Thursday, May 14, 2015

Birds and Blooms by the Sea

You never know what you'll find when you take a side trip to a shoreline location on a nice day. Recently I stopped at Enders Island in Mystic to have a few quiet moments in the gardens and by the water. I like to think of it as one of my secret spots, but obviously it's not a secret anymore!

St. Edmund's Retreat in Mystic, CT

St. Edmund's Retreat here is a spiritual center that offers all kinds of workshops. It may be more meaningful if you're Catholic, but they welcome all faiths and specialize in helping those in recovery.

When I arrived for my visit, I saw a lone bird sitting way out at the end of the rocky portion on the northeast side of the property.

I was very surprised when it let me creep closer and closer. I knew I should know what this bird was, but for some reason I wasn't sure, and I didn't have my bird book with me.

I wondered why it was just sitting there contentedly, not caring that I was nearby. When some Canada geese flew overhead, it looked up and squawked at them. Then I got too close and it finally decided to swim off.

Later I figured out it was a brant, a type of sea goose related to Canada Geese. I have seen brants lots of times before, at other shoreline areas, but always in groups and not so close up. No wonder I was confused.

I also saw a great egret (two, actually) fishing in the shallows around the island, because it was low tide. 

 I walked back up to the lawn and saw a gorgeous line of narcissus along the stone wall. There is a lot of natural stone around the property, creating walls, terraces, and other garden areas.

There is a panoramic view of Fishers Island Sound from the island. It is so quiet out there, which is one reason it is ideal for spiritual retreats.

In summertime there are several plots planted with annuals, but at this time the spring bulbs and other spring flowers were blooming. Here are some smiling pansies. Don't they look like little happy faces?

One garden plot is heart-shaped, but right now it's just dirt. It still makes an interesting photo.

The grounds are not large, but there are plenty of nooks and crannies to investigate and various things to see all year round, when different plants are blooming and the scenery changes with the seasons. However, it can get pretty cold and windy out there. We in southeastern Connecticut are so lucky to have a place like this for renewal and rediscovery. The folks in charge could always use a donation for helping to keep up the grounds!

Visit this blog again to see what's new from the southern New England coast!
Until next time,

~ Cheryl

Friday, May 8, 2015

Beautiful Blooms at Harkness State Park

It's finally spring here in southern Connecticut, and it seems like this week everything was finally in full bloom, unfurling as the warm sunshine beamed down day after day.

Every year there is a large patch on the lawn at Harkness Memorial State park that blooms with daffodils and narcissus. I heard that it was not blooming as early as prior years, but I think I ended up visiting at the right time. The flowers were not only fully bloomed, but the fragrance of the narcissus was heaven!

Since the sea breezes keep the coastline cooler than inland spots, some of what we experience with plants occurs later than in other towns. But the first week of May is always full of blooms here. The Eolia mansion at Harkness is right by the water with the lawn and gardens surrounding it. You can see it in the photo below:

Eolia mansion is in the background

Sometimes it seems impossible to get a photo that shows all the flowers from the best angle. But it's fun to try!

It's unfortunate that the popularity of this spectacle has resulted in the park having to install a sign telling visitors not to pick the flowers. So please, go and look. But respect the display and leave it intact for others to appreciate.

It's also time for the annual Friends of Harkness plant sale. I wandered over to the greenhouse for a peek inside. I remember last year they had the same plants with purple flowers.

The greenhouse at Harkness

I have noticed how all of the flowering trees, shrubs and bulbs are decorating streets and yards around the area right now, and when I was in Old Lyme on a different day, I saw this beautiful scene:

A beautiful scene on Lyme Street in Old Lyme, CT

If only the trees and lawns could look like this all the time! 

If you are looking for some visitor information about everything you can do at Harkness State Park, and nearby areas, check out my 150-page downloadable PDF eGuide here. It describes various shoreline beaches and parks in Connecticut and Rhode Island and includes full-color photos and insider tips from me, a local resident.

Enjoy the May days!

~ Cheryl