a holy curiosity

great blue heron ~ 9.20.21 ~ Avery Pond

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.

double-crested cormorant on the breakwater ~ 9.20.21 ~ Eastern Point

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.

ring-billed gull with feet covered in sand

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.

ring-billed gull by the sea
ring-billed gull woolgathering
ring-billed gull sunbathing
laughing gulls, juvenile and nonbreeding adult

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)

double-crested cormorant in the estuary

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.

double-crested cormorant ~ it just swallowed a fish

I love my little beach, especially this time of year.

it’s nowhere near over

9.7.21 ~ Eastern Point
double-crested cormorant on the rocks

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.

ring-billed gull on the rocks
immature male common eiders in the estuary

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

monarch butterfly on the lawn

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.

double-crested cormorant in the river

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.

driftwood caught in the rocks

And now CNN is reporting that 1 in 4 new cases of COVID-19 are in children.

summer’s end

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.

sightings

7.14.21 ~ banded American oystercatcher ~ Eastern Point

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!


7.23.21 ~ northern mockingbird
Fort Trumbull State Park, New London, Connecticut

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.

7.26.21 ~ ring-billed gull on the rocks ~ Eastern Point

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. 🙂

osprey
osprey

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.

ring-billed gull on the Thames River beach
great egret in Thames River estuary

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!

killdeer on island in Thames River estuary
great egret
killdeer
juvenile gull
great egret
one of my little song sparrows on the stone wall near the thicket
sun setting in smoky haze over Thames River

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…


for Leelah: my mossy fairy garden

after the storm

7.9.21 ~ Eastern Point, mouth of Thames River

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.

ring-billed gull
herring gull
herring gull feet

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…

threatening weather

7.7.21 ~ Eastern Point
herring gull, second winter?

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!

herring gull, breeding adult
ring-billed gull cooling off with a drink
rabbit-foot clover

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.

great blue heron
great blue heron
great blue heron

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…)

song sparrow

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.

dead water chestnut leaf?

Time to batten down the hatches!

high tide with storm surge

2.1.21 ~ my dwarf river birch during the snowstorm
from my kitchen window

So, on Monday we got 10 inches of snow before it turned to sleet. Snow is fun, sleet is not. On Tuesday, Groundhog Day, we drove down to the beach around noon but didn’t stay too long. The gale was lingering with a storm surge at high tide and the wind was still howling. There were no shadows, therefore, according to tradition, spring will come early. Yay!

2.2.21 ~ young great black-backed gull, Eastern Point

It turned out to be a nice day for photographing gulls. 🙂 They love to pose.

another young great black-backed gull
which side is better?
a friendly ring-billed gull came over when I asked him to
he turned to listen to me talking to him
very high tide ~ waves past the lifeguard chairs
churning sea
storm surge almost higher than the breakwater

After marveling at the high water we drove up the road along the Thames River.

flooded marsh across the street from the beach
brant in Thames River
a pair of mallards very intent on something tasty in the flooded grass
they never lifted their heads and my fingers were freezing
another mallard landed nearby in the snow to investigate

And then we left, shivering but still happy to have gotten out for a short while! I didn’t see the song sparrows but then again, I didn’t wade through the soggy grass to get to their thicket. I hope they’re all right. The water was almost up to their home. It’s amazing how birds survive the storms.

the sound of outer ocean on a beach

11.20.20 ~ ring-billed gull
Bluff Point State Park & Coastal Reserve

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)

waning summer

9.13.20 ~ Eastern Point

Beach season ended with Labor Day weekend. We took a walk down there the following weekend and were greeted by this solitary gull on the rocks.

On the ocean, gulls are good luck. Gulls are strong, brave, commanding. They are harbingers of land, of fish just below the surface, of a coming storm. Legend has it they hold the souls of drowned sailors and fishermen, so killing one is bad luck.
~ Sara Anne Donnelly
(Yankee, July/August 2020)

nonbreeding adult laughing gulls

When we got down to the sand we found a large gathering of gulls hanging out. They have reclaimed the beach! I was delighted because the tiny laughing gulls were actually on the sand, which is a much more appealing backdrop than the asphalt parking lot where I usually see them. There was quite an assortment of sizes and colors.

juvenile laughing gull and nonbreeding adult herring gull
laughing gull, second winter and nonbreeding adult herring gull
juvenile laughing gull
nonbreeding adult laughing gull
nonbreeding adult ring-billed gull
laughing gull and herring gull, both nonbreeding adults
these two seemed to be great friends
At first I thought the large one might be a great black-backed gull because he seems pretty huge, but he doesn’t quite fit the description. I dusted off my “Gulls of the Americas” reference book and discovered that there has been some cross-breeding between the great black-backed and herring gulls. Maybe that’s what’s going on here…
perhaps a version of yoga tree pose
nonbreeding adult ring-billed gull
juvenile laughing gull
waning summer
weed and post art
jellyfish!

There really is a kind of insane beauty around us all the time. It’s just a question of learning to slow down, take a deep breath, and meet the moment.
~ Graham Nash
(Eye to Eye: Photographs)

It was fascinating watching this creature propelling itself through the murky water. It moves so fast I was surpised that some of the pictures actually came out!

The bars are still closed in Connecticut and now that the beach gate is open I’m sure it won’t be long before people start returning to the beach to socialize, bringing their dogs and leaving their trash, cigarette butts, and empty beer bottles. We will probably return to the woods soon, and try to do a better job of avoiding the poison ivy. Enjoying the autumn weather!

an apple a day…

8.10.20 ~ Eastern Point

On Monday we tried to beat the humidity and went down to the beach early. Sometimes there’s no beating the humidity this time of year. Even at that early hour we lasted barely half an hour before Tim felt unwell. But before retreating I did see something new. A ring-billed gull had scavenged an apple and was diligently making a meal out of it.

The sun was trying to come out. Hazy, hot and humid before 8 am.

We got in the car, defeated. Turned on the air conditioner and then noticed a small colony of laughing gulls gathered in the parking lot! They’re back!

laughing gull preening

It was back home to the air-conditioning for us…