Category Archives: birds

“You’re Own Private Audubon”

You’ll pardon me for paraphrasing the B-52s, but bird watching in my back yard since spring has sprung really has been like living in my own private Audubon. Yang pointed out that we often see more birds (in number and variety) through our sun porch windows than we do on many of our nature walks! It’s been a delight to see many old friends return.

First back were these Mockingbirds. Usually we see one in February or early March. S/He doesn’t stay long, but chows down for a day or two – maybe a week – and then is on the way to wherever Mockingbirds like to chill. This year, we got TWO. A honeymooning couple? I don’t know, but they were a pleasure to see.

 

Another of the spring early birds are the Red-Winged Blackbirds. In my yard, they are one of the earliest sign of spring rolling in. These guys actually showed up in the end of February – and I’ve never seen so many of them! Usually their numbers tend to thin out as we get into May, but this year we still have many of these visitors with the red and yellow epaulets. You can see this chap flashing his shoulder embellishments as he shares the feeder with a grumpy-looking Grackle – tons of Grackles off and on since February. Below is the blackbird taking a turn on the suet.

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In fact, everyone seems to be into suet this year! You saw the Mockingbirds above. And get a load of both the female and male Downy Woodpeckers. You can distinguish their genders by the red dot on the back of the male’s head.

 

 

 

 

 

These two aren’t the only woodpeckers who visit us. Through the winter and still into the spring, we’ve had a pair of Redbellied Woodpeckers chilling with us. In fact, this male is probably the one Yang and I saved from frostbite after he was stunned from hitting a window – the woodpecker, not Yang. Anyway, we call him Red and his mate Ruby. Original, aren’t we?

Of course we also had a spring newcomer woodpecker: my friend Flicker (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.). Just last week, I saw him hunting insects where my and my neighbor’s yard meet.

One of my favorite returnees is the Catbird. I love the way they say my name in one of their calls: “Sharon!” Last year we had two. This year, I’ve seen four! I don’t think they’re all pals, either. One day, I saw two of them in my Canadian Maple with their heads up, beaks pointing skyward, and their shoulders thrown back in a stand off. Bird number three was merrily chowing down on suet all the while. Who knows where number four went. Still, I do see two, three, four of them traveling together, making the rounds of the bird feeders in my yard.

 

We’ve also had some more colorful returnees as well. Although a Goldfinch or two would come by during the winter, we had a huge influx in April. They’ve thinned out a bit, but it’s been fun watching the boys gradually change back to their bright yellow duds. They’ve also broadened their tastes. Rather than only snacking on sunflower hearts, they are now going for the black oil seeds, no longer too lazy to crack them open with their powerful finch beaks. This fella is giving the feeder a quizzical study before he zeroes in on dinner.

 

Finally, May brought back two of my favorite friends. First, the Baltimore Orioles. This year we’ve seen two adult males and one juvenile. These guys love their oranges! Yang gets them the good ones from the Asian grocery store in town.

 

One day, Yang and I saw Dad taking his young son out for his first drink.

Dad says, “Watch me, son, it’s simple.”

 

The Kid dives in and proud Pop looks on.

 

Then they both turn to our window and stare: “What’re YOU lookin’ at?!”

One week later, who should come to town but the last of our colorful spring regulars: the Rose-Breasted Grosbeak. Usually we get a couple of couples. However, this year, I’ve only seen the male. Still, for all I know, it’s not the same male every time. There could be a bunch of them, each showing up one at a time. However many, these guys are always gorgeous to see! Here one of them is sharing the feeder with a House Finch. He doesn’t look too chummy, though, does he?

Of course, we’re not the only ones who like to watch the birds from the sun porch. But the girls are kept safely apart from feathered visitors.

Now, bring on the Indigo Bunting and the Scarlet Tanager!

