Catching Up with Sherwood Island

Sherwood Island State Park was beautiful this past Sunday. So many of the trees are in bloom, a few grills were going, and a number of people were enjoying the beach. I saw The Bicycle Rider, whom I remember from last year; he is often at the park. Among the birds were some I hadn’t seen since last fall: great egrets, snowy egrets, and killdeer. This birdhouse in the photograph is near the east side walking bridge; it was made at the nature center last year.

Speaking of the nature center, staff people were working to ready it for an opening next weekend. Several eager children had stopped on their bikes to talk ¬†about jellyfish and look around. As of April 17th, the center will be open 10-4 on Saturdays and Sundays until Memorial Day; after that, the hours are 10-4 Wednesdays through Sundays until school starts up again. It’s likely to take a couple of weeks for the full complement of nature center residents–snakes, turtles, and touch-tank animals–to return and settle in.

To birders, spring means migration season and the chance to see warblers, among other birds passing through. Yesterday at the park, Luke Tiller, of Sunrise Birding, reported that he and a group spotted a Yellow-throated Warbler near the pavilion.

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Signs of Spring

On a walk recently I noticed the first boats back in the water at the marina at Longshore Club Park. Alongside the small building at the marina was a Coke truck making a delivery for the soda machine there. With the golf course now open, traffic at Longshore had definitely picked up compared to my walks in the colder weather.

Longshore is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary as a town-owned park. If you’ve never read Barbara Probst Solomon’s article “Westport Wildlife,” which talks about Longshore and its possible relation to The Great Gatsby, I recommend tracking down a copy of the September 9th, 1996, issue of The New Yorker. (The article is available online only to subscribers.)

Japanese magnolias, dandelions, and daffodils are all early-spring bloomers. I wish the daffodils especially lasted all through the summer.

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Aspetuck Land Trust’s Haskins Preserve

I took these pictures at the Haskins Preserve, sixteen acres of open space right in the heart of a Westport neighborhood. (Click on any photo to enlarge it. ) Owned by the Asptetuck Land Trust, the preserve features well-marked trails, benches to sit on, two small ponds, and a couple of rippling brooks. A number of the trees are labelled.

A couple with their dogs were enjoying the preserve, too. Some workers were also cleaning up from the storm a few weeks back. I’d hoped to see some birds and brought my binoculars. I guess I was a little late in the day, though.

Others have different ideas of what to do with open space. A car stopped on the street, and a teenage boy emerged and tossed a lunch bag into one of the ponds. Ten boys, armed with pellet (?) guns and assembled at the entrance gate, were dividing themselves into teams. “What are you doing?” I asked, curious. “”Just hanging out,” one of them said. A sign at the entrance says No Paintball Games.

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Canal Beach

Canal Beach, Westport

Canal Beach, one of Westport’s pocket parks, is over in the Saugatuck Shores neighborhood, which has a very beach-town feel to it. You can’t launch any kind of boat from this small beach, but what views of Cockenoe Island and the Norwalk Islands! A parking area across the street can accommodate a ¬†car or two. Open sunrise to sunset.

The flag here in on private property. I liked the way the camera picked up the sun’s rays. I’ve heard it said that the best camera is the one you have with you, and I took this picture with an iPhone.

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The Octopus & the Coconut Shell

Not Westport, but still cool. See the corresponding post at Boing Boing.

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More Invertebrate Talk

Two quick links this morning:

A neat interview with an invertebrate marine biologist, at the blog Growing with Science.

A wicked awesome photograph of a sea cucumber, at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Scroll through the other images of the day, too.

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Echinodermata. Oh, yeah.

Beach day rock design, Compo Beach, Westport

That’s phylum for sea stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, of course. I wrote a guest contribution on the subject (and on the littoral zone and tide pools) for Fieldwork, a homeschooling blog focussing on marine biology right now. Fieldwork is an excellent resource for children and their parents who might want to explore marine biology in a little more depth. We don’t homeschool our kiddo, but we read many children’s nonfiction books aloud and take lots of field trips. Low tide at Sherwood Island’s west beach is a favorite place in the summer.

Theresa, Fieldwork’s creator, is a blogging friend of several years; she is also a biologist and Montessori enthusiast. If you’re a homeschooler, don’t miss her main blog, LaPaz Home Learning, which has inspired me many times over.

If you’d like to read the lesson plan, I’m reprinting it here, after the break.

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