Ben

Friends and Peeps


Jeremy and Ben joined me today for another outing on the Hammonasset River. It was, after all, Jeremy’s idea in the first place. We rented them kayaks at a place on the river and then paddled up almost to Jeremy’s house and back down.

The last couple of miles of the river are essentially a grassy tidal flat, so the lowering tide exposed lots of mud on the banks.

I originally thought this guy was a Sanderling, but I’m not wonderful at identifying peeps, and now I’m not so sure. It’s nice that he and his friends were so cooperative about letting me take a series of pictures that could be reviewed later.

He’s definitely in the Calidris genus, but that’s where it gets more tricky.

If it’s not a Sanderling, which its brown color and face marks make less likely, it’s either a White-rumped or Least Sandpiper. I was able to rule out lots of the similar peeps based on the color of the legs (many candidates have black legs and could be ruled out), the size, the location (CT seacoast) and the behavior, but I’m really stuck between these last two. Pretty guy, nonetheless.

After reviewing the photos together, my dad and I have decided pretty firmly that these guys are Least Sandpipers.
 
We also got a chance to see a pair of Belted Kingfishers scoping the river for their lunch. They were a bit wary of us, so we never got too close. Fortunately, as they’re the only CT Kingfisher, they were an absurdly easy ID.

Ospreys are also an easy bird to shoot, but this one had half an enormous fish up with him in his tree, so I had a good time trying to frame the shot with the tree.

This guy is an old friend, the Saltmarsh Sparrow. There’s really nothing else it could be, but I worry that I may be wrong anyway, since all the entries I’ve read on these guys talk about their secretive behavior, and the two I’ve met have been quite unconcerned about my boat as it drifts closer and closer.

The crabs are definitely some kind of Fiddler Crab, but if you take a second and look up that genus of crabs, you’ll find a dizzying array of species. I gave up after a few minutes.

Regardless of the species, I like the composition of the shot.

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Splash

It’s salt marsh season. This summer, I’ve been doing a lot of running with the dogs, which has meant far fewer opportunities for pictures, but here and there, we’ve gotten out for plain old hikes with the camera bag from time to time.

High tide is a nice time to go, and sometimes Jax moves so fast that it looks like he’s skimming the surface of the water.


He’s a grown up dog now, and while there are certainly puppyish moments, there’s also a lot of intense, mature focus in his manner, and you can really see that as he leaves a wake across the marsh.

Photo credit: Ben Taylor

There were only a few pictures from today, so Comet got short shrift, but he was there, romping and splashing and cutting up his paws a bit on the clams in the mud (he’s fine, by the way).


I bought a new car a few months ago. I loved my Jeep dearly, but it wasn’t efficient enough, so I downsized to an all-wheel-drive MINI Cooper Countryman. There’s plenty of space for the dogs, a roof rack that goes on or off in about three minutes, and all kinds of goodies that inspire my inner carhead.

The best goodie? The 30mpg highway I can get on my way to work.

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Sunrise at Hammonasset

Andy was getting up really early for work this morning, so I got the bright idea that it would be fun to go for a sunrise walk up at Hammonasset park. Dogs aren’t welcome on the beaches during the swim season, and there’s a fee to enter the park. After October, though, it’s just a big, open, lovely place with beaches and marshes.

I don’t usually talk too much about the humans who join us on walks, but for reasons that will become apparent shortly, I’ll mention them this time.

Ben, Jen, Jeremy, and a very pregnant Naomi came to walk on the beach and watch the sun come up. The dogs, of course, wasted no time jumping in and out of the water and staring wistfully at seagulls out of reach.

I like watching the sun rise, but I hate taking pictures of a sunrise. For me, the thing that’s the most sublime—with apologies to the Kantians among us who would deny that a sunrise provides the “check to the vital forces” (Kant, The Critique of Judgment)—is watching the sunrise change in its almost swift but almost imperceptibly slow way. Look away for a moment and look back, and it has certainly changed. Keep your eyes on it, and you’ll swear that it’s changing, but it’s hard to put your finger on exactly which piece is different.

I love it, and I love the overwhelming sense parade of a warm coffee in the hand, a sky wider than my field of vision changing across its whole scope, two red-gold blurs charging about interested in smells more than sights, a cold breeze seeping in through the zipper of my jacket, and friends close at hand.

The catalyst for the whole plan was the wonderful pictures my friend Jill takes of her dogs during the post-sunrise golden hour. She routinely takes the dogs to the beach at dawn, and she takes advantage of the special light you only get just after the sun breaks the horizon. The pictures are beautiful, and I’m always jealous when I see them.

Let me break for a second to quickly plug her business: PoeticGold Farm Dog Training.

I was not disappointed by the light. Soon after sunrise, the dogs were lit up in spectacularly rich color, and they ran between the salt marsh behind us and the beach in front of us over and over.

We startled a small flock of Sanderlings. When not being chased by Golden Retrievers, Sanderlings feed by running onto the wet sand as a wave recedes and feeding quickly on the creepy crawlies left on the sand. Then, they run away from the wave as it returns.

They run back and forth like clockwork toys, as if, as my dad puts it, they’re stitching the sand and sea together. That little description may be paraphrased from an earlier source than my father, so my apologies to any poets we may have unwittingly plagiarized.


Our friends eventually succumbed to the cold, but Comet, Jax, and I continued on and walked around the rest of the marsh for another hour or so. I met back up with my four friends and my parents for brunch later, and my mom said to Naomi, who was due in a few days, “Who knows? The baby could even come tonight?”

Miriam was born the next day. I’m a fan.

Why is this part of the story next to a quintessential picture of Jax flying out of the water? No reason at all. It just felt like the right moment. And what else is there to say about Jax that isn’t crystal clear in the picture already?

I’ll close the entry with two pictures. This first one was taken during our walk around the park. I set the dogs up on stay and then had them come to me over this wooden guard rail. I had in mind that I might get a great jumping picture in the great light.

The resulting picture was not what I intended, but it pretty neatly sums up the dogs’ personalities.

This one is a little more of what I had in mind, but I love both.





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Hopyard


Ben grew up in Eastern CT, so he knows many of the secrets of the backwoods there. He also knows where to get noodles and barbecue chicken pizza.

So, we set out early one morning to check out Devil’s Hopyard with the dogs.

(Left to right: Ojo, Ajax, Comet)

The Hopyard is famous for some unique rock formations, and popular lore says that the settlers thought the cylindrical holes in the rock were made by the devil. There’s also an odd cave called “The Devil’s Oven.”

Regardless of how the formations came about, it’s a lovely park on about 860 acres, which gives you enough space to wander without bumping into too many folks on the way.

(Photo credit: Ben Taylor)

It’s a dog’s paradise, with a brook running by a large section of the trail, big fern gardens, rotting trees, and all the mud you could ever want.

There’s even a viewing spot that’s not too hard to get to. The dogs, as always, couldn’t care less about views, but they were good sports about parking in front of the vista for a few minutes so we could grab some pictures.

(Photo credit: Ben Taylor)

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An Egrettable Pun


Ben and I got so many great bird and dog pictures that I ran out of space in the last entry and had to extend it here. I’m filled with remorse for the horrible pun in the title of the previous entry, so I made it worse by repeating the mistake here.

This is a Great Egret, a larger cousin of the Snowy. Like the Ospreys, he obligingly engaged in interesting behavior for photos instead of just standing there like a lump. For reasons that make perfect sense if you’re an egret and no sense at all if you’re me, he puffed and ruffled himself for a few minutes.

Right at the end of our walk, we saw yet another Great Egret, and he let me get quite close to his tree before he finally took off.

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