scarlet tanager

5.12.20 ~ Avery Tract, Waterford, Connecticut

While video chatting with our son and daughter-in-law they mentioned an open space property where they used to love hiking when they lived up here. (They live in Georgia now.) So we set about finding Avery Tract the next day. The highlight of our adventure was spotting this scarlet tanager!

5.12.20 ~ an unusual trailhead

If you squint you can see “NATURE SANCTUARY” written into the cement on the landing. Our only clue that we found the property.

5.12.20 ~ Tim spotted what little was left of this decaying tree
5.12.20 ~ an inviting path

The trail quickly started going downhill towards the Thames River and the New England Central Railroad tracks.

5.12.20 ~ looking north
5.12.20 ~ looking south towards the Gold Star Memorial Bridge

We turned around and headed back up the hill, trying to get some pictures of the scarlet tanager who was flying from treetop to treetop. He was very elusive! All taken with the telephoto lens.

The scarlet tanager sighting was definitely the most exciting part of my day!

5.12.20 ~ spring green in the woods
5.12.20 ~ pincushion moss?
5.12.20 ~ pincushion moss?

Since I am getting frustrated trying to identify mosses online I just ordered a field guide book to mosses, liverworts, and hornworts. And since I have no idea what liverworts and hornworts are it looks like I have a lot to learn.

5.12.20 ~ little sapling

Another hour long walk. Lots of huffing and puffing coming back up the hill but it was all worth the effort. Until next time…

eastern towhee

5.7.20 ~ Avery Farm Nature Preserve
Ledyard & Groton, Connecticut

Back in April we had a great walk in the Candlewood Ridge open space property which led to a sand plain with a glacial erratic on top of a ridge in the distance. On May 7th we decided to explore the property north of it, Avery Farm Nature Preserve, and followed a trail to get to the elevation from the opposite direction.

5.7.20 ~ welcome!

This historic 305-acre farm spans the border of Ledyard and Groton in a scenic rural setting. It is contiguous to the 91 acre Candlewood Ridge property, Groton and Ledyard town-owned open spaces, and to the Town of Groton conservation easement on a 7-acre former cranberry bog. Combined, over 430 acres of habitat area are available for wildlife and watershed protection.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

Avery Farm is part of a critical large block of diverse wildlife habitats highlighted on the State of CT Natural Diversity Database maps: grasslands, hedgerows, early successional forest, oak-hemlock-hickory upland forest, Atlantic white cedar swamp, a habitat managed power utility corridor, forested peatlands, kettle type bogs, poor fens, multiple seeps, several Tier I vernal pools, Ed Lamb Brook, Haley Brook, and the southern portion of a 38 acre marsh.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

The walk through the woods was lovely as we ascended gradually. I took more pictures on the way to the overlook than I did on the return part of the loop trail, which went through a low wetland.

5.7.20 ~ Tim with a glacial erratic

What on earth is that noise? Who goes there?

5.7.20 ~ eastern towhee

A strikingly marked, oversized sparrow of the East, feathered in bold black and warm reddish-browns – if you can get a clear look at it. Eastern Towhees are birds of the undergrowth, where their rummaging makes far more noise than you would expect for their size. Their chewink calls let you know how common they are, but many of your sightings end up mere glimpses through tangles of little stems.
~ All About Birds website

As we were walking along we heard a lot of rustling a few feet off the path and I tried to get a picture of the bird making the commotion. The “best” one is above. At home I used my new bird identification app and learned it was an eastern towhee. Had to laugh when I read the description above. Our sighting was definitely a string of brief glimpses and the rummaging was quite loud!

5.7.20 ~ We finally reach the large glacial erratic overlooking the sand plain!
We approached from behind it.
5.7.20 ~ we did not sit in the chairs, keeping COVID-19 in mind
5.7.20 ~ view from the overlook across the sand plain,
down to where we were standing the month before
5.7.20 ~ taken with telephoto lens

Then we climbed down the steep trail to the sand plain and returned by the lower wetland trail. On that portion of our walk we encountered four people coming from the other direction. We always got six feet off the trail and let them pass, wondering if they would have done the same for us if we hadn’t done it first. One man was operating a drone which we couldn’t see but could hear buzzing nearby. Another man was jogging. And two women were looking for a waterfall. (I think they may have mistaken this property for Sheep Farm.)

