Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Butterflies Galore at Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford, CT

Autumn in southern Connecticut hasn't been as spectacular this year because a lot of foliage near the shoreline died early or was damaged by the salt spray from tropical storm Irene at the end of August.

But I've made a couple trips recently to area state parks and was happy to see so much other living beauty that I forgot that there isn't much to look at as far as fall foliage.

This post will focus on the first journey, to Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford, Connecticut.

I have loved Harkness since the first time I ever went there, in the late 1980s. There is a small beach; a wide expanse of lawn where families enjoy kite flying and picnics; the remains of the Harkness estate buildings, which includes a seaside mansion available for weddings and other functions; and formal and cutting gardens that add to the picturesque beauty. Not to mention the acres and acres of marshland and other property.

(The loggia near the mansion's formal garden)

(One of several garden gates at Harkness.)

(The old pet cemetery under century-old Japanese maple trees.)

The day I visited was a rare fall day without excessive wind off the water. I remember a few years ago when I took the mansion tour that the guide said Mrs. Harkness detested the fact that it was often so windy there. I think I would agree if I had to live on that property, as shore points can be bitterly cold or uncomfortable because of the wind sometimes.

My plan was to explore the beach first, and I was glad to do so because they had just fixed the damaged boardwalk the prior week, one of the casualties of Irene. I walked the length of this short, sandy beach to the rocky, less popular end, and was amazed to discover two things:

1) The most ginormous amount of slipper shells I have ever seen in my life, and

2) A creative use of them, thanks to somebody named Adrian.

First, a look at part of the mass of shells:

Here is a closeup shot of the slipper shells (click to photo to make it even bigger!):

Then I turned around and saw that somebody had used piles of these thumb-sized shells to form a heart in the sand. Inside it said "Adrian" and something else below that, but I couldn't figure it out. It was so great to see the love on this remote end of the park! (Click on the heart to zoom in.)

I left the beach area to head back to the lawn and saw a few monarch butterflies gathered on some wild asters growing beside the marsh grasses. Being well into October, I was surprised to see so many butterflies still hanging around, but then I figured they probably know more than I do!

The butterflies must know that they are safe, since they go about their business and don't seem afraid of people going right up and touching them! How often does that happen in your backyard?
I continued on, to the formal and cutting gardens near the mansion, and found more...and more monarch butterflies!

(The cutting garden in full bloom.)

Butterflies on dahlias, butterflies on chrysanthemums, butterflies on straw flowers!

I am so happy with these photos I got!

I'll save the best photo for last:

Which just goes to show you that sometimes the best fall colors have nothing to do with tree foliage!

Check back tomorrow for my post about my visit to Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, CT. More surprises await!

And for detailed information about Connecticut parks and beaches, my eGuide is available at the Beach Bath and Trash website.



  1. What a gorgeous park! The maples are beautiful in all their gnarled and twisted shapes, and OMG what a pile of slipper shells!!! I don't think I've ever seen just one kind of shells washed into a pile like that. So cool!

    The flowers and butterflies made your visit that much more special, I bet you had a ball!
    Thanks for sharing, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow :D

  2. Thank you, Del! If you ever need a boxful of slipper know who to ask!


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