Snapping turtle seen at Rocky Pond
Snapping turtle seen at Rocky Pond
By Dave Jenne
I made a trip yesterday to Muddy Pond via the Park and Carriage Trail in search of some interesting photos. What a day! If you are interested in wildlife watching, stop and watch for a while at either Rocky Pond or Muddy Pond as you cross the power line on the Carriage Trail. There are some amazing critters there! Here’s a little summary of my morning (click on the images for a larger version):
I arrived at my location and was set up by 7 am (about an hour later than I wanted, but shlepping my 60+ lbs of gear up Pond Road was a good workout!) I no sooner got myself concealed and sat than the bird I had most wanted to see came to me right over the pond and carrying a large stick.
It’s possibly a young Osprey just starting to learn the skills of nest building… what he was building yesterday is best termed avant-garde sculpture!
After a couple attempts at sculpture, the Osprey glided over to the opposite side of the pond and sat in a tree for two straight hours presumably waiting for breakfast to swim under his perch.
Once my heartbeat slowed to a pace to where I could concentrate again I noticed that I had set up my blind about 10 feet away from a little dead tree snag that was being used by a Song Sparrow to announce his territory.
After an hour or two I discovered that this wasn’t just a territory, it was already home for a family. His mate soon dropped by with some breakfast for the nestlings which I couldn’t see from my location.
I had heard and suspected there would be some ducks with chicks at the pond and wasn’t disappointed. The first bird to swim past me was a female Hooded Merganser. There weren’t any chicks in sight, but maybe they’re still in the nest. I’ll be checking back in a week or two so maybe we’ll see some then.
To the left of my location was another larger (30ft or so tall) dead tree. I hadn’t pointed my camera in that direction because the light was bad from that angle, but true to form, about every species of bird at the pond decided that THAT was the place to hang out! One of them was this Northern Flicker that stayed just long enough for me to get off 4 frames… and then it “Flicked” off across the pond.
Muddy Pond is home to at least 2 broods of Wood Ducks. I counted one group with 8 ducklings and another with 5. Its always amazing to me how fast young birds can grow. Some of these guys are already looking pretty big, so probably will be just about ready to fly by the next time I see them.
I came to the pond intending to get some photos of some of the beavers there, but there was no sign of them… although they left plenty of evidence of their presence. Be careful around the pond— especially on a windy day. Some of them are really large trees that are about ready to go!
We had great Annual meeting on Monday, March 28th. A group of 30+ members heard first hand about some of our plans for 2016, but more importantly a discussion session led to lots of great ideas. Hopefully we can move forward with some of the great suggestions and enthusiasm that was present in the room!
This year, the board tried a different approach with the meeting. Keith Wight gave a quick presentation of last year’s accomplishments:
Volunteer Days and Hours:
2015 Volunteer Days 57 days
2015 Volunteer Hours 2390 hours
Groups providing volunteer hours: Community Work Days, Fair Haven Girls on the Run, Youth Mountain Bike Group; RHS Cross Country Team; RHS YES Plan-6 Days; Youth Works-13 days; PHP individuals
The meeting then moved on to an open discussion of 2016 plans.
Upcoming programs in 2016:
The current PHP board has been working on redefining the goals for the organization and President Andy Shinn shared some of their thoughts. The board reached out to those present and to the overall membership for help in steering the group forward. In addition to the usual annual tasks like trail maintenance, the board is hoping to recruit folks to help with some new projects.
The partnership has developed a new logo and designs for coasters, t-shirts and plans to produce tyvek maps for next year. Much of the discussion centered around how we could increase awareness and enthusiasm for the work we do, and how we could translate that enthusiasm into more paid memberships and volunteers to help the board accomplish our goals.
Discussion Topics and Ideas:
After the discussion the final piece of business was to elect next year’s board of directors. Our board of directors for 2016 are: Joel Blumenthal, Andy Shinn, Keith Wight, Shelley Lutz, Claus Bartenstein, and Dave Jenne.
If you would like to help the board with any of our upcoming projects, or have some new ideas of your own, let us know about them! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you shop online and use Amazon please consider using www.smile.amazon.com. Amazon will make quarterly contributions to Pine Hill Partnership if you enter us as the non-profit.
Big thanks for your support this year in our continued efforts to make these area trails so special.
Keith Wight, Andrew Shinn, Joel Blumenthal, Dave Jenne, Claus Bartenstein, and Shelley Lutz
Board of Directors
Saturday, October 17, 10:00 A.M. Start. Bus leaves Giorgetti at 9:40 for the drive to start in Proctor.
We are looking for chili and soup donations. You can drop it off at Cindi Wight’s house in a crock pot the day ahead or bring by that morning. We also need volunteers on the course.
Thank you in advance to Pepi Guggenberger who will set up a water station, Claus Bartenstein who is the sweep for the runners and Kimberly Griffin who is the sweep for the walkers.
