|Two Fridays back, Yang and I happened to be on the North Shore, so we stayed overnight in order to make an early visit to Halibut Point State Park. We’d been meaning to get there since November, after hearing about all the cool water fowl hanging out there. Unfortunately, the opportunity hadn’t come up before this. So, after our breakfast of bagels and cream cheese (yum!), we headed out to the state park. We were not disappointed. In the quarry, we spotted a Scaup, Black Ducks, and Mallards. When we headed for the ocean, we got an even bigger treat. Here you see me peering out at the ocean’s wonderland – or wonderwater- of ducks. Isn’t that point beautiful?
At first, we saw only a couple of pairs of Harlequin Ducks, looking absolutely adorable. All the FB bird groups to which I belonged extolled the plenitude of Harlequins out here. So, we were happy to spot this couple chilling along.
Mrs. Harley seems to be finding a snack while her husband looks on.
Neat as this sighting was, things got MUCH better. Looking all around and out to sea, we saw flocks of Harlequins diving, chilling, and looking good. There were so many that we couldn’t always get them all in one picture. I would say we saw several flocks ranging from 9-15 Harlequins. And that’s not counting the friendly-neighbor Long-tail Ducks who joined the party. Counting the ducks was never easy, because, all of a sudden, the whole kit and kaboodle would take a dive on a hunt for food. So, Yang had to time his shots carefully to catch them. I guess it’s true that these ducks love rough waters, because that’s exactly what they got here and in the other place we saw them, Sachuest Point, RI. This was the biggest contingent of Harleys that I had seen. Though the ducks are hard to pick out in these pictures, if you just click on them you will get a better look.
Then we saw this Loon way off above the group of Harlequins. It’s the white figure in the upper left corner.
Wouldn’t you know, we also saw plenty of flocks of Scoters.
Here’s a closeup of a female Scoter. I believe these are all Black Scoters.
When we moved onto the harbor at Rockport, Yang also got a shot of a male Eider Duck. Usually we see big flocks of these guys, especially at Cape Cod (check out this older blog). Today, we saw this guy all by his lonesome.
Then, finally, what should we espy on the other side of the point in the harbor in Rockport? We thought we it was a brown female eider – except, Yang said that once the critter dived he could see her walking under water. Huh? Then “she” came up.
Yup, a seal! So I hope this critter can be a “seal” of approval for today’s blog.
Category Archives: birds
Gooseberry Island Redux – or Reducks?
Happy Harlequin Hunting: Only Shooting with a Camera!
Mallard, Mallard, Merganser?!
Fairhaven, Fair Gothic
|At the end of September, Yang and I finally made it back to Fairhaven, Mass. for a fun bicycle ride. We didn’t see loads of critters; however, passing by a marsh we did come across a Great White Egret convention. Yes, take a closer look: those white blobs in the trees are EGRETS! And there was one Great Blue Heron. Master of ceremonies. We were especially happy to discover that the trail had been extended and is supposed to reach the next town in November. It’s a sweet spot for a long ride through trees, fields, marshes, and along the ocean.
All that said, what we found especially intriguing was our walk through the town of Fairhaven, where we came across some absolutely delightful gothic architecture! The person responsible for this gorgeous architecture was nineteenth-century millionaire, Henry Huttleston Rogers. He not only funded the design and construction of the Town Hall, seen to the left, but the library and the Unitarian Universalist Church. The Town Hall was dedicated by none other than Mark Twain, and the library, still a free public library, was designed “in 1893, [as} a memorial to his beloved daughter, Millicent, in the form of an Italian-Renaissance palazzo” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairhaven,_Massachusetts). Here’s the library below:
The “Italian-Renaisance design” certainly explains the outside relief on the building. Notice the cherubs peeking on either side of the column.
And who’s that poking his head right out front? Why it’s Dante himself! I had conjectured to Yang, when I saw that kisser, that it must be Dante. And now I understand why the library is called The Millicent Library. A beautiful memorial to a daughter taken from her father too soon. We didn’t get a chance to explore the inside of the building; however, as I said to Yang, here’s a library to put on my list for trying to do a reading. Next spring or fall? I may have another novel out by then!
Yet the most spectacular of the edifices was The Unitarian Church. We’d spied the tower through the trees as we walked along checking out these other buildings. We were drawn like iron filings to a magnet to discover what kind of Gothic delights this building might hold. Gosh! We were more than delighted with what we found!
We were expecting a Catholic, or at least an Episcopal. cathedral. So imagine our surprise that this ornately appointed church turned out to be a Unitarian/Universalist place of worship. Even the Parish house of the Unitarian Memorial Church was replete with gargoyles and saints.
We not only found gargoyles on all the corners, but saints and patriarchs beneath the gargoyles.
And even a few patriarchs and saints on their own.
