Category Archives: Nature Study

Summer 2017 Nature Report

We hope you enjoy Tom Estill’s summer report!

Wild Times at Pine Hill Park

Summer 2017 Summary

During the third week of June, measurements of the heights of all 47 American chestnut trees were made. Some of the trees are now more than three feet high, after growing for a little more than two years, and starting as seedlings about ten inches tall. A hermit thrush nest I had been keeping a close eye on for about a month was found to be abandoned. I could only hope that the four chicks had successfully fledged. The nest was located at the base of one of the American chestnut trees. For the third year in a row now, yellow-bellied sapsuckers have been found nesting in a beech tree on the upper Giorgetti trail. They use the same tree, but not the same nests as in previous years, choosing instead to drill a new hole in the tree.

The last week of June you could find a variety of butterflies throughout the park including the painted lady, red admiral, white admiral, and tiger swallowtail. On any day this time of year, you were likely to see or hear a robin, veery, ovenbird, hermit thrush, American redstart, tufted titmouse, yellow-bellied sapsucker, broad-winged hawk, black-capped chickadee, Eastern peewee, redeyed vireo, yellow-throated vireo, empidomax flycatcher, scarlet tanager, yellowthroat, mourning dove, catbird, hairy and pileated woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatch, and up at Rocky and Muddy ponds, osprey, belted kingfisher, great blue heron, and cedar waxwing. Garter snakes were a common sight along the trails, and northern water snakes were a common sight along the shores of Rocky Pond. Schools of young brown bullhead fish could also be seen in the shallow waters of Rocky Pond.

July

The first week of July found the osprey sitting on their Muddy Pond nest, just as they had been seen doing since May. It appeared that they were incubating eggs, which, of course, was very exciting news. Most of the time, the female could be found sitting on the nest, while the male was either perched nearby or off hunting then bringing back food to the female. Common flowers this time of year included, pointed-leaved tick trefoil, ox-eye daisy, thimbleweed, shinleaf, forget-me-not, hop clover, red clover, and yarrow. Gray squirrels and Eastern chipmunks were seen on every outing. Peepers could no longer be heard, but green frogs and bullfrogs were croaking. Song sparrows were beginning to sing at Rocky Pond.

July 11th was one of those wonderful “enchanted evenings”. Started my walk listening to a scarlet tanager sing near the boardwalk, followed by a variety of singing songbirds, including some recent arrivals such as the Eastern towhee, black-throated green warbler, American goldfinch, and great crested flycatcher. Osprey were seen at their nest, beavers were seen at both ponds, three barred owls were “hooting” in the area between the two ponds, and bullfrogs and green frogs were calling.

Mid-July found the forest filled with the same songbirds, osprey still sitting on the nest, inch long baby painted turtles on the shore of Rocky Pond, and tiny wood froglets hopping around the forest near Rocky Pond. Rocky Pond surface water temp. was 86F. Analysis of a Rocky Pond plankton sample showed the presence of Peridinium dinoflagellates, water fleas, vorticella, rotifers, small nematodes, diatoms, various ciliates, and bladderwort.

The middle-third week of July was a time of frequent rains, followed a few days later by bothersome swarms of mosquitoes. In the 5 years I’ve been hiking Pine Hill Park, this period of time was the worst for mosquitoes I had ever experienced. By the last week of July, the forest had become noticeably quieter than in previous weeks. A mother cedar waxwing was seen feeding her young in a nest located in a pitch pine tree at Rocky Pond, osprey were still sitting on their nest, and the forest floor was covered with mushroom due to the moist ground and recent warm temperatures. Birds commonly seen included Eastern peewee, black-capped chickadees, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, gray catbird, hermit thrush, red-eyed vireo, yellow-throated vireo, song sparrow, cardinal, American goldfinch, American redstart, and black and white warbler.

August

The beginning of August found osprey still sitting on the nest, but occasionally, I would observe both adults away from the nest for a short period of time. I now suspected the osprey did not have a successful nesting season. For about 2 weeks, I had also observed a young American toak hiding under the overhang of a small rock, protecting itself from the sun. Why it stayed there for so long is a mystery to me. Spicebush swallowtail butterfly and spotted sandpiper both seen at Rocky Pond.

By the second week of August the forest had become very quiet, and temperatures were noticeably cooler. I did see a cottontail rabbit on Crusher Rd., a spotted young white-tailed deer near trail marker 16A, and a single Canada goose on Muddy pond. Lifted up a rock and was surprised to see a ringnecked snake, the first time I had seen such a snake at Pine Hill Park. They’re secretive snakes, and I have no doubt I would find many more if I took the time to life up more rocks and downed trees. Monarch butterflies were seen flying through the forest, and ants were beginning to swarm, always a sure sign of changing seasons. Tree leaves were beginning to lose their dark green color and take on a more shaded green color. Numerous young pickerel frogs could be found hopping around the area between the two ponds.