Pine Hill Park Summer, 2015 • Natural History Summary
By Tom Estill
The first day of summer, 2015 saw the park filled with the sounds of birds establishing and maintaining their territories, mating calls, and baby chicks chirping for food. Birds COMMONLY seen or heard in the park this time of year included: veery, American redstart, hermit thrush, ovenbird, Eastern wood peewee, great crested flycatcher, catbird, song sparrow, yellow-bellied sapsucker, black-capped chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, hairy woodpecker, pileated woodpecker, wood thrush, rufous-sided towhee, downy woodpecker, northern flicker, red-eyed vireo, robin, myrtle warbler, and mourning doves. Near Rocky and Muddy Ponds you’ll typically find red-winged blackbirds and great blue herons, and hear the croaking of the American Bullfrog and Greenfrog. On June 25th, I was delighted to hear and see the Scarlet Tanager near Trail Marker 24, the same place I have heard and seen them for the last three years. This year, I also saw them near Rocky Pond and the first Giorgetti Trail. So glad to see their population at the park doing well.
By this time of the year, all the 27 American chestnut trees planted at the beginning of June had leaves, except one. They’ve done very well this summer. During the “dry/hot spell” of late July and August, I actually carried water up to the plants and gave them extra waterings. At this point, I’m hoping that at least 26 of them will make it through the winter. I’ll continue to keep an eye on them throughout the year.
Chipmunks seemed to be in high numbers this summer, certainly more than last summer, while the population of grey squirrels appears to be steady.
Baby painted turtles were seen at Rocky Pond, along with huge numbers of young bullhead catfish and Eastern Newts. Also during this time of year, red efts are a common site along the trails, especially after a rainy day.
Butterflies are also a common sight in June, including mourning cloaks, white tails, 12-spotted skimmers, cabbage whites, and sulfurs.
The end of June saw more and more wildflowers making their appearance including: hop clover, partridge berry, Canada lily, laurel, and Devil’s Paintbrush. Fern spores were maturing, and wild strawberries were ripe for picking along with red raspberries.
Green frog tadpoles born in the spring were seen with developing hind legs at Rocky Pond.
The first week of July saw new wildflowers appearing, including: shinleaf pyrola, sheep laurel, pale corydalis, black-eyed Susan, evening primrose, St. Johnswort, purple flowering raspberries, and white sweet clover. A northern water snake was seen in Rocky Pond, and garter snakes were a common sight all throughout the park, especially near the ponds. Small American toads and Cedar Waxwings were seen the first time near Rocky Pond. The baby yellow-bellied sapsuckers fledged at this time, also.
Mid-July found a Yellowthroat under the powerlines on Crusher Road, the same place I’ve seen Yellowthroats there in the last 3 years. More species of butterflies are appearing, including the great sprangled fritillary, silver-spotted skipper, Tiger Swallowtail, clouded sulfur and northern pearly-eye. And, of course, new wildflowers included: pointed-leaved tick-trefoil, Queen Ann’s Lace, Golden Alexander, purple loosestrife, and goldenrod. Woodchuck seen feeding on clover, and, upon seeing me, ran into its hillside den on Crusher Road.
Followed up on a report of a Great Blue Heron nesting at Muddy Pond. Found the nest, and an adult heron standing on the nest, but no young. I kept a close eye on the nest all summer, but saw no sign of a successful nesting. And I never saw more than one heron at a time at the nest, or in the pond.
Saw a male and female indigo bunting under the powerlines on Carriage Trail, the same place I saw them last year. Hopefully, they’ll return next spring. They’re a beautiful bird. I played a tape of the bird’s call over my phone, and the male bunting alighted on a branch a few feet from me. A truly magical moment.
Forest beginning to noticeably quiet down in the afternoon this time of year. Most birds are finished raising their young, and the birds are no longer establishing territories.
Towards the end of July, I had a broad-winged hawk follow me along the Carriage Trail from Trail Marker 24 to the powerlines. It would do that for about a month. I can only guess that my walking was frightening birds and small mammals in front of me, and making them more easily visible to the hawk.
Sow and her cub seen eating berries under the powerlines on Crusher Road. I was hidden by a small hill, and could see the sow, but was not aware of the cub nearby until it started making some noises, at which point I started back tracking as fast as I could.
The last day of July, I entered a very, very, quiet forest. Lots of robins gathering in loose associations, in preparation for their upcoming southern migration. Numerous immature wood frogs found throughout the park. The common wood nymph butterfly is now a common sight.
The first week of August I saw my first maple starting to change colors. Noticeably cooler, especially in the evening. Lots of butterflies with the emergence of the fall asters. Some flowers still appearing, including: agrimony, common nightshade, eastern-tailed blue, asters, jewelweed, lobelia, hawkweed, willow-herb, blue vervain and butter-and-eggs. The forest is now so quiet compared to a month ago.
