flora by the sea

10.10.22 ~ Cognitive Garden at Avery Point

On Indigenous Peoples’ Day my good friend Janet and I took a long afternoon walk from Eastern Point to Avery Point and back again, passing by Beach Pond both ways. The weather was picture perfect, if a bit on the breezy side.

After admiring the views of Long Island Sound and identifying the various islands and lighthouses we could see on a clear day, we found the “Cognitive Garden” on the Avery Point campus. There was still a lot of interest to see there in the middle of autumn. Textures and colors.

Cognition means to acquire knowledge through the senses, experience, and thought. A cognitive garden encourages learning through these three processes while exposing people to nature. While the benefits of nature extend to all ages, young children learn primarily through their senses and a multitude of studies have demonstrated a correlation between sensory stimulation and brain development.
~ University of Connecticut, Avery Point Campus website

The naturalist is a civilized hunter. He goes goes alone into a field or woodland and closes his mind to everything but that time and place, so that life around him presses in on all the senses and small details grow in significance. He begins the scanning search for which cognition was engineered. His mind becomes unfocused, it focuses on everything, no longer directed toward any ordinary task or social pleasantry.
~ E. O. Wilson
(Biophilia)

black-eyed Susan

I wish I could include the smell of a patch of thyme for you, dear readers. What an amazing scent filled the air!

thyme ~ it smelled wonderful!
a bee enjoying the smell, too

On the way back I was happy to see that Beach Pond was full of water again, although we were still in a moderate drought that day. I suspect Thursday’s torrential rains may have moved us up into the abnormally dry category. No waterbirds around but still some flowers blooming, and others spent.

asters at Beach Pond
cattails with fluff

So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,
and put your lips to the world.
And live
your life.

~ Mary Oliver
(Red Bird: Poems)

the pond is full of water and the breeze was making little ripples
juvenile song sparrow
backside of a lingering swamp rose mallow and orbs
swamp rose mallow bud and orbs

It felt so good sauntering along and catching up with a friend!!!

meadow, woods, old orchard

9.30.22 ~ Coogan Farm Nature & Heritage Center

It felt so good getting out for a long walk in the woods on a cool, crisp autumn day! First we enjoyed the meadows at the entrance to Coogan Farm.

milkweed pods
abundant goldenrod blooming everywhere
bee and asters
can you find the bee?
a stump that was growing out of the crack in a huge boulder

Following a path past the Giving Garden we came to the Gallup Orchard Trail, which winds through the woods before arriving at a forgotten orchard that was recently discovered and is being studied and restored.

a wolf tree welcoming us to the Gallup Orchard Trail,
a relic from farms of the past when trees along the edges of open fields
could spread their branches without competition from other trees
leaf, berries and orbs
ducked under a broken tree
marking the end of the woods and entrance to the orchard

Dating back to the original 1654 Gallup homestead and actively farmed by the Greenman brothers during the age of shipbuilding in the 1800s to feed their shipworkers at what is now Mystic Seaport Museum, the orchard contains clues that will help us uncover the history and heritage of the land.
~ Anna Sawin
(“Apples and Pears, Oh My!” ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center blog post, March 9, 2020)

pear on tree
apple on tree
fall color in the distance

The orchard is on a hill. We entered at the top of the hill and when we found our way down to the bottom we found this sign. The bottom entrance is off the Stillman Mansion Trail. We followed that trail back to the parking lot and encountered a cute little song sparrow, who wasn’t singing, only staring at us apprehensively.

song sparrow

Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.
~ F. Scott Fitzgerald
(The Great Gatsby)

American burnweed ~ pilewort (thanks to Eliza for the identification)

I hope we get lots of walks in this autumn! 🍂 🍁 🍂

copper beech healing

7.4.22 ~ Avery Point

If we keep having these lovely weather days I might have to change my negative feelings about the summer season. Returning to Avery Point we again found a song sparrow singing at the top of the beach rose bushes. I wonder if it’s the same one we met a month ago. He was in the same spot.

song sparrow still king of his beach rosebushes

The bushes were full of rose hips but I think there will be another bloom or two left in the season.

beach rose hip and thorns
fading
beach rosebud ~ there are still more to come
there were still a few in full bloom
Avery Point Light

Look who was very busy digging bugs out of the lawn…

northern mockingbird

I lingered under this immense copper beech tree and held my hand on it, soaking up some healing energy. (It’s trunk was way too big to hug!) Looking up into its branches was a transcendent experience.

