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…
After three weeks of not walking so I could concentrate efforts on my project, we decided to take a little break on the day before Thanksgiving. In order to avoid holiday traffic we took a peaceful morning meander close to home, down at the beach. Little did I realize we would encounter a new life bird! I guessed it was a sandpiper but couldn’t figure out which kind… The good folks at the What’s This Bird? group helped me out.
There were about eight of them and the sun was behind them, of course, so the pictures aren’t that great. I disobeyed the “keep off the rocks” signs to get a little closer. (That was a first for me!)
Purple Sandpiper Calidris maritima: Uncommon to fairly common (May) coastal migrant, and winter visitor to rocky shores, breakwaters, and jetties. ~ Frank Gallo (Birding in Connecticut)
A pot-bellied shorebird with a long, drooping bill, the Purple Sandpiper is a hardy species that specializes on rocky, wave-battered coastlines. These subdued, gray-and-white sandpipers nimbly explore seaweed-covered rocks as they search for mussels, crustaceans, and flies, flashing bright orange on the legs and bill. The common name refers to a seldom-seen purple sheen on some of the wing feathers. Purple Sandpipers breed on arctic tundra; they spend winters on North Atlantic shores, farther north than any other shorebird. ~ All About Birds webpage
It was a wonderful break, and then we had a good Thanksgiving, and now, back to work on my project!
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.
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%.
Wednesday was supposed to be hot and humid so we decided to get up early and take a walk down at the beach before it opened. On the way there we heard some killdeer at the pond, incessantly trilling. I wondered if they might be trying to chase a Canada goose away from their nest.
I couldn’t make out if they were courting or protecting a nest I couldn’t see. Those white stones at the feet of the one on the right don’t look like the pictures of eggs I’ve seen online, which would be mottled cream or buff with brown specks.
After some time, one of them moved to a spot farther away from the goose.
Then it was time for us to move on to the beach. The beach grooming tractor was busy at work but one gull was wading in the water with the early morning sunshine on his back. It felt good to walk across the sand, even with the hum of technology in the background.
Amazingly, we still haven’t turned on the air conditioning this year and we’re halfway through July! It’s getting slightly more humid this week but we haven’t had a heat wave yet and it’s been bearable so far. Very unusual.
Air quality alerts, heat advisories, ugh… We came out of our nest twice yesterday, once to go to the farmers market and after supper down to the beach. Not much going on there and we didn’t stay long because of the oppressive humidity. Walking was a struggle. No sea breeze…
When we heard some vigorous splashing we looked over in the river to see a gull taking a bath. Was he cleaning off or cooling down? I’m amazed these pictures came out at all!
And then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a tiny least sandpiper running around on the sand. He’s only six inches long and this is the only picture that came out! So cute!
Back inside, we’ve been working on jigsaw puzzles again…
Ugh. Unrelenting tropical humidity… Last night we sat down on our bench at the beach and sweltered… I was hoping to see my gull friend because we hadn’t seen him since the end of June. I miss him sitting on the post in front of us… But it looked like we weren’t going to see any shorebirds so we watched the sailboats going by instead. They were coming in because a thunderstorm was rumbling in the distance.
When we couldn’t take the heat any longer we walked over to a bench in the shade on the other side of Tyler House, and looked out over the rocks and breakwaters. I spotted a tiny little bird way out and strained to make it out. It finally came a little closer.
And, lucky for me, the robin-sized shorebird came even closer! The spotted sandpiper is a new one for me. 🙂
After taking way too many pictures of the sandpiper, most of them blurry and deleted already, I sat down and felt grateful for the sea breeze finally starting to come in from the sound. And then The Captain flew by in front of us! He flew back to the other side of Tyler House and we followed, and sat down on our usual bench. But he wouldn’t come down to his fence post. He stayed up there on that ugly lamp post. There were no children running around this day so I wonder why he won’t come down.
