August 15th, Stegosaurus will be closed for the day while we remove a couple of large dead oaks near Hour Glass Bridge. Please refrain from riding, hiking or trail running on Stego Wednesday. THANK YOU.
Lower part of Aaron’s Air is temporarily closed. It is getting some much needed refurbishment. Please DO NOT ride the lower part please.
Tom Estill’s fantastic spring report of happenings in Pine Hill Park.
Thank you Rosey, Chris and Bryan for spending 3 hours on a damp Sunday morning in Pine Hill Park. Complete with mosquitoes having breakfast on them.
We hope you enjoy Tom Estill’s exploration of the park in the winter time as much as we do.
Wild Times at Pine Hill Park
The official start of Winter in December of 2017 started off with bitterly cold temperatures and a forest covered in a few inches of snow. Both Rocky and Muddy Ponds were completely covered in ice and snow. Birch seeds lying in the snow were a common site, especially at the base of adult birch trees. Many deer, rodent and carnivore tracks could be found throughout the forest, and many spots could be seen where deer and squirrels had dug through the snow to reach acorns and other food hidden beneath the snow. On a Jan. 2nd hike, the only birds I saw or heard were a hairy woodpecker, crow, and white-breasted nuthatches. I was happy to see porcupine tracks near the power lines on the Carriage Trail leading up to the rocky cliffs. The same cliffs which were the site of active porcupine dens in previous years. While sitting quietly next to the beaver den on the East side of Rocky Pond, I was treated to the sounds of groans of grunts of active beavers inside the den.
One day, during the second week of January, a warm front moved through the area bringing with it showers and temperatures high enough to melt most of the snow. During the night, the rain ended relatively abruptly followed by sub-zero temperatures which froze the water on the ground forming a layer of ice on the ground and a layer of shallow snow on top of the ice. The whole forest was covered in this ice/snow layer. Still, many gray squirrel food caches could be seen dug up in the snow/ice where squirrels were retrieving some of their food stores. On Jan. 14th, the only birds seen on my walk were a small flock of black-capped chickadees. Many rabbit, fox, deer and gray squirrel tracks could be seen.
Jan. 20th was a beautiful day with clear skies and temperatures in the low 40s. Typical winter birds seen included hairy woodpecker, tufted titmouse, pileated woodpecker, downy woodpecker, black-capped chickadee, and white-breasted nuthatch. It was also the first time this season I had seen SNOW FLEAS at the base of many trees. Always a sign to me that the worst of winter was behind us. I came across coyote and deer tracks next to each other and decided to follow them. The tracks led me to a deer carcass. The deer was only partially eaten, so I knew the coyote and other scavengers would be back to finish eating at a later time.
The first week of Feb. found 4” of snow on the ground. White-breasted nuthatch, tufted titmouse, pileated woodpecker, and golden-crowned kinglets were the only birds seen. Both the kinglet and red squirrels were seen at Muddy Pond, which is one of the few places in the park where both those species can be occasionally found. Rodent, deer, coyote and fox tracks a common sight.
On Feb. 11th, 15”of snow was on the ground. Lots of deer and squirrel tracks, and uncovered food caches could be seen throughout park, and the only birds seen were white-breasted nuthatch, crow, and a small flock of common redpoll near the trailhead parking lot. Many signs of active pileated woodpeckers around lower trails.
The third week of Feb. found the area undergoing a warming trend with temperatures reaching 70 degrees F on Feb. 21st. Consequently, many bare ground areas could be found throughout the park. Many streams had flowing water, and Rocky and Muddy Ponds, though completely covered in ice, both had a thin layer of water covering the ice. Even saw a few small midges flying about. Saw a gray squirrel sticking its head out of an old abandoned pileated woodpecker hole, a most endearing sight.
On Feb. 24th, temperatures were back in the low 40s. More and more bare ground was appearing throughout the forest, with only north-facing slopes containing any appreciable amount of snow. Cardinal and tufted-titmouse could both be heard singing. Many gray squirrels seen running throughout the forest. And small areas of open water could be seen along the edges of both beaver dens on Rocky Pond.
The first week of March found a few inches of snow on the ground dropped by a nor’easter which came through the area. Bare spots of ground could be found where that ground was exposed to lots of sunlight. Dark-eyed junco, black-capped chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, and crow were seen. Both ponds were showing open water in spots around their perimeters.
On March 4th, an otter was seen at Muddy Pond.
3 nor’easters came through the area in March. By mid-March, cold temperatures had returned, both ponds were once again completely frozen over, and there was an average of 8” of snow on the ground. On March 18th, a few days before the official start of spring, birds seen included crow, black-capped chickadee, golden-crowned kinglet, brown creeper and white-breasted nuthatch.
Bobcat were once again photographed in the park. The exact time and location is being kept secret in order to insure their privacy and protection.
That’s it for this season summary. Please stay on the trails and enjoy your wildlife viewing and experiences at Pine Hill Park.
For more of Tom’s reports, check out this page
Enjoy Tom Estill’s fall report on park critter activity!
Wild Times at Pine Hill Park Fall Summary, 2017
The first day of Fall, 2017 found the forest very DRY and quiet. Acorns were falling, 2 beavers were seen swimming at Rocky Pond, a few gray tree frogs were calling, the only bird seen was a pileated woodpecker, and gray squirrels and Eastern chipmunk were busy collecting acorns.
A few days later, a near record high temp. was recorded on Sept. 23rd and the 24th. More birds were seen including pileated, hairy and red-bellied woodpeckers, numerous blue jays,
black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatch, tufted titmouse, red-eyed vireo, and magnolia warbler. At Muddy Pond could be found about 2 dozen Canada geese, one osprey, a small flock of wood ducks, a belted kingfisher and painted turtles basking on a log. 2 LARGE black snakes were seen at Rocky Pond and white admiral and painted lady butterflies could be seen flying about.