Mid-August saw the first migrating waterfowl at Muddy Pond, mostly mallards. Thistle, whorled wood aster, Joe-pye-weed, and rattlesnake root. starting to flower. Having a “hot spell”. Hot and humid days. But, cardinals are still singing near the trailhead. And a grey treefrog was heard calling. Migrating warblers are becoming a more and more common sight, including pine warblers and black-throated blue warblers.
Towards the end of August, a barred owl was heard “hooting” at rocky pond, and American goldfinch were becoming more and more a common sight. New flowers include: white vervain, wood betony, hog-peanut, bottle gentian, turtlehead, and northern bugleweed. Black chokeberry and winterberries are now ripe, and can be found on the shores of Rocky Pond.
At the end of August, my walks were very quiet, with only a few birds seen or heard, including the pileated woodpecker, black-capped chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, cardinal, wood thrush, and a few robins. A New England cottontail was seen feeding under the powerlines on Crusher Road. For the first time this season, bald-faced hornets seen in large numbers flying close to the ground in search of prey. I try to keep my distance from them.
The beginning of Sept. found a very quiet forest. On one walk up to Rocky Pond on Sept.1st, all I saw or heard were a cardinal, Eastern wood peewee, a couple blue jays, and a ruffed grouse which explosively flew off right in front of me, giving me quite the “start”. Forest is very dry some a long dry spell. Had to give the chestnut trees extra water. I was actually worried about the fire danger. Luckily, no fires were started at this time.
The middle of the month saw a cold front move through bringing rain and dropping temperatures. What a relief for everyone. Hawks migrating through the area. Got a nice view of a red-tailed hawk. More and more waterfowl seen at Muddy Pond, especially Canada geese and mallards. Leaves are changing color. Migrating yellowthroat seen and many crickets heard all throughout the park. You can sense a change in the forest, as the plants and animals prepare for the long, cold winter ahead.
On Sept. 20th, I took my last walk of the season. Many crickets could be heard throughout the forest, my hands were actually cold from recent cold fronts moving into the area, robins, along with various warblers, were migrating, the ponds were showing increasing numbers of waterfowl, and the birds of the forest were becoming more and more those species typical or fall and winter, such as the black-capped chickadee, hairy wooodpecker, pileated woodpecker, white-breasted nuthatch, blue jays, and crows.
Lots of trail running race opportunities coming up this fall!
Full Moon 5K
Saturday September 26, 7:00 P.M. Start
$10 Pre-register and $15 on race day
Get Fit 5K
Join our RRMC friends for their first 5K on Saturday October 3. For more information and to register click on the following link: http://app/public.active.com/rutland-
Leaf Chase 10K on the Carriage Trail
Saturday, October 17, 10:00 A.M. Start. Bus leaves Giorgetti at 9:40 for the drive to start in Proctor.
$20 Pre-register and $25 on race day. Your fee includes a long sleeve t-shirt and a delicious soup and chili lunch at the end.
Saturday October 3, 10 am-12 p.m
Join Naturalist Tom Estill as we explore the natural history of Pine Hill Park at the height of the fall foliage season. This easy-moderate hike is designed for hikers of all ages. There will be lots of opportunities to take photos of our spectacular fall foliage and an opportunity to see Muddy Pond covered with hundreds of migrating waterfowl. Bring binoculars, something to drink, and a small snack. FREE
…or maybe plant of the month is a better title.
If you visit the park in the next few days or weeks there is one plant you will not miss, even if you try! And that plant is the Canada-mayflower, also called false lily-of-the-valley.
I shot these on a run up Sisyphus this afternoon and thought I’d pass ’em along. They’re not in bloom yet, but just the sight of all that green finally covering the forest floor will make you smile.
They will bloom in couple weeks with a cluster of white feathery flowers that will eventually turn into red berries, which are a very important source of food for birds in the park.
Yep, they’re common as heck—but their timing is impeccable in my opinion 🙂
Spring in the park is so awesome.
Just at the time we are all back biking and running and hiking, back come all the birds and other furry critters to say “hi” for the new season.
This is a few days old, but I recorded this on my Sunday a.m. (5/3) run on Stegosaurus. For those of you curious about some of the sounds from the trees you are hearing when you’re in the park, I thought this might be interesting. (Unedited 30 second clip recorded with my phone:)
Back for 2015 are:
In the background for most of the clip are very faint Chickadee “fee-bee” songs… and my heavy breathing from just coming up the hill… sorry !
Here are some links to the birds mentioned above:
Black-throated Blue Warbler (photo above)
Want to learn more? Come to the park this Saturday at 7:00am for a bird walk with naturalist Tom Estill.
Conditions on the Carriage Trail as of April 17th are still pretty wet in spots. Good for frogs — but for bikes, not so much. Good news though, is that it looks to me like the work VYCC did last year in the wet areas is really helping to drain the trail faster.