On this twenty-first of June, the hinge day of the seasons, the yearly tide of light reaches its flood. Tomorrow, it will begin the long rollback to the dark days of December. … And so this longest day in the year comes to an end with silver mist and low-lying land and the smell of the sea. Twilight here is doubly impressive for we are face to face with twin mysteries — the mystery of the sea and the mystery of the night. We, as diurnal creatures of the land, are looking into foreign realms, into worlds other than our own, into the mysterious dark and the mysterious depths. ~ Edwin Way Teale (Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)
Only about 20 miles east of us the sea changes from the gentler waters of Long Island Sound to the open Atlantic Ocean with its bigger waves.
One last walk on the dunes and beach at Napatree Point…
It was a very hazy day, the smoke particles in the air came all the way from the wildfires in Alberta, Canada. Sometimes the camera captured some blue in the sky and others times the sky came out very gray.
We heard this male yellow warbler sweetly singing before we finally spotted him flitting around the thickets on the dune, in the same area we saw a female back in September. It’s amazing to think that this little songbird spent the winter in Central America and has arrived here to breed.
As we were walking along a robin came wandering down the dune path towards us. He would take a few steps, pause, look around, and then take a few more. We stood still and he kept coming closer, and closer and closer. After he checked us out, he turned around and started retracing his steps in the same manner. Curious little fellow.
When we got back to the parking lot these two herring gulls were having a spirited encounter. The one on the right kept making a long call and the one on the left kept jumping down into the water and bringing up globs of seaweed. The first one ignored the seaweed and kept repeating his long call.
Salt marshes have a long memory. Humans have a short one. Like sponges, salt marshes hold onto things. But for us, it’s out of sight, out of mind. ~ Tim Traver (Sippewissett: Or, Life on a Salt Marsh)
Many years ago, my 7th grade class traveled for an hour-long ride to a field trip (48 miles away) on Barn Island on the Connecticut shoreline. Little did I know I would one day move down here to live in a neighboring town. It wasn’t until February of 2019, though, when my friend Janet suggested we take a winter walk here, that I got around to visiting it again. See: winter in the marsh. I took Tim there during the pandemic in December of 2020 when we were looking for isolated places to walk: See: reflections. So we decided to visit one last time before the big move. There is a very long path that crosses the marsh.
It was low tide and the water level in the tidal creeks was lower than it was on my other visits. I noticed a lot of clams and mussels in the exposed mud and clinging to the creek banks. The only waterbird we saw was a mallard but we encountered a lot of people and dogs, which was surprising mid-week. The woods beckoned from the other end of the path. Then we retraced our steps.
Barn Island is the largest and single most ecologically diverse coastal Wildlife Management Area in Connecticut. With over 60 years of continuous wetland research at this site, Barn Island provides a rare window into long-term marsh development both before and after restoration efforts. Its 1,024 acres are marked by centuries of cultural and biological history, once a vital resource for early colonial settlers and Native Americans and now for scientists and outdoorsmen. Its diverse habitats support rare plants and animals which add to its rich ecological resource base. Barn Island’s sprawling landscape sustains a wide variety of ecosystems and recreational activities; it consists of salt and brackish marshes, one of the state’s largest coastal forests, hilly uplands, intertidal flats, sandy beach, and a rare sea-level fen. ~ Long Island Sound Study website
The marsh is a microcosm of the world. With its peat meadows, meandering tidal creeks, microbes and mud, at the living, breathing edge of continent and ocean, it seems that life must have started here. Every microcomponent contributes to the whole. Discovering how this system works was a biogeochemical pursuit that took years and is ongoing. ~ Tim Traver (Sippewissett: Or, Life on a Salt Marsh)
In the above picture, looking south from the path, dock pilings can be seen in the distance. There is a boat landing there, on Little Narragansett Bay. We decided to drive down there and get a picture of the salt marsh from the dock. A solitary herring gull was quietly sunning himself on the dock when we arrived. He stayed put the whole time I was there.
The next picture is looking north to the salt marsh (between the woodlands) from the dock on Little Narragansett Bay. There are some people walking along the path that crosses the marsh, where we had taken our walk and had taken pictures. I zoomed in on them in the second picture, as much as possible.
On the way home we spotted two ospreys above a much smaller marsh near Paffard Woods, a preserve of the Avalonia Land Conservancy. We pulled over on the very busy road and tried my luck with the zoom lens. Unfortunately it was a very windy day and the car was shaking a lot.
We stopped again on the way home to pick up a cod loin for dinner and wondered what kind of fish we will find plentiful in North Carolina. Also, living by the sea it is breezy and windy here more often than it is calm. I started wondering what the wind will be like in our new inland home. And then we got back to our sorting and packing…
How very strange to go through December, January and February without a single nor’easter! And to finally get one in March. Who knows? This may be the last one I had a chance to anticipate before the move. I’ve always enjoyed the drama and excitement these storms bring with them.
