flora by the sea

10.10.22 ~ Cognitive Garden at Avery Point

On Indigenous Peoples’ Day my good friend Janet and I took a long afternoon walk from Eastern Point to Avery Point and back again, passing by Beach Pond both ways. The weather was picture perfect, if a bit on the breezy side.

After admiring the views of Long Island Sound and identifying the various islands and lighthouses we could see on a clear day, we found the “Cognitive Garden” on the Avery Point campus. There was still a lot of interest to see there in the middle of autumn. Textures and colors.

Cognition means to acquire knowledge through the senses, experience, and thought. A cognitive garden encourages learning through these three processes while exposing people to nature. While the benefits of nature extend to all ages, young children learn primarily through their senses and a multitude of studies have demonstrated a correlation between sensory stimulation and brain development.
~ University of Connecticut, Avery Point Campus website

The naturalist is a civilized hunter. He goes goes alone into a field or woodland and closes his mind to everything but that time and place, so that life around him presses in on all the senses and small details grow in significance. He begins the scanning search for which cognition was engineered. His mind becomes unfocused, it focuses on everything, no longer directed toward any ordinary task or social pleasantry.
~ E. O. Wilson
(Biophilia)

black-eyed Susan

I wish I could include the smell of a patch of thyme for you, dear readers. What an amazing scent filled the air!

thyme ~ it smelled wonderful!
a bee enjoying the smell, too

On the way back I was happy to see that Beach Pond was full of water again, although we were still in a moderate drought that day. I suspect Thursday’s torrential rains may have moved us up into the abnormally dry category. No waterbirds around but still some flowers blooming, and others spent.

asters at Beach Pond
cattails with fluff

So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,
and put your lips to the world.
And live
your life.

~ Mary Oliver
(Red Bird: Poems)

the pond is full of water and the breeze was making little ripples
juvenile song sparrow
backside of a lingering swamp rose mallow and orbs
swamp rose mallow bud and orbs

It felt so good sauntering along and catching up with a friend!!!

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! 🍂 🍁 🍂

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!

mourning dove photo shoot

7.6.22 ~ Griswold Point

It was a muggy but very breezy morning so a walk was possible. About half way through I spotted this sweet mourning dove perched on a rock by the Thames River, partially hidden behind some vegetation. She stayed put while I moved around trying to get her best angle.

#2 ~ feathers lift in the stiff breeze
#3 ~ neck feathers, too
#4 ~ there, that’s better
#5 ~ a different perspective
#6 ~ a very patient model
#7 ~ love those pink feet
#8 ~ this might be my favorite shot with a pair of orbs
#9 ~ another photographer position shift
#10 ~ such a friendly bird

I was surprised that she made no motion to leave until I grew tired of taking pictures and turned around to leave. Then she finally flew off. It was a treat seeing a mourning dove by the water because they usually show up on our balcony and in the trees behind our condo. I appreciated the chance to get some pictures of one in a much more natural setting.

as you walk the meadow loop

6.24.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center

A lot had changed in the seven weeks between our visits to the nature center. The trees had leafed out and we could barely see the little mound where Mama Goose had been sitting on her eggs. But on this day the bullfrogs were still populating the pond. After checking out the pond we headed out to the meadow.

We’re squeezing in as many walks as we can before the weather forces us inside. The meadow was lovely with a few well-mown paths to follow through and around it. It was so refreshingly cool that in the shade I wished I hadn’t left my hoodie in the car, but in the sunshine the warmth felt so good on my bare arms. There were lots of birds flitting about, but not too many stayed still long enough for pictures.

eastern bluebird
a small portion of the large meadow
sign surrounded by orbs
birdhouse with some unique “landscaping”
honeysuckle
house sparrow (molting?)
clover blossom and bug

Then we walked back through the woods to the parking lot, and enjoyed the different things the dappled sunlight was highlighting.

ferns in a sunbeam
American robin

But beyond perpetual wonders
and mortals asking why
casting its light upon us all
is the sun’s supreme reply.

~ Gunnar Reiss-Andersen
(The Magic of Fjords)

down by the river

11.17.21 ~ Poquonnock River Walkway

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.

juniper berries
Canada geese

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.

downy woodpecker
downy woodpecker
golden autumn
maple leaves between beech tree trunks

I would love to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding.

~ John O’Donohue
(Conamara Blues: Poems)

tree silhouette reflection in water
under moss covered branch and bankside foliage
reindeer moss and lichens on dying branch
northern mockingbird with orbs
northern mockingbird
northern mockingbird

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)

autumn river beauty
one can forget the civilization is so close by
multiflora rose hips
(thanks to Eliza for the id)
blackberry
(thanks to Leelah and Eliza for the id)
crabapples
(thanks to Eliza for the id)

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.

~ Wendell Berry
(Fall, for Wallace Fowlie)

a long narrow hilltop

11.9.21 ~ Candlewood Ridge, climbing up to the ridge

Last week we revisited Candlewood Ridge, where we had an amazing walk in April 2020. This day we didn’t get as far as we did the last time because Tim’s back and hip were acting up, but it was interesting to see how different things were with the passing of time.

For one thing, we remembered spotting a glacial erratic across the ravine but there was so much vegetation now that we couldn’t even see the other side of the ravine. So we walked north along the trail at the top of the ridge and spotted an erratic that Tim had stood next to last time. The brush was so thick we couldn’t get close to it.

I put a picture of Tim by it last time below. Nature is always changing the scenery!

