Please bear with me as I post more photo memories to take with me when we move! Harkness Memorial State Park is one of my favorite places, year-round for the waterbirds and in the summer for the flower gardens. On this walk we were immediately greeted by a sweetly singing song sparrow, who flew from branch to branch, teasing me. But I did get a few pictures of him!
American Black Duck Anas rubripes: Common coastal migrant and wintering species. In summer, an uncommon breeding species in freshwater and brackish habitats, especially coastal marshes; inland nesting occurs in freshwater marshes, densely forested swamps, and beaver ponds, mainly in central and western Connecticut. ~ Frank Gallo (Birding in Connecticut)
The American Black Duck hides in plain sight in shallow wetlands of eastern North America. They often flock with the ubiquitous Mallard, where they look quite similar to female Mallards. But take a second look through a group of brown ducks to notice the dark chocolate-brown flanks, pale grayish face, and olive-yellow bill of an American Black Duck. Numbers of this shy but common duck declined sharply in the mid-twentieth century. Hunting restrictions have helped to stabilize their numbers, although habitat loss remains a problem. ~ All About Birds webpage
Today was a beautiful, calm, spring day. No wind! A woman was there trying to fly a kite, which is possible there more often than not, but she had to give up. The temperature was 52°F (11°C) so I had my first walk of the year with no thermal leggings, wearing my spring hoodie. 🙂 I am going to miss living by the sea very much.
In our little corner of southern New England the fall colors don’t peak until late October and we don’t expect the first frost before the 22nd. That makes it difficult to give much of an autumn flavor to my Walktober post. But since we never got to the gardens at Harkness Memorial State Park this summer I decided to go with it and contribute a garden walk this year.
This is my third annual Walktober post with Robin over at breezes at dawn. 🍁 If you would like to see my previous Walktober posts please click here. 🌼
When we arrived at the park there was a huge flock of starlings making quite a racket, darting from tree to tree and to the water tower en masse. Tim estimated that there were hundreds of them.
The gardens surrounding the Eolia Mansion still had a summery feel to them with many flowers in full bloom and many buds making plans to blossom before the frost comes.
I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string. ~ Lucy Maud Montgomery (Anne of Avonlea)
Heading for home, feeling vaguely disappointed about the lack of fall foliage, Tim spotted a bit of bright orange across the intersection as we were waiting at a traffic light. When the light changed we went for it and discovered Jordan Village Green, which belongs to the Waterford Historical Society.
And so we took another walk!
Most of the trees still had green leaves but there were enough trees turning to autumn colors to satisfy my cravings that day. 🙂
falling leaves gather rusting spokes left motionless an abiding tree ~ Barbara Rodgers (By the Sea)
The buildings were deserted, except for two blacksmiths we found busy at work in their forge. The man above was working on an axe head. They were pleased to show us their tools and creations. We were delighted to find the perfect holiday gift for someone on our list!
How smoothly nature’s vast machine whirs on with all the big and little cogs revolving in their places! Each seed and bird and flower and fly, in its apparently haphazard existence, plays its part in the output of the seasons. ~ Edwin Way Teale (Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)
Now that late October is arriving we have much more of this delightful season to enjoy! And a few more walks, too, between the rainy days.
Yesterday the weather was perfect! It was so crisp and cool I had to close my windows overnight because it was so chilly. 🙂 But it wasn’t cold enough yet to immobilize the mosquito population which came after us on our otherwise lovely walk through one of the meadows at Haley Farm. The sunshine on our skin felt so good and there were whispers of autumn everywhere.
Change is a measure of time and, in the autumn, time seems speeded up. What was, is not, and never again will be; what is, is change. ~ Edwin Way Teale (Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)
At the edge of the meadow we took another path into the woods for a short way, until the whining mosquitoes and a growling dog encounter turned us around. I love seeing how the sunlight highlights little spots in the darker woods.
