All posts by Tin Man

winter report of wild times in Pine hill park

Wild Times at Pine Hill Park Winter 2018/2019 Summary

One week after the official start of winter in 2018, three of us participated in the annual National Audubon Society’s Annual Christmas Bird Count. We saw dark-eyed juncos, black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, pileated woodpeckers, brown creepers, crows, ravens, and a red-bellied woodpecker. Those were animals we were expecting to see. What we didn’t expect to see was a Green Frog swimming along the shore of Rocky Pond, in a very small area where the pond had not frozen over.

The frog looked emaciated and was swimming weakly. My guess was that it was hibernating in the mud at the bottom edge of the pond, but a recent warm up in weather had thawed the area and freed the frog from its frozen cell. Squirrels could still be seen scurrying about the forest on Dec. 29th. Small streams were flowing throughout the park.

By the final day of December, the forest had become very quiet and the only birds I saw on my 3 hr. hike that day were a hairy woodpecker and a black-capped chickadee.

Jan. 2nd found the forest floor bare and temperatures in the low 20’s. Both ponds were completely frozen over. At both ponds, cracks, booms, bangs, and sloshing could be heard as the water underneath the ice was moving here and there.

By Jan. 5th, a light dusting of snow could finally be found covering the forest ground. Temperatures were in the low 30s and small park streams were gently flowing. Thick ice covered both ponds. Birds seen included Hairy and Pileated woodpeckers, tufted titmouse, black-capped chickadee, and white-breasted nuthatch.

On Jan. 19th, a few inches of snow now covered the lower trails, while upper trails had 6 inches or more. Very quiet in the forest, with a major snow storm to reach the park the next day.


Single digit temperatures on this day, also. Saw only hairy and pileated woodpeckers and crows. Lots of deer, squirrel, and predator(fox and coyote, mostly) tracks seen in the snow. Many spots could be seen where deer were digging through the snow to get to their ground food.

One week later, temperatures were in the teens, and snow was averaging about a foot in depth. Birds seen included crow, hairy and pileated woodpeckers, and white-breasted nuthatch. I was very surprised to hear mourning doves “cooing” near Rocky Pond, so early in the season. Snow fleas could be seen for the first time at the base of some trees. Many gray squirrels were seen, along with their dug-up food caches. Many deer and fox tracks also seen.

The first week of Feb., sound snow depth averaging about 1 ft. A new HUGE pileated woodpecker hole could be seen high up in an oak tree half way up the Upper Giorgetti Trail.Just looking for the carpenter ants they so relish. Saw crows and a hairy woodpecker, and watched a barred owl perched high in an oak tree, then was amazed to see it “spit up” a pellet. I collected the pellet, took it home and dissected it, finding the bones of 4 small mice in the pellet. Made me wonder, how a barred owl can hear mice scurrying about under at least 1 ft. of snow. Their hearing truly is as amazing as ornithologists say it is.

Feb. 16th found many of the trails covered in ice. Had to use my boot ice straps to safely get about. Sunny day, but temps. in the low 30s. Hairy and pileated woodpeckers, crows, and white-breasted nuthatches seen. Beavers very active at the 3 dams at the Rocky Pond outlet. Both ponds frozen over, but Rocky Pond outlet stream was flowing surprisingly high. Lots of deer and squirrel tracks.

The first week of March found temperatures in the low 30s, and snow depth averaging 6 inches. Black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatch, tufted titmouse, crow, and hairy woodpecker all seen. Barred owl seen near the top of Upper Giorgetti trail. Gray squirrels seen throughout park, and Rocky Pond completely frozen over and covered in snow.

March 9th was a beautiful day, with the park covered in a few inches of snow, with the exception of a few south facing slopes which showed bare ground. Many gray squirrels seen throughout park and both ponds completely covered in ice and snow. Tufted titmouse singing, and crows, white-breasted nuthatch and black-capped chickadees flying about. Lots of deer, predator, rodent and squirrel tracks seen. Bobcat tracks on Ridge Runner trail. Park streams frozen over. And a Wooly Bear was photographed by Lauren White sitting on the snow at Rocky Pond.

By March 17th, temperatures had been reaching into the low 60s, and most of the snow on the lower Giorgetti trails had disappeared, with only a few patches of snow. Upper regions of the park were covered in a few inches of snow, with patches of bare ground found here and there. Crow, hairy woodpecker and tufted titmouse were the only birds seen.

That’s it for this issue. Enjoy your time at Pine Hill Park, and please remember to stay on the trails.



Community Work Days

2019 Community Work day is coming up! Saturday, April 27th at 9AM. Meet at the front entrance. We will have tools, gloves, bring water and sun screen.

Our projects will be to pretty up the front entrance, repair Exit Strategy which is a huge project this spring. We will not be able to open Exit Strategy until the banked corners have been repaired. We will be bringing in material to help shore the corners up that got beat up badly last year with the heavy rain. Please come join us for a couple of hours.

