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)

a new sparrow and a new swallow

5.20.22 ~ first beach rose of the season ~ Eastern Point

Friday’s morning walk around the beach, estuary, lawn and ponds turned out to be exciting, with two new lifer birds encountered! It was foggy and cool, with no hint of the record-breaking heat that is supposed to be coming for the weekend.

double-crested cormorant in the estuary
Savannah sparrow, #70

Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis: Uncommon local breeder in scattered grasslands and agricultural areas. Common migrant September to October and fairly common April in farm and weedy fields, community gardens, and marsh edges. Uncommon in winter; a few of the pale “Ipswich” subspecies winter locally on coastal dunes.
~ Frank Gallo
(Birding in Connecticut)

Savannah sparrow
a very tiny white flower in the grass
song sparrow on the gravel
mourning dove on the grass
little bird with nesting material on the lifeguard chair
(zoom lens in fog)
New London Ledge Light in the fog
northern rough-winged swallow, #71

Northern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx serripennis: Fairly common statewide migrant and nesting species from April into September near water. Breeds along waterways in holes, drainpipes, crevices, riverbanks, often near bridges or old bridge foundations, and coastal retaining walls.
~ Frank Gallo
(Birding in Connecticut)

northern rough-winged swallows
red-winged blackbird by the pond
red-winged blackbird
killdeer by the pond
killdeer

I’m kind of surprised we saw so many birds. Eastern Point Beach was sponsoring a busy event, the starting line for a Ragnar Road team relay race. The 200-mile race will end today in Quincy, Massachusetts. Every once in a while a team would take off. Announcements and pop music came from a loudspeaker. This is how it works:

Teams of 12 run roughly 200 miles—from point A to point B—on city streets, country roads, sidewalks, and bike paths. You’ll run day, and night, and day again, sleeping (ha ha) in vans, grassy fields, or perhaps a high school gym (with the principal’s permission). Each teammate will run three separate legs of the race, with downtime in between, for a total of 11 to 24 miles per runner (twice that for ultra teams). After the final pass of the baton—er, slap bracelet—you’ll cross beneath the iconic orange arch together, dripping with … pride.
~ Ragnar Road website

starting chute
half a team (6) takes off

It was an odd experience birdwatching and walking with music blaring at the beach! But one never knows how or when or where a new bird will turn up. And it certainly gave us a new topic for conversation. 😉

around the pond, through the swamp

5.5.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center

Six days after we saw the goslings, we returned to the nature center to find the whole family missing. I cannot bear to think about what might have happened to them. Feeling very disappointed, we took a walk around the pond and then followed the boardwalk through the swamp.

sleeping mallard
this turtle got himself into a predicament
bullfrog #1 (by the pond)
bullfrog #1 on his mossy peninsula
eastern painted turtle ~ what are those specks on its shell?
another eastern painted turtle
moss sporophytes
marsh marigold

We couldn’t believe how many dozens of bullfrogs were in the swamp!

bullfrog #2
bullfrog #3
the back of bullfrog #4
bullfrog #5
lunaria (thanks to Eliza for the id)

Before leaving we went up to the outdoor rehab enclosures to see how the raptors were doing. I managed to get this portrait of a hawk through the wires.

broad-winged hawk

Connecticut’s positivity rate is up to 11%. The CDC has now listed all 8 counties in the state at medium or high levels of transmission. We never stopped wearing a mask indoors in public, but it’s now recommended again. Sigh…

water-powered up-down sawmill

sunrise at home, 5:46 am, May Day
40°F, clear with periodic clouds, light wind from the north at 7 mph
4.30.22 ~ Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill, Ledyard, Connecticut

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.

millstone, the sawmill operated briefly as a gristmill from 1858-1860
headgate controlling pond water flow through the dam into the mill water tank
vintage salesman’s model of the John Tyler Water Turbine

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

“Turning the handwheel opens and closes the turbine gate,
controlling water flow from the holding tank into the turbine.”
“The vertical turbine shaft is geared to a horizontal shaft
that ends with a heavy iron flywheel and crank under the saw.”
“A wooden pitman arm connects to the crank to the wooden saw sash,
converting the rotary motion of the flywheel into
an up and down (reciprocating) motion.”