5.7.20 ~ moss and lichen
5.7.20 ~ wintergreen

The walk lasted about an hour and a quarter, our longest one yet. ♡

once more

4.25.20 ~ fledgling

Once more, my now bewildered Dove
Bestirs her puzzled wings.
Once more, her mistress, on the deep
Her troubled question flings —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #65)

Six days after the last mourning dove photo shoot I came downstairs to find that my dove had brought her fledgling here for a visit. The walk we were about to take was postponed for a few minutes so I could take some baby pictures.

And there my little doves did sit,
With feathers softly brown,
And glittering eyes that showed their right
To general Nature’s deep delight.

~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning
(Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Selected Poems)

I couldn’t get the camera to focus well on mama and her little one in the same frame, but I wanted this picture below for size comparison. All the other pictures are of the fledgling.

The blur is mama taking off, ending the delightful visit. Baby soon followed her and we were off for our walk which will be the subject of the next post.

visit from a mourning dove

4.19.20 ~ mourning dove on my balcony

Mourning doves have been visiting me off and on since my mother died twenty-eight years ago. They seem to arrive when I could use a little encouragement. When I used to garden one would often sit near me and watch me as I worked. Once one walked with me all the way from my garden to the swimming pool in our complex. Lately one comes to sit on the balcony almost daily and coos for as long as an hour at a time. I find her company very comforting.

Sunday morning I decided to try to photograph her through the sliding glass doors and was thrilled with the results. She didn’t seem to mind posing. I know they are plain birds, but that’s exactly why I find them so beautiful! I love them the same way I love my gulls.

In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares. The older have learned to ever expect it.
~ Abraham Lincoln
(Letter to Fanny McCullough, December 23, 1862)

When I first read the Lincoln quote six years ago, after my father died, I remember thinking how true it was. When my mother died I was so young it came as a terrible blow and I needed therapy to work through the grief. By the time my father died it was no longer such a shocking experience. I deeply felt the pain of loss, but it wasn’t unexpected.

We now have 36 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our town. There are moments I feel terribly anxious about this. It’s starting to sink in that it may be be many months or even more than a year before it will be safe to visit our grandchildren again. As it stands now, I don’t think I will feel free from danger before there is a vaccine. But we are trying to make the best of it and even find a sense of humor at times.

I find myself wondering how my parents would respond to the coronavirus pandemic. I imagine they would probably be just as blindsided as the rest of humanity. But since Mother Nature sees fit to send me such a sweet comforter as this lovely mourning dove I will stay grateful.

It’s not true that life is one damn thing after another — it’s one damn thing over and over.
~ Edna St. Vincent Millay
(Letter to Arthur Davison Ficke, October 24, 1930)

4.19.20 ~ this might be my favorite pose

The Millay quote has been one of my favorites for a long time. It amuses me and helps me to laugh at the ironic situations I think I find myself in. The coronavirus pandemic feels unprecedented, and perhaps it is in my lifetime, but not at all in the history of the world.

In the trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, the protagonist, Kristin, dies from the Black Death at the end. It’s one thing to read about plague statistics in history books, quite another to experience what it must have been like while reading the words of an excellent storyteller. It comforts me to know others have felt the same fear.

Being a highly sensitive child, whenever I would lament about the sad things happening in the world my father would sigh and advise me, “‘Twas ever thus.” When my mother was dying of cancer and my heart ached for her suffering he would gently remind me that “every creature struggles for life.” He was a naturalist and scientist who taught us compassion for animals and people, but also prepared us for loss. Whenever one of our pets died he would tell us to “remember the good times.” I am so grateful for the lessons he taught me.

