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
Yang and I have some specially favorite rail trails to ride, and one of these is the Pittsfield to Adams line. Even if we do it once in the spring, we have to do it again in the fall because the colors are so gorgeous! This year, we made our trip around the Columbus Day Weekend, on Tuesday. We thought we’d try something different by not going straight from Pittsfield to Adams, but by parking at the dam in the middle and first going down to Adams. Then we’d come back and having lunch at a restaurant near where we’d parked before continuing on to Pittsfield and returning. As you can see I was able to take some beautiful shots of hill full of colorful trees across the river from the parking area.
It was a gorgeous day, a little colder than the weather had been before, but the sun was out and the air was crisp. A warmer fall jacket did just nicely and the foliage was superb. I had to stop here, not only to enjoy the surrounding hills but to inspect what I thought might be a beaver’s dam.
I couldn’t help stopping to take pictures of some of the most wonderful flaming maples. It was so cool to see colors that went from crimson flame to soft orange all in one tree! I noticed that there weren’t too many scarlet leaves to see as we’d experienced in our first fall ride here. My guess is that those leaves had either lightened in color or fallen.
We ultimately cruised down the hill leading into Adams. I wished I could have taken shots of the dusky green woods and glacier-abandoned boulders on my right or the tumbling river on my left, but there was no stopping on that race down the hill. Just before we entered the town, we stopped to take some shots, with the gold, orange, flame hills shot with evergreen surrounding the town. The pale azure sky forms a complement of color. And here’s a most handsome guy in the foreground!
On the other side of the town, the trail runs along where the river has been channeled into a canal. Again, the hills embracing the town’s valley make you think that it must be glorious to wake up in the morning or return from work in late afternoon to such gorgeous colors surrounding you.
We may have raced down a hill to get into town, but we had to labor up it when we left. I may not be as young as I used to be, but I made it, albeit panting a bit at the end. I didn’t need a sign to tell me to Stop! Luckily, there ‘s a lovely little bridge where you can rest. Nice view, isn’t it?
You can tell by the look on my face that it was a loooong ride up. Thank God for water!
Wouldn’t you know that when we finally got back to the parking lot, it turned out that the restaurant was closed on the only day of the week we were there! We ended up having to forego the rest of the ride and scout out a place to eat in Pittsfield. That’s okay, though. We’d actually conquered the toughest part of the ride. Even better, we found this great little (literally) Italian restaurant in town, Brooklyn’s Best. Later, we took some fun pictures while walking off dinner. We discovered this neat little gargoyle above. I even made a new friend. Do you think Rosie and ‘Tasha will share their litter boxes with him?
Last weekend, we had a mini-vacation in Vermont, connected to my day at Bookstock. What a great time! We’re so fortunate to be living in New England. Friday afternoon, we took a leisurely drive up to Brattleboro to have an early supper at our favorite bakery on Main Street. In a space overlooking the river and mountain, we watched a thunderstorm roll in while we enjoyed a scrumptious olive tapenade/goat cheese/walnut salad and a cappuccino. The storm passed; we rolled out for Springfield, Vermont and the Toonerville Rail Trail. It’s not a long trail, only seven miles round trip, but it runs along the Black River and through some gorgeous Vermont mountain and woodsy scenery. I even managed to spot some Phoebes and Thrushes! The river ran fast and muddy. I’m not sure if that was just from the recent rainfall. Whatever the case, there were some notable rapids. This should be a nice ride in the colorful New England fall.
The next day was my stint at the Sisters In Crime-New England Table on Woodstock Green at Bookstock. I had a wonderful time with two of my favorite writers, and pals, Leslie Wheeler and Connie Johnson Hambley. Leslie has a new book out in Rattlesnake Hill and Connie has completed her Jessica trilogy. If you’re looking for some exciting and enjoyable summer reading, these are great choices – as are Letter from a Dead Man and Bait and Switch! We have the best conversations on writing, the great stuff to do in New England, our families, etc. We also had a lot of fun talking to and getting to know readers and writers visiting our table. I can’t say enough about the great opportunities Sisters in Crime offers both readers and writers (published or not). And one of the best benefits is meeting the other members of the group. I’ve made some swell (as Anne Sheridan would have put it in a movie) friends here. At our booth, the three of us couldn’t help telling interested readers how enjoyable we found each other’s writing!