A Nor’easter is a storm along the East Coast of North America, so called because the winds over the coastal area are typically from the northeast. These storms may occur at any time of year but are most frequent and most violent between September and April. … Nor’easters usually develop in the latitudes between Georgia and New Jersey, within 100 miles east or west of the East Coast. These storms progress generally northeastward and typically attain maximum intensity near New England and the Maritime Provinces of Canada. They nearly always bring precipitation in the form of heavy rain or snow, as well as winds of gale force, rough seas, and, occasionally, coastal flooding to the affected regions. ~ National Weather Service website
We took a nice long walk at the nature center the day before this nor’easter arrived. So delighted to see mama and papa goose swimming around the pond together. We first saw mama sitting on her island nest on the last day of March last spring. We kept checking back and got to see her little goslings exploring the world near the end of April. Maybe we’ll get to do it again this year.
Our ancestors spoke to storms with magical words, prayed to them, cursed them, and danced for them, dancing to the very edge of what is alien and powerful — the cold power of ocean currents, chaotic winds beyond control and understanding. We may have lost the dances, but we carry with us a need to approach the power of the universe, if only to touch it and race away. ~ Kathleen Dean Moore (Holdfast: At Home in the Natural World)
But, as it turned out, there wasn’t much to get excited about this time — for us. It started raining Monday afternoon and rained and rained. The wind blew and blew. Tuesday evening there were a few snowflakes in the mix but nothing to stick. We didn’t even get the coating to 3 inches of snow predicted for the coastline here. But I see things are much different inland…
Every once in a while a hurricane churning away out in the Atlantic sends some big waves as far as Napatree Point, so we went there to see what Hurricane Earl might be sending our way. The waves weren’t so big after all, about 3′ according to a surfing website. (In 2020 Hurricane Teddy sent 6.5′ waves!) But we still had a good time at this wonderful beach on Saturday, enjoying the September sunshine and sea air.
After walking part way down the beach on the Atlantic side of the Napatree Point peninsula, we crossed over the dune on the indicated path to enjoy beach roses and the views. Rhode Island is still in an extreme drought. Ours is still severe, in spite of the recent rains.
Tim spotted a bird on one of the ropes marking off the path. A new life bird for me!
Yellow Warbler Setophaga petechia: Common widespread migratory breeder April to September in brushy thickets of river-edge forest, wetland edges, moist power-line cut segments, and open woodland. ~ Frank Gallo (Birding in Connecticut)
These pictures were taken with the zoom lens and were the best I could do at a distance. The warbler did seem to love flitting about on the brushy beach rose thickets.
North America has more than 50 species of warblers, but few combine brilliant color and easy viewing quite like the Yellow Warbler. In summer, the buttery yellow males sing their sweet whistled song from willows, wet thickets, and roadsides across almost all of North America. The females and immatures aren’t as bright, and lack the male’s rich chestnut streaking, but their overall warm yellow tones, unmarked faces, and prominent black eyes help pick them out. ~ All About Birds webpage
The beach on the bay side of the dune is a little different from the one on the ocean side. Little Narragansett Bay is a small estuary and serves as a harbor for the village of Watch Hill.
We walked for over an hour and felt very refreshed. There is nothing quite like the sounds of crickets and of waves crashing, the smells of salt air and beach roses, the sighting of a new bird and the feel of sunlight warming the skin!
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)
What we overlook is that underneath the ground of our beliefs, opinions, and concepts is a boundless sea of uncertainty. The concepts we cling to are like tiny boats tossed about in the middle of a vast ocean. We stand on our beliefs and ideas thinking they’re solid, but in fact, they (and we) are on shifting seas. Any ideas or beliefs we hold in our minds are necessarily set against other ideas and beliefs. Thus we cannot help but experience doubt. ~ Steve Hagen (Buddhism: Plain & Simple)
You do not ask a tame seagull why it needs to disappear from time to time toward the open sea. It goes, that’s all, and it is as simple as a ray of sunshine, as normal as the blue of the sky. ~ Bernard Moitessier (The Long Way)
Now that our son and daughter-in-law have returned home to Georgia our house is so very quiet… Yesterday for lunch we went to the beach. The weather was cool and damp and there were very few people there. I wasn’t the only one wearing a sweatshirt. At first we didn’t see our friendly gull.
Disappointed that we hadn’t seen our friend, we started to walk back to our car and then we saw him, standing on the sidewalk, almost as if he was waiting for us. He was quiet – no vocalizations this day.
So I got down on the grass and talked to him for a while. He sat down and allowed me to get closer than ever before. This time I had my camera!
After getting the picture above I pressed my luck and got the portrait at the top of this post. What a thrill! Somehow he knows we can be trusted. But again, he seems old and tired. I wonder if we will ever see him standing on one of the white posts this summer. Maybe those days are over. We’ll see…