|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: New England
Gooseberry Island Redux – or Reducks?
Happy Harlequin Hunting: Only Shooting with a Camera!
Return to Riverside Cemetery: Autumn Leaves Bursting with Color
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.
Lee Library Author Event: A Walk on the Noir Side in Shades of Autumn
|Since some of the Covid issues have waned, I’ve started going back to doing in-person author readings. Friday, October 14th, I had the good fortune to do an event at the Lee Library in Lee, Massachusetts. What a wonderful day! Lee is in the western part of Massachusetts, so my husband and I had an exciting drive through all the gorgeous fall foliage to arrive at our destination. Lee is a neat little town with a main street of equally neat shops, and in an antique store I found a 1940s movie magazine with pictures of favorite stars. The main street has lots of tasty restaurants. We had our lunch at The Starving Artist Cafe, where they craft the yummiest sandwiches and
crêpes. They made a pumpkin latte that was absolutely perfect – not all sugary and fake whipped cream, but good coffee, the flavor of pumpkin spice, and steamed milk. We sat outside at the street seating on a warm October day and enjoyed the small-town scenery, great food, and trees dressed in their autumn flames and oranges.After a stroll amongst the shops and a peek at some of the gorgeous Victorian houses in town, we went to the library for my talk. You can see what a beautiful old building the library is. When visiting the town earlier, I was taken with the building and thought, “I’d like to do a talk here.” Well, I contacted Jodi Magner at the library, and she was tremendously welcoming and enthusiastic at the prospect of my doing an event. She told me that they loved mysteries in that town!
That day, Jodi and her daughter Megan made me so welcome and helped my husband and I set up. I was delighted that my friend, mystery writer, Leslie Wheeler could join us, as well as other women whom I’d never met before. We were a small group, but we had a great time. I got so many intelligent questions, and people seemed interested in my inspiration from film noir and haunting movies of the 1940s like Val Lewton’s films and The Uninvited. They seemed to get a kick out of the excerpts that I read from Bait and Switch, Letter from a Dead Man, and Always Play the Dark Horse to illustrate how the dark, dreamy elements of noir and the smart talking gals of the 1940s influenced my writing! One of the women even said that a friend, sometime earlier, had been suggesting she read the Jessica Minton series. I’m getting a fan base! And now you can read all three Jessica Minton novels through the Lee Library.
Say, how do you like the pin-stripe black suit and the black fedora? I thought the gold blouse was just right to add fall color. Should I have brought along a gat?
I’m hoping to go back in the summer, after the fourth novel comes out: Shadows of a Dark Past. Maybe I’ll see you there!
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.
“Back in the Saddle Again!”
In June, I was finally able to get back in the saddle concerning appearances. After one fun reading in May at TidePool books in Worcester, I first did a joint author event with my friend and colleague, Leslie Wheeler, on Saturday, June 4th at the Booklovers’ Gourmet. We had a responsive audience and a lot of fun. Leslie suggested that we, ourselves, be more interactive. So, instead of just reading and talking separately, after each short reading, we asked each other questions about our methods of writing, our particular joys and pains in writing, future writing plans, etc. Our questions and responses, in turn, drew questions and observations from the audience. Totally interactive! I think we even made some new friends and readers, as well. I’m especially excited because we talked about Leslie’s new book, Wolf Bog, which will be released July 6th, this year!
Next, I joined an even bigger group of writers from Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America at a corner of the Natick Farmers’ Market called Beach Reads, organized by Tilia Jacobs. I shared my table with Janet Raye Stevens, who also writes mysteries set in the 1940s. It was a gorgeous day, where we enjoyed chatting with people -and each other- of course, also selling some books. Here’s a tip for writers: have a QR code on your bookmarks, postcards, or advertising poster so that if people don’t have cash, they can use their smartphones to connect to a site where they can buy the book (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop.org, your web site) there or later. Anyway, it’s great to see people and enjoy a beautiful afternoon.
I already have some plans for August. On August 24th, from 7:00-7:30 p.m., I’ll be interviewed by Barry Eva on A Book and a Chat. I’ll provide more details when I have them. Next is Lala Books in Lowell, MA on August 26th from 7:00-8:00 p.m., so come and hear all about the latest 1940s mystery adventures for Jessica Minton, James Crawford, and Dusty – as well as talk about writing and publishing! I may be able to give you a sneak peek at book #4, Shadows of a Dark Past.
“You’re Own Private Audubon”