4.17.20 ~ Tim with the same boulder a year and seven months ago
so many orbs

After we got to the erratic above we decided to turn back. But when we got to the side trail to go back down to the car I spotted another erratic farther south on the ridge, in the direction we hadn’t taken last time. So we found a spot for Tim to sit and rest and I took off on my own to get some pictures. Little did I know I was in for a good scare.

front of the huge glacial erratic

I took pictures of the front and then went around to the back of it and took some more.

back of the huge glacial erratic

As I was taking pictures of the back I became aware of the sound of panting approaching from behind me pretty quickly. I froze, and before I knew it a loose dog appeared. I have an intense fear of large and medium size dogs so it was all I could do to keep myself from panicking. I forced myself to remember Cesar Millan’s advice, “no touch, no talk, no eye contact.” I was glad I had the camera in my hands, for some reason it made me feel less vulnerable. The dog seemed uninterested in me and kept a respectable distance, although it did circle around me a few times.

side of the huge glacial erratic

I moved to the side of the erratic and kept taking pictures, ignoring the dog. I didn’t realize he got in two of the pictures! Then I decided to start walking back to Tim, followed by the dog. After I got within earshot I called him, calmly, and asked him to come to me. Meanwhile another dog came along the path, and then about the time Tim and I met the dogs’ owner came along, too. Phew! She continued north on the trail and we took the path down to the car. My heart was pounding.

path down from the ridge

Instead of heading straight home we took another autumn drive and wound up near the Mystic River. Mallard photo op!

And berry tangles!

Like a tide it comes in,
wave after wave of foliage and fruit,
the nurtured and the wild,
out of the light to this shore.
In its extravagance we shape
the strenuous outline of enough.

~ Wendell Berry
(The Arrival)

For some reason the berries and twigs made me think of calico cloth or old-fashioned wallpaper. Autumn lingers…

house sparrow, wild turkeys, reindeer moss

11.3.21 ~ house sparrow in the river birch tree
outside my kitchen window

Now that some leaves have fallen off our tree we can see the little birds better from the kitchen window. We discovered a little nest deep in the branches. We are grateful to the tree for shading us from the hot sun all summer, and now with the leaves gone it will let some sunlight in to warm us up.


On Friday we decided to take a walk in the woods at a town park we’ve driven past many times, not realizing it wasn’t just a dog park, which is only a small part of the huge property. But first, as we were driving by the post office we had a close encounter with Thelma & Louise, a pair of male wild turkeys.

They are local celebrities and even have their own Facebook page, where humans post pictures of their sightings. A biologist weighed in and said they were two males, but the names Thelma & Louise remain stuck to them. They hang out in downtown Groton and regularly stop traffic as they stroll across the streets.

But nobody seems to get irritated with them as they wait patiently for the turkeys to get out of harm’s way.

We’ve crossed paths with them many times but this was the first time there was a place we could pull over and get a few pictures. I posted these on Facebook. 🙂


On to Copp Family Park. It was gorgeous! And we had a nice long walk because the uneven terrain on the trails was good for Tim’s back and hip. We even had to cross a stream using stepping stones. It felt so good to be deep in the woods again. No mosquitoes! In fact, we were wearing our winter coats because it was only 37°F (3°C) when we left the house.

The picture below is a failed attempt to capture a woodpecker, but I kind of like the pleasing composition.

I found a tree hosting lots of reindeer moss, at least I’m pretty sure that’s what this lichen is called…

I was holding a small clump of reindeer moss in one hand, a little piece of that branching, pale green-grey lichen that can survive just about anything the world throws at it. It is patience made manifest. Keep reindeer moss in the dark, freeze it, dry it to a crisp, it won’t die. It goes dormant and waits for things to improve. Impressive stuff.
~ Helen Macdonald
(H is for Hawk)

I even spotted some on the ground farther along the trail.

orbs and orange leaves
the largest glacial erratic we encountered
the other side of the glacial erratic
spiral growth?

After we got back to the car we decided to go for a leaf peeping drive and wound up at the cider mill and a cemetery. Will share those pictures in the next post!

autumn images

10.29.21 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum
poison ivy climbing a flowering dogwood

Our peak fall foliage dates are supposed to be October 24-November 6 so as soon as we got a chance between rainstorms we squeezed in this autumn walk. We enjoyed the colors but there is still a lot of green. Climate change, I suppose. We’ve been getting a lot of rain and our temperatures have been running about 10°F above normal. Sigh…

mottled colors

The energy from this huge American beech resonated with me. I think it might qualify as a wolf tree! It was too wide to get in one photograph! We lingered under its branches for quite a while.

American beech
American beech leaves starting to turn
interesting scars
other side of American beech
hints of Yuletide
tulip tree leaf
paper birch bark
paper birch leaves
sunlit changes
Tim contemplating a glacial erratic he might have climbed in his younger years
glacial erratic overlooking the amphitheater and pond
glacial erratic in pond supporting all kinds of life and a blueberry bush

A new bird for me! When I was taking the picture above I spotted some white “circles” moving in the distance, way across the pond. We followed the path around the pond and they swam in the opposite direction. So I tried my best with the zoom lens. When we retraced our steps, they swam back to where we were. Clever little things. They are a lot smaller than mallards.

male hooded merganser, #68

Hooded Merganser Lophodytes cucullatus: Year-round resident; fairly common to common migrant in March and from October to November; and fairly common in winter on fresh or brackish water on the coast or larger rivers. Uncommon and very local cavity-nesting breeder in secluded wooded swamps, beaver ponds with open water, mostly in the northwest hills and lower Connecticut River.
~ Frank Gallo
(Birding in Connecticut)

female hooded merganser
the red leaves are a reflection in the water,
the green leaves are hanging over the water
view of pond through the underside of leaves
orbs and sunlit leaves
one final spot of color

It was a refreshing, wonderful autumn walk!