eastern towhee

5.7.20 ~ Avery Farm Nature Preserve
Ledyard & Groton, Connecticut

Back in April we had a great walk in the Candlewood Ridge open space property which led to a sand plain with a glacial erratic on top of a ridge in the distance. On May 7th we decided to explore the property north of it, Avery Farm Nature Preserve, and followed a trail to get to the elevation from the opposite direction.

5.7.20 ~ welcome!

This historic 305-acre farm spans the border of Ledyard and Groton in a scenic rural setting. It is contiguous to the 91 acre Candlewood Ridge property, Groton and Ledyard town-owned open spaces, and to the Town of Groton conservation easement on a 7-acre former cranberry bog. Combined, over 430 acres of habitat area are available for wildlife and watershed protection.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

Avery Farm is part of a critical large block of diverse wildlife habitats highlighted on the State of CT Natural Diversity Database maps: grasslands, hedgerows, early successional forest, oak-hemlock-hickory upland forest, Atlantic white cedar swamp, a habitat managed power utility corridor, forested peatlands, kettle type bogs, poor fens, multiple seeps, several Tier I vernal pools, Ed Lamb Brook, Haley Brook, and the southern portion of a 38 acre marsh.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

The walk through the woods was lovely as we ascended gradually. I took more pictures on the way to the overlook than I did on the return part of the loop trail, which went through a low wetland.

5.7.20 ~ Tim with a glacial erratic

What on earth is that noise? Who goes there?

5.7.20 ~ eastern towhee

A strikingly marked, oversized sparrow of the East, feathered in bold black and warm reddish-browns – if you can get a clear look at it. Eastern Towhees are birds of the undergrowth, where their rummaging makes far more noise than you would expect for their size. Their chewink calls let you know how common they are, but many of your sightings end up mere glimpses through tangles of little stems.
~ All About Birds website

As we were walking along we heard a lot of rustling a few feet off the path and I tried to get a picture of the bird making the commotion. The “best” one is above. At home I used my new bird identification app and learned it was an eastern towhee. Had to laugh when I read the description above. Our sighting was definitely a string of brief glimpses and the rummaging was quite loud!

5.7.20 ~ We finally reach the large glacial erratic overlooking the sand plain!
We approached from behind it.
5.7.20 ~ we did not sit in the chairs, keeping COVID-19 in mind
5.7.20 ~ view from the overlook across the sand plain,
down to where we were standing the month before
5.7.20 ~ taken with telephoto lens

Then we climbed down the steep trail to the sand plain and returned by the lower wetland trail. On that portion of our walk we encountered four people coming from the other direction. We always got six feet off the trail and let them pass, wondering if they would have done the same for us if we hadn’t done it first. One man was operating a drone which we couldn’t see but could hear buzzing nearby. Another man was jogging. And two women were looking for a waterfall. (I think they may have mistaken this property for Sheep Farm.)

5.7.20 ~ moss and lichen
5.7.20 ~ wintergreen

The walk lasted about an hour and a quarter, our longest one yet. ♡

rolling meadows

4.28.20 ~ Preston Nature Preserve, Preston, Connecticut

A little change of pace, out of the woods and out to cross a few meadows on gently rolling hills. The sky was beautiful, the scenery divine. As we’re learning, the uneven terrain made for easier walking with less pain for Tim. The fresh air and sunshine was restorative for this quarantine-weary couple. We eagerly kept wanting to see what was over the next hillock or down the next inviting path. There were many interlocking trails. I lost count of how many grassy fields we crossed.

Two trails featuring varied land features and vegetation, including two hills, a valley, hardwood and cedar forest, brushland, meadows, pastures, swamps and ponds. Well-established 0.5 mile trail system with bridges.
~ Avalonia Land Conservancy website

I have to say, there were more than two trails, even on the map, and we certainly walked more than half a mile! But we didn’t walk all the trails and perhaps we will return some day.

4.28.20 ~ up a hill
4.28.20 ~ in the middle of a lovely meadow
4.28.20 ~ another meadow beyond

As with our other walks, the songs of birds filled the air. And we had a few bumble bees follow us a time or two.