On a typical day towards the end of August you could find acorns and beech nuts starting to fall, the forest occupied by birds mostly found year around, but some migrants still present including red-eyed vireo, gray catbird, American redstart, house wren, and yellow-bellied sapsucker, osprey still sitting on the nest, and gray squirrels taking mouthfuls of leaves up to their temporary nests. Saw a massive snapping turtle at Muddy Pond on August 27th. Large numbers of migrating passerines were seen in the forest that same day.

September

The first week of September saw a few days of rain which moistened the park so much that red efts and young American toads were a common sight on the trails. Three adult ospreys were found at Muddy Pond. Two could be seen on or near the nest, and the third perched in the old abandoned great blue heron nest. I suspect the third osprey was just migrating through the area. By mid-Sept., some of the tree leaves were beginning to show their fall foliage colors and osprey were no longer seen at Muddy Pond. On September 9th, I took a late afternoon walk through the forest. It was very quiet. I saw a pileated woodpecker, heard a gray tree frog calling, saw a gray squirrel and Eastern chipmunk and two beavers at Rocky Pond, but that was all. That’s it for this seasonal summary. Please stay on the trails, and let’s hope that next year the Osprey may finally have a successful nesting season.

Link to Download Pine Hill park summer 2017 summary

A few sections of trails are now closed for winter

We have closed Exit Strategy, Lichen Rock(Overlook Trail) and the steep hill on Droopy Muffin between Intersections 30 and 30A. These trails will be closed until spring when ground thaws out and dries out. Please be respectful on the trail closures.

 

 

Deer Season is upon us!

Youth rifle season is the weekend November 5th and 6th.

Full on rifle season is Saturday, November 12th through Sunday, November 27th.

Muzzle loading and archery season runs from Saturday, December 3rd through Sunday December 11th.

There is NO HUNTING ALLOWED in Pine Hill Park.

The Carriage Trail and the Redfield trails are private property.  Owners do allow hunting on their property.

Please be respectful of deer hunters and wear orange.

Wild Times at Pine Hill Park – Summer 2016

By Tom Estill

2016 Summer report (pdf)

If I had to describe in one word the summer of 2016, that word would be-DRY! And that feeling is supported by data from the Climatological Report issued by the National Weather Service which states that rainfall in the Burlington area so far this year is 6.5 inches below normal. The effects on the wildlife have been readily observed. I haven’t seen but a few Wood Frogs hopping through the forest, and I usually see dozens throughout the summer months. The few times it did rain, a few days later the forest floor would be covered with numerous species of mushrooms of various colors including, orange, red, yellow, purple, white, beige, brown, and green. It was as if the mushrooms knew they would have but a few opportunities to produce their reproductive structures, and took advantage of those few heavy rains and moist soil to do so. And I had never seen Rocky Pond lose so much water due to evaporation. The creek runoff was just not there to offset the evaporation loss.

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Scarlet Tanager photo by David Jenne

On the first day of summer I was treated to the beautiful call of the summer tanager on Crusher Road, a call I would hear for weeks in that area. Summer tanagers did very well this summer. They were heard on a regular basis on Crusher Road, near trail marker 24 on the Carriage Trail, and in the area between Rocky and Muddy Ponds. This was definitely the best year yet for nesting scarlet tanagers. This time of year, an early morning stroll on one of the Pine Hill Park trails would have you hearing scarlet tanagers, pileated woodpeckers, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, hermit thrushes, ovenbirds, Eastern peewees, American redstarts, robins, northern flickers, yellowthroats, veery, catbird, tufted titmouse, wood thrushes, crows, blue jays, red-eyed vireos, white-breasted nuthatches, yellow-breasted vireos, and black-capped chickadees.

Near the ponds you would likely hear mourning doves, the call of osprey, belted kingfishers, song sparrows, and the occasional calls of great blue herons. New flowers were starting to appear including thimble weed, whorled loosestrife, northern bedstraw, yellow wood sorrel, partridge berry, rough-fruited cinquefoil, hop clover, cowwheat, and common milkweed. Butterflies included Eastern tiger swallowtail, white admiral, and red admiral, Easterntailed blue, cabbage butterfly, and great spangled fritillary.

The chestnut trees are doing quite well. There are now 2 different populations of American chestnuts growing at Pine Hill Park. They are marked with the red flags which you may see on certain trails, especially above the quarry on Crusher Rd. They come from populations of wild American chestnuts which have been producing nuts for decades, and which MAY be naturally immune to the Chestnut Blight Fungus. These stands are located in Georgia and Wisconsin.

During the last week of June, I saw schools of hundreds of tiny horned pout fish at Rocky Pond, while along the shores you could see and still hear bullfrogs, green frogs and gray tree frogs. Barred owls have also done very well this summer at Pine Hill Park.

Owls were either heard or seen at numerous places in the park, more so than in previous summers. You’re more than likely to hear them “hooting” at Rocky Pond if you go there at dusk. This time of year, new flowers are replacing those which had bloomed a week or two before and are now gone. At the end of June, purple-flowering raspberry, heal-all, common mullein, shinleaf pyrola, and black-eyed Susan’s were new blooms.

