|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.
What can I say? St. Theresa of Avila stuck next to Pickle Puss!
Four women represent the celestial power of music.
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.
|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.
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.
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.
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!”
Yellow-rumped Warbler: https://www.borealbirds.org/bird/yellow-rumped-warbler
I 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 example, 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.
The 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, and 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.
Speaking 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 without 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.
The catbirds used to come frequently in the beginning of the summer, then they disappeared, pretty much, for about a month. 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.