house sparrow, wild turkeys, reindeer moss

11.3.21 ~ house sparrow in the river birch tree
outside my kitchen window

Now that some leaves have fallen off our tree we can see the little birds better from the kitchen window. We discovered a little nest deep in the branches. We are grateful to the tree for shading us from the hot sun all summer, and now with the leaves gone it will let some sunlight in to warm us up.


On Friday we decided to take a walk in the woods at a town park we’ve driven past many times, not realizing it wasn’t just a dog park, which is only a small part of the huge property. But first, as we were driving by the post office we had a close encounter with Thelma & Louise, a pair of male wild turkeys.

They are local celebrities and even have their own Facebook page, where humans post pictures of their sightings. A biologist weighed in and said they were two males, but the names Thelma & Louise remain stuck to them. They hang out in downtown Groton and regularly stop traffic as they stroll across the streets.

But nobody seems to get irritated with them as they wait patiently for the turkeys to get out of harm’s way.

We’ve crossed paths with them many times but this was the first time there was a place we could pull over and get a few pictures. I posted these on Facebook. 🙂


On to Copp Family Park. It was gorgeous! And we had a nice long walk because the uneven terrain on the trails was good for Tim’s back and hip. We even had to cross a stream using stepping stones. It felt so good to be deep in the woods again. No mosquitoes! In fact, we were wearing our winter coats because it was only 37°F (3°C) when we left the house.

The picture below is a failed attempt to capture a woodpecker, but I kind of like the pleasing composition.

I found a tree hosting lots of reindeer moss, at least I’m pretty sure that’s what this lichen is called…

I was holding a small clump of reindeer moss in one hand, a little piece of that branching, pale green-grey lichen that can survive just about anything the world throws at it. It is patience made manifest. Keep reindeer moss in the dark, freeze it, dry it to a crisp, it won’t die. It goes dormant and waits for things to improve. Impressive stuff.
~ Helen Macdonald
(H is for Hawk)

I even spotted some on the ground farther along the trail.

orbs and orange leaves
the largest glacial erratic we encountered
the other side of the glacial erratic
spiral growth?

After we got back to the car we decided to go for a leaf peeping drive and wound up at the cider mill and a cemetery. Will share those pictures in the next post!

sunlight by the sea

10.15.21 ~ Waterford Beach Park

This is my second annual Walktober post with Robin over at breezes at dawn. If you would like to, click the link to learn more about it and perhaps join us. Everyone is welcome! 🍂

great blue heron

For our walk I decided to visit a place my Birding in Connecticut book suggested. We had never been to Waterford Beach Park before. There was a long path through a wooded area and then through a salt marsh and then over a dune to get to the beach. And then we had a pleasant walk up and down the scenic beach on Long Island Sound, although the sand flies were pretty bad that day. It was also unseasonably warm. A few people were arriving with beach chairs as we were leaving.

great egret

Great blue herons stay here for the winter. I thought great egrets flew south but apparently during mild years they stay as far north as Massachusetts. The summer ones in Groton are gone, maybe they come over here for the winter. 🙂 Or maybe the warm weather has merely postponed their departure. Tim noticed the interspecies friendship moment in the picture below.

great blue heron and great egret together
(taken from the John A. Scillieri, Jr. Overlook Wetlands path)

Waterford Beach Park offers nearly 1/4 mile long stretch of sandy beach and an extensive tidal marsh. Visitors have the rare opportunity to experience an unmodified natural beach with outstanding views of Long Island Sound.
~ Town of Waterford website

path over the tidal marsh and dune, leading to the beach

I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light.