 

 

 

Late Winter Birds, Far and Near

These waning days of winter have given Yang and I some fun bird watching, whether at home or away.  For instance, Yang went for a stroll one day on a canal that runs perpendicular to the Blackstone River and sighted some interesting ducks and the peripatetic Kingfisher.  So, the next day, I had him take me back there. Sure enough we saw some swell birds.  Yang got some really nice shots of a pair of hooded mergansers.  At first we thought they were both females, but I noticed that one had a distinctive long, pointed tail sticking above the water, as well as a fluffier brush of feathers at the back of the head.  I suspect that one was a juvenile male.  We either had a Mom and her teenage son or a Cougar duck.  Who can tell? Enjoy the pictures!

 

I also got to see the Kingfisher, a male.  I heard his excited chatter way down toward the end where the canal ran into the Blackstone.   I kept my eyes peeled until I saw a blob of white way ahead in a tall tree over the waters.  Training my binoculars confirmed my suspicions, bringing into focus a magnificent male Belted Kingfisher.  Yang came up and got some shots with the binoculars he could attach to his cell phone.  We had a great time watching His Majesty swoop down into the water, skimming along to fly off with his fishy dinner.

Further from home, we visited Forest Park in Springfield on our way to lunch in Montague.  This turned out to be the mecca for Common Mergansers. We saw tons of them in one of the ponds.  They were shy guys, as whenever we got  close to the shore, they paddled off to the middle of the pond.  Yang did get some nice pictures of them, though.  I love how the males gleam white, their green heads almost black.  Their head feathers in the back are far smoother than those of the male Red Breasted Mergansers.  In both these types of Mergansers, the females are beautiful, with their Rita Hayworth-red locks! Yang loves the ducks’ red beaks.

We also found some American Black Ducks enjoying the same pond as well.

Unfortunately, a nice swim almost ended in a trip over the dam! Can’t you just hear his wife yelling, “Dam/n!” Her husband responding, “Don’t you cuss at me . . . Whoa!!!”

 

 

 

Closer to home – as in  the bird feeders next to my house –  we’ve been seeing some nifty birds, old friends and new.  The Mockingbird and the Redwinged Blackbirds are back.  Would you believe that even in the snow, the Robins have been scooting about for at least two weeks?  Here we have a Robin and a Downy Woodpecker chilling (literally with all the snow)  in a tree outside my sun porch window.

I must say that this Robin loves his/her? suet.

 

We also had the pleasure of this Red Bellied Woodpecker’s company. Since it’s a female, it wouldn’t be the one who was stunned after hit our sun-porch window.  We brought him in in a box and let him warm up for about an hour then set him free. Whoosh!  He was in great shape and off to the races.  We see him and his mate here quite a bit.  They’re also big suet lovers.

 

Now, here some of our other visitors.  There are cheeky Goldfinches,

 

 

 

 

caring cardinals,

 

 

 

and perky Downy Woodpeckers.

 

Bring on the Rose Breasted Grosbeaks!

 

Adventures with Waterfowl at Silver Sands Beach

Yang and I went to the beach last week when we had some warm weather– in New England, in winter,  you can call 40 degrees warm. It started out as a trip to Tea with Tracey in Connecticut for tea (obviously), but since the day was so sunny and “warm,” Yang suggested that after tea, we head to nearby Silver Sands Beach to see what birds might be visiting.  I think he felt bad for me because we were the only people at Plum Island the week before who didn’t see a Snow Owl. Anyway, once we got there, we were NOT disappointed, with a special guest star appearing that neither of us had ever seen before!
As we approached where the waves broke on the shore, we were delighted to see Herring Gulls mixing and mingling with Brant Geese.  The gulls I’d seen many times before.  However, I’d only seen Brants twice previously.  They were not afraid of us and let Yang take lots of photographs.  Here are some neat ones we saw of them along the shore.
When the Brants took to the water, they proceeded in well-ordered convoy fashion.  You’d almost think they were heading to Britain with Lend-Lease weaponry, on the watch for Nazi U-Boats.
Maybe they had air support from the Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls.  I think some gulls might even have been acting as the Armed Guard.

We also saw some old favorites, American Black Ducks.  Here are two in conference.

