Category Archives: herons

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!

 

 

Autumnal Woodlawn Cemetery – No Blinking!

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Three years ago, Yang and I took an autumnal visit to Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.  This was our second visit.  Our first was in the summer, and we took many woodlawn1photos of the gorgeous sepulchres with their ornate carvings of lions and sphinxes, as well as beautiful stained glass inside.  This time, with the fall leaves beginning their metamorphoses into vivid colors, we concentrated on the outdoor imagery.  I love the way this angel is framed by the flaming curve of the branch and leaves above it.

 

 

woodlawn4I also found this figure fascinating, straining for freedom, emerging from his marble prison – perhaps to burst the bonds of the body’s clay and fly away on the sharp wind of the north to eternity.

 

 

 

woodlawn10We found this image especially beautiful, the soft orange of the tree leaves providing a brilliant background contrast to the soft grey/white of the stone and  the gentle and flowing draperies of woman portrayed here.

 

 

 

 

 

This woman draped meltingly over the tomb stone in her anguish was a deliciously melancholy image to ponder.woodlawn2 I actually manged to find a piece similar to this monument from Toscano to add to my own Halloween graveyard in my front yard this year.

 

 

 

I’m fascinated by this monument.  My guess is that the chap memorialized in Roman senatorial garb must have been a judge or a  high political figure. woodlawn3 I hope he met a better end than Julius Caesar!  I thought the warm orange of the tree behind his imposing statue made an appealing contrast.  Stern but not harsh features on this chap.

 

 

 

 

Happily, we found a wonderful living denizen in the cemetery.  woodlawn9Woodlawn also contains a beautiful reflecting lake, and this Great Egret found it just the ticket!  Of course, he was probably more up to fishing than reflecting – a bird’s got to eat!
There were other typical Victorian monuments, wonderfully complemented by the fall colors.woodlawn6  Here is a mother with her children.  One hopes this is not a comment on the high mother/child mortality rate but rather a celebration of deep feelings between parent and children.
I was intrigued by this praying woman, high atop her monument.  woodlawn11She almost has an aspect of the Catholic Virgin Mary, not what you would expect in a seemingly predominantly Protestant cemetery.  Again, the autumn trees provide a pleasurable contrast to the cool white and grey-aged stone.

 

 

This cemetery is indeed a pleasure to stroll through, just be sure to bring your camera – whatever season you visit!

Here’s a link that gives you a virtual tour.

 

Birds and Beasts at Mt. Auburn Cemetery

We went to Mt. Auburn looking for birds and beasts. In the past, we’ve seen rabbits, ground hogs, foxes, hawks, and robins, but we had a few surprises this time. This is a lovely catbird. 2mtauburn1I’m afraid you can’t quite distinguish his/her black cap. We have at least one who lives near our house and is rather friendly, visiting the bird feeders, sipping from the bird baths and fish pond, and plucking up multi-legged critters from the ground. We also saw tons of robins. I wanted to include this picture for my British viewers. Your robins are adorable, petite, and feathered lovely blue and rust. Ours, as you can see, are longer and larger, with a grey/black body and striking rusty-red tummy. Their faces and build are similar to your blackbirds, MtAuburn10though yours are really black. I heard that your robins were struggling.  How are they doing now?

 

Here was a nice surprise! Down by one of the ponds, we 2MtAuburn3found quite a few painted turtles sunning themselves. Look at this guy stretch his hind legs. Seems comfy, doesn’t he/she. Meanwhile, in the pond, a baby was swimming around like crazy, having a ball. maybe this guy on the shore was a watchful parent?2mtauburn4

 

 

 

 

 

 

2mtauburn7We really had a surprise when we saw and were able to follow a Great Blue Heron around the cemetery. We expected to see him wading in one of the ponds. That’s how we usually see them, but not this guy.2mtauburn5 He just took himself on the most casual of strolls, looking around, chilling out. maybe he was looking for a friend?

Okay, here he is paying his respects.2mtauburn6

 

Heading back to our car we got the biggest of surprises!2mtauburn8 A flock of about 8 or 9 wild turkeys! Notice the “beards” hanging from some of the birds. I’d never noticed that before.2mtauburn9

 

I talked to a woman who was planting some flowers at a relative’s grade, and she told me the turkeys were making her nervous. 2mtauburn11Apparently, a turkey had gotten too aggressive with one of the workers in the cemetery last week, with things had not going well for the turkey. I have heard that these wild bird can be exceptionally bold. These guys didn’t bother us, but then, again, we didn’t bother them, either. I prevented Yang from mentioning either dreaded trigger word: Thanksgiving or drumstick.2mtauburn10

A Walk in the Sterling Woods

Sterling1Recently, Yang and I decided to take a Sunday morning walk, while it was still relatively cool, in the wooded rail trail in Sterling , MA – right behind the center of town. As you can see from the sign, DSCN2858the name of the trail is  the Mass Central Rail Trail.  It runs about a mile and three quarters one way, so round trip is about three and a half miles – too short for a bicycle ride, but nice for a walk.

