Wild Times at Pine Hill Park by Tom Estill
Spring, 2019 Summary
At the beginning of spring, lower Giorgetti trails were all bare ground; while throughout all the upper trails one could still find patches of snow and ice, especially on the north facing slopes.
The last day of March found both Rocky and Muddy ponds covered in ice with a few puddles of water dispersed throughout the ice cover. A few Canada geese were seen at Muddy pond and pair of mallards were seen at Rocky Pond swimming in a few small patches of open water on the perimeter of the ponds. The only birds I saw that day were a pileated woodpecker, crow, and the waterfowl mentioned above.
By April 7th, the snow was almost completely gone from the park, but both ponds were still covered in ice with the exception of a narrow band of open water around the perimeters of both ponds. I was terribly disappointed to see the old osprey nest tree blown down by a recent storm. Osprey had successfully nested there the last two years. Eastern newts were seen for the first time this season, along with a few northern migrating birds including yellow-bellied sapsucker, hermit thrush, wood ducks and osprey.
In mid-April, all signs of ground snow and ice were gone, and ice was completely gone from both ponds. Streams were running high, red oaks were budding, trout lily leaves were emerging from the ground cover and coltsfoot was flowering. Water level at Rocky Pond was so high; it was flowing over the top of all 3 beaver dams. More and more northern migrating birds were seen each day. In mid-April you could see Turkey Vultures flying overhead, and common mergansers at Muddy pond. Wood frogs, in large numbers, were calling from a wet wooded area just south of Rocky Pond.
In April, Lauren White made contact with representatives of VELCO in an attempt to get them to install an osprey platform on a power pole they were installing at the north end of Muddy Pond. Her efforts were successful and in the third week of April, 2 osprey were seen building a nest on the platform, after starting one on the top of an adjacent power pole, then leaving it.
On April 22nd, spring wildlife was out in full force. Birds seen that day included tufted titmouse, black-capped chickadee, yellow-bellied sapsucker, hairy woodpecker, crow, black and white warbler, turkey vulture, mallards, Canada geese, osprey and white-breasted nuthatches. Spring peepers were calling, and painted turtles were sunning themselves. Many insects were flying about including the Mourning Cloak, the first butterfly to always appear in the park. 2 deer ticks were found crawling up my pant legs. I always do a thorough job of checking for ticks after each of my walks.
By the first week of May, many flowers were blooming including trout lily, wood anenome, white violets, trailing arbutus, wild oats and partridge berry. A few days later, the forest floor could be seen covered with fiddleheads, barren strawberries, white and purple violets, jack-in-the-pulpit, coltsfoot, and trout lilies, with Solomon’s seal starting to emerge.
In mid-May, polygala and toothwort were flowering, and the great crested flycatcher, catbirds, and rufous-sided towhees could be heard singing in the park. Gray treefrogs were calling and red efts could be seen on the trails, especially after a rain. All 50 American chestnuts survived the winter except one. That dead tree was replaced by an American chestnut obtained from the State of Washington.
By the end of May, foamflower, starflower, and pink Lady’s slipper were all flowering. Indigo buntings were once again nesting in trees under the powerlines on the Carriage trail, and a two-lined salamander was found under a rock.
At the beginning of June you would find false Solomon’s Seal, Canada mayflower, smooth Solomon’s seal and pink Lady’s slippers all flowering. New birds seen included the yellowthroat, broad-winged hawk, Eastern peewee, and least flycatcher.
Mid-June found yellow swallowtails flying about, Eastern chipmunks and gray squirrels scurrying about, and Osprey sitting quietly on the nest, probably keeping 2 or 3 eggs warm.
That’s it for this issue. Enjoy your time at Pine Hill Park, and please, remember to stay on the trails.