 

 

 

Over here is another guy just chillin’ on a rock.  Maybe he felt he’d be chillin’ too much, literally, if he joined his pals in the ocean.  What do you think?
Then, there was this lonesome stranger.  Yang and I spotted a white dot in the ocean.  We almost dismissed it as yet another Hooded Merganser, but Yang had second thoughts and trained his binoculars on this guy.  Well, what do you know?  A duck that neither of us had ever seen before.  He was a study in art decco black and white, with a whitish Presley pompadour swept and puffed up off his forehead. His yellow eyes contrasted with a black pupil.  Even his pink beak had symmetric black patches on either side! Then, when he dived, there was that long, slim tail flipping up.

What could he be?  A Harlequin Duck?  A funky Woodduck? A pintail of some kind? My guess was an Oldsquaw – and darned if a peek in my Peterson’s and a look on-line didn’t prove me right.  Now, some people don’t like the term “squaw” in his name, feeling it’s offensive.  So, considering that yellowish white pompadour, could we rename him an OldElvis?  Too soon?
Anyway, like our new friend, I’m going to take a dive and say, “so long!”

 

Lobster Rolls, Waterfowl, and Joan Bennett: What an Adventure!

At the end of the last week, I’d come down with a head cold!  Too much heavy-duty activity and book promotion, I guess, in cold weather.  Anyway, after lots of rest under the medical supervision of Rosalind and Natasha,  I felt well enough to join Yang on a little adventure to Connecticut.  First stop?
Lobster rolls, cole slaw, and french fries at Bill’s Seafood in Westbrook.  Yum!  That lobster has loads of cold-fighting protein, right?  Though there weren’t the usual osprey and laughing gulls and various ducks, we did see this neat cormorant circling the deck, then landing and arching his wings the way cormorants love to do- very vampirelike.  I think he saw himself as Count Cormorantuala.  I forgot to get my own pictures; however, here’s another photographer’s depiction of that favorite cormorant stance.
I did manage to get  some nice shots from the rest of our journey.
Next stop?  Rocky Neck, where you can see the fall colors are still going, even if some trees are a bit denuded.  In fact, the drive down treated us to some lovely golds, burnt oranges, saffrons, and burgundies.  Just in the parking lot was this lovely tree flaming into orange.  Yang especially loves multicolored trees, where the foliage morphs from green to yellow even to orange. This tree gives us orange, crimson, and burgundy!
If you look to the marshes, they are bordered by more foliage-enhanced trees.  Those marshes are circled by a trail and some lookout platforms, which have afforded lots of views of many different types of aquatic fowl.  this time, we didn’t see a lot, but we did sight some old friends:  black ducks; mallards, hooded mergansers (the speedboats of the duck world), and the Great Egret.  It was the latter we got some nice shots of.  In fact, as we walked the trail and paused on a bridge, we were able to get rather close to this fellow without him flapping a feather.  Rather, he had quite a time for himself fishing.  What a beauty, right?  As we were leaving, we actually passed seven of them all chillin’ together in another marsh, right near the road.
Ah, and then there was a stroll along the ocean and a nap on the rocks as I could hear the waves lapping those rocks and feel the breeze dancing around me.  It’s so nice just to let go!
Our final stop, after a wonderful ride down winding country roads, framed with glowing foliage in the sinking sun’s light, was to the cemetery where Joan Bennett rests.  We  found three bouquets of yellow roses, a small painted stone with a sweet message, and an arrangement with a patriotic theme, happily showing that our Joanie is so fondly remembered. Well, Joan certainly was a patriot in the best sense of the word.  Five of her forties films had her joining the fight against the Nazis, she went on bond selling tours, she was a member of the AWVS (American Women’s Voluntary Service), and she spoke out for protecting people’s civil rights.  So, it was our pleasure to pay our respects.  We tried to clean her Mom’s grave stone, but couldn’t do much.  Another member of our Joan Bennett FB group had done a beautiful job of cleaning Joan’s grave earlier, however.  Maybe Joan and my Mom can have a cup of tea and a cigarette together up in the Great Beyond.  You never know!  Just watch out for those Singapore Slings, ladies!