~ Wendell Berry
(The Peace of Wild Things)

tidal creek coming from Alewife Cove
beach roses

The beach views took our breaths away! A friendly town employee greeted us and when we told him we had never been there before he kindly filled us in on all sorts of events held there. A summer pass is quite expensive though, so I suspect all our visits will be off-season when there is no entrance fee.

looking west

Since we started looking for nature walks when the pandemic began we still keep finding “new” places near home that we’ve never been to before. It’s a good thing, though, since our health problems keep us from traveling too far away from our nest.

squabbling gulls

We spent quite a bit of time watching the gulls at the west end of the beach. They were having a feast. I can’t figure out if they are juvenile herring gulls or juvenile great black-backed gulls. And I don’t know what kind of creature they were eating inside those shells.

(?) the gulls were feasting on these
this calm one must have finished eating
looking east
slipper shell
art in the sand
beach rose and sand, summer lingering…

As we headed back through the marsh we could see out past Alewife Cove to the lighthouse we usually see from our beach. From our beach it has nothing but the water of Long Island Sound behind it. I’m not sure what the land mass is behind it from this vantage point. I’m going to try to find a map to study…

New London Ledge Light from tidal marsh at Waterford Town Beach

It looks like our fall colors are arriving later this year. We’ve been avoiding the woods because of the mosquitoes, of which we’ve had a bumper crop. I didn’t appreciate it at the time but last year’s drought kept the mosquitoes away and made all those autumn walks in the woods possible. May a first frost arrive here soon!

Thank you, Robin, for hosting Walktober! 🍂

by land and by sea

9.25.21 ~ By Land & By Sea Antique Vehicle Show at Mystic Seaport
1930 Ford Model A Pickup Truck

Watch our village come alive as pre 1932 cars, trucks and motorcycles go about the typical activities of a busy waterfront village. Many of these vehicles are more than 100 years old! The advent of motor vehicles greatly improved the movement of goods from coastal areas to inland communities.
~ Mystic Seaport Museum

1931 Ford Model A Side Window Town Sedan

The weather was perfect for our visit to this car show! Rick, the owner of this Model A, was very quick to point out that the seats were made of mohair as he invited me to sit in his car. This is the first time I can remember being in one of these old cars. Most of them have signs saying “do not touch.”

mohair seats
new experience for yours truly
Rick explained that car trunks used to be actual trunks
and this flying quail hood ornament was a symbol for fast starting
Rick and his Model A

Tim noticed the bright sunlight and water reflections on the stern of this ship as we walked by.

Charles W. Morgan

And then I spotted a beautiful blue car. We were admiring it and next thing I knew the owner and his son were helping me into the rumble seat!

1931 Ford Model A Roadster

Ted and I quickly became friends. (My father’s name was Ted, too, and it turns out, this Ted was born in 1931, the same year as my mother was.) He’s 90 years old and I enjoyed listening to him tell me about his late wife, his sons, and his family history. But most of all, about how much he loved this car. He said he and this car were the same age but that the car was in much better shape. Although he admits to having a few replacement parts himself. 😉

He saw it at an auction and decided he could bid up to $5,000 for it. He was outbid and left the auction, very disappointed. But a while later one of his sons came up to him with the keys and told him he now owned it! Without telling his father, the son had joined in the bidding and got it for $7,500. He used his money to make up the difference. What a gift!

Ted grew up on a farm, just like my father did. I loved hearing the stories about the chores he had to do, and how when he was 10 years old all his older brothers left home to serve in World War II. His father took a job and suddenly Ted had much more responsibility helping his mother on the farm.

Then he showed me some pictures of the car when he first bought it. It was in very rough shape and was a different color. I asked him why he painted it blue. He smiled and said because blue is his favorite color. Me, too, I let him know. What a labor of love restoring this car was!

Reluctantly we left my newfound friend and headed over to see how the Viking ship, Draken Harald Hårfagre, was coming along on the seaport’s shiplift, there for routine maintenance, including painting and oiling the hull.

Draken Harald Hårfagre

I climbed the stairs up to a viewing platform for a closer look. Tim found a bench to rest. We were doing a lot of walking in the sun.

Tim was impressed with this car, lingering long enough for a picture.

