Category Archives: Pine Hill Partnership

Wild times winter 2020-21

Thank you to Tom Estill for a great winter report.

Wild Times at Pine Hill Park Winter, 2020 Summary

Around the time of the official start of winter saw a major Nor’easter come through the area, dropping over two feet of snow on the ground. That was followed by a major rain storm the day before Christmas bringing a deluge and temperatures in the fifties. Most of the snow had melted. Rocky and Muddy Ponds were both frozen over, and only a few birds were seen on a walk, including black-capped chickadee, tufted titmouse and white-breasted nuthatch.

On the first day of the new year, I counted 5 white-breasted nuthatches, 4 crows, 3 blue jays, 1 starling, 8 black-capped chickadees, 2 tufted titmouse, and 2 pileated woodpeckers.

The next day, Jan. 2nd, was the OFFICIAL Audubon Bird Count day. On that day, 33 crows, 4 blue jays, 1 cardinal, 13 tufted titmouse, 24 black-capped chickadees, 2 red-bellied woodpeckers, 9 white-breasted nuthatches, 4 brown creepers, and 1 hairy woodpecker were observed. Many gray squirrels were scurrying about, and an adult deer was seen at the quarry.

By Jan. 10th, a few inches of snow could be found on the ground, and on Jan. 24th, 6 inches of snow was on the ground. The day was a beautiful sunny day, but very cold. The forest was very quiet, only a few birds were seen, and many areas were seen where deer had dug through the snow to reach acorns and other foods.

On Feb. 14th, 8 inches of snow now covered the ground, many deer tracks were seen throughout the forest, and Hairy Woodpeckers were seen and heard “drumming”. Both Rocky and Muddy Ponds were covered in snow, and the forest was very quiet. Porcupine tracks were seen near the power lines on the Carriage Trail leading up to the den in a rocky cliff, just where they have been seen in years past.

On Feb. 21st, a foot of snow covered the ground, and it was a sunny, but cold day. A pair of black-capped chickadees could be seen flying in and out of the first bird house as you crossed the boardwalk. Many deer, fox, squirrel and rodent tracks could be seen.

On March 1st, an opossum was seen walking across the boardwalk by Shelley. Temperatures were in the mid forties, and spring was felt to be just around the corner. Hairy woodpeckers were drumming, cardinals and tufted titmouse were singing, mourning doves were “cooing” and midges were flying about. Many places were seen where squirrels had dug up their caches of acorns, and many places were seen where deer had done the same. Spots of bare ground were starting to appear throughout the park.

On March 7th, as I was sitting alone at the edge of Rocky Pond, I was amazed at the loud and eerie sounds of water moving underneath the ice. It was a constant rumbling, moaning, and groaning.

On March 13th, Chris Cartier led me to a spot where he believed a wild American Chestnut was growing. To my surprise and great delight, there it was. Found on Svelte Tiger trail, not far from Trail Marker #22, the surrounding ground covered in huge burs. Can’t wait for the leaves to come out so the exact tree can be identified. GPS coordinates of the site and pictures were immediately sent to scientists of the American Chestnut Foundation. Later on, I observed numerous chipmunks scurrying about the park, with many of them appearing to be immature chipmunks due to their small size.

That’s it for this issue. Please stay on the trails, and watch for returning osprey at Muddy Pond, bobcats on the Redfield trails, and listen for the chorus of mating frogs.

VIRTUAL annual meeting—march 29

We are hoping you can attend a virtual Pine Hill Partnership annual meeting on Monday, March 29th at 7pm via Go to Meeting.

We will have a short discussion to show our accomplishments for 2020 and plans for 2021. We will also be reviewing our 2020 and 2021 budgets and will elect a slate of officers and board members.

Only folks with current memberships will be eligible to vote, but anyone is welcome to attend the meeting. If you are unsure of your membership status, please contact Shelley at shelley.lutz@gmail.com or 775-4867 before 8pm.

Please RSVP by Friday, March 26th if you can attend. We will email you login instructions on the afternoon of the 29th.

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We hope to see you there and send a big thank you for your support this year in our continued efforts to make these area trails so special.

