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)
One morning, four days after the beach “opened” for the season on June 20, we got up early and headed down there before it opened for the day. What a difference! Now that people have to pay for a pass to enter between 8am and 8pm the freeloaders and all their litter, cigarette butts and dog crap have disappeared. Peace is restored and we had such a lovely walk!
In contrast to the tranquil Canada goose family, the killdeer parents were beyond frantic, chasing after and chirping to their three chicks, who were darting all over the place and in every direction. It made getting their pictures next to impossible! They blended in well with the gravel.
Someone is tending some beautiful rose bushes near the entrance, along the chain link fence.
I love the contrast between rusty old metal and fresh new flower.
The water was very calm on the river/estuary side of the point.
Another risk factor to worry about:
The two stretches of DNA implicated as harboring risks for severe COVID-19 are known to carry some intriguing genes, including one that determines blood type and others that play various roles in the immune system. In fact, the findings suggest that people with blood type A face a 50 percent greater risk of needing oxygen support or a ventilator should they become infected with the novel coronavirus. In contrast, people with blood type O appear to have about a 50 percent reduced risk of severe COVID-19. ~ Dr. Francis S. Collins (Genes, Blood Type Tied to Risk of Severe COVID-19, NIH Director’s Blog, June 18, 2020)
I have type A blood. Fortunately my husband, children, and grandchildren are all type O. Reading this article made me glad that we haven’t let our guard down and continue to remain firmly self-quarantined. And now our governor has ordered out-of-state travelers to quarantine for two weeks when entering Connecticut because of the way COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire in so many other states. I’m glad to know he is still looking out for us. The numbers are getting very alarming again.
It’s good to know my beach sanctuary is available to me again, at least for the summer. Looking forward to many early morning walks on the sand.
The salt of those ancient seas is in our blood, its lime is in our bones. Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments, or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refugees of a long war. ~ Loren Eiseley (The Unexpected Universe)
I like this place, and willingly could Waste my time in it. ~ William Shakespeare (As You Like It)
We are nature. We are nature seeing nature. The red-winged blackbird flies in us. ~ Susan Griffin (Made from this Earth: An Anthology of Writings)
Well, I’m sad to report that I haven’t seen my gull friend with the mangled foot since our encounter on July 10th… I have a strong feeling that he was indeed saying good-bye.
Sunday afternoon a different gull with an injured foot limped over to us to see what food we might offer him. He’s young so he hasn’t learned yet that most humans follow the rules and don’t feed the gulls. While I’m pretty sure our old friend was a herring gull, our new friend is much larger, perhaps a juvenile great black-backed gull.
Of course I was without camera, but I made sure to bring it with me yesterday. The sky was striking. But our new friend wasn’t there.
On Sunday the parking lot had been full of laughing gulls, but yesterday there was only one, and he perched near us, watching us eat. The laughing gulls don’t usually hang out on the white posts. It seems everyone is behaving differently these days!
As we left for home I spotted this bird wading in the nearly dried up salt water pond. Connecticut is in a moderate drought. We have many great egrets but this one was smaller and I wondered if it was a young one. He was too far away to get a decent picture.
Imagine my surprise when I enlarged a few of the pictures and noticed his yellow feet! Pretty sure this identifies him as a snowy egret, which is smaller than the great egret.
Not sure what kind of little shorebird this but he sure looked cute exploring the exposed pond bed. So many appearances in the flow of life…
The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.
~ Alan Watts
(The Wisdom of Insecurity)
Because we’ve been to Cape Cod so many times in our lives something I’ve wanted to do was visit a place there that we’ve never been to before. Bass Hollow Boardwalk in Yarmouth sounded enticing.
This long boardwalk extends out over a salt marsh on the bay side of the Cape and offers some breathtaking views and lots of birds to observe close-up. It was very windy the afternoon we went!
I don’t know what kind of shorebirds these are – would appreciate any help with identification!
To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh, to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of years, to see the running of the old eels and the young shad to the sea, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.
~ Rachel Carson
(Under the Sea Wind)
On August first I was delighted to see what I think was a fledgling American oystercatcher chick, who was testing its wings. It was about half the size of the parents, who were relaxing on the other side of the rock. We first saw the parents July 19. Even though I took these photos with the telescopic lens, I find myself wishing for an even more powerful one! The flights were pretty short – taking off and landing smoothly are no doubt the most difficult part.
When we went down to the beach for supper this evening we heard an unfamiliar bird call and soon noticed four American oystercatchers. The two in these pictures had evidently claimed this rock while the other two kept flying in large circles around them. Eventually the intruders gave up and flew away, leaving this pair to do some grooming in peace.
This was all very exciting to me because I’ve never seen these shorebirds on our beach before. The range map I consulted indicates they may be here for the summer and breeding – they don’t live here year round.
Last summer I had so much fun identifying new kinds of gulls visiting our beach. This year the gulls are not as numerous, but we’ve been seeing more cormorants, egrets, and now these striking sojourners. Welcome to “our” shoreline, oystercatchers!
And it’s a disquieting thought that not even the past is done with, even that continues to change, as if in reality there is only one time, for everything, one time for every purpose under heaven. One single second, one single landscape, in which what happens activates and deactivates what has already happened in endless chain reactions, like the processes that take place in the brain, perhaps, where cells suddenly bloom and die away, all according to the way the winds of consciousness are blowing.
~ Karl Ove Knausgård
(A Time for Everything)
The details don’t matter – they belong to all of us – and loss, after all, is mostly a story about what happens next. What’s next for me, it seems, is the story of realizing that if there are answers at all, they might not be found in the broadest expanses. I find myself mostly lowering my habitual gaze-out-to-sea and settling down to rummage in these greenish-brown, often stinking, bug-infested wrack lines, the likes of which I must have skirted or stepped over thousands of times in my younger-me rush to get to the water. Sometimes I notice what lies tangled within them: the moon snail with its grotesque foot, trash turned into sea glass, driftwood, egg cases, jellyfish. And sometimes I notice what’s gone. Not just my grandiose quest, but also the vanished tangible.
~ Barbara Hurd
(Walking the Wrack Line: On Tidal Shifts & What Remains)