snow by the sea

morning has broken, view out back

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. ❄️

1.7.22 ~ my river birch during the morning snowstorm
from my kitchen window

First stop, Avery Pond. Lots of Canada geese and mallards, but a pair of American wigeons caught my eye.

American wigeon
American wigeon

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.

ring-billed gulls with eyes open just a little bit
snow on the rocks
gulls drifting in the wind
juvenile herring gull sticking right by our car
snow covered sand on the beach

Next stop, Beach Pond. No wildlife to be seen at all…

snow all around the pond
snow in the dune grass
cattails
snow and cattails

Next stop, Avery Point. There were quite a few folks out walking their dogs. Too nippy to get out of the car!

don’t know the name of this sculpture
“Azucar” by Christopher Wynter
New London Ledge Light in the background
Avery Point Light and windswept snowscape

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.

song sparrow
song sparrow
snow and ice on Birch Plain Creek
white-throated sparrow
white-throated sparrow

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!

’tis the season for birds

12.13.21 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum

Not the greatest pictures I’ve ever taken, but I was thrilled to see more birds than usual on this winter walk. Interesting that we didn’t encounter another human being on this day. Maybe everyone is shopping for the holidays. Not us! It was a sunny day with light westerly winds, a relatively comfortable 44°F/7°C with a feels-like temperature of 39°F/4°C. Connecticut’s positivity rate yesterday was 8.16%.

back of an American robin
back of a blue jay
blue jay, way high up in the tree
female northern cardinal on the ground
female northern cardinal, collecting wood chips?
white-throated sparrow bathing behind the reeds
white-throated sparrow, it was a quick bath
American robin, sitting very still but obscured by many twigs
tulip tree bark
the arboretum pond
hooded mergansers, second sighting!
hooded merganser
the only mallards shot I could get
my beloved eastern hemlock seed cones
view from the gazebo where we rested

The Brain — is wider than the Sky —
For — put them side by side —
The one the other will contain
With ease — and You — beside —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #598)

house sparrow, wild turkeys, reindeer moss

11.3.21 ~ house sparrow in the river birch tree
outside my kitchen window

Now that some leaves have fallen off our tree we can see the little birds better from the kitchen window. We discovered a little nest deep in the branches. We are grateful to the tree for shading us from the hot sun all summer, and now with the leaves gone it will let some sunlight in to warm us up.


On Friday we decided to take a walk in the woods at a town park we’ve driven past many times, not realizing it wasn’t just a dog park, which is only a small part of the huge property. But first, as we were driving by the post office we had a close encounter with Thelma & Louise, a pair of male wild turkeys.

They are local celebrities and even have their own Facebook page, where humans post pictures of their sightings. A biologist weighed in and said they were two males, but the names Thelma & Louise remain stuck to them. They hang out in downtown Groton and regularly stop traffic as they stroll across the streets.

But nobody seems to get irritated with them as they wait patiently for the turkeys to get out of harm’s way.

We’ve crossed paths with them many times but this was the first time there was a place we could pull over and get a few pictures. I posted these on Facebook. 🙂


On to Copp Family Park. It was gorgeous! And we had a nice long walk because the uneven terrain on the trails was good for Tim’s back and hip. We even had to cross a stream using stepping stones. It felt so good to be deep in the woods again. No mosquitoes! In fact, we were wearing our winter coats because it was only 37°F (3°C) when we left the house.

The picture below is a failed attempt to capture a woodpecker, but I kind of like the pleasing composition.

I found a tree hosting lots of reindeer moss, at least I’m pretty sure that’s what this lichen is called…

I was holding a small clump of reindeer moss in one hand, a little piece of that branching, pale green-grey lichen that can survive just about anything the world throws at it. It is patience made manifest. Keep reindeer moss in the dark, freeze it, dry it to a crisp, it won’t die. It goes dormant and waits for things to improve. Impressive stuff.
~ Helen Macdonald
(H is for Hawk)

I even spotted some on the ground farther along the trail.

orbs and orange leaves
the largest glacial erratic we encountered
the other side of the glacial erratic
spiral growth?

After we got back to the car we decided to go for a leaf peeping drive and wound up at the cider mill and a cemetery. Will share those pictures in the next post!

to the lighthouse

10.13.21 ~ Watch Hill Lighthouse

So, we finally made it to Watch Hill Lighthouse! I’ve been taking pictures of it from the distance from Napatree Point (see here) but now we have managed to see it up close. Sort of. It’s surrounded by a chain link fence and is closed to the public, but it sits at the end of a peninsula where we could take a nice long walk, surrounded by water on both sides. I was able to get pictures of it from a few slightly different angles.