Sincerely,
Andrew Shinn, Joel Blumental, Dave Jenne, Claus Bartenstein, Peggy Shinn, Nate Netsch, Lindsey Johnston and Shelley Lutz—Board of Directors

PHP AWARDED Loyal to our soil grant

We are proud recipients of the Loyal to Our Soil Grant sponsored by Ranch Camp, MTBVT, and Specialized Bikes. Last summer Ranch Camp held two raffles for Loyal to Our Soil Grant. Specialized donated two bikes for the raffle, tickets were $100 each. Also, Ranch Camp donated, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of every bike sold in 2020 toward the grant.

We are one of 5 groups to receive this grant. This will help us pay for a VT Youth Conservation Corp group to build Maximum Capacity, our next trail construction project.

A big thank you to Ranch Camp, Specialized Bikes, and MTBVT! #ranchcampvt #specializedbikes #mtbvt

Milk run is open!

As of late Monday September 7th, our newest trail, Milk Run, is fully open!!

Our newest trail, Milk Run (pink line), is now open!

We started building this trail with YES plan from Rutland High School and Youth Works volunteers in 2018. That first year we completed about 1300′ of trail with 400 volunteers and 1600 volunteer hours. In 2019 we completed about 1000 feet of trail with 1225 volunteer hours, 286 volunteers. 2020 the year of corona and no major volunteer groups like YES plan or Youth Works we accomplished quite a bit.

The trail is just under 3900 feet (.74 mile) long. FYI, the longest trail in the park is Stegosaurus at 4100 feet.

The Vermont Youth Conservation Corp (VYCC) came in with 4 crew members for 2 weeks and we completed just under 1500′ of trail. With VYCC removing organic material and our three Pine Hill Partnership volunteers doing finish work behind them it was a perfect combination utilizing the work force. We completed just under 1500′ trail in a little over 500 hours. We did have an extra hand two days that really helped with getting a couple of small banked corners built along with finish work. Having a trained work crew was instrumental on getting this trail done.

VYCC is a paid trail crew. We are still soliciting donations and contributions to help defray the cost.

A time lapse of work on Milk Run during a hot, humid August day makes it look way easier than IRL!.

The trail still will need a touch of refinement next year (hopefully our big volunteer groups are back). We expect to build two banked corners on the new section.

5 pry bars to move ‘Deborah’. VYCC was naming the rocks.

Keith came down and helped for two days.
Follow the yellow brick road
It poured for about 30 minutes one day.

WE’RE DIGGING IN !

Update October 28, 2020: We received a check from IMBA/Shimano for $2300. to help pay for the VYCC crew we had in the park the end of July. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this fund.

We have been selected as one of 10 recipients of the IMBA Dig In Grant program. With the support of Shimano, IMBA is doing a grant to pay for trail building at Pine Hill Park. Read the announcement from IMBA here.

This program will help us raise money needed for the VT Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC) to come in at the end of July and help finish off a couple of trails in the park that volunteers have been working on. (map below)

Thanks to COVID-19, large volunteer groups are not happening in 2020. VYCC will be a big help, but we will have to pay for their services.

Our newest trail, Milk Run, was started in 2018 with the help of volunteers. At the end of July we are having VYCC come in and hope to use their time to get all the organic material off so that we can open the trail up to the top of Upper Halfpipe. This is about 1500′ of organic top layer to be removed.

Why remove organic in Pine Hill Park? We have found for long term sustainability, our trails hold up better by removing it early. Early on in our learning process of building trails we would do a ‘rake and ride’. Those trails now have been rebuilt at least once if not twice.

If you’d like to help us with this effort, please consider making a donation here. As always, thank you for your support!

2020 spring wild times

Thanks to Tom Estill we have these great nature reports.