 

 

Cormorant Image:  https://www.macfilos.com/2017/09/15/2017-9-11-cormorants-reconsidered-birds-of-ill-omen-get-makeover/

Autumn Eases In: Windsor Locks

The first day of October, Yang and I journeyed to Windsor Locks for one of our favorite bicycle trails.  It’s shorter than many of the ones we ride (about 9 miles round trip); however, the surrounding trees, along the Connecticut River on one side and the canal on the other, provided plenty of natural beauty-including natural habit for lots of interesting critters.
We wanted to make sure we got in  a ride before too late in the season because the trail officially closes from November to April while the resident bald-eagle couple nest and raise their young.  Sometimes they nest earlier than usual, so we lose out on a fall ride.  The swift-flowing Connecticut River on one side and its attendant canal on the other provide them with plenty of fish and other tasty treats. As this picture shows, the nest is close enough to the trail for the eagles to be disturbed by passersby.  Anyway, take a gander at that nest.  Enormous, isn’t it?
As we started off at the trail head, I noticed that the lock gate had been held open by a log washed down into the canal.  All the recent rain must have swollen the river so that it drove much debris down river and some over the dam to the canal.  You can still see the canal wending beyond and banked by trees that we later found filled with Cedar Waxwings, Chickadees, Robins, and  Yellow-rumped Warblers.  Those warblers must get some teasing with a name like that.  Yet that rump is a lovely bight shade of yellow! Not my photo, though.  The little guys move way to fast for us to photograph!  This was my first ever sighting!
Here’s how the trail looked as we were starting off.  You can see the leaves subtly shifting from green to soft autumn yellow.  At the beginning of the trail, they created an almost chilly canopy, but not too cold.  It was a gorgeous, sunny fall day, with  bright sunlight and a soft blue sky.  The perfect day for a bicycle ride! There were also hints of red sumac and orange maple splashing through the green and yellow, creating beautiful early-autumn accents. You can see the river and the opposite bank through the trees as well. Don’t these berries also add a wonderful dash of contrasting color?
Those berries were not only attractive to us!  We saw fleets of Cedar Waxwings dashing from tree to tree, hopping about to snack on these and other berries.  They are one of Yang’s favorite birds with their slick buff-colored feathers, crests, triangular black masks, and bright yellow borders on their tails.  Apparently, these guys may sometimes feast on berries that have fermented, and  then  you never know who might stagger about the trees!  Again, they moved way too fast and were too distant for us to take pictures.  However, as with the Yellow-rumped Warblers, our trusty binoculars gave us a nifty view of them, even if we couldn’t capture them on film.  Fortunately this site did.
We did see lots of neat critters that day, though we couldn’t always get a shot for one reason or another.  I did get this picture of a beaver’s den on the bank of the opposite side of the canal.  There were at least two of three of them along the way.  Apparently the beavers are starting a development here.  We also saw a majestic Great Blue Heron on the canal banks opposite, lots of Mallard’s hanging out, turtles basking in the sun on logs, and even a Cormorant scanning for fish from a dead tree extruding into the canal.
There was another neat creature whom I barely avoided hitting with my bike as he was stretched across the road.

Trigger warning- and I’m not referring to Roy Rogers’ horse- if you’re askeerd of SNAKES, scroll right past this paragraph. 

I thought this guy was pretty cool!  He extended nearly half way across the road, even semi-coiled.  I think this is similar to one we saw in the marsh on the Kingston, RI trail.  Is it a black snake?  He seemed to just chill for a bit while Yang and I watched him, then WHOOSH! he was across the road, down the bank, and headed for water.  I bet he’s glad that the eagles aren’t back yet, because they find guys like him pretty tasty.
Yang says so long to the snake.
I thought that now I’ll just drop some lovely images from the trail on you. Isn’t it beautiful the way the canal reflects the changing colors in the trees and brush?

I love this image of the power lines extending to a tower across the river.  You can see some of the changing colors in the plantation and the beauty of the river and the soft blue skies dashed with clouds, their white shadowed with slatey blue.
I love the way the bitter-sweet-yellow leaves and softening greenery embrace and curve about the rusty maroon of the railroad bridge here.
The gorgeous brown-stone banks across the Connecticut ripple horizontally above the river.
There’s almost a Lovecraftian touch to the exposed roots of ancient trees snaking through and over the red rock on the other side of the canal- as if they were something sentient.  Heh, heh, heh.