 

Parts of the trail are flanked by swamp and marshes like this, Sterling3where we saw tons of Catbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Song Sparrows.  Using our new binoculars, we could watch a Song Sparrow raise his head and liberate a beautiful song.  I just wish we had a camera that could photograph what we see through the binoculars.  We also saw a ground hog pick his way through the underbrush and onto the trail, but he was too quick for us to get a photo of him.

The trail itself is Sterling6straight and flat with packed gravel, perfect for easy walking and so beautifully shady and cool during a summer day – especially in the morning.  We were lucky to see scads of chipmunks and even a few rabbits.  We weren’t so lucky in finding ourselves sometimes accompanied by mosquitoes – Sterling4but they weren’t so bad here as in other woods we’ve strolled through.

 

Toward its far end, the trail passes across a lake.  This area had once been a vacation resort, but now, as a public trail, anyone can go there to fish, boat quietly, or just enjoy the view. Dscn2868 There are some benches in the woods overlooking the lake that afford a lovely relaxing outlook.  Once, Yang and I took our tea and scones there to sit and have breakfast and enjoy the beautiful vista.  We saw scores of dragon flies and baby fish. We’ve also seen a Great Blue Heron here in the past.  I think Sterling7I might even have done some reading.  Where a bridge carries you over the lake, you come out into the sunshine, and it’s such a pleasurable view!

 

 

Yang really enjoyed using our new binoculars!Sterling5

In the parking lot,Sterling10 I saw these lovely daisies and chicory, so I had to photograph them.  One year, I found loads of Baltimore Orioles, male and female, building their nests in the trees along the lot.  Sterling12No such luck this visit.  I might have come too late in the season.  Still, a wonderful walk.

Millerton Rail Trail Birding Adventure

 

So, our first bicycle ride on the Harlem River Valley Trail, starting in Millerton, NY,  was a wonderful trip!  We started off after a delightful lunch at Harney and Sons tea outlet – and my buying out most of the store! Must have my Keemun and Breakfast Supreme!

The day was absolutely perfect for a bicycle ride:  not too hot but sunny and clear.  We saw a plethora of the most wonderful critters!  I increased my count of birds seen this year with some unique additions.  Unfortunately, they moved too fast for me to get any good pictures, so I’ll have to rely on other sources for illustration.  When riding past the big pond in the cattle pasture along the trail, LittleblueHeronI saw this heron flash by over the water.  He was too small for a Great Blue Heron –– and didn’t have a crest.  But he wasn’t the right color for a Green Heron; he was a dark, slatey blue.  He reminded me of pictures I’ve seen of the Little Blue Heron, and when I checked several sites on line I discovered that’s exactly what I’d seen.  Here’s a picture courtesy of Dario Sanches via Wikkipedia.  Interestingly, these birds usually aren’t seen this far north.  However, some have been sighted in New York and New Jersey.  So, my conjecture as to his identity seems to be right on the money.

(Photo from Wikkipedia:  By Dario Sanches from São Paulo, Brazil – GARÇA-AZUL (Egretta caerulea; uploaded by Snowmanradio, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12106836)

 

Yang and I also noted two almost Robin-sized birds cruising over and through the underbrush by the side of the trail.  But they flashed white feathers on the backs of their tails –– definitely not a Robin trait.  Still, I did see rusty red and black on them, but not really in a Robin-design.  My guess was either Redstarts or Rufous-sided Towhees.  We dismounted our bikes; approached cautiously for a good look; and, yep, they definitely seemed to be Towhees.  These guys aggressively hopped around in and kicked up the mat of dead leaves looking for insect-type treats.  There was a male and female.  The BlogEastern towhee malemale had contrasting black and rusty-red coloring, with a white tummy, while the female was mostly all a lovely rusty reddish brown. BlogEastern_Towhee-27527 I tried to get some shots, but I don’t think they came out very good.  Here are the photographs by Bill Thompson and Ken Thomas, respectively, on Wikkipedia

(1)Male  By Bill Thompson of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region – Photo of the Week – Male eastern towhee at the Quabbin Reservoir (MA)Uploaded by Snowmanradio, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15297291 (2) female (Photo from Wikkipedia, By Ken Thomas – KenThomas.us (personal website of photographer), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3423294; 2.

 

I may also have seen a Red-eyed Vireo.  I’m not sure what color his eyes were; he was too far away, and he was wearing shades.  blogred eye vireo sanchesWe also saw tons of red-winged Blackbirds, Catbirds, Grackles, and Robins.  We were treated to some lovely bird song from all these feathered critters.

Vireo image:  On Wikkipedia, by Dario Sanches – originally posted to Flickr as JURUVIARA (Vireo olivaceus), CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8792302)

What four legged beasts did we come across?  Lots of rabbits, a garter snake, and chipmunks.  We even saw baby chipmunks that were really tiny.  Only gray squirrels showed this day, though I have seen red ones here in the past.  And the funniest thing was to see a groundhog galloping through the woods below us.  Those suckers may be plump but they move fast.  Better here than anywhere near my garden –– or my friend Amber’s, if they know what’s good for them!