Right after I did my last backyard bird posting, wouldn’t you know that Mr. and Mrs. Grosbeak made their return. And they were ultimately joined by some exciting friends. But enough about the friends later – first, let’s get to the Grosbeaks.
First, I saw the female and managed to get some nice shots of her. I never noticed this on females before, so I’m not sure if this gal is unique, but you can see from these pictures that this gal has some lovely orange coloring, analogous to where her hubby has his rose breast – a broad splash, with a narrow taper. There may be another couple, because I believe that I have also seen a female this year without the orangey coloring. I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled. We’ve been having Rosebreasted couples visit us for more than five years. At first, we had only females, then one year males joined in. One year we had two males. We may have more than one couple as it is, but I just haven’t seen all four at the same time.
Anyway, is it me or is this girl giving Yang a smile?
It’s fun to watch the male and female come and feed together. They seem to prefer the single copper-topped feeder. I usually hear one of them singing, then, there they are, having a meal out! I love to hear them sing in the trees as well. I can’t help wondering if they have any nests nearby. I do know that the pair with the gal in the peach-colored breast feathers makes the round with some of my neighbors, as well. According to the Cornell Ornithology site, both parents brood the children, with the Daddy often singing away in the nest. Here’s a link for more information on these wonderful birds. I also love to watch the males fly away, with the flash of black and white on their wings like a special optical effect.
I have also noted that these birds can be pretty aggressive. No Grackles, Starlings, Mourning Doves, or Blue Jays better mess with them when they want to feed. Who you Lookin’ at?
Another fairly aggressive beauty that I found on my feeder this year was the Baltimore Oriole.
Yes! We do have Orioles this year! Usually, one or so will cruise through in May, take a look at our suet and seeds, then turn up his beak and take it on the wing. This year, I got wise and noted how people placed their orange halves for Oriole delectation. It worked! I cut the oranges across the equator, then impaled them on the trellis for our Morning Glories. Now I can’t keep the Orioles away. We have two adult males, one juvenile male (below), and two females, one orange and one yellow (yellow to the right). And woe betide the Oriole who wants to join another Oriole at the juice bar, even if it’s a female with a male or they can sip from different halves. Orioles may have lovely calls to announce their coming, but their aggression chatter is NOT soothing. We even had an Oriole/Grosbeak confrontation – Mr. Grosbeak won. Still, if two Orioles can rarely feed together, the disappointed party will usually go to town on the suet. One time, Yang looked up to see a male Oriole perched on the window ledge and staring in at him!
If all this weren’t exciting enough, on three separate days we had a hummingbird on the hummingbird feeder. I couldn’t tell you if it’s the same one or not, but there have been repeat appearances. Yang was even able to snap some photos, as you can see – well, you can see better if you click on the photo. I normally don’t see these guys until July, but I’d been hearing on FB about all kinds of sightings. So I thought, maybe if there are no flowers around, the hummers would be more interested in my feeder. Bingo! It worked.
Now, for my final extraordinary sighting. I’ve never had a clear look at one of these guys before. I’ve always wanted to see one in all his glory. It seemed as if everyone in Massachusetts was sighting these guys but me! Then, yesterday, while we were watching the episode of Father Brown that I’d dvr’d, Yang said, “Wow! What is this strange bird. I’ve never seen this before.” I hopped up, took a careful peek around the window curtain, and there it was in all his indigo glory! Yes! My first full-color Indigo Bunting! Well, I guess he has completely changed from his winter to his summer duds, but he is still something!
I don’t know if he’ll be back. He wasn’t crazy about the oranges, he was skeptical of the suet, but the sunflower hearts did seem to grab his attention – though the Grackles kept getting in the way. Let’s hope we see more of him! Wow! What a bird- watching season!
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
The ground may be covered with snow right now, but it wasn’t so long ago that Yang and I had an autumn day at the beach. Of course, it was kind of a gothic day at the beach because we were visiting one of the famous Five Ruins of Connecticut, The Aquinas Retreat at Charles Island.
We hadn’t planned on starting the grand tour, but our love of ruins has already taken us to two of the locations in the set. I posted our earlier visit to Hearthstone Castle in Danbury, CT. So, that Sunday afternoon, we trekked down to Milford, CT to finally get the chance to travel the tombolo out across the bay to
the island. This trip had been on our agenda for years, but getting to the island is no easy feat – not because of reefs, pirates, or sea monsters, though. The ocean only subsides from the tombolo during low tide and this land path is only dry and clear enough when the moon and sun exert their strongest gravitational pull. On top of that, colonies of egrets and cranes nest on the island from April until September, so the Wildlife Service has deemed Charles Island off limits during that time.
There’s a legend about the island holding Captain Kidd’s hidden treasure, but the treasure we found were beautiful ocean scenes and fun walking and exploring the edges of the island that has a circumference of a bout a mile. The going could be a bit rocky and uneven when you start out counterclockwise, but you get to enjoy the gorgeous ocean bay as much as do the lounging cormorants.
Then there are the ruins of the Aquinas Retreat Center. Not many extensive ruins to find. Built in 1929 by the Dominican Fathers as a lay retreat, it was abandoned by 1938. Perhaps storms or difficult access for supplies undermined its success. At this point, there are barely the scraps of stone and mortar outlines left to some out buildings and small towers.
There was also one lovely archway. I wonder if this structure could be the remains of an entrance to a chapel or shrine.
This space must have been a wonderful location for contemplation and communing with God through nature amidst the calls of wild birds, the surge of waves, and the rush of wind.
We also saw some nice smaller birds on the island. Yang got a great shot of an Eastern Kingbird.
And while I was watching birds, Yang was watching me!
It was such a lovely, warm and sunny fall afternoon. There were families and young and old couples, also making the circuit of the island, but never so many you’d feel crowded – and the cormorants didn’t seem to mind.
Say, what do you think of this place for setting a mystery novel? In the 1860s, there was resort here. Maybe Jessica and James need a vacation, or Liz needs a retreat – Naagh, no shopping!
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!
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