We come into being in and through the Earth. Simply put, we are Earthlings. The Earth is our origin, our nourishment, our educator, our healer, our fulfillment. At its core, even our spirituality is Earth derived. The human and the Earth are totally implicated, each in the other. If there is no spirituality in the Earth, then there is no spirituality in ourselves.
~ Thomas Berry
(The Sacred Universe)

copper beech

Not sure what kind of tree this is (below) but the slash in its bark was striking. I wonder how long it’s been there and if it grew with the tree…

What would our lives be without trees? Bleak and inhospitable, I’d say. What a blessing to have their gifts to us and the other creatures in our summer world.

piping plovers

6.29.22 ~ Harkness Memorial State Park

Another gorgeous day for a walk, this time through the meadow and nature preserve at Harkness Memorial State Park.

All the birds were quite far away and the distance was a bit too much for my zoom lens to handle.

song sparrow high up top of a tree
song sparrow and cobweb

When we got to the bird viewing blind at Goshen Cove I was delighted to see and to add a new lifer to my list, even though the dozen or so piping plovers were so tiny and at a good distance…

piping plover, #72

Piping Plover Charadrius melodus: Endangered, rare to locally uncommon migrant; breeds on sandy beaches with limited human disturbance, mid-March to mid-November.
~ Frank Gallo
(Birding in Connecticut)

Piping Plovers are sandy grayish brown birds with white underparts and a narrow, often broken collar. They have yellowish orange legs in all seasons. In the breeding season, they have an orange bill with a black tip, a black collar, and a black line on the forehead. In the nonbreeding season, the bill is black and the collar fades to gray and doesn’t go all the way around the breast.
~ All About Birds webpage

I was so captivated by the piping plovers I almost missed this willet who came strolling by, much closer to the blind. As if offended, he turned and walked away from me.

willet

Three women came into the blind and were very excited by some activity on the osprey nest. They didn’t notice the piping plovers at all. I finally looked at the ospreys, also too far away for my camera…

ospreys

After all that stimulation we left the blind and continued along through the lovely meadow. There was a touch of humidity and although it wasn’t too much for me Tim was starting to feel it. This may be our last extended walk for a while. It’s supposed to get hot and humid tomorrow.

a nice park setting between the meadow and Long Island Sound
Long Island Sound

While we were taking in a view of Long Island Sound we heard the unmistakable call of approaching American oystercatchers. Three of them finally came into view flying over the sound, parallel to the the shoreline. We followed them with our eyes until the they vanished on the horizon. I hope we’ll get to have some nesting on our beach this summer. We saw them about this time last year.

to stand by these shores

6.15.22 ~ great blue heron at Avery Pond

Assorted sightings from an early summer, sunny, beach walk… Enjoy!

path to the Eastern Point estuary beach
double-crested cormorants in the estuary
cultivated rose on the fence
song sparrow on sign
entrance to Eastern Point Beach
common grackle (?) with missing tail (?)
sailing way offshore
Avery Point, view across the water from Eastern Point
top of Avery Point Light seen over the hill

For some strange reason we didn’t see any gulls…


Good it is to stand by these shores
How beautiful life can seem!
Hear; what joy from birds’ throats pours,
see, how the grass verdant gleams!

Bees are humming, butterflies shimmering
lark-song pierces through the clouds,
and from bowls with nectar brimming
we drink our fill of summer flowers.

~ Gunnar Wennerberg
(The Magic of Fjords)


Then, two days later, in hazy conditions…

6.17.22 ~ female brown-headed cowbird near the fence
killdeer standing on one leg at Beach Pond
I couldn’t decide which killdeer picture I liked best…

Connecticut’s positivity rate dipped down to 7.6% but now it’s creeping back up again, 8.1% on Friday. Sigh…

beach roses and song sparrows

maple tree by the sea
6.5.22 ~ Avery Point

The patient is safely home from the hospital and all seems to have gone well and as planned. Tim has a resting pulse now!!! So many thanks to you all for the healing energy, well wishes and prayers. ❤️

northern mockingbird eating its breakfast

A couple of days before the surgery to put in the pacemaker we took a long Sunday walk at Avery Point. It was a gorgeous day, with beach roses blooming!

the biggest clump of beach roses

This song sparrow was singing away, claiming the beach rose shrub for his territory no doubt. We listened to him for quite a while.

Then we moved on to some smaller rosebushes farther down the path…

Avery Point Light

The lovely flowers embarrass me,
They make me regret I am not a Bee —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #808)

Another song sparrow staking his claim on his bush with the sweetest melody. The adjacent garden no doubt provides plenty of buggy delights for his dining pleasure.

horse chestnut blossom

We’re planning to try a post-surgery walk here again on this coming Sunday, a week after this one. This was also the first place we took a walk after Tim’s heart attack and by-pass surgery in 2007. It’s so hard to believe that was almost 15 years ago!

