Friday, August 21, 2009

Trumbull Rail Trail

Here's a peak at a portion of the Housatonic Rail Trail in Trumbull.

We parked at Old Mine Park (Old Mine Road) in Trumbull and headed south into the historic Parlor Rock section (there was once an amusement park along the rail line like Lake Quassy or Pine Rock Park). All Trumbull parks were at one point open only to residents year round, but I searched for signs saying that and didn't find any at Old Mine Park. I suspect they had to end that xenophobic practice (what is WRONG with Trumbull???) after taking grant money to build the path, at least for the parks the path traveled through.

The trail was very nice, the Pequonnock River running alongside the trail was scenic, and the Walky-Dog attachment for my bike worked terrific.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Deer Tick Larva

Smaller than a dog tick is a deer tick. Smaller than a deer tick is a deer tick nymph. The nymphs are the ones most people get Lyme Disease from (like me just recently) because they are easily missed. But even smaller than a deer tick nymph, is the ridiculously tiny deer tick larva. I found this one on my ankle last night. A ruler showing 1/16th inch lines is there for comparison. (Larvae = plural, Larva = singular).

This photo shows the tiny tick near the tip of the ball point pen. But guess what, you CANNOT get Lyme Disease from the larvae. That's because they just hatched and have not had the opportunity to become infected yet.

If you manage to see one of these ticks (it helps if you have lily white skin), how do you know if it's a nymph or a larvae? If it's late summer/early fall odds are it's a larva. My rough guide is that if it's so small you can't see the legs without a magnifying glass, it's a larva. That might not work for everyone. So here's another way: The larvae have only six legs, while nymphs and adults have eight. You are going to need a magnifying glass to see this. Here's the one from last night (taken through a magnifying glass). Note that the long mouth parts are not legs.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sheffield Island, Norwalk

We took the ferry out to Sheffield Island on this spectacular day. The sky was blue and the air was clear and we could see the Manhattan skyline in the distance (above).

Here are some old ruins on Sheffield Island we passed in the ferry as we approached the pier. Unfortunately, the ruins are on a section of Stewart McKinney Wildlife Refuge that is closed off to people, so I wasn't able to walk up to them. There's a nature trail nearby with a viewing platform and interpretive sign that says the ruins were once part of a mansion with a 100 foot long pier. The trail is quite short. If I go back, I plan on walking along the shore on the opposite side of the island, where it looks like you could go quite a ways. Otherwise, there's really not that much space for you to explore considering the size of the island.

You only get to stay on the island for an hour and a half, which seems very short considering how much there is to do. When we arrived, a tour of the lighthouse was announced to take place in twenty minutes, and the tour would last 20 minutes. I chose to skip the tour so I would have more time to explore the island. But later I regretted missing the opportunity to go inside the lighthouse and one of the staff was kind enough to let me go in and climb to the top. You go up by wooden steps so steep they are nearly ladders.

Here's a view from the top of the lighthouse towards the tip of the island. Later we walked down the tip there and found the old stone ruins of a former building... well as a big clump of these beach peas, a plant native to our sandy shores.

Information on the Sheffield Island Ferry is online. Be sure to call. The first time I planned to go I did just that and discovered they had canceled the ferry that morning because a private party wanted to charter the boat. During the ferry ride a guide describes what you're seeing, but unfortunately I couldn't understand most of it due to the fuzzy speakers.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Isaac Hull Bridge Plaque

This plaque is located in downtown Shelton inside the Exit 14 entrance loop. I've seen it from a distance a zillion times, so today I finally pulled over and took a look. Click to enlarge the photo and read what it says. Honestly, if you had asked me, I would not have remembered that the Route 8 bridge is called the Commodore Isaac Hull Bridge, or even who Mr. Hull was (the bridge spans the Housatonic River) . I guess that's why they do plaques. This one is difficult to get to, however, because of traffic.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Milford Dog Park

Shelton has a Dog Park Committee and there is talk about putting in a dog park, the type that is fenced in, at the corner of Shelton Ave and Nells Rock Road, near the little white house (which the City owns). This is very close to the trail system and reservoirs, so I wanted to find out for myself whether barking is a problem and how far the sound might travel. Plus, I have a five-month old puppy that needs to meet more dogs. I figured the dog park at Eisenhower Park in Milford would be a great place to check because there is a trail system nearby.