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.

the turbine pit in the mill lower level

And then we went back upstairs to see more of the sawing.

“The saw cuts on the downstroke and
the log moves toward the saw on the upstroke.”

It was quite loud and the whole building vibrated while the saw was operating.

diagram of both levels

The sawmill has a great website for any who would like more details: Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill.

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.

red maple seeds
tiny bluets, a childhood favorite
an eastern painted turtle for Tim

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, #69

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!

the new arrivals

4.29.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, empty nest

This morning we were up early so we headed over to the nature center to see if there were any Canada goose hatchlings. The nest was empty! We were so disappointed to have missed seeing the little ones in the nest. 🙁

But, I scanned the pond, hoping to see mama and papa goose swimming around with their goslings. There they were, far away on the other side of the water, up on the land. Used the zoom lens to get these pictures…

mama and one baby
mama and three babies

The vigilant papa was off to the left but I neglected to get his picture. I was too excited about the little ones. We walked a little around to the south side of the pond, getting a little closer to them, but too many sticks were blocking the view. I think there are four goslings in the next picture.

We retraced our steps and then walked farther around to the north side of the pond. Suddenly on the path, Tim estimates about 50 feet ahead of us, was a gosling, off on his own little adventure.

my, what a big foot you have!

And then mama came down the path to fetch him.

And lead him back to the rest of the brood.

We turned around to leave them in peace, feeling very happy. 🙂 We met two nature center staffers on the way out who didn’t know yet that the little ones had arrived. One of them told us that back in March there was quite a dispute between several Canada geese over who was going to occupy that perfect nest in the middle of the pond. Prime real estate, it would seem!

it’s like the woods

4.4.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center

Four days after we visited the nature center with Kat I wanted to return to see if the Canada goose was still sitting on her eggs. She was, and had turned and was facing the other direction. This time we walked on some other trails through the woods and the meadow. There are still more loops to follow so we plan to return once a week to see the Canada goose, and if we’re lucky, some goslings one day.

eastern white pine sapling growing in the swamp
glacial erratic on top of Council Rock

It’s like the Light —
A fashionless Delight —
It’s like the Bee —
A dateless — Melody —

It’s like the Woods —
Private — Like the Breeze —
Phraseless — yet it stirs
The proudest Trees —

It’s like the morning —
Best — when it’s done —
And the Everlasting Clocks —
Chime — Noon!

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #302)


I imagine ‘it’ in Emily’s poem is Presence.

We also found six locations along the Meditation Walking Path, “each selected to provide a place for quiet reflection or meditation.” The path follows some of the other trails and the shortcuts between them. A little confusing but I think we sorted it out.

plentiful skunk cabbage
the leaves are food for the Canada goose couple
a blind for meadow bird photographers
a view from the blind
birdhouse in the woods
red-bellied woodpecker
Canada goose on her nest
notice the turtle climbing up the rocks
mama
seed pods, goose feather and moss on water
papa’s morning nap

The light is so magical this time of year!

Sadly, Connecticut’s covid positivity rate is going up again. On Friday it was over 5%. I got my second booster shot that day and felt malaise all weekend, but it wasn’t too bad. Feeling overwhelming mourning and anticipatory grief for Ukraine…

to the nature center

3.31.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center
Mystic, Connecticut

While she was visiting last week we finally got a chance to take our granddaughter, age 7, to the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center! She was all set with her camera and water bottle and we played follow the leader as she explored the place at her own pace. Sometimes we struggled to keep up but she was patient with us and we would catch up and so we had a fantastic time. 😊

Kat playing a bird species memory game with Grandpa
taking pictures
eastern painted turtle

After exploring the indoor exhibits we headed outdoors to see the birds in the rehab enclosures. We even got to see a staff member feed the raptors dead mice. It was difficult getting pictures through the wires but these two were acceptable.

For many decades the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center has been licensed by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife to care for injured wild animals. We are part of a region-wide network of wildlife specialists that handle emergencies and help seek appropriate care for injured wildlife.
~ DPNC website

Next we followed a trail and spotted a Canada goose sitting on her nest on a hummock in the middle of a pond. Nearby her mate was patrolling the area.

Kat probably took more pictures than I did!