1931 Cadillac 355A Sport Phaeton
This looked like fun, though we never did figure out where the ride started…
1919 Harley Davidson Model JS, motorcycle with sidecar

For the most part we felt relatively safe from covid-19 being outside. We wore our masks into the seaport welcome center to get through admissions. We didn’t go to any of the indoor exhibits. We are waiting impatiently for our third doses of vaccine so we can visit our grandchildren and feel safe. It’s frustrating because even though I got the Pfizer vaccine I won’t be 65 for another four months. And Tim got the Moderna vaccine so even though he’s old enough his booster isn’t yet available. Sigh… But at least it’s autumn and we can spend much more time outdoors while we wait.

sudden burst of brightness

“The Time of the Lilacs” by Sophie Gengembre Anderson

The explosion of May-blossom, sunlight, and burgeoning life needs expression at this time, when workday commonplaces can be thrown to the four winds and the bright joy of living can bubble up within us with natural ecstasy. All who have waited at dawn to welcome in summer have felt the sudden burst of brightness that ignites the deep happiness of the living earth as the sun rises.
~ Caitlín Matthews
(The Celtic Spirit: Daily Meditations for the Turning Year)

Happy May Day!

tipping rock

2.24.21 ~ Hewitt Farm, North Stonington, Connecticut

Because of the winter storms we hadn’t had a real walk in the woods in over a month. “Get out there!” my favorite TV weatherman advised on Wednesday morning. We opened the door and the birds were singing and it felt like a spring day at 45°F (7°C). Most of the snow had melted. So we headed out to a new park for us, the Hewitt Farm in North Stonington.

This 104-acre park and recreation area was purchased by the Town of North Stonington in 2008 for the enjoyment of its residents and visitors to the region. The property consists of forests, fields, wetlands and streams; more than a mile of hiking trails, including the town’s Bicentennial Trail; the Shunock River; 3.5-acre Lower Hewitt Pond and dam; and several structures. The dam originally provided water-power to John Dean Gallup’s woolen mill located nearby.
~ Hewitt Farm Trail Map

a preview of the bigger rock to come

We took the Bicentennial Trail. It felt so good to be outside with a just a sweatshirt and no gloves needed! We walked for an hour and a half, up a hill to Tipping Rock, a huge glacier erratic that didn’t disappoint. From the top of the hill we could see the wooded landscape 360° all around us. But there was also lots to see along the way.

moss texture
another glacial erratic with a different energy
interesting root formation

For most of us knowledge comes largely through sight, yet we look about with such unseeing eyes that we are partially blind. One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, “What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?”
~ Rachel Carson
(The Sense of Wonder)

perhaps the largest burl we’ve encountered

Not sure how long the trail would be we were thinking of turning back but then we saw the sign. So we pressed on up the hill…

first glimpse (telephoto lens)
what? could that be a ladder?
yes, indeed
no, we do not “do” ladders!
photo by Tim

After much oohing and aahing we headed back down the hill. It was a lot easier and faster than climbing up, but we still paused to see a lot of nature’s delights.

pincushion moss, I think
another interesting root formation

About half way down we heard the delighful sounds of excited children approaching. Two mothers with two babies and four little ones between them were coming up the trail so we took our usual six-feet-off-the-trail position as they passed. We exchanged pleasant greetings. They were wondering about the ladder…

remnants of autumn and winter

We were so happy to be out and about, as much as is possible, during the pandemic. Tim got his first shot on the 17th. Next one scheduled for March 17. My age group opens up on Monday but it may take a while to get an appointment because there are a lot more people in my age group than there are in Tim’s.

winter-patience

1.13.21 ~ Stoddard Hill State Park
Ledyard, Connecticut

Several weeks after our first visit to this state park we returned to hike up the hill to the lookout, 183 feet (56 meters) above the river. The leaf-covered path started behind the cemetery and was much more steep than we had anticipated.

