Photography by J. Mita Studios

Friday, October 26, 2012

Halloween Snowstorm of 2011 Revisited

October 30, 2011 - Weigold Rd. in Tolland, CT.

As we prepare for yet another Halloween storm for 2012, (this time a fall hurricane) the memories of last years storm are still quite fresh.  We were out of power for 8 days last year, but luckily we had a generator which we ran about half of every day.  The news stations are filled with hourly updates today regarding Hurricane Sandy.  So far 40 are dead in the Caribbean, and the beaches along Florida have eroded substantially.  The hurricane may break down to become just a tropical storm, but it will be here pretty much without doubt by tomorrow night. 

There are already sell outs of generators, and we had to visit 5 stores today before finally finding another 5 gallon gas can.  The prediction this year is that we will have a combination of a cold front from the west with tropical winds from the east.  It appears both systems just might butt heads right over Connecticut. 

Junk food has been stowed, we have meats to barbecue, gas will get bought tomorrow, and the generator is in very good working order, unlike last year when we had to create a broken piece with parts from another generator in order to get it to work.  Fun, fun, fun. 

The horse farm next door to us was so beautiful after the snow fell last year.  By the afternoon much of the snow had melted.  This was taken around 7:30 in the morning. 


The many plow trucks had cleared the roads
of snow, but there were still numerous
closures everywhere from broken trees,
branches, and downed wires.



We were one of the last streets in Tolland to lose our power.  The wind came through in a loud wail starting early Saturday morning, and by Saturday night our lights began to flicker, and by 11:30 we were in the dark.  The generator was brought out, and we kept our fingers crossed that it would work.  It did, and we were grateful that we were warm and safe while the storm raged outside.  Throughout the night, cracks could be heard from every direction.  We knew branches and trees were falling and that trunks were being heaved from their roots.  We heard one large crack, then the sound of a whole tree falling nearby, and I thought for sure it was our white pine, but when I looked out it still stood, strongly and stubbornly as snow coated its soft needled branches.  On Sunday, as I took my short walk I found where the tree had fallen.  It was across our neighbors roof across the street.
The fallen tree had snapped their wires coming from their house.  They did not get their power restored for 10 days.


Our white pine had lost some branches, but the tree is strong and big and I guess it would take a tornado to knock it down, thank goodness.  We hope we never see a tornado in these parts.  This was looking out first thing in the morning on Oct. 30 from the front door. 

Our first morning, I did not have a hot plate (I would recommend at least one to everyone.  They come in handy even if you just have a small generator) so I took my old camp coffee pot, filled it with water and fresh ground coffee, and placed it on the charcoal burning in the grill.  We had fresh perked coffee and muffins that we had been smart enough to buy the day before.  We went out that afternoon and got a hot plate in of all places Willimantic.   They had not lost any power there.  It was also where we had to buy our gas, since every other gas station within 10 miles of us were either out of gas or out of power.  That first day was quite frustrating as the lines looking for gas and food were long, and restaurants were running out of food. 
This year, we are not only wary, but much wiser.  Generator sales for the last quarter of last year were higher than ever.  Why anybody who had been through this storm last year waited until now to get a generator is a bit silly.  We need generators in New England.  We get all the weather. 
Last year I missed 2 days of work because the store was closed from having no power.  We have already been warned this year that this could happen again.  One way to spend the long days last year was driving around to see the damage in other neighborhoods.  The devastation was like a war zone.  Every 20 feet there were trees down, and many roads were impassable from downed wires. 
Our road where it intersected with Grant Hill Road was closed due to more trees down on wires, which we had experienced two months earlier from Hurricane Irene.  Same spot, the trees were on the opposite side of the street, but the wires that had just been repaired from Irene were once again down and the street was closed yet again.
More images from other places of downed trees. 
I have seen a lot of weather in Connecticut.  I experienced the ice storm of 1973, Storm Larry of 1978, Hurricane Gloria of 1985, and the historic winter of 2011 that dumped as much as 70 inches of snow in about a month, and none compared to the Halloween storm of 2011.  This storm was the worse in damage and power outages. 
As we watch the news today and see the information on Hurricane Sandy, I have to hope that it peters out before it reaches Connecticut, because with the numerous weak trees out there still, something tells me if this hits us, we will be looking at another 10 days of outages since the main focus this time will be clearing roads first, then restoring power.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Misty Morning At Crandall Park - 5/5/2012