Came home feeling refreshed and renewed! In spite of the covid concerns remaining stubbornly in place. Our positivity rate is 9%. We keep testing our kids and our grandchildren when they come to visit. We keep wearing masks in public places. We patiently wait for our new booster shots to be available. It will be nice to finally go get a haircut…
A gray catbird greeted us when we got to the Ebenezer Avery House at the bottom of the hill at Fort Griswold. The last time we visited was in January a year and a half ago. Of course there was nothing growing in the small garden at that time. But this time the air was filled with a pleasant fragrance that must have been some herb or flower I didn’t recognize.
We had a nice walk all around the fort and then it was a delightful surprise to find this little front yard garden surrounded by a picket fence. We lingered here for quite a while, enjoying the colors, smells and visiting butterflies. The flowers were in all stages of life, new ones blossoming right alongside the fading beauties. Please enjoy!
After we had our fill we made our way back up the hill and past the fort to our car. It was a good workout. 🙂
I started to imagine what the people who were in this house during the Battle of Groton Heights might have witnessed from their vantage point that tragic day in 1781.
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.
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 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.
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…
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.
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.
This is the third year we’ve celebrated Midsummer since this endless coronavirus pandemic began. Driving on our way to a walk in the woods I was chattering to Tim about the “end” of the pandemic, how it was becoming more or less endemic now and that maybe I should stop tagging my posts with “pandemic.”
Monday was a perfect summer day and the trees were green and lovely. Tim was already wearing shorts and I was still in my hoodie, typical between-season attire for this couple. 😉 We had forgotten it was a 3-day weekend, a Monday holiday for Juneteenth, so there were lots of people in the state park. No matter, everyone was friendly and in good spirits.
We had a nice conversation with a young couple from New Hampshire who were very excited about a bird they had spotted. (We finally got a glimpse of it but couldn’t see it well enough to identify it.) And another conversation with a man, about our age, who commented on how good the honeysuckle was smelling and asked me about the zoom lens on my camera. I really didn’t feel too nervous being so close without a mask since we were outside.
I took a picture of these trees holding the boulder (above) in November 2020. See here. Interesting difference between autumn and summer surroundings.
It turned out to be the longest walk we’ve taken in ages, a whole hour and a half! And I don’t know what it is about catbirds this year — they are turning up everywhere! It was one of those days where it simply felt exhilarating to be alive and present.
I’m still enjoying daily encounters with the catbird coming to the birch tree outside my kitchen window. He usually announces the visit with a few meows and then begins his repertoire of varied melodies, songs that I imagine he has picked up and adopted along the way.
People who watch a banded gray catbird outside their window all summer will find it hard not to wonder exactly where it’s spending the winter, or to marvel that science still doesn’t have the answer. And if the catbird doesn’t come back, they, too, will inevitably wonder why. ~ Miyoko Chu (Songbird Journeys: Four Seasons in the Lives of Migratory Birds)
But perceptions will inevitably shift, as fickle as the weather. On arriving home we learned that a fully vaccinated relative has come down with covid and had a very high fever. The news shattered my hopeful illusions. Other relatives who have had the virus have said it was no worse than a cold. One of the most disconcerting things about the illness is that it is impossible to know how it will hit you until you actually catch it.
And then, the next morning I woke to the news that a play we were planning to attend outdoors this week was put on hold:
Update on PEER GYNT: Due to COVID delays, our production will not be opening this weekend (June 23-26) in Wilcox Park. We will update on our revised schedule of performances as soon as we can. Thank you for your understanding and stay safe! ~ Flock Theatre
Connecticut’s positivity rate is hovering around 8%. So, all things considered, I guess it’s too soon to remove the pandemic tag from my posts. This refreshing walk will be recalled as our third pandemic summer solstice celebration. Feeling gratitude for the company of sociable strangers, playful catbirds and a chipmunk with the munchies on this memorable, bittersweet day.
There are still a few places to walk we haven’t visited yet so we decided to check another one off of our still-growing list. Rocky Neck State Park is a little farther west down the coastline than we usually like to go, but seeing pictures of birds taken there and posted online tempted me to give it a try. Sadly, no birds on this windy day. We had to walk through a tunnel (see above picture) under the Amtrak railroad to get to the beach.
