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.