It looked like a poor morning for photography, but I decided to head for Crandall Park anyway. 
There is a magical light that seems to exist on a misty morning.  At 7:30, I arrived at the park and was grateful there was no rain.  My favorite place to park when I am heading out on a walk is always Crandall Park II.  As I parked next to the backside of the pond, I headed up the dirt roadway and took a right onto the short path that runs up to The Lodge.  The azaleas are blooming profusely now, as the wonderful shrubs around The Lodge revealed.  The path crosses a bridge that was built a number of years ago, and my morning of delights began.

I had the entire park to myself.  Everybody was taking their morning coffee at Dunkin Donuts' where I stopped prior to heading to the park.  The air was very cool as it penetrated my heavy sweatshirt, but the humidity clung to my skin.  The trees were alive with birdsongs, but the dim light did not reveal any immediate wings fluttering about. 

As I walked I started seeing some of the wild shrubs that the park is teeming with.  One of the first shrubs I saw may have been a blueberry, but I am not sure.  It was lovely, though, so I snapped a photo. 

Crandall Park also has a concentration of wild azaleas.  As a child, I called them honeysuckle, but I discovered many years ago they were actually azaleas.  Like mountain laurel, azaleas also prefer a moist location with very acidic soil.  Since Crandall Park is largely swampy, the azalea has decided it a hospitable environment to grow in. 

There is a trail just past the dock that heads up an oak hillside.  It is there that many lady slippers grow.  I did see the leaves of the wild orchid, but no flower.  It is probably that I missed the bloom.  The other possibility, which I don't like to think, is that the flowers were picked.  How can any little one that is under 4 resist picking a lady slipper?  I know how many I picked as a young child.  Of course it seemed there were many more back then. 

Disappointed at not finding any blooms, I continued on my walk around the hill.  As I approached the other side, much to my delight I stumbled upon an entire family of Canadian Geese.  Now geese are no big deal, and most see them as nothing more than a nuisance, but I was happy to see the babies swimming alongside their mom and dad.

The light was so low,  but still the sense of serenity and peace, and being alone with the natural home of the geese was not lost on me.  The quiet glide as the family moved out to the center of the pond left a glistening light on the surface of the water.  I bumped into a person a little later with her dog, and she said they usually honked and put up a ruckus when anyone got near.

I guess I was lucky that they seemed quite comfortable even though I got very close on the pond bank.  I guess the geese wanted their photos taken.

The geese had found a private paradise, with no competition from any other geese.  I don't know if the geese chase off all others, and that is why they are the only ones, but after seeing the numerous geese at Walker Reservoir in Vernon, CT., it seems they do often share space. 
Well, this family owned the pond, and the babies were as safe and happy as they could be.
As I begrudingly left the goose family, I set my sights once again on the floral abundance of the park.  The birds were becoming more active as I walked.  There were several red winged blackbirds, some catbirds, a mockingbird pair, a field swallow, and a purple martin.  Of course, there was no way to get a high enough shutter to photograph any of them, so I simply enjoyed their flight across the pond and their songs, from squawks to pretty tunes. 

I focused once more on flowers, and came across what looked like a type of cherry.  Perhaps it is a chokecherry, but it was a relatively short shrub which grew along the edge of the pond.  The pond lilies are also beginning to spread their way across the surface. 
The lily pads have no blooms yet, but I found this yellow one just beginning to pop up.  It is the only lily with a bloom on the whole pond.  I could see rings forming all around the lilies.  I did see a few frogs swimming around the edges, but most disappeared before I had a chance to get very close.  This particular ring of water probably happened from a fish, which the pond also has many of. 

Another row of wild azaleas along the trail drew my attention, and I had to take one more photo of this lovely spring flower.  

Nearing the end of my walk, I came across dozens of new ferns uncurling along the bank.  Ferns are lovely when they are completely opened and you see them on a hot summer day, but springtime ferns just beginning to open have a wonderful form.    