The Watch Hill Lighthouse in Watch Hill, Rhode Island has served as a nautical beacon for ships since 1745, when the Rhode Island colonial government erected a watchtower and beacon during the French and Indian War and Revolutionary War. The original structure was destroyed in a 1781 storm, and plans were discussed to build a new lighthouse to mark the eastern entrance to Fishers Island Sound and to warn mariners of a dangerous reef southwest of Watch Hill. President Thomas Jefferson signed an act to build the lighthouse in 1806, and construction was completed in 1807. The first lighthouse stood 35 feet (11 m) tall. In 1827, a rotating light was installed to differentiate it from the Stonington Harbor Light in Connecticut. Erosion forced it to close in 1855 and move farther away from the bluff edge. The next lighthouse opened in 1856 and remains as the present structure, standing 45 feet (14 m) tall.
~ Watch Hill Lighthouse Keepers Association website

looking east
looking west toward Napatree Point
(the pictures I’ve taken of the lighthouse before were taken from that dune)
rose hip

Of course, it didn’t take me long to locate some birds. They were on the other side of a large thicket, though. It took me some time to find a way aroud the thicket and down closer to the cormorants and eiders.

double-crested cormorant drying its wings
juvenile double-crested cormorant ~ first one I’ve seen
side view of a double-crested cormorant drying its wings
view from the thicket
sticking out of the thicket
house sparrows peeking out of the thicket
immature male common eider
female common eider
immature male common eider
female common eider

What was it then? What did it mean? Could things thrust their hands up and grip one; could the blade cut; the fist grasp? Was there no safety? No learning by heart of the ways of the world? No guide, no shelter, but all was miracle, and leaping from the pinnacle of a tower into the air? Could it be, even for elderly people, that this was life? — startling, unexpected, unknown?
~ Virginia Woolf
(To the Lighthouse)

Atlantic Ocean

It was a pleasant day for a walk by the sea. We found the walk-in entrance to another public beach to the east of the peninsula and will probably try to visit that one on another visit. It will be fun to photograph the lighthouse from that direction!

Watch Hill Lighthouse

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!

forty years of birding

5.23.21 ~ Avery Point ~ killdeer

Sunday we took a walk at Avery Point on a hot day, the temperature was way above average for this time of year, but we can park on campus without a permit on the weekends so we decided to give it a try. A nice sea breeze made it bearable.

curious killdeer

A killdeer surprised me by standing very still, as curious about me as I was about him/her. Because the 30th anniversary of my mother’s death is coming up on Thursday, Mom and her love of birdwatching have been much on my mind. At home I decided to pull out her well-worn 1947 edition of A Field Guide to the Birds by Roger Tory Peterson, including her life list. She first saw a killdeer on March 17, 1951. She was 19 years old.

one last comment before scooting off

It looks like she started birding in earnest that year. There are a few birds marked with a check, which she probably remembered seeing before she started to keep a record. Lots of Florida birds were spotted in the 1960s, when I was a child and we made many trips down there to visit relatives. The last new bird she noted was a red-breasted nuthatch on December 20, 1989, 17 months before she died at the age of 59.

ants visiting a beach rose
I adore beach roses
beach rosebud
I only saw this one herring gull this day

Mom recorded 5 kinds of gulls: great black-backed, herring, California, ring-billed, and laughing.

not sure what this pretty bush is
still more new life late in the spring
bee collecting pollen
another beach rosebud
song sparrow

Mom recorded her song sparrow on March 20, 1951. This one was singing such a pretty song, the moment filled my heart with joy.

sunlit copper beech leaves
allium
allium?
daisy
salvia?

Funny thing was, I was hoping to find a Canada goose family with goslings, but we didn’t see any. People have been posting pictures of them in the beach’s Facebook group. Oh well. Encountering the killdeer was a welcome blessing, an even better experience. Another lesson in flexibility and living in the present moment. And it was nice that the killdeer led me to take a peek back into one of my mother’s life’s passions.

Mom first saw a mourning dove on May 23, 1951. A little synchronicity there. This walk was taken on May 23, 2021, seventy years later. Ever since my mother died I’ve been comforted by the mourning doves who keep coming to my garden and my balcony, as they keep reminding me of her presence and love.

points of viewing

3.22.21 ~ looking towards Tyler House at Eastern Point Beach
from Griswold Point

There is another “point” north of the beach at Eastern Point, a little up the Thames River, called Griswold Point by the locals, even though I cannot seem to find that name on a map. The grand luxury Griswold Hotel was once located here (1906-1967); part of a golf course now occupies the space. There is a small nameless park area and a street between the golf course and the river. I didn’t know we were allowed to park on the street but Tim said we are so we decided to visit the spot on Monday.

New London Ledge Light, with telephoto lens from Griswold Point

It was interesting seeing these two lighthouses from a different point of perspective.

New London Harbor Light

Tim drew my attention to the river where a couple of unfamiliar ducks were sitting on a rock. A wave from a ferry came along and washed them off the rock and we watched them swim away, their dignity intact.

American wigeons

Nearby we spotted some brants swimming…

brants

And then, much to my delight, a little song sparrow decided to pose on the branch of a bush. He might be part of the flock that was living down by the beach because when I got to there later I found that their thicket had been removed and they were gone. 🙁

song sparrow

And then Tim spied a tall ship on the horizon. He guessed (correctly) it was the USCGC Eagle returning to port.

USCGC Eagle from Griswold Point

So we hopped back in the car and headed for Eastern Point to watch it come in. When we got there we could hear the sailors’ voices across the water even though they were so far away. The water was very calm.

USCGC Eagle from Eastern Point

While we waited for the tall ship to come closer we took a walk on the sand…

seaweed assortment
shell and sand grains

When we came back to the rocks and Tyler House we found a crow waiting, too.

American crow
US Coast Guard Eagle
(training cutter for future officers of the United States Coast Guard)
New London Ledge Light surrounded by calm water patterns
Race Rock Light, eight miles away

And this time coming home, some crocuses waiting for me in my garden. 💙

first crocuses in my garden