It’s been so long since I’ve seen the ocean I guess I should ~ Counting Crows ♫ (A Long December) ♫
It rained for the first two days of our three-day visit with our son and daughter-in-law in Georgia. But our spirits were not dampened and we packed a lot of fun in in spite of it. When the sun came out on day three we headed for the magical Driftwood Beach. The name of it doesn’t make a lot of sense because these ancient twisted tree trunks and branches are what remains of a maritime forest after years of erosion from the sea.
Surprisingly, I only saw one gull there. But, the last thing I expected to see was a pair of woodpeckers! A new life bird for me!
The Pileated Woodpecker is one of the biggest, most striking forest birds on the continent. It’s nearly the size of a crow, black with bold white stripes down the neck and a flaming-red crest. Look (and listen) for Pileated Woodpeckers whacking at dead trees and fallen logs in search of their main prey, carpenter ants, leaving unique rectangular holes in the wood. The nest holes these birds make offer crucial shelter to many species including swifts, owls, ducks, bats, and pine martens. ~ All About Birds website
As we were leaving, walking towards the sun, I started to notice some of the shadows on the sand… and then an egret fishing in a little beach pond along the path back to the parking lot.
It was so good being near the ocean again, even if just for a few hours. More vacation pictures coming soon…
Before it started raining on Monday we took an early walk down by the pond where we encountered a great blue heron struggling to get its breakfast under control.
Nearby a miniscule least sandpiper was also looking for its breakfast, skittering about so quickly I almost missed seeing it. Great blue herons are huge (38-54 inches) in comparison to the smallest of the sandpipers (5-6 inches).
Then the harsh call of a great egret coming in for a landing got my attention!
We left the pond and headed for the beach. Hunting for its breakfast in the seaweed on the rocks was yet another great egret. It was a great morning for watching the shorebirds!
This friendly gull was waiting by our car to pose for a portrait before we left.
After we got home it started to rain and it rained for most of the day. A good, steady soaking rain, just what we’ve been needing for our abnormally dry conditions. Some parts of the state already have a moderate drought. We finally had to turn the air conditioner on Wednesday. It will be interesting to see how the weather has affected the sunflowers, which we hope to visit this coming week. 🌻
By Friday Connecticut’s positivity rate reached 11%.
Monday we were planning to check on mama goose but my gut was having a very bad morning. My sweet husband offered to go by himself to see if there were any goslings, and brought back the picture above. No little ones yet and he reported that papa goose was still missing. He went inside the nature center and inquired about the situation. A staffer said they were concerned about the avian influenza but had no answers.
By late afternoon I was feeling a little better and decided to go down to the salt water and air for some healing energy. The first wildflower of the season at the beach, a dandelion, was poking through the stone wall and concrete!
When we got down on the sand a friendly ring-billed gull came over to to see what we were up to. I must have taken 30 pictures of him as he enjoyed our company, and we his. There was not another gull on the beach. I thanked him for the lovely pictures with the sand as a backdrop, rather than the ugly tar of the parking lot. 🙂
I never get tired of communing with my beloved gulls. But with a quick glance out over the breakwater I spotted a common grackle. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one at the beach before.
On the way home I suddenly remembered that the weeping cherries were probably blossoming more fully than when we saw them the week before. So off we went. It was a lovely scene, complete with creeping phlox, a patch of heather, and a robin.
We stopped by the grocery store and picked up some salmon for supper and felt grateful for a pleasant end to the day.
Tuesday morning we decided to check on mama goose again. Good news! Papa goose was back, along with his buddy the mallard!
I just LOVE this picture Tim took of papa goose! I don’t think we’ll have a chance to check again until Friday. Hope we don’t miss the hatchlings…
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. ❄️
First stop, Avery Pond. Lots of Canada geese and mallards, but a pair of American wigeons caught my eye.
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.
Next stop, Beach Pond. No wildlife to be seen at all…
Next stop, Avery Point. There were quite a few folks out walking their dogs. Too nippy to get out of the car!
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.
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!
On our way to the beach for a walk I spotted a great blue heron perched on a stone in Avery Pond. Had to get out of the car and walk down the road to find a spot without vegetation blocking my view.
At the beach we found lots of cormorants on the breakwaters again. Since there were very few people down on the sand we walked the length of the beach and I was able to get a picture with some of this cormorant’s markings more visible.
Lots of gulls were enjoying the sun, sand and sea. This time of year they can hang out on the beach in peace. I know I take too many pictures of gulls but I think they are so beautiful and photogenic.
I’ve seen very few laughing gulls this year. I almost didn’t notice these two.
When we headed over to the estuary I saw a bee on a goldenrod plant growing up through the cement and rocks on the edge of the parking lot. The last place I expected to see something cool to photograph!
The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day. Never lose a holy curiosity. ~ Albert Einstein (Life, May 2, 1955)
Another cormorant was out on a rock in the estuary, and still another one was swimming around fishing. It was high tide. My camera was finally able to capture some of their coloring subtleties. It’s amazing what a little sunlight will reveal.
I love my little beach, especially this time of year.
Another nice day Tuesday. After Labor Day the beach is “closed.” No lifeguards, concession stand or restrooms open. Fewer people to navigate through. Great for a morning walk. Got closer to a cormorant than I’ve ever been before, but as luck would have it, the sun was behind him and he came out as mostly a silhouette.
The gift for this morning was spotting four immature male common eiders hanging out in the estuary. I’ve only seen a female common eider once, last summer. New England is in the southernmost part of their range. I was enchanted.
