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

even the smallest thing

2.19.21 ~ white-throated sparrow, Birch Plain Creek

One can only hide from the cold for so long. One’s mind needs to be outdoors! One’s spirit needs simple things. It snowed most of the day on Thursday and Friday and when I woke up at 4 a.m. Saturday morning there were still flurries dancing around. We went for a walk in the scattered snow showers on Friday, with about five inches of the white stuff on the ground. Not wanting to drive anywhere, we walked in the woods and along the creek behind our condo complex.

I spotted a new bird, for me, a white-throated sparrow! She was not cooperating about posing very much but I was happy to get the above picture. One musn’t be greedy. I wonder what she was eating.

left over from a city-wide Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt
mourning dove

A mourning dove landed on a branch and eyed me. I thanked her for letting me see the coloring under her tail. Another new thing for me to see. And then she knocked some snow off the branch — yes dear little dove, I did see you do that. 😉

mourning dove knocking snow off the branch
waiting for spring

The creek was mostly frozen over. Tim spotted three gulls out on the ice. Two waiting for an opportunity and one devouring a fish. One always wonders who stole it from who…

great black-backed gull, first winter
it looks cold out there on the ice
winter survival

How surely gravity’s law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of even the smallest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.

Each thing —
each stone, blossom, child —
is held in place. …

This is what the things can teach us:
to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
(Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God)

somebody’s tracks
Birch Plain Creek

My mood improved 100% by the time we returned home. Pretty flurries just continued floating through the sky all morning and afternoon, until dark, still there every time I looked up from my book. I have finished reading The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden and have started on The Girl in the Tower, the second book in the Winternight trilogy. Perfect books for winter.

Birch Plain Creek

a bit nippy

1.7.21 ~ song sparrow, Eastern Point

The song sparrow, who knows how brief and lovely life is, says, “Sweet, sweet, sweet interlude; sweet, sweet, sweet interlude.
~ E. B. White
(Charlotte’s Web)

1.7.21 ~ brants in Thames River estuary

Thursday’s afternoon walk was a bit nippy. (We thought it might be slightly warmer than our usual morning walk. It was, but still, my fingers froze. Maybe two layers of gloves in the future… Maybe stop trying to take so many pictures…) I counted five song sparrows flitting about near the thicket and sea wall. I left them a few seeds.

And we saw a huge flock of brants on the lawn. Suddenly they took off en masse to fly a short distance and alight on the river. (Attemped in-flight photos were all blurry.) If you want to hear the sound they made while flying there’s an audio clip at the bottom right side of this webpage: brant sound. It’s very different than the honking sounds Canada geese make.

Maybe they’re here for the eelgrass and will then move on to greener “pastures.” I can only imagine how much of it such a huge flock consumes in a few days.

1.7.21 ~ Canada geese in Beach Pond

Geese are friends with no one, they badmouth everybody and everything. But they are companionable once you get used to their ingratitude and false accusations.
~ E. B. White
(Charlotte’s Web)

in a thicket

12.13.20 ~ Eastern Point ~ leaves in the estuary

After my yucky week Tim made sure I got out for another walk soon, especially since we’re supposed to be having a few storms this week. I haven’t been finding many birds lately, and not even the gulls were cooperating at the beach, where we found ourselves on Sunday.

and driftwood
and seaweed
young man meditating on the rocks

But then I remembered a song sparrow I had seen back in July in a thicket near a chain link fence on top of a cement wall near the estuary. (timelessness and quiet ecstasy) I decided to see if some song sparrows were still there. Yes! They live here year round and are native to North America. Finding them made my day! 🙂

song sparrow on the lookout

in a thicket by
the sea the song sparrows are
still keeping a home

~ Barbara Rodgers
(By the Sea)

the top of a chain link fence serves a useful purpose

Feeds heavily on seeds, especially in winter, mainly those of grasses and weeds. Birds in coastal marshes and on islands also feed on small crustaceans and mollusks, perhaps rarely on small fish.
~ National Audubon Society website, page on song sparrows

If you would have the song of the sparrow inspire you a thousand years hence, let your life be in harmony with its strain to-day.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, May 12, 1857)

cattails, sand, shells

11.17.20 ~ Beach Pond ~ Groton, Connecticut

Yesterday we took a walk by the pond adjacent to our beach and enjoyed a chilly day that felt a lot more like late fall than it did during the recent warm spell. The temperature when we started our walk was 39°F (4°C) so we bundled up in winter jackets.