The Church, itself, was designed by architect Charles Brigham of Boston (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unitarian_Memorial_Church), and is decorated with so many fascinating types of gargoyles on its corners and cornices. There were owlgoyles.
As well as your standard flying dragony-type things, maybe with one have a hint of the leonine.
Particularly interesting, were the head sculptures adorning the outer walls of the church. I wondered if some of them reflected the founding members of the Church – not all of them, though. You’ll see what I mean when you take a gander at some of their visages. Here is a solemn dame, who seems right at home in a Medieval world.
Here is a beautiful young girl, who would seem at home in a world of Medieval romance.
This chap looks as if he would have been one of the better fed pilgrims to Canterbury.
This guy has a perfect 1960s-style flip. Must be the early inventor of Dippity-Do.
What can I say? St. Theresa of Avila stuck next to Pickle Puss!
There were also other fascinating sculptures adorning the church. An angel holds a book of good works or devotions or philosophy.
Four women represent the celestial power of music.
Here, Yang stands before one of the entrances, Mr. Pudgy Pilgrim looking over his shoulder.
For the official website for this church click here.
Finally, we found another intriguing building, though not nearly so ornate, right where the trail enters the town. I’m not sure what this abandoned brick building once was, now overgrown with trees, holes in its roof. A factory? A school? Who knows. I don’t, but I wonder what story it could tell us.
Return to Colebrook Reservoir
|Two years ago, Yang and I made our first trip to Colebrook Reservoir on a brisk Halloween afternoon. What a treat!. After at least a year of drought, the old Rte. 8 was completely clear and dry of the water. We even saw part of the “ghost bridge” and the stone walls marking the boundaries of farms in what had once been a community displaced by the formation of the reservoir. That day, we saw our first slate-colored juncos of the season, while the fall colors were still in bloom. (Check out an earlier blog on our adventure here).
We came back last year, after an extremely rainy summer and discovered just how quickly a reservoir can fill up! Not even a trace of the road we traveled between a slope of boulders and the water. We were lucky the parking lot wasn’t swimming!
Ah, but 2022 brought another summer drought – and maybe the only good thing about the dearth of precipitation was that the way at Colebrook became so much clearer – though not nearly as clear as two years ago!
So, here’s my report, with photographic evidence! On a gorgeous September afternoon, we were able to take the road (old Rte. 8) down from the parking lot for a bit of a stroll, until the inundation of the low road cut us off. Were we daunted? Not we two Yangs! We scrambled over 1/8 to 1/4 of a mile of boulders flanking the waters. You can get a bit of a picture from this photo, though you can’t see quite how steep the slope was – it was too hard to take pictures and scramble at the same time!
Where the road rose on higher ground, it was clear of water. Unfortunately, there were gaps of low lying road that were inundated. So, we managed to circle around the submerged road through rock-strewn mud flats, where we saw all kinds of fauna tracks: deer, lynx, big herons. We also saw some neat flora, as well. I was taken with these nettles, some of which were accompanied by red berries. Anybody recognize them? We kept an eagle eye out for ticks! Also, for fellow MSTKies, we did watch out for snakes. None sighted – not even in the water.
It was fascinating to see how the wash of waters over the past few years had covered what was left of some of the road with gravel and how the flooded areas created islands of what had once been roads. Yang and I were both struck by how torn up the exposed blacktop had been since the last time we’d walked this road. When we went through a stand of trees, we found some big trees down that we had to climb over. No riding our bikes here the way we did two years ago when we had returned the day after Thanksgiving.
Last time we were here, we had walked out to a highway bridge from the 1950s that crossed a stream emptying into what was originally a river (now the reservoir). There was even a jetty to walk out on a little further along. Well, at least the bridge was still there, but water was almost even with it. Still we had a nice walk there and a little beyond, until the road dipped and the water filled in everything. As you can see, we weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the bridge. The area seemed to have become the playground for female and juvenile male Common Mergansers. These ducks were having a grand time strolling about, splashing, and playing in the water.
Speaking of birds, Yang was disappointed not to see any Juncos (though it’s a bit early). Nevertheless, he more than made do with the many water birds we saw. Across the waters were Great Egrets, and on our side we saw several interesting types. On the left is one of the Spotted Sandpipers we saw, though we usually saw only one at a time. Maybe it was the same one a few times over? We also saw this Greater Yellow Legs. It might have been a Lesser Yellow Legs, but we didn’t have anything with which to compare him. Less than whom? There were plenty of Cormorants, too.
This was a pretty scene of the shore across the reservoir. I really enjoyed the view. Too bad we won’t be able to go back this year when the colors really go full-on autumn.
Of course, this is my favorite view.
I hope you’ll pardon me while I duck out now.
“You’re Own Private Audubon”
Late Winter Birds, Far and Near
Adventures with Waterfowl at Silver Sands Beach
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/