4.28.20 ~ so inviting
4.28.20 ~ another hill to climb
4.28.20 ~ another trail to follow
4.28.20 ~ what is it???
4.28.20 ~ the inside of it???
4.28.20 ~ we passed by a swamp with skunk cabbage
4.28.20 ~ bluets!
4.28.20 ~ yet another trail to follow
4.28.20 ~ another meadow
4.28.20 ~ a female bluebird ~ thanks to Nancy for the identification
4.28.20 ~ the birdhouse the bluebird flew out of

Before you thought of Spring
Except as a Surmise
You see — God bless his suddenness —
A Fellow in the Skies
Of independent Hues
A little weather worn
Inspiriting habiliments
Of Indigo and Brown —
With Specimens of Song
As if for you to choose —
Discretion in the interval
With gay delays he goes
To some superior Tree
Without a single Leaf
And shouts for joy to Nobody
But his seraphic self —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1484)

4.28.20 ~ down one more valley and up one more hill to reach our car

two little waterfalls

4.7.20 ~ Sheep Farm, Groton, Connecticut

On Tuesday we took advantage of beautiful weather and took a very long walk at a new park that was created in 2010. We walked straight downhill through a forest to Fort Hill Brook, saw a small waterfall and then followed the stream down to another one. And then we climbed up a switchback trail to our starting point, a loop that took us an hour.

4.7.20 ~ first waterfall

The Sheep Farm has a diverse habitat including rocky outcroppings, glacial erratics, bluestem meadows, deep forest interior habitat, forest edge habitat, early successional forests, extensive wetlands, seeps, shrub swamps, a string of Tier 1 vernal pools, Class A stream – Fort Hill Brook, and two waterfalls.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

4.7.20 ~ moss and lichen on pretty striped boulder
4.7.20 ~ skunk cabbage

Twice we moved six feet off the trail to avoid other hikers, and spotted some people on other trails on the other side of the brook.

4.7.20 ~ we didn’t see one
4.7.20 ~ second waterfall

There was a better spot to take a picture of this waterfall, but, a woman was practicing yoga in a bathing suit behind the tree so this was the best I could do. 🙂

4.7.20 ~ I’m noticing boulders more these days
4.7.20 ~ almost there!

When we got back to the parking lot we had to find a rock to sit on for quite a while. A family had parked right next to our car and they were getting in and out of their car trying to sort something or other out. They were much closer than the required six feet for social distancing! But we enjoyed looking at some plantings while we waited patiently for them to leave.

We now have 11 detected cases of coronavirus in our town. Population: 39,075. (In 2017) I find myself preoccupied with statistics these days.

profound stillness

“Forest in the Winter” by Isaac Levitan

I love the deep silence of the midwinter woods. It is a stillness you can rest your whole weight against. Not the light silence of summer, constantly broken by the sound of leaves, bird-song, the scurry of little beasts, the hum of insects. This stillness is so profound you are sure it will hold and last.
~ Florence Page Jaques
(Snowshoe Country)

When I was a child I loved winter, still do. There were so many moments when time seemed to stand still. Outdoors playing in the swamp and in the woods behind our house. The magic of ice-skating between clumps of earth surrounded by ice in the swamp. At dusk. Sometimes there were snow flurries, too, adding a silent thrill to the spell.

Only now do I discern the concept of stillness. My life happens in a small city these days and I have been complaining to Tim about the racket the snow plows keep making in their ceaseless efforts to keep the roads and our parking spaces clear. I find myself craving to be away from the noise, to enjoy snow flurries out my window without the inevitable pandemonium.

Maybe I’m just cranky these days. A couple of days before my six-week surgery follow-up I came down with a bad cold. Tim had it for three days before I succumbed to it, so we have been very miserable together. As soon as I got the go-ahead from the surgeon to resume normal activities I was too sick to enjoy the freedom! And now that the cold is almost gone I will be going to see the radiation oncologist tomorrow to consult about the next round of treatment.

A few years ago I wrote this on one of my posts:  One early wordless memory I have is of lying on the cold winter ground in the woods and eyeing a little princess pine peeking through the snow. I was astonished at the connection I felt to the small precious life, and how thrilled I was to be aware of its presence!

One little princess pine in an endless sea of snow and trees. I thought of that moment once again when I read Florence Page Jaques’ words about “a stillness you can rest your whole weight against.” One little cancer survivor in the endless flow of here/now.

devoted to trees

3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
trailhead ~ 3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut

This past weekend we took a long walk in the woods at Connecticut College Arboretum, and found ourselves fascinated with all the dead and dying trees. Some have been recently toppled, either by Hurricane Sandy or Blizzard Charlotte. This is the time of year to see deep into the woods, before the view is obscured by green foliage.

3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
a mighty one fallen ~ 3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut

This fallen tree brought underground stones, embedded in its root system, up into the air, along with the soil.