Sunday night we had a cold front come through with gale force winds and some more needed rain. We lost power for 45 minutes in the middle of the night and even lit some candles. The new moon had made it a very dark night. It was good to see some water in this pond once again.

All of a sudden I had the revelation of how enchanting my pond was.
~ Claude Monet
(Concise Encyclopedia of Semantics)

song sparrow
Canada goose
another Canada goose

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.

~ Mary Oliver
(In Blackwater Woods)

11.17.20 ~ Eastern Point ~ Groton, Connecticut

As we walked from the pond over to the beach we found sand along the side of the road, blown off the beach during the storm. And an oak leaf from a distant somewhere. The sand had shifted around on the beach itself. In the winter they don’t comb the sand like they do in the summer, so one can see what nature decides to do with the shoreline.

New London Ledge Light on the horizon and Tyler House

During the storm a tall tree at the beach came down and someone posted a picture of it on social media on Monday, lying flat on the lawn. But it was gone before we got to the beach on Tuesday, so the city had made quick work of that clean up. There were people operating equipment, working on the playground renovation. I’m looking forward to bringing our grandchildren here again some day.

The waves were bigger and louder than usual. In fact, we heard them while we were at the pond. Little tiny breakers. Most of the time Long Island Sound is pretty smooth.

looking out at New London Ledge Light

Quite a few treasures had been deposited on the beach. Ocean offerings.

One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few.
~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh
(Gift from the Sea)

another oak leaf far from home

The heart of man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depths it has its pearls too.
~ Vincent Van Gogh
(Letter to Theo van Gogh, October 31, 1876)

by courtesy of the light

10.4.20 ~ Beebe Pond Park, Groton, Connecticut

Almost two years ago, Nate took Larisa and me and three of the grandchildren to this magical woodsy park, chock full of glacial erratics, and I couldn’t wait to share it with Tim now that he is taking walks. Originally I wanted to go to another park, but the parking lot there was overflowing so we moved on. It was a Sunday and I didn’t have much hope for this park either but when we drove up there was only one car in the tiny roadside parking area so we were in luck!

It was a beautiful, sunny, warm autumn day. We heard and saw plenty of birds but only managed to get a good picture of one, a new one for my list. Of course, every time Tim rang his bell they got quiet for a few minutes. 🙂 There were still leaves on the trees and yet many on the ground, a nice moment in the middle of autumn.

an interesting root formation
the water level on Beebe Pond is very low due to the drought
fall flowers, asters
swamp sparrow

Swamp Sparrows perch and forage in vegetation near the ground or water surface, where their rather long legs—longer than those of Song or Lincoln’s Sparrows—enable them to forage well. They typically forage near the water’s edge or in brushy patches within the habitat.
~ All About Birds website

Now that I’ve decided not to feed the birds this winter I feel blessed to have found one in the woods who allowed me to get his picture. Hopefully there will be many more on future walks. The background scenery in the woods is much nicer for pictures than our balcony.

By courtesy of the light
we have the beautiful shadows.
Because the trees darken
the ground, shade-lovers thrive.
To one who stands outside,
the woods is a wall of leaves
impassable by sight, passable
by foot or wing. Come in
and walk among the shades.

~ Wendell Berry
(This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems)

a dab of color
huge glacial erratics
autumn colors
gold and rust
sunlit path
the trail was very rocky and narrow at times
a rare bit of red

It’s all about the light for me. I’m glad this walk worked out on the weekend because on Monday we got some much needed rain.