Driving up to the pine hill park parking lot on the first day of spring, I was pleasantly surprised to see my first robins of the season scurrying about the ground looking for worms and other food to eat. Otherwise, the only other birds I saw that day were downy and hairy woodpeckers, crow, Canada geese at Muddy Pond, and tufted titmouse. At Rocky Pond, I observed a pair of turkey vultures circling above the rocky overlook, then land among the rocks. Thinking they might be considering nesting there, I walked up the trail and took a closer look but found no birds, nor nest. Rocky Pond was mostly open water, with a thin layer of ice covering the south and east shores. Numerous Eastern newts could be seen swimming near the shores where there was open water. Two days later, all ice was gone from Rocky Pond. Muddy Pond, on the other hand, still had a small amount of ice on its west side shore. At Muddy Pond, you could see Mallards, wood ducks and Canadian geese, along with 2 osprey flying overhead.

March 26th found Eastern bluebirds sitting on the trailhead area bird houses, occasionally flying in and out of the boxes. Very exciting to see, but tempered with the knowledge that they probably would not nest so close to all the park visitors going into, and coming out of, the park. And after watching the boxes closely for a few weeks, that’s exactly what happened. On this day, all ice was gone from both ponds, and numerous wood ducks could be heard calling in the wetland area just south of Rocky Pond. The first butterflies of the season, the mourning cloak and the Eastern Comma were seen, as well as the first wildflower of the season(as usual), the Coltsfoot. The last thing of interest on this day was the sighting of an Eastern garter snake near the quarry cliffs.

The last day of March found the oak trees starting to bud, common mergansers at Muddy Pond, and barred owls “hooting” near Trail sign #14.

The first week of April found both hooded and common mergansers on Muddy Pond, white breasted nuthatches building nests in tree cavities, osprey nesting for the 4th year in a row at Muddy Pond, and spring peepers starting to make their presence known with their piercing calls. While walking along Crusher Rd., I heard numerous gray squirrels and Eastern chipmunks sounding their alarm calls, then watched a beautiful red fox run across the road. During an evening walk, I noticed how quiet the forest was but knew that soon it would be filled with the sound of numerous birds as they established their territories, and began their mating rituals.

On April 19th, bluebirds were still flying in and out of the birdhouses, which surprised me very much. Were they actually going to nest in those exposed boxes, I wondered. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers had returned, and you could not walk anywhere within the park without hearing the drumming of those birds. It seemed the park was filled with them. I had never heard so many.

A broad-winged hawk was seen flying through the forest with a chipmunk hanging from its talons. Hermit thrushes had returned, along with the first warbler of the season, the American Redstart. And at Muddy Pond, Canada geese had begun nesting atop beaver dens.

By April 23rd, the forest was alive with numerous southern migratory birds having arrived, wood frogs calling during the day, Canada geese and Osprey nesting, trailing arbutus flowering, and turkey vultures continuing to fly over the Rocky Pond lookout. I had the feeling that they were probably interested in nesting there, but the presence of hikers would keep that from happening. The evening was still very quiet.

By the last week of April, spring peepers were being heard all over the Rutland Area, trout lily was flowering, tiny wood frog tadpoles were emerging from their eggs, painted turtles were sunning themselves, and the forest was filling with birds. On one birdwalk April 28th, I saw a cardinal, tufted titmouse, yellow-bellied sapsucker, rufous-sided towhee, yellow-rumped warblers, white-breasted nuthatch, black-capped chickadee, robin, crow, Eastern phoebe, ring-necked ducks, Canada geese, red-shouldered hawks, osprey, and yellow-throated vireos.

The first week of May found a pair of broad-winged hawks checking out a nest near Trail Marker 12. But its proximity to hikers would keep them from nesting there, unfortunately. And on May 2nd I saw something I had never seen before. A yellow-bellied sapsucker and hairy woodpecker were fighting up and down this tree for the longest time until they both flew off into the forest. Fiddleheads were emerging, wood anemone, barren strawberry, painted trillium and purple violets were flowering, and on May 2nd, dozens of painted turtles could be seen sunning themselves on Muddy Pond. Black-throated blue warblers, black and white warblers and black-throated green warblers were seen for the first time.

On May 7th, adult Canada geese were seen swimming with their 4 goslings at Rocky Pond, and gay wings and dwarf ginseng were in flower.

On May 14th, night temperatures reached near 32 degrees F, which turned out to be the last near freezing temp. of the season. During that day, I saw my first blue-headed vireo.

Two days later, the American chestnuts began “leafing out”. All 50 chestnuts had survived the winter except for one. One of the trees is now 11 ft. tall!

By the start of the third week of May, summer resident birds had all pretty much returned with the exception of only a few birds. Residents now included the beautiful scarlet tanager and indigo buntings, Eastern towhee, ovenbird, and various flycatchers.

On May 19th, while walking along Crusher Rd., I once again heard numerous chipmunks giving warning calls to one another, and sure enough, a moment later, a barred owl came flying across the road right in front of me. Gray treefrogs could be heard throughout the whole forest with their distinctive call.

On May 21, Shelley Lutz and I went on an interesting bird walk. While I used my Bird Calling App. to attract birds, she had her camera ready to take close ups of the birds as they came near to investigate. You can see some of her amazing photos on the Pine Hill Park Partnership website. I’ll tell you, she got some amazing photos. See for yourself!

On May 23rd, while walking on the Carriage Trail, suddenly out of the woods right in front of me jumped a mother ruffed grouse with “fluffed” up wings, coming at me aggressively, and making a high pitched squeaking noise. Hiding in the shrubbery nearby were her chicks. I just casually moved away not wanting to bother her anymore than I had to.

During the last week of May I saw the ruby throated hummingbird feeding on honeysuckle flowers, a small toadlet crossing the carriage trail, 2 broad-winged hawks fighting near the quarry, a beautiful tiger beetle, and a chipmunk feeding on red oak leaves. By the way, leave the tiger beetles alone, they have a nasty bite.

On May 28th I found a chestnut-sided warbler nest being built just a few feet away from Trail Marker #11. A few days later, the nest had 2 eggs in it. Then a few days after that, the eggs were gone and the nest abandoned. I have no idea what happened. The nest hadn’t been damaged. That same day, I saw a rose-breasted grosbeak in the forest. In fact, Shelley identified its call, before I even saw it.

By the end of May the common buttercup, forget-me-not, pink azalea and starflower were all in bloom.

Mid June found 2 families of geese on Rocky Pond, yellow wood sorrel, dwarf cinquefoil, thyme-leaved speedwell, common fleabane, king devil, and dame’s rocket all in flower, adult veery were feeding their young, schools of baby brown bullheads could be found in Rocky Pond, and fireflies were seen the first time on June 17th.

On the last day of spring, I saw a gorgeous white-tailed deer crossing Crusher Rd. Since then, I see THEM almost everytime I hike in that area on my early morning hikes.

That’s it for this issue. Please stay on the trails, and enjoy your walks, hikes, and times at Pine Hill Park.

Trail build out

We are reaching our limits of trails in Pine Hill Park. We currently have 17 miles. With Milk Run, Bone Spur and Maximum Capacity all adding about another mile and a half we will have reached our limit for density of trails inside Pine Hill Park.

This is a rough map of where Milk Run is completed in 2018, 2019. 2020 we hope to break open the rest of Milk Run with a VT Youth Conservation Corp crew in July. They are a paid crew so we are trying to raise money to cover this expense.

Bone Spur will be a pretty bony section off Milk Run.

Maximum Capacity will branch off Milk Run and head towards Intersection 20. This will be a fun trail utilizing trail contours.

If you are able to donate money to help defray the cost of a VYCC crew it would be greatly appreciated. We are applying for multiple grants-we have been turned by a couple and are patiently waiting to hear on other applications. https://pinehillpark.org/donate-2/

2020 annual meeting cancelLed

Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, the Board of Directors voted today to cancel the 2020 Annual Meeting.

While we are very disappointed in not being able to see you all and tell you about our plans for next year, we are hoping to see you on the trails (at the appropriate social distance, of course) as we all enjoy what the Pine Hill trails have to give to help us to get through the challenging times ahead. For now, look to the web site and social media for updates and plans as we move ahead.

Thank you for your continued support of Pine Hill Partnership. Stay healthy and we’ll meet again soon.

Sincerely,
Andrew Shinn, Joel Blumental, Dave Jenne, Claus Bartenstein, Peggy Shinn, and Shelley Lutz—Board of Directors