SNAKE TRIGGER WARNING AGAIN!

“I’m ready for my closeup, Mr. DemIlle!”

Images

Yellow-rumped Warbler:  https://www.borealbirds.org/bird/yellow-rumped-warbler
Cedar Waxwing: https://www.pennington.com/all-products/wild-bird/resources/cedar-waxwings

Feathered Critters of Summer at the Yangs’ Abode

DSCN5870I haven’t had a chance to do a lot of photography around the yard lately, since I’ve been so busy with writing and traveling.  However, we do have many neat critters to see.  We still have many interesting birds, for DSCN5877example, a turkey for several days, visiting around 5:00 in the afternoon.  Rosalind noticed the turkey first and tipped me off.  so, we got some nice shots of her.
DSCN5879The cardinals have been bringing their kids to visit.  I see plenty of Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal, but I’m not sure how many adolescents they have because they are all olive colored with black beaks (The beak helps you distinguish kids from female adults). I only see one baby at a time, so I don’t know if it’s the same one repeatedly or different Cardinal kiddos every time.  Last year, the parents brought quite a few to the feeders, andDSCN5880 we had about six males and females in the winter and through the spring.  Then, we only seemed to have two adults.  My guess is the last generation of kids moved off to college or got a job and nest in a new territory.  What do you think, Cardinal experts?  Anyway, this kid is pretty aggressive.  He was on the feeder with a female Rosebreasted Grosbeak, who had scared every other birds off, including Mommy Cardinal.  Not this kid!  He kept pecking right back at her for some time.
DSCN5867Speaking of Grosbeaks, we have at least three males (whom I’ve seen all at the same time), but I’m not sure how many females.  I have noticed that I do see a pair show up frequently, though I usually see a male or two show up DSCN5886without the wife. Occasionally, I’ve seen a female without the hubby.  These two like to hang together on this particular feeder.  They also decided to check out the oranges we put out for the Orioles as well.
DSCN5885The catbirds used to come frequently in the beginning of the summer, then they disappeared, pretty much, for about a DSCN5979month.  However, now they are BACK.  And they are aggressively defending the suet, cocking up their black tails and showing off that red spot underneath.  I’m glad to see them-and hear them call my name, “Sharon! Sharon!”  There’s one outside my window right now!
I’ll have to do another bird blog, to show you more pictures of our other feathered visitors.

Winter Birds at Chez Yang

We’ve been seeing some wonderful birds this winter in our yard at our feeders.  Let me share some of them with you, starting from December.  This first set of pictures were taken that month, before and after the snow started.  I have  pictures here of some old friends and some new-like this Downy Woodpecker.  Do you think someone should tell her that bugs don’t live in concrete or vinyl siding-or does she know something that I don’t?
We also see plenty of our old standbys, the Chickadees and the Titmice.  They like to come and dine about 9:30 in the morning and about 4-5:00 in the afternoon-with an occasional snack or two throughout the day.  The Titmice are one of Yang’s favorites, and he likes to call them “little faces.”  With their big, expressive eyes, you can understand why. In this picture we have one of the cute chickadees.
One of my favorite birds is one of the first signs of winter:  the Slate-Colored Junco.  That’s the name they went by when I was first birding; however, I’ve noticed them now called “Dark-Eyed Juncos.”  Maybe they all invested in brown contacts.  I love their blue-grey coloring (though some are more brownish) and  their white tails that flash when the fly away, as they give a call that sounds like castanets.  We have large numbers of them in my yard, which it just fine with me.
These two Juncos don’t look to happy to meet.
“Who You lookin’ at?”
“No, who YOU lookin’ at?!”
The Goldfinches haven’t flown away until the spring.  They’ve just changed their sprightly spring plumage for heavy winter coats.  One fellow appeared to have a white cap of feathers, even with his winter color.  So, I dubbed him Whitecap.  Original, aren’t I?  However, closer viewing of him through these photos shows that his cap is more light yellow than white.  Nevertheless, he’s staying “Whitecap,” as Slightly Light Yellow Cap” is way too much of a mouthful.
Here’s another nice shot of Whitecap, with a Goldfinch pal (in the upper left corner) who apparently thinks he’s a bat.  I’ve got to stop watching Forever Knight when these guys are in the windows.