looking towards the Thames River from behind Stoddard Cemetery

It wasn’t long before I covered the camera lens and grabbed two strong walking sticks to steady myself. Tim already had his walking stick and was more steady on his feet, but had to stop frequently to catch his breath. I was starting to question the wisdom of embarking on this expedition! Especially when we lost the trail and decided to just keep going up…

several kinds of moss and lichen on a rotting log

When things leveled off a bit I got a few pictures…

mushroom
princess pine trying to poke through the layers of leaves

Near the top we turned around near this ledge and saw the cemetery way down below…

Stoddard Cemetery from high above

At last we could see an opening in the woods and views of the river, trees and railroad tracks below. Tim said it was a good thing we came in the winter because the leaves on the trees would have blocked these lovely scenes. Keep in mind, under these ridges is that jumble of glacial erratics pictured in the last post. We didn’t go close enough to the edge to peek down there.

even way up here there were a few dead fish

Only with winter-patience can we bring
The deep-desired, long-awaited spring.

~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh
(The Unicorn & Other Poems)

We found the trail again and managed to follow it all the way back down to the cemetery. I’m pleased to report that neither of us fell! I slipped a couple of feet once but my sticks saved me. 🙂 That’s probably enough of steep climbs for us!

hairy woodpecker, telephoto lens
same hairy woodpecker
mallards on Stoddard Cove, also telephoto lens
thin ice on Stoddard Cove

It was nice to finally stand on level ground and take a couple of bird pictures. Phew!

the first touch of winter

“At the First Touch of Winter, Summer Fades Away”
by Valentine Cameron Prinsep

The days move more swiftly now, too, with late dawns and early dusks. The days march toward the winter solstice like a winter farmhand with the wind at his back. And the long nights become the sleep of the earth itself, the rest, the waiting. The fox barks in the night, in the glitter of winter starlight. The deer shelter in the hemlock thickets on the mountain. The woodchuck sleeps, breathing only once in five minutes. And that hurrying wind whistles in the naked maples. November is at hand. This is the hurrying, impatient wind of winter that I hear in the night.
~ Hal Borland
(Hal Borland’s Book of Days)

sitting ducks

“Sick Maria” by Joaquín Sorolla

Prepare, don’t panic. Difficult to do when one feels there is no available protection against the spreading new coronavirus. But we are obediently following the directions given by authorities. Doing something feels better than doing nothing. Two weeks of food and supplies — check. Now what?

So far there are no detected cases of COVID-19 in Connecticut, although surrounding Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New York have some. Apparently there is no evidence of widespread transmission — yet. It’s a creepy feeling, waiting and wondering…

An email came from my insurance company yesterday, outlining preventative measures and assuring me that should I get sick I would be covered — shouldn’t that go without saying? — and that the test would be covered, too.

I am, reasonably, I think, concerned because we seem to be in the population group most at risk for dying of this, over 60 and with underlying health conditions. On the other hand, our grandchildren will likely be fine even if they do come down with it. Uncertainty reigns, as always.

So I wonder this, as life billows smoke inside my head
This little game where nothing is sure
Why would you play by the rules?
Who did? You did. You…

~ Dave Matthews
♫ (Dodo) ♫

a secret garden

“A secret garden. Made by Barbara Lyn (sic) Chomiak. Seven year old.”

One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one’s head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one’s heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun — which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in some one’s eyes.
~ Frances Hodgson Burnett
(The Secret Garden)

I’m still poking around through my childhood papers and drawings. My mother was the true bookworm in our family. So many images coming back to me now, like my parents in the evening, my mother with her nose in the newspaper and my father watching television.

At bedtime, my mother read to us, even after we were old enough to read for ourselves. One of my favorite books was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. (Apparently I loved it so much I illustrated my own version of a secret garden.) And often my father would start playing the piano, gentle Bach lullabies sending us off to sleep.

Spring is in the air! Time to pick up the pace and plow through some more boxes. Onward!