Category Archives: hawks

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?

 

Birding with the Yangs

.
These past few weeks, Yang and I have had some wonderful bird sightings, sometimes, literally, in our own back yard.  Case in point, one Friday, Natasha was meowing at the door all day. Then Rosalind was in the pantry window bird-chattering away, while I worked on my novel in the dining room.  I stopped and suddenly became aware that I’d been hearing a high-pitched hawkish call.  I got up and looked out the window in the dining room, and what did I see in the patch of sea roses, but two Merlins!  One flew away, while the other hung out for some time – before attacking a sparrow who out-smarted him.  I got these pictures through the window because I was afraid going outside would drive my visitor off.  Hence, it’s much blurrier than I’d like.  What do you think of this new guy?  I haven’t seen him since, but I did find an ominous splash of tiny white bird feathers on the nearby back porch.
Our bird feeders have returned to us the usual suspects.  Lots of Titmice and some Chickadees battle four pushy Blue Jays.  We also have two male and one female Cardinal  visiting.  One of the males is pretty aggressive.  While he’s fine with the little birds, he’ll go after the Blue Jays and drive them off!  We also have Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers, Goldfinches wearing their winter buff, and even a Yellow-bellied Woodpecker.  One day, a Carolina Wren gave me such a scolding when I came too near the juniper bush!
On a visit with friends on the Cape, we came across one of my favorite, but rarely seen, birds.  At first, seeing the creature head on, I perceived a bird with a brownish head and chest with a white belly forming a “v” into the brown chest.  I claimed I’d never seen such a bird before, until he took flight and I saw the luscious blue.  Bluebirds! A good-sized flock of them!  I noted in my Peterson’s that Bluebirds are usually found year round in New England mainly on the Cape.  How appropriate!  The Bluebird was one of my “must see” birds for the year.  I still need to see an Indigo Bunting, a Piliated Woodpecker, and a Scarlet Tanager.  It’s probably too late in the year for the first and last, but I’m holding onto hope for that Pterodactyl-sized woodpecker.  The Bluebird photos are courtesy of Andrea Krammer.
Today, when we took a morning walk (about 7:00) on the Blackstone River Trail, we saw some interesting birds.  A Great Blue Heron and a black Cormorant were fishing in the same part of the river.  Then, atop a tall dead tree, we saw a bald eagle.  We watched as he sat there majestically for some time before he soared off away from us and the river. We didn’t have the means to get a picture, so I’m borrowing this one below.

I can’t wait to see what the remainder of the year brings!
Source eagle image:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eagle_on_roots_-_crop_3_(430008061).jpg

 

A Visit to the Connecticut Shore

In the midst of all that God-awful rain last week, we had a day full of sun and warmth on Tuesday.  So we hopped in our car and headed for the Connecticut shoreline and some of our old haunts!  First, we stopped at Bill’s seafood for our annual (and more often if we can!) fix of lobster rolls!  Mmm, Bill’s has the best, with a handy helping of crisp and hearty french fries and cole slaw with a nice tang. You can see Yang enjoys his repast!

As usual, we sat on the deck, which is next to a river and salt marsh flowing to the sea.  We especially love to do that because you always see loads of seabirds there.  This time, we could espy teenage ospreys in their platform next out in the marsh, while wild cries overhead alerted us to their hunting parents flying overhead.  We couldn’t take pictures because the platform was too far out, but we’d remembered to bring binoculars.  so, we got a good look at the young osprey.

We also had the pleasure of seeing some less fierce feathered critters.  We got a few pictures of some American Black Ducks, as you can see here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was also a mamma Mallard with her three babies scooting around.  It was cute to watch her leisurely paddling while her kiddos worked those webbed feet furiously to keep up!  Someone commented that this must be her second clutch, since they were so little so late in the season.

 

After Bill’s, it was off to Old Lyme to visit Joan Bennett at the Pleasant View Cemetery.  there used to be a riding academy and horse-boarding farm across the street, so I used to think that Joan, who was a rider, would have found that view pleasant, indeed.  Today, the grass wasn’t too bad in the cemetery, and it was filled with butterflies.  I saw a Monarch, the Black Swallow Tail in this picture (thanks to Charmaine Kinton for the i.d.) and a beautiful bright yellow butterfly (no, not a Tiger Swallow Tail).  I know Joan loved yellow and butterflies are symbols of the soul.  Do you think she was  saying “hi” to me?  I also noticed that there was a sign for a house for sale on the street.  should we all chip and buy it so that we visit our friend more easily – and keep the grass trimmed?  I also noticed that Joan had a cousin, Patricia Morrison (not the actress), who died very young.  Does anyone know the story there?

