyes, as if he were seeing it for the first and the last time. In his enjoyment of the present, he discovers the splendor and mystery of existence and of the world’s emergence; at the same time, he achieves serenity by experiencing how relative are the things which provoke anxiety and worry. ~ Pierre Hadot (What is Ancient Philosophy?)
Edgerton & Stengel Memorial Wildflower Garden
Can words describe the fragrance of the very breath of spring — that delicious commingling of the perfume of arbutus, the odor of pines, and the snow-soaked soil just warming into life? ~ Neltje Blanchan (Wild Flowers: An Aid to Knowledge of Our Wild Flowers & Their Insect Visitors)
Glenn Dreyer Bog
In the light shed by the best science and scientists, everything is fascinating, and the more so the more that is known of its reality. To science, not even the bark of a tree or a drop of pond water is dull or a handful of dirt banal. They all arouse awe and wonder. ~ Jane Jacobs (Dark Age Ahead)