3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut

3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
Tim (5’8″) to give some perspective ~ 3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut

3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
skunk cabbage ~ 3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut

Skunk cabbage is one of the first plants to bloom in spring. Its flowers are often partly or wholly hidden beneath last year’s fallen leaves. Like many other dark-colored flowers, skunk cabbage is pollinated mostly by flies. The flowers actually produce heat — a benefit to the flies out in cold weather. The leaves emerge after the flowers. They smell unpleasant if they are crushed, hence the name “skunk cabbage.”
~ Connecticut Botanical Society

3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
dying of natural causes ~ 3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut

3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
living with scars and imperfections ~ 3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut

3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
roots anchored in massive boulders ~ 3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut

3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
boulders deposited by ancient glaciers ~ 3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut

3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut

3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
roots partly above water ~ 3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut

3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
swamp reflections ~ 3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut

3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
mushrooms! ~ 3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut

3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut

Imperfection is in some sort essential to all that we know of life. It is a sign of life in a mortal body, that is to say, a state of progress and change. Nothing that lives is, or can be rigidly perfect; part of it is decaying, part nascent.
~ John Ruskin
(The Stones of Venice)

3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
a new life, just a few inches tall ~ 3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut

Okefenokee Swamp IV

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

In a swamp, as in meditation, you begin to glimpse how elusive, how inherently insubstantial, how fleeting our thoughts are, our identities. There is magic in this moist world, in how the mind lets go, slips into sleepy water, circles and nuzzles the banks of palmetto and wild iris, how it seeps across dreams, smears them into the upright world, rots the wood of treasure chests, welcomes the body home.
~ Barbara Hurd
(Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs & Human Imagination)

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
sandhill crane ~ 4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
great egret – bill appears orange when breeding ~ 4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

As darkness fell we headed back through the swamp to the visitor center.

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

photos by Tim Rodgers

It was too cloudy to see the full moon, but as we learned on this trip, we often didn’t get to see what we expected see, but what we were granted to see was more than enough to fill us with gratitude.

Okefenokee Swamp III

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

To me, Okefenokee Swamp felt like a sacred place in the twilight, with Spanish moss hanging down like stalactites, and cypress knees rising up like stalagmites, like the ones often found in caves.  I grew up playing in Cedar Swamp, another mystical place, in the woods behind our house.  But this southern swamp is very different from, and much larger than, the swamps we have here in New England!

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

The swamp’s water is black, due to vegetation decaying in the water and leaching out tannin which stains the water in much the same way as the tannin in tea color the water in a teacup.  After the swamp exploration our skiff turned out into a marsh, where we could view the sun setting and see what wildlife might come near.

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

To love a swamp, however, is to love what is muted and marginal, what exists in the shadows, what shoulders its way out of mud and scurries along the damp edges of what is most commonly praised. And sometimes its invisibility is a blessing. Swamps and bogs are places of transition and wild growth, breeding grounds, experimental labs where organisms and ideas have the luxury of being out of the spotlight, where the imagination can mutate and mate, send tendrils into and out of the water.
~ Barbara Hurd
(Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs & Human Imagination)

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
alligator ~ 4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
alligator ~ 4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
alligator ~ 4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
alligator ~ 4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

One last batch of pictures from Okefenokee Swamp tomorrow!

photos by Tim Rodgers

Okefenokee Swamp II

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

Cypress knees (above) are woody projections sent above the normal water level in the root of a cypress tree, usually seen in swamps. They may help to provide oxygen to the trees and may help to support and stabilize the cypress trees in the soft, muddy soil.

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

Not the best photo of a dragonfly (below), but enough to make out how different it looks from most of the dragonflies I see up here in the north…

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

Spanish moss (below) is a bromeliad that hangs from oak or cypress trees. The plant has no roots and absorbs nutrients and water from the air and rainfall.

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

Spanish moss hangs from the cypress like old lace-pewter veils.
~ Barbara Hurd
(Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs & Human Imagination)

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

photos by Tim Rodgers

Okefenokee Swamp I

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

If there were Druids whose temples were the oak groves, my temple is the swamp.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal)

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

On the night of a full moon, April 6, we took an enchanting sunset cruise on a small skiff into the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. There had been a natural fire, started by lightning, about a year ago.

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

In southern Georgia and northern Florida there is a very special place, one of the oldest and best preserved freshwater systems in America. Native Americans called it Okefenoka, meaning “Land of the Trembling Earth.” Now this place, where earth, air, fire and water continuously reform the landscape, is preserved within the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, created in 1937 to protect wildlife and for you to explore.
~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

Can you spot the alligator eyeing us in the next picture?

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

photos by Tim Rodgers