old-timey jazz and blues

5.29.22 ~ Mama Train at Mystic Seaport

It’s been so long since we’ve listened to live music outdoors! So on Sunday afternoon we made our way through holiday traffic to Mystic Seaport and enjoyed a fantastic two-hour concert by Mama Train. We were happy to be sitting under shade trees.

vocals

Mama Train blends the warmth of rich female vocals with dynamic expressive piano. Their sound embodies the soul of classic jazz and blues artists like Billie Holiday, Annette Hanshaw, and Django Reinhardt. Performing a variety of classic songs from the 1920s to 1950s, this Gatsby-era band delivers soulful melodies and vibrant instrumentation that resonate with every audience, a small act with a big vintage sound!
~ Mama Train website

keyboards

Unfortunately I couldn’t find out the names of the band members but maybe when they become better known that information will become available. They are from Connecticut, though.

bass
drums

I hope we will get a chance to see them again sometime soon!

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. 😉

house finch, gray catbird, cottontail

5.16.22 ~ house finch
Coogan Farm Nature & Heritage Center, Mystic, Connecticut

It was a lovely spring day and the air was filled with birds singing and bees buzzing. I couldn’t catch most of them with my camera but the scenery at Coogan Farm reminded me of a setting from a historical drama. I half-expected to see a character from a Jane Austen novel come around the bend on our path.

sunlight on dandelions
old farmland

It is clearly posted that dogs must be on a leash at Coogan Farm. This one arrived at the same time we did and was darting around the parking lot while its owner was getting things out of his car. We had two doors of our car open as we were getting ready for our walk, too. Next thing we knew the dog jumped into our car through the back door Tim was at, then squeezed between the front seats and exited the car through the front door I was at. She seemed very friendly and not too big so I wasn’t afraid, but, startled and annoyed. The man she belonged to called “Sadie” away and offered no apology. I assumed he would put her on a leash when he saw the signs at the trailhead. They took a different trail but our paths crossed later on and there was no leash to be seen, the man wasn’t even carrying one on his person.

We moved on, trying not to let the selfishness of others spoil a lovely walk for us.

Intensely selfish people are always very decided as to what they wish. That is in itself a great force; they do not waste their energies in considering the good of others.
~ Ouida
(Wisdom, Wit, and Pathos of Ouida Selected from the Works of Ouida)

In 2016 this tower (below) was designed by an Eagle Scout, specifically for chimney swifts. It provides a suitable nesting habitat to help increase the chimney swift population: Connecticut Project Chimney Watch

chimney swift nesting season is May to July
distant view across the Mystic River

Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure.
~ Jane Austen
(Mansfield Park)

gray catbird

I’m seeing and hearing so many catbirds this year! They have a way of cheering me up. 💙

dandelion magic
buttercups and dandelions
cottontail rabbit
mushroom
lupine (thanks to Mary for the identification)

Walking is the great adventure, the first meditation, a practice of heartiness and soul primary to humankind. Walking is the exact balance between spirit and humility.
~ Gary Snyder
(The Practice of the Wild: Essays)

Connecticut’s positivity rate is up to 13%. Not good. It’s been going up since its lowest point in March.

deepest meaning, awe-inspiring workings

“Spring Woods” by Childe Hassam

Trees in particular were mysterious and seemed to me direct embodiments of the incomprehensible meaning of life. For that reason, the woods were the places where I felt closest to its deepest meaning and to its awe-inspiring workings.
~ Carl Jung
(Memories, Dreams, Reflections)

wildflower walk

5.6.22 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum

Friday afternoon my sister and brother-in-law joined us and a large group of (mostly) retired folks to take the Connecticut College Arboretum’s annual guided wildflower walk in the Edgerton & Stengel Memorial Wildflower Garden. It was outside so no masks. They hadn’t had this walk for the past two years because of the pandemic. Leading the walk this year was Miles Schwartz Sax, arboretum director, and Madison Holland, horticulturalist.

I didn’t catch the names of all the flowers but have identified the ones I’m more sure of. When we arrived we saw some arborists hard at work in the trees.

And while waiting for the talk and walk to begin I saw my first catbirds of the year! They were very busy but I did manage to get a couple of pictures. 🙂

Enjoy the spring ephemerals!

Virginia bluebells
star chickweed (thanks to John for the identification)
wild columbine
foamflower
wild geranium
wild geranium
dwarf crested iris
barren strawberry
violet
pinkshell azalea
violet
violet
herb Robert (thanks to Jane for the identification)
white baneberry
great trillium
Virginia bluebells
smooth solomon’s seal
large-flowered bellwort (merrybells)
nodding trillium

The Edgerton and Stengel Wildflower Garden is filled with wildflowers, ferns and a shrub layer of native azaleas and rhododendrons. Sheltered by a canopy of white ash and red maple, this naturalistic garden displays its beauty on a west-facing slope. The remains of stone walls are reminders of the original agricultural use of the land. Wildflowers are able to survive without the intervention of people and they add to the natural beauty of any setting.
~ Connecticut College Arboretum website

We were lucky the approaching rainstorm held off until after the walk. It was fun interacting with people again, even while everyone kept a respectable distance. Might be worth another visit in a week or two. Some flowers had gone by and some looked like they hadn’t bloomed yet.

around the pond, through the swamp

5.5.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center

Six days after we saw the goslings, we returned to the nature center to find the whole family missing. I cannot bear to think about what might have happened to them. Feeling very disappointed, we took a walk around the pond and then followed the boardwalk through the swamp.