Here’s another one of Snowcap, after he was reading up on Edward Taylor and thought he ought to go out and starting preaching to Juncos.  Of course, if Snowie believes in predestination, that suggests that even other species can be saved.

 

 

I particularly like this picture because it includes so many:  Juncos, Goldfinches, and another of my favorites, the Carolina Wren, on the left.  She doesn’t quite look like a wren because she doesn’t have her little bum cocked in the air, but her long beak and white eye-stripe give her away. We have at least one pair who come to my feeders.  They’ve been around the house for several years, but it’s only the past three or four that I’ve seen them year round, and so frequently in the winter.  I often hear them in the trees of the woods behind my house and across the street.  I named this pair, Carolina and Carey.  Additionally, note the Goldfinch coming in out of inter-dimensional travel in the upper middle of the photo.
We also had an unexpected visitor on our suet feeder.  Regard this handsome Mockingbird.  Usually I don’t see them in the winter.  However, I  was informed that they don’t travel south, but hide out in deep woods during the cold months.  Apparently this guy didn’t get the memo about hiding out. He or she comes to see us just about every day to chow down on the suet.  I know these birds tend to be highly aggressive, but this one really doesn’t seem to mind sharing.

 

Now, there’s one last interesting addition to our flocks:  Mr. Cooper, as in Cooper’s Hawk.  This guy showed up low on the Canadian Maple in our back yard, right outside my living room window.  The first time I saw him was in mid-January, when I couldn’t get any good shots.  Then, this week, he popped by and I was lucky, getting these three pix.  Now I definitely know what caused the splash of blood and feathers on the snow near the tree last week.  Still, he does leave alone the little birds-hardly worth consideration as hors d’ouevres?  Anyway, click on the photos to get a good look at him-or her.

Anyway, now I think I understand  why White Ears (named for these white tufts in his ears) has been keeping a low profile recently.

 

 

Halloween Treat

 

This Halloween, Yang and I treated ourselves to a hike in the cold autumn air at  Colbrook Reservoir Park.  Once a small town was on this land, but the river was damned to create a reservoir here that flooded it out.  Relax, they moved the people out first.  Appropriately for the day, when the water is low in times of drought, there’s a ghost to be seen.  More on that later.  However, as you can see in this picture, though the colors might not have been flamingly spectacular, they were still pretty.

 

In one direction, you can head toward the dam, which you can see here. 
We went the opposite way, down the old highway that is often covered when the reservoir is not in drought mode.  The two-lane highway makes for a  pretty smooth walk and is in surprisingly good condition for something that’s been submerged off and on over forty or so years.  You can see from this photo that the water level is waaaay down.  The boat launch is yards from the water and the water looks to be extremely shallow.
There are lots of interesting rock formations and trees on either side of the road.  There’s also supposed to be lots of wildlife around.  We were fortunate enough to see an American Kestrel, a bird I haven’t seen too much of lately.  The blue feathers on its back are gorgeous, especially when they contrast with the rusty red of its sides.  I was surprised not to see much in the way of waterfowl- only a mallard powering along the water.  You’d think there’d be plenty taking a rest stop on their migration route-whichever way they were going.  Perhaps the water was too shallow to provide much of a traveler’s buffet.  We didn’t see any beavers, but we did see the evidence of them.

There was also some nice views of the autumn colors in the hills surrounding the valley through which we walked .

If you click on this picture and look carefully, you can see the remains of old stone walls that marked the property boundaries of the people who had lived here

 

 

 

 

I love this tree!