4.19.20 ~ showing off her feathers

‘Twas ever thus — from childhood’s hour I’ve seen my fondest hopes decay, I never loved a tree or flower but ’twas the first to fade away.
~ Charles Dickens
(The Old Curiosity Shop)

candlewood pines

4.17.20 ~ Candlewood Ridge, Groton, Connecticut

On Friday we tried the new-to-us park again and this time there was noone in sight at the trailhead – yay! This property was acquired in 2013. After crossing a little bridge over a brook we climbed up to Candlewood Ridge and enjoyed looking up and down the ravine on the other side. We followed the trails for over an hour. Tim’s legs and back did much better and I’m wondering if walking on the earth is better for him than walking on hard surfaces like pavement and concrete.

4.17.20 ~ crossing a stream, skunk cabbage

Candlewood Ridge is part of a critical large block of diverse wildlife habitats highlighted on the State of CT Natural Diversity Database maps: early successional forest, oak-hemlock-hickory upland forest, native shrubby and grassy habitat, forested peatlands, kettle type bogs, tussock sedge, poor fens, multiple seeps, several Tier I vernal pools, and streams.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

4.17.20 ~ almost to the top of the ridge
4.17.20 ~ a very tall bare tree trunk
4.17.20 ~ taken with telephoto lens, a huge boulder across the ravine

The songs of birds filled the air! A chickadee scolded us from a branch so close I could have reached out and touched it. But he flew off before I could lift the camera…

4.17.20 ~ the glacial erratics found here were fewer and more
widely spaced than the ones we saw in Ledyard’s Glacial Park

We followed the trail north along the top of the ridge and then it slowly went downhill until we reached a bridge across another stream. From studying the map it looks like the two unnamed streams join and then eventually merge with Haley Brook.

4.17.20 ~ second bridge on the trail
4.17.20 ~ a squirrel nest
4.17.20 ~ the little stream
4.17.20 ~ vernal pool?

All the green under the water (above) looked to me like drowning princess pines.

4.17.20 ~ taken with telephoto lens across the sand plain
4.17.20 ~ the sand plain with glacial erratic in the distance

We turned around here without crossing the plain and climbing that ridge!

4.17.20 ~ might these be the candlewood pines
(pitch pines) the ridge is named for?
4.17.20 ~ pussy willows
4.17.20 ~ one tree favors moss, the other lichens

Crossing the stream on the return trip, a tiny bright spot of yellow-orange caught my eye. What is it??? I used the telephoto lens to get a picture and tried to identify it when I got home. Hope I got it right. A mushroom.

4.17.20 ~ calostoma cinnabarinum, telephoto lens
(stalked puffball-in-aspic or gelatinous stalked-puffball)

Just before crossing the second stream on the return walk, a garter snake slithered across the path right in front of me. Startled, I then spotted him trying to hide in the leaves. Don’t think I’ve seen a garter snake since I was a child, sunning themselves on the stone walls around the garden.

4.17.20 ~ hiding garter snake

It was a wonderful walk!

4.17.20 ~ beauty in a vernal pool

I go to Nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in tune once more.
~ John Burroughs
(The Gospel of Nature)

you must have walked

3.1.20 ~ Finn, 16 months ~ photo by Larisa

Dear March — Come in —
How glad I am —
I hoped for you before —
Put down your Hat —
You must have walked —
How out of Breath you are —
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest —
Did you leave Nature well —
Oh March, Come right up stairs with me —
I have so much to tell —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1320)

ten years blogging

“Getting Ready for Winter” by Šarūnas Burdulis
American red squirrel descaling and eating hemlock seeds

I found this picture some time ago on Wikimedia Commons and have been saving it for pairing with a poem or a quote but, so far, nothing has turned up to inspire. However, today is my ten year blogging anniversary and the timing seems right. The picture captures the best of my childhood memories in the woods. I used to pretend those tiny hemlock cones were bushes for the landscaping around the little houses I built in my sandbox…

After about a month of doing well on medication for the radiation proctitis I suffered a setback at the end of January, leaving me frustrated and discouraged and tied to the house again. We’re trying something new and hoping things will improve soon. In the meantime I’ve pushed myself to resume my yoga for seniors, which I hadn’t done since last fall when I got so sick. And much to my surprise, I’ve taken up doing jigsaw puzzles! It seems easier than reading these days. Using a different part of my weary brain, no doubt. Watching the birds at my feeder provides hours of entertainment.