Our minds, as well as our bodies, have need of the out-of-doors. Our spirits, too, need simple things, elemental things, the sun and the wind and the rain, moonlight and starlight, sunrise and mist and mossy forest trails, the perfumes of dawn and the smell of fresh-turned earth and the ancient music of wind among the trees.
~ Edwin Way Teale
(Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)

moss-covered glacial erratics are always fun to capture
who’s that taking pictures of me?
Kat discovers a meadow
let’s see, which way to go?
time to stop taking pictures and start consulting a map
Kat loves maps
planning our meadow route
reviewing our meadow trek with Grandpa

Kat led us back to the nature center and to the parking lot, checking rocks along the way to find dry ones for Grandpa to sit on for his rests. The occasional benches were welcome, too. She is a very curious, thoughtful and kind little sweetheart.

stone wall and daffodils across the road from the nature center

Here are two posts from the past illustrating Kat’s keen interest in maps: here (5th picture, age 4) and here (2nd picture and others, age 2).

The three of us had such a wonderful morning at the nature center! 💕

snow by the sea

morning has broken, view out back

Friday morning we woke up in the middle of a wonderful, long-awaited snowstorm. Less snow fell here than expected by the end of the nor’easter, but the 5 inches it left behind were enough to delight me. And there was no freezing rain or sleet at the end so we could get out and about in the afternoon and enjoy the fluffy white stuff. ❄️

1.7.22 ~ my river birch during the morning snowstorm
from my kitchen window

First stop, Avery Pond. Lots of Canada geese and mallards, but a pair of American wigeons caught my eye.

American wigeon
American wigeon

Next stop, Eastern Point Beach. The gulls were hunkering down in the parking lot. I got out of the car to take some pictures and was nearly blown over by the wind. Other times I tried opening the car window to take pictures. That sent most of the gulls up in the air, flapping and squawking. I suspect they thought I might be going to feed them.

ring-billed gulls with eyes open just a little bit
snow on the rocks
gulls drifting in the wind
juvenile herring gull sticking right by our car
snow covered sand on the beach

Next stop, Beach Pond. No wildlife to be seen at all…

snow all around the pond
snow in the dune grass
cattails
snow and cattails

Next stop, Avery Point. There were quite a few folks out walking their dogs. Too nippy to get out of the car!

don’t know the name of this sculpture
“Azucar” by Christopher Wynter
New London Ledge Light in the background
Avery Point Light and windswept snowscape

Last stop, Birch Plain Creek. Got out of the car here. There were lots of birds chirping and flitting about. I was lucky to get a couple of shots.

song sparrow
song sparrow
snow and ice on Birch Plain Creek
white-throated sparrow
white-throated sparrow

It was wonderful having some snow stick around for a change and feeling the winter season the way I remember it. A hot cup of tea at home to enjoy, snuggled under a blanket, looking out the window as darkness fell over the snow… Bliss!

tranquility and high hopes

12.15.21 ~ mallard on Avery Pond, Eastern Point
his green head looked blue in the sunlight

It had been a month since we took a walk at the beach, when it was a windy day and we didn’t stay long. Walking in the woods has been our first choice since then. But Wednesday we woke up to calm winds so I put on my thermal layers and we went for a nice long beach walk. It was 36°F/2°C. First stop, Avery Pond.

the reeds by the pond looked so pretty in the sunlight
peaceful Canada geese
mallard floating by

Someone had seen hooded mergansers on this pond but no luck for me this time. Onward to Eastern Point Beach. It was a sunny day but there was a big cloud out over the water of Long Island Sound. Things were quiet and we had the whole beach to ourselves.

winter by the sea
falling tide
unusual purple-red seaweed
unusual orange-pink seaweed
gull keeping an eye on me
stray oak leaf
weeds in dune grass
New London Ledge Light from behind the dune
pine cones
driftwood with barnacles

I didn’t shiver from the cold even once. Connecticut’s positivity rate was 7.15%. My sister and I finished decorating the tree for the grandchildren. (Forest birds and animals, nisse, stars, snowflakes, hearts.) I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we all stay healthy and test negative the day before they arrive. Everyone is fully vaccinated and boosted except for the three-year-old…