There were lots of birds at the botanical garden feeders on Valentine’s Day, most of them flitting about too quickly to catch with my camera, but I got a few. And a new lifer!
I thought I’d never catch my elusive new life bird — this was the only good picture out of the bunch.
A bird true to its name, the Pine Warbler is common in many eastern pine forests and is rarely seen away from pines. These yellowish warblers are hard to spot as they move along high branches to prod clumps of needles with their sturdy bills. If you don’t see them, listen for their steady, musical trill, which sounds very like a Chipping Sparrow or Dark-eyed Junco, which are also common piney-woods sounds through much of the year. ~ All About Birds website
More blossoms to enjoy in the Lenten rose patch:
We’ve been hearing frogs croaking for a couple of weeks but they always stop and hide before we get to their pond, no matter how quietly we approach. This time we did see a lot of their eggs in the water, though.
It was our lucky day — we got to see the Canada goose hatchlings still in their nest! However, papa goose was standing guard right where I usually stand to take pictures of mama goose on her nest. He never budged — what a vigilant, protective papa. I had to make do and find a different spot to zoom in from for my pictures.
If you look closely in the above picture, all the way on the left papa goose is standing there keeping an eye on the whole pond and his family. All the way on the right mama goose and the goslings are on the little rock island.
On our way over to the nature center we happened to see the Viking ship Draken Harald Hårfagre being moved to a different dock in the preservation shipyard at Mystic Seaport. Tim parked the car illegally so I could hop out and cross the street and capture it, probably the last time we will see it. Most of the time it is covered in marine shrink wrap so this was a real treat!
The Draken Harald Hårfagre first came to Mystic in 2016, if I remember correctly, and it’s been exciting to me having it here for so long. Even though its home port is Haugesund, Norway the crew seems to have made Mystic its home away from home. Its website says it’s the world’s largest viking ship sailing in modern times. Official website.
Many young leaves are dotting the trees now, spray and foliage both showing. The woods are quite green; the rapidity with which the leaves unfold between sunrise and sunset, or during the night, is truly wonderful! ~ Susan Fenimore Cooper (Rural Hours)
We got our second covid bivalent booster on the 25th, recommended to those of us over 65. This will make me feel a little safer traveling to North Carolina and being around more people in the coming months. We had our first bivalent booster back in September. I wonder if we’ll be getting one every six months from now on…
On the second day of the kids’ visit we decided to go to the nature center to see mama goose sitting on her nest. But we wound up doing so much more! Kat still loves her maps and she noticed a hidden pond on the outdoor map sign and decided we should find it. Tim & I had never explored that part of the property before.
Dima climbs everything in sight, walls, trees, outcrops and probably other things I can’t even begin to imagine. The first time I documented this passion was at Coumeenoole Beach on our trip to visit the Dima, Larisa and Kat in Ireland in 2018. (Scroll down to picture #26)
I dug out my map pamphlet from last year’s visit and gave it to Kat. We started on the Forest Loop Trail, crossing the bridge over a brook leading to the stairs up to Council Rock, a glacial erratic sitting on top of an outcrop.
But first Dima took a detour to climb the first outcrop, while the rest of us caught up.
Then we climbed the stairs and approached the outcrop holding Council Rock. Before we knew it Dima was sitting on top of it! We were able to climb up the not-as-steep side of this outcrop. It was the only one we managed that day.
Somehow Kat managed to get up there with her Papa.
After resting a little we came down off the outcrop and followed the trail to an entrance to Ledge Trail. Dima and Kat got way out ahead while Tim, Larisa and Finn fell behind. I was enjoying my solitude in the middle of the procession when I glanced up to see Dima and Kat had climbed yet another outcrop! They tell me the view was great.
While up there, Dima spotted a wild turkey on the ridge below him, but above my vantage point. He was apparently displaying his feathers off and on. When the others caught up we finally spotted the turkey’s head peering over the ridge. Since the trail led in that direction we headed towards him. The turkey kept walking ahead of us but never ran or flew off.
There were so many twigs and short bushes in the way that it proved difficult getting the camera to focus. As we walked the trail along the ridge the wild turkey finally took a turn and went down into the swampy area at the bottom of the ravine. He joined a flock of about six other wild turkeys down there, and then they all started climbing up to the ridge on the other side.
At this point Finn decided to switch from riding in his mother’s arms and on her shoulders to riding on his father’s shoulders. Having a passenger did not deter Dima from climbing up on the next outcrop!
When the trail finally came down off the ridge we found a sign pointing to Hidden Pond! We were almost there!
Kat was pleased to have found her destination and I was happy we had so much fun and fresh air along the way. Finn was happy he was going to stop for ice cream on his way home and Dima reported that he had never seen a wild turkey in the woods before. Larisa wanted to take a selfie with her parents and we obliged. We then found a shorter connector trail back to the nature center but I’m so glad we took the long way around to find that little pond!