With a few drops of dew clinging, is there anything more delicious and fragrant then new ferns?  I wonder at people that have never seen a fern. Is there anywhere that ferns don't grow? Perhaps in the desert. Ferns mean moist richness.
They always have a cooling effect on anybody who stumbles upon them. There is something that echoes in our brains as we look at ferns. We hear happy streams tinkling through the woods.
We imagine the sweet scent of earth and lush green. Ferns bend in the wind when they are fully opened, and even the slightest breeze will move them.  On a hot summer day, seeing bending ferns mean a breeze, and we should always stop a moment to catch it, and feel the brief relief that comes with a slight breeze.   Springtime ferns are just pretty. 

While my attention was directed to the ferns, I was in for one more delight.  As I bent to get some great closeups of the ferns, a motion in my peripheral vision caused me to look toward the opposite bank.  There, perched like one waiting for his portrait to be taken, a mallard duck stood on a rock in the water.  The duck just watched me, and didn't fly as I moved closer to get a better angle.  Finally I found a spot that did not have any branches blocking my view, and I just bent there, using my knee to keep my camera steady, and took a few more photos.

To get the softened look, I applied an orton effect in post processing.  The orginal was nice and sharp, but I liked the orton look better. 

One last picture leant itself as I walked back toward the car.  A flicker of movement on the trees showed a cute little nuthatch seeking breakfast.  Unfortunately the bugger was too jerky and fast to get a nice clear shot, but even a blurry nuthatch is cute.

It was a wonderful morning, as many misty overcast mornings can be.  Getting home, I put on a fresh pot of coffee and dived into my doughnuts.  No guilt as I bit into the sweet, gooey chocolate of my boston cream doughnut.  After all, I had been out for about 1 1/2 hours.  Nothing like a nice reward after taking on the cool, moist air.

Crandall Park is located on Cider Mill Rd. in Tolland, CT.  It is open from sunrise to sunset.  There are about 6 miles of trails throughout the park.  The beauty of the trails is that you can't get lost.  Sooner or later you will find your way back to the main park.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Chasing Clouds

As I left Manchester, CT today around 11 a.m., I was amazed at the incredible clouds in the sky.  Rarely do we see such drama in Connecticut.  I only had my mobile phone with me, but the urge to photograph these clouds was too strong to resist.  As I looked to the north, there was a huge rain front apparent, but west and east seemed to have some character.  However, where was I going to go to find a vantage point to photograph these formations, even if I only had my phone camera.  So began my two hour jaunt chasing clouds as I tried to avoid the solid gray rain line and follow the much more interesting thunderheads.  Of course, as I traveled 84E, I did a bad thing and turned on my phone to get a photo of the road as
I traveled toward Boston.

As I drove on the highway, my first thought was to go as high as I could.  My first stop would be Fox Tower in Vernon, CT.  As I entered Henry Park I was disappointed to see more gray covering the sky.  I hurridly followed the tower road up to Fox Tower, but the most interesting clouds were behind the tree line.  Even so, I tried to capture a few.

I would not be satisfied until I tried another vantage point.  As I traveled toward Tolland on Rt. 30, I decided as I sat at the traffic light, just as it turned, that I wanted to try Soapstone Mountain.  The gray cloud was right over me and sprinkles began, but I swerved left and headed toward Stafford Springs. 

The closer I got to the mountain, the more the rain came.  At last I saw the sign for Soapstone, and traveled up the  long winding mountain road.

Soapstone Mountain is an easy place to drive to.  It offers an amazing view all the way to New Hampshire.  The Nipmuck called the mountain Missatchawag, or "place at the great hill."  I have spent many hours up there, hiking as a child and climbing the fire tower at the top.  The fire tower is now gone, replaced by a much lower observation deck, but you can still see a wide expanse of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. 

Out of my car, the raindrops began to alleviate, and I climbed to the deck and was well pleased.  The clouds were large and clear, and I snapped away, learning how to use the phone camera zoom which I never knew how before.  The wind was snapping the trees a little, and I saw several hawks flying across the many hills surrounding Soapstone.

The many directions I could turn offered more great subjects.  The sun was shining at this point and I had a wonderful half hour just gazing and snapping.  I was totally alone on the mountain.  I felt as if my ancestors were whispering to me on the constant wind that blew. 