We waited for a good while but he wouldn’t budge. So we started for the car. Looking back at him it looked like he was doing some stretching. Amazing his sense of balance up there!
Good night, dear summer friend! I hope to see you again soon.
Now that summer is giving way to autumn we decided to go to Napatree Point again. An added incentive was the promise of big waves from Hurricane Teddy, churning away out at sea. It was lovely to walk and breathe in the sea air. The tide was coming in and the waves were bigger than usual, 6.5′ according to a surfing website. I even brought a blanket so I could sit on the beach for a while, and soak up the earth’s energy.
And then, much to my delight, two tiny birds flew in off the water and landed in front of us. We watched them for the longest time as they were feeding by the wrack line, and as they ran back and forth between the waves. If I’m making correct identifications, the larger one in front is a semipalmated plover and the smaller one in back is a semipalmated sandpiper. It was fun getting pictures from a sitting position.
On the weekend we finally got a break from the heat and humidity and when we went down to the beach early Sunday morning I was very surprised to see some very tiny shorebirds on the rocks. After careful investigation I believe they are two different kinds of sandpipers because of some small differences in size and beak shape. The smaller one in front with the yellow legs and the slightly curved bill is a least sandpiper. The slightly larger one in back with the black legs (legs seen in following pictures) and a stouter bill is a semipalmated sandpiper.
They were a little difficult to capture with my camera, but in the picture above you can see the semipalmated’s (lower left) black legs. The least sandpiper (upper right) is only slightly larger than a sparrow.
Least Sandpipers breed in tundra and boreal forests across the extreme northern regions of North America. They nest in coastal wetlands, bogs, sedge meadows, and tussock heaths. At the southern reaches of their breeding range, in Nova Scotia and British Columbia, they also nest in sand dunes. During migration they stop on coastal mudflats, rocky shorelines, and inland habitats including wet meadows, flooded fields, and muddy edges of lakes, ponds, and ditches. They winter from the southern United States through the northern half of South America in lagoons, mangrove forests, wet ditches, swamps, wet fields, mudflats, saltmarshes, tidal sloughs, and the edges of lakes, ponds, and rivers. ~ All About Birds webpage
My guess is that this flock is migrating south and stopped on our “rocky shoreline.” The “All About Birds” webpage also says they flock with other shorebirds during fall migration, including with the semipalmated sandpipers.
The Semipalmated Sandpiper has three North American breeding populations: western (Alaska), central (western Canadian Arctic), and eastern (eastern Canadian Arctic). A 2012 study estimated a total population of 2.26 million breeding birds, with 1.45 million in the western population, and 810,000 in the central and eastern populations. Population trends have fluctuated over the last several decades. Overall, it appears that the Alaskan and central populations are currently stable, with possible increases in some areas, and the eastern population is declining. Semipalmated Sandpiper is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists bird species that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action. ~ All About Birds webpage
There were fewer semipalmated sandpipers in the flock than the least sandpipers, which makes sense if they are declining. It seems this little guy flew here from the eastern Canadian Arctic. Good luck on the rest of your journey, little one!
As I was oohing and aahing over the sandpipers a herring gull came over, wondering why I wasn’t taking his picture…
As we continued our walk we tried to make a Marco Polo video message of ourselves for Katherine and Finn. We love it when they send us one. 🙂 I hope it came out all right. We want them to remember the beach. It was just over a year ago that they were here!
There was an unusually large group of cormorants gathered on the breakwater. Just a tad closer to me than normal, but not quite close enough to get the “perfect” picture I dream about.
I’m pretty sure the ducks below are mallards.
On the way home we saw a large flock of Canada geese resting and preening on logs in Beach Pond, which seems to have a little more water in it from a recent rainstorm. Not sure where the logs came from.
We drove through the Avery Point campus looking for American oystercatchers that someone spotted a few days ago. Didn’t see any, just a group of crows.
An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Journal, April 20, 1840)