The first week of July found yellowthroats nesting on Crusher Rd. as they have done in the past and blueberries ripe for the picking. New blooms included tick trefoil, meadowsweet, white avens, deptford pink, garden loosestrife, St. John’s-Wort and Indian Pipe. The Indian Pipes seemed to all emerge at the same time-the day after a heavy rain. Red efts, of course, is always a common sight on the trails after a good rain. That rain also brought out one of the only times I saw wood frogs in the forest this summer. This is the time of the year where you’re also likely to see the beautiful, iridescent blue-colored tiger beetle on most of the sunny trails. But be careful, they can give a nasty bite if handled.

In mid-July you could see adult and young wood ducks on Muddy Pond, cottontail rabbits on Crusher Rd., agrimony, hedge bindweed, white sweet clover, queen Anne’s lace, goldenrod and helleborine all in flower, baby painted turtles and black water snakes at Rocky Pond, and white-andblack and chestnut-sided warblers. On July 12th, while sitting at Rocky Pond very early in the morning, I heard a black bear huffing and growling on the north side of the pond. I believe it was calling its young. Towards the end of July, wood nymph butterflies were becoming a common sight on my walks, evening primrose and touch-me-not was flowering, and the forest was becoming increasingly quiet. A male AND female indigo bunting was seen on the carriage trail, and by the way they were behaving, I’m sure they were close to their nest. I’ll be watching and hoping for their return next year.

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An Osprey carrying sticks to a power pole in Muddy Pond this past June. Photo by David Jenne.

A pair of osprey at Muddy Pond were being seen on a regular basis. Though they built a temporary nest on the top of one of the electrical wire poles, they would never spend any appreciable amount of time on that nest. Inevitably, they would take flight in the direction of Proctor after spending a few hours at the pond. But, I would not be surprised if they built an active nest at the pond next spring. They have their privacy, food and water at Muddy Pond, and have spent a lot of time there this summer.

There are now 2 active beaver dens on Rocky Pond. Beaver have been seen leaving and entering both dens. The Rocky Pond beaver dam was removed due to the danger of it collapsing and then flooding Muddy Pond which could then pose a danger to the Muddy Pond dam which protects the golf course from flooding. But, the beaver continue to repair/rebuild the removed dam, and will continue to do so as long as they’re in their dens on Rocky Pond. The Rocky Pond beavers are now busy storing their winter supply of stems and branches just outside their dens, preparing for the long winter ahead.

At the end of July, a rufous-sided (Eastern) towhee could be heard singing on crusher road, and near the powerlines on the Carriage trail, cedar waxwings were becoming a more common sight, acorns started falling from oak trees, satyr butterflies were seen for the first time, Joe-pye-weed was blooming, and the forest was becoming so quiet that on some walks I heard or saw only a handful of birds.

The beginning of August saw silver spotted skippers, pearl crescent and white admiral butterflies, American goldfinch, broad-winged hawks, black-throated warblers, and a double crested cormorant at Rocky Pond, and the first loose associations of black-capped chickadees, tufted titmouse, and whitethroated nuthatches. Black berries were ripe for the picking. While waving a red flag in my face, attempting to swipe away mosquitoes, a ruby-throated hummingbird flew up to the flag and hovered a few seconds before realizing it wasn’t a flower, and then flew away. Mid-August saw the first appearance of ringlet butterflies, the Eastern peewee changing its song to its late summer “tur-ee” song, and my first sight of a ring-necked snake. A few weeks later, I would see my first milk snake in the park. I can’t help but wonder if the lack of precipitation had something to do with the increased number of snake sightings I observed this summer.

On Sept. 1st, I took a short hike along middle Giorgetti Trail and didn’t hear or see a single bird. The first week of Sept. saw turtlehead, and bottle gentian flowering, clouded sulfur butterflies, and acorns continuing to drop. This summer has been a bumper crop for acorns, and squirrels and chipmunks have been observed storing the nuts throughout late summer. Mid-September found some trees (mostly birches) beginning to lose their leaves, the first pair of Canada geese to arrive at Muddy Pond during their fall migration, and gray tree frogs croaking to one another.

On the last day of summer I walked up to Muddy Pond and saw gray squirrels and chipmunks collecting acorns, I was surprised to see 3 hermit thrushes (which I hadn’t seen for weeks), and numerous robins flying through the forest on their migration south, and 9 Canada geese and 3 female wood ducks at Muddy Pond. I’m always amazed at how quiet the forest has become. Though I can see the fall changes in the plants and animals, it just doesn’t FEEL like fall yet. Where’s the cool north wind signaling the arrival of fall? Enjoy your walks in the park, but please stay on the marked trails. AND, make sure your try some of the Redfield Trails-beautiful, peaceful, and lush trails which take you through the thick of it all.