 

We came to an old bridge over a run-off into the river and could see further upstream the remnants of another bridge that had once led into the town.  Looking down into the river and valley from the old highway, I couldn’t help thinking of what a beautiful setting this place was in which to live, with the hills and forest flanking you on one side, the small but swift river separating you from the highway, and the hills of rock and trees rising on the other.  And then there was that clear blue sky!  Greenly gorgeous in summer, brilliantly flaming in fall, and Christmas-card white in winter.  It must have been hard to leave such a beautiful place behind. Of course, that’s just my imagination running fanciful and feeling.
Now, I promised to tell you about the “ghost” of the reservoir.  Well, it’s neither human nor animal, but metal.  “Huh?” you say?  The phantom is known as the Ghost Bridge.  When the reservoir is not in drought, the bridge is submerged.  However, in seasons where there’s a dearth of water, like this year, the water recedes enough for you to see a metal bridge that crosses from one bank to the other of the old river bed into the little settlement that had been there.  This year, we were in luck!  Behold some neat shots that I got.  You can tell by looking at the length of the bridge that the river must have been much narrower, originally-unless cars back then had aqualungs as standard equipment.  Some other people we talked to that day (from over six feet away and masked) told us that someone had placed pumpkins on the boulders on our side of the bridge entrance.  If you click on the first picture and look carefully, you can see an orange object.   If you click on the second picture, you can see those boundary-marking stone walls.   Boo!
As beautiful an embodiment of fall as this day was, it also presaged winter.  Not only was the weather brisk, but what I consider one of the first signs of winter appeared there:  hundreds of slate-colored juncos!  I love their slate blue coloring, with the white flash in their tails when they fly off and make a sound like little castanets!

 

Here are a few more shots of the foliage and  rocky landscape.

 

 

 

 

 

The End

An Autumn Walk in St. John’s Cemetery

Between Halloween and fall foliage, October seems the perfect month to post blogs on my cemetery visits.  St. John’s Cemetery is one of my favorites, a beautiful rural setting that was just starting to put on display its lovely autumn colors.  Unlike the rolling hills of some Romantic-style cemeteries, the layout is fairly flat, but it has a plethora of  old trees providing shade in summer and wonderful colors in the fall.  A river runs alongside with all kinds of  brush that serves as home to many different birds.
There is plenty of beautiful statuary in this cemetery, as well.  Some of it shows magnificently against the backdrop of autumn’s leafy splendor.  Here we’ve got Jesus.
And here we have a sad woman shouldering the sacred cross, perhaps striving to lift the burden from Christ’s shoulders with repenting her sins.
There are so many beautiful statues here celebrating Catholic figures of holiness-many of which you won’t find in non-Catholic cemeteries.  We found many different versions of the Virgin Mary.  These are some  especially interesting ones.  This monument evokes the Infant of Prague motif.

 

 

These other two images of Mary are intriguing as well.  The first figure reminds me of Our Lady or Lourdes or of Fatima.  The second shows her crowned Queen of Earth and the Heavens, with the Christ child.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The images of angels were fascinating, too.  I love this relief that seems to show Saint Michael, sword in hand, ready for Someone Special.

 

 

 

 

 

However this exquisite carving of an angel struck me the deepest.  I’m including more than one shot, I’m so impressed with it.  Look at the deep contemplation in the features.  What is this angel thinking?  Brooding on the fall of some many angels and humans once bright with promise?  Or is there a trace of a smile in the subtle shaping of his cheeks and lips?  Take time to delight in how the material of his gown seems to drape gracefully as a part of his body.  What does he hold tucked behind?  A sword or a staff?  The features are so gracefully, believably carved that not a single Dr. Who fan would blink in his presence.

 

I’m just not sure who this saint is.  He’s in monk’s robes, so it can’t be Joseph-and no baby Jesus. There are no animals around, so it wouldn’t be Saint Francis.  No baby Jesus on his shoulder-not St. Christopher.  Maybe St. Anthony or St. Peter?  He is holding a cross, the way Peter was martyred, but what about the skull?

 

 

There are other wonderful statues that are not of Saints, much in line with what you’d expect in any cemetery.  Behold this piece that looks like a cathedral.