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…
Skunk cabbages (above and below) were emerging everywhere near and in the water at the arboretum on our latest walk. Three difficult weeks had passed without a walk and it was such a relief to finally be outside again.
May you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease To discover the new direction your longing wants you to take. ~ John O’Donohue (To Bless the Space Between Us)
Our longings have taken us in a new direction. We have decided to move to North Carolina this summer to be near our grandchildren! It was not an easy decision to make as we’ve lived here most of our lives and love New England. I will also miss my sister and living by the sea.
Early in February we came down with our first head colds since before the pandemic began. (Our covid tests were negative.) Ten days of misery… And before he was fully recovered from his cold Tim was struck with a violent case of food poisoning. He’s okay now and we were grateful to finally take another walk!
In the arboretum there were plenty of signs of spring being right around the corner. January was the warmest one on record for Connecticut, with temperatures averaging ten degrees above average. I won’t be surprised to learn that February will be setting a similar record. Hey, if it’s not going to snow and be winter up north here we may as well move south, right?
While blowing my nose nonstop I kept busy online exploring the area that will become my new home, the Piedmont plateau region of North Carolina, the gentle rolling hills between the flat coastal plain and the Appalachian mountains. There are a lot of land conservancies, open spaces, state parks, botanical gardens, an arboretum and trails to keep us happy walking and exploring, at least when it isn’t too hot to go out. We suspect we will be more active in the winter down there. 🙂
There might even be more birds to see. But for this chilly and raw walk we were pleased to see a pair of hooded mergansers swimming and diving for food in the pond.
Thanks to a tag on this shrub, Alnus serrulata, I was able to identify these smooth alder catkins, flowers on a spike, another sign of spring.
The [smooth alder] flowers are monoecious, meaning that both sexes are found on a single plant. Male (Staminate) catkins are 1.6-2.4 in long; female (Pistillate) catkins are 1/2 in long. Reddish-green flowers open in March to April. … The ovate, dark brown, cone-like fruit is hard with winged scales. Seeds are produced in small cones and do not have wings. Fruit usually matures during fall and is quite persistent. ~ Wikipedia
I have to admit, thinking about the logistics involved to move is filling me with anxiety. The last time we moved was 29 years ago and that was just across town. Except for a couple of years living in Greece I’ve lived in Connecticut my whole life. When I moved to Greece with my parents I only had a trunk to fill and that was pretty simple. My parents took care of all the other planning. Now I’m coping with a chronic illness that is bound to complicate things. But we have family and friends helping us so I think we will make it somehow. And to be settled and living near our grandchildren while they are still very young will make it all worth it.
May you come to accept your longing as divine urgency. ~ John O’Donohue (To Bless the Space Between Us)
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)
I wish I could include the smell of a patch of thyme for you, dear readers. What an amazing scent filled the air!
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.
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)
It felt so good sauntering along and catching up with a friend!!!
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
Yesterday the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated our county as a primary natural disaster area due to the drought. We did get about two and a half inches of rain on Monday and Tuesday but it wasn’t enough to end the drought or benefit beleaguered farmers. These pictures were taken at the pond yesterday, a couple of days after the rain.
We wondered at all the bubbles in the very shallow water. The poor mallard could barely swim and couldn’t dabble deep enough to get her butt elevated. 😉
There were a few sandpipers and yellowlegs wandering around. I’m feeling too wearied to bother trying to identify them more specifically…
After a lovely week of low humidity and opened windows, the muggies returned with a vengeance, corresponding with the arrival of our granddaughter, visiting us on her own for a few days. But we made the best of our time indoors and went out one evening to see a troupe of Ukrainian dancers perform outside at Mystic Seaport. Afterwards, Kat, age 7, exclaimed that they were awesome! We thought so, too.
The rain came for the last two days of our visit. I introduced Kat to Cesar Millan: Better Human Better Dog on TV and Tim introduced her to a family board game called Rocks. I filled in a family tree fan chart for her which she examined closely and offered several very thoughtful observations. We spent another evening walking on the beach after the rain let up. Our little bright spot in the doldrums!
The following pictures were taken on August 19, before the two and a half inches of rain, a week before the ones above. It’s the lowest I’ve ever seen the pond’s water level. But for the little puddle it was dry.
I always forget how important the empty days are, how important it may be sometimes not to expect to produce anything, even a few lines in a journal. … A day where one has not pushed oneself to the limit seems a damaged damaging day, a sinful day. Not so! The most valuable thing one can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room, not try to be or do anything whatever. ~ May Sarton (Journal of a Solitude)
So I continue living in the changing light of this room, biding my time, dreaming of crisp, cool, walkable autumn air. And more rain, which is not in the weather forecast. Waiting somewhat patiently and keeping my wits about me — so far.