A bird of the cold north with a warm reputation, the Common Eider is famous for the insulating quality of its down (typically harvested from nests without harming the birds). Breeding males are sharp white and black, with pistachio green accents on the neck. Females are barred with warm brown and black. These largest of all Northern Hemisphere ducks gather along rocky ocean shores, diving for mussels and other shellfish, which they pry from rocks using long, chisel-like bills. Males court females throughout the year with gentle, crooning calls. ~ All About Birds website
The coronavirus pandemic rages on, surging especially among the unvaccinated. But the fully vaccinated are getting sick, too, which gave us pause and led to our postponing our trip to North Carolina to see our grandchildren until we can get our third dose of vaccine. We don’t even want to get the “mild” version of COVID-19. We’re back to wearing double masks in the grocery store. And because we’re super cautious we stopped going inside anywhere else. Avoiding crowded outdoor places, too. Masks at the farmers market.
My sister reports from Connecticut College that on Monday, 20 students who were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and some of their friends were tested. Through contact tracing, it was determined that the students who had contracted the virus had been socializing without masks in cars, in friends’ rooms or apartments, at parties or in bars. Tuesday morning the test results showed an additional 34 students had tested positive. All were moved to isolation housing.
Connecticut College requires all students and staff to be fully vaccinated (and to wear masks indoors) so these are breakthrough cases. Beverly spent one week with us but is now teaching remotely from her home and probably won’t be back here for the semester. 🙁 I’m just glad we were able to see each other a few times this summer before this new social distancing period seems prudent. Sigh.
It’s been a while since I’ve made note of our local coronavirus statistics. We have had 3,014 detected cases in our town. Connecticut has had 376,747 confirmed cases and 8,395 deaths. We’re coming close to the 8,500 number of estimated deaths we had in the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. On September 8th we had 403 new cases. Overall, 2,368,830 people or 66% of Connecticut’s population has been fully vaccinated.
And now CNN is reporting that 1 in 4 new cases of COVID-19 are in children.
It’s nowhere near over.
Update: As of Thursday 107 students have now tested positive. Many are going home instead of quarantining on campus. Seems like that would not help to contain the spread.
I submitted my sighting of this banded American Oystercatcher to the American Oystercatcher Working Group and have now recieved a history of this bird’s travels. He was caught on Cape Cod in July of 2012 and has been spotted along the shoreline from the Cape down here to southeastern Connecticut and southern Rhode Island over the past nine years. 🙂 Thank you so much, Donna, for letting me know I could do this!
On a visit to Fort Trumbull last week the northern mockingbird, above, landed on top of the rampart while we were up there enjoying the views. I was surprised to see one so high up as the ones I’ve seen so far have been on the ground.
Monday night at the beach seemed to be reserved for ring-billed gulls. I looked in vain for the Captain and for any laughing gulls. Looking back now at my older posts I’ve noticed that all my pictures of laughing gulls are dated August and September so perhaps that’s when they ususally show up here. I’m learning.
Tim noticed several osprey flying above the Thames River estuary but we couldn’t identify them until we got home and the helpful people from the What’s This Bird? Facebook group assisted us. 🙂
The sky was gray and hazy from the smoke from the fires out west. We’ve been under an air quality alert. The birds have no choice but to breathe this air, though.
I almost missed the tiny killdeer skittering about on the island in the estuary. They’re fuzzy because they were on the move and the island was so far away from my camera!
I started feeling a little nostalgic as we walked around. Years ago I was so busy keeping an eye on my children at the beach that I didn’t notice the shorebirds. But as I watched the lifeguards gathering up their equipment for the day, the sights and sounds and smell of the salty air filled me with a longing for those happy summer days so long ago…
Tropical Storm Elsa cleared up in time for us to have our supper down at the beach. Didn’t see any storm damage, although other parts of Connecticut got some flash flooding. We had 4 inches of rain. The winds weren’t too bad but it was still pretty breezy down by the water. The wildflowers on the rocks looked freshly showered.
We had two gulls to keep us company. They waited politely and posed for pictures but never got a bit of food from us.
After we ate we took a walk over to look at the island where we saw the great blue heron the other day but he wasn’t there. Instead, we saw a Canada goose hanging out with the American oystercatchers. If only I could get closer!
And as we passed by the song sparrow’s thicket we saw one of them. When he faced the sun and the wind he looked fine, and when he turned and faced away from the wind his feathers ruffled.
It was good to get out of the house. Still trying to wrap our minds around the latest COVID-19 news, that 4 million people have died of it worldwide. (Probably many more than that.) Even though things seem almost back to normal around here, the fact is that most of the world is still in a very precarious situation.
We worked on a jigsaw puzzle during the storm… Now it’s back to the heat and humidity and thunderstorms…
This morning we have woken up under a tropical storm warning. What’s left of Hurricane Elsa looks like it will come bother us after all. It’s been a wild week. Hot and humid with violent thunderstorms in the evenings. Last night we snuck down to the beach before one arrived, listening to the rumbles in the distance.
We didn’t see The Captain but I had fun taking pictures of plants and an assortment of gulls passing the time on the rocks and fence posts. Much as I love my gulls I do have a terrible time trying to figure out what year they are!
After walking around the property I spotted a great blue heron out on the island where the cormorants usually position themselves. Never seen one at our beach before! He was pretty far away but I did the best I could.
I heard a song sparrow and then Tim spotted it way up at the top of a tree. (I usually see them in the thicket…)
I think another invasive species has arrived in our area. the European water chestnut is a freshwater aquatic plant released inadvertently into waters of the Northeast in the late 1800s. As of 2014 it hadn’t been seen in Connecticut but it is here now and has overtaken Avery Pond. It completely covers the water. Sigh… It’s very sad to see. Beach Pond, which I think is a salt pond, has not been affected.