Yes Plan dates are being set by Rutland High School teachers now. Yes plan runs from May 31st until June 14th. Please contact us if you have folks who would like to join us. pinehillpartnership@gmail.com

Youth Works is back for the 12th year. They will be in the park working on Monday’s and Tuesday’s, from 9:30-2:30 starting June 17-18 and through to July 29-30. Meet at the front entrance. Anyone who needs community service hours is welcome to join us.

skinny tires and thaw cycles

Folks— when temps are above 28 degrees, we are asking nicely that mountain bikes stay off the trails in the park. When we’re in these freeze/thaw cycles tires wreak havoc with our trails.

These tire ruts will let the water run down the rut, and that then washes away all our hard earned dirt. Dirt in the park is hard to come by. See this for more info! It’s all moved to the trail by volunteers using buckets and shovels.

There is no paid trail staff, there is no mini-excavator working to move dirt. Please do not ruin it for everyone else.

wild times in pine hill park

Fall 2018 Summary by Tom Estill

The first official day of fall found a cold wind coming down from the North, helping migrating birds continue their flights southward.

Scurrying about the forest could be found black-throated blue warblers, black-throated green warblers, yellow warblers, blue jays, crows, white-breasted nuthatches, black-capped chickadees, and a solitary vireo. At the ponds you could find a belted kingfisher, a single osprey perched near its nest, a double-crested cormorant, spotted sandpiper, and wood ducks. A pair of black water snakes was also seen sunning themselves on the shore of Rocky Pond. Very happy to see all 50 American Chestnut trees were doing very well.

Last reported sighting of an osprey at Muddy Pond was on Sept. 24th. It is with great anticipation that we look forward to the return of nesting osprey next spring to Muddy Pond. Will they once again successfully nest and produce healthy fledglings as they did this year?

Birch bark pattern. Photo by David Jenne, © 2018

A walk through the forest on Oct. 6th found numerous gray squirrels and chipmunks busy collecting and storing acorns and other seeds, black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, a vireo, blue jay, small flock of tufted titmouse, and hermit thrush At Muddy Pond you could see wood ducks, a double-crested cormorant, and at least 1000 Canada geese resting during their migration south. A peregrine falcon was seen perched in a tree at Muddy Pond, a first for me! What a magnificent looking bird. Black water snakes were still seen on the shores of Rocky Pond. The fall foliage was a disappointment this year. Our area just didn’t have the rains, and frosty nights early in the fall so needed for a good fall foliage. Warm temperatures seemed to hold on for the longest time this fall.

The first significant frost didn’t occur until Oct. 14th. On that day I saw hermit thrush, blue jays, black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatch and hairy woodpeckers. I also came across 2 barred owls at Rocky Pond. And at Muddy Pond, you could still see wood ducks and over a thousand Canada geese.

On Nov. 11th, one would find the forest floor covered in leaves, and the forest very quiet. I observed but a few gray squirrels, black-capped chickadees, and white-breasted nuthatches. I started my walk at 4PM, and by the time I returned to the parking lot a little after 5PM, it was already getting quite dark.

Moss, Lichens and Stone pattern. Pine Hill Park. Photo by David Jenne, @2018.

On Nov. 17th, the park floor was covered with a few inches of snow, and where there was no snow, you would find a thick layer of oak(mostly red oak) leaves. Only a few birds were observed including a red-tailed hawk, black-capped chickadee, crows, tufted titmouse, and white-breasted nuthatch. Once again, the forest was very quiet. Very typical for this time of year. Beaver activity at Rocky Pond has been increasing the last few years. Trees felled by beaver, can now be found at least 100 meters from the water’s edge. Muddy Pond was completely frozen over, and most of Rocky Pond, with the exception of a small area of open water around the Eastern side beaver den, and the outlet into Muddy Pond. I was surprised to see a Red Squirrel near the rocky ledges under the powerlines on Carriage trail. They are not anywhere near as common as the gray squirrel in the park. Also, on this day I observed an amazing number of snow flies(midges) flying throughout the park. Never had I seen so many, so late in the season.

The first week of Dec., once again found the forest very quiet with only a few birds observed including, black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatch, a flock of tufted titmouse and crows flying overhead. There was about an inch of snow on the ground, and lots of deer tracks everywhere in the forest. Rocky Pond was solidly frozen over with only a small patch of open water near the east side den and a narrow path in the outlet.

By Dec. 8th, most of the snow was gone, with only small patches left here and there. It was a beautiful sunny day, but cold. On my walk through the forest I saw only 2 gray squirrels and one hairy woodpecker. A few days later, I sprayed the American chestnut trees with deer repellent to protect them from deer browsing in the months ahead, and was not surprised to see that Rocky Pond was covered by a thin layer of water formed by the recent warm days. Both Hairy and Red-bellied woodpeckers were seen along with a barred owl near Trail Marker #24. Very quiet in the forest.

If you would like me to include any interesting or unusual wildlife sightings you have made at Pine Hill Park, please email such sightings to me, at: ​testill@cksrutland.org​ I’ll be sure to include them in my seasonal summaries along with your name.

That’s all for this issue. Please stay on the trails, and enjoy your special time at Pine Hill Park.

Here’s a link to Tom’s PDF file for offline reading if you prefer.