Anyway, we checked ourselves for ticks before we got in the car – we were in Lyme- then went off to Rocky Neck State Park.  This park is a wonderful place to hit the beach or take hikes along trails.  Once more, we saw several nesting platforms for ospreys with young ospreys in them.   There was one that had a nest not as thick as the others, so we thought it was unfinished or abandoned.  We found out later we were wrong. Once again, thank God for binoculars!  We also saw many Cattle Egrets and Great Egrets, as well as a Kildeer!  Yang even managed to get this shot of a Green Heron!  So, in case you’re still wondering, what was the deal with the underdeveloped platform nest?  Well, we were checking it out with the binoculars when a red-tailed hawk came sailing in.  The hawk kept looking at something in the nest that we couldn’t see, but we suspect it was his/her family.  Thanks to the binoculars, we got a great closeup of the bird’s enormous eyes, powerful hooked beak, and beautiful feather patterns.  A formidable creature, indeed!

Finally, we moved on to the beach and then up to the huge, field stone pavilion that had been built in the 1930s as a WPA project.  The building was one of the reasons Yang had wanted to come here.  He’d been reading the draft of my third novel, Always Play the Dark Horse, and its description of the setting whetted his appetite to return to one of our favorite places to go walking.  The pavilion is a long building with beautiful hard wood floors inside.  Couldn’t you just picture a big band playing there, and people dancing on a summer’s eve with a tangy salt breeze cooling off all those hot cats and kittens?  It turns out you can rent it for $3,750 for a gathering of  under 200 people.  A larger number is less expensive.  Any one want to GoFund a swing night there – and I mean swing dancing!

There are also some beautiful views of the ocean from the pavilion.

 

 

 

 

Then we closed out the day with dinner at The Main Street Grille in Niantic – well, not exactly.  We also went for a 30 minute walk on the boardwalk in town as well.  No wonder I was limping on Wednesday and Thursday.  Nevertheless,  I was recovered enough to jitterbug, cha-cha, rhumba, and fox trot to Dan Gabel and the Abletones at Moseley on the Charles on Friday.  Good bless heating pads and Advil!

 

 

Late Summer Birds and Flora

 

Summer is almost officially past, so I’m posting some images from my gardens.  We have three kinds of morning glories flowering in our yard.  We’d have four, if the large blue ones would flower,garden1 but they won’t.  So, we have some deep purple, some magenta, and some orchid ones.  I don’t know all the names of the types, but they are lovely.  Every year, I collect the seeds from these flowers to replant them in the spring.  Sometimes, we get some interesting hybrids.  I managed to get pictures of one of my favorites.  Sometimes the orchid morning glories will sport a  broad, deep purple  stripe, as you see here. garden2 The seeds will actually reflect the  combined types.  Orchid seeds are cream colored and purple or magenta ones are black.  These hybrid seeds are usually cream with a black stripe.  Sometimes, the orchid ones will also blend with the magenta to produce a pink flower.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the one pink flower I’ve seen so far, but I did tag the flower so that I can retrieve the seeds.

garden3

The birds have also been having a grand time in our yard.  We’ve seen lots of cardinals, garden5including the Daddy Cardinal taking the kids out for dinner.  We also have Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, scads of Gold Finches and Purple Finches, Chickadees, Titmice, and Nuthatches.  I even saw a hummingbird three times this year!  One time was in early September!  The young gentleman Coopers Hawks have since taken offhawk1 and rarely visit now.  We named them Shawn and Gus – I know you know that I AM telling the truth about that!  In this picture, you can see one hawk in the foreground and if you look carefully, the other is in silhouette in the triangle of railings on the right.
hawk3

 

 

 

 

The drought has certainly left my pumpkins gasping for life.  I’ve seen so many pumpkin and gourd embryos wither and die.  Still, some made it. garden10 Here is an odd shaped pumpkin, which some critter took a chunk out of.  Still, the pumpkin lives and now resides on my sideboard in the dining room.  The pumpkin below isn’t a rogue that needs to be caged to protect the other flora and fauna. The vine climbed over the garden fence and the pumpkin embryo became fertilized hanging over the outside of the garden.  Since we found evidence of some creature trying to dig into the garden,  we developed protective caging from milk cartons. garden7 The ploy worked, for this pumpkin matured and now resides in state on the what-not table in my parlor.  You can also see a crown of thorns embryo ready to flower and be fertilized.  The good news is that this little guy is happily growing away.  Maybe I’ll have some more pictures of it later.  garden9
Here are some of our eggplants and peppers. These guys were delicious!  Yang can cook!  So, I guess the drought didn’t totally blacken my green thumb.garden8