sleeping mallard
this turtle got himself into a predicament
bullfrog #1 (by the pond)
bullfrog #1 on his mossy peninsula
eastern painted turtle ~ what are those specks on its shell?
another eastern painted turtle
moss sporophytes
marsh marigold

We couldn’t believe how many dozens of bullfrogs were in the swamp!

bullfrog #2
bullfrog #3
the back of bullfrog #4
bullfrog #5
lunaria (thanks to Eliza for the id)

Before leaving we went up to the outdoor rehab enclosures to see how the raptors were doing. I managed to get this portrait of a hawk through the wires.

broad-winged hawk

Connecticut’s positivity rate is up to 11%. The CDC has now listed all 8 counties in the state at medium or high levels of transmission. We never stopped wearing a mask indoors in public, but it’s now recommended again. Sigh…

water-powered up-down sawmill

sunrise at home, 5:46 am, May Day
40°F, clear with periodic clouds, light wind from the north at 7 mph
4.30.22 ~ Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill, Ledyard, Connecticut

For May Day weekend we decided to visit the historic water-powered Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill, which is only open on Saturdays in the spring and fall. Earth’s energy has shifted again as this hemisphere begins traveling closer to the sun in the brighter half of the year. All the mill’s windows and doors were wide open so it felt pretty safe (covid-wise) to go inside and see what the process of sawing wood was like in the late 1800s.

millstone, the sawmill operated briefly as a gristmill from 1858-1860
headgate controlling pond water flow through the dam into the mill water tank
vintage salesman’s model of the John Tyler Water Turbine

The finely cast and machined 19th century model is about four inches wide and has an operating gate and rotating runner.
~ Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill website

“Turning the handwheel opens and closes the turbine gate,
controlling water flow from the holding tank into the turbine.”
“The vertical turbine shaft is geared to a horizontal shaft
that ends with a heavy iron flywheel and crank under the saw.”
“A wooden pitman arm connects to the crank to the wooden saw sash,
converting the rotary motion of the flywheel into
an up and down (reciprocating) motion.”

After watching the saw operating for a minute we went outside, down some huge stone steps and into the lower level to see the turbine in action.

the turbine pit in the mill lower level

And then we went back upstairs to see more of the sawing.

“The saw cuts on the downstroke and
the log moves toward the saw on the upstroke.”

It was quite loud and the whole building vibrated while the saw was operating.

diagram of both levels

The sawmill has a great website for any who would like more details: Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill.

My father, when he was still alive, had visited this place after it was restored and opened to the public in 1975. He often said he wanted to take me to see it some day. Sadly, that never happened, but he was very much on my mind as we looked around and listened to the operators tell us about its history and how it worked.

After our trip back through time we decided to take a walk around Sawmill Pond and see what visual treats the brightness of spring had to offer.

red maple seeds
tiny bluets, a childhood favorite
an eastern painted turtle for Tim

And then, for me, a new life bird! I heard it singing and looked up into the nearest tree and there it was! What a nice surprise, the last sort of thing I was expecting to find on this day. 🙂

chipping sparrow, #69

Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina: Widespread common migratory breeder mid-April to November; rare and local in winter; in areas with short grass and trees, residential neighborhoods, parks, open upland forest.
~ Frank Gallo
(Birding in Connecticut)

Thank you, little chipping sparrow, for singing so sweetly that I couldn’t miss seeing you!

on the morning of the month’s first day

4.30.22 ~ tulips in my garden

But May is a month to be enjoyed, not coldly discussed, and enthusiasm should thrill to the very finger-tips of every one who, on the morning of the month’s first day, hears the thrush, grosbeak, oriole, and a host of warblers as they great the rising sun. And rest assured, dear startled reader, that unless you are astir before the sun is fairly above the horizon you will never know what bird-music really is. It is not alone the mingled voices of a dozen sweet songsters; for the melody needs the dewy dawn, the half-opened flowers, the odor-laden breeze that is languid from very sweetness, and a canopy of misty, rosy-tinted cloud, to blend them to a harmonious whole, and so faintly foreshadow what a perfected world may be.
~ Charles Conrad Abbott
(Days Out of Doors)

the new arrivals

4.29.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, empty nest

This morning we were up early so we headed over to the nature center to see if there were any Canada goose hatchlings. The nest was empty! We were so disappointed to have missed seeing the little ones in the nest. 🙁

But, I scanned the pond, hoping to see mama and papa goose swimming around with their goslings. There they were, far away on the other side of the water, up on the land. Used the zoom lens to get these pictures…

mama and one baby
mama and three babies

The vigilant papa was off to the left but I neglected to get his picture. I was too excited about the little ones. We walked a little around to the south side of the pond, getting a little closer to them, but too many sticks were blocking the view. I think there are four goslings in the next picture.

We retraced our steps and then walked farther around to the north side of the pond. Suddenly on the path, Tim estimates about 50 feet ahead of us, was a gosling, off on his own little adventure.

my, what a big foot you have!

And then mama came down the path to fetch him.

And lead him back to the rest of the brood.

We turned around to leave them in peace, feeling very happy. 🙂 We met two nature center staffers on the way out who didn’t know yet that the little ones had arrived. One of them told us that back in March there was quite a dispute between several Canada geese over who was going to occupy that perfect nest in the middle of the pond. Prime real estate, it would seem!