Finally Connecticut’s daily covid positivity rate started to go back down this week, even if ever so slightly. It had been creeping up for weeks. Let’s hope the downward trend continues.

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. 😉

five days later

4.16.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, Mystic

We got up early Saturday morning to see if mama goose was still on her nest. She was. We’ll keep checking. It was fun being out earlier than usual for a walk, before the world is completely awake. The nature center wasn’t even open but we assumed it was okay to walk on the trails before hours.

mama must be getting awfully tired and hungry

Papa goose was still on the watch. This time he stayed in the water so I guess we’re okay to take pictures for now.

My blogging friend Linda noticed something about Papa goose that I missed. Two white spots above his eyes. After browsing around online I’m guessing he might be a Canada goose subspecies, either a moffitti or a maxima or even a hybrid.

at least papa can swim around
moss and/or lichen clump on a branch reaching out over the pond

It was so peaceful and quiet. Even the birds were singing softly.


On the way home we decided to drive by Walt’s Walls & Woods. We discovered this open space in November and decided to come back in the spring to see the weeping cherry trees bloom. It looks like they are just starting so we’ll come back in a few days. Link to our last visit: here.

4.16.22 ~ Walt’s Walls & Woods, Groton
weeping cherry tree
creeping phlox and Walt’s stone walls
creeping phlox

While we were out and about we decided to drive through at Avery Point before going home. Much to my delight a killdeer was running around on the rocks, chirping about something. What a sweet little voice she had! We didn’t see any babies. I can’t believe these pictures came out. I was in the car and taking them leaning across Tim and out of his open window!

4.16.22 ~ Avery Point, Groton

The sharp thrill of seeing them [killdeer birds] reminded me of childhood happiness, gifts under the Christmas tree, perhaps, a kind of euphoria we adults manage to shut out most of the time. This is why I bird-watch, to recapture what it’s like to live in this moment, right now.
~ Lynn Thomson
(Birding with Yeats: A Memoir)

song sparrow near a thicket

One more stop, at Calf Pasture Overlook, where a squirrel was striking a pose on the stone wall by the parking lot. This fuzzy picture was through the car’s windshield. It seemed like the perfect portrait to me.

4.16.22 ~ Calf Pasture Overlook, Groton

Back at home my favorite chionodoxa bulbs were blooming by my river birch. I call them my little blue stars.

4.16.22 ~ chionodoxas in front of the river birch tree in my garden

Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where others see nothing.
~ Camille Pissarro
(Word Pictures: Painting with Verse)

a living museum

2.11.22 ~ Alewife Cove Nature Walk
Ocean Beach, New London, Connecticut

When we arrived at Ocean Beach and started walking down the boardwalk to get to the Alewife Cove Nature Walk we heard a couple of starlings singing the loveliest songs and couldn’t believe our ears. (Back at home I was surprised to learn that “they have impressive vocal abilities and a gift for mimicry.”) I’ve only heard them making unpleasant noises until this day.

European starling

As we went along I spotted a cat spying on us. He must have been enjoying the spring-like weather.

The last time I was at this place was in April of 2012, almost ten years ago, with Janet and Nancy. It’s changed a lot due to the many storms forever reshaping the coastal landscape. Here is what I posted back then: walking is discovery. When Tim & I walked at Waterford Beach Park back in October we could see this nature area across the cove and so I made a mental note to revisit it soon. See: sunlight by the sea.

song sparrow
Alewife Cove and Long Island Sound
great blue heron
Alewife Cove
looking west across Alewife Cove to the walkway to Waterford Beach Park

On the walk ten years ago I discovered a praying mantis egg case like the one above. On this walk we saw dozens of them! This must be a favored habitat for them because I’ve never noticed these anywhere else on our wanderings. Apparently the nymphs, up to 300 of them, will emerge as soon as temperatures warm in spring.

praying mantis egg case

Whatever the environment from which it springs, local knowledge matters, because enchanted living begins with local living: genuinely understanding, and so living in harmony with the landscape you occupy.
~ Sharon Blackie
(The Enchanted Life, Unlocking the Magic of the Everyday)

praying mantis egg case
driftwood caught in the brush
driftwood on the sand ~ maybe part of a tree trunk?
cat hanging out at the beach pavilion

It was a great day for a walk. It’s a good thing we left when we did, though, because the Ocean Beach parking lot, which was empty when we arrived, was suddenly full of activity and people placing traffic cones everywhere to make space for lines of cars. They were setting up for free covid testing. We had to to exit out of an entrance to finally find our way out of the maze! A reminder that the pandemic is still with us. Our positivity rate is currently 5%. Seems to be going down slowly…