Thank you Community Bank

Community Bank gave us a very nice contribution this spring. We used it to purchase materials to build two benches for the park. Thank you to Augie Levins who built the benches and to all the other volunteers that helped move them.

One is located on Underdog powerline and the other one is on Droopy Muffin powerline. We have several other locations we would like to install the same type bench in the future.

IMBA National Award

RUTLAND’S SHELLEY LUTZ RECEIVES INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN BIKING ASSOCIATION VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR AWARD

BENTONVILLE, Arkansas (Oct. 29, 2018) — The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) has presented Shelley Lutz (Center Rutland, Vt.) with the 2018  “Scott “Superman” Scudamore Volunteer Leadership Award” for her relentless and selfless service to her community. Lutz is one of the founding members of the Pine Hill Partnership and currently serves as the organization’s secretary.

The award honors outstanding volunteers who are making a significant contribution to the mountain bicycling community. IMBA received more than 20 nominations from all ten regions in the United States.

“I may seem biased when I say this, but I am continually learning that Shelley Lutz has done more for mountain biking in Vermont than any one person I’ve yet to meet,” said Bryan Sell, executive director of the Pine Hill Partnership. “She is the backbone of the trails in Pine Hill, which has achieved a cult-like status among mountain bikers and would not exist without her efforts.”

“Also, consider that growth in the sport is in no small part being driven by women and children, and Shelley has been a leader since the early days of mountain biking. Again, I do not know of any other woman who has done so much to get women and children pedaling on trails. I think that few of our residents appreciate how uncommon it is to see so many women and children on mountain bike trails, so this honor is as good for Rutland as it is for Shelley.”

Lutz has devoted thousands of hours to Pine Hill Partnership since the organization’s start in 2006. For over 25 years, she mountain biked, hiked, and skied in Pine Hill, and helped to layout, create, and maintain the trail network that we know today. In addition to trail work and organizing work days, Lutz has led a women’s mountain bike clinic and youth mountain bike clinic in Pine Hill Park for the past 10 years. She also has helped other trail advocacy groups in the region begin and grow their trail networks. Lutz exemplifies the Scott “Superman” Scudamore attitude of getting everyone she meets to volunteer in the Park.

Lutz has lived in the Rutland area since graduating from Castleton University in 1975. She worked for UPS for 36 years before retiring in 2011.

Scott “Superman Scud” Scudamore was a retired Air Force Captain who exemplified mountain bike volunteerism through his work with the Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiast.. Scud’s specialty was introducing new riders to mountain biking advocacy and to the efforts needed from local voices to ensure the sustainability of off-road trail networks to the growing population of outdoor enthusiasts.

Lutz was presented with the award at IMBA’s 30th anniversary party in Bentonville, Arkansas, on Saturday, October 27.

ABOUT PINE HILL PARTNERSHIP

The Pine Hill Partnership is a non-profit formed in 2006 to create, build, and maintain trails in Pine Hill and surrounding areas. The organization raises money for trail projects, recruits and organizes volunteers to repair, maintain and improve the non-motorized multi-use trail system in the city park at Pine Hill and adjacent lands. The Partnership also volunteers for the youth and women’s mountain bike programs that are run through Rutland’s Recreation Department, and also to help with the Rutland Go Play races in the park. This past summer the Partnership hosted over 20,000 visits to Pine Hill Park, either pedestrian or biking. New for winter 2018-2019, the Partnership will be winter grooming on some trails for fat bikes, hikers, snowshoers, and cross-country skiers.

ABOUT IMBA

The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) is the worldwide leader in mountain bike advocacy, and the only organization in the U.S. focused entirely on trails and access, for all types of mountain bikers in all parts of the country. Since 1988, they have taught and encouraged low-impact riding, grassroots advocacy, sustainable trail design, innovative land management practices and cooperation among trail user groups. IMBA U.S. is a national network of local groups, individual riders and passionate volunteers working together for the benefit of the entire community. They are focused on the quantity and quality of mountain bike trail communities as the catalyzer, resource provider, and builder of more trails close to home.

https://www.imba.com/press-release/2018-advocacy-awards

Girls Mountain Bike Program

The spring of 2019,  the Rutland City Recreation Department is offering a new all-girls mountain biking program. Check it out!

Gritty Girls Mountain Bike Club: Grades 3-8; Sundays from 1-3pm, 4/28/2019 – 6/2/2019. Dates may change due to weather. Cost $35 for Rutland city residents; $46, non-residents. This all-girls club will be friendly and fun.  Confidence, knowledge, and basic skills will be gained in a supportive, team environment. Includes t-shirt. Equipment loan and/or bike discounts are available. Get ready to ride the trails!

Winter is coming

Pine Hill Partnership is seeking donations to purchase a Snowdog. Our plan is to groom a few trails for hikers, snowshoers and fat bikers. We need to raise $5000 to purchase one.

Pine Hill Partnership is the organization who builds and maintains all the trails in Pine Hill Park, Redfield trails and the Carriage Trail. We are a non-profit so all donations are tax deductible.

Ways to contribute send a check to Pine Hill Partnership and mail to: 3424 Quarterline Rd. Center Rutland, VT 05736. Or use our PayPal button on the home page.

Snowdog donation