Naturally a lot has changed in ten years since I started blogging! I used to spend more time sharing images, lyrics, poetry, and quotes, and I still love a good pairing of words and pictures now and then. Now, my main joys seem to be nature walks and photography and family history research. I do hope I will be able to get back to them in the near future.

descriptions of commonplace things

“October” by Willard Metcalf

Back in March, when I was sorting through the boxes of family stuff, I found the following undated, typewritten account of a lovely October day Tim’s great-grandparents spent together many years ago. Charles Amos Hamilton (1866-1943) wrote it for his wife, Gertrude Mabel Hubbard (1874-1965). They lived in Batavia, New York.

AN OCTOBER DAY

Written for the delectation of my good wife, Gertrude, who delights in reading descriptions of commonplace things, written in rather grandiloquent language.


The poet wrote,
“What is so rare as a day in June,
Then, if ever, come perfect days.”

Without questioning the judgment or belittling the taste of the writer of this couplet, I make the assertion that, with equal or even greater veracity, it might have been written with the substitution of “October” for “June.” For, in old October, Nature gives us examples of a brilliance of coloring, and a tang of ozone, which June, for meteorological reasons, cannot duplicate.

I arise on a bright October morning and raise the shades of my bedroom window. What a riot of all the hues of the rainbow meet my eyes. From the pale green of maple leaves not yet touched by autumn’s frosty fingers, up through the entire gamut of the spectrum, to the vivid scarlet of maples of a different species. As the leaves rustle in the light breeze, they seem to be whispering “Goodbye” to their companions of the departed summer. The dark green limbs of the evergreens nearer the house, stand out like sentinels, bravely daring the blasts of the coming winter. The sunlight lies in little pools in the verdancy of the lawn, dotted here and there by vagrant leaves which have thus early abandoned the protection of their parent branch. The clump of spireas, which last June resembled a snow-bank, now has the appearance of a cluster of shrubs, which in the serene consciousness of a duty well done, are now nestling quietly and unobtrusively together. A belated hollyhock, and a few sturdy petunias, render an additional dash of color. Glancing from the the rear window, I behold the majestic line of cedars, bowing gently before the breeze, but standing with all the dignity of a line of knights in full armor. The row of sweet alyssum shows the same white purity it has maintained for several months. Two scarlet rose-buds, with youthful optimism, raise their heads fearlessly to the autumnal skies, disregarding the improbability of their ever being able to attain maturity.

Later in the day, we take a drive in our Buick, through the farm lands of the vicinity. The same magnificent coloring marks the foliage everywhere, outdoing the most artistic efforts of the painter’s brush. Huge stacks of golden straw stand beside the farmer’s barns, testifying to the repleteness of the barns with fodder for the stock. We know without inspection, that the cellars are well filled with fruits and vegetables, destined to adorn many a well-filled table, and to furnish apples and pop-corn for groups of merry young people. In the fields, the sheep are quietly nibbling, already comfortably clad in their winter woolens. The cows are lying placidly chewing the rumen of contentment. Everything denotes peace, harmony and plenty. Occasionally, a vagrant leaf flutters down momentarily upon the hood of the car, then, as if disdaining its warmth, flutters away to joining its companions by the roadside.

In the evening, fortified by an excellent dinner, maybe washed down by a flagon of “Old October ale,” we sit by the bright flame of our fireplace, and as we listen to the occasional snap of the apple-tree wood, and watch the sparks seek freedom via the chimney, we feel that “God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world.” Yes, what is so rare as a day in October?

subtle connection

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" by by Margaret Tulloch
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by by Margaret Tulloch

Shakespeare possesses the power of subordinating nature for the purposes of expression, beyond all poets. His imperial muse tosses the creation like a bauble from hand to hand, and uses it to embody any caprice of thought that is uppermost in his mind. The remotest spaces of nature are visited, and the farthest sundered things are brought together, by subtle spiritual connection. We are made aware that magnitude of material things is relative, and all objects shrink and expand to serve the passion of the poet.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Treasury of Thought: Forming an Encyclopædia of Quotation from Ancient & Modern Authors)