This beach is one of the most visited beaches in Connecticut, with some of the buildings at the beach even dating back to the 1930s. This is one of the most popular beaches to visit for those in the area because of how scenic it is. ~ Roaming the USA website
The fact that it is so popular is probably another reason we never tried to come here before. Every summer weekend morning on the news we hear that the parking lot is full and no more cars are being allowed in. When traveling down the interstate we often see flashing LED changeable message signs, miles in advance, announcing the same thing.
We walked down the beach and up a ledge, following a sign saying “Pavilion.” The pavilion was huge! (Perhaps built in the 1930s?) We followed a tunnel through the bottom of it and took some stairs up the back, then came around to the front and took some pictures of Long Island Sound.
Behind the pavilion was a pedestrian bridge (above) back over the Amtrak railroad tracks. We decided to go for it, lured in by a point on a map of the park called Toby’s Nose Overlook. Eventually we found the spot but the viewing platform I was expecting did not exist. There was a complicated maze of trails, parking lots and driveways in the woods back there, but we finally figured out a zig-zaggy route we could take back to the car.
When I got home and studied the map a little more closely I noticed that there was another part of the park, along Bride Brook, with a crabbing deck and an actual viewing platform. Maybe next time. Turns out we had only seen a very small portion of this place.
And now to prepare for a visit from our daughter and granddaughter! Kat has spring vacation so Larisa is going to work remotely here while we have Kat to ourselves for half the week. 😊 (Kat’s other grandparents will have her the first half of the week!)
We got our groundhogs out for a nice walk this morning. Meet Basil and little Basil, if you haven’t already. For those of my new readers who don’t know the story, Basil is named for my paternal grandfather, who was born on Groundhog Day, February 2, 1882 in a village near the city of Stanislav, now known as Ivano-Frankovsk, Ukraine. When Pop arrived in America in 1909, instead of translating his given name, Wasyl, to its equivalent in English, Basil, he started using the name William, by which he was known for the rest of his life.
After taking the pictures we decided to walk through a meadow, a path we hadn’t had a chance to follow yet. It was lovely covered in snow, still on the ground four days after the blizzard. But today the temperature got up over freezing so it is starting to melt.
Looks like Friday will be a mess with an ice storm. I was grateful for this lovely day.
O barren bough! O frozen field! Hopeless ye wait no more. Life keeps her dearest promises — The Spring is at the door! ~ Arthur Ketchum (The Atlantic Monthly, February 1904)
A new bird for me! When we got to Harkness Memorial State Park on Friday morning my eyes went immediately to the top of the water tower, where I had seen the black vulture at the end of July. There were lots of small birds making a racket and then, as if on cue, this red-tailed hawk flew in for a landing. His approach must have been what was causing such a stir with the little birds.
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis: Uncommon to locally common breeder, and common migrant and winter resident throughout Connecticut. A perch-hunting generalist found in many wooded habitats often adjacent to open fields; also hunts by roadsides. ~ Frank Gallo (Birding in Connecticut)
After taking a zillion blurry pictures of the hawk, the cutting garden, what we really came to see, beckoned to us…
But as we stepped into it I just had to look over my shoulder, then turn around and capture the hawk from a different angle and distance.
And then I could start paying attention to all the early autumn treasures in the cutting garden.
But the best part of the day was getting back into the car and checking our cell phones to find an email from our daughter in North Carolina. Kat’s second grade teacher sent her this picture with the text message: “Kat was my brave friend today and got our friend away from us at lunch!” Larisa responded to her saying, “Lol, she loves bugs, just like her great, great grandmother who was an amateur entomologist.”
My grandmother lives on in my granddaughter! ♡ It also makes me so happy that my daughter is passing on the family stories. ♡ And I do wonder what kind of bug that is…
If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh (Present Moment Wonderful Moment: Mindfulness Verses for Daily Living)