Last day of our vacation, Yang and I went to Shelburne Falls and visited the Bridge of Flowers. If you’ve never been there, this is an old foot bridge that has been planted on either side of a central path with all kinds of different, beautiful flowers and shrubs.
There are zinnias, roses, red hot poker, delphinium with bachelor buttons, Rose of Sharon, bee balm – you name it. Here are some lovely lilies.
These dahlias and the sunflower are all set for the Fall !
Here I am, delighted to be with a shrub with which I share a name!
You can see from the pictures how gorgeous the flowers are. Several years back, a terrible flood wiped out the bridge garden; but, as you can see, it has been restored with resounding success. Some of the flowers will last several seasons of the year, while some are more seasonal and will be replaced with flowers and plants appropriate to the autumn, later.
So many people enjoy the garden! However, as I will show you, humans aren’t the only ones who delight in the Bridge of Flowers. Yang got several wonderful pictures of one of the many Tiger Swallowtails taking a sunny Sunday brunch on the Bridge.
There was also a Hummingbird Hawk Moth, which people frequently mistake for a Hummingbird. Gorgeous and otherworldly, isn’t it?
Then, we got some shots of the real deal: this female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. She adored the Bee Balm and the Red Hot Poker! She was also fairly undaunted by most of the humans at her restaurant. Yang got some superb shots, didn’t he? I’m happy to say that we also saw another such bird on our stroll through town and that the hummingbird who usually visits us each year at home has made several appearances already! All in all, a delightful weekend!
Wood Thrush Image: https://www.freeclipartnow.com/animals/birds/Wood-Thrush.jpg.html
All other images, author’s collection
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, I 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 male had contrasting black and rusty-red coloring, with a white tummy, while the female was mostly all a lovely rusty reddish brown. 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. We 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!
We recently did the North Central Pathway rail trail. It technically extends between Gardner and Winchendon, though there is a break of about a mile that has not been developed yet. It’s a beautiful paved trail that runs through clear, lovely, green woods in a straight path. At the Winchendon end, we cycled down toward a sports/recreation area, but right off the trail is this cool abandoned factory and what appears to be a ware house. It’s all next to a set of falls and canal off the river. Since there weren’t any “No Tresspassing” warnings or locked gates, we checked out the area, being careful not to take any risks of falling or hurting ourselves.
Here’s a picture of a smoke stack; somehow the rest of the factory seems to have fallen away – although there was a building behind it that looked as if it might have been part of the original manufacturing site. Look at how gorgeously azure-blue the sky was that day. The sun was so bright, I had to wear my shades – prescription, of course, or I’d have been riding off the road.
In this other shot of the chimney, you can better see the tree growing up around it and what’s left of the building behind it.
There were man-made falls next to the buildings and a canal running along it for water power. The scene was beautiful. I have no idea what they made here. Since this town was the rocking horse capital, perhaps that’s what they produced?
We got back on the trail for our return ride, passing a pond that had some Barrows Golden Eye Ducks. Would that they had been close enough to photograph. These are diving ducks. So it was a hoot to watch the flock sit up on the water, flap their wings, then dive down and disappear beneath the surface for a stretch. Then, up they’d all pop. Now you see them, now you don’t, now you do!
We did get to photograph some cute critters, though – at least I think they are cute. So, here’s the trigger warning: PICTURES OF A SNAKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I almost ran over a little one of these guys when he was trying to cross the trail. I guess he wanted to get to the other side. Playing chicken? He was too small for me to see right away, but Yang assured me he was okay. Then, I came across his big sister right here. A beauty, eh? I don’t know what kind this one is. His/her color is coppery with darker markings, so it doesn’t look like a garter snake to me. What do you think? Can anyone answer my query?
So, for those freaked out by this lovely creature, here are some soothing images. First, the ginormous (for us, anyway) pumpkins Yang and I grew last year.