Whew! There has been a lot of concentrated work going on around here in the past couple of weeks. But then this morning, as my reward for meeting a big deadline yesterday, I finally got to go outside again. :) Yaaaay, freedom from my computer screen!
For my mini-vacation, I chose to visit the shore. I knew it was going to be cold out there, but what I wasn't expecting was the freezing wind that hit me almost as soon as I got out of my car. "Biting" is an extremely apt descriptor here. (In hindsight, this would have been an excellent time for me to be wearing that wool balaclava I got for Christmas.... Oops!) As it turned out, I was only able to last about 30 minutes outside at a time, so I adopted a strategy that balanced outdoors-time and survival pretty nicely: I hopped back and forth between two beaches a few minutes drive from each other, and warmed up in the car on the way. Thank goodness for my car's heater!
I started off the morning at Silver Sands State Park, where heavy clouds and morning light made for some very dramatic skies over the Long Island Sound:
Charles Island looked downright stark, out alone in the water, and with that weird orange light beaming out from it:
Near the the entrance to the park, I came across a bunch of Savannah Sparrows foraging in some pushed-up dirt next to the road:
I don't know what kind of food these little birds were finding in the (mostly frozen) mud, but it must've been something good, because they were in this spot practically all morning (I saw them when I first arrived at the park and also when I left, and then when I came back and left again later). The now hard-packed snow must be making it difficult for sparrows and other birds to find food, and I guess they have to take whatever's available at this point.
I'm definitely growing to appreciate sparrows, dainty little stripey brown birds that they are. These stripes on this bird's back are definitely striking:
I hope you guys found enough to eat here!
A couple of Song Sparrows were flitting around in another part of the park. I like being able to compare the Song Sparrow in the next picture to the Savannah Sparrows above -- the two species are so similar at first glance, but now I'm noticing that Savannah Sparrows have a sort of yellowish-brown cast, whereas Song Sparrows seem more reddish-brown overall:
Before my skin had a chance to freeze, I hopped in the car and headed down the road to Milford Point. Here, the water near the shore was filled with ducks, including three Red-breasted Mergansers who spent most of their time swimming around with their heads in the water (looking a bit like snorkelers) and their funny hair-like tufts sticking up into the air:
Here's one of the male mergansers showing his face -- that really is one crazy hairdo:
I ended my morning back at Silver Sands State Park. By the time I left, the skies had brightened a little, and the wind had mostly died down, but Charles Island looked perhaps even more remote under the weight of some very intense clouds:
Now that I know how cold the shore can be, I'll be sure to come better prepared next time. Either that or pick a warmer day to visit the beach. :P