At the end of Sept., I was still watering the American Chestnut seedlings on a regular basis due to the lack of any substantial rainfall. The forest was quiet, with Gray squirrels and Eastern chipmunks still actively collecting acorns.
The first week of Oct. found the forest wildlife typical for this time of year, but also some unusual sightings. There were about 200 Canada geese and a half dozen wood ducks at Muddy Pond, black-capped chickadees, blue jays and white-breasted nuthatches commonly seen, and my first wooly bear caterpillar of the season. Acorns were still falling. And I was surprised to see an Eastern garter snake up near Rocky Pond. Fall foliage was a bit of a disappointment this year. We had a dry, warm summer and early fall, with only one night reaching those cold temperatures which play such an important role in the fall foliage.
Mid-October found the number of falling acorns drastically reduced. A small flock of hermit thrushes and another small flock of white-throated sparrows were seen along with a larger flock of yellow-rumped warblers. They were flying through the forest ahead of the first major cold front moving into the area from the North.
The third week of October found acorns still falling, fall foliage was at its peak, but not near as impressive as years past, about 150 Canada geese were seen at Muddy Pond, and the population of forest birds was now taking on the typical numbers and species you usually find in the forest during the winter months. Once again, I was surprised to see an 8 inch garter snake on Crusher Road.
The beginning of November finally found cold temperatures descending upon the land. Fall foliage had come to an end, trees along the 3 lower Giorgetti trails had lost almost all their
leaves, robins could be seen migrating through the forest in large numbers, Canada geese were flying overhead, and tufted titmouse were now flying in small flocks, typical of what you would find in winter.
On Nov. 11th, temperatures reached the low 20s, black-capped chickadees(some of which were very curious and would fly right up to me) were flying in flocks, and a few spots along the shoreline of Rocky Pond were covered with a thin layer of ice. The whole perimeter of Muddy Pond was also covered in a thin layer of ice. I was particularly impressed with the “acorn fall” this year. Since first visiting the forest in 2012, never have I seen so many acorns on the ground. Should be a good year for deer, squirrels and chipmunks.
The last week of November found the forest covered in a thick layer of fallen leaves. Most trees have lost their leaves and only a few birds would be seen on my walks. Both ponds were covered with a thin layer of ice, with the exception of the very center of the ponds. Many trees along the shores of Rocky Pond showed recent beaver activity. It’s hard to believe the increase in size of the East side beaver den on Rocky Pond. This time last year, it was a small pile of a few small branches. Now, it’s massive.
By the second week of December, loose associations of tufted titmouse and black-capped chickadees could be found throughout the forest, and both ponds were completely covered over in a thin layer of ice. Water level at Rocky Pond is the lowest I’ve seen it for a long time.
Beaver dams are intact, so I know it’s just been the lack of precipitation which had contributed to the low level.
Finally got an appreciable snow mid-December. About 6 inches of snow on the ground, with MANY deer tracks throughout the forest. You could also find numerous piles of leaves where deer had been looking for acorns underneath the snow. Hairy woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatches, tufted titmouse and crows flying overhead were a common sight. Both ponds completely covered with a now thickening layer of ice, with the exception of small open water areas near the west side beaver den on Rocky Pond, and the east side beaver den on Muddy Pond. Gray squirrels seen in the forest, but no chipmunks.
That’s it for this issue, please stay on the trails, and enjoy the Wild Times At Pine Hill Park.
Find more of Tom’s reports here.
Fat biking in the park, Redfield Trails and Carriage trail are all in great shape for fat tires. Trails are firm but not icy.
As we are in the midst of the freeze thaw cycles. We have a few trails that we will be closing off for winter. This will happen the week of November 20th. These trails stay closed until spring is well under way.
Droopy Muffin (steep hill) between Intersections 30 and 30A will close, Lichen Rock and Exit Strategy. We do this to protect the trail tread from ruts when it’s soft and folks are riding. There is always a good possibility that Voldemort will close in late winter once the surface water starts running.
Please respect our trail closures. Our volunteer groups work really hard to have a great trail system so please don’t make work for them by rutting trails up.
Thanks! Remember rubberside down.
Folks here is an excellent video on why we do not remove leaves from our trails.
Reasons why we do not remove leaves from Pine Hill Park trails and why our bridges do not have hard wire mesh on top.
We tried leaf removal for 2 years in a row about 6-7 years ago. By July our trails are all ball bearings. Means people are slipping and sliding around on ball bearings all summer long which isn’t any fun. Leaves help hold our trail tread together. A lot of this has to do with our soil composition compared to other areas. In the spring by leaving the fall leaves on it protects our trail tread from freeze thaw cycles which lets us open up earlier.
The other issue are leaf berms on the downhill side of trails and clogging our drainage’s up. Means water runs down the trail tread which is washing away our good dirt and creating more drainage’s issues. The other downside is leaf blowers blow all the dirt off the trail tread. We work WAY too hard to move dirt on the trail tread to have a leaf blower come along and blow it off again.
Why our bridges do not having hardware mesh on them. The bridges that we have seen in Vermont that have hardware mesh on them are flat there are no curves/bends or twists. Most of the bridges in our local area are made out of pressure treated lumber which is slippery when wet. Our decking on the bridges in Pine Hill Park are composite material which we believe is not as slippery when wet like pressure treated lumber. We do not want people falling on the hardware mesh which would hurt even more than falling on the composite decking.
Yes we know the leaves make it more challenging to walk, run or ride but by leaving the leaves on the trail our system is more sustainable in the long run.
Thank you for your cooperation.