 

 

 

 

Then there are some lovely statues of women, like this one of a mother reading from a book to her daughter. The book is probably a Bible, but I like to think of it as something by C. Brontë.  Charlotte was actually pretty spiritual.
You can also find some impressive examples of Celtic Crosses in this cemetery, some with intricate relief designs carved on them.  Below are two examples I found captivating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The river that parallels one side of this cemetery hosts many wonderful critters.  We’ve seen ducks and a Great Blue Heron here.  Once we even saw a muskrat swim gaily upstream.  The brush and trees along the banks host flocks of Robins, Chickadees, Vireos, Phoebes, Catbirds,  and King Birds.  In the summer, we’ve seen Orioles and woodpeckers flying and perching on the imposing tress on the grounds.
Speaking of birds, one time we showed up in the cemetery too late to be allowed to continue our walk.  As we were driving slowly toward the main road to leave, Yang asked me, “What’s that on the tomb stone ahead?”  It was a great big red-tailed hawk!  The pictures aren’t perfect because it was night and we took them through the windshield of our car, but they are pretty darned neat.  I especially like the one where Mr. or Ms. Hawk does an almost 180 with the head and stares right at us.  Yikes!
Lastly, this gravestone raised  an important question for me.   If Curley’s here, where did they plant Moe and Larry?  Or Shemp?

 

NH Adventures: Claude Rains, Mt. Roberts, and the First October Full Moon

This month has blue moons, two in one month.  The first day of October this year was the first full moon of the month.  So, we celebrated  with a trip to New Hampshire that was a triple header for us.  First, we visited the grave of my favorite actor, Claude Rains, in the Red Hill Cemetery.  It’s a small, peaceful place, with lots of firefighters R.I.P.ing there.  The graves of Mr. Rains and his wife Rosemary are beautiful polished black stone Gothic arches.  To pay tribute, we brought one of the pumpkins that we had grown ourselves this year.  I liked presenting a little gift that Yang and I had worked hard to cultivate together.  The foliage by the cemetery hadn’t quite turned yet, but there were still some pretty trees.  When we go a bit later in the season, you often see some magnificent colors.  Check this link to a blog with pictures of the foliage in a past visit.
It was still a lovely place for Mr. Rains and his wife Rosemary to take their final rest.  I did want to place the pumpkin between the graves to honor them both, but I was a little worried it might roll off or get pushed away if it weren’t resting against the stone.  So, Mr. Rains got the pumpkin.  Maybe next time, I’ll bring two, especially if we have a bigger pumpkin crop.  Click here for news on what we did harvest.
We also did a drive- by of the classic colonial with it’s three pillars where Claude Rains last resided.  I wonder what the inside is like?  It was nice to see a Jean Shaheen sign out front.  You can’t see it in this photo, though you can see a beautiful sugar maple behind and to the left of the house.

Next on the agenda was to hike the Mt. Roberts trail in Moultonborough.  It’s on the grounds of the Castle in the Clouds, but it’s free to visit and hike.  Usually, we go up Red Hill, but I asked if we could start with something that ascended a bit less steeply, as this was my first major mountain climb of the year-major for me, anyway.  It really wasn’t all that easy, but the hike was definitely worth it!  We enjoyed the terrain, the changing colors, sighting a Brown Thrasher and a Wood Thrush (thank God for binoculars!).  When we got to an overlook, we sat and ate tea eggs that Yang had made, then chunks of the yummy pumpkin bread I’d baked the night before.   I was tired when we got back down, but I loved it!  There are lots of trails on these grounds, so I’m looking forward to going back.

 

We thought this little toad was cute, too!

Does anyone know what kind of tree this leaf comes from?  It’s actually a little darker in real life.  The camera was accidentally set to overcompensate, so I’ve tried to properly adjust the color to match what I actually saw.  So, if you know what the tree is, drop me a line in comments of on FB.  I’d really like to know!

 

Last and never least:  the first full moon of October!  Yang took me to Weir Beach-I hadn’t been there since I was a teenager!  It was pretty deserted, after the summer season was done, but there was a nice boardwalk from which to view the moonrise.  When the moon first came over the trees, it was ENORMOUS!  I thought Kronos was rising.  These picture don’t do it justice.  Click on them to get a bigger image.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a lovely evening to complete an exciting day.  Gosh, I love our autumn rambles through the Northeast!  I hope you’re having some fun ones as well.  And if you can’t get out, please enjoy these.