A lot had changed in the seven weeks between our visits to the nature center. The trees had leafed out and we could barely see the little mound where Mama Goose had been sitting on her eggs. But on this day the bullfrogs were still populating the pond. After checking out the pond we headed out to the meadow.
We’re squeezing in as many walks as we can before the weather forces us inside. The meadow was lovely with a few well-mown paths to follow through and around it. It was so refreshingly cool that in the shade I wished I hadn’t left my hoodie in the car, but in the sunshine the warmth felt so good on my bare arms. There were lots of birds flitting about, but not too many stayed still long enough for pictures.
Then we walked back through the woods to the parking lot, and enjoyed the different things the dappled sunlight was highlighting.
But beyond perpetual wonders and mortals asking why casting its light upon us all is the sun’s supreme reply. ~ Gunnar Reiss-Andersen (The Magic of Fjords)
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.
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.
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
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.
And then we went back upstairs to see more of the sawing.
It was quite loud and the whole building vibrated while the saw was operating.
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.
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 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!
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)
A week after our last visit we returned to the pond at the nature center to see the nesting Canada goose again. Our first encounter was a mallard bobbing for food.
Mama goose was still sitting on her nest. 🙂
Papa goose eyed us and started swimming towards us.
But I continued with my photo shoot…
…until he decided to come even closer and make his point.
He came out of the water so we backed away and gave him some space, while continuing to take pictures. No need for a confrontation.
And then the mallard decided to come out of the pond, too. They seemed to be friends, nibbling on the same patch of moss.
On our way back to the car we spotted another trail that seemed to lead toward the Denison Homestead, a historic museum across the road from the nature center, where the daffodils were still blooming. We followed it to a crosswalk which led us to a great picture-taking spot.
I never saw daffodils so beautiful. They grew among the mossy stones, about and above them; some rested their heads upon these stones, as on a pillow for weariness; and the rest tossed and reeled and danced, and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew directly over the lake to them. ~ Dorothy Wordsworth (Journal, April 15, 1802)
She wore her yellow sun-bonnet, She wore her greenest gown; She turned to the south wind And curtsied up and down. She turned to the sunlight And shook her yellow head, And whispered to her neighbor: “Winter is dead.” ~ A. A. Milne (Daffodowndilly)
We plan to come back every week, hoping to catch the goslings swimming in the pond one day. The average number of eggs is five and the parents take them to a brooding area soon after they hatch. I hope the brooding area is nearby so we don’t miss seeing them.
While she was visiting last week we finally got a chance to take our granddaughter, age 7, to the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center! She was all set with her camera and water bottle and we played follow the leader as she explored the place at her own pace. Sometimes we struggled to keep up but she was patient with us and we would catch up and so we had a fantastic time. 😊
After exploring the indoor exhibits we headed outdoors to see the birds in the rehab enclosures. We even got to see a staff member feed the raptors dead mice. It was difficult getting pictures through the wires but these two were acceptable.
For many decades the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center has been licensed by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife to care for injured wild animals. We are part of a region-wide network of wildlife specialists that handle emergencies and help seek appropriate care for injured wildlife. ~ DPNC website
Next we followed a trail and spotted a Canada goose sitting on her nest on a hummock in the middle of a pond. Nearby her mate was patrolling the area.
Our minds, as well as our bodies, have need of the out-of-doors. Our spirits, too, need simple things, elemental things, the sun and the wind and the rain, moonlight and starlight, sunrise and mist and mossy forest trails, the perfumes of dawn and the smell of fresh-turned earth and the ancient music of wind among the trees. ~ Edwin Way Teale (Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)
Kat led us back to the nature center and to the parking lot, checking rocks along the way to find dry ones for Grandpa to sit on for his rests. The occasional benches were welcome, too. She is a very curious, thoughtful and kind little sweetheart.
Here are two posts from the past illustrating Kat’s keen interest in maps: here(5th picture, age 4) and here(2nd picture and others, age 2).
The three of us had such a wonderful morning at the nature center! 💕
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)
It’s hard to believe after almost two years of walking outings during the pandemic we’re still finding open spaces we haven’t visited yet. Tim was reading about this one, Knox Preserve, in an editorial in the Sunday paper. The writer was frustrated because a fence had been put up between the nature preserve and the railroad tracks, keeping trespassers off the tracks, yes, but also obscuring the views of Long Island Sound.
Wednesday afternoon was finally “warm” enough to head out there, bundled up, of course. (We usually walk in the morning but decided it might be warmer after lunch!) I forgot to make note of the temperature. My new mittens did a fine job keeping my fingers warm. 🙂 We headed up a muddy path along a lovely stone wall with a rusty, golden salt meadow off to our right.
What I see is mine. ~ Henry David Thoreau (A Week on the Concord & Merrimack Rivers)
At a break in the stone wall we took another very soggy path through the salt meadow, then leading up to a grassy knoll where we found a bench with a view.
While we enjoyed the view a little boy and his mother came along and sat down to wait for the next train. Mom had an app on her cell phone that let her know when the next train would be along. The little guy was very excited, even though he had done this many times before. We smiled, thinking of all the good memories they will have to look back on some day.
Railroad iron is a magician’s rod, in its power to evoke the sleeping energies of land and water. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Young American)
Next we decided to follow a path into the woods and along the new fence. We heard the expected train approach and hoped the little boy was enjoying himself! It was probably a high-speed Acela train.
When we came out of the woods we found ourselves at Quiambog Cove and walked along it until we came back to the salt meadow where we started. It was fun completing a loop instead of retracing our steps the way we usually do.
Is not January alone pure winter? December belongs to the fall — is a wintery November — February to the spring — it is a snowy March. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Journal, February 9, 1854)
When we woke up this morning the wind chill was 0°F/-18°C. Needless to say, we did not take a walk. Instead, it was more yoga for me!
After peaking at 25% on January 7th, Connecticut’s covid positivity rate has slowly inched its way down to 13% yesterday. Baby steps in the right direction.