On my way home, I took Route 30 from Stafford towards Crystal Lake.  As I saw the clouds in front of me, I had the urge once again to stop along the way.  At the farthest point of Crystal Lake is a pull off area.  That is where I parked and found I couldn't take my eyes off of the lake.  It was stunning, and the entire time I was there I did not stop taking photos.  The Nipmuck used to call the lake Wabaquassett, which means "place of cattails."  That sounds much more fitting than Crystal Lake. 

So ended my day of chasing clouds. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Heron Nests In Connecticut Marshland

I am lucky enough to live in an area of Connecticut that mimics the Maine landscape.  My roots go back to Maine.  Our family owned the entire county of Windham, until a great uncle gambled it away.  If only!!!! 
Here in my town we have marshes, rolling hills, wildlife galore, and we are actually classed in the same zone as southern Maine, zone 5B.  We have had moose sightings, bear sightings, and golden eagle sightings. 
One such place that is reminiscent of Maine is right off I-84, near exit 68.  I travel this every day and noticed a marsh that is seen from the highway.  This particular marsh catches the light beautifully any time of the day, and there have been times when I just wanted to stop my car right on the highway to photograph the marsh.  I have yet to do that.  It isn't the most sensible thing to do.
I noticed several large nests in the dead trees standing in the marsh water.  I decided to investigate and took myself to Crandall Park 2 in Tolland, CT. to follow one of the trails to where I thought the marsh could be seen.  I was right.  The trail is off to the left of the soccer field parking lot, and a sign with the directory of the trails marks the trailhead. 
As I followed the trail, I came to the place where I left it to get down to the marsh.  There is no trail that leads directly to the nesting area.  You have to get off the trail and walk through some rough, tree strewn terrain to get to the marsh, but it is worth it.

                             The Marsh View From the Trail

Once I found my way to the bank of the marsh I was delighted to see three nests, all with nesting Great Blue Herons.  My first shots were of the middle nest, which is actually the most visible and has nothing blocking the view.  I watched the nests for at least half an hour and learned a few things about the nesting habits of herons.

               The Middle nest.  You can see a feather
                  in the nest.  Perhap it is a tail

I don't know much about the social structure of herons, but I heard that they mate for life, and often times when one dies the other may commit a type of suicide.  I had a personal experience with this happening with one heron couple I tracked for a while in Somers, CT.

This setting is great to try out your wildlife photography, because the herons will not leave the nest.  They may move away from it and perch nearby, but they are not spooked as easily as other nesting birds.  Because they are a large subject, they lend themselves well to any level of photography one has. 

The heron left the nest to perch nearby.  Chances are there are newly hatched herons.

When I directed my attention to the far right nest, that heron did not leave the nest.  I have to believe there are eggs she is setting on.  I wish I could be above the nests to see inside.

                                         The Far Right nest

The last nest to the left is harder to get a good picture of because there are many branches that get in the view of the camera.  To the far left of the nest, the highway is right there.  However, the photos could be taken in the middle of nowhere because the highway is easily not included in any of the photos.

                                        This one flew away while I was
                                        taking the pictures.  She probably
                                        doesn't have anything in there yet.

A long shot of the middle nest and the far right
 nest with the beautiful grasses that grow there.

There are marvelous opportunities for photos at Crandall Park.  There are flower gardens, waterways, bridges, cattail ponds, trails, and wonderful wild specimens.  After a summer rain the park is full of many mushrooms and toadstools.  Right now you might even find a few lady slippers.  Just keep your eyes to the ground and see what there is to see.

To get to Crandall Park in Tolland CT. from Hartford follow I-84E to exit 68.  Off of exit take a left onto Rt. 195.  Follow up the hill and take your first left which is Cider Mill Ext.  At stop sign take a left (you have to) and follow Cider Mill to the park on the right.  There are a few parking lots you can choose to park in.  Many trails run through the park, as well as bike paths.   There is also a pavilion where you can picnic and there is a beach you can go to from June 25 through Aug. 25. 
Crandall Park 2 has a dirt drive that first leads to the Parks and Recreation building.  Just keep on driving and you will come to the soccer field where the marsh trail can be found.  This is a lovely place to visit very early in the morning when the herons are fishing and there is a mist on the pond.  Bring your coffee and your camera and enjoy the morning.