And then, after the rain, some excitement! A flock of pine siskins feeding on the arborvitae trees off our balcony! Another new bird for me! (And I wasn’t even in the woods…)

pine siskin

I took the pictures through the glass of the sliding glass doors and am surprised they came out as nicely as they did.

Pine Siskins often visit feeders in winter (particularly for thistle or nyjer seed) or cling to branch tips of pines and other conifers, sometimes hanging upside down to pick at seeds below them. They are gregarious, foraging in tight flocks and twittering incessantly to each other, even during their undulating flight.
~ All About Birds website

In July of 2017 we had a house finch visit our arborvitae trees, so now we have had another kind of finch enjoying the seeds. Many thanks to the good people in the What’s this Bird? Facebook group for help with both identifications.

timelessness and quiet ecstasy

7.14.20 ~ ring-billed gull cooling his feet at Eastern Point Beach

The humidity lowered just a tad on Tuesday morning so we snuck down to the beach for an early morning walk. The only gull out and about was on the rocks, a ring-billed one with his bright yellow legs. He wanted to be friends and walk along with us.

When we went down on the sand he decided to come, too, and lead the way.

follow me, please
pardon me while I cool off my feet again

Then Tim spotted a butterfly flitting about on the wrack line!

monarch butterfly

When it moved to the sand I tried to get a shot of it with its wings open.

shadow on the sand

Yet there are other windows through which we humans can look out into the world around us, windows through which the mystics and the holy men of the East, and the founders of the great world religions, have gazed as they searched for the meaning and purpose of our life on earth, not only in the wondrous beauty of the world, but also in its darkness and ugliness. And those Masters contemplated the truths that they saw, not with their minds only but with their hearts and souls too. From those revelations came the spiritual essence of the great scripitures, the holy books, and the most beautiful mystic poems and writings. That afternoon, it had been as though an unseen hand had drawn back a curtain and, for the briefest moment, I had seen through such a window. In a flash of “outsight” I had known timelessness and quiet ecstasy, sensed a truth of which mainstream science is merely a small fraction. And I knew that the revelation would be with me for the rest of my life, imperfectly remembered yet always within. A source of strength on which I could draw when life seemed harsh or cruel or desperate.
~ Jane Goodall
(Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey)

nature’s delightful composition
gull tracks
song sparrow having its breakfast

I’d sit on logs like pulpits
listen to the sermon
of sparrows
and find god in Simplicity,
there amongst the dandelion
and thorn

~ Jewel
(A Night Without Armor)

wild carrot (Queen Anne’s lace)

We now have 144 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our town. Our county (New London) has 1,345 confirmed cases. Of those 4 are still in the hospital and 102 have lost their lives. I fret over the figures coming out of North Carolina and Georgia, where my children live. Stay safe and take care…

out and about

5.2.19 ~ Mystic, Connecticut ~ female house sparrow
5.2.19 ~ Mystic, Connecticut ~ male house sparrow
5.2.19 ~ Mystic, Connecticut ~ mallard surveying the pond
5.2.19 ~ Mystic, Connecticut ~ so busy eating I never did see its face
5.2.19 ~ Mystic, Connecticut ~ posing
5.2.19 ~ Mystic, Connecticut ~ spring’s beauty!
5.1.19 ~ Chapel Hill, North Carolina ~ Finn and a snake
We have another budding nature lover in the family!

I’ve been under the weather for a few weeks, but yesterday I just had to get out of the house, go for a scenic car ride, and then a walk. Trees are greening! April was the wettest month in Connecticut history so we were grabbing some prime time between rainfalls. Can’t say being out there was any good for the allergies, but it sure lifted my spirits.

4.27.19 ~ Chapel Hill, North Carolina ~ Katherine and primrose in full bloom
~ last two photos by Dima ~