What a disappointment! The dog park was deserted and neglected. People were walking their dogs outside of the dog park, often unleashed, in violation of park rules along the trails, but I didn't see a single dog in the dog park. It started with the rusty, creeky gate, which scared my puppy so much she refused to go inside (above).

Most of the park is in the hot sun. The only shade is under this tree.

It's nasty under the tree. The chairs are disgusting, and there was litter.
The grass was too long, even though the field right outside the fence area had just been mowed.

My puppy did her duty. Fortunately I had a doggy bag in my pocket, because the dispenser had nothing but a bird nest inside of it.

But I couldn't understand the garbage can system. Exactly what does "Clean Bags" mean? And which can was I supposed to put the doggy poo in?

So what's up with the Milford Dog Park? Was the location bad? Too sunny or too wet? Did they just not get the right volunteers to run this thing? It was such a contrast to the lovely Community Gardens in the same park. I'd like to know so this doesn't happen in Shelton. If people prefer walking their dogs off-leash along the trail to using a dog park, would it be better just to have a designated off-leash trail (like they do in Fairfield)?

I'd like to visit the Trumbull dog park next, but xenophobic Trumbull doesn't allow non-residents to use any of their parks under any circumstances, so I could get a $25 ticket for parking there.

Milford Community Gardens

People have been asking for a community garden in Shelton, so I visited the garden in Milford at Eisenhower Park yesterday to see what neighboring towns are doing. In a Community Garden, people can lease a plot to plant vegetables or flowers.
The gardens look like they cover a couple acres, and this was one of the busiest areas at Eisenhower Park during my visit, with maybe eight people there working on their gardens under a very hot sun (one woman was putting a huge arm load of garden produce in her trunk). Facilities include several sheds and a port-o-let. I was surprised to find no deer fencing, especially since there was a deer crossing sign placed comically out on the road near the garden.

Overall, the garden seems nicely maintained and cheerful. There are several corners with chairs and tables where people can hang out - but only if you are one of the plot holders.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Rec Path Wildflowers

Here are some native flowers in bloom today along the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path between Pine Lake and Silent Waters (see for more info on the path). This is the section that was just upgraded to handicapped-accessibility standards. The top photo is field thistle. Did you know there are many species of thistles? I did not. This particular one not only was covered with bees, but a hummingbird came in while I was taking this photo. Alas, he was too quick for me to get a picture. This was on the dam above Silent Waters.

Right next to the thistle was another plant the butterflies and bees love: Dogbane. This species is called Hemp Dogbane, and like all dogbanes it is related to the milkweeds. Both groups ooze a milky sap if you break them (hence the name 'milkweed'), and both groups are candy for birds and butterflies.
The picture below was taken along the path between the two schools (we call it "the missing link"). It's called Monkey flower because it you look at a bloom straight on it looks like a grinning monkey. Another native species. This was a new one for me.
Below is a great big clump of Eastern Joe-Pye Weed, looking rather like a shrub, at the parking lot and entrance to Turkey Trot Trail on Constitution Blvd North.
Tradition holds that there was an Indian in New England named Joe Pye that used the plant for medicinal purposes.

Eisenhower Park Wildlife (Milford)

We explored the back side of Eisenhower Park in Milford today, off of West River Street. Here the Wepawaug River, or part of it, has been dammed to form a small pond or marsh. The first picture is a male Eastern Amberwing dragonfly, a species that mimics a wasp by both its markings and by the way it holds its wings.
Here's a bee on some Pickerel Weed. The Pickerel Weed was just filled with insects of all sorts, and I'll bet some fish were hiding in there, too. The seeds are supposed to be edible, but I've never tried them.

Here's some Swamp Milkweed. Milkweeds have such beautiful flowers and such ugly leaves.

Here's another damselfly, this one a female Eastern Forktail. I picked up a book of the dragonflies and damselflies of Massachusetts a couple years ago and now feel compelled to identify anything I take a picture of. Who knew there were so many species and it was so involved!

My daughter was curious about these berries, found near the parking lot. These are Bittersweet Nightshade (a vine) and they are somewhat poisonous. The leaves have those funny lobes or thumbs.