Category Archives: Pine Hill Partnership

Spring nature report

Wild Times at Pine Hill Park
Spring, 2021 Summary

By Tom Estill

I always make a point of going on hikes throughout the forest during the first day of each season. On the first day of this spring I saw my first robin. They always seem to arrive at Pine Hill Park on, or very close to, the first day of spring. What I’m wondering is if this will be the case years from now. Also on this first day of spring, mourning doves were “cooing”, turkey vultures were flying overhead, and crows, tufted titmouse, black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, hairy woodpeckers and cardinals were all flying about.

The lower Giorgetti trails were mostly bare ground with icy and snowy patches in protected spots, while the upper trails had much more snow covering the ground.

Both Rocky and Muddy ponds were mostly still frozen over, with a few small perimeter areas starting to show open water. The haunting sound of under ice rumblings could be heard at both ponds, as the ice was beginning to break up.

Gray squirrels and Eastern chipmunks were scurrying around, looking for acorns left over from the previous fall. Wintergreen was covering bare ground areas.

The next day(March 21st) I went back to the park and saw a few Canada geese at Muddy Pond in a small area of open water, along with northern juncos, and a pileated woodpecker. The first butterfly of the season, a Compton tortoiseshell, was also seen.

On March 27th, both ponds were now almost completely open, with only a few small areas on the west sides of both ponds showing the presence of ice. Wood frogs could be heard calling for the first time in areas where they’ve always been heard at the beginning of the season, and that is the Rocky Pond outlet area, and a wetland area in the woods at the south side of Rocky Pond. Also, a mourning cloak butterfly was seen on Trail 16A, near one of the American Chestnut planting plots, just where I see them at this same time every year.

On April 5th, the first wildflower, Coltsfoot, made its appearance. It’s always the first plant to flower. This was also the day I saw my first yellow-bellied sapsucker and Eastern Newt at Rocky Pond.

A few days later, trout lily leaves were starting to emerge from the forest floor, and oak trees were beginning to flower. One osprey was seen sitting on last years’ nest. Spring peepers were also heard for the first time. And I noticed many small insects flying about. Painted turtles were sunning themselves at Muddy Pond. For the most part, the forest was still very quiet.

During the middle of April, temperatures were cold on a very quiet evening walk through the forest. Wild lily-of-the-Valley leaves were emerging from the forest floor and a hermit thrush was singing its beautiful evening flute-like song. Beavers were active on the west side of Muddy Pond, and a single osprey was on its nest.

On May 1st, I went for a quiet evening walk and saw black-capped chickadees, tufted titmouse, hairy and pileated woodpeckers, robins, hermit thrush, yellow-throated vireo, and belted kingfishers and 3 osprey at Muddy Pond. In the pond were seen a large snapping turtle, painted turtles, and a river otter. Trout lily and wood anemone were in flower.

On May 9th while on an early morning bird walk, not only did I see the usual contingent of early spring birds, but also saw the relatively uncommon red-breasted nuthatch, the first time I had ever seen that bird at Pine Hill Park. A house wren could be heard singing near the trailhead.

On May 22nd, I saw my first firefly of the season, MUCH earlier than usual. A large black northern water snake was seen at Rocky Pond, and Moccasin flower, Jack-in-the-pulpit, and foam flower were all flowering. Many birds were seen, including South American migrants.

Birds seen included Hairy woodpecker, yellow-bellied sapsucker, Eastern pewee, least flycatcher, tufted titmouse, black-capped chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, hermit thrush, veery, ovenbird, red-eyed vireo, yellow-throated vireo, black and white warbler, chestnut-sided warbler, American redstart, indigo bunting, and rufous-sided towhee.

On May 31st, the Wild American Chestnut tree was finally located on Svelte Tiger trail. Tree leaves had finally emerged, and the specific tree was easily identified.

During a walk the first week of June, I noticed large numbers of partially eaten tree leaves covering just about every trail in the park, and soon realized that the park is undergoing an infestation of gypsy moth caterpillars. By June 10th, the infestation was so bad that if you stood quietly on a secluded trail, you could hear the droppings of the caterpillars falling on the ground and upon other leaves. It sounded like a gentle rain. I’ve been hiking Pine Hill Park since 2013, and never saw as bad an infestation as this year.

I measured the height of the Wild American Chestnut tree on June 10th, and found the tree to be 66’ tall. Unfortunately, though healthy looking, it did show signs of the blight infection. On my hike back to the trailhead, I came across a recently born fawn. It calmly walked right in front of me and off into the forest.

On a walk in mid-June, I was surprised to see a Cedar Waxwing in the forest. I usually don’t see them until the end of summer, and always up around Rocky Pond. An Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly was seen feeding on red clover, bullfrogs were croaking at Rocky Pond, and American redstart warblers and tufted titmouse birds were seen feeding on gypsy moth caterpillars. Hopefully, these, and other, predatory birds will keep the gypsy moth caterpillar numbers in check.

That’s it for this issue. Please stay on the trails, and enjoy the Wild Times of Pine Hill Park.

RTP GRant Awarded

We are proud recipients of a Recreation Trail Program grant (RTP) through the VT Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation who administers the grant. Out of 23 applicants we were one of nine chosen to receive an $18,000 grant. This will pay for a 3 week VT Youth Conservation Corp crew in 2022. This crew will work on Maximum Capacity and Bone Spur which are both located near or off Milk Run.

We would like to thank Kim Peters and Nikki Adams at Rutland Rec for helping the write the grant. Joel Blumenthal and Nicole Kesselring were instrumental in helping with the maps and Act 250 questions that we had to answer. Without everyone’s help our grant would not have been a success.

With some luck, YES plan from Rutland High School will return in the